You’re so over the grind of buying a new cooler every few years. You upgraded from Styrofoam years ago, but you’re ready to make the leap into the high-end cooler market.
Two big names in this business, Yeti and Pelican, are probably on the list, but which one is the right one for you? Both offer excellent ice retention, and both offer durability that’s better than just about anything else out there. Both have similar price tiers, but the choice for you may surprise you. Let’s break it all down in our Pelican Versus Yeti Review for 2020.
About The Brands
Before we get started, there are a few key facts to keep in mind. These are the very basis of our comparison, and the highlights should get you thinking. Pay close attention to the differences here.
Why We Like It
- sleek styling
- lighter than Pelican
- a broader range of choices
Why We’re Skeptical
- more expensive than Pelican
- doesn’t indicate true quart capacity
Why We Like It:
- aggressive styling
- lifetime guarantee
- more affordable than Yeti
Why We’re Skeptical:
- heavier than Yeti
- limited choices
Pelican And Yeti Comparison
Pelican got its start in the tactical gear game, making heavy-duty cases for ammunition and other types of outdoor gear. Yeti began in the search for the best cooler on the market, one that could stand up to anything a camper or fisherman could throw at it and keep coming back year after year.
How Are They Similar?
Let’s take a look at the similarities first. They do have a few things in common, including materials and basic interior design. They’re also similar in price.
Both companies use roto-molded coolers. These types, more formally known as “rotational molded” coolers involve rotating the mold as plastic is poured. This method strengthens the walls of the cooler, reducing weak spots and making them less prone to cracking. The walls also hold in cold better because they’re just better built.
Inside, two to three inches of pressure injected, commercial grade insulation creates a complete coverage between the walls and prevents any temperature inconsistencies. This design keeps your ice cold for over a week if you prep the cooler correctly while increasing the durability of the cooler itself.
Common weak spots are reinforced to prevent early wear and tear. The hinges are overlapping taps built into the cooler lid and body with a single pin to prevent wear even with consistent use. Tabs on the front are a rubber blend that’s way more crack resistant than cheap plastic tabs. Handles are molded into the sides of most of the models, so there’s no need to worry about weak joints.
The basic design of the coolers is the same despite the differences in appearance. The freezer-style gasket seals tightly across the top to prevent leaks and keep ice cold even when you’re constantly opening the lid. It always seals back completely.
They have tie down indentions built into the cooler itself for better stability plus rubber feet to help prevent slipping even on a wet surface like a boat. Some of the colors are similar, and both stick to basic color choices instead of anything splashy.
Both companies do offer both hard and soft coolers, but Yeti has a few more choices overall than Pelican. The capacity range is also mostly similar with Yeti having a few more capacity choices especially on the higher end of capacity. If you need a cooler to hold several hundred drinks, Pelican has you covered, but Yeti has the biggest cooler still at nearly twice the capacity of Pelican’s largest. Still, they both have enough range that you should find what you’re looking for.
With coolers like these, people are sometimes surprised to see drastically reduced ice retention the first time they take it out. Insulation absorbs the ambient temperature of the room, so if you’ve stored your cooler in the garage for a while before using it, your ice doesn’t have much chance.
Instead of that, prep your cooler the night before you need it by filling it with ice and closing the lid. In the morning, drain any excess water and top off with fresh ice. The insulation will absorb the temperature of the ice overnight, and you’ll get a head start on your ice retention despite the elements.
How Are They Different?
The differences are a little subtler with these coolers because the companies do employ similar philosophies for designing and manufacturing their coolers. They’re the same roto-molded exterior, for example, but the specific design is where the difference is.
Pelican’s coolers are designed with tactical gear in mind. The company started out making things besides coolers and developed a tough, aggressive aesthetic that transferred over to their coolers. There are quite a few edges and lines reinforcing the exterior, plus a tough, square lid shape.
Their soft cooler is similarly aggressive, with a thick waterproof material that resembles a scuba suit. It’s waterproof and floats temporarily if you drop it. Pelican offers only one capacity in their soft cooler, and one hard-sided cooler style in a handful of capacities. Even the colors are kept muted except an unusual neon green that always seems sold out.
Yeti’s design is a little softer and a little more vintage. It recalls surfing days or time on the lake, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less tough. It’s smoother and much more rounded, so there are no edges or ridges to interfere with the single, solid line. It comes in a much wider variety, including a bucket option and a drink dispenser.
Yeti’s soft-sided coolers also have a more extensive range. They come in a few flip top styles plus a backpack. There’s also one traditional style of a soft-sided cooler with a single zipper along the top.
There isn’t too much difference in price, but the Pelican options mostly edge out Yeti here. You’ll save on average about $20 to $50 each time you decide on a Pelican, but there could be specials from time to time that negate those price differences. IF your budget is absolute, you might appreciate the small savings Pelican brings, but we aren’t sure that most of you will notice the difference.
The latches on the Pelican are a lot different than the Yeti. Yeti uses T style latches to seal the lid, but these can be difficult if you don’t have a lot of strength in your fingers. The Pelican uses a simple push and pull latch that’s a lot easier to operate even if you’ve got some weakness in your hands.
The Pelican lid has built-in cup holders. There are also bottle openers built right into the side of the cooler for easy access. Both are bear proof, but those little details make the cooler easier to operate.
One thing that can annoy some Yeti users is that Yeti’s aren’t labeled true to size. A Yeti 35 isn’t going to hold a full 35 quarts for example. Instead, you’re looking at a little over two-thirds of the size of the number. Not a big deal for true Yeti fans, but Pelican owners know precisely what quart size they’re getting. A Pelican 35 holds 35 quarts with no guesswork.
Our Favorite Models
Let’s compare our two favorite models just a little more closely to see how they stack up. We chose options that the average user would find the most useful for both basic cooling like those afternoon soccer games and a little more intense cooling over a weekend of camping.
The Tundra is Yeti’s most significant line, and it features their classic roto-molded body with up to two inches of premium, pressure injected permafrost foam. It holds 21 cans or about 26 pounds of ice and keeps that ice cold for up to seven days.
The design is Yeti’s classic, smooth style with a lighter profile but just a hair than the comparable Pelican. There are no harsh edges, and the lid fits more closely to the profile of the body, giving it a clean look.
It’s sturdy enough to use as an extra seat and weighs about 20 pounds on its own. It features molded tie downs for better securing even in wet weather, plus reinforced, never fail hinges and T-rex style latches in a rubber blend that resists cracking.
It’s on the heavy side, and it doesn’t hold quite 35 quarts of anything, but the rounded edges are eye-catching yet sturdy. It comes in a few different colors including their classic white. The lining resists odors and mildew and should keep things fresh as long as you make sure to clean it out between uses.
What Customers Like:
- softer design style
- permafrost, commercial grade insulation
- molded tie downs for security
- Yeti’s cooler number doesn’t indicate correct quart size
Pelican’s comparable size is the 30-quart Elite cooler. It features aggressive styling with a more tactical look and fewer smooth edges. The lid has a wide overhang, making it easier to carry but definitely not as svelte as the comparable Yeti. Its capacity is true to size, holding 30 quarts or about 22 cans if that’s more your speed.
It has a rotomolded exterior with nearly three inches of insulