Best Wheeled Cooler 2020 [Reviews & Buyer’s Guide]

By | Last Updated December 3, 2020

There’s nothing quite like sitting by a crackling campfire and sipping an ice cold drink. Of course, getting that ice cold drink out to that fire can be a real hassle, especially if you’re like us and prefer off the beaten path campsites. Coolers are heavy, and hauling them around gets to be a real pain. One great solution to this problem is a wheeled cooler. Today we’re covering the best wheeled coolers available to help you find the perfect style and performance level you need.

Best Wheeled Cooler

Best Wheeled Cooler

Wheeled coolers have been on the market for decades, but it’s only recently that they’ve made the jump from beach trips, tailgates, and barbecues to something you can really call a performance outdoor product.

New cooler designs offer the kind of performance white water rafters and sport fisherman could only dream of in the past.

With these advances though came a million copycats, lookalikes, and also rans. To help you out we put together a list of the best wheeled coolers across a range of price points, performance levels, and intended audiences.

Check it out and let us know what you think. You’ll also enjoy our best cooler wheel kits and carts article.

YETI Tundra Haul Best Wheeled Cooler

Yeti Tundra Portable Wheeled Cooler

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YETI is probably the best known company in the premium cooler market. They brought the category into the limelight with their wildly popular Tundra line of rotomolded coolers.

They’ve continued innovating and improving the Tundra’s, with the Tundra Haul a great example.

It’s a wheeled cooler that provides about the same internal volume as their popular Tundra 65 rotomolded cooler. What sets the Tundra Haul apart are the patented NeverFlat wheels mounted on one end.

They’re tall and broad enough to roll well over almost any surface and make what is a pretty heavy cooler a lot easier to move around. Even better, YETI’s design allows the cooler to sit at perfect level when you reach your destination.

Opposite the wheels is a large flip up handle with an upward curve in it. This allows you to get a firm grip without putting added stress on your wrists or knees.

We found the Tundra Haul to roll extremely well even over rocky or sandy terrain. One thing to keep in mind though is weight. Completely empty the Haul weighs 37 lbs. With a full load of ice, drinks, and food, you can get pretty close to 100 lbs without even trying.

No matter how good your wheels are, that’s going to start to dig into soft or muddy ground if you aren’t careful.

Like all YETI coolers the Tundra Haul offers excellent ice retention and is basically indestructible. It uses their iconic T-shaped rubber latches and a freezer style rubber seal.

Everything about it is designed to put it at the top of the market, including unfortunately, its price.

The YETI Tundra Haul is a beautifully designed and well built wheeled cooler that sits right at the top of our list. If you’re willing to pay its undeniably premium price you’ll wind up with the kind of cooler your kids will fight over after your camping days are long over.

Pelican Progear Elite Wheeled Cooler

Pelican Elite Cooler with Wheels

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The Pelican Progear Elite is a wheeled cooler from one of the most respected names in the outdoor world. Pelican has been making high-quality cases for rifles, cameras, optics, and anything else you can imagine for decades.

The Progear Elite is a two-wheeled, 80 quart cooler designed to be just as rugged and dependable as their cases. It’s made with two inches of high-density polyurethane insulation plus a certified bear-resistant body.

Its heavy-duty wheels are solid rubber over a molded polymer core. They roll well over a variety of different terrain types and are paired with a fold up plastic handle.

We found the handle to sit a little lower than we would like when extended but overall felt it was comfortable to use. The lid has a freezer grade rubber seal designed to keep any hot air from infiltrating your cold cooler.

Depending on outside temps, this baby can keep ice for up to 10 days. That’s enough for even the most extreme rafting or camping trips.

Pretty much the only downsides to the Progear Elite are its price and weight. You can expect to spend several hundred on this bad boy. As for weight, bone dry and empty the Progear Elite weighs nearly 50 lbs.

Other than that though it’s an extremely well made cooler with the ice retention and durability to last. When you add in the corrosion resistant locking hasps, tethered drain plug, and built-in bottle opener it’s easy to see why this is one of our favorite wheeled coolers.

Coleman Xtreme 5 Cooler with Wheels

Coleman Xtreme Cooler with Wheels

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Coleman needs no introductions in the outdoor world, and their Xtreme Heavy-Duty wheeled cooler is another great product in a long line of great products. It’s a 100 quart cooler with a pair of solid plastic wheels and a fold up handle.

