The only thing better than filling your cooler with snacks and cold drinks: not having to carry it. The next generation of camping coolers with wheels is here, proving yet again that the industry has not reached a ceiling on style nor technical innovation. This means that outdoor enthusiasts of all different kinds will be able to enjoy the stronger materials, sleeker designs, and unique features that make mobile coolers unique.
Whether it’s a day on the lake or a day in the mountains, these coolers make it easy to bring more and hassle less. Unlike traditional coolers, which may take a second person to even lift, camping coolers with wheels enable the user to move a considerable amount of weight without all the effort, meaning you can save your energy for the things that matter.
Now without further delay, we present our list of the best camping coolers with wheels:
- Item Weight 14.87 pounds
- Dimensions 16.2 x 29 x 18.2
- Capacity 60 quart
- Ice Retention 1 day
- Easy to clean
- Dual access doors
- Thin wheels
- Handle could be stronger
- Item Weight 12.7 pounds
- Dimensions 22.6 x 17.7 x 17.6
- Capacity 50 quart
- Ice Retention 5 days
- Excellent insulation & ice retention
- Leak resistant drain
- Big wheels
- Odd interior shape
- Flimsy handle
- Comes only in black
- Item Weight 13.1 pounds
- Dimensions 20 x 18.5 x 20.69
- Capacity 60 quart
- Ice Retention 2-3 days
- Lower Insulation Rate
- Flimsy handle lock mechanism
- Item Weight 44 pounds
- Dimensions 34.6 x 19.7 x 23.6
- Capacity 70 Quart
- Ice Retention 2-4 days
- Innovative interior lighting system
- Very durable
- Gear stash compartment
- Item Weight 13 pounds
- Dimensions 29.4 x 15.5 x 19.9
- Capacity 62 quart
- Ice Retention 5 days
- Heavy insulation
- High capacity
- Lid does not stay open on its own
- Drain spout can be hard to reach
- Item Weight 13.7 pounds
- Dimensions 18 x 33 x 20
- Capacity 50 quart
- Ice Retention 5 days
- Widely available
- Taller than other coolers
- Flimsy handle
- Relatively low insulation rating
- Wheels have trouble with sand
Rubbermaid Ice Wheeled Cooler (60 qt.)
Industry giant Rubbermaid has been in the cooler game since the very beginning, and it doesn’t look like they’ll be bowing out anytime soon. This is because they have dominated the camping cooler market by offering a product that is significantly more affordable than those of smaller manufacturers. The Rubbermaid Ice Chest has some fairly surprising heat retention capabilities considering its lightweight construction (just under 15 pounds). It’s certainly not the most insulated thing out there, but it sure can do the trick for a weekend away with your adventuring partner.
The Rubbermaid Ice Chest is unique in its two-door construction, a feature that seems to have a real effect on maintaining a steady interior temperature. Being able to access either side of the cooler means you can take greater advantage of organization and not have to rummage around looking for your lost string cheese.
The Ice Chest’s wheels are on the back end, making for a very suitcase-like towing experience. The wheels are lightweight, but not particularly sturdy. A two foot telescoping handle is a welcome feature, but its lightweight aluminum construction creates a certain amount of give, making me wonder how much weight this cooler could carry before leading to some over-bending.
Coleman Xtreme 5-Day Heavy-Duty (50 qt)
The experts at Coleman have been making the ‘cooler’ a household name since the early 1950s. With its Xtreme 5-day series of coolers and ice chests, Coleman is providing easy and affordable access to premium coolers with some features that don’t come standard on your everyday coolers. Firstly, the very name of the product suggests that this cooler should be able to keep the contents cold for up to five days, a feat which would be remarkable indeed considering that it’s more like one day with standard coolers. While five days is a bit of a stretch, the Coleman Xtreme 5-Day heavy duty cooler is still more adept than many of its competitors at keeping your things cold.
Molded lid cup holders are a great feature if you don’t need to get in and out of the thing that often. Rear mounted wheels are large and sturdy, but cuts the lower dimensions of the interior a bit, making it sometimes difficult to get everything to stack nicely. Like other coolers of its class, it does have some issues with collapsibility of the handle, but overall the things rolls pretty well and looks like it can handle moderately rocky terrain without much issue.
