Whether you’re tubing on the river with friends, tossing the kids around in the pool, or having a family day at the lake, drinks will be necessary. And while a hard-backed coolers and ice chests are a summer necessity, there’s something about lazily reaching to your side and grabbing a Capri Sun or cold one without having to leave the water. That’s where these floating coolers come in handy. While lacking in the durability of their hard-backed brethren, they’re inflatable, inexpensive, and equipped to bob (or, in some cases, towed) beside you. Some are equipped with a few cup holders; others have the ability to store as many as 72 cans; all act as your in-water access to cold drinks and snacks. Here are eight options for the lake, river, or pool.
Intex Mega Chill
With three air chambers supporting its circular, five-cup payload, you won’t have to worry about your beers capsizing if you spring a leak. The Mega Chill also features three built-in trays, which are perfect for seaworthy snacks. Easy-to-use connectors are included, so you can fasten it to other Intex product and, at an impressive diameter of 35 inches, the Mega Chill is taller than your average toddler, and much better at not spilling your beer.
Intex Mega Chill II Float
Consider this the only four-foot floater you’d be thrilled to find in your pool. Store your beverages in one of the six convenient cup holders, or use the Mega Chill II’s base as a floating pedestal for your own cooler of choice, up to 48-quarts. The included removable ice chest holds an impressive 72 cans (plus ice), and the three plus-sized air chambers ensure floating longevity long after you’ve keeled over.
Byers 1700 Big Bobber
There’s no Hitmonlee, Charizard, or Pikachu inside this Pokéball-shaped cooler. Instead, this 14” x 14” swimming sphere opens up to reveal a thermal chamber that can keep up to 12 cans (or roughly eight bottles) chilled for hours. Recommended by customers as the perfect cooler for towing behind a kayak or canoe, the Big Bobber has your next day of tubing covered. Just be sure some giant Carp doesn’t mistake it for a lure and drag you under.
40 Can Super Softie
What it lacks in cup capacity (only two cup holders per unit), the Super Softie makes up for in practicality. That’s because it’s the first cooler on our list to feature a unique unit-to-unit tethering system. You can link up as many as you want, to create a sort of “Cooler Centipede” that can hold up to 40 cans per compartment. The Super Softie also includes a matching tray, just in case you feel like playing pool waiter with some Capri Suns.
Airhead Aqua Oasis
This insulated, leak-proof nylon cooler can keep a modest 24 cans cool for hours. But it’s the little things that make the Aqua Oasis one of the coolest coolers around. First, the cup holders are numbered, so there’s almost no chance of swapping backwash with an accidental swig of your kiddos’ soda. Second, the integrated sundry compartment is the perfect place to store some SPF, waterproof speakers, or a tightly-cased phone. Finally, the molded plastic rope connector hooks up neatly with the Airhead Lounge, to make for the perfect midday dip.
GoFloats Party Gator
Normally, you’d steer clear of gator-infested waters. Not when the specimen inhabiting them is the majestic GoFloats Party Gator. At more than six feet long, this rowdy reptile holds up to 20 cans in its belly, and features four party cup-sized holders strategically placed between its scales. The Party Gator also includes four built-in grommets which you can use to anchor it to a fixed spot, or hook up a leash and let your little one take it for a walk down the beach.
CreekKooler Insulated Floating Cooler
If you’re looking for the Titanic of floating coolers, look no further than this dual-wall, blow-molded monster. If it hits an iceberg, all the better, because its 30 quart capacity holds 30 standard cans and a whopping 20lbs of ice. It’s towable, so you can drag it behind small watercrafts, and its watertight, locking lid and o-ring design will provide secure storage in the water, the snow, or on dry land. And two full inches of insulation injected into the deck and hull means that, for up to 48 hours, the CreekKooler will keep your drinks and ice colder than Kate Winslet’s heart when she pushed Leo off that door.
What sets this clever cooler apart from the competition is cleanliness. A pull out liner makes for easy cleaning should your little swimmer detonate a juice box too closely. The storage capacity is okay – 18 cans without ice, or 12 with – and the numbered cup holders are handy, but the fact that it folds up into its own integrated carrying case makes it the world’s most practical Popple. (Remember those?)