The 10 Best Wheeled Coolers
This wiki has been updated 32 times since it was first published in April of 2015. A day at the beach is no day at the beach if you have to lug a ton of cans, bottles, sandwiches, and snacks across the sand. Instead, try one of these handy wheeled coolers. They offer ample space for all your luxuries, and are ideal for rolling everything you and your family needs when camping, out boating or at the park. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
April 13, 2019:
Although we liked the removable cart feature of the Columbia Crater Peak, we decided to remove it due to the unit's tendency to fall over while being wheeled. We thought the Picnic Time Cart Cooler suffered from wheel issues over the long term, so we removed it, as well. If you need a similar cart, the DBest Trolley Dolly is a workable option, one that's helpful for outings as well as for hauling groceries. When it comes to top choices, we like the Picnic at Ascot Service for 4, the Igloo Island Breeze 28, and, now, the Tundra Haul, Yeti's new wheeled model that fans of the brand have been waiting for. It has robust wheels that will go anywhere you want them to as well as rubber latches, which solve the breakage problems common to plastic latches. It is, as you might guess, on the more expensive side, comparable to the Elite, its competitor from Pelican ProGear. If you aren't willing to drop that kind of dough but still require something large, consider the Coleman 100 Quart Xtreme or Rubbermaid 60-Quart.
A Few Words On The Rolling Cooler
There are two basic approaches when it comes to rolling cooler design.
A cooler is nothing more than an insulated box designed to keep items like foods and beverages (or bait, medicines, etc.) chilled for an extended period of time without the need for additional cooling added by mechanical means such as refrigeration. Coolers are ubiquitous at campsites, on fishing boats, at sporting or music events, and at cookouts and picnics all around the world.
There are few better ways to improve on the basic, reliable design of a great cooler than by adding a pair of wheels and a handle. After all, a cooler is designed to chill foods when you're away from the fridge at home or the chilled aisle at the grocery store, so why not choose a cooler that's easy to move when you're on the move?
There are two basic approaches when it comes to rolling cooler design. In one category, we have what is essentially a standard, hard-sided rectangular cube-shaped cooler that has wheels and a handle added on. The wheels engage the ground when the cooler is lifted on the opposite side using a handle that is often able to swing freely.
In the other category, we have a cooler designed first and foremost for mobility, usually featuring an upright design that takes its cue from a hand truck, centering the weight and making it easier to move foods over longer distances. The handles of such coolers are usually telescopic, collapsing for easy storage, and fixed in position when extended to improve leverage and control.
At first look, the second type of rolling cooler would seem the better choice, then; if an upright cooler is easier to move than its squat counterpart, why not choose it? Though perhaps easier to move, upright coolers seldom offer nearly as much storage capacity as a rectangular ice-chest style coolers. Upright coolers are also often made primarily from fabrics which offer plenty of insulation, but can't ultimately match the durability and insulation of a solid material like ABS plastic.
Choosing The Right Cooler For Culinary Needs
If the primary purpose of your cooler is keeping beverages cold (most likely canned and/or bottled beverages) then a large, hard-sided cooler is likely the best choice. That's because these coolers can accommodate the weight of copious beverages and can also handle plenty of ice, remaining impervious to the liquid that comes with its melting. (Some fabric coolers will begin to sweat if not outright leak when filled with liquid.) Hard-sided coolers also stand up better to dry ice than soft, foil-lined versions.
Ultimately, though, you need to choose the cooler that will best keep your food and beverages cold under the circumstances in which you'll find yourself.
However, a large hard-sided cooler is no place for a delicate dish or for containers or bags of food that can be easily damaged, such as cakes, chips, and pre-made sandwiches. A smaller, softer-sided cooler is a much better choice for moving these types of foodstuffs, as most of these coolers allow for greater control, letting you minimize the bumps and jolts to which the cooler's contents will be subjected. An upright cooler is also a great choice for transporting groceries from the shop to your home; these coolers allow for easy mobility in the tight, busy quarters of a city, and as a fringe benefit, an upright cooler will also draw fewer odd glances than would a large hard-sided cooler.
Ultimately, though, you need to choose the cooler that will best keep your food and beverages cold under the circumstances in which you'll find yourself. If you need meats and cheeses to stay cool for several days while you camp, for example, then you need to use one of the larger, hard-sided molded coolers rated for multi-day cooling. If you simply need to bring a bottle or two of Chardonnay to a picnic, then by all means choose a rolling cooler that also has a compartment reserved for wine goblets, a corkscrew, and other handy sundry items, or better yet a dedicated wine tote.
Choosing The Right Cooler For The Terrain
Equally as important as what is going inside your cooler is where your cooler is going.
Conversely, bringing a compact upright rolling cooler onto a boat where it will sit in a corner of the cabin or tucked away under gunwales doesn't make sense.
As noted, it makes little sense to use a huge, hard-sided cooler to transport a few chilled groceries around the city, while a smaller upright cooler will be right at home in that bustling metropolis, even in you have to get on and off buses and subways. It might also make no sense to try to haul one of those huge coolers over the sand of the beach while an upright cooler with larger wheels might trundle over soft terrain with ease.
Conversely, bringing a compact upright rolling cooler onto a boat where it will sit in a corner of the cabin or tucked away under gunwales doesn't make sense. Using the wheels of a big ice chest to roll down the dock and then enjoying the large seat provided by your large cooler while you fish is simply common sense. And why settle for a smaller cooler if you're only moving the thing a few dozen yards from your car to the picnic spot or the sidelines?
Again it comes down to the chilling properties you need first and foremost, but try a process of elimination as you choose the right rolling cooler within a framework so defined.