It’s capable of holding ice for up to 5 days depending on conditions and is built to be pretty sturdy. Coleman advertises that a 250 lb person can sit securely on the lid with no fear of falling through.

We aren’t quite 250 lbs here, but we sat on it with zero worries while checking out. It weighs right around 20 lbs, pretty good for a 100 quart cooler, and has 4 cup/bottle holders on the lid of the cooler.

The handle is actually one of our favorites among wheeled coolers. It has a generous curved grip and extends up well past the lid of the cooler. We found it really easy to wheel around, though we expect the two narrow wheels would rapidly lose traction in mud or sand.

While it lacks some of the fancier features and expensive construction of its rotomolded brethren, the Coleman Xtreme 5 is a generally good cooler that fills the needs of the average beachgoer and outdoorsman.

Igloo Trailmate Journey

Igloo Trailmate Journey

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The Igloo Trailmate Journey is an all-terrain wheeled cooler that looks about as futuristic as a cooler can get. It’s made with a corrosion-resistant aluminum frame and polycarbonate body.

The Trailmate Journey has two wheels plus a pair of aluminum and polymer skid strips. This gives it a lot more ground clearance than other wheeled coolers, perfect if you’re taking it over really rough terrain.

Igloo claims that it holds ice for up to 4 days. That’s just about right for a multi day camping trip, the kind where you’re hoofing it into your campsite.

What’s really cool is the long list of extra features provided by the Trailmate Journey. These include cupholders, a bottle opener, a mobile device stand for on the go entertainment, a butler tray, webbed storage pocket, and a water resistant dry box for protecting your valuables.

A lot of those sound like gimmicks, but we were pleasantly surprised by how useful they all were. The dry box is built into the rear of the cooler and has a rubber seal around the lid. It’s the perfect place to keep your phone, wallet, keys, etc, while you’re by the water.

The butler tray was our favorite add-on. It fits snugly under the cooler lid when not in use then slips into the space between the telescoping handles. It’s the perfect little table to enjoy a snack or just relax and drink an ice cold beverage.

Overall we found the Igloo Trailmate Journey to be a really cool cooler, if you’ll pardon the pun. We loved the extra features it provides and the basic performance of the wheels and handle. Honestly if it had the same level of insulation and durability as some of the rotomolded cooler we reviewed we’d probably declare it to be the clear winner.

Rubbermaid DuraChill Wheeled 5-Day Cooler

Rubbermaid Wheeled 5 Day Cooler

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The Rubbermaid DuraChill is a 75 quart wheeled cooler designed for beach days, camping trips, and other outdoor events. It has a pair of solid wheels and some nice features.

At 75 quarts you’ve got a lot of space to work with, even when you factor in all the ice you’ll need. The lid of the DuraChill uses a convenient double opening design. You can flip up the side you need to access while keeping the other half closed off.

This makes it easy to get just what you need without letting additional warm air in. It has a pair of side handles for lifting and carrying plus a metal and plastic tow handle that folds up from one side.

The wheels roll well across concrete and gravel but we found them to quickly bog down in sand or wet conditions, especially when fully loaded. The cooler itself weighs less than 20 lbs and includes a center mounted drain plug.

Igloo claims it can hold ice for up to 5 days in 90 ℉ temperatures. That’s plenty for a long weekend by the water or out at a campground.

All in all the Igloo DuraChill 75 quart is a great entry level wheeled cooler. It isn’t quite as durable, well insulated, or portable as its competitors, but it’s significantly cheaper and gets the job done for a lot of tasks.

Coleman 42 Can Soft Cooler with Removable Liner & Wheels

Coleman Soft Cooler with Wheels

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The Coleman 42 Can Soft Cooler is a semi-rigid wheeled cooler bag. It has a wheeled outer body made from flexible insulating materials with a removable plastic liner.

This gives it a solid shape when you need it but still lets you store and move it much easier than with a hard-sided cooler. The liner also helps prevent leaks and spills by holding the meltwater.

It has a pair of small wheels and a telescoping handle that stands at 39” tall. That’s just about right for most people’s comfort zone when pulling something behind them.

As a soft side cooler it has lower ice retention and durability pretty much across the board. The small wheels don’t roll well on rocks, gravel, or sand, and can easily get stuck in mud.

Where it excels is carrying a good amount of drinks over level ground with minimal ice. In this role it’s a great option, especially for things like events, short camping trips, or on picnics.

Other than the insulated main pocket the Coleman 42 Soft Cooler also offers a front zip pocket for dry goods and other items you need to bring along. It’s a great place to stow snacks, napkins, etc.

