Coolers are contraptions that turn even the hottest summer camping trips into blissful holidays. The best coolers, of course, are the ones that you can rely on to keep goods chilled for an evening, have ice retention to keep perishable supplies cool in an emergency, or even act as a backup refrigerator in a true SHTF scenario. However, not all coolers (also sometimes called ice chests) are equal. Today, we are going to end the debate between Yeti vs Pelican brand coolers that has been ongoing for decades.
About Pelican Coolers
The story about the Pelican brand of coolers is one of adventure and intrigue. The inventor, Dave Parker, and his wife Arline were real American entrepreneurs. The two of them thought about what great outdoor gear should be like, and in 1976, they started first tinkering with flashlights in their California garage.
Their first successful product was leak-proof flashlights and cases. In 2004, the Pelican brand grew much more diverse and expanded into temperature-controlled innovations that were designed to keep contents super fresh while enduring even the harshest weather conditions.
About Yeti Coolers
“The Yeti was born out of frustration and molded by experience.” Though Yeti coolers debuted 30 years after Pelican products in the outdoor sporting goods world, they are indeed a tough contender.
Ryan and Roy Seiders decided to launch a start-up, just as the Parkers had. However, these guys were tired of having coolers with flimsy handles and brittle latches. So they decided to launch their own brand and have gained an unflinchingly loyal base of customers.
The Main Differences Between Yeti vs Pelican Products
When reading how the two brands began, you might realize that the mission and reason are remarkably contrasting. Thus, so too are the range of products. For example, Pelican was formed to create an enriching outdoor lifestyle, whereas Yeti was designed to be reliable and durable.
Also, the Pelican product line-up is much more diversified—leak-proof cases for computers, lights, phones, guns, and more. Sometimes the coolers get lost in the catalog. Yeti, on the other hand, has stuck to their main focus, coolers, and that is highly commendable.
Furthermore, when you take a look at what Yeti coolers offer as opposed to Pelican coolers, you again spot a difference in branding and growth. Yeti is currently marketing over 20 sizes and styles of coolers that even include soft-side options.
Conversely, Pelican has 8 models for sale. Each design is industrial style, for which the company is known for. The other thing Pelican is known for? Instead of reinventing a style and offering feature-options, they make one model in multiple colors (up to 16, to be exact).
Performance Comparison of Yeti and Pelican Ice Chests
Much of the Yeti vs Pelican debate is sparked because of how these popular coolers function. When looking at price vs. quality, you are going to want the one that outperforms the other, most often. So let’s have a look to see if it is Pelican or Yeti who offers the best performance for the cost. You might be surprised.
No cooler is worth their price if ice melts immediately. One of the reason that high-end, roto-molded coolers like Pelican and Yeti come with heart stopping price tags is because they can keep ice way longer than a more budget-friendly cooler. In a side-by-side ice retention test, a Yeti cooler held ice for 10 days, 4 hours, while a Pelican cooler held ice for 10 days, 8 hours. Both coolers were kept in the same condition—70 degrees Fahrenheit, in the shade.
This is a consistent finding with other ice retention tests. Pelican ice chests always perform slightly better than a Yeti, but if you not looking for an hour’s difference, then knowing both coolers can keep ice for 10 days is probably more than enough.
The reason Pelican may perform slightly better than Yeti in terms of keeping ice for 4 hours longer could be tied to the thicker insulation. The Yeti design features thick walls and an approximately 2.5 inch thick lid. Meanwhile, the Pelican design has 2.5 inch thick walls and a 3 inch thick lid.
On that note, if ice retention is your number 1 priority when selecting a cooler, then the Pelican brand is the best choice.
Hardware & Construction
Both coolers are of uni-body roto-moulded construction. What does that mean? The main body of the cooler is made from a single piece of roto-moulded plastic that has even thickness all the way around. This is wonderful for creating a truly waterproof and leakproof unit that is resilient to shock—like bear attacks, dropping from helicopters, or anything else epic you can think of.
If you don’t believe the claims about the resilience of these two coolers, then check out the video below by Gear Testathon, which pits the Yeti and Pelican coolers against each other to see which is stronger. Both survive fires, drops, and even shotgun rounds.
Latches & Handles
Another key part of the construction would be the latches and handles. Many users have reported the latches on Pelican models being vastly superior to those on any Yeti model.
- Durability – The rubber on many Yeti models, regardless of strength, will eventually become less rubbery overtime, especially when exposed to inclement weather and sunlight. The bolted-in latches provided by Pelican will outlast the rubber latches on a Yeti by years.
- Ease of Use – Pelican has unique latches that are extremely easy to open up and close, even with a single hand. You simply push and pull. Though the pull-down rubber latches on Yeti are also easy to use, you don’t get the same amount of satisfaction from the Yeti ones as you do Pelican.
- Satisfaction – Hearing the push and click of the ice chest latches on a Pelican is oddly comforting. It’s an extra guarantee that the contents are now locked and secured. Yeti latches don’t provide the same sound. It’s a small feature to note, but it might be important to some people, especially those with children.
Now, as for the handles. These are vastly different between the brands. Yeti coolers have nylon rope handles and a rubber hand grip. The downside is that the cooler may sway when carrying, making a fully loaded Yeti cooler somewhat cumbersome, even when shared between two people.
