Anyone who has ever tried to lug a full cooler loaded with a weekend’s worth of snacks and drinks knows how difficult this can be. Most coolers were designed to be carried by two or more people, yet everyone seems to disappear when it comes time to move it from the car to the boat, picnic table, or cabin.
The answer? A cooler on wheels, of course.
Once you start shopping for a roller cooler, it becomes apparent that there are far more options than you thought were possible. Almost everyone who makes traditional coolers, plus a few specialty shops, offer their own take on a camping kitchen on wheels.
As is usually the case, not all wheeled coolers are created equal, and some are simply a waste of money. So, how do you know which are worthy of a second look? How do you determine which is best for you? Let us help.
We have done the research and complied a list of the best wheeled coolers available, plus provide some tips on selecting the one that is right for you.
The 3 Top Wheeled Coolers: Outdoor Empire Reviews
- Best Cheap: Rubbermaid DuraChill (Xtreme)
- Best for the Money: Igloo Trailmate
- Best on the Market: RovR RollR 60
|Category||Best Cheap||Best for the Money||Best on the Market|
|Capacity||130 cans with ice||112 cans with ice||60 cans plus 20 lbs ice|
|Coolness Retention||Up to 5 days||4 days||Up to 10 days|
|Length||19.6 in||34.59 in||26.5 in|
|Width||33.4 in||19.7 in||18.9 in|
|Height||17 in||23.61 in||19.8 in|
|Cost||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price|
1. Best Cheap Wheeled Cooler: Rubbermaid DuraChill (Xtreme) Wheeled Ice Chest
Rubbermaid is known for producing quality, budget-friendly kitchen and picnic gear, so it should come as no surprise they offer a wheeled cooler. What is surprising is their unique take on a wheeled cooler. While most makes choose an upright design similar to wheeled luggage, the DuraChill is towed like a wagon.
They took a standard high-capacity cooler, placed wheels under the rear and a long handle on the opposite end, and there you have it.
But do not be fooled by the approach—it works. Plus, it allows for a much larger cooler (45–75 quarts) than what is provided by many other designs. This design allows for dual tops, use as a regular cooler by simply collapsing down the handle and using traditional swing handles, and use of extra thick walls for added insulation.
Despite the bargain price, you get a quality cooler that the family will enjoy taking on their next outing.
- High capacity for large group outings (up to 130 cans with ice)
- Retains ice for up to five days under ideal conditions
- Molded dual-access lid with cup holders
- Large size can be difficult to transport or use as traditional cooler
- Very heavy, especially when loaded with maximum capacity of cans and ice
2. Best Wheeled Cooler for the Money: Igloo Trailmate
You may be surprised to see Igloo selected as the Best for the Money in any modern cooler review. Sure, their coolers have a loyal following, but it is usually listed in the bargain section. It will surprise you even more when you find out the Trailmate is not roto-molded.
But believe me, when it comes to wheeled coolers, the Trailmate delivers everything you want and then some—and does it in style.
The Trailmate is rated for four days of ice retention. Not great, but sufficient for most uses. This is just about the only negative aspect there is. Large wheels mounted to the rear and a long, sturdy town handle allows for easy travel over rough terrain.
Plus, when you extend the handle, you get access to a butler tray, complete with a serving/prep area and two cup holders. Two bottle openers make having a cold one as easy as one, two, three. The 70-quart (112 can) capacity provides room for more food and drink than most are willing to tow.
A small dry storage area is perfect for phone, wallets, keys, or anything else you want to protect and keep dry. On the rear there are even two accessory mounts where optional fishing rod holders can be placed.
Finally, there are numerous tie-down loops to help secure towels, beach chairs, or anything else you may need on your summer adventures.
- Large wheels for use on rough terrain or sand
- Telescoping handle with built-in butler tray that includes self-draining cup holders
- 70-quart capacity allows for storage of 112 cans and ice
- Shorter ice-retention period than many others
- Design not readily suited for use as regular, non-wheeled cooler
3. Best Wheeled Cooler on the Market: RovR RollR 60
Being able to wheel your cooler to the boat or across the beach is attractive, but the problem is that few manufacturers have delivered a wheeled cooler that actually works.
Yes, they zip up and down the store isles or across the driveway with ease, but the first time they encounter rocks, sand, or even high grass, everything stands still. Before you know it, you are carrying it like everyone else.
The RovR RollR60 is different. The large, inflatable wheels are unlike those used on any other cooler and more closely resemble those found on a bike or utility cart. This allows it to roll over rough terrain with ease.
The designers even offer a unique handle extension that attaches directly to a bike for convenient towing. Other accessories include a large, detachable dry box, non-skid feet, and six secure tie-down points. This is not a cooler masked as a wagon—it is a wagon that doubles as a top-notch cooler.
