Hands-on Gear Review
Compare cooler ratings side-by-side >
Street Price: $250 | Compare prices at 1 resellers
Pros: Durable and highly insulating
Cons: Heavy and bulky, given the interior space.
Best Uses: Camping really close to a boat or car.
The Pelican 45 Elite, almost across the board, ran a close second to our Editor's 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.
Compare top rated competitors side-by-side >
OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
This is a burly, well built cooler.
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 Editor's 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 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 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 Editor's 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 coolers, it is ridiculously heavy.
Other Versions and Accessories
In addition to the one we tested, Pelican also makes these Elite coolers:
Pelican 20 Elite, $250.
Pelican 35 Elite, $306.
Pelican 65 Elite, $418.
Pelican 95 Elite, $730.
Pelican 250 Elite, $1200.
— Jediah Porter
Compare this product side-by-side to top competitors >
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: July 17, 2014
Where's the Best Price?
*Help support OutdoorGearLab. If you click on one of the seller links and make a purchase, a portion of the sale helps support this site
Related Best-in-Class Review
Helpful Buying Tips
Get More OutdoorGearLab
Follow us on Twitter, be a fan on Facebook!
Related Gear Reviews
Recent Best-in-Class Reviews