Cooler on Wheels – The Best Wheeled Coolers 2016
One of the biggest complaints we hear from people in the market for a new cooler is how hard it can be to move them around. This is particularly true when they are full of ice, food, and drinks. The larger coolers can weigh 100 pounds or more when they are filled up which can be very tough for a single person or even a group of people to carry. This is where coolers on wheels come in. Wheeled coolers help to make larger coolers more mobile.
This article is dedicated to discussing coolers on wheels. We will go over what a wheeled cooler is, what to look for in a wheeled cooler, and also list out our favorite choices. But before we go into that, we have provided a convenient table that shows the best coolers on wheels.
Best Coolers on Wheels
|Wheel/Handle||Size||Ice Life||Price by Volume (Amazon)|
|Igloo Island Breeze Wheeled||Wheels: on back|
Handle: Adjustable Telescoping
|28, 60-quart||Up to 2 days||$-$$|
|Coleman Wheeled||Varies. Smaller sizes typically have wheels on back with teloscoping handle. Larger sizes have wheels on side with pivot handle.||16, 40, 42, 50, 75, 100-quart||Up to 4 days||$-$$$|
|Rubbermaid Wheeled||Varies. Smaller sizes typically have wheels on back with telescoping handle. Larger sizes have wheels on side with pivot handle.||45, 50, 60, 75-quart||Up to 4 days||$-$$$|
|Coleman Rugged 55 A/T Wheeled||Wheels: on back|
Handle: Short extending static handle
|55-quart||Up to 5 days||$$$$|
|Igloo Pro Glide 110||Wheels: on side|
Handle: horizontal slide-and-lock telescoping handle
|110-quart||Up to 4 days||$$$$|
|Pelican ProGear Elite Wheeled||Wheels: on side|
Handle: pivoting static handle or molded-in handle
|45, 55, 80-quart||Up to 8 days||$$$$$|
|K2 Summit 60 Wheeled||Wheels: on side|
Handle: rotating side handle
|60-quart||Up to 7 days||$$$$$|
What is a Cooler on Wheels?
A cooler on wheels is exactly what it sounds like: a cooler with wheels on it! While the definition is straightforward enough, there actually are quite a few different types of wheel coolers on the market, and each one has its own unique intentions and target audiences. Some coolers have much more rugged wheels that are capable of handling outdoor terrain such as dirt, grass, and rocks, while others have much smoother wheels which make them great for rolling across hard and flat surfaces but will struggle with bumpy surfaces. There are also a wide variety of shapes and sizes and even the carrying handles can be pretty varied.
Types of Coolers on Wheels
As mentioned above, there are several different types of wheeled coolers. The different types of coolers on wheels will have their own unique specifications and areas that they will both shine and struggle with. We break down each in more detail below.
Outdoor Wheeled Cooler
An outdoor wheeled cooler is intended to be used in outdoor environments such as hiking, camping, hunting, etc. Since there will be potentially rough terrain as well as various obstacles such as sticks, rocks, and alternating elevation, the wheels that are used need to be extra tough. In addition, including grips and ridges similar to what you find on an ATV tire are also common. This helps to get better traction on the ground.
These wheels also tend to be on the larger side and the shafts used are rather thick. The combination of larger wheels and stronger rotating shaft minimizes the likelihood of a wheel becoming stuck or jammed with debris and it is easier to get a bigger “bite” on the surface. The wheels may also be made of a more robust material such as a thick rubber instead of a hard plastic or metal. Of course for those who are looking for an even more extreme design sometimes they simply take matters into their own hands!
The carrying handles are typically located in an area that allows for a good grip and angle for moving the cooler around. It will have a lower center of gravity to help to stop the cooler from potentially tipping over when being pushed or pulled over an inclined surface.
We have also noticed that outdoor coolers tend to be on the larger side, although there are some smaller examples on the market.
