The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Pelican Elite Wheeled Review

A bulky, large cooler that doesn't live up to the hype.
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Price:  $500 List | $429.95 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Excellent insulation, easy to use latches, large capacity
Cons:  Heavy, not enough clearance, expensive, awkward shape
Manufacturer:   Pelican
By Maggie Brandenburg ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 9, 2019
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60
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 11
  • Insulation - 50% 7
  • Durability - 20% 6
  • Ease of Use - 15% 5
  • Portability - 10% 3
  • Features - 5% 4

Our Verdict

Though we've raved about other Pelican products in the past, this wheeled cooler left us less impressed than we'd hoped. We tested the 80-quart version, which has great insulation, decent durability, and the easiest latches we tested. However, the rigid wheels, heavy design, and low clearance gave us a series of unpleasant rolling experiences. If you're after a great wheeled cooler, check out the Rovr RollR instead. It's better than this Pelican in all ways except insulation.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

Performance Comparison


We aren't the biggest fans of this enormous wheeled cooler  and think there are better options out there.
We aren't the biggest fans of this enormous wheeled cooler, and think there are better options out there.

Insulation


The Pelican performed quite well in our insulation testing that angled toward the torture end of the spectrum. It tied for second place with the RTIC 65, managing to maintain internal safe food temperatures of 40º F or less for a full six days. 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.

Integrated hinges add structural integrity to the Pelican.
Integrated hinges add structural integrity to the Pelican.

Durability


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.

Though it's large enough to fit a four-year-old  we don't recommend closing one inside.
Though it's large enough to fit a four-year-old, we don't recommend closing one inside.

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.

We love the Pelican's  easy to use latches.
We love the Pelican's easy to use latches.

Portability


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 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 two blocks down the road to the park. We much prefer the smooth rolling action of the Rovr RollR, with its air-filled tires and high clearance that let you take it just about anywhere.

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. We've loved some of their non-wheeled chests in the past, like the Pelican 70.

We think the Pelican's trolley handle is far too short for this cooler  and far too uncomfortable to be a pleasant user experience.
We think the Pelican's trolley handle is far too short for this cooler, and far too uncomfortable to be a pleasant user experience.

Features


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.

I spy with my little eye  a bottle opener hidden nearly out of sight.
I spy with my little eye, a bottle opener hidden nearly out of sight.

Best Applications


With its long, low design and existence of wheels, the Pelican is a decent solution for bringing a large amount of food or beverages with you - though not to the beach. If you don't need such a large capacity, you can cut down weight by going with a smaller model. If you're really after a pleasant, less frustrating rolling experience, we encourage you to consider the Rovr RollR, our Top Pick for a Wheeled Cooler.

We do like a tethered drain plug  which this Pelican has.
We do like a tethered drain plug, which this Pelican has.

Value


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 don't mind paying more for great quality, consider the Rovr RollR, a smaller cooler that we think is loads better to cart around.

Conclusion


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.

In case the Pelican isn't heavy enough  you could consider adding a small child.
In case the Pelican isn't heavy enough, you could consider adding a small child.


Maggie Brandenburg