The Best Rolling Cooler for Beach Trips in 2021

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After scouring the web the best rolling cooler for beach trips that I’ve found is the YETI Tundra Haul. Although you will pay more for the brand name, you’ll enjoy days of ice in your cooler, and be able to pull it to your beach spot with minimal effort. Have a look at the table below for what else made the list and the expanded product reviews. If you’d like some pointers on what to look for in a beach rolling cooler have a look at the buying guide below, or skip down to the product reviews.

Top 5 best rolling coolers for beach trips

1. Tundra Haul by Yeti
Size: 50 qt
Empty Weight: 37 lbs
Go to product review
2. Milee by Seavilis
Size: 70 qt
Empty Weight: 46 lbs
Go to product review
3. Frosted Frog
Size: 70 / 100 qt
Empty Weight: 37 / 50 lbs
Go to product review
4. RovR RollR
Size: 60 qt
Empty Weight: 52 lbs
Go to product review
5. ONIVA Wagon
Size: 200+ qt
Empty Weight: 20 lbs
Go to product review

My research involved evaluating over 30 different models available to buy online, and speaking to industry experts. Unfortunately I haven’t the resources at this stage to buy and try every cooler, but I think you’ll find my interpretation of the product information and customer reviews compiled into one spot very useful. Over time I hope to be able to get my hands on more coolers to try them out in the field.

Beach rolling cooler buyers guide

The most important things to consider when buying a wheeled cooler for the beach are: how much you need to store (size); how long the ice will last (ice retention); and how well the wheels will get you to your favourite beach spot without breaking your back (portability).

What size of beach rolling cooler do you need?

The right size cooler for a day on the beach will obviously depend on how many people you want to feed and hydrate, and how hungry/thirsty they will be. You should also keeping mind the quality of the cooler you are buying. If you choose a very cheap cooler with poor insulating ability, you’ll need to allow more room for ice, compared to a better quality cooler that will stay cold all day (More on this in the next section). As a general rule of thumb, you should allow a 2/3 ice to 1/3 contents ratio, although lower quality coolers will need differing amounts.

*can estimate based on standard 375ml can

Ice retention needs

This question might seem like an easy one to answer as manufacturers will often advertise how many days their cooler will retain your ice (known as a cooler’s ‘ice retention’). In my opinion the ‘days of ice’ as reported by the manufacturer is often an unreliable comparison between brands (and sometimes within the same brand too). However there are some features you can look for to have the best chance of selecting a cooler with the right ice retention for your needs.

Can you believe the ‘days of ice’ factor?

Sometimes…It can be very misleading to try and compare the ice retention times between coolers. Very rarely is the testing procedure used to measure cooler performance comparable between different brands (or even within the same brand sometimes). To make it harder, almost no manufacturers make the testing parameters easily available at the point of purchase.

The best companies test their coolers scientifically; multiple versions of the same cooler are setup in a temperature controlled environment, and factors like how often the lid is opened, and if the water is drained out at regular intervals, are recorded and controlled for. Less scrupulous outfits appear to pluck values out of thin air.

Even for those who do rigorous testing, there are other factors that are hard to control, like where you buy your ice. Some countries have access to pressurised and/or treated ice, which significantly increases retention compared to tap water that’s been frozen in a mold. It would also be reasonable to expect a variation in performance within the same model of cooler . There have been some interesting attempts by other reviewers [LINK] to test coolers across different brands that are informative; however even these could do with some experimental design tweaks.

How the type of cooler affects ice retention

Your first major purchasing decision is whether you go for a hard or soft walled cooler. Soft bag types will only typically keep ice frozen for a couple of hours out on the beach, depending on the weather. So basically you can skip straight to hard-walled coolers if you need to keep things cold for a whole day. Here are some of the details of each:

Soft sided coolers

These are very lightweight, often collapsible bags that are very portable, and some do have wheels. These can be great short term coolers, and will be the easiest to carry your food/drink. Unfortunately your ice will be slowly melting as soon as you set-off; so to avoid wet contents you will probably want to use ice bricks rather than ice. Make sure the cooler material is water proof to avoid puddles in the car. Soft sided coolers are generally cheaper to make, and therefore cheaper to buy than hard sided coolers.

Unfortunately when creating a soft sided cooler with wheels, most designers seem to have chosen to be as cheap as possible. The most prolific design I’ve seen on the market look like someone ripped a suitcase from it’s telescopic trolley handle, and loosely strapped a soft cooler box to it. That’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but people do report that the cooler’s on these tent to slide off as soon as you hit the beach. There are some great purpose designed soft sided products, but you’ll need to sort through the riff-raff.

Hard sided coolers

Most commonly you’ll see hard sided coolers listed as being made by one of the following manufacturing methods (listed in order of price): blow molded, injection molded, and roto-molded (as well as combinations of these three). Injection or roto-molded coolers will trump blow molded for keeping things cool, full stop. If you only need the ice to stay frozen for a day, a blow molded cooler might do the job. Less commonly you’ll come across coolers made from fiber glass. Unfortunately over time fiberglass will react to sunlight and saltwater (not ideal for the beach!). Whatever the material, it should always be designed to food grade standards. I would also preferably get one that is listed as being UV resistant.

There are some other technical details that you could look at to decipher quality, however it’s rarely information that is easily found as a customer. These include looking at the types of plastic used (e.g. Linear low density polyethylene, polyethylene, polypropylene, polyvinyl chloride), the wall thickness (thicker walls means more insulation can fit in), and the type of insulation used.

Other ice-retention tips and tricks:

  • Size – in general a bigger cooler should have thicker insulation, and will therefore keep things cooler than a smaller cooler.
  • Weight – When comparing two coolers of the same capacity/volume, generally the one that’s heavier is so because it has more insulation (barring other attachments that increase the weight). More insulation = longer ice retention.
  • Seal – the rubber seal on the underside of the lid ensures that cold air doesn’t leak out of the top. It’s hard to tell the quality of the seal from afar, but if it has one it’s a good sign. In general, the more expensive models will have better seals.
  • Color – if you want to squeeze every morsel of performance from a cooler, you want to get a light color. Dark color versions of the same cooler melt ice faster.

Wheels and handles for the beach – what to look for

Wheels

Once you have worked out the size of cooler you are likely to need, it’s time to look at your wheels. Sand is a unique surface, and not many wheels are truly designed well enough for it. Most cooler wheels are 1 piece solid plastic, or a plastic/rubber outer with some kind of high density foam inside. These simple wheels are generally fine for getting over the sand, so long as you follow the advice further down regarding size and position of the wheels.

You do sometimes see air-filled (pneumatic) wheels. For most people I would recommend not choosing pneumatic wheels on a cooler. Over time pneumatic wheels will lose air, which means you have to pump them up between long periods inactivity. That’s the last thing you want to do when you need it at short notice, or when lending to a mate. To add to the intricacy, there will be an optimum pressure required for use when fully loaded. It’s not like this is a hard endeavor to manage – it’s just probably more effort than most people are willing to put into a cooler. However if you are happy to stay on top of the air, and the potential odd puncture, then you’ll be rewarded with a very smooth roll that will work well on sand.

Larger, fatter wheels will more easily traverse a soft surface like sand, because there is more surface area. Small thin wheels will sink in the soft stuff.

Now turn your attention to how the wheels are attached to the axle/shaft. There are always endless variations in the real world, but there are three main variations. You’ll notice cheaper and less durable setups will use old-fashioned split-pins to keep the wheels on. A step up from this would be hammer cap nuts, which are much more secure than split-pins. The best quality wheels ensembles will terminate with a nyloc nut. If this is confusing just google the three names (split pin, hammer and nyloc nut) and you’ll know what to look for.

Look at the wheel shaft, does it look thick and strong? If not it’s likely that once you fill the cooler with ice, these will be the first things to break.

Something that people often miss, is considering how the cooler will roll once fully loaded. Look for a slight gap between the wheels and the outer wall of the cooler. The downward force created when a cooler is fully loaded, will cause the wheels to lean inwards slightly. If there is no room between the wheel and the edge of the cooler, the wheel will rub against the cooler all the way to your beach spot.

Handle

The other part of the cooler you want to check is the handle – it needs to be in a decent position so as to not break your back dragging it across the sand. Many coolers have hanging canvas handles that are long enough for you to pull while standing normally. These are also great for when two people are lifting and walking with the cooler, as it will stop the cooler swinging and bumping against your legs.

