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Sturdy coolers for large groups or camping

Large coolers (or ice chests) of 50 quarts or more need to be easy to load -- and easy to haul once full. The highest-rated large coolers are often equipped with wheels; our two Best Reviewed models reflect this user preference.

You can find hard-sided or soft-sided coolers in this size class. Hard coolers take a beating, but also take up a lot of storage space when you're not using them. Soft-sided coolers weigh less on their own, and store more compactly since they collapse when empty.

Last year's Best Reviewed large hard-sided cooler, the Coleman 50-quart Wheeled Ultimate Xtreme Cooler (*Est. $80), wins top honors again this year. One reviewer praises the Ultimate Xtreme for its slower warm-up time and roomy design, and Slate reviewer Tom Bartlett notes that it stays cold while sitting in the hot sun for four days. While this cooler doesn't quite stay cold for a full six days as the manufacturer claims, it could probably do so if it's properly packed and kept in the shade, he says. Bartlett and other reviewers also like this cooler's large, smooth-rolling wheels, easy-access lid and cup holders, as well as its channel drain that allows you to drain ice melt without tilting the cooler. A number of user posts on retail/review sites such as REI.com, Amazon.com, Cabelas.com and Buzzillions.com confirm Bartlett's findings. They also praise the cooler's durable design, which is study enough to sit on -- a perk for campers.

The 54-quart Coleman Steel Belted Cooler (*Est. $130) is another popular model. It gets its share of good reviews, notably from Slate reviewer Tom Bartlett, who says the classic, steel-veneer design and secure latch closure make this a great cooler second only to the Coleman Ultimate Xtreme. Reviewers at Bon Appétit and Real Simple include the Coleman Steel Belted in their best cooler lists as well, citing its secure latch and sleek steel surface (although neither site mentions whether comparison tests were done). A significant number of users on Amazon.com complain that the latch design on this cooler doesn't seal properly, and many report that the metal shell gets very hot if left in direct sunlight. Still, judging by their posts, the majority of Amazon.com users seem to have a happier experience with this cooler.

Among soft-sided coolers, the California Cooler Bags T-Rex Large Collapsible Rolling Cooler (*Est. $75) wins top honors from a reputable subscription-only review source. Testers praise the insulated cooler's roomy capacity -- it holds 62 to 70 soda cans -- and its ability to chill room-temperature sodas all the way down to 40 degrees. Users appreciate the cooler's top-loading hatch (which is handy for taking out only a soda or two at a time while preserving the cold air inside), collapsible frame, telescoping handle and sturdy wheels. The downside? We could only find this cooler for sale at one site, where it's out of stock.

Another large, soft-sided wheeled cooler, the Igloo Cool Fusion 40-quart Roller (*Est. $65) attracts good reviews from a number of sources but seems to be currently unavailable from the manufacturer as well as online retailers. Also worthy of mention is its luxury cousin, the Igloo Cool Fusion 40 Icy Tunes Cooler (*Est. $150). This multifunctional cooler/entertainment center combines the convenience of a fabric, pocketed exterior with the cooling and insulation capabilities of a hard-shell interior liner. Testers at The New York Times dub it the "Cadillac" of coolers thanks to its MP3 dock, AM/FM radio and high-quality speakers; it also rolls well and can hold 58 drink cans plus ice. Good Housekeeping says that for $150 (we found it for $130 at some online retailers), you get a cooler with wheels and a telescoping handle that will not only keep your food cold for 11 hours but keep the neighborhood entertained, as well.

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Coleman 50-Quart Wheeled Ultimate Xtreme Marine Cooler
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $93.99
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
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Coleman Company 54-Quart Steel Belted Cooler, Silver
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $199.99 $179.99   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
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Igloo Cool Fusion 40 Ice Tunes
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $189.95 $182.95   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  

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