Ever tried to lug a fully loaded cooler all by yourself? All too often once you get where you’re going, suddenly everyone vanishes, leaving you wrestling with a weekend’s worth of grub and drinks.
The solution? A cooler with wheels.
Hunting for the top wheeled cooler isn’t about just picking any cooler that rolls. You need one that glides over beach sand, dock steps, and bumpy trails with ease. Yet, some wheel designs are flimsy and others might cost you your paycheck.
So, I dove deep into cooler research, sampled a bunch, and tested them like a relentless airport security guard. Finally, I found the crème de la crème, the BEST wheeled coolers.
Here’s our list of of our top picks. Stick around to see how we tested them and what you need to look for.
More of a visual learner? Watch our Best Coolers with Wheels video review here!
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The 6 Best Wheeled Coolers of 2023: Outdoor Empire Reviews
The YETI Tundra Haul is our top pick for the best wheeled cooler, scoring high on ice retention, durability, and mobility. If you’re seeking a budget-friendly option, consider the RTIC Ultra-Light Wheeled or the Coleman Xtreme Roller, both offering solid performance.
- Best Overall: YETI Tundra Haul
- Best for the Money: RTIC Ultra-Light Wheeled
- Budget Pick: Coleman Xtreme or 316 Series Rolling 62 Qt
- Beach Pick: Igloo Trailmate
- Also Great: Lifetime High Performance Wheeled
- Best of the Rest: Monoprice Pure Outdoor Wheeled Emperor
|Best Overall||Best Value||Budget Pick||Best for Beach||Also Great|
YETI Tundra Haul
RTIC Ultra-Light Wheeled
Coleman Xtreme or 316 Series Rolling 62 Qt
Lifetime High Performance Wheeled
|Outdoor Empire Score||4.4||4.1||3.0||3.5||3.9|
|Ice Retention (Our Test)||7 days||6 days||6 days||5 days||7 days|
|Benefits||+ Excellent build quality and rugged so it will last a long time|
+ Smooth wheels roll well on all surfaces
+ Easy to tow
+ Holds ice longer than other wheeled coolers
|+ High-quality build for a lower cost|
+ Loaded with useful features
+ Best wheels and tow handle out of all we tested
+ Lighter than most competitors
+ Excellent customer service
|+ Affordable for nearly any budget|
+ Holds up well to abuse and impacts
+ Excellent ice retention for the price
+ Extremely lightweight for easy portability
+ Great customer service gives confidence in purchase
|+ Large wheels and clearance for use on rough terrain or sand|
+ Excellent beach and fishing accessories included
+ Telescoping handle with built-in butler tray that includes self-draining cup holders
+ 70-quart capacity allows for storage of up to 112 cans and ice
|+ Reasonable price point
+ Built like a rotomolded cooler
+ Good warranty and customer service
+ Great ice retention
|Drawbacks||- Lid prone to warping in extreme heat|
- Lid leaks when towing which can reduce ice retention
- 50% more expensive than next best alternative
|- Leaks considerably when towing|
- Short warranty
- No bear certification
|- Wheels only function well on hard surfaces|
- Lid doesn't clamp down
- Basic wheels with limited off-road ability
|- Bulky and difficult to get in smaller vehicles|
- Build quality falls short for the price point
- Design less versatile than other coolers on this list
|- Underbuilt wheels are bad on sand and dirt
- Tow handle can rust
- Heavy and awkward to lift
- Prone to warping
The author of this review, Chase Fly, has had his garage full of coolers for the past year. He takes a different ice chest each time he goes fishing, camping, hunting, or on a Costco run. Chase’s real-world use of these coolers combined with rigorous testing provides Chase with unique insight about how good they really are.
1. Best All-Around Wheeled Cooler
As much as I was kinda hoping to prove otherwise in favor of an underdog, the YETI Tundra Haul emerged as our preferred wheeled cooler. Its robust construction, marked by a dense foam-injected rotomolded design, strong wheel assembly, and rigid handle, set it apart. This quality construction ensures the Tundra Haul can withstand considerable abuse, like falling out of your pickup, without debilitating damage.
The cooler’s durability is demonstrated in part by an IGBC bear-resistant certification, which you need to camp in some places including select National Parks in the Western US. However, the Tundra Haul isn’t invincible, with reports of lid warping in extreme heat, which could affect cooling efficiency.
