There’s just something about being in the water that makes you want a cocktail. To ensure that your drink doesn’t end up in the drink, though, your beer needs its own float. And in the hot sun, it needs to stay cool. Enter the floating cooler. An ingenious way to enjoy your summer sipping, this essential warm-weather gear keeps your wine from getting warm, and your hard seltzer from getting wet, while you roll on a river or chill in the pool.
There are so many options to choose from. Depending on your activities and budget, there’s a right floating cooler for you. Here are our top suggestions for the best floating cooler.
Best Overall: IceMule Pro XXL
Easy to carry
Hard to open when floating
No cup holder
You can carry it without using your hands. It’s tough as nails, super-insulated, and watertight. You can throw it in a lake and it will bob on the surface without needing inflation. What else could you want from a floating cooler? This ergonomic backpack has padded shoulder straps and a weight-distributing sternum strap for comfortable carrying capacity. It’s made out of heavy-duty tarpaulin with a valve that lets you fill the lining with insulating air to keep ice intact for days. There are no leaky zippers; it closes like a dry bag, holding 18 cans within. Particularly for rugged water adventures, it’s the real deal.
Material: Welded tarpaulin | Dimensions: 19 x 9.5 x 8.5 inches | Weight: 3.1 Pounds | Capacity: 18 12-ounce cans | Color: Gray, black, olive, camo
Best for Pool: Airhead Aqua Oasis
Numbered cup holders
Must be inflated
There when you want it—and with looks like these, you’ll always know where it is—this ice-ready lockbox sits in its own little inner tube, floating in the pool for your libational convenience. The ample, detatchable main compartment stows up to 24 cans or bottles on ice under its snug lid. Carved into its inner tube are six separate cup holders, cleverly numbered, so you'll always know which drink is yours, plus a sundries holder for swim goggles or sunscreen. And if you want those things near, you can tug it along by its tether. All of this, plus its colorful design, make it the life of the pool party.
Material: Heavy Gauge Nylon and Vinyl | Dimensions: 14 x 9.75 x 4 inches | Weight: 67 ounces | Capacity: 24 12-ounce cans | Color: Red and yellow
Best for River: Intex River Run 2-Person
Great for a date
Must be inflated
Unwieldy when inflated
Inner tubing alone is no fun. That’s why this floating love seat is built for two. Tandem, mesh-bottomed tubes feature cup holders and back support, but the pièce de résistance is in between the backrests. It’s a 24-can, built-in cooler with a latched, insulated cover for keeping drinks frosty cold. A sundries compartment completes the nifty setup. Now, that’s perfect date material!
Material: Vinyl | Dimensions: 951/2 inches x 62 inches | Weight: 12.27 pounds | Capacity: 24 12-ounce cans | Color: Red, white and grey
Best Large Capacity: Intex Mega Chill II
Doesn't keep ice for long
Lid can float away
Throw a lakeside rager with this giant floating cooler that holds up to three cases of cans or bottles. Made to tether to Intex tubes, it’s like a barge full of beers and sodas that you tug along with you—six cup holders included. Best of all is its flexibility. If you remove the insulated lid, you can prop a regular 48-quart cooler on the base, giving the landlubbing traditional gear its own floating island.
Material: 16-gauge vinyl | Dimensions: 48 x 38 inches | Weight: 8.32 pounds | Capacity: 72 12-ounce cans | Color: Blue, black, and white
Related: The Best Soft Coolers
Best Splurge: IceMule Boss
Easy to carry
Hard to open when floating
The Lexus of floating coolers, this luxury backpack is made of the same rugged tarpaulin material as the IceMule Pro, with the same air valve for added insulation, and the same ergonomic carrying design. The difference is that, in addition to the main bag, which holds 12 cans, this model includes three ample cargo pockets. These are insulated with waterproof zippers, so you can stow even more icy libations in them. But they’re also great as dry compartments for cups, snacks, and other items.
Material: Welded tarpaulin | Dimensions: 12.5 x 9 x 25 inches | Weight: 6.6 pounds | Capacity: 24 12-ounce cans | Color: Beige
Best Design: Swim Central Arctic Chill
Ice melts in a few hours
When you need to replenish your supply of drinks and ice, this one makes it easy. Just lift the stylish, zipper-top cooler out of its floating ring and sling the strap across your shoulder. The cooler comes out dry, and the tube stays in the water. Make use of all of the beverage holders and the snack tray on board, so your guests will still have plenty of supplies while you fetch refills for the cooler.
Material: Vinyl | Dimensions: 20.5 inches high x 30 inches in diameter | Weight: 3 pounds | Capacity: 12 12-ounce cans | Color: Blue and white
Related: The Best Coolers in 2023
Best for Durability: CreekKooler PuP
Difficult to reach inside corners
Send this one across the ocean, and it might just land on a faraway shore with its contents safe and dry. Made of dual-walled, hard-molded plastic stuffed with insulation and topped with an air-tight, O-ring lid, it has a sleek, streamlined design that helps it keep up with your kayak or canoe when you tow it alongside you. While you’re at it, sip from a drink tucked into one of its two convenient cup holders. This little workhorse holds up to 10 pounds of ice, keeping drinks and snacks chilled for up to 24 hours.
Material: Molded hard plastic | Dimensions: 8.75 inches x 15 inches | Weight: 8.8 pounds | Capacity: 15 12-ounce cans | Color: Green, red, tan, or rose quartz
Best Compact: Yamaha Inflatable Floating Cooler
Zipper may leak
Made for portability, this handsome blue cooler features a removable, zippered cooler bag that holds up to two six-packs of brews or sodas. A nylon rope loop lets you tie it to your vessel and tow it in the water. The six built-in koozies are numbered so you don’t mix up your drinks. The deep-pocketed snack compartment can hold a big stack of energy bars.
Material: Nylon | Dimensions: 16 x 12 x 4 inches | Weight: 4 pounds | Capacity: 12 12-ounce cans | Color: Dark blue
Best Water Tight: CreekKooler
Big, brawny, and built like a tank, this floating cooler will keep up to 30 12-ounce cans or 20 pounds of ice as cold as the North Pole for up to two days inside its locked, watertight cooler compartment. Insulated, dual-walled construction and hard plastic material make it perfect for weekend paddling trips. Four cup holders put drinks easily at hand. And when the lake freezes over in winter? It’s so aerodynamic, you can hurl it across the ice like a curling stone.
Material: Hard, molded plastic | Dimensions: 39.5 x 12 x 21 inches | Weight: 17 pounds | Capacity: 30 12-ounce cans | Color: Royal blue
Best Dual Purpose: Beer Nation Inflatable Beer Pong Table
The whole point of a floating cooler is to have some fun with some drinks on the water, right? Well, what could be more fun than beer pong? This inflatable, floating table comes with a built-in cooler for stowing and chilling an essential part of the game: the beer. The double-reinforced compartment holds a six-pack right in the center of the regulation-sized playing surface, which has a handle for toting. Balls are sold separately; good thing they float, too!
Material: PVC | Dimensions: 6 x 3 feet | Weight: 3.6 pounds | Capacity: 6 12-ounce cans | Color: White
For serious sports and outdoorsy types, the IceMule Boss (view at Amazon) is a top-performing piece of equipment that will help you rough it on the water. But price-wise, it’s a commitment. If chilling with a group of pals is more your style, go for the Intex Mega Chill II (view at Amazon).
How tight is the seal?
That depends on the model you buy, so check the product details. Some coolers, meant for a gentle float, just have a simple Velcro latch. Others have zippers, which may or may not be waterproof. And the ones meant for more adventurous water sports have air-tight seals, including dry-bag roll-and-snap closures and locking O-rings.
How long can it stay out in the sun and remain cool?
Again, this varies per cooler. A tough guy like the CreekKooler will keep your ice solid for up to two days. Inflatable coolers might be good for a few hours.
What's the best way to clean it?
If it’s an inflatable, deflate it all the way first, removing any excess water that might have gotten trapped inside it. Wash it in a non-chemical solution: natural soap, distilled white vinegar, or baking soda and lukewarm water. Submerge the cooler, and gently scrub it clean with a sponge. Then rinse it in cool, clean water and leave it out to dry.
Why Trust Liquor.com?
Betsy Andrews has written about drinks for more than two decades. She’s also a travel writer and an avid paddler. Her favorite place to be on a summer day is in her canoe in the middle of a lake, frosty drink in hand.
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