- The best, most durable wheels on the market
- Rugged, durable design
- Some of the best, most innovative accessories available
- Insulation is good, but not the best available
- Latches are awkward and more difficult to use
- One of the heaviest coolers in its class
Wheeled vs. Regular Coolers
When to buy wheeled?
The simplest reason most users buy a wheeled cooler rather than a traditional model is ease of transportation. For the most part, these coolers as designed with one purpose in mind, other than storing and keeping food or drinks cool, and that is making it more convenient to get the cooler to where you need it.
If you are an angler, you have probably noticed some of your fellow watermen have adapted wheeled coolers for an additional purpose as well, such as transporting their gear. By adding a rod holder, tie-downs, and assorted accessories, they have killed two birds with one stone.
Many manufacturers have picked up on this and started adding similar features right from the factory.
Pros and Cons of Wheeled Coolers
Wheeled coolers are not the answer for every outdoor adventure, but when needed, they sure can be handy. Before buying your next cooler, it is important to know which is the best fit for you and your needs.
Easier Transportation – This is especially true if traveling longer distances or moving a large supply of food and drinks.
Large Capacity – Since you will be pulling it rather than carrying it, many manufacturers opt to go bigger with their wheeled coolers.
Heavy-Duty Construction – Again, because it will be towed rather than carried, designers are not afraid of using heavy-duty materials for increased durability. Weight is not usually a factor.
1. Not all designs are suitable for real-world application. Far too many wheeled coolers use small wheels, short handles, and overall designs that are more at home in the store aisles and driveways than fishing piers or the beach
2. Some designs can be unwieldy, especially when trying to them move in or out of vehicle. While overall size and weight may be a bonus when in the field, it can make transportation or storage and issue.
3. Wheeled designs are not suitable for all applications, meaning you will probably need at least one additional cooler. This may not be a big deal if you purchase cheaper models, but after investing $200 to $300 on a wheeled cooler, the idea of spending that much or more on a second cooler can sting.
Importance of Selecting a Great Cooler
The old saying “you get what you pay for” has never been truer than when selecting a wheeled cooler. Buy a cheap wheeled cooler, and you could find yourself fighting with it at every turn as it tips, gets hung up or stuck, and eventually leaves you stranded.
In the end, you will be forced to lug it the old-fashioned way, if it has the proper handles to allow this, that is.
Although a quality wheeled cooler will cost more up front, it will be money well spent. More times than not, buying a cheap knock off will only save that money for a short period of time. Once it breaks or proves to be useless, you will replace it anyway, so it is better for everyone if you just make the right choice from the beginning.
How to Choose
We have shared out thoughts when it comes to the best wheeled coolers in several of the most popular categories, but just in case you are not convinced or want to do a little shopping of your own, it is time to share some guidance on how to select you first wheeled cooler.
As with any purchase you prepare to make, there are several important considerations you need to take into account when shopping and eventually selecting a wheeled cooler.
If you select the correct wheeled cooler, it is sure to provide many seasons of support while you and your family explore the great outdoors.
Do You Need a Wheeled Cooler?
The first question you need to ask yourself is whether you need a wheeled cooler? After all, as we pointed out earlier, they are not well suited for every situation.
If you are looking for a cooler you can place on the back deck, use to store items when out on the boat, or as back up refrigeration at the cabin, you might be better served by a traditional cooler.
The same holds true for any situation that does not involve moving the cooler over anything put the smallest distances. The same goes for those who will only by transporting small loads. How many times have you seen a co-worker pull a wheeled lunch cooler?
Wheeled coolers are best suited for those times when you need to transport a lot of food, drinks, ice, and gear over a long distance. If this is the situation you find yourself in, then by all means, keep reading.
Next, you need to consider the features you want, need, or can do without. This will make it much easier to narrow the field when staring at such a wide assortment of options.
Start with a quality cooler and add wheels. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel when it comes to selecting a cooler, regardless of whether or not it will eventually include wheels. In the beginning you want to ensure you are starting with a quality, well-constructed cooler.
The most important feature a cooler can offer is its ability to keep food cold. This is, after all, why you buy a cooler to begin with. Many modern coolers express the quality of their insulation by stating how long it will keep ice fresh, although this has resulted in some pretty unbelievable claims.
It is important to understand that when a cooler claim to keep ice for five days or food frozen for six days, this is usually only possible when you perform unrealistic preparation. This could include pre-chilling the cooler, the food, or both.
Maybe you will need to freeze the food beforehand or fill the cooler with more ice than food. What you need to consider is the cooler’s ability to keep food below 40°F and drinks below 50°F—the temperatures necessary to prevent spoiling and at which drinks taste best.