Despite this, the Tundra Haul excelled in ice retention, maintaining cool temperatures for 7 days in our tests. The compact design of its wheels makes it easier to pack and transport than many alternatives, and their never-flat wheels enable a smooth ride over diverse terrain. Plus, the tow handle is designed to to provide a comfortable walk and pull experience.
The Tundra Haul isn’t without flaws. When your ice melts to water, it leaks when towed, which in turn makes the remaining ice melt faster. Also, the wheels rattle, but that’s not a big deal. It’s heavier than its rivals, so you might need help lifting it. Although it’s the most expensive cooler we tested, it lacks some simple frills like a bottle opener.
Customer service was inconsistent, with the chat function repeatedly failing, but their extensive online support materials and a solid 5-year warranty give peace of mind. Despite its shortcomings, the YETI Tundra Haul’s rugged quality and superior ice retention make it a top choice for outdoor enthusiasts.
2. Best Wheeled Cooler for the Money
The RTIC 52 Quart Ultra-Light Wheeled is a real winner in value-for-money. Its build quality is impressive considering its lower cost, courtesy of smart design choices like injection molding. That makes it cheaper and lighter than rotomolded coolers like the Yeti, but it still feels sturdy and well-made.
And while it’s not bear-certified, it remains tough as manifested in my over-the top durability test where I towed it around behind a side-by-side and tossed it off a roof just to see what would happen. Check out my YouTube video on that below!
This cooler boasts several handy features, including an air-sealing freezer-style gasket that helps it hold ice longer. Convenient tie-down slots and grippy feet ensure stability during transportation, while a standard lock hole protects your adult beverages from little ones. Easy-to-handle grips allow effortless movement, and kid-friendly latches ensure smooth access. Anglers will appreciate the hose-compatible drain plug with a tethered cap for easy drainage off boats. A unique addition is the silicone net in the lid, perfect for quick access items like snacks. And yes, it also includes a built-in bottle opener.
Challenging YETI, this cooler excels with wheels and a tow handle that produce the smoothest overall ride out of all the wheeled coolers we experienced whether on sand, grass, or gravel. Its ice retention stands strong at 6 days in our test, making it an all-round performer.
While it’s lighter than most competitors, at 30 pounds, “ultra-light” is marketing buzzword bologna. And it does leak considerably when towing if there’s a lot of water inside. Customer service responds swiftly, but a 1-year warranty is limiting.
Yet, its portability, durability, and functionality make the RTIC Ultra-Light Wheeled Cooler a great value pick.
3. Best Cheap Wheeled Cooler
Our best budget pick is the Coleman Xtreme Rolling or its equivalent, the Coleman 316 Series, both 62-quart wheeled coolers. At an affordable price and made in America, these coolers prove that a reliable wheeled cooler need not cost a small fortune.
Constructed from basic plastic, they won’t stun you with premium quality, but they certainly do the job. The 316 Series is practically identical to the Xtreme, and might be easier to find. We tested a non-wheeled 316 and it performed just like the Xtreme. And it appears they upgrade the wheels on the 316 compared to the Xtreme. These unsophisticated coolers are a whole lot less likely to get stolen out of the back of your truck, which is a thing with fancy Yeti coolers.
Lightweight and sturdy, these Colemans can withstand some rough handling. During our drop test, the Xtreme just bounced, showing it won’t easily break. They live up to their promise: simple, functional coolers with good capacity. Their handles make lifting or towing easy, and usable cup holders on the Xtreme are a neat bonus.
Coleman’s customer service is top-tier. When I inquired about a potential issue, they offered a replacement despite the lack of a warranty.
Where they excel is ice retention, keeping ice for 6 days in our test, one day more than advertised, and a match for pricier options.
The downside? Their wheels only work well on solid ground, struggling on sand or dirt. However, their narrow, lightweight design allows for easy dragging in such circumstances. I would advise against the smaller 50-quart versions with retractable handles. While I haven’t tested them myself, past experiences with weak sauce telescopic handles on other coolers leave me skeptical.
In summary, Coleman’s wheeled coolers are a cost-effective choice that delivers on functionality and ice retention.
4. Best Beach Cooler with Wheels
The Igloo Trailmate is our top choice for beach and fishing coolers, brimming with features for beach days and surf fishing. However, its build quality and durability are average given the price.