The rubber handles are also moulded, but knots in the rope fill the spaces meaning you cannot hold the handle comfortably. Those with arthritic joints or smaller-sized hands might have a difficult time gripping the handles on a Yeti cooler.
Conversely, Pelican coolers have strong pull-up handles that lessen the burden. Plus, the handle pulls up above the cooler, meaning you don’t have to lean or bend too far down to be able to lift the cooler. Taller individuals will find this advantageous.
Pelican coolers also have moulded-in side handles that stick out slightly from the sides of the cooler that are easy to grab.
Yet, if you have an older Pelican model, you will find that the weight difference (obsolete Pelicans being 10 pounds heavier than Yeti coolers), this cancels out the benefits of the handles. Newer models, however, don’t have this weight discrepancy.
When you plan on going into bear country, you don’t want to mess around with a cheap cooler that doesn’t have a fool-proof latch. Both Yeti and Pelican coolers have bear-proof construction and even are recognized by several agencies.
Only Yeti really rings their bear-proof bell for marketing hype, but both manufacturers have ensured the safety of your food cache so no bears ruin your camping adventure.
However, if you really, really want to get technical about it, it has been found through research by Popular Mechanics that Pelican coolers will remain bear-proof even if the locking mechanism is destroyed. Meanwhile, bear can use their teeth on the rubber latches of a Yeti cooler and eventually pry it open.
Feature Comparison of Pelican and Yeti Coolers
Aside from construction and durability, here are some features that you might be searching for in your cooler and want to consider before purchasing:
Though a lot of people don’t think much about the drainage plug in coolers, the differences between the Pelican and Yeti drainage plugs is worth noting. The Pelican cooler has an attached 1-inch drain plug that can double as a hose connector. However, many people report the “feel” of the plug as cheap.
On the other hand, the Yeti plug is 1-inch and detachable. Also, it is made so you can partially turn it and empty the cooler slowly without removing the plug entirely. The downside is that, because the plug isn’t directly attached, you can lose it.
One nice feature that Pelican has included in their designs that Yeti doesn’t offer would be a measuring tape built into the lid of the cooler. This is why fishermen prefer Pelican coolers over Yeti coolers, because they can swiftly measure the catch on the lid.
For people looking to use their cooler less for fishing and more for camping or canoeing, you probably won’t have to worry about a measuring tape too often.
Other Features to Consider
These features are available on both coolers and don’t truly vary from brand to brand. Still, if you are considering another brand beyond Yeti or Pelican, these features should be considered:
- Tie-Down Points – both of the coolers have tie down areas. Yeti coolers have two on the shorter sides, and Pelican coolers have 4, one on each corner.
- Locks – Pelican coolers have a single locking mechanism in the center. Yeti has 2 locking points on the front corners.
- Single Pin Hinge – Yeti and Pelican coolers use single pin hinges, where the single bolt spans the full length of the hinge. This is good, because the hinge is fortified and unlikely to break.
- Non-Slip Feet – Both ice chest brands have non-slip rubber feet. A great feature if you plan on transporting these coolers by trunk, boat, or other vehicle.
- Gasket – Both have commercial grade rubber gaskets that prevent cold air from seeping out and hot air from getting in.
Though not actually a feature but more of a convenience in case something happens, you want a decent warranty. Some people have better luck with their gear than others and never have to worry about the unfortunate happening. Others are born under an ill-fated camping star.
If you fit into the latter, you will want to go with Pelican coolers, because they stand behind their warranty that states, “You break it, we replace it...forever.” A lifetime guarantee is definitely more appealing than what Yeti offers. The Seiders give their coolers a 5-year warranty that covers everything.
Common Customer Complaints with Yeti vs Pelican Coolers
Finally, let’s address some common complaints customers have with either cooler brand so you have an idea of what can potentially go wrong with a Yeti or Pelican cooler.
The main issue people tend to have with Yeti coolers would be the price. Currently, Yeti coolers are the most expensive roto-molded cooler on the market.
Since Yeti coolers don’t have the best ice retention, the latches can be annoying, and the drain plug can be lost easily, you have to consider the price. Also, customers have complained about the ice chest warping over time.
The biggest complaint launched against the Pelican brand would be the weight of the coolers. How can a cooler that only has a little more insulation that its competitor weigh 10 pounds more? It’s asking for a bad back. Second, the drainage plug sometimes gets condensation, causing water to drip onto the floor.
This can be annoying, especially if the cooler is on flooring. Lastly, since the latches don’t apply a downward pressure on the lid, there is some give. If by some act of the universe the cooler gets knocked over, water will undoubtedly spill everywhere.
There you have it, a sincere comparison of two popular coolers on the market right now, Yeti and Pelican. Both cooler brands have amazing features and are certainly worth all the acclaim.
And the winner is? Whichever cooler is best for your needs! No, this isn’t a cop out—it should be obvious that there actually isn’t much of a difference between Yeti and Pelican ice chests when you take into consideration the price tag, overall design, warranty, ice retention, and other features.
Based on this duel between Yeti vs Pelican brands, however, you should be able to come to a conclusion about which cooler brand is correct for you when reflecting upon your individual needs and camping style. One thing is certain, though: whichever one you choose, you have yourself a darn good cooler.