fisherman putting caught fish in the fishing cooler

The BEST 8 Fishing Coolers & Insulated Fishing Bags Available In 2019

It’s a common misconception that the trickiest thing about fishing is being able to catch the fish in the first place.

In my experience, at least, the actual fishing isn’t so hard.

What’s much trickier is organizing a proper fishing trip that takes into account everything you’ll need to have a great time, without winding up with a killer headache.

For example, you’ll need to have a tackle box, rods, bait… The list goes on.

Fishing coolers are too often put on the back burner when people think about their next expedition.

In my opinion, that’s a mistake; here’s why.

Without a proper fishing cooler, you won’t be able to enjoy your catch, since it’ll go off before you even make it home. And if you put off buying a fishing cooler for too long, you’re likely to end up with a subpar product that could let you down when you need it most.

That’s why I’ve come up with the best fishing coolers, as well as a buyer’s guide and an FAQ section, in order to help you make your own decision.

Let’s get straight into it: here’s the list.

TOP 8 Best Fishing Coolers & Insulated Fishing Bags 2019

Igloo Polar Cooler

Review: Igloo are known to be industry leaders when it comes to insulated fishing coolers, and this Polar Cooler model is no exception to that rule.

Colored a sterile white with straightforward plastic construction, the actual insulation technology inside is Ultratherm, which is present in both the body and lid and provides maximum cooling.

Fish can stay at the right temperature for up to five days, assuming there’s enough ice packed in as well.

It also features dual snap-fit latches in order to secure the lid tightly, as well as a tie-down loop option – and what’s more, the entire product is child-safe, meaning you don’t need to worry about your little ones on the camping trip.

Pros

  • Straightforward design keeps things simple in the best way.
  • Good, sturdy latches.

Cons

  • The quality control leaves a little to be desired.
  • It can be expensive (depending on whether you buy it new or used).

Takeaway

The perfect choice for those fishermen among us who like to keep things simple, this product is one of the best fishing coolers for doing the basics well without spending time on bells and whistles.

Silver Horde Katchkooler II Bag

Review: Designed to be radically different from the standard ice-box design of fishing coolers, this fashionable bag from Silver Horde was created with fishermen of all descriptions in mind.

A handy strap makes it easy to transport the proof of your day’s work, while the compact size makes for easy storage, be that in the back of a car or the bottom of a cupboard.

As well as preserving the flavor of the fish that had been caught, the bag is also easy to clean (all you have to do is rinse it once with water and let it dry), which is an impressive double-act that’s bound to attract attention among angling enthusiasts.

Pros

  • High-density cell foam insulation.
  • Waterproof fabric.
  • Twin straps with a reinforced handle.

Cons

  • The outer seam can be a weak point, watch for breakages.
  • May leak after repeated usage.

Takeaway

Although it’s a fantastic design concept, this fishing cooler bag is a let down by the poor-quality stitching as well as the unfortunate tendency it has to leak.

Still, it could be a good option if you really don’t like the standard boxes.

Hanerdun 3 in 1 Cooler Backpack

Review: This chair, while not technically a fishing cooler in the standard sense of the word, nonetheless manages to keep anything you catch fresh.

How does it do it? Well, that’s down to the brilliant design.

The 3 in 1 combination piece can function as a backpack, an insulated cooler, or as a chair.

As far as the cooling capabilities go, a foil well-insulated cooler bag is included in the center which can be relied upon to keep food and drinks cold for hours upon hours at a time.

The backpack function also includes adjustable shoulder straps, large space inside, and multiple pockets, making this the ideal choice for fishermen who need to keep their kit close at hand at all times.

Pros

  • Innovative design that showcases the best of what engineering has to offer.
  • It’s handy to be able to sit down whenever you’d like to on a fishing trip.
  • The extra room from the backpack is a nice touch.

Cons

  • Not the biggest as a chair; this won’t fit everybody comfortably.
  • Could do with stronger manufacturing techniques.

Takeaway

This product gets an A+ for inventiveness, but it could have scored a lot higher (and been one of the best fishing coolers) if it wasn’t let down by small details which should have been ironed out early on, such as the strength of the material and the size.

Coleman Cooler With Bail Handle

Review: Constructed out of durable polyethylene, this product – which is big enough to hold 36 cans at a time, which translates to an awful lot of fish – comes with a specially hinged lid in order to make sure that none of the goods spill out when you set it down for a minute.

With a deliberately large bail handle to facilitate the most comfortable carrying possible, the Coleman has been made with Thermozone insulation which is known for being among the most advanced insulating technologies on the fishing market today.

The stylish blue color is reminiscent of the classic fishing coolers we used to watch our fathers lugging around, and the price is cheap enough that this one might be worth a try even if you’re not convinced right away.

Pros

  • Lots of space, for fish and food or drinks, or both.
  • Very reasonable price point.
  • Classical styling.