The biggest question I have is why Coleman would only offer this item in black, which I remember correctly from science class, isn’t the best option if you’re trying to reflect heat. I can imagine it was a style choice, and understandably so. It’s a good looking cooler.
Igloo Ice Cube Roller Cooler (60 qt)
If you’re thinking about buying a camping cooler with wheels, then you’re probably a person who has at least some interest in making your next adventure a bit more convenient. The Igloo Ice Cube cooler with wheels is one of the most conveniently shaped roller coolers on the market. Its compact cube-like construction allows it to fit anywhere it needs to, whether it’s in between car seats, tucked beneath a camping table, or conveniently playing both side-table and fridge to a beachside lounge session. 60 quarts is about 90 12oz cans (if you were wondering) which means this is most certainly my new tailgating cooler. The interior is rectangle with lightly rounded edges, making it easier to pack than some of the more oddly shaped styles of its peers.
It is a popular option for long trips as well, as its price makes it possible to get two of these instead of a single extra-large capacity cooler, using one for food and another for beverages. It rolls around quite smoothly and is perhaps the most maneuvering cooler with wheels. It is not, however, particularly well insulated, so consider keeping it out of direct sunlight if you are looking to keep your ice for more than a day or two.
Igloo Trailmate Liddup Wheeled Lighted Cooler (70 qt.)
This cooler is lit. Literally. The Igloo Trailmate Liddup cooler offers a lot more than just wheels. The lighted interior is an innovation that we didn’t know we wanted, but now that it’s here, we are never going to go back. Add in metal construction, oversized wheels, and a built in serving tray, and you have Igloo’s entry into the increasingly competitive ultra-deluxe camp cooler industry. Serious outdoor enthusiasts looking to invest in a cooler that will stand the test of time without losing shape, insulation, or style should look no further.
I love the ‘legs’ on the front of this thing that allow the cooler to stand a few inches off the ground, which is way more convenient for camping situations and is not a common feature for coolers in this price range. The cell phone / keys stash compartment is a welcome addition, especially at the beach. Of course, all these bells and whistles come at a cost: this is one of the heavier deluxe camping coolers on the market. Especially when packed to capacity, this thing can be somewhat hard to maneuver, especially considering the small built-in rear handle, which doesn’t allow you to get much of a grip. The battery cover is also somewhat flimsy and can be accidentally knocked off if you bump it
Coleman Xtreme 5 Wheeled Cooler w/ Low CO2 Insulation (62 qt.)
As mentioned above, the Coleman Xtreme 5 series offers unmatched insulation for its price range, which is amongst the most affordable that’s out there. Boasting a 5-day window for keeping ice frozen, the Xtreme 5 is upper level performance for entry level cost, which is probably why the series has become so popular. This 62 qt., “low C02” version comes with the added bonus of specially crafted with ThermOZONE™ foam insulation with a reduced emission output, so you can feel good about doing the earth a solid.
All the standard Coleman features are here, including molded cupholders, hinged (as opposed to telescoping) pull handle, which makes gives it a sturdier roll than come of its competitors. Leak resistant drain spout is pretty standard on these babies, but this one feels particularly solid. As part of the Xtreme series, it also has an insulated lid which is sturdy enough for a good sit. The hinges can be removed with a simple screwdriver, allowing the lid to be pulled completely off the unit if the need arises (it has some trouble staying open on its own.
The 62 quart capacity puts it at the larger end of the size spectrum, but as is the case with most Coleman products, the construction is lightweight enough that it is not a hassle to lug around, even when full. The wheels are located on the side of the unit (as opposed to the back) which make it remarkably maneuverable for its size, perfect for hauling down to the waterfront.
Coleman Xtreme Wheeled Cooler (50 qt.)