Indoor Wheeled Cooler
An indoor wheeled cooler won’t have to face many of the challenges than an outdoor wheeled cooler deals with and instead will focus on having a smooth and comfortable ride. If you have ever tried moving an outdoor wheeled cooler across a concrete or other paved surface you will notice that the movement is loud and quite bumpy. A cooler optimized for this environment, however, will result in a much smoother and more quiet ride.
The wheels used will typically be on the smaller side and also not have nearly as aggressive of ridges and grooves. They will also more likely be made of metal or hard plastic instead of conventional rubber. This will result in great ease in moving even a full cooler across a smooth, hard surface but you will find it to be quite challenging if you try to move it across more rough terrain. In addition, the shaft used might be smaller and lighter since the odds of getting dirt, grass, etc. jammed into the rotating parts is much less.
The carrying handle will be located in an area that is more optimized for comfort rather than for performance. It might also be a bit flimsier.
Indoor wheeled coolers usually are smaller than outdoor coolers. This is likely because they aren’t intended to be used for several days at a time due to their target environment, so having a huge amount of storage volume isn’t a priority.
Hybrid Wheeled Cooler
These coolers on wheels attempt to find a happy medium between outdoor and indoor wheeled coolers. They will have beefier and larger wheels than an indoor cooler but will not be quite as aggressive as many of the outdoor coolers.
The hybrid coolers are a great solution for those who want an ice chest that can be used in a wider environment, as it will be suitable for your indoor settings and should handle all but the most demanding outdoor settings with relative ease. There is a nice variety of handle choices including extending telescoping handles, pivoting side handles, and even built-in molded handles.
In regards to size, hybrid coolers come in just about every size you can think of so there is likely a storage volume on the market that will fit your particular needs.
Pros of a Cooler on Wheels
There are several inherent benefits to having a cooler on wheels. Obviously, the ability to be able to transport the cooler without carrying it is the largest selling point. Rolling a cooler instead of carrying it makes it possible for a person or group of people to carry a much heavier and larger cooler without as much strain. This is most noticeable for a single person trying to move a large cooler. They will found that using a wheeled cooler makes things much easier.
In addition, some coolers on wheels (particularly the 3 and 4-wheel varieties) help to lift the storage area of the ice chest off of the ground. Since this is the area that is keeping all of the ice and chilled items, it minimizes the level of heat transfer that the cooler experiences with the ground. This improves ice life, particularly on hot days when the ground may be very warm.
Furthermore, the wheels can make the cooler taller so as to allow for easier access to the items without bending over as far. This is helpful for situations where the ice chest cannot be put on a table or a bed of a truck and must be laid on the floor.
Finally, rolling coolers typically come with an additional carrying handle that is designed to be used with the wheels. Most of the time, the other carrying methods are still in place (the side hand handles, for instance). This means that you gain an additional handle or strap, and we have never heard anybody complain about that!
Cons of a Cooler on Wheels
Not everything about a wheeled cooler is a positive, however. For some, having the ability to roll is unnecessary. This may be because they have a small cooler that is easy to carry, a group of people that have no problem or prefer to carry the traditional way, or plan on using their ice chest in environments that couldn’t take advantage of wheels or don’t need them. This can include extreme environments with aggressive elevation or large rocks that would make it difficult.
For those that don’t need wheels, including them simply results in a bulkier and heavier cooler. The tires and shaft can sometimes take up quite a bit of space and can also add a few pounds to what could already be a heavy cooler so for someone who doesn’t want or need them it is just a bigger burden to carry. It can also make for more difficult storage as the volume is larger and sometimes the wheels can stick out in odd ways, which takes out the conventionally cube-like shape that a cooler possesses.
Another potential con is that the wheels are moving parts, which means it is something else that could potentially break or damage. Some people prefer simple coolers for the lack of “failure points”. A cooler that is nothing more than a cube of plastic has very little pieces which means there aren’t a lot of areas for things to go awry.
Finally, coolers on wheels typically cost more than a non-wheeled cooler. This extra premium might make the asking price for a particular product higher than what someone wants to spend. This would result in them having to go with a smaller-sized ice chest or sacrifice some build quality or material choices to fit within their budget.
