I recently got my hands on a Pelican Elite Wheeled Cooler, one of the newer outdoors cooler offerings from Pelican. Pelican’s top-of-the-line series of coolers, the Elite Cooler models are designed for hardcore outdoors enthusiasts who need a highly durable cooler that will reliably keep its contents cool for long periods of time.
I plan to mostly use mine for car camping and overlanding trips and will update this review as I put the cooler through its paces. For now, I’ll give you my initial impression, having just started using the Elite cooler, in hopes that it’s helpful for other folks looking to pick up a thick-walled outdoors cooler.
Here’s the TL/DR version of the in-depth review below:
The Pelican Elite Wheeled Coolers are sturdy coolers for people who need a reliable way to keep food or game cool in the backcountry. The wheels make it much easier to move the larger Elite line coolers around, and are worth the extra cost if you are getting a large cooler – but most people won’t need wheels for smaller coolers. These are expensive coolers, but will last you a lifetime.
If you are simply looking for a way to purchase one of the wheeled coolers, follow the link below (orange button) to the Pelican website (which is the best place to purchase them):
Quick Link: Pelican Elite Wheeled Coolers
Sizes: 45 quarts, 65 quarts, 80 quarts
Pelican Elite Wheeled Cooler Overview
Not to bury the lead, one of the major differentiators of the Pelican Elite line of coolers is the lifetime warranty. To my knowledge, this is the only lifetime warranty on this style of cooler in the market and given the higher cost of these types of coolers, really helps set the Pelican’s apart in the market.
Then there’s the Pelican brand itself. I’ve been using Pelican boxes to protect my camera equipment on outdoor expeditions for years and I have yet to have one fail on me. I even carried one in the back of a whitewater kayak on a trip to Canada years ago and had no issues of damage due to the box banging around in my boat or water leakage.
So when Pelican contacted me a few months back asking me if I’d like to test one of their new Elite Series coolers, I was excited to give it a go. I’ve been building an overlanding trailer from scratch and was looking to either get a thick-walled cooler or an electric-powered overlanding fridge for the trailer, so the timing was good. At my request, then sent me the 65-quart version of the wheeled cooler, which will fit neatly into my new adventure trailer and provide enough food storage for several days.
To give credit where credit is due, Yeti pioneered these style of thick walled coolers years ago. That said, there are a few high quality alternatives on the market now, several of which we covered in our overland cooler roundup recently.
Pelican’s coolers are definitely one of the standout newish entrants into the outdoor expedition, overlanding, and camping cooler market, where coolers need to hold ice for long periods of time and be tough enough to take a lot of abuse.
|Ice retention||10 days, the industry leader|
|Construction||Roto-molded shell makes cooler tough and waterproof. Freezer grade gaskets help keep inside cold.|
|Latches||Locking press-and-pull latches make it easy to open and close, while also preventing accidentally opening the cooler|
|Wheels||Large sturdy plastic wheels with a metal axel|
|Bear proof||The Pelican Extreme coolers are certified Bear Proof|
|Mold in hasp and bottler opener||A metal hasp serves as a way to lock the cooler and as a bottle opener|
|Drain||Sloped cooler floor to drain and a sturdy drain cap with cable tether|
My first impressions out of the box were that the Pelican Elite cooler shares a lot of design characteristics with Pelican’s cargo and camera cases. The body of the box is made of rotomolded polypropylene, the goto plastic and manufacturing technique for modern durable outdoors coolers.
One really impressive feature that immediately jumped out at me are the “push and pull” latches for the lid. These latches have a smaller latch in the middle that lets you lock the latch shut to prevent it from accidentally open. Flip these “switches” up, and you can easily open the larger latch, even with gloved hands. This contrasts with some other coolers, where the latches are tougher to pull open.
Another nice security feature is the molded in metal hasp, which can be used to lock the lid shut with a padlock and also serves as a bottle opener. So you can both keep the bears and your friends away from your beer AND open your own bottle. Cheers!
Speaking of bears, the Pelican Elite Coolers are certified bear proof, which means you can use them to store food in park areas where such a designation is required for containers.
The inside of the cooler is sloped so that ice will drain out of the drain hole on the side, which has a cable tethered plug. It’s possible to attach a garden hose to the plug if you need to drain the water away from where the cooler is located.
What’s most different about Pelican’s newest additions to their cooler line are the large wheels and pulling handle. The wheeled version of these bomb-proof coolers makes a lot of sense, as the larger coolers can get quite heavy. If you are thinking of getting a cooler 45 quarts or larger, I’d highly recommend considering one with wheels (45 quarts is the smallest of the wheel cooler sizes in the Pelican Elite Wheeled Cooler line).
The wheels on the Elite Coolers are large and sturdy for rolling across rough ground. A fold-out handle on the other side of the cooler is fairly long, which makes it easy to pull the cooler, even for someone whose tall (I’m around 6 feet).
Of all the features on the cooler, the wheels and handle seem like the most likely to be damaged over the life of the cooler. They are sturdy, but they also will take more abuse than other areas. That said, with a lifetime guarantee from a reliable company, if they do break they may well be under warranty (terms and conditions apply, as they say).
The cooler itself is very thick (~4 inches), so the interior space is much smaller than the outside dimensions. This is generally true of thick-walled outdoors coolers, but the Elite cooler walls are particularly thick. The coolers can keep ice for up to 10 days, according to Pelican, which seems to be the longest in the industry (or at least the longest anyone is willing to claim.)
Right after I received the cooler, my garage freezer went on the fritz and I had to move a bunch of frozen food into the cooler. With a couple of blocks of dry ice, the food stayed frozen hard for three days, until we were able to get the freezer fixed.
If you have space constraints, you’ll want to look into smaller coolers or think about getting an overland fridge, which are generally smaller for a given internal storage space.
So far, I’m impressed with the Pelican Elite Wheeled Cooler. It seems bomb-proof and did a great job of keeping my frozen food frozen in a pinch. They are expensive coolers – running several hundred dollars – but they could also be the last cooler you buy, given the lifetime warrantee and their durable build.
The two downsides to expedition coolers as compared to electric-powered fridge freezers is that they take up more space for a given storage capacity and that they require additional ice to keep food cold on long trips. That said, they are much simpler to use (don’t require an electrical connection and power source) and are generally quite a bit cheaper (about half the price, roughly speaking).
So, if you are looking to save some money, have plenty of space for the cooler and can get ice when needed, a cooler may be your jam. If so, and you can afford it, the Pelican Elite Coolers are a solid choice, based on my experience so far.
I’ll circle back with more info once I’ve had a chance to put the cooler through some more paces.
If you are looking to pick up one of these coolers, you can do so directly from Pelican which could make it easier to leverage the lifetime warranty down the road, if you need to.