Coolers serve important roles at every campsite. With the help of ice, they keep the meat from spoiling and the beverages cold ensuring you have grub and cold drinks for a week of fun in the sun.
The biggest hurdle when using a cooler is their packed weight. The beverage cooler gets the heaviest and the food coolers are next on the list. The struggle is real, and trying to wrestle a fully packed cooler from the car to the campsite takes two people and can lead to unwanted injuries.
Wheeled coolers are the answer to this problem. The make lugging the cooler from the car to the final destination a task that anyone can tackle alone. We put together the list of the best wheeled coolers to help you make an informed decision before making the leap to the world of wheeled coolers.
Benefits of wheeled coolers
First and foremost, wheeled coolers prevent back strains and sprains from improper lifting. A large cooler used for cold beverages can easily weigh 50 to 75 pounds and it only takes one wrong move to injure yourself.
With wheel on a cooler, one person can easily move the cooler long distances with no help. Back in the day, you would have to work in teams to get a cooler from point A to point B. Having wheels on the cooler eliminates the need for two people when transporting it.
Elevated wheeled coolers (4-wheeled) limit the amount of heat transfer from the ground to the cooler. When a cooler rests on a hot surface, there is a transfer of heat from the ground to the cooler. This heats the base of the cooler up while actively melting the ice at a faster rate.
Advantages of wheeled coolers
- Prevents back injuries
- Limits heat transfer
- Can be moved long distances by one person
- More portable
Side Note: If you already have a cooler and would rather just add wheels without having to pick up a brand new cooler check out your options here.
Wheeled cooler buying guide
Everyone camps differently and has a different need in a cooler. A solo camper can get away with one small cooler depending on the duration of the trip. While a large group is going to need larger coolers and more of them.
How much will it hold?
If you are a seasoned camper you probably have a pretty good idea of how much space you need. If not, for a family of four, 2 large coolers seem to be the sweet spot. Use one cooler for drinks and the other for perishable food items.
It’s always a good idea to do a dry run and pack the cooler with supplies a day beforehand. This will ensure you have plenty of room available and prevent the stress of a last minute emergency trip to the store.
Take into consideration the space available on the inside of the cooler, insulation in coolers can be as much as two inches thick reducing the storage space inside the cooler drastically.
How long will the cooler retain ice?
Ice retention is arguably the most important factor when choosing a cooler. As the name implies, a “cooler” it is meant to keep things cool and some are much better than others at accomplishing this task.
Often times the manufacturer will state 5 days or a number similar to that. In many cases, this seems to be an overestimation on the manufacturer’s end.
The best way to find out the actual ice retention rate is to talk to someone who has used it in the wild or spend a few minutes reading reviews online from actual users.
What size wheels are best?
Wheel size is a critical consideration. imagine of an off-road monster truck with Toyota Camry wheels on it… Simply won’t do the job.
Most wheeled coolers come with two large wheels on one side of the cooler. There are 4 wheeled varieties available, however, the standard seems to be two large wheels. If you are planning on using the cooler for camping or any other outdoor activities large wheels simply work better in grass and dirt.
What size cooler do I need?
Many of the coolers on this list are full-size coolers that are intended for a weeklong trip. That doesn’t mean that if you’re a solo camper you need a 62-quart cooler for your food and drinks.
Take into consideration the number of people and number of days on your trip and go from there. This should give you a pretty good estimation of the size of the cooler that is right for you.
Side Note: The most important dimensions are the measurements on the inside of the cooler. The coolers with the best insulation are going to have significantly thicker walls that limit the space available inside.
Does insulation matter?
Short answer… Yes.
The reason that you use coolers is to keep perishables and beverages cold for long periods of time. The insulation of the cooler determines the duration that ice will remain frozen keeping the food from spoiling.
What about the quality?
As the old saying goes… “You get what you pay for.”
Often times it’s better to spend a little more up front for the best quality outdoor gear. The last thing you need is your cooler falling apart after the first use, leaking, or all the ice melting in the first few hours.
Does the handle matter?
Handle sizes vary and you want to make sure that you have a comfortable grip that you can reach easily. Most of the handles today are both ergonomically designed and have telescoping handles that adjust in length.
The Best Wheeled Coolers in 2018
Here’s our selection of the best wheeled coolers for camping in 2018.
Pelican Products ProGear Elite Wheeled Cooler
Pelican ProGear Elite talks the talk and walks the walk. Ice retention on this cooler is 10 days under optimal conditions as long as you don’t open and close it 100 times each day. This is as close to a Yeti on wheels as you can get.
