Canoe Camping - What size Cooler

I’m trying to decide what size 5-day cooler I should buy for future canoe camping trips. I have a 16 ft canoe with max width of 35 inches. Is there a typical size cooler that most people use when canoe camping??? Any thoughts would be appreicated.

Don’t worry
This guy can help you…


I go out for two to three weeks
And there is no ice and there are portages.

No cooler.

Thats my thought.

Depends how much beer you want to take.

Maybe …

– Last Updated: Apr-25-08 1:22 AM EST –

Maybe the thread poster wanted "helpful" suggestions from other paddlers who "do" use a cooler; as opposed to an outline of what "you" do, or don't do.

Mark, I would suggest that a good starting place would be to go to Coleman's web site, and check out their Xtreme cooler models. Surely one of those will fit your needs.

Those are my thoughts.


Coolers for Canoe Tripping!
I also use a 16’ Canoe with a 35" width and 14.5 depth. It has a 950 pound capacity. I paddle solo as I think you are indicating you do also. For a week long paddle on Class 1-2 Rivers or on lakes I would suggest a cooler with the size of about 30" by 18" by 15" which is a medium size. Some types to look into would be the NRS Dura Soft Cooler, Coleman hard cooler, Engel Outfitter Grade Hard Cooler, Thermos Soft Cooler,and Icee-Kool Hard Cooler.

Engel and Icee-Kool Coolers are made expecially for river running and are vertually indistructable. They are made out of polyethylene with rubber gaskets and metal clamps which seal super tight. They are also more insulated. A medium size will stay iced over seven days if opened only once per day. The other models from the companies above will all melt down after the first three days unless you use large solid chunks of ice or put sawdust in on top to fill all the empty space. Problem is then the inside of the cooler becomes a mess after a few days. The soft coolers by Thermos and NRS have a nice feature which is rings which allow you to tie them down easily.

Hope this helps some in your decision.


or this guy…

Given a choice …
… which is not always the case because partner in canoe may think otherwise , I would not use the cooler for carrying ice , but still use it for food supplies and related misc. items … it is 100% possible to plan rations that do not require being kept cold and still eat very well … I even believe it is preferable … just have thought about what you eat that is not in the refridge. and see if you could accept that option for x amount of days out on the water and camp … I assure that you will not starve nor become dehydrated … Tamia (In The Same Boat , articles , is making delicious soups and drying them herself as of late , add water and enjoy when ready !! … so I don’t know if these thoughts will influence you this way or that , but think about it , no ice required , cooler for storage and organization only , way less mess and improved convenience , no worry about spoilage , less space required (smaller cooler) or dual purpose (larger cooler) … when out for days at a time in the canoe think minimal and efficient , prepared and DRY !!

Just an idea for debate: Dry ice?

“Dry ice gives more than twice the cooling energy per pound of weight and three times the cooling energy per volume than regular water ice (H2O). It is often mixed with regular ice to save shipping weight and extend the cooling energy of water ice. "


" As a general rule, Dry Ice will sublimate at a rate of five to ten pounds every 24 hours in a typical ice chest. This sublimation continues from the time of purchase, therefore, pick up Dry Ice as close to the time needed as possible. Bring an ice chest or some other insulated container to hold the Dry Ice and slow the sublimation rate. Dry Ice sublimates faster than regular ice melts but will extend the life of regular ice.”

So, as I see it, it “melts” faster, but takes less volume for more cooling, ie, less weight. Sounds like they suggest a combination of the two. Pack your cooler with food, ice it down, then finish off w/ dry ice. The result would be that for minimal additional weight, the dry ice will last the first day or two, extending the life of the water ice that much further. Does that make sense anyone?


Not the NRS
I second the cooler-less tripping thoughts of others, but if you decide you need a cooler, I’d avoid the NRS. A friend has one, albeit smaller than the above poster is recommending, but the ice is gone in two days, max, and it leaks constantly.


coleman max
I have the 36qt coleman xtreme cooler and use it for 3-4 day float trips in Florida. It holds up to its reputation of holding ice for 5 days at 90 degrees if they are not opened regularly. The space inside is smaller than a regular cooler of the same size, but if you are paddling in hot weather it’s worth it.