While not as thoroughly insulated as the Xtreme 5 series, the Coleman Xtreme Wheeled Cooler is capable of keeping your stuff cold for a few days at least. It’s a bit taller than your standard rolling cooler, in fact tall enough to hold 2 liter soda bottles without laying them on their side. This makes the Coleman Xtreme Wheeled Cooler a great option for picnicking or the weekend trip. The thing that makes this rolling camp cooler competitive is its price and availability. It’s significantly less expensive than coolers with similar features, as is widely available and in multiple colors.
As is the case with other Coleman products, the telescoping pull handle is not as strong as you might want, especially for a cooler of this size. Cooler packed to the gills with frozen meat, for instance, will not roll so well without some bend in the handle. In addition, the formed side handles are a bit small, making it somewhat difficult to get a good grip on the thing in its entirety. The wheels feel like they’re high density and quite sturdy, but so far have had trouble rolling in thin sand.
Here’s the thing: if you’re looking for a good beach cooler, this might not be the one. But as far as car camping and day picnics are concerned, this is by far the best value that you’re going to find. If you are going to be facing any kind of extended outdoor exposure, stick with the Xtreme 5 series instead.
What to Consider When Shopping for a Camping Cooler with Wheels
Camping coolers come in many different sizes, from shoulder strap lunch bags to massive chest style coolers that take multiple people to even move. Modern high-end coolers have found all new ways to create more space inside the cooler by utilizing advanced materials that are both warmer and thinner, as well as dividing some coolers into multiple storage compartments Speaking generally, there are about five different sizes of cooler available on the market: personal (0 to 16 quarts), small (17 to 35 quarts), medium (36 to 59 quarts), large (60 to 99 quarts), & extra large (100 quarts and above).
Choosing the right size camping cooler with wheels is all about assessing the needs of your particular adventure. How long is the trip? How many people are going? How much fresh (spoilable) food or ice will be needed?
A personal cooler is perfect for a packed lunch, post-hike cold beverages, or a hot afternoon in the yard. While there are some exceptions, most coolers of this size do not come with wheels, and instead usually have a strap or more basic handle. A small cooler is slightly bigger and would be perfect for a small picnic. A medium cooler can fit a full picnic for several people and is possibly suitable for a one-person weekend excursion. Large coolers are the most common variety to find with wheels and are great for multi day family camping trips, tailgate parties, or fishing trips. Extra large coolers, while inconveniently large for the average traveler, are particularly well suited for longer excursions, like a week-long hunting trip, or a BBQ for the neighborhood.
WATCH: How to pack a cooler for Camping
While cooler capacity is measured in quarts (~32oz) as an industry standard, allowing someone to know exactly how much liquid can fit in the given volume, it is not always possible to tell with exactitude whether everything is going to fit. This is because cooler interiors vary greatly in their shape, as do the items that are most commonly stored inside. For this reason, we recommend going with a cooler that is slightly larger than what you need. And remember: it’s important to always save room for ice!
Throughout the years, the materials used to construct camping coolers have evolved greatly. In the first half of the 20th century, when automobile travel was rapidly becoming an essential part of the American weekend, manufacturers like Coca Cola and Budweiser were devising new ways to keep their products cold at point of sale. These were often made of steel, sometimes with special galvanized coating to help prevent rusting. Then companies like Coleman, Thermos, & KampKold came along to adapt the new technology to the world of travel and adventure.
As time went on, coolers began to ditch their original steel construction and substitute it with hard durable plastic, both inside and out, with a layer of insulating foam in between. Today, steel coolers and vintage styles have made something of a comeback, but for the most part, camping coolers are made from hard plastic with a polystyrene foam interior.
While metal coolers are sleek and more easily cleanable, they can often be heavier and are more prone to dents and rust.
However, if you already have a plastic cooler watch this short youtube guide how to clean it with soda
Ice Retention / Insulation
The whole point of a cooler is to keep things cold, is it not? That’s why a careful consideration of your cooler’s insulation capabilities is necessary to making sure that you’re getting the exact product you need. Bad insulation can lead to melting ice, which can lead to all sorts of tragedies, from soggy sandwiches to warm root beer.