The Coleman 42 Soft Cooler isn’t the best wheeled cooler on the market by a long shot. It is, however, a lightweight and fully functional wheeled cooler that will fit the needs of some users.

Igloo Ice Cube Roller Cooler

Igloo Ice Cube Roller Cooler

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The Igloo Ice Cube Roller Cooler is a squared off polyethylene cooler designed for camping, beach days, and other outdoor use. It has a pair of solid wheels and a telescoping handle that makes it easy to roll on most surfaces.

The Ice Cube offers 60 quarts of capacity, plenty for most camping trips or a full day at the beach for a family of four. The telescoping handle is basically identical to those found on modern rolling suitcases.

It has a locking button that allows you to adjust the height for your comfort or securely latch it in place. There are also a pair of molded handles on the side of the cooler that make it easy to heft into and out of vehicles.

When you get right down to it the Ice Cube is a serviceable wheeled cooler. It lacks the insulation and durability of more premium offerings but it’s just a fraction of their cost.

For most people, in most cases, the Igloo Ice Cube 60 Quart Rolling Cooler will get the job done and do it at a bargain price.

RovR RollR Wheeled Camping Cooler

RovR Wheeled Camping Rolling Cooler

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The RovR RollR is a 60 quart multipurpose wheeled cooler with a focus on camping and outdoor sports use. It uses a modern rotomolded design and is capable of holding ice for up to 10 days.

What sets the RollR apart from the competition are the extras it comes standard with. Not only does it have an included DeepFreeze dry bin, it also comes with a top mounted wagon bin. This allows you to store all kinds of dry goods and food securely on the lid of your cooler.

The RollR uses a pair of puncture resistant 9” wheels mounted on an aluminum spoke system. This gives them excellent traction and rollability over just about any type of terrain.

They include a fold up aluminum handle but also have the option to add on a BikR Kit. This allows you to attach your cooler securely to the back of your bike.

This is especially useful when cycling to the shore or heading out to the lakeside. It makes it easy to bring everything you need for a weekend worth of fun.

When you add up everything the RovR RollR can do it’s easy to see the value it can provide. It’s a highly flexible cooler with excellent insulation, all-terrain wheels, and enough extras and add ons to make anybody happy.

Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze Rolling Cooler

Arctic Zone Titan Rolling Cooler

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The Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze is a soft sided wheeled cooler bag designed for rugged use. It offers a 60 can capacity and is capable of keeping ice for up to three days.

This is thanks to Arctic Zone’s special four layer insulation system. The top layer is a rugged and tear resistant polymer called the Rhino Layer. It helps keep the three inner layers safe and secure so your drinks and food stay icy cold.

Unlike other soft side cooler bags with their flimsy little wheels, the Titan Deep Freeze has a pair of beefy wheels mounted to a solid polymer chassis. It can actually be removed from the cart for a lighter handheld cooler bag.

This gives you a lot of flexibility in where and how you use your Titan Deep Freeze.

There are two ways to access the interior of the cooler. A full size lid that lets you get anything out, plus a quick access flap so you can easily pull out a drink or snack without letting a ton of heat in.

There’s also both a large front storage pocket and a small zippered sleeve for keeping important things. When you aren’t using your cooler it collapses down to a fraction of its normal size for easier storage.

Given its low price, reasonable insulation, and excellent performance, we can confidently say that the Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze is one of the best soft sided wheeled coolers you’ll find.

Buyers Guide to Buying the Best Wheeled Cooler

When we’re talking about picking out the best wheeled cooler it’s important you know what kind of performance you need. For the average person a standard rolling cooler with a couple day ice retention and smallish wheels is probably good enough.

If we’re talking an expedition cooler, or even just a wheeled cooler that can handle rolling a mile or more across rough terrain to a multi-day campsite, then performance, ice retention, and durability really come into play.

Price of the Best Wheeled Cooler

With wheeled coolers there’s a big pricing divide between the two segments of the market. One the one hand you’ve got your standard rolling coolers.

These are from huge and hugely recognizable brands and aimed at the mass market of beachgoers, casual campers, and picnicers. You can pick up one of these for $50-$75 no problem at all.

The next level up are performance rotomolded coolers designed for serious outdoorsmen who need major ice retention, durability, and portability. These bad boys start around the $200 mark and can go up over $1,000 for the really large models.

It’s important to remember though that these are basically indestructible coolers in regular course of their use. One of those coolers is pretty much a ‘buy it for life’ investment versus a cooler purchased for a few seasons.

Intended Use

A lot of people are surprised to learn that there are different uses for different coolers. With the increasing popularity of high-performance rotomolded coolers there are now several different categories of cooler to choose from.

If you’re hitting the beach for the day and want to keep drinks cold you’re going to have significantly different needs to someone going on a week long rafting trip. The same applies to people going to festivals, major events, taking medical samples, or going out for a day of fishing on a buddy’s boat.

Wheeled coolers add another layer to it with things like brakes, added height/length, and strength of the wheels.

Figure out how you’re most often going to be using your cooler first so you know what type of wheeled cooler to consider.

Capacity

The internal capacity of a cooler determines how much ice, food, and drinks it can hold. Many cooler manufacturers present this in either quarts or liters depending on the country of origin.

Some though, notably YETI, provide their own custom capacity figure based on the number of cans or pounds of ice it contains.

You can get coolers in just about any size from 10 quarts up to 400 quarts. For wheeled coolers though, most will fall under 100 quarts in capacity.

Deciding how much capacity you need depends on how you intend to use your cooler. A good rule of thumb is one quart of capacity per .5 12 oz can. That includes space for ice.

So a 40 quart cooler should provide enough room for 20 cans of soda or beer plus ice to keep them nice and cold. If it’s mostly going to be used on day trips and other short duration outings 40 quarts should be plenty for a family of four.

If you’re planning an epic trip down the rapids or like to go out for multi day camping trips you’re going to need a bigger cooler.

Size of the Best Wheeled Cooler

The size of a wheeled cooler affects where you can store it, pack it, and how you can carry it. The more capacity a cooler has the larger its exterior dimensions will be.

Keep this in mind when deciding how large a cooler you actually need. It may be more convenient to buy two smaller coolers that give you more flexibility in how much capacity you bring with you each trip.

Insulation and Ice Retention

Until very recently there wasn’t a whole lot of difference between one cooler and another. Most coolers could hold ice for a day or two and were good enough for a beach trip or a weekend camping.

All that changed with the introduction of high-end rotomolded coolers. These bad boys were made with extremely durable shells and much thicker insulation of a higher quality and density than had ever been used before.

Nowadays you can choose from very affordable entry level coolers that will hold a day or two’s worth of ice, or spend your way up the scale and have something that can hold ice for a week or more.

Honestly though, most people don’t need a weeks worth of ice retention from their cooler. Performance coolers have performance prices. If you’re just looking for something to keep your beer and hot dogs cold for a weekend camping trip basic insulation and 48 hour ice retention will serve you just fine.

Empty Weight

With wheeled coolers weight isn’t as big a consideration as it is with standard coolers. It’s a lot easier to move a heavy cooler if you can roll it rather than manhandling it around.

It’s still a good idea to keep your eye on empty weight. No matter what you’re going to have to lift your cooler in and out of cars, trucks, and boats.

The higher end your cooler is the heavier it gets. All that extra durability and insulation comes with more weight. Your standard coolers in the 40-60 quart range are usually about 10-15 lbs.

Compare that to 30+ lbs for a high-end rotomolded cooler with roughly the same capacity.

Soft- or Hard-Sided

Soft-sided coolers are always going to be smaller and lighter than hard-sided ones. It’s rare to see a soft-sided cooler that’s larger than about 25-40 quarts.

They also don’t hold ice as long as hard-sided coolers do and are more likely to leak over time. The benefit is their smaller and more packable size. A lot of wheeled soft-sided coolers actually fold down when empty. This makes it a whole lot easier to store them when not in use.

Hard-sided coolers are heavier and more expensive, but come in a wider range of sizes and materials. All the best wheeled coolers are going to be hard-sided ones.

You can get a quality soft-sided cooler to be sure, but it won’t be able to handle nearly as much use as a similarly priced hard-sided one.

Seals

Cooler seals were introduced alongside rotomolding and denser insulation. They help keep hot air from entering your cooler and can also prevent them from leaking.

Entry level wheeled coolers usually don’t have seals. It’s mostly when you get to the upper middle levels of the market that you start to see quality seals appear.

Dry Bins and Dividers

Not everything you put in a cooler is designed to get wet. Sandwiches, raw meat, and other food items are the most common examples, but medications also definitely need to stay dry.