There is a fish scale built into the lid and it comes with a freezer grade gasket for securing the lid. The walls and lid of the cooler are made of 2-inch thick polyurethane insulation for maximum ice retention.
Pelican coolers are certified bear-resistant with the ratings to match. The drain plug has a threaded hub for attaching a hose so you can drain it wherever without having to move the cooler to a convenient location.
- 10 day ice retention
- Built in fish scale
- Durable build
- Rare leaks
- Limited warranty
Coleman 62 qt. Xtreme Cooler
- 62-quart wheeled cooler ideal for camping, tailgating, picnicking, and more
- Stores ice for 5 days at exterior temperatures of up to 90 degrees F
- Holds 85 beverage cans with ice; 4 stay-put beverage holders on top
- All-terrain wheels and easy-grasp tow handle for easy transport
The Coleman 62 quart Xtreme Cooler has both an insulated lid and thick insulation in the walls to maintain cold temperatures for 3-5 days depending on the ambient temperature.
It has a telescoping handle that adjusts to fit most average height people. Granted, if you are 7 feet tall the handle may be a little short for you along with everything else in life.
This cooler is manufactured in the USA with low Co2 insulation that reduces the carbon emissions that occur during the manufacturing process.
- 62 quarts
- 5 day ice storage
- All terrain wheels
- Weak handles
- Thin hinges
- Screws occasionally fall off
Igloo Ice Cube Roller Cooler
- Ultratherm insulated body keeps cold for a long time
- Push button and locking telescopic handle
- Durable wheels and reinforced tow handle make transporting a full cooler easy
- Molded side scoop handles for ease of loading and unloading
The Igloo Ice Roller Cooler is made with polyethylene coated plastic. The Ultratherm insulation in the body of the cooler works to keep the ice cold for 2-3 days.
In order to get maximum efficiency out of the cooling capabilities, always start with cold items and keep the cooler out of direct sunlight.
The ergonomic and cubed design of this cooler makes lifting it in and out of the car easier on your back and body. It includes a telescoping handle with a push-button release and large wheels that easily roll over dirt paths and grass.
- Ultratherm insulation
- Heavy duty wheels
- Ergonomic design
- No insulation in lid
- Handles break
- High drain plug
Coleman Xtreme Series Wheeled Cooler
- High capacity: Holds up to 84 cans
- Heavy-duty wheels: Effortless rolling over any terrain
- Have-a-seat lid: Closed lid supports up to 250 lb.
- Cup holders: Molded into the lid to keep drinks close and prevent spilling
This is another wheeled cooler from the Coleman Xtreme branded lines of wheeled coolers.
It has a 50-quart capacity and can hold around 84 cans. The insulated walls and lid can retain ice for up to 5 days according to Coleman, but more like 3-4 according to customer reviews.
It includes latches for securing the lid tightly and not letting any cold air escape. There is a telescoping handle with a locking mechanism to keep the handle from collapsing mid-move.
- Holds 84 cans
- Strong wheels
- Rolls well on grass
- Handle issues
- No handle lock
- High drain plug
Rubbermaid Wheeled Ice Chest
- Superior thermal retention keeps food and beverages cold.
- Stain and odor resistant.
- Stain and odor resistant, easy-to-clean liner.
- Easy-to-clean liner. Made in the USA.
The Rubbermaid wheeled cooler is both stain and odor-resistant. The largest size is 60 quarts and Rubbermaid also offers 5, 10, 20, 24, and 34-quart varieties. There is a cooler size for every occasion, whether you’re on a week-long camping trip or need a lunch box for work.
One thing that stands out is that the lid opens in two sections for easy access while still being able to use it to set drinks on. The recessed area in the lid will add more air to the inside of the cooler leaving room for warm air to accumulate.
The handle of the cooler is telescoping, however, it is made of metal and tends to rust when left exposed to the elements. The drain plug is on the front of the cooler away from the wheels so no issues of the drain plug getting damaged when moving it around.
- Split lid
- Large wheels
- Cool design
- Lid doesn’t seal well
- Handle rusts
- Large cavity in the lid
A cooler at its most basic level is an insulated box to keep food cold and can be found at every campsite around the world. Finding the best wheeled cooler comes down to intended use and functionality.
Ultimately the right cooler for you is subjective to how and where you plan on using it. Hopefully, you now have a better idea of whether a wheeled cooler is right for your situation.
That being said, every small improvement that is made can make a world of difference. Wheels on coolers should have been a thing a long time ago and for whatever reason they never really caught fire.
Keep calm and camp on.