The 7 Best Coolers for Whitewater Rafting

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The 7 Best Coolers for Whitewater Rafting Trips

How to pick the right cooler for you

Do you have a big whitewater rafting trip planned this summer? If so, you’re going to need a good cooler to keep your food cold. There are a lot of coolers on the market these days, but which one is the best cooler for a whitewater rafting trip? In this article, we will discuss the 7 best coolers for whitewater rafting trips. We’ll also give you some tips on how to choose the right one for you. As always, you can contact us if you want more information on this topic.

When I’m looking for a high-performance cooler to add to my whitewater rafting inventory, I look for a few features:

  • It has to be durable enough to hold up on multiple whitewater rafting trips.
  • Ice Retention: Known for keeping things cool for multi-day trips
  • It has to be able to fit in a raft frame easily
  • Foam insulation is a must for me!
  • Did I mention it has to keep ice frozen??

Your list might look different. Perhaps you are planning to only do day trips and you need a cooler to keep your beer cold. Or maybe you prefer a soft cooler for a shorter trip. If, so your search will probably be much different and a cooler bag would probably suffice.

I also chose not to review any wheeled coolers, or soft-sided coolers since they are not ideal for rugged whitewater rafting.

That being said, let’s dig into my 7 best coolers for whitewater rafting trips!


Yeti Coolers have been used by whitewater rafting guides for years. Yetis are known for their durability and for keeping things cold. Plus they have an excellent warranty that covers repair or replacement if there is a manufacturing defect. YETI coolers come in different sizes to fit your whitewater rafting needs. They offer hard coolers and a soft cooler, but we will focus on their hard coolers.

Roadie 20 – These hard coolers make it perfect for day trips. I use this on short day floats where I might bring some snacks and drinks. I also use it for solo trips where I am trying to keep the weight down. I use this cooler for most of my Mckenzie river day floats.

Tundra 35 – This cooler is a good size for smaller multi-day trips. I use this one on a small overnighter on the Umpqua River, or for day runs on the Mckenzie River. It is perfect for packing a lunch and drinks in it and is light enough for one person to move around.

Yeti Tundra 125 cooler for whitewater rafting trip
Yeti Tundra 125

Tundra 125– This is my personal favorite for multi-day trips. It is a little bulky for one person to get in and out of a raft, but it is still doable. It is large enough for me to pack all my breakfasts in one, lunches in another, and dinner in one as well. This is the best cooler to start with if you are planning on running multi-day trips.

Pelican Elite Coolers

Another great option for whitewater rafting trips is Pelican Elite Hard Coolers. I have used their dry box for years, and have been seen as the flagship in the industry, but I am relatively new to their coolers. So far, they have lived up to the hype and share the same quality as their dry boxes.

I have tested these coolers on the river and I have found them to have superb insulation. They also offer a lifetime warranty! Pelican Elite Hard Coolers come in a variety of sizes including:

30 Qt – This cooler will fit perfectly in your raft frame and can hold enough food for a multi-day trip.

Pelican 150 cooler for whitewater rafting trip
Pelican 150

150 Qt– This cooler is perfect for multi-day trips. I like the shape a little bit better than the YETI Tundra 125, and the latches are bomb-proof. I don’t like that the clasps are hard to get to when you strap it in, but I am sure with a few adjustments to my frame I could make it easier to open while on the river.

Canyon Coolers

The canyon is one of the most popular brands of hard coolers on the market today. These hard coolers are chosen specifically for their whitewater rafting trips because they are known for their durability. Their latch system is solid, and they fit great on raft frames. They’re also great at keeping food cold. The drain plug on these hard coolers is tight and doesn’t come loose.

Canyon 45 for whitewater rafting trip
Canyon 45

One drawback is that they can be heavy in comparison to the Yeti or Pelican coolers. You might want to make sure you load it into your raft empty and then add the food and Ice.

Outfitter 125-I have used this cooler on multiple trips and can assure you that it will keep food cold on long whitewater rafting trips. I was reminded that I needed to hit the gym when I tried to lift it onto my raft, though. It definitely was durable and has survived many trips down the Lower Klamath River.

Pro 45-I love this cooler for carrying lunches or vegetables. It is a deep cooler that is all of 45 QTs. The coolest thing about this cooler is the dual-purpose cooler-divider and cutting board! It clamps onto the side of the cooler and makes for a great lunch station. This is the best cooler in its size class, and I rarely will go on a whitewater rafting trip without throwing this cooler on the packing list.

RTIC Outdoors Coolers

RTIC Outdoors Coolers for whitewater rafting trip
RTIC 145

These hard coolers have a lot going for them. Even their name is cool: Artic without the “A!” The RTIC, like many other coolers on the market, has a familiar design with some standout features that make it both sturdy and useful. With two drains, comfy handles, a big volume capacity, an easy-to-use design, and so much more.

The RTIC remains competitive against stiff competition from several excellent coolers due to its exceptional cooling performance and value. It has outstanding insulation, extreme durability, and ease of use at a price that is lower than the competition.

One disadvantage is that RTIC provides a one-year warranty against manufacturing defects, as opposed to three and five-year warranties offered by other companies. They also don’t offer a bear warranty as Yeti Coolers do.

Their price point is lower than a Yeti cooler, but its performance is almost equal to other manufacturers. I would recommend RTIC if you are just getting started, and needed to stay on a tight budget. This is a great option for those getting into whitewater rafting.

I would recommend the RTIC 65 or RTIC 145.


When it comes down to it, YETI, Canyon, RTIC, and Pelican hard coolers are all great options for whitewater rafting adventures. Ultimately, it depends on your personal preferences and what you need from a cooler. YETI is known for its durability and keeping ice frozen, Pelican is known for its lifetime warranty, and Canyon is known for its ice retention.

My top choices for most rafting adventures are the Yeti 125’s for all my meals, the Canyon 45 for lunches and vegetables, and either the Pelican 35 or Roadie 20 for drinks during the day.

The Yeti coolers are definitely my favorite because of their warranty, durability, how they fit in my raft frame, and their ability to keep ice frozen. However, I can stand by all these options and have used the other hard coolers on multiple occasions.

You really can’t go wrong with any of the coolers I reviewed here. Contact us if you have any questions regarding how to pack for multi-day trips, or organize your gear effectively on a raft!

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