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Updated April 2022
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Buying guide for best wheeled coolers

Wheeled coolers aren’t just for picnics. They have a place in your backyard whether you’re having a pool party and want to keep dripping-wet guests outside, or using it as an extra refrigerator on your back porch. You’ll find them rolling down the boat dock, sitting on the beach and in camping sites, and being transported in a car or truck to any number of activities, including tailgating and hunting. 

Many wheeled coolers are spacious, but it’s the functionality of the product that really counts. It doesn’t do you much good if your cooler holds a lot but also leaks, tips over, or develops mold and mildew.

Though there are numerous wheeled coolers on the market, the scene is dominated by a few manufacturers who have perfected the product. Our shopping guide points out some of the best versions to make your selection easier. Plus, you might be surprised to read about a few new ways to use your wheeled cooler that you haven’t considered.

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Wheeled coolers are best for hauling food, not necessarily large game like deer. Invest in a flat-bottomed rotomolded cooler for transporting game.

Key questions

The right wheeled cooler for your needs depends on the answers to these two questions

Where will you use it?

The places you’ll take your rolling cooler will dictate the type of wheels you should consider when buying one. Coolers with all-terrain wheels are more expensive than those with regular wheels that do well on pavement, but may not do so well on rocky terrain on the way to your campsite. For the beach, most coolers with inflatable tires suited to soft terrain can roll through soft sand.

How much do you need to put in it?

The answer to this question ties into where you’ll take your rolling cooler. You won’t find gigantic rolling coolers for hauling multiple deer, for example. The heavy weight would make it difficult to wheel, and picking up a cooler by one end will of course redistribute the contents in a messy way. The largest wheeled coolers tend to hold a bit more than 100 quarts. That said, hunters report successfully using a 65-quart rolling cooler to fit a single deer plus two bags of ice.

Key considerations

At the end of the day, a rolling cooler is essentially a regular cooler on wheels. Regular and wheeled coolers can hold similar amounts of cans and weight. While shopping for a rolling cooler, what truly matters is the functionality of the wheels and handle.


You’ll find all types of wheels on rolling coolers. The type you choose will depend on where you want to take your cooler. There are soft-terrain wheels designed to roll over beach sand, and there are all-terrain wheels for heavy-duty surfaces such as dirt, gravel, rocks, and other uneven rough surfaces. Most rolling coolers have two wheels. There are other types of coolers, including kits, which are more like trolleys or wagons with four wheels.


A handle isn’t just a handle when it comes to buying a wheeled cooler. Because your cooler carries so much weight, you need a durable handle that maneuvers the cooler out of your way while you walk. Some handles simply lift up; others telescope about 20 inches or so, putting the handle about three feet from the ground. Some telescoping handles lock into place when they’re extended all the way; others don’t. There are also locking handles that adjust for comfort if you’re left- or right-handed.

Wheeled cooler features

Wheeled coolers have just as many features as coolers without wheels. Here’s a rundown on what features you can expect to find on all types of coolers.

Accessory pockets: Pockets inside and outside the cooler hold extras. Pockets under the lid take otherwise wasted space and give the cooler added function.

Bear resistance: If you’re using your cooler for camping, hunting, or fishing, check if the rolling cooler you want says it’s bear resistant. Many higher-priced and top-quality rotomolded coolers are tested by real grizzlies.

Built-in bottle opener: It’s handy to have a bottle opener for those days you forget to pack one.

Built-in trays: Coolers with built-in trays help you sort items, keeping wet or dry perishables separate and accessible when needed.

Cupholders: For multifunctional coolers, you’ll find molded cupholders on the cooler’s lid also fit bottles and cans.

Fish ruler: Fishing enthusiasts will appreciate a cooler with a convenient fish-measuring ruler on the lid.

Ice retention: There are a number of factors when it comes to how long a cooler can keep ice from melting, but it pays to know what the users and the manufacturers say about ice retention. If you’re using a rolling cooler for a day, ice retention may not be as important to you as it would be if you’re taking it on a longer trip.

Lid latch: For times you want to take your cooler out in cold weather, you may want wider cover latches you can access while wearing gloves. Lower-priced coolers tend to have covers that close on their own without latches and stay down because of an air-lock design.

Locks: When you’re in the woods, you want bear-proof locks on your cooler. Bear-proof locks mean the bear will lose interest in trying to open the cooler. There are plenty of locks bears can open using their teeth, unfortunately. Check for additional locks on wheels and handles. You don’t want to spot a bear walking off rolling your cooler behind him.

Mold, mildew, and stain resistance: A cooler may say it’s mold, mildew, and stain resistant, but the best way to prevent or at least minimize all of these issues is to clean your cooler before and after each use.

Odor resistance: There’s nothing more embarrassing than opening up an odorous cooler. Of course, there will be times you need to use vinegar and water with a scrub brush to clean the interior.

Rustproof hardware: For hardcore cooler users, you’ll want to find stainless steel hardware that puts up with punishing weather or salty air and water.

UV treated: A UV-treated cooler exterior can keep the sun from fading the color over time.

Drain plug: A drain plug is essential for emptying excess water and for cleaning. A threaded drain plug is best for leak prevention.

Expert Tip

Wheeled cooler prices

Inexpensive: In the $26 to $85 range, you’ll find small soft-sided coolers that are ideal to take in the car or to the beach for a few hours. Small coolers in this price range hold around 22 to 36 cans, they may be foldable, and they’re typically light in weight for easy transport. In the upper range of budget wheeled coolers, you’ll find hard-sided models that hold 40 to 60 quarts. 

Mid-range: In the $86 to $149 range, you’ll begin to notice larger wheeled cooler sizes, such as 60 to 65 quarts that hold 70 to 95 cans. These have telescoping handles and more built-in features like cup holders or extra handles. Models in this range hold an average of 100 quarts. You’ll find a few five-wheeled models and coolers with wheels that are made for rocky terrain.

Expensive: You can get a high-quality wheeled cooler for between $150 and $289. These are rotomolded with thicker insulation for tough use and made to hold 120 quarts or more for hunting hauls and longer camping trips. In this range, you’ll find heavy-duty all-terrain wheels and lockable latches to secure your goods.

Premium: Wheeled coolers starting at $289 up to over $800 are investments for outdoor living enthusiasts. This is the price range where you’ll find nearly indestructible wheels, handles, and interior and exterior materials, plus locking latches. You’ll also pay for the grizzly testing used on these models so you can be almost certain your food will be protected from bears while camping and hunting.


  • Pack your cooler correctly. First load in pre-chilled cans and bottles, then cover them with ice. Cold air moves downward, which is why packing like this keeps beverages chilled longer.

  • Store your cooler in a cool, dry place. If you put your cooler in a hot space, such as the garage, take it out a day or two before you need it and place it in a cooler spot so the interior can cool down.

  • Use your height to help determine which wheeled cooler you need. If you’re short, an adjustable telescoping handle is ideal. If you’re tall, it could be more of a challenge to find a telescoping handle that’s long enough for your needs.

  • Spot clean a soft cooler. Avoid cleaning a soft-sided cooler in a washing machine or dishwasher. Doing that greatly compromises and deteriorates the fabric and seams, trapping water inside that can produce mold and mildew.

Other products we considered

We found a few more wheeled coolers that might interest you. Though it’s not for the budget-conscious shopper, we love the feature-rich RovR RollR Wheeled Camping Cooler. This 60-quart high-end wheeled cooler has a pop-up storage bin on the lid, a handle that’s also a kickstand, and heavy-duty, all-terrain inflatable tires. Another choice pick for a soft-sided wheeled cooler is the ARTSENA Titan Deep Freeze Rolling Cooler that we like for its lockable telescoping handle, foldability, and thick wheels. We’re also happy to note that YETI, known for its unsurpassed insulation power and indestructibility, has a wheeled version of its rotomolded cooler called the YETI Tundra Haul Portable Wheeled Cooler.

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Take a wheeled cooler in your car for grocery shopping trips. Transport frozen perishables in the cooler while doing other errands, then at home roll it into your kitchen to unpack. A soft-sided, compact wheeled cooler can also be used as a carry-on bag on an airplane.


Q. What’s a rotomolded cooler?

A. The term “rotomolded” is often kicked around in the cooler world. That’s because there are generally two types of coolers: rotomolded and non-rotomolded. The more helpful answer is that rotomolded coolers are the high-end, hard-sided versions that are manufactured with a continuous thick wall of UV-resistant plastic to keep ice frozen longer, protect perishables from wildlife, and prevent warping or becoming brittle from exposure to natural elements. The technical name “rotationally molded plastic.” The handles and hinges of a rotomolded cooler usually give out long before the plastic body breaks or cracks.

Q. Can I turn my existing cooler into a wheeled cooler?

A. Yes, there are plenty of wheel kits that can be added to non-wheeled coolers, especially the rotomolded models. The trick is finding one specifically for your cooler or one that will retrofit your model. There are universal cooler wheel kits with wheels and an attachable handle. Some wheel kits are like trolleys or chassis that you strap your cooler on to, and some even have built-in fishing pole holders.

Q. What’s an all-terrain cooler tire?

A. An all-terrain cooler tire is like an extreme off-roading tire for your car. The size of the wheel may not always be what makes the cooler wheel all-terrain. What counts is the way it’s manufactured. For all-terrain wheels, seek out descriptions that mention “never-flat” wheels that are typically solid, single-piece tire construction.

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