We’re now years into the frenzy surrounding overbuilt coolers that can last through the apocalypse, or at least certainly outlast their owners, and these coolers are clearly not going away. No fad, this fetishizing of plastic boxes of ice. And, mathematically speaking, the price makes sense. If you buy a $300-400 cooler, it could very well be the last one you ever buy, even assuming a very long and healthy life. Long-lasting but inexpensive, relatively speaking, coolers from Igloo or Coleman still run $50-100, and you may end up buying a few over decades of outdoor recreation. Whether any cooler is actually worth spending hundreds of dollars on, is, of course, up to the buyer.
But if you’re going to, you might as well get one with wheels.
For the past couple of months, I’ve been testing out two different wheeled rotomolded coolers. The RovR 45 ($369), because it’s a newcomer with a pretty unusual shape and nifty hauling trick, more on that in a moment, and the Yeti Tundra Haul ($400), because, well, it’s a Yeti.
The first thing that was immediately apparent is that once you try one of these big heavy coolers with wheels, there is no way you will ever go back to the non-wheeled variety. Ever.
Have you ever tried to lift one of these 45-quart beasts, when full of ice and beer and sausages or Beyond Meat patties, by yourself and haul it around a campsite? Yeah, torture. No idea why I pay $80 per month for a gym membership when I could just carry a full cooler around for 30 minutes per day and end up looking like Thor.
But the wheels change everything. Why these heavy coolers were ever developed without them is beyond me.
Although, technically, the RovR never was. This cooler was wheeled from the start. The founder’s idea (which he hatched around the same time Yeti was about to hit the market, an almost cosmic gut punch) was a cooler that also doubled as a wagon. A flexible bin affixes to the lid of the cooler that will hold all sorts of stuff. Bags of food, sleeping bags, firewood, stacks of your favorite outdoor publication. It’s a clever idea that can eliminate multiple trips from Subaru to campsite.
All-terrain tires do the rolling here, and they’re burly little meats. 9-inch, puncture resistant tires that can be aired down to float on sand. The handle is a telescoping design just like you’d find on rolling luggage. Works great, provides plenty of leverage for a heavy cooler. It does twist quite a bit and isn’t built from the heaviest metal, so the mind wonders about durability here, but it never squeaked or rattled during my testing.
Tires worked great on pavement, in dirt, and were decent in sand.
The RovR can also be attached to a contraption that lets you tow it with a bicycle, which I didn’t try, but would no doubt be helpful for trips to the park or for trucking stuff into one of those hike-in campsites with a distant parking lot. It can be modded up with cutting boards and cupholders too.
Ice retention was great. All of these kinds of coolers do a terrific job keeping ice cold, so I didn’t set a timer to determine how many days and hours it took for ice to turn into lukewarm water. The RovR keeps ice pretty much as long as any other rotomolded cooler I’ve seen. Plenty long. If you need ice kept longer than a few days, just get a Dometic fridge.
The shape is a little unique, in the sense that there is a bit of a shelf that an included dry bin sits on, and the cooler itself is quite deep and narrow. This can make it a little tough to dig through ice to find something, but I rarely use dry bins anyway. Probably makes more sense to put ice in the dry bin, actually, and use the empty side to keep everything cold and dry.
The Yeti, on the other hand, is just a big ole’ rectangle. You can see the wheel arches on the inside and are perhaps wondering: Would those get in the way of my precious ice and food? Nah. I worried it would too, but the ice just buries it and you don’t even notice.
If you’re familiar with a Yeti, you’re familiar with the Tundra Haul. This one differs from the RovR though in a couple keys ways. First, the wheels. They’re not rubber tires, but a single piece of polyurethane. They can’t go flat, obviously, because they don’t hold air. They are much harder than the RovR tires, but they give a little bit when poked, and when the cooler is weighed down with ice and food, they feel plenty supple on pavement or dirt. They aren’t cheap hollow plastic like something from a Big Wheel.
Then, the handle. It’s a robust aluminum and curves away from your feet so it won’t bang into your heels or achilles tendon as you’re carting the Yeti around. It also has a nifty feature that slows the handle when you let it go so it doesn’t bang into the side of the cooler, it silently nuzzles right up against the tough plastic. It’s sturdy and heavy and perfectly matched to the job of toting 50-plus pounds of cooler and food.
But that’s pretty much it for the features. No dry bin. No attachment points for cutting boards. no bike attachment point, either. There is a slot in the cooler for, presumably, a divider, but as of review time, no divider exists.
Both coolers are terrific at their primary gig, keeping ice cold for days, even in blasting heat. They both weigh 37 pounds. They both roll nicely and are massive improvements over stationary coolers. Both come a whole lot closer to justifying their cost over stationary coolers too. If I had to give the nod to one of them, I’d lean toward the RovR for the sheer cleverness of the wagon bin. It’s literally a cooler and a wagon all in one.
RovR 45 BUY • $369
Yeti Tundra Haul BUY • $400