Pelican Cooler Review

Pelican Cooler Review

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Pelican Coolers are one of the oldest cooler brands we have tested.  They go way back and have been going head-to-head with the likes of Yeti, Engel, and Orca for many years now.  They currently offer a variety of products including hard-sided coolers, hard-sided coolers with wheels, soft-sided coolers, and drinkware.  Pelican takes a very unique approach and their styling and features help to make them stand out from the crowd.

This article will be focusing on their hard-sided coolers and hard-sided wheeled coolers.  For our full review of their soft-sided coolers click here.  And for a more detailed review of the Pelican Elite Wheeled coolers head on over to here.

Before we go into our full review of the Pelican Elite cooler, here are a few of our top choices for the Best Pelican Coolers.

Ice Retention King
Pelican Elite 250 Quart Cooler (Tan)
Pelican Elite Cooler 95 Quart - Wht
Pelican 80 Quart Wheeled Elite Cooler - Marine White
Great for Tailgates
Pelican 55QW White Tailgater Cooler (55QT)
Super Mobile
Pelican Elite 20 Quart Cooler (White/Gray)
Model
Pelican Elite 250 Quart Cooler (Tan)
Pelican Elite Cooler 95 Quart - Wht
Pelican 80 Quart Wheeled Elite Cooler - Marine White
Pelican 55QW White Tailgater Cooler (55QT)
Pelican Elite 20 Quart Cooler (White/Gray)
Storage Volume (Quarts)
250
95
80
55
20
Tested Ice Range (Hours)
175-220
108-145
98-130
75-95
48-65
Wheels?
Price
from $629.95
from $499.95
$499.95
$429.94
from $149.95
Ice Retention King
Pelican Elite 250 Quart Cooler (Tan)
Model
Pelican Elite 250 Quart Cooler (Tan)
Storage Volume (Quarts)
250
Tested Ice Range (Hours)
175-220
Wheels?
Price
from $629.95
More Info
Pelican Elite Cooler 95 Quart - Wht
Model
Pelican Elite Cooler 95 Quart - Wht
Storage Volume (Quarts)
95
Tested Ice Range (Hours)
108-145
Wheels?
Price
from $499.95
More Info
Pelican 80 Quart Wheeled Elite Cooler - Marine White
Model
Pelican 80 Quart Wheeled Elite Cooler - Marine White
Storage Volume (Quarts)
80
Tested Ice Range (Hours)
98-130
Wheels?
Price
$499.95
More Info
Great for Tailgates
Pelican 55QW White Tailgater Cooler (55QT)
Model
Pelican 55QW White Tailgater Cooler (55QT)
Storage Volume (Quarts)
55
Tested Ice Range (Hours)
75-95
Wheels?
Price
$429.94
More Info
Super Mobile
Pelican Elite 20 Quart Cooler (White/Gray)
Model
Pelican Elite 20 Quart Cooler (White/Gray)
Storage Volume (Quarts)
20
Tested Ice Range (Hours)
48-65
Wheels?
Price
from $149.95
More Info

Pelican Cooler Lineup

pelican elite cooler lineup

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The Pelican hard-sided coolers have been dubbed the “Elite” Series.  They have a nice size range, starting from a mobile 20-quart all the way up to the enormous 250-quart.  Specifically, you will find options that include 20 quarts, 30 quarts, 50 quarts, 70 quarts, 95 quarts, 150 quarts, and 250 quarts.

Right off the bat, you will notice some obvious feature differences between sizes.  For instance, the 20-quart utilizes an overhead carrying handle while all of the other sizes have molded-in side handles.  In addition, the latch design changes once you move up to the 95 quart and above.  Finally, the inset grooves jump from 2 to 3 on the 150-quart and-250 quart Pelican Elite models.  We will go into more details about these features and many more in the next section.

Pelican Wheeled Cooler Lineup

pelican elite wheeled cooler lineup

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In addition to the coolers above, Pelican also offers up a lineup of wheeled coolers.  These models will utilize many of the same features as the non-wheeled versions but include (as the name suggests) rugged wheels and carrying methods that accommodate them.  You will find sizes that include 45Q, 55Q, and 80Q.

The 45Q and 80Q utilize a similar layout with their wheels and extending side handle.  But the 55Q rotates the wheels 90 degrees and has them oriented lengthwise.