Ok, Here it is…
The “5 day” coolers are crap. the hold ice for five days, but not enough food for a weekend. Why? Because they insulate the cooler thicker (on the interior) which inturn makes the interior compartment smaller.

Here is what I do & it works for me:

Freeze 6-8 water bottles and put them in the bottom corners & sides of your cooler. Add food & dump a bag of ice ontop. This will keep your food cold & the ice will last about four days (no direct sun). By the end of your trip, you will still have “refridgerated” food/soda/beer & a “BONUS” of ice cold water!!!

Measure your canoe at the center for width & buy a standard cooler to fit. Then you could also put acouple beach towels covering it & make it another seet as well.

Paddle easy,


get the biggest one that will fit in your BUDDYS canoe…


– Last Updated: Apr-25-08 2:30 PM EST –

The only leaks from my NRS cooler are from the zipper when it's tipped over. No other leaking issues with mine, and they do make replacement liners for them. I use the NRS in the chillier months as it's not as well insulated as hard sided coolers and I don't need to worry so much about the ice, but it sure can hold plenty of food. I also feel a lot more comfortable putting the soft cooler into the bottom of the kevlar canoe. A combo of dry and regular ice will keep the ice longer during the summer. Dry ice on the bottom, wrapped in paper; regular ice (about 1" thick layer of it) over the dry ice. Then food, then more regular ice over the food.

In the royalex canoe, we've taken a silver Coleman Extreme cooler - which works really well, but has a higher profile than I typically like or need to use. We only bring the big mama jamma when we're the "refrigerator" for a number of people.

What we normally do is to just freeze any perishable food that we're not eating right away, and put it into a 12 pack cooler that won't be opened at all until we need it (no beverages / daily food). Then we just use freezerbag cooking or other dry foods for most meals, and save the perishable stuff for a special dinner or two.

Also, red wine doesn't need to be kept cold. Just an FYI. (he he he) :)

Good luck!

on how much beer and steak you are going to consume.

Good advise about keeping the
cooler covered. I don’t usually use a cooler, but find just using my center splash cover will really help keeping the temperature down for everything underneath.

A Big One
I have a 16’ OTC Camper and camp for multiple days. I’ve tried multiple sizes of coolers and for 5 days I recommend using a large chest, one that will fit cross-wise in your canoe and you can easily lift and carry by yourself. Get one with good insulation and tight fitting lid; if you intend to keep ice for 5 days and you’re not camping in cold weather. Get one with handles so you can tie it down in case of an accident. To keep ice longer, do not use cubes; freeze your own in plastic food containers in large blocks. You can also freeze your drinking water and use it for cooling until you need to drink it.

evaporative cooler
we keep things cool for six weeks in a hot relatively dry environment by wrapping foods in a damp cotton towel and placing them in a soft sided cooler.

The towel must be kept damp.

The margarine is still hard after six weeks of this.

No ice required. Its too costly to fly in replacement ice even though only a Beaver is needed.

Really good Czech beer, and IPA ale
actually taste better at cool river temperature rather than ice cold. Nothing worse (for me) than Sierra Pale Ale ice cold, but when just cool, it’s mighty refreshing.

in south FL needs not to be open unless necessary in hot weather. I don’t know where you are so assume summer weather. We freeze 2 - 3 gallons of water and then put food/drinks in crevices. Heck we even have frozen beer! Those Heineken barrel beers freeze well but it’ll taste a tad different. Out there everything tastes better even those horrid Lipton meals :slight_smile:

By freezing a couple of gallons of water we have gone up to 4 days in typical tropical environment. Plus the cold water is great after the 4th day. You would need a cooler that can hold the gallons plus food/drinks. I guess you would have to buy one that looks like it will work take it home and experiment. If it doesn’t suit the needs take it back for a different size up or down.