With the largest wheels of any cooler we tested, it’s specifically designed for beach use. Despite being made of basic plastic, they easily overcome obstacles due to its SUV-like ground clearance. The functional telescoping tow handle allows for both wheelbarrow-like pushing or handcart towing.
It’s loaded with accessories: a basket, tray, fishing rod holders, and dry box are included for beach convenience and concealing of valuables. The tethered drain plug is a smart touch to avoid losing it, and the bungee hooks are perfect for loading it up with extra gear.
Customer service responded within 48 hours, but the warranty is only for one year. Ice retention lasted 5 days for me, which is better than advertised.
Its main drawbacks are its bulky size and less-than-premium materials. Occupying 2/3 of an SUV cargo area, it’s not suitable for smaller vehicles but perfect for pickups. Despite these issues, its beach-friendly features, easy towability, large capacity, and good customer service make it a great choice for beach and fishing trips.
5. Also Great
The Lifetime 65 Quart High Performance Wheeled Cooler, while not topping any category, is a worthwhile contender. The blow-molded plastic and budget-friendly components may not seem premium, but it’s built like a rotomolded cooler. Certain features, like the latches, show thoughtful engineering. While it may be mid-grade quality overall, it delivers on its high performance promise, especially in terms of ice retention.
Ice retention is impressive, lasting seven days in our ice challenge, on par with the Yeti Tundra Haul. And it leaks less when towing. It boasts a good feature set for the price, including a gasket, lock holes, and grippy feet. Lifetime’s customer service is laudable with a 72-hour response time and a 5-year warranty.
The cooler is durable and bear-resistant, but the wheels and tow handle could be stronger. The wheels are similar to the budget Coleman coolers and struggle on sand and trails, getting easily gummed up. The metal tow handle, while sturdy, has basic welds and shows early signs of rusting. I’ve also seen some reports of lid warping on Lifetime coolers.
The cooler’s size makes it bulky and hard to maneuver, with the tow handle adding to the difficulty due to its inability to lock in place. Despite these flaws, its good price, reliable warranty, large capacity, and excellent ice retention make it a solid choice, especially in a Lifetime store where they’re even cheaper.
If you don’t need wheels, I think the non-wheeled version of this cooler is a bargain. But since this review is about the top coolers with wheels, it didn’t rank higher simply because portability is its weak point.
6. Best of the Rest
While it may be a generic brand, Monoprice’s Pure Outdoor Wheeled Emperor 50 Cooler offers considerable value for its price. Though its build quality has room for improvement, with rough-cut latches and the like, its rotomolded construction promises decent toughness and ice retention.
The cooler’s durability is commendable, though the tow handle lacks the robustness of models like the YETI or RTIC. Notably, the handle’s welds were not strong enough to prevent bending during our truck toss. And I’m afraid to bend it back as it appears it would break.
For its price, the cooler comes with a nice set of features, including a bottle opener, grippy feet, and a ruler on top. Its wheels, while not top-tier, offer smoother rolling than most, and its ice retention competes with the YETI Tundra Haul, lasting up to 7 days.
Monoprice’s customer service leaves much to be desired. They never responded to my inquiry. However, the cooler’s price, good rolling capabilities, and impressive ice retention make it a compelling budget-friendly choice.
The Emperor 50, despite its cheaper parts and disappointing customer service, remains a strong contender for those looking for affordability without sacrificing functionality. It’s also available without wheels at an even better deal.
3 Coolers With Wheels We Don’t Recommend
The first couple of coolers I don’t recommend may not sit well with a lot of die-hard fans, and you may even find them on the Best Wheeled Cooler lists on other websites. But my guess is the people who wrote those reviews have not used or tested these coolers to the extent I have.
I have nothing against the companies who make them. These companies make other coolers and products I really like and there are some things I like about these ice chests too.
There are specific reasons I don’t recommend these wheeled coolers based on actually using them myself. You’ll see why below.
1. Pelican Elite 45QW
The US-made Pelican Elite 45QW Cooler’s build and durability are commendable, with its robust rotomolded design, bear certification, and impressive lifetime warranty. However, it disappoints in its overall user experience.
Key issues I found include an exposed axle and wheels that often jam under regular use making transportation difficult, especially on sand. The tow handle’s hand grip is too narrow which causes the cooler to hit your calves when towing. And it’s far more bulky than other coolers of the same size making it hard to move around. Additionally, customer service never responded to my written inquiry, which might cause concern for customers needing support.