Perhaps more importantly, an improperly insulated cooler can lead to food spoilage, which in some cases can lead to severe illness. The United States Food & Drug Association’s recommended guidelines for food storage suggest that you should be keeping your perishable foods below 40F to help limit the growth of harmful bacteria. According to the FDA, even a few hours at room temperature is enough to promote the growth of organisms that can make you really sick, and a camping trip is a terrible time to get sick! That’s why we’ve taken insulation into central account in our review of the best camping coolers with wheels, to make sure that you are getting the coolest products on the market.
Wheels: Mobility & Durability
Here’s the thing about mobile coolers: it’s all about the wheels. Adding wheels to camping coolers was perhaps the largest innovation that coolers underwent in recent years, and it has become such a popular feature that many manufacturers have made it standard on most models.
Quality can vary greatly with cooler wheels. Wheels that feel thin or brittle are unlikely to hold up against repeated use in rocky terrain. Similarly, wheels that sit loose on their axle are more likely to eventually fall off. When assessing the wheels, look for something that is both sturdy and well secured to ensure that you don’t have to deal with a break when you’re way out in the wilderness.
Wheel size can play an important role in portability. For instance, small wheels will perform just fine on smooth pavement, but will have a hard time with looser surfaces like sand or gravel. The larger the wheel, the easier it will roll on such surfaces, and the more suitable it will be for extreme terrain.
Some Yeti coolers can be upgraded with speicial wheel system which is suitable for any type of terrian
The Rambler X2 cooler wheels are quick to set up and taking down. No additional tools required.
The wheel set is quite expensive but it will be 100% necessary for your YETI cooler if you are going to camp on a rough type of terrain.
The other side of the mobility coin is the handle. Popular coolers by both Coleman and Igloo often feature luggage-style telescoping handles for both ease of use and compatibility. While convenient, these handles are often seen as too flimsy for a fully loaded cooler. Often times it is impossible to push the cooler without collapsing the handle, so pulling becomes a necessity. Some models feature a hard plastic hinged handle, which tent to be sturdier than their aluminum counterparts and have less breakable parts.
Drainage / Leak Resistance
Cooler drains have been a common feature on camping coolers since day one, and it’s easy to see why. Because camping coolers are not entirely protected from exterior heat, the ice will inevitably melt, and you’ll be left with a messy cocktail of floating food and water-logged graham crackers. Most camping cooler drains are a simple opening on the bottom corner, many with removable plugs, some with on / off valves. This allows the user to drain the melted water gradually, as it melts, or all at once.
Modern camping coolers are not prone to liquid leakage due to their sturdy, layered construction. If a liquid leak does occur, it is generally through the drain valve, which is an indicator that the drain plug needs to be replaced.
Thermal leak is an inevitability of any cooler, but the advanced construction of some premium models has enabled camping coolers to hold temperature for greater and greater intervals. Even so, the external conditions will play a role in how long your cooler stays cold. If the sun is shining, find a piece of shade for your cooler, and it will make all the difference.
A SHORT GUIDE: How to increase your cooler ice retention
The “Drain vs. Don’t Drain” Argument: It’s About Physics
Here’s the deal about drains: for years, gear-heads and camp junkies have been hotly debating the issue of whether or not draining the excess water from your cooler will lead to an overall increase or decrease in average temperature. Fortunately, we can put the whole issue to rest, thanks to a bit of strong thinking courtesy of the principles of thermal dynamics.
The long and the short of it: Air is generally warmer than ice water (32F), and when you let ice water out, air gets in. Air (higher temperature object) will transfer heat to ice (the lower temperature object) and the net temperature of the system will increase. So there you have it. Leaving the water in will actually slow the rate at which your cooler warms up. Just don’t forget to seal up the sandwiches.
That’s it for our roundup of best camping coolers with wheels! Which one do you think is the best? Are there any features we missed?
Camping coolers, like all outdoor and sporting equipment, is designed with a dizzying array of materials and features that allow users to make a selection based on their individual needs. Whether it’s a day out on the boat, a weekend at the lake, or a trip across the country, a good cooler with wheels is an essential addition to the gear stash. By making your selection based on the features listed in this article, it is possible to choose the cooler that is perfect for you.