The other popular option is a solid bar handle, some of which are telescopic to pack down neatly. These are not as versatile as soft strap handles (can only use them to drive the cooler, not lift), however they provide the best leverage for carrying heavy loads. Ensure the handle you are considering looks like it’s good quality, as poor engineering here will leave you high and dry on the beach.

Top 5 wheeled cooler reviews

1. Tundra Haul by Yeti

The Yeti Tundra Haul is a quality cooler that will see you through many beach adventures. Yeti’s charter is to build rugged and outdoor-proof coolers, and have been doing so since 2006. During the Haul’s assembly, the rotomolded shell is pressure injected with insulating foam (up to 3 inches worth in the lids), which in combination with a freezer-quality gasket provides you great ice retention time. In an attempt to differentiate themselves in a crowded market, Yeti report their cooler size by the ancient standard of ‘cans of beer’. So the Haul is rated at 45 cans of beer (using a 2:1 ice ratio); which based on the inside measurements I calculated this to be about 50 quarts.

The wheels are solid plastic which are reported to tackle the sand well. Being solid plastic you won’t have any issues with punctures or forgetting to inflate them. The nyloc bolt will keep the wheel firmly on the strong axle. The aluminium handle (perfect material for avoiding rust in salty environments) will allow you to pull the loaded cooler without doing your back in. If you want to have your cooler on the back of your truck or boat it has non-slip foot pads to give it more stick, and tie-down points that are molded into the cooler itself.

The Tundra Haul is priced at the premium end of the market, but if you prescribe to the “buy the best you can afford” mantra and are able to splash out, this cooler will be well worth your time. You might expect that at this price point you would get some extra features like dividers or basket, however you’ll have to purchase those separately.

My favourite bits:

  • Robust design
  • Plenty of insulation
  • Quality gasket/seal
  • 5 year warranty

Things to consider:

  • One of the more expensive brands
  • No accessories included

2. Milee by Seavilis

What the Seavilis doesn’t have in terms of Yeti-like brand power, their Milee cooler makes up for in providing great value. The mission of the company was to provide a quality rotomolded product, without the price tag of some of the leading brands. So that we are comparing apples with apples; at 70 quarts the Milee is bigger than the Yeti Haul, which also means an increase in weight by about 10 pounds. Insulation-wise there is a gasket in the lid, and hidden in the walls is polyurethane foam, and they claim up to 6 days of ice (no information about the testing). The fact that there is a pressure release valve indicates that they expect the Milee to have the ability to hold cold air well (the inside versus outside temperature difference can create a strong suction on the lid).

The wheels might look like they are pneumatic (air-filled), however they are actually foam filled (at least partially) with an external rubber tire. They are a decent size at 7 inches diameter to give you some rolling ability over the sand, and are attached via bolts (rather than split pin) which is a sturdy option (see descriptions of wheel terms in the guide). However more of a gap between the wheels and cooler side wall would have been nice. Strapping this unit down will be easy with molded-in tie down points, and the pads on the underside provide extra friction to minimise sliding on a moving surface. Long nylon handles make dragging this around an ergonomic experience, and are also also great for carrying the cooler with another person (won’t knock against your legs).

It has some great accessories included like the basket, cup holder, divider and (the all important) bottle opener. Customers have been pleasantly surprised with the value provided by this cooler, and it’s a great option if you don’t want to fork out for a Yeti-like brand.

My favourite bits:

  • extra accessories
  • robust design
  • long nylon handles

Things to consider:

  • It’s a large unit, and once filled it will get heavy.
  • 18 month warranty

3. Frosted Frog

Product Overview From its base in the US (Iowa) Frosted Frog is building its reputation in keeping it cool, with a product line of insulated boxes, tumblers and drinks containers. They offer two coolers with wheels measuring 70 and 110 quarts. Insulation is in the form of polyurethane foam injected into the 3 inch space within the coolers’ rotomolded walls. This insulation adds a little more to the weight (The 110 qt version weighs in at 50 pounds), however it will be worth the extra cold time. The product description also mentions nylon handles at either end to assist in moving it around. The seal in the lid keeps cold air from escaping, so much so that you will sometimes need to release the pressure with the valve to get it open. It’s travel friendly – the drain plug is recessed to stop it getting knocked off, and the non-slip feet will reduce the chance of slipping around. As you would expect with a premium cooler, the inner plastic surfaces are all food grade quality and dry ice compatible. The wheels are solid plastic and a decent size so as to allow a smooth rolling experience. The latches are a little bit of a dated design and requires a little strength to pull them down, but will do the job.