Although the cooler boasts a watertight lid and the Pelican brand name, its high cost, merely average ice retention, and especially cumbersome portability make it a less-than-ideal rolling cooler option. It would be better without wheels in its current design.
2. RovR RollR 45
Despite the RovR RollR 45’s feature-rich and versatile design, with bicycle towing option, its enhancements often create problems.
The tow handle is a major issue to the point that it’s a dealbreaker for me. You really have to yank on it to make it extend, then it won’t retract easily either. And it feels more flimsy than my cheap rolling suitcase handle when fully extended.
Although the pneumatic wheels ensure a smooth ride, the risk of puncture and handle problems hinder its portability. Disappointingly, the ice retention falls short of what the company claims, and customer service never responded to my message. Given its price, the cooler’s flaws overshadow its innovations. If drawn to RovR, the larger RollR 60 may be a better choice, with a superior handle design.
3. Igloo MaxCold Latitude 62 Roller
The Igloo MaxCold Latitude 62 Roller is a popular model in large part because it has gone on sale at Costco the past couple years in the Spring and Summer. That’s where I got mine. But this cooler fails to deliver quality, with a particularly dangerous and unreliable telescoping tow handle.
The first time we used this cooler the plastic tow handle broke on one side when my daughter was towing it empty from the house into the backyard. Later, when I filled it half way with water to tow it around and compare it to the other coolers on this list, the other side of the handle broke. A remaining shard of plastic sliced a nearly 3-inch cut in the palm of my hand.
See what happened to the handle in the short video below.
Its poor ice retention, flimsy construction, and underwhelming features make it an option to avoid. While it’s cheap and lightweight, the negatives far outweigh the positives.
How to Choose the Best Cooler with Wheels
When selecting a cooler with wheels, there are a few important factors to consider. We used the following criteria for testing and evaluating the wheeled coolers on this list.
1. Construction Quality
Coolers are not just for backyard barbecues – they’re designed to withstand rugged outdoor conditions. Rotomolded coolers typically provide the most durability, with high-quality polyethylene plastics and dense internal foam insulation materials. Non-rotomolded options, while often less expensive, should also be made of robust components and materials to ensure longevity.
There is also a close association with value when it comes to quality. You shouldn’t expect the same build quality in a $100 cooler compared to a $400 cooler. But if you find a $200 cooler that’s as good as other $300 coolers, then it’s a great deal. I looked at this closely when researching and testing these coolers.
By researching specs, visually inspecting more than 30 different coolers, and finally using them for real outdoor activities, I was able to clearly recognize quality based on firsthand experience.
Rotomolded cooler tend to be the most rugged, but they are prone to warping or damage from extreme heat. Injection molded coolers are often a close second in terms of durability, but even cheaper blow molded coolers are tougher than they look when it comes to everyday accidents like rolling down some stairs.
Scuffs and scrapes should be anticipated with any cooler, but rusty or bent handles, mucked up wheel axles, and breakage from minor tumbles are red flags.
Bonus points if a cooler is certified as bear-resistant by the International Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC). This means the company invested extra effort and money into product development and had the cooler tossed in a pen of real live hungry grizzly bears who attempt to break into the cooler to eat what’s inside.
One fun durability test I did involved chucking each cooler off the tailgate of my pickup. While no cooler rolled away unscathed, some took the asphalt better than others.
3. Ice Retention
Ice retention is crucial for a cooler’s effectiveness and is arguably the most important feature a cooler can offer. The longer the ice lasts, the longer your food and drinks stay cold. Some companies advertise some pretty unbelievable claims about how long their coolers retain ice, while others (ahem, Yeti) don’t make promises since there can be so many variables, including how you pack it.
In the end it comes down to insulation and air tightness. So a plastic outer shell with thicker injected foam insulation in the sides and lid make all the difference. The best insulated coolers also have a freezer-style gasket that creates an air tight seal around the lid to keep cool air inside from being displaced by warmer outside air.
In order to test the ice retention on these coolers, I filled each cooler with ice and monitored them over a week outdoors in the heat of summer. I checked ice levels daily, noting when each cooler no longer had any ice left and the food inside was no longer at a safe temperature.
Additional features can add convenience and functionality, but not all features offer a real benefit. Things like bottle openers, cup holders, accessories, and tie-down capabilities can all enhance the user experience, or not, depending on how you want to use it. So look for the things that matter to you and don’t be oversold on gimmicks.
I considered overall ease of use of each cooler’s features whether unique like the silicone net in the RTIC or universal like the drain. But the most useful testing was in the form of real-world use. I have had most of these coolers for months as of the time of writing and I have used them on campouts, hunting trips, weddings, and lake days. That’s where I discover what’s really useful and what I don’t care about.
5. Customer Service and Warranty
Coolers have become one of the most expensive pieces of gear in an outdoor goers kit, so expect great service and a satisfaction guarantee from premium cooler brands. A company’s responsiveness and the warranty it provides can also be indicative of a cooler’s quality. If something goes wrong, it’s important to know that the company will back its product.
Customer service was tested by contacting each company directly in writing either by email or by submitting an online form. I submitted the same general inquiry about a hypothetical warranty issue and I recorded their response time and helpfulness. Some responded right away like RTIC and Coleman while others never did like RovR, Pelican, and Monoprice. I found Yeti impossible to contact in writing, but maybe I was looking in the wrong place.
While the above criteria are important to consider for any cooler, portability is paramount for a cooler with wheels. And a cooler’s portability is significantly influenced by its wheels and handles.
I filled each cooler up about half way with water to simulate being packed for an outing. Then I towed them through a “terrain gauntlet”, rolling them across different surfaces including asphalt, steps, grass, sand, and gravel. During this process, I evaluated how well the wheels handled various terrains and how comfortable and efficient the tow handles were. I also noted which coolers leaked from water sloshing inside.
The top wheeled coolers have sturdy wheels that are low maintenance, roll smoothly over a variety of surface types (not just asphalt). They also sport a tow handle that’s sturdy and comfortable to use over long-ish distances. Ideally they’re easy to push as well as pull, which is often not the case, so keep an eye out for that.
Bulky designs can be unwieldy, especially when trying to load, unload, and fit them in a vehicle. The grab handles should make it easy to lift without straining. Size and weight also factor in here. Heavy coolers can be a pain if it takes two people to move them all the time, so they better have some great benefits to make up for that.
Why Trust Us
At Outdoor Empire, we pride ourselves on offering trustworthy gear advice, backed by rigorous, hands-on testing. We didn’t just ‘borrow’ information from the web for this review. Instead, we invested our own money, acquired each wheeled cooler featured in this article, and put them through their paces in real-world situations. We even went the extra mile and used them extensively in our own lives, because we believe in ‘walking the talk’ before recommending any gear.
Although we occasionally accept product samples to enrich our gear guides, we never do paid or sponsored reviews. Our views in this article are as authentic, unbiased, and personal as it gets. After all, we wouldn’t recommend something we wouldn’t use ourselves or suggest to our loved ones.
Finding the Perfect Wheeled Cooler
Choosing the best cooler depends on what you do most. Campers and anglers should get durable coolers with top-notch ice retention. For picnics or tailgates, a light, simple cooler will do.
Check the wheels and handle carefully.
Good wheels are tough, roll smoothly on different surfaces, and give the cooler enough ground clearance to prevent dragging. The RTIC, YETI, and Igloo Trailmate are great at this. On the other hand, the Coleman, Lifetime, and Pelican fail in sand where it feels like you’re dragging dead weight. Good wheels can make the difference between breaking a sweat or not.
A top-notch tow handle lets you stroll upright next to your cooler, not crouched down right in front of it as it bumps you in the calves with every step. The best ones, like on the Yeti and RTIC, let you both push and pull the cooler without collapsing.
Think about extra features. Handy things like bottle openers, cup holders, or storage spaces can make your cooler even cooler. But if you don’t need it or won’t use it, don’t mind it!
Lastly, consider the company’s reputation and warranty. This can keep your cooler protected and you stress-free. Pelican has the best warranty, but they were hard to reach. Coleman doesn’t offer a warranty but was willing to replace a cooler quickly when I reached out.
In the end, the perfect cooler blends durability, cooling, convenience, your needs, and your budget.
Wheeled Cooler FAQs
Can you add wheels to any cooler?
Are coolers with wheels better than the same cooler without wheels?
Not always. Wheels matter if you need them but can reduce interior space and add bulk. Some coolers, like the Pelican Elite or Lifetime High Performance, fare worse with wheels than without due to quality and design issues. Pulling them in sand is like dragging a waterlogged wooden chest.