Pelican Cooler Features

If a brand hopes to survive in the extremely competitive premium cooler market, they need to stand out.  Pelican’s track record is a good indication that they have found a recipe that works.  And this starts with their unique and varied set of features.

pelican elite cooler thick walls

The foundation of any successful cooler lies in its walls.  And Pelican certainly doesn’t disappoint in this regard!  You will find that it utilizes rotomolded construction made out of quality polypropylene in all of its Elite model non-wheeled coolers and polyethylene in its wheeled coolers.  While nearly all premium coolers these days have rotomolded construction, Pelican stands out in just how thick their walls are.  Depending on the specific model you are looking at and the location on the cooler, you will find that walls can by anywhere from 2 to nearly 5 inches thick! 

These are some of the thickest walls we have ever tested in any premium cooler.  It is worth mentioning that the maximum wall thickness isn’t constant across the entire body.  Most of the body will have closer to 2” thickness (which still isn’t bad).  But it is reassuring to have areas that are much thicker.  And we are confident that it does provide a little “boost” in ice life.

pelican elite cooler gasket

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But thick walls are nothing without a quality seal between the body and lid.  And in this area, Pelican shines as well.  The Pelican Elite Cooler utilizes a thick freezer-grade gasket similar to many of the other premium cooler models out there.  This works with the embossed lip on the top of the base to provide a lot of squeeze, which locks in the air.

pelican elite cooler latch system

The final piece to the ice retention puzzle lies in having a powerful latching system.  And out of all the components so far, this is probably our favorite.  While most cooler brands have a simple rubber T-latch design, Pelican takes advantage of their Press and Pull latches.  These latches not only are extremely resilient, but they provide a ton of locking force.  This really helps to squeeze that rubber gasket out and further boost ice retention.

These thick components help with ice but that isn’t the only area that will enjoy it.  Pelican Elite Coolers are extremely tough and have achieved Grizzly Bear Certification by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC).  Furthermore, Pelican stands behind their products with their “You break it, we replace it…forever” limited lifetime warranty.  And all of these models are proudly made in the USA.

So it is obvious that Pelican has got it figured out when it comes to making a tough cooler.  But what about usability features?  They have quite a few worth mentioning.

pelican elite cooler bottle opener

On the middle of the underside of the base lid, you will find a convenient built-in bottle opener.  This clever design really helps to make the bottle opener “blend in” to the rest of the cooler body.  And the bottle opener is made of quality steel so you don’t have to worry about it rusting.

pelican elite cooler tie down slots

Next up, you will find molded tie-down slots.  These slots are very helpful for when you want to secure your Pelican Ice Chest to the back of a truck or boat.  And since they are molded directly into the body, you can rest assured knowing that they also benefit from the tough rotomolded construction.

And speaking of boats and truck beds: a heavy cooler sliding on them can spell disaster for the paint job.  Pelican has you covered thanks to their non-skid and non-marking raised feet.  These rubber feet won’t scratch your paint and they also have the added benefit of raising the base of the cooler off of the ground (which gives a slight boost to ice life).

pelican elite cooler drain channel

For draining water out, you will find a large threaded drain plug as well as a helpful internal channel that funnels water out quickly.  The larger sized Pelican coolers can hold a lot of ice so being able to quickly displace water is definitely helpful.

pelican elite cooler fish scale

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On the lid of the ice chest, you will find a fish scale that displays both English (inches) and metric (centimeters) units.  And the lid, thanks to its durability material, can also be used as a makeshift cutting board.

pelican elite cooler cup holders

And on the small to mid-sized coolers (20QT, 30QT, 50QT, and 70QT), there are also 4 embedded cup holders.

pelican elite cooler handle system

Another one of the most notable features of Pelican Elite coolers lies in their handle system.  The larger sizes (95QT, 150QT, and 250QT) come with what they call the Dual Handle System.  It consists of both molded hinges as well as rotating hinged handles with rubber grips.  We love have multiple carrying methods and Pelican has you covered here.

The smaller sizes don’t have the dual handle system but they will also typically weigh much less when full.  You will find molded-in handles on all sizes except the 20QT, which utilizes an overhead handle.

pelican elite cooler wheeled configurations

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The Pelican Wheeled Coolers will come with rugged rubber wheels.  On the 45Q and 80QT models, these wheels will be located on one end lengthwise.  While on the 55QT, they come “tailgate style” with one wheel on each end lengthwise.

pelican elite cooler wheeled handle

And to help transport the wheeled coolers, you will find both molded-in handles as well as an adjustable telescopic handle.  These allow you to either carry the cooler traditionally or to take advantage of the wheels and pull or push the ice chest.