The Best Wheeled Coolers
Now that we have went over what a wheeled cooler is, the different types of wheeled coolers, and the pros/cons of a cooler on wheels we will now list our top choices. These products should all do well if you are in the market for this type of cooler. We encourage you to read each description to see the specifications of each to help you find the right choice for your needs.
The Igloo Island Breeze is one of Igloo’s most popular and affordable cooler offerings. The combination of effective durability and low asking price makes it a top choice for many people. And at 28 quarts, it is large enough to fit most family’s needs for an afternoon picnic or sports outing but is still small enough to be easy to store and tuck away. And if you need even larger then is also an available 60-quart version. The insulation ability is also good enough to handle a full day’s worth of activities. The extra-long telescoping handling makes pushing our pulling it a breeze (pun intended). While the wheels aren’t going to be as rugged as some products on the market, it will meet the needs for all but the most extreme applications. If you wish to read our full review on the Igloo Island Breeze Cooler you can also check it out here.
Coleman has a wide range of wheeled cooler sizes available, including some that approach the large to extra-large category. This extra storage space comes quite in handy and can really open up more applications for this product. The wheels are also oversized which means that you will have an easier time going across rough terrain. This is a side-carrying cooler due to the shape, however. Because of this, Coleman decided to shorten how long the carrying handle is. This means that if you are taller or prefer the cooler closer to your person it will be at a pretty aggressive angle so make sure you package your chilled items accordingly so that they won’t spill if lifted up at an angle.
Rubbermaid also has a nice range of coolers on wheel sizes but they typically focus on medium-sized and above. We really like the orientation of this product. The wheels are placed so that they are well-centered and the long adjustable handle means that just about everyone will be able to find a setting that suits their needs while also minimizing how much the cooler is tilting. The wheels are a bit on the flimsy side, however, so be careful when dragging them across rocks or other rough surfaces. The ice life should be suitable but if you are looking for a bit extra performance within the Rubbermaid line we also recommend checking out their DuraChill wheeled version (our full review of this can be read here).
This product takes the traditional Coleman design and bumps it up a notch in toughness. It includes extra-large 6-inch wheels which not only provide a better grip on the ground but also lifts the cooler an additional 75% off of the ground. This can make it easier to go over obstacles that might normally obstruct a cooler with smaller wheels. The ice life has also been increased. You can realistically expect 3 days or more of ice life with this product. Of course, all of this comes at a higher asking price than your normal wheeled Coleman cooler so it is up to you to decide if your applications warrant this premium price.
If you have plans for a huge family reunion or tailgate and need as much storage volume as possible then many of the examples above might not meet your needs. Typically wheeled coolers will be on the smaller end of the spectrum, but the Igloo Glide Pro 110 tries to break that mold. This enormous cooler can handle up to 150 cans which make it one of the largest coolers on the market, and Igloo has even included wheels and a unique slide-and-lock telescoping handle to make carrying this monster around less of a burden. Due to the sheer size of this product, the wheels had to be put on one of the sides length-wise so it might be a little more difficult to navigate this around tight corners but for someone looking for this much storage space, they can’t be too picky.
For someone that needs as much ice life as possible, they might want to look into Pelican’s wheeled products. These take the established and impressive performance of a Pelican cooler and add on some extra heavy duty wheels as well as an additional rotating handle. If you have read our reviews on Pelicans you know that they have some of the longest ice life in the industry and are also some of the toughest, being certified bear-resistant by the IGBC. However, this comes at the cost of a high price tag as well as a bulky product. There are also a few size options for those looking for more or less storage space. The inclusion of wheels makes mobility much easier for this who can handle the sticker shock.
A rival to Pelican, K2 is another cooler that promises cooling ability that can approach a week as well as extreme versatility through their roto-molded construction and high-quality parts. We have seen that K2 coolers can sometimes be a bit more slender than comparable premium coolers which might be a selling point to some who have trouble storing such a bulky product. It is important to note, however, that the wheels used here do protrude a bit so make sure to add some additional space when storing. Another great long-lasting wheeled cooler but at a high sticker price.