Hands-on Gear Review

Pelican 45 Elite Review

Pelican 45 Qt. Elite
Price:  $312 List
Pros:  Durable and highly insulating
Cons:  Heavy and bulky, given the interior space.
Editors' Rating:   
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Ice remaining in test:  3.9
Capacity:  45 qts
Insulation Syle:  normal
Manufacturer:   Pelican

Our Verdict

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.


Below we compare the 2013 edition of this cooler with other models of that year. We have a more updated review of the big brother to this cooler. We also have a more recent cooler shootout of many top models.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Coolers and Ice Chests of 2018

Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Jediah Porter

Last Updated:
Tuesday
November 12, 2013

Share:
This is Pelican cooler is burly and well-built.

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Performance Comparison


The beefy and impeccably designed Pelican 45Q Elite cooler.
The beefy and impeccably designed Pelican 45Q Elite cooler.

Insulation Value


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. 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.

A loaded up Pelican 45Q.  The interior is bright  cleans easily  and drains readily.
A loaded up Pelican 45Q. The interior is bright, cleans easily, and drains readily.

Durability


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.

Side by side comparison of the Pelican and Yeti Coolers.  Note the bulky latches  handles  and lid "overhang" on the Pelican Cooler.  Our testers appreciated the more svelte design of the Yeti.  Otherwise these two coolers perform very similarly.
Side by side comparison of the Pelican and Yeti Coolers. Note the bulky latches, handles, and lid "overhang" on the Pelican Cooler. Our testers appreciated the more svelte design of the Yeti. Otherwise these two coolers perform very similarly.

Portability


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.

The Pelican comes with ergonomic handles for both solo and tandem carry.  However  the 35 pound empty weight of this guy makes it difficult to move around  especially once full of ice and food.
The Pelican comes with ergonomic handles for both solo and tandem carry. However, the 35 pound empty weight of this guy makes it difficult to move around, especially once full of ice and food.

Value


Only the Yeti Tundra 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.

Conclusion


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.
Jediah Porter

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: January 20, 2015
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
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 (3.7)

67% of 3 reviewers recommend it
 
Rating Distribution
4 Total Ratings
5 star: 50%  (2)
4 star: 25%  (1)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 25%  (1)
Person Icon

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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   Jul 17, 2014 - 08:35am
James Neel · Camper · Sunnyvale
We use Pelican cases at work. I was sort of excited when I heard they were making coolers. Checked the reviews and did not see anything negative. I measured the space inside of my expo trailer and found one that would just fit. I located a Pelican distributor and ordered one.

We wanted one to supplement our ARB fridge. The first time we used it we had it about ¾ full of drinks and ice. The next morning when I picked it up I got a small shower from it leaking around the gasket!

We opened it up to find that all of the ice had melted in less than 24 hours. The giant sticker (still on the cooler) said it would retain ice 7-10 days. The latches were shut, drain plug was secure. On closer inspection we found that the cooler was warped near the corners. The middle was sealing up, but he corners were not. The airflow in the trailer was probably circulating under the lid and sped up the melting.

http://i1237.photobucket.com/albums/ff469/TexasTT/bd39132b-1f58-4a65-b7c2-fdab0d8e7920_zps24df61f3.jpg

Since this was a week-long camping trip we had no choice but to put more ice in and keep going. Up in the mountains with cooler weather we were able to get the ice to last about two days.

So basically if we had spent 10X less at a big box store, we could have gotten a better performing cooler. We were literally not happy campers!

I tried to contact the vendor, Atlas Industrial Supply (a certified Pelican dealer), several times with no reply. I tried Pelican a few times. They eventually said I could ship it back at my cost, they would inspect it, then if it is deemed defective, ship me a new one at my cost. So shipping x2 to fix a defective product I already paid shipping on. This would be in the $100 range. Nice.

I suppose when these work people are happy with them, but if you get a defective one it will cost $$ in shipping to (maybe) get it straightened out.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jan 20, 2015 - 01:29pm
lauraifyoudare · Camper · Richmond
I borrowed a 45 quart to go camping for a week. We camp in early August outside Pittsburgh in what is often direct sunlight. This cooler did not disappoint! We stocked it full with an ice block as well as cube ice to keep the week's worth of meat, fruit, vegetables, eggs and drinks cold (don't worry it was all divided per sanitary requirements) it barely melted, with the exception that it sped up some towards the end of the week when much of the contents had been used and there was more air to circulate. I'm very pleased and considering ordering one of their new colored versions from here: http://www.pelicancoolers.com/ I would absolutely recommend this!

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jun 14, 2014 - 01:55am
Texas Pro · Hunter · Spring, Texas
First of all, your test was flawed. The Pelican 45 Elite holds 7 more quarts than the Yeti "45"??? cooler. That is almost two more gallons of area that it needs to keep cool with the same amount of ice. Also the portability score is bogus because you are comparing a smaller cooler with a larger one. The larger one will be heavier, duh! I have used both of these coolers in the sun, rain and cold weather. The Pelican wins every time! The Yeti was the first of it's kind, it is way more expensive (bigger advertising budget) and it is surrounded by a bunch of hype. The Pelican and the Brute took the Yeti design and improved it. The Pelican 45 Elite is a superior product and it is $100 cheaper. One hundred dollars is a lot of beer and ice, folks!

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.


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