Cons

  • There’s no drain included.
  • The way the cooler has been designed can cause some ice to heat up too quickly.

Takeaway

If you like keeping things simple, or if your budget is tight, this will perform admirably for you as an all-round product and is indeed one of the best fishing coolers for the money you’ll spend on it.

Coleman Coastal Xtreme Series Marine Cooler

Review: The second offering on this list from industry veterans – Coleman! This Coastal Extreme series of cooler is designed to go the distance, all the time.

Thermozone insulation is again present, while this time there are four cup holders featured on the lid, which are a nice addition to the no crush, comfortable handles.

With a number of different color options available, everybody will find a way to ere-make this Coleman product in their own image.

But all that versatility and function comes at a price, as this item is on the more expensive end of the fishing cooler pricing spectrum.

Pros

  • Size: this is a cooler big enough to handle all your needs.
  • Color choices are always nice to have.

Cons

  • On the expensive side of things.

Takeaway

If you can afford it, this fishing cooler from Coleman won’t let you down. It has a solid range of features, it’s well-built, and it has a ton of room.

One of the very best fishing coolers in 2019, hands down.

Igloo Marine Ultra Cooler

Review: The first item on this list was an Igloo, and it was only a matter of time before another one of their products showed up.

This is the most deluxe fishing cooler they carry, and it comes with a price tag that reflects its position in their product range.

With ultraviolet inhibiting technology included in order to protect against sun damage, locking telescopic handles (with included hangers for all of your fishing gear), and non-marking soft-ride rally wheels, this cooler is clever, convenient, and portable in the extreme.

The lid is lockable, while there are also tie-down loops as an alternative locking mechanism, which is always nice to see.

Lastly, the four cup-holders that are included are self-draining, so worrying about that little bit of liquid stuck in the bottom of your cup-holder is a thing of the past.

Pros

  • Great design with the wheels and telescopic handles working well together.
  • Ultraviolet inhibiting technology is a great idea.

Cons

  • The lid itself is not insulated, which is a letdown that we wouldn’t expect from such an experienced manufacturer.
  • There’s no threaded drain plug included at the bottom of the cooling section.

Takeaway

Apart from missing a few obvious points like lid insulation and a drain plug, this is a terrific product, and should still prove to be well worth the money as long as you work around those issues.

IceMule Pro Insulated Backpack Cooler Bag

Review: This catch-cooling product takes a slightly different approach to the problem than most on our list, by functioning as a backpack.

This allows it to be hands-free, while the cooling technology has been engineered specifically to be the most portable, high-performance soft-sided cooler on the market.

This product is available in a number of different sizes, and straps comfortably to your back, leaving your arms free to worry about all of your other fishing gear.

It’s comfortable, because the straps have been double padded and ventilated, and it can even be easily stored when not in use.

This last point is the most impressive and has to do with the fact that the cooler is completely collapsible, meaning there won’t be any issues bringing it to or from your fishing location of choice.

Pros

  • Different sizes and different colors mean there’s an IceMule out there for everybody.
  • Waterproof and resilient construction is nice to see.
  • The closure system is zipperless, meaning, less leaking.

Cons

  • This is a high-end item and comes with a high-end price tag.

Takeaway

The straps are always the weakest part of any given backpack, so as long as you’re careful with them this item will be able to go the distance for you.

One of my personal favorites, and definitely one of the best insulated fish bags around.

Coleman Heavy-Duty Super Cooler

Review: No list of fishing coolers would be complete without mentioning the big boy of Coleman’s catalog.

This heavy-duty cooler is designed to be able to withstand any abuse you can possibly subject it to, so if your fishing train is famous for being dramatic (as well as fruitful), this might just be the item for you.

Surprisingly, for such a functional item, there’s a choice of colors, which helps you to add a personal touch.

This cooler is available in either 55 or 85 Quart sizes, while the smart, thick insulation technology inside can keep ice for 6 days at temperatures of up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

The no-skid bottom layer prevents the cooler from sliding all over the dock or boat deck, while the dual-size drain and rope handles make the item even more convenient.

Finally, this cooler is even compatible with dry ice, which kicks it up another notch.

Pros

  • Incredible range of features, combined with a fishing vest, it’ll carry everything you need.
  • Everything has been treated to resist bacterial infection.
  • Potentially enormous capacity.

Cons

  • None.

Takeaway

The fishing cooler for down-to-earth, pared-back angling enthusiasts, this is the only item you’re likely to need if all you want to be able to do is keep your catch safe.

Since it can hold ice for days at a time, it’s also ideal for multi-day trips spent out on the water.

Fishing Coolers Buyer’s Guide

With so many different kinds of fishing coolers available on the market, it can be really difficult to make up your mind.

As fishing enthusiasts, we’ve been spoiled for choice with the recent explosion in the market, and even though it’s great to have so many options, it can also make things problematic.

That’s why a buyer’s guide is such a useful thing to have.