And that’s pretty cool.
There you have it—8 of the best cooler on wheels available right now to purchase. Which one appeals most to you? Are there any great features that we missed?
Frequently Asked Questions
- Q: What size handle is best for a camping cooler with wheels?
A: The size of your camping cooler handle is going to be dependent on manufacturer specifications. Often, one company will utilize the same handle across a multitude of product lines, meaning that they will be largely the same height for a specific brand. It is perhaps more important to consider construction than it is to consider length. For instance, many “entry-level” camping coolers are equipped with low density, lightweight aluminum collapsing handles. These are designed to decrease overall weight and allow the handle to disappear when not in use. Unfortunately, this lightweight construction can make them flimsy and susceptible to bending. Molded plastic handles tend to be the sturdier option, but feature plastic hinges that themselves will need to be replaced eventually depending on how often you are using your cooler.
- Q: Do these coolers have drains?
A: Drain spouts have been pretty standard on camping coolers since their inception early in the 20th century. While cheap, super-market sourced 100% foam coolers do not feature drains, the majority of camping coolers do. They are most often located towards the bottom of the cooler where it is possible to drain melted ice water without tilting the cooler or dumping it upside down.
Many camping cooler drains are advertised as being ‘leak resistant’. This usually means a tightly fitting plug that goes into the drain bore and can be removed to allow immediate drainage. Over time, these plugs submit to the wear and tear of the active lifestyle and can lose their tight fit. Fortunately, replacement caps are not hard to come by and can often be sourced from the manufacturer. Igloo coolers even feature threaded drain spouts that actually fit a standard 2-liter bottle cap!
- Q: Are coolers with wheels sturdy enough to use as a seat?
A: Generally speaking, yes. Most modern camping coolers come with lids that feature the same multi-layer insulation as the main body, giving it a good level of solidity. There are of course exceptions to the rule, such as multi-hinged lids that tend to be somewhat thinner. When using your cooler as a seat, pay attention to how much the top panel is flexing against the weight. Constant pressure in the center of the cooler lid can over time lead to warping, which may affect the overall seas and thus lead to loss of overall insulation.
- Q: How long can my camping cooler hold ice for without melting?
A: The insulation rating of your cooler is dependent on what kind of materials were used in its construction and how those materials were put together. The time that ice will stay in solid form is also dependent on external factors such as sun exposure and outdoor temperatures. If your cooler does not come with an advertised time frame for ice retention, then you can assume that it can probably keep ice for between one and two days. The Coleman Xtreme 5 series, for example, boasts a 5-day ice retention period (under ideal conditions). Some top of the line, higher end coolers can keep ice for even longer, though 5 days has pretty much become the industry standard.
There are several tips for keeping your ice for longer. One trick that has become popular with adventurers and road trippers is to spend the day prior to departure making sure that everything that is going into the cooler is fully chilled before going in. This reduces the initial temperature and will keep more ice solid for longer. Dry ice is a particularly effective option for maintaining frozen foods such as ice cream, however, it is so cold that it might in fact freeze your fresh goods like eggs and cheese, so be careful!
You can also chill the entire cooler itself before loading it with goods. Reducing the initial temperature of the interior foam insulation can take some time but can act as an effective barrier to unwanted heat entry.
- Q: What are the main differences between Igloo and Coleman?
A: Both Igloo and Coleman have spent the majority of the last century becoming household names in the outdoor cooler industry. Both companies make a number of comparable products at different price points, meaning that overall quality might have more to do with which product line it is, as opposed to which manufacturer. However, after taking the time to review both companies and the camping coolers with wheels that they produce, a few ‘quirks’ have emerged for each company that is worth taking a look into.
Firstly, Coleman coolers by and large use a telescoping handle system that is often described as being too light or flimsy to handle a fully loaded cooler without bending. Igloo coolers on the other hand have problems with their hinges, handles, and drain plugs wearing out quicker than they should (Fortunately, all of those components are replaceable and often available at the retailer where you purchased the cooler).