No cooler relies solely on insulation to achieve temperature control. This requires a combination of insulation, seals, locks, and even the materials used. It is important to consider both aspects if you wish to get a true understanding of the cooler’s ability to do its job.
There are two factors to consider when it comes to the size of your cooler: the amount of storage available (interior size) and the overall size of the cooler.
Storage space is usually advertised in terms of gallons, liters, or quarts, although it is now becoming more common to refer to storage space in terms of the number of 12-ounce cans it can carry. There are three important points to remember when referring to storage space.
First, this is a measurement of the entire available space—the interior and exterior, and the insulated and uninsulated parts. Second, the shape of the cooler versus shape of the items you are attempting to store will determine how much space is usable. Third, some of the space will be lost to ice or cold packs.
Overall size is important because you will need to store, transport, and at some point, move the cooler. Too small, and you will be unable to store everything necessary for your trip. Too large, and the cooler will be unwieldy, too heavy, or might not fit into your car, tent, etc.
There is an ever-expanding list of options when it comes to what cooler materials, and scientists are constantly looking for the next lighter, more efficient material. However, for the purpose of this article, we will simplify matters and look at plastic, fabric, and metal coolers.
Plastic – This is the most common material used and the nearly exclusive choice for hard-sided coolers. However, there is one important aspect to remember—not all plastics are created equal. Both the very expensive and extremely inexpensive use plastic in their construction, and it all comes down to the manufacturing process used.
Fabric– various fabrics have always been the choice when it comes to construction of cheaper, soft-sided lunch tote style cooler. Now, new stronger materials are being utilized to develop high-end brands as well. As new materials are developed or adapted their use in cooler will undoubtedly increase.
Metal – There was a time when metal, usually lined with an insulating material or consisting of two vacuum sealed layers, was the material of choice for cooler. Today, it is the exception. Although metal does allow for a very durable, long-lasting design, it is heavy and has been largely replaced by plastic.
Ease of Use
It is hard to believe that ease of use would even be a concern when it comes to a cooler, but advancements have resulted in coolers with a wide array of features never before available, and each added feature means a higher degree of difficulty for the user.
The first order of business when reviewing ease of use are the general features available on any cooler—size, shape, handles, and wheels (if included). Can you load it easily and efficiently? Does the size allow for loading common items, and is it easy to carry? Are the handles adjustable?
If so, how hard is it to adjust them? Do the wheels provide a smooth, easy-to-pull platform? All these things you should wonder when buying any cooler. But then things get a little more complex as you dig a bit deeper.
Improved seals and latches are required for multiple days of ice-cold temperatures. There are a variety of latch designs in use, including large rubber models that are stretched into place, push-button locks, and even slide latches.
Eventually every cooler loses its cool and ice melts, so there has to be a drain available. Some of these drains are simple plugs—pull them out and let the water run. Others involve multiple discs that need to be turned, lined up, etc. Each manufacturer is convinced their design is best, but some are far more difficult to use.
Now it is time to consider features specific to a wheeled cooler.
This is one of the most important features to consider when purchasing a wheeled cooler—after all, it is what makes it all work (or fail, as the case may be). If you plan on using your cooler any place other than a flat, paved trail, it is important that you select one with wheels that are capable of off-road operation.
Look for wheels that are larger, sturdy, and capable of taking a few rough bumps along the trail. If you will be using the cooler on the beach or will be crossing sand to get to your favorite fishing spot, then the wheels need to be wider to avoid sinking in the soft surface.
Some specially designed beach coolers even offer inflatable balloon tires for just this reason. Those who plan on getting the most out of their cooler may even want to consider whether or not the wheels can be switched out for other styles or changed if damaged.
The only feature more important than the wheels is the handle. Get a handle that is too short or not strong enough, and pulling you cooler will be more work than it is worth, or it will simply break and leave you stranded.
The handle should allow the user to pull the cooler easily when fully loaded and without bending or buckling. It should be long enough to allow you to stand upright in natural position rather than hunched over, a position which will become uncomfortable and difficult to maintain over time.
Telescopic handles have become increasingly popular as they not only are adjustable for personal height requirements but also collapsible for easier storage and transportation. You also want to consider whether the handle includes a soft, easy-to-grip area that will be more comfortable in the long haul.
There you have it—the best of the best when it comes to wheeled coolers, plus tips to help you make sure the one you select is not just the perfect wheeled cooler, but the perfect wheeled cooler for you.
Remember, there is almost never anyone else around when it come time to carry a cooler, so you are probably the only one that needs to agree with your choice, but now you will be happy to do the towing.
If you found out that wheeled cooler is not for you then check our guide to traditional, hand-carry coolers.