By figuring out what the most important questions you need to ask yourself are, you’ll be able to effectively figure out what the best cooler for fishing is with regards to your precise needs.

Keeping that in mind, here are some of the most crucial aspects of fishing coolers that you should consider when it comes to deciding which product is worth your hard-earned money.

fisherman putting caught fish in the fishing cooler

Size

As with so much in the world of fishing, quantity can often beat quality. It’s no good having a really fantastic, well-made cooler if it’s not going to be big enough to keep all of your fish cool.

On the other hand, if you decide to sacrifice quality in order to ensure that your product of choice can handle the size of your catch, you might find yourself in danger of ending up with a fishing cooler that doesn’t do the job as well as you need it to.

Size is probably the single most important question you need to ask yourself when it comes to weighing up different fishing coolers.

Here’s a good tip: if you’re having a hard time figuring out what size to go for, it’s usually best to overestimate the amount of fish you’ll reasonably catch.

This way, even if you do a bit better than you thought you were going to, you won’t find yourself short-changed, and you’ll be able to take advantage of your good fortune.

Portability

Similar to size, the portability of your fishing cooler is one of the most fundamental things you need to think about.

Even though it can be easy to forget about portability (especially when faced with the incredible array of technological features some of these products have), do so at your own peril, because you might just find yourself in a tricky spot one day if you don’t give this issue the attention it deserves.

Another issue I often come across when it comes to people picking out fishing coolers is that they rationalize their way around portability issues.

I’m sure you can relate – goodness knows I can. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve found a really great product that just doesn’t have a great handle; but because it’s got so much else to offer, I brush it off by thinking ‘No, it’s fine, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.’

Don’t make the same mistake!

Portability issues aren’t going to go away, and there’s nothing worse than finding yourself with a cooler full of beautiful, ice-cold fish that you can’t lug all the way back to your car or boat.

fisherman holding gray and beige fish

Style

You basically have two main choices when it comes to the style of the fishing cooler you’re going to buy for yourself.

You can either:

  • opt for a classic, box-shaped container; or
  • go for one of these newer, backpack-style fishing coolers.

As with everything, there are advantages and disadvantages to each of these, and it’s ultimately going to be a personal decision as to which works for you.

But there are a few things worth keeping in mind, and they’re related to the two other topics I raised above.

Backpack or bag-style fishing coolers are fantastic for portability.

In most cases, these products have padded and adjustable straps which make it a breeze to carry even the heaviest of loads without too much personal discomfort.

Although it’s convenient, it can often be offset by how limited the size of their storage space is; and that’s the real advantage to the classic style of a fishing cooler.

Boxes usually offer more room for your catch, and will almost always be a better option for group trips, when you’ll have somebody else to help you carry it all back home, so whether you’re a social or a solo fisherman will play a big part in the style of item you ultimately end up with.

man fishing in a lake

FAQs

Do I Need to Break the Bank for a Good Item?

Pricing concerns are standard for almost all hobbies, and fishing is no different.

While I’m sure you’re already intimately familiar with how expensive some of the kits can be, it’s not always easy to know which areas are worth splashing the cash on and when it’s better to play it safe.

Fishing coolers, however, are pretty straightforward. A good, well-made product should last you a long time and certainly shouldn’t wear out after one or two excursions – it’s similar to buying a good pair of boat shoes for fishing in this regard.

While you shouldn’t need to pay a ridiculous amount of money, it’s usually worth going the extra mile in order to get an item which will last you long into the future.

How Much Ice Should I Put in My Cooler?

The more fish you’re planning to have, the more ice you’ll need in your cooler. But it’s not always easy to predict how much you’re going to catch, especially at the planning stage of a fishing trip, before you even know how your particular spot is playing on that particular day.

There’s a general rule that can be good to keep in mind when it comes to ice and coolers, though, although it’s worth keeping in mind that some products offer advanced insulation technology, and so those will usually require less ice than their more basic counterparts.

The rule of thumb is that your ice-to-contents ratio should be about 2:1.

This has been worked out through trial and error and is ideal for keeping everything as cold as you need it to be, without taking up too much space.

Are There Ways I can Increase the Ice Retention of My Fishing Cooler?

As it happens, there are actually a few different techniques you can use to improve your cooler’s performance.

While researching this article, I came across a really great video that answers this exact question.

Here’s the link – I’d encourage you to check it out sometime you get a chance. It’s not even two minutes long, and it’s a great little collection of tips to help you squeeze every last bit of performance out of your cooler.

Summary

So there you have it: fishing coolers, demystified.

Even though it’s obviously impossible to adequately describe every potentially good item on the market, I still think I’ve covered the most important products.

Those listed above are all among my personal favorites when it comes to fishing coolers, but I’d still encourage you to do your own research, keeping in mind the questions mentioned in the Buyer’s Guide above.

What do you look for when it comes to fishing coolers?

Let me know about the things that are most important to you in the comments below.