My favourite bits

  • Different sizes available
  • Recessed drain plug
  • Built in bottle openers
  • 5 year warranty

Things to consider

  • No accessories included
  • I’m not a huge fan of the type of latch

4. RollR by RovR

This cooler has personality. With its sharp looks it wouldn’t look out of place if you attached it to your bike (yes you can get a dedicated bike attachment) and rode it down to your favourite coffee haunt; but more importantly it will easily dominate the sand to get to your favourite beach spot. The Rovr has the requisite quality components like rotomolded polyethylene shell, gasket and thick injected foam insulation. I’m looking here at the 60 quart version, however they also have a 45, 80 and 85 quart versions.

As far as ice retention is concerned, RovR posted a video putting their coolers to the test (Keep in mind that it’s being left indoors, and only being opened once a day). They appear to manage 11 days of ice retention, however in a more real-world scenario you would get significantly less days. Based on customer reviews, the only consistent complaint is in regards to the ice retention. Unless you are attempting to live off the grid for days at a time, this may not be so important to you. Perhaps a couple of days of frozen ice for your next beach trip is all you need.

The wheels are 9″ pneumatic (air filled) tires, which will certainly travel gracefully across the sand. However, there are a number of drawbacks to having pneumatic wheels on a cooler, which I outline in the buyers guide. Unless you really want to tow the Rovr behind a bike, you’re probably going to be better off with solid rubber/plastic wheels (just my opinion). That being said, if you maintain these wheels well, they will do great on the sand.

The sturdy aluminium handle is non adjustable, which I think makes it a more durable. It does have tie down points molded into the shell, but if you don’t have it tied down it doesn’t have any non-slip pads or brakes to keep it from rolling around.

Then we can start talking about the extra features. The dry bag (sits on top to store towels etc) is neat and I think quite a useful idea, and the included dry basket will stop fresh food spoiling. Intriguingly RovR have decided to not have a bottle opener, which seems to be the accessory of choice in the market. There are more accessories available to purchase separately including umbrella and drinks holders, fold-out prep table, ‘stash’ bag, and more – making this a very customisable cooler. You can also buy replacement parts for almost all the integral bits of a cooler.

The downside to this feature rich cooler is that it weighs comparatively more (even without additional accessories) than something like the bare bones Yeti. The increase in weight is not restrictive, but something to consider, remembering that most of the time you can just wheel it around.

My favourite bits:

  • 5 year warranty
  • Accessories for days

Things to consider:

  • Wheels are pneumatic
  • It’s a bit heavier than similar spec’d coolers
  • Might roll around unless tied down


5. ONIVA Elite Adventure Wagon (soft-sided wheeled cooler option)

There will be some beach trips where you can get away with a soft sided cooler at the beach. As mentioned in the buyers guide, soft-sided coolers won’t give you any where near the ice performance of a hard sided cooler. However they are significantly less expensive, and lighter than a hard sided cooler. However the folks at ONIVA have adapted something that already works well at the beach – the trusty beach wagon.

It has a volume of over 200 quarts (my rough calculation based on outside dimensions), and a weight capacity of over 200 pounds. So the actual wagon itself is very light (under 20 pounds), but if you did fill it up to capacity with beverages it’s going to be very hard to pull across the sand. However the solid plastic fat wheels should do a great job of traversing the beach, and you can lighten the load by removing the melt water via the drain plug. Once you have consumed most of the food and drink you brought, you can even use the space to then carry your wet-gear inside for the trip home. The whole thing collapses down for easy storage and transport, including the long handle that can telescope back into itself; something that you won’t get with the hard-walled coolers.

As long as you are not expecting to get a long ice life out of this (or any soft-sided) wheeled cooler, then the light and collapsible ONIVA Elite may suit your beach day trip needs just fine.

My favourite bits:

  • Simple but effective wheels for the beach
  • Easy pulling
  • Lifetime warranty

Things to consider:

  • Poor ice retention (compared to a hard-sided cooler)
  • Will be very heavy if you intend on filling it up to it’s full capacity
  • No included accessories

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