Pelican ProGear Elite Cooler Review

Feb. 13, 2014 By Josh Burns
The Pelican ProGear Elite Cooler is just as durable as it looks. With 2-inch polyurethane insulation, the cooler is designed to provide 7-10 days of ice retention

Pelican has long been known for its heavy-duty, extremely durable cases. These cases are used by the average Joe for still camera and video gear, guns, electronics and other crucial items that need to be kept safe during travel. Pelican also produces a wide variety of cases for military use, heavy-industry businesses, and it also produces heavy-duty cases for laptops, tablets and other smaller electrical devices.

The company recently ventured into the cooler business with its line of ProGear Elite Coolers, which we saw for the first time last year at Off-Road Expo when they were on hand to show off the line. Pelican offers a number of different cooler sizes in the Elite line, including 35 quart, 45 quart, 65 quart, 95 quart, and now 150 quart and 250 quart. The units are designed provide up to 10 days of ice retention, thanks to its freezer-grade gasket and 2-inch polyurethane insulation. The coolers are rotationally molded and assembled in South Deerfield, Massachusetts.

A freezer-grade gasket helps provide a proper seal to retain cold temperatures. The molded-in handles are very sturdy and designed to handle the weight of the cooler once loaded with ice and food.

Access to the ProGear Elite Coolers is made simple by the press-and-pull latches that secure the lid of the cooler, and the latches themselves feature a wide design for ease of use with gloves. Each side of the cooler is fitted with heavy-duty, molded-in dual handles wide enough to fit two hands if needed. The cooler also features molded-in tie downs mounts for securing the cooler, while a molded-in, stainless-steel lock plate offers the option to padlock the cooler for added security. The base of the cooler features non-skid and non-marking raised feet that keep the cooler secure on nearly any surface. For draining spent ice, the Elite Coolers feature a sloped drain with a tethered threaded plug that can be attached to a garden hose for cleaning.

We had the perfect opportunity to test the 35-quart Elite cooler recently. We spent nearly six days in Johnson Valley, California, for the 2014 King of the Hammers race. Although we had an RV for our stay on the lakebed equipped with a refrigerator and freezer, we decided to use the Pelican cooler to house all of our meat for the week.

Three days into our time in Johnson Valley for King of the Hammers, our Pelican Elite Cooler had hardly lost any ice. For comparison, the ice in our traditional cooler had mostly melted by this point and needed a refill.

We loaded up the cooler with carne asada, chicken, hot dogs, hamburgers and tri-tip, and then covered it with few pounds of ice. We kept drinks and such separate and used the Pelican only for meat since we wouldn’t constantly be opening the cooler during the trip for a beer or soda; we wanted to see if it would retain the original ice for seven days like Pelican advertises.

Such a heavy-duty cooler isn’t exactly small. The 35-quart size is a good size for a small group for camping or fishing trips (the cooler itself actually has a fish scale on top for fisherman hoping to haul home their catches). Empty, the cooler weight is 32.16 pounds, so once loaded with meat and ice our cooler was not exactly light. It’s still manageable to be carried by one full-sized adult, though like most coolers it can be a slightly awkward to carry for one person and some would consider it a two-person job.

When it comes time to drain the cooler or clean it after use, a sloped drain with a tethered, threaded plug works well. The large tether allows the plug to rotate easily and is securely mounted so it won’t easy break or get lost.

We took off with the cooler loaded Saturday morning, returning from the trip and emptying the cooler on the following Saturday morning. We checked the cooler’s ice retention during the trip and were impressed. Three days into our trip and the ice had hardly melted in our cooler. The meat was still cold and we had no concern of its freshness; on the other hand, our other traditional cooler already needed a refill of ice after having mostly melted. The temperatures weren’t very hot during the trip, but we did get a decent amount of sunshine and temperatures ranging from the 50s to 60s during the day.

By the fifth day, the contents of the cooler had reduced, as we had already cooked a good amount of the meat we brought for the trip. While some of the ice had melted at this point, much of it was still solid. Most importantly, the cooler was still perfectly cold inside. We returned home from our week in the desert and began cleaning of the RV, our rigs, and of course, the refrigerator and coolers. We were impressed to see the Pelican Elite still had plenty of solid ice still in the cooler. Roughly half of the original ice had melted at this point but there was still plenty of solid ice still in the cooler. The meat we didn’t eat was still fully chilled, and we can verify its freshness since we cooked it that weekend.

After a full week in the desert, we were impressed to return with plenty of ice still in the cooler. Obviously we had cooked much of the meat stored within it so the level of content had dropped. But there was still roughly half the ice unmelted after seven days. We were impressed.

Aside from the wide variety of sizes for the ProGear Elite Coolers, Pelican also offers a number of accessories that include dry baskets, tie-down kits and seat cushions for each model. The coolers are available in Marine White (tested) and Outdoor Tan. We also learned that the Pelican line of coolers received bear resistant certification from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee. The certification is to help keep bears safe by reducing bear-human encounters by ensuring that bears do not have access and become conditioned to “people” foods.

We came away impressed with the construction, durability and function of the Pelican ProGear Elite Coolers. These are good coolers for the family who spends a good amount of time outdoors, or the dual sportsman who tackles weekend camping trips and longer fishing expeditions (be it fresh water or salt). The coolers are especially ideal for the overland off-roader, who spends multiple days away from civilization but needs to keep food fresh during that time, especially when you consider the alternative is a refrigerator that requires battery power. We definitely feel confident our food would stay fresh for multiple days on the trail in a Pelican ProGear Elite Cooler.

Pelican ProGear Elite Cooler Options
Size   –  Weight/MSRP
35QT – (32.16 lbs., $259.95)
45QT – (35.95 lbs., $299.95)
65QT – (48 lbs., $359.95)
95QT  – (51 lbs., $479.95)
150QT – (66 lbs., $579.95)
250QT – (92 lbs., $789.95)

Pelican Products, Inc.
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