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Updated November 2021
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Buying guide for best floating coolers

Whether you like floating in the pool, fishing with friends, or kayaking in a scenic river, spending time on the water is a relaxing way to enjoy warm weather. But all that time in the sun can make you pretty thirsty, which is why you need a high-quality floating cooler to keep your favorite beverages nearby and cold.

Like a traditional cooler, a floating cooler is an insulated container that, when filled with ice, helps keep cans and bottles chilled. To make it more convenient for use on the water, the cooler floats, which means you don’t have to get out of the water when you want a beverage. Some floating coolers inflate like a pool float, while others are made of foam or lightweight plastic designed to float. Which one is right for you?

Our buying guide has all the information you need to find the best floating cooler for your next water adventure. If you’re still a little unsure, check our specific product recommendations above for even easier shopping.

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Using a floating cooler frees up space in your boat, kayak, tube, or other watercraft for other gear you need on the water.

Key considerations

Water conditions

When shopping for a floating cooler, it’s essential to consider the water conditions in which you plan to use it. For a pool or other relatively calm water, nearly any floating cooler, including inflatable models, will suit your needs.

However, if you’re going to be boating, fishing, or kayaking in rougher water, you’ll need a more durable model. The cooler should be able to withstand being jostled against rocks, branches, and other hard surfaces. It also has to endure the force of waves or rapids if it will be tossed around in rougher water. Avoid inflatable coolers that aren’t puncture resistant.


You can usually tell how durable a floating cooler is by its material.

Vinyl: When it comes to inflatable coolers, vinyl is the most durable option. However, it’s not puncture resistant, so some of these floating coolers come with a patch kit so you can fix any rips or tears.

Foam: Floating coolers made of thick foam can resist punctures and handle rougher water.

Plastic: If you’re going to use the cooler in particularly rocky rapids or waves, you may prefer one made of lightweight plastic or PVC. It won’t puncture like vinyl or tear like foam. Plastic floating coolers cost more, so take that into consideration if you only need the cooler for pool parties or use in other calm water situations.


The larger the floating cooler, the more cans, bottles, and ice it can hold. However, you don’t want to purchase a cooler that’s too large and bulky to transport easily. In general, floating coolers are smaller than traditional coolers, but they’re usually large enough to accommodate a small group for an afternoon on the water.

Small: If you’re purchasing a cooler to use in your pool and for parties at home, a small cooler (about 15 cans and/or bottles) usually works best because you can easily refill it. A large floating cooler may take up too much space in the pool, leaving less room for swimming and games.

Large: If you’re going fishing, boating, or kayaking, you’ll likely want a larger cooler (50 or 60 cans and/or bottles) since you won’t be able to get back to shore easily for refills.

"Salt water can cause a floating cooler to break down more quickly, which means if you use your cooler in the ocean, you might need to replace it more often. "



If you plan to travel with your floating cooler, you want a model that’s as portable as possible. An inflatable cooler is your best bet because you can deflate it for easy packing. Foam and plastic coolers are usually harder to pack because they can’t be folded.

Tow points

Some floating coolers have hooks or loops for attaching a line so you can tow it behind your boat, kayak, raft, or other watercraft. It can be a particularly important feature if you’re spending time in rougher water where there’s a chance your cooler could drift away.


Some floating coolers have convenient, built-in cupholders along the outside edge. That saves you from holding your beverage the whole time you’re in the water. Some models have just two cupholders, but others have as many as eight.


Because it’s used in water, an inflatable cooler can grow moldy quite easily. Look for a cooler that’s easy to clean, so you can keep it free of bacteria, mold, and debris. Avoid models with lots of grooves or crevices, which can easily harbor moisture and germs.


Raft: Solstice Swimline SunSkiff 3-Person Boat
If you’re hanging out on the lake or even in a pool, a raft or inflatable boat is the perfect way to enjoy the water. We like this one from Solstice because it can hold three people and is made of durable PVC.

Pool noodles: Coast Athletic Famous Foam Pool Noodles
When you’re relaxing in your pool with your beverage of choice, it helps to have a pool noodle to keep you afloat. These noodles from Coast Athletic are a favorite because they’re made of ultra-soft foam and come four to a pack.

Floating cooler prices

Floating coolers vary in price based on material, size, durability, and other features. Most cost between $10 and $150.

Inexpensive: The most affordable floating coolers are typically inflatable models made of lower-quality vinyl or thin foam that work best in a pool setting. These usually don’t have a cover or built-in cupholders. You’ll pay between $10 and $26 for these floating coolers.

Mid-range: These floating coolers are usually inflatable models made of higher-quality vinyl or thicker foam and suitable for the pool or other relatively calm water conditions. You can also find larger inflatable coolers made of lower-quality vinyl in this price range. Some feature covers and built-in cupholders, too. They typically range from $26 to $52.

Expensive: The most expensive floating coolers are usually made of hard plastic or extremely thick foam. They work well for rougher water conditions, so you can take them on trips over rapids. Most models in this price range have a tow point and a watertight cover, too. You’ll typically pay between $52 and $150 for these floating coolers.


  • Check the rules. Before loading your floating cooler with alcohol, make sure that the river or lake where you’re going allows alcoholic beverages.
  • Never pack glass in your cooler. Always pack your floating cooler with cans or plastic bottles. If a glass bottle breaks in the water, it’s very easy to step on the pieces and cause a serious injury.
  • Collect your empties. Remember to bring a trash bag in the cooler. That makes it easy to collect the cans and bottles to recycle when you return to land.
  • Put food in plastic containers. If you put food in your floating cooler, store it in plastic containers. Food in plastic bags can get soggy due to the excess moisture from the melting ice.
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A floating cooler comes in particularly handy for pool parties because it allows your guests to help themselves to drinks without getting out of the water.


Q. Where can I use a floating cooler?
A floating cooler is suitable for most bodies of water, including pools, rivers, lakes, and even the ocean. If you plan to use a floating cooler in the ocean or a river with strong currents, you need a particularly durable model, so stick with a cooler made of hard materials.

Q. How do I clean a floating cooler?
Nearly all floating coolers can be wiped down with a damp cloth, so they’re easy to clean. If there are stains or particularly sticky spots, you can use a mixture of soap and water to clean the surface. Be gentle when cleaning an inflatable cooler because it can tear or rip if you scrub too hard.

Q. Can an inflatable floating cooler sink?
It’s unlikely that an inflatable floating cooler will sink if you handle it carefully and avoid puncturing or ripping it. Some models also have built-in airbags to keep them from sinking if they’re punctured or torn.

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