Pelican Elite Wheeled Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Excellent insulation, easy to use latches, large capacity
Cons: Heavy, not enough clearance, expensive, awkward shape
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Pelican performed quite well in our insulation testing that angled toward the torture end of the spectrum. It managed to maintain internal safe food temperatures of 40º F or less for a full six days, compared to a 4.5 day average. It also kept beers at their recommended temperature of 50º F or less for an impressive 6.8 days. With rotomolded construction and a rubber gasket around the lid, the Pelican offers a good level of insulation.
One of many coolers we reviewed rated as having a grizzly bear-resistant design and construction by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, the Pelican is pretty tough even just to look at. We noticed there's a rather sizeable gap in the rubber gasket, which both makes the cooler not airtight but also leaves edges to be picked and pulled at over time. And as much as we enjoyed using the very easy latches, we worry that their plastic construction may not last as long as the rest of the cooler. We found the Pelican to be fairly durable, though some of its details didn't blow us away.
Ease of Use
The Pelican was voted "easiest to open" by our four-year-old tester, who spent a good chunk of time pressing them open and closed over and over again. We aren't in love with the usability of the trolley handle, which is thick, cumbersome, and needs to be pulled up and pushed down into position. We also think the asymmetrical handles (round in the front and square in the back) are a bit awkward. In general, the large size of this cooler makes it difficult for a single person to lift in and out of a car alone - and if it's full of food, you can forget about it.
The one metric where you'd expect a wheeled cooler to excel, we, unfortunately, have to report the opposite. Though certainly, having wheels makes this behemoth easier to get from point A to point B than not having wheels, that's about the only thing we like about the Pelican's wheels - their existence. Their hard plastic design and low clearance make rolling this monstrous chest over bumps a pain. Picnic on the soft, sandy beach? Plan to drag this beast along with nearly as much effort as if it didn't have wheels.
Along with its dry weight of over 54 pounds and a trolley handle that's so short we were constantly smacking our heels on the edge of the cooler body, we really weren't big fans of bringing this Gigantor anywhere. It even gave one of our testers blisters on her palm from dragging it a measly two blocks down the road to the park! In a world that now includes coolers with its air-filled tires and high clearance that give you a smooth ride over just about any surface, just having wheels is no longer enough.
It's possible that one of the smaller versions of this cooler may be more pleasant to roll, but when we ordered the 55-quart version, we were so unimpressed that we sent it back. The extendable handle was far from user-friendly, and barely usable. Like the 80-quart model, it wasn't easy to pull without hitting our heels. There were also quality control issues, like holes plugged with foam on the exterior. For a wheeled cooler, we really expected to like this line from Pelican more.
The Pelican comes with a leash plug to keep your drain always functioning correctly, as well as a handy bottle opener tucked under the front of the lid. It also doesn't sit on its wheels when not being rolled (one of its advertised features, though also one of the contributing factors to its low clearance) and instead rests on non-skid feet, making it a more reliable seat than other wheeled coolers we tested. For those fishermen out there, this cooler will also help you measure your catch and can hold some surprisingly long fish. It makes a nice, large table surface for filleting if needed.
Far and away the most expensive cooler we tested, the Pelican offers good insulation and a large capacity that can be more easily moved than a version without wheels. However, for the performance we witnessed while rolling this surprisingly heavy cooler with a too-short handle, we really can't justify spending that much on this cooler unless it suits your needs swimmingly. If you're really after a pleasant, less frustrating rolling experience, we encourage you to consider a different rolling cooler, which will also cost you less than this one.
Though initial inspections and our intensive insulation testing made us excited about this big roller from Pelican, we were let down by the performance of its wheels. It's a fairly durable and reasonably easy to use cooler, but its low clearance, handle, and overall heaviness made it not one of our favorites.
— Maggie Brandenburg