< Go to Coolers
Hands-on Gear Review
Cons: Heavy and bulky, given the interior space.
The Pelican 45 Elite, almost across the board, ran a close second to our Editors' Choice winner. In a cooler, insulation value is paramount. In this category, the Pelican and Yeti are basically tied for the best in our test. And the nearest competitors are a ways behind. The Pelican is durable and strong. We ultimately gave the Yeti the nod for its lighter weight and more svelte exterior construction.
RELATED: Our complete review of coolers
OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
This is Pelican cooler is burly and well-built.
Cooler users everywhere should celebrate the trend towards better insulating boxes. This Pelican offering is riding that wave, and brings inches of high quality foam to a sturdy box. In our head-to-head ice retention test, the Pelican basically tied with the Editors' Choice winning Yeti Tundra 45. And both of these performed far better than the nearest competition. In extended field use, the 45Q holds ice almost twice as long as models half its cost.
Ease of Use
The lid latches and handles are smooth and intuitive to use. However, the 45 Elite is extremely heavy.
The Pelican 45 Elite handily reveals the manufacturer's pedigree in durable cases. Pelican is best known for designing and selling a whole range of waterproof boxes for transporting electronics in rugged environments. The thought process on expanding to Pelican coolers is clear: If they're good at making boxes to keep the elements out, why not try the same but keep the elements in? And they have succeeded. They bring high-end plastic engineering and excellent hardware to this cooler. Our testing team had no problems whatsoever with the durability of the 45 Elite.
The heavy build and lack of wheels makes this the least portable cooler in our test. Its 35 pound weight is 8 pounds more than the next heaviest, and is very noticeable in transport. Load this up with just a short weekend's worth of food and ice, and even a strong solo adult will not be able to get it around.
Only the Yeti Tundra 45 is more expensive in our test. This is not a cheap piece of equipment. The investment, however, will be returned in convenience, ice costs, and avoiding spoiled food. Even in the hottest climates, the 45 Elite will keep valuable meats and dairy cold for a useful amount of time. Less expensive coolers might only keep ice and cool temps for a day or two. In these same conditions the Pelican coolers will maintain food-safe conditions for twice that, at least. In the long term, the Pelican will outlast less expensive options, all while withstanding significant abuse.
At a slightly better price and similar insulating performance to our Editors' Choice winning Yeti, the Pelican 45 Elite will serve its owner well. Be advised that this Pelican cooler is bulky and heavy, even as compared to the rugged Yeti. As compared to cheaper models, it is ridiculously heavy.
In addition to the one we tested, Pelican also makes a few other sizes. In each case, the XX number in XX Elite indicates the capacity in quarts.
— Jediah Porter
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: January 20, 2015
Where's the Best Price?
*You help support OutdoorGearLab's product testing and reviews by purchasing from our retail partners.
Helpful Buying Tips