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Expert Shopper Camping & Outdoors

Best Pelican cooler

Which Pelican cooler is best?

When you go camping, to the beach or on a fishing trip, bringing a trusty cooler is essential. You could pack everything you need into a backpack with some ice bricks, but that won’t keep your food frozen or your drinks cool for long. Only a robust Pelican cooler large enough for those excursions will do.

But picking a container isn’t as straightforward as you might imagine. There are a few important aspects that you must consider — all determined by where you are going — such as the cooler's ice retention capabilities and internal compartment size. The Pelican 14-Quart Personal Cooler is an excellent option for most occasions.

What to know before you buy a Pelican cooler

Different kinds

There are two different kinds of Pelican coolers: hard-sided and soft-sided. The one you need depends on where you are going.

Hard-sided coolers are the typical ice box that most people think of. These are rugged, durable and often heavy.

Perfect for hiking or going to the beach, you can easily sling two soft-sided coolers around your shoulder, or carry them like a backpack. Made from canvas, they have a leak-resistant zipper and a waterproof seal.


The capacity of a cooler is important when you need to cater to large groups or small families. There is no use in getting a sling cooler that can only hold six soda cans if you also need to carry lunch, snacks and water.

The larger coolers have a capacity of between 80 to 150 quarts, roughly 37.5 gallons, so there is plenty of space for a multi-day trip. A bit smaller, the middle-of-the-road coolers can easily hold about 11.2 to 16 gallons. The single-handed and soft-sided coolers can hold around 9 to 21 quarts.

Cooling capabilities

No matter the size of your chosen cooler, the most crucial aspect is how well it keeps food and drinks cold. This is often related to the insulation thickness and the materials used. Pelican coolers have almost an inch of polyurethane foam in the smallest models, with the thickness increasing with the size of the cooler. For example, the massive 37-gallon cooler has an insulation thickness of over 2 inches. That is thick enough to preserve ice for up to four days, eliminating premature thawing of any food. 

What to look for in a quality Pelican cooler

Roller wheels for mobility

The larger coolers are thick, bulky and heavy, with some weighing over 60 pounds, so you need an efficient way of carting them around. For that reason, a good-quality Pelican case has roller wheels so you can pull it along. It may not be the ideal solution for when you are hiking, but it definitely makes it easier. 

Airtight seal on the lid

A vital component of the cooler’s capabilities comes down to the lid. You can have the best cooler in the world, but if the lid doesn’t seal correctly, you will have spoiled food and defrosted drinks before the sun sets. 

Except for the soft-sided cooler backpack, all Pelican containers have press and pull latches to ensure an airtight seal every time. Not only does it help keep everything frozen, but it also prevents odors from escaping. 


It’s not something that many people think about, but if you go hiking, your cooler should be certified as bear-resistant. Not all Pelican coolers are certified, but the Elite range has bear-resistant certification from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee. To get the certificate, the coolers undergo extensive testing to ensure that bears can’t open or penetrate the coolers.

How much you can expect to spend on a Pelican cooler

The average price of a Pelican cooler depends on the additional functions and the size. The smallest hard-sided cooler costs $100–$110, while the mammoth coolers cost $600–$800. The soft-sided backpack and sling coolers cost $170–$270. 

Pelican cooler FAQ

What accessories are available for Pelican coolers?

A. Depending on the size of the cooler, there are various accessories to make your trip easier, such as tie-down kits, dry rack baskets, and additional ice packs. You can even replace the original lid with one that has a cushion built-in.

Are Pelican cases waterproof?

A. Yes, Pelican’s injection molded cases are waterproof to a depth of 3.3 feet for 30 minutes if the lid is sealed properly. Pelican’s lifetime guarantee against breakage or defects includes waterproof capabilities. 

What’s the best Pelican cooler to buy?

Top Pelican cooler

Pelican 14-Quart Personal Cooler

What you need to know: This cooler is the perfect size for hanging out on the beach or for short hikes.

What you’ll love: It has an internal capacity that holds six cans and two 1-pound ice packs. The lid has a dry storage compartment that doesn’t come in contact with the rest of the cooler. There is also a carry handle and a magnetic cap-catching bottle opener.

What you should consider: This model can keep items cool up to 36 hours.  

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top Pelican cooler for the money

Pelican Cooler Sling

What you need to know: This cooler bag easily slings around your shoulder and has two zippers with quick access to beverages.

What you’ll love: The puncture-resistant double-coated nylon outer shell keeps the 2-gallon chamber safe. It has 12 hours of ice retention and can store up to six cans.

What you should consider: Some users said the zipper is difficult to close.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Pelican Elite Cooler with Wheels

What you need to know: This bear-resistant cooler can hold 28 cans and has built-in tie-downs.

What you’ll love: The airtight lid has an integrated fish scale and is kept shut with 3-inch locking latches. It has a durable pull handle, two roller wheels and 2 inches of insulation. 

What you should consider: The cooler weighs over 37 pounds, so it might be challenging to move for some users.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Charlie Fripp writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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