Dry bins and dividers allow you to separate out these items and generally organize your cooler better. They’re a really nice add-on to consider, especially when they’re designed to be removable.

This gives you the best of both worlds.

You have the full capacity of the cooler when you need it, but the organization tools to keep just about anything cold.

Base Drain

A quality drain is one of the most important features to look for on any cooler. There’s nothing more infuriating than trying to tip a cooler over enough to drain out the melted ice without spilling out your drinks and food.

Base drains make it easy to empty out meltwater without messing around tipping your cooler. Word to the wise though, make sure it’s a good drain.

The last thing you want is to have your shiny new cooler spring a leak in your shiny new car.

Handle Height

The height of your cooler’s handle affects your level of comfort when moving it. If you’re a really tall guy you should look for a wheeled cooler with a handle that works for you.

The last thing you want is to hobble your way to the beach bent in half to drag your cooler.

Another thing to keep in mind is the type of handle it is. Telescoping handles are extremely compact when stowed away but require you to tilt the cooler at an angle to move. They can also bend if the weight of your cooler is on the high side.

Fold up handles offer excellent strength and make it a lot easier to move your cooler

Locking system

Old school coolers offered either no lid lock or at best a small friction style lock. That’s fine if you’re carrying 20 beers down to the beach, but just won’t cut it if you’ve got all your food for a weeks worth of white-water rafting.

Modern coolers include multi point locking systems that rely on heavy-duty rubber and plastic latches as well as multiple tie down points. Some even include slots that allow you to put a padlock on your cooler.

Depending on your cooler this may actually qualify them as a bear proof food container. Check the manufacturer’s website to see how sturdy they claim their coolers are.

Wheels, Mobility, and Portability

The type of wheels on your wheeled cooler play the biggest role in how portable it is. If you want to take your cooler off the asphalt you need larger wheels that are nice and thick.

These give you more traction on soft ground, sand, and over rough terrain. They also make it easier to move your cooler when it’s fully loaded down.

A good rule of thumb is that the larger and heavier your cooler, the larger and wider your wheels should be.

Durability, Materials, and Construction

Modern coolers are some of the strongest and most durable that have ever been made. YETI led the way with their Tundra line of coolers designed for hard use by professional rafting guides, sport fishers, and other serious outdoor enthusiasts.

High-end coolers are made from rotomolded polymers over a very thick, dense insulating material. This is the same technique that’s used to make all kinds of ultra strong materials, including those designed to safeguard nuclear materials.

These coolers can be sat on, stood on, dropped from your truck, and even attacked by bears without issue. They’re definitely more expensive, but you wind up with a cooler that will probably outlive you in its usefulness.

More entry level coolers, while still more durable than their predecessors, aren’t quite as bombproof. You can sit on them, but if you stand or drop them there’s a good chance something will give.

Don’t forget about the wheels themselves. Pneumatic wheels (air filled) require more upkeep and more frequent replacement than do solid wheels but provide some benefits in mobility. It’s important that you balance performance with overall longevity.

Cooler Wheel Kits and Carts

Already have a cooler you love?

Thankfully there are several excellent cooler wheel kits and carts available to wheel your cooler around. These are designed to snap into place on a variety of the most popular coolers and give you great performance for an affordable price.

We’ve already done a full write up on cooler wheel kits here, but we thought we’d include at least one great option in this article as well.

The Mighty Max Plus One is a lightweight cooler cart that came out of a successful Kickstarter campaign. It’s designed to carry a variety of different coolers plus other useful gear for your trip.

It has four large wheels with a bulbous design that makes it easy to move the cart across rough terrain, sand, and even muddy conditions. Your cooler sits on top of the cart and can be secured with ratchet straps or by placing other things around it.

It has a 34” long telescoping handle that can be used comfortably with either the left or right hand. What we love most about this cart is how versatile it is.

You can pop your cooler on top of course, but it also lets you carry things like chairs, portable grills, a tent, towels, and anything else you might need. This gives you a lot more flexibility than other cooler wheel kits.

Final Thoughts on the Best Wheeled Cooler

Picking out the best wheeled cooler comes down to the level of performance you need and the price you’re willing to pay. There are a lot of great options on the market at every price point, so making your decision shouldn’t be too difficult at all.

Figure out whether you need the durability and ice retention of a top of the line wheeled cooler, or if you’ll be golden with the affordable quality of a solid rolling cooler.

Whichever way you decide to go, keep in mind key features like wheel placement, handle comfort, and overall portability of the cooler.