A well-designed cooler isn’t just a luxury for some, but rather a necessity. You might be able to get away with a budget cooler if you rarely camp or spend hours outdoors. But if you often need to keep food and drinks chilled it would be wise to invest in a cooler that’s able to handle regular wear-and-tear, and look good doing it.
When it comes to high-end cooler brands there are two that instantly come to mind – Pelican and Yeti. Pelican and Yeti coolers are both rotomolded coolers that are hefty, tough, and can keep ice for days at a time.
The Pelican brand has been around for quite some time, having been founded in 1976. Over the years they’ve offered numerous different types of coolers and, still today, have a nice selection that includes soft, wheeled, and hard-sided coolers. They are best known for their Elite Coolers, their classic hard-sided model that is quite similar to Yeti.
Yeti was founded by two brothers in 2006 and quickly took off. Today the brand has quite the cult following and is a household name for coolers. Yeti also has soft coolers as well as hard coolers, but just like Pelican it’s their hard coolers that are most popular.
Pelican and Yeti are direct competitors with loyal fanbases. Chances are high that you’d be happy with either brands hard-sided coolers, but if you’re going to invest $300+ in a high-end piece of gear that you’ll rely on to keep your food and beverages chilled, you’ll want to weigh the pros and cons of both before purchasing.
The Pelican hard-sided coolers come in seven different sizes, which include:
The most popular sizes for Pelican Elites are the 20QT and 30QT, with the 70QT and 50QT next. None of the Pelican Elites have less than a 4 star rating, with most at 4.5 and 5 stars.
The 30QT Elite Cooler is a great choice for two people for a weekend camping trip. This cooler is 25.3″ long, 18.5″ tall, and 19″ wide. Ice retention is rated for 2 full days with a 2:1 ice to goods ratio. With this ratio you can fit camping trip food for two, along with 12 cans or 22 cans of beer/soda. The 30QT Elite comes with easy Press & Pull closure latches, built-in bottle opener, built-in can holders, and features all stainless-steel hardware. Though it may be smaller in design, just like any other Pelican cooler this one is certified bear proof. Pelican also guarantees this cooler for life.
The 70QT Elite is a step up from the 30QT, offering basically double the space. This model is perfect for a four-person camping trip. You’ll have the same 2 day ice retention rate and a 2:1 ice to goods fill recommendation. In this model you can easily fit 4 days of food and 24 cans or fill it with only 46 cans. The dimensions are 36″ x 21″ x 20.3″. You’ll have all the same features as the 30QT.
Yeti coolers are well-known for their durability and impressive ice retention rating. They have a wide selection of hard-sided coolers, which include:
Compared to Pelican, Yeti offers a greater variety of cooler styles. The Roadie and Tundra series are your standard hard-sided coolers. The Tank series is essentially cooler-meets-ice bucket rather than a true trunk-style cooler. The Silo 6G is a beefed-up version of a water cooler, which holds 6 gallons of water (or other beverage).
The Yeti Tundra 35QT is ideal for personal use or 2+ people. The dimensions are roughly 22″ x 16″ x 16″. The 35QT can hold 21 cans of soda or beer when packed with a 2:1 ice to goods ratio. You can expect an ice retention of 2+ days when properly packed. The FatWall design of the cooler and PermaFrost insulation made the Yeti Tundra one of the best coolers when it comes to ice retention. Although not backed by the company, plenty of customers find they can sometimes get up to 5 days of ice with this model.
The rest of the coolers in the Tundra series are all very similar, only differing in size capacity. The larger the cooler, the longer the ice retention as well. Some other cool features to the Yeti Tundras include it being bear proof, built with a Vortex drain system, and comes with a freezer-quality gasket to prevent air leaks.
Choosing between the Pelican and the Yeti is tough. Both coolers have hundreds or even thousands of positive reviews, all are bear proof and have a minimum of a 2 day ice retention, plus both brands offer similar sizes.
Pelican coolers do tend to hold ice slightly longer than Yeti coolers, based on the personal findings of customers. Pelican coolers are also slightly less expensive than the Yeti equivalent. You’ll also find that the design of the Pelican latches and handles are more simple, but also easier to use. Pelican coolers are also bear-proof without needing a padlock. Better yet, Pelican coolers come with a lifetime warranty.
Yeti coolers will need to be padlocked to be bear-proof. However, their other features are very appealing to those that want an attractive cooler. Their sizes are a bit larger than Pelican and their color options quite pleasing, despite being neutral. They look sleeker and slimmer than the Pelican as well, thanks to a soft gloss finish. Yeti does only come with a 5 year warranty, however.
If you favor a sleek, luxury look to your cooler the Yeti is a wonderful choice. It will perform and look great out in the woods just as it will on the beach during a weekend vacation. The Pelican is more of a workhorse compared to the Yeti, which might make it a better purchase if all you care about it cooling ability. Pelican’s lifetime warranty further makes it a tempting purchase as you’ll have the peace of mind knowing you can use this cooler to its full potential without worry about damage.
Sam Hardy is an outdoor enthusiast with a penchant for survival prepping. He writes about the great outdoors and his favorite equipment here.