Pelican Cooler Ice Life

It is obvious that Pelican Coolers lead the pack in toughness and their list of features are certainly impressive, but what about their ability to retain ice?

On paper, these ice chests look perfect for long ice life.  They have thick insulated walls, a huge gasket, and powerful latches that provide a lot of squeeze.  In addition, Pelican has come out and stated that their coolers are capable of up to 10 days of ice life.  This is a huge number!

But the best way to figure it out is to test it yourself.  So we filled up our coolers with around 1/3 of ice, left them outside in the Texas heat, and occasionally opened them.  This gives a more “real life” test.

You can check out our results in the chart below:

pelican elite cooler ice life

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There is a huge range of ice life.  And that can be attributed to the huge size selection.  While all models offer up essentially the same insulation thickness, gasket, and latch system, larger volume almost always equals longer ice life.

That being said, for a given size, the performance was quite good.  Pelican can compete with nearly every other premium hard-sided cooler in the industry when it comes to ice life.

If you are really after absolute maximum ice retention, then going with one of the larger models (such as the 150QT or 250QT) is your best bet.  While we weren’t quite able to achieve the advertised 10 days of ice life, we still saw ice last for well over a week.  This is extremely impressive; particularly when you consider the challenging conditions that we put the coolers through.  And we have no doubt that if we would have filled up the cooler with more ice, left it indoors, and didn’t open it, that ice life would have crept up to the 10 day mark.

Pelican Cooler Aesthetics

We check out a lot of coolers here at TheCoolerZone.com.  And over the years, we have found that many cooler brands stick to a very similar aesthetic approach.  In fact, you would be hard-pressed to tell that difference between some models if it wasn’t for the log being displayed!

That isn’t the case with Pelican Elite Coolers.  These are some of the most aggressive-looking coolers in the industry and there really is nothing else like them on the market. 

pelican elite cooler channel styling

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It all starts with their body shape.  You will find that Pelican Coolers comes with very deep vertical ridges that run parallel to the latches.  In addition to this, the large molded-in handles add an extra level of robustness to the exterior.  And combine that with the attractive embedded logo on the body and lid, and you have a really sweet looking ice chest.

As for color choices, it varies quite a bit.  Certain models can offer up quite a few color schemes while other sizes may only have one or two.  We can only assume that Pelican offers more color choices in their more popular sizes but it is only a guess.

pelican elite cooler 20QT color options

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The ice chest model with the most color options is currently the 20QT model.  We have found 7 different color schemes and, quite frankly, we love them all.  You can choose between white/gray, green/tan, tan/orange, seafoam/gray, dark gray/green, realtree edge, and realtree fish.

In contrast, the 55QT Wheeled Tailgate Cooler only comes in white.

Another neat feature that Pelican offers is in their customization options.  Not only can you get custom colors and emblems but you can even create your own custom enclosures!  While that is likely out of the scope of most people’s needs, if you are really wanting a particular size, shape, or design, Pelican can likely help you.  This is something that few other cooler companies can offer.

Pelican Cooler Price

Pelican Elite Ice Chests hit the mark in just about every regards: they are extremely tough, comes with lots of great features, hold ice like champs, and look great.  But this does come at a cost: the price.

Pelican Coolers are well into the premium price tier.  While they still aren’t quite as expensive as the granddaddy of them all, Yeti, they are still quite pricey.  This is particularly true as you scale up to the larger sizes.  You will enjoy tons of storage space and incredible ice retention, but be prepared to pay a large chunk of change for it!

Pelican Cooler vs. Yeti

Pelican and Yeti Coolers are two of the “old school” cooler brands.  They both have been around for just about as long as high-end rotomolded coolers have been popular.  And the fact that they are still around after all of those years shows that they know what they are doing when it comes to designing coolers.

But which is better between Pelican Coolers and Yeti Coolers?

Both models actually have a lot in common.  They each offer a huge range of products and sizes to choose from.  These include wheeled and wheel-less coolers, soft coolers, and drinkware.  In addition, they come with great customer support, accessories, and customization options.

As for performance and features, both offer similar ice life (although we feel that Pelican might have the slightest of edges) and both are Grizzly Bear Proof.  Furthermore, both brands are backed by great warranties, are made in the USA, and offer excellent customer support.

In regards to features, we have to give a slight edge to Pelican.  The innovative latch system, embedded bottle opener, and molded two-option handles really stand out for us.  Pelican also gets the edge when it comes to looks.  We love the aggressive styling and the cooler color choices.  Finally, Pelican (while still expensive) typically can be had for a bit less than a Yeti at a comparable size.

Because of these reasons, we have to give the nod to Pelican.

But no matter which brand and model you go with, you will enjoy an excellent-all around cooler that is sure to last for many years to come.

Pelican Cooler Review

Pelican Elite Cooler 95 Quart - Wht

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Pros: Great ice retention, Plenty of neat features, Tough Construction, Awesome styling

Cons: Expensive, Can be quite heavy, Lacking in colors for certain models

Features: Press & Pull latch system, non-skid raised fit, Stainless steel plate/bottle opener, Sloped drain, Integrated fish scale, Dual handle system (on some models), Heavy duty wheels (on some models)

The Pelican Elite Series is a battle-tested series that offers up a large selection of sizes and configurations.  The quality hardware, thick rotomolded walls, and “Made in USA” means that you will enjoy a tough ice chest that can hold ice for long periods of time.  In addition, the modern styling is sure to make you stand out at the lake or tailgate.  But it does come with a hefty asking price.  Current size options include 20QT, 30QT, 50QT, 70QT, 95QT, 150QT and 250QT.

Insulation Ability –  Pelican Cooler Review

Wall thickness varies from around 2” up to a whopping 5”.  But, on average, you will find the thickness to be about average for premium coolers.  The insulation is tucked in quality rotomolded constructed walls and the lid and body are held together with a strong rubber gasket.  The real star of the show here are the latches.  Pelican’s unique latch design allows for fantastic clamping force which really makes the most out of the gasket.  Combine this with the huge storage volume, and you have a recipe for some serious ice life.  Depending on which size you go with and the conditions you put it in, you can expect ice to last anywhere from 45 hours to around 22 hours.

Mobility and Durability –  Pelican Cooler Review

Pelican’s coolers, thanks to their thick walls and quality components, can be quite heavy.  But to assist with this, they have a host of features.  These include multi-option carrying methods (rotating handles and molded handles), optional wheeled configurations, and telescoping tow handles.

And as for convenience features, there are quite a few.  They include things such as a high-flow drain port, elevated anti-skid feet, molded cup holders and fish scale, built-in bottle opener and more.

When you buy a Pelican, you are buying quality.  Pelican stands behind their products with an impressive limited lifetime warranty.  In addition, all of their hard-sided coolers are grizzly bear proof.  So if a grizzly bear can handle them, so can you!

Visual Appeal –  Pelican Cooler Review

We absolutely love the styling of these ice chests.  In a world where it can be hard to differentiate one premium cooler from the next, Pelican’s unique aesthetics have managed to stand up to the test of time and continue to be eye-catching.  This is thanks to the aggressive vertical ridges on the coolers combined with the huge latches and steel bottle opener.  It really comes together nicely.

As for colors, the options will vary depending on which size you go with.  And in some sizes, we do wish that there were a few more color choices.  But the colors that are available look great.  Plus there are plenty of customization options for people who want to really stand out.

Cost –  Pelican Cooler Review

Pelican Coolers aren’t cheap.  You are getting a quality product made with premium components and loads of features.  And the ice life isn’t shabby, either.  Constructing something like this cost a lot more in manufacturing costs and this is reflected in the sticker price.  But for those with the budget that allows for it, you will get to enjoy a cooler that could almost be considered a long-term investment.

Overall Rating –  Pelican Cooler Review

Pelican Coolers really does hit the mark in just about every regard.  The build quality is superb and this equates to a durable cooler that can also keep ice for a week or longer.  And most of the features we like to see are present.  Combine this with a great design and a few eye-popping color combinations, and you really have a home run purchase.  Yes, they are expensive.  But we feel that it is worth it.  So save up and enjoy yourself a Pelican Cooler!

TheCoolerZone tests and reviews various coolers to find the best products for you. When readers buy our reviewed picks, we earn affiliate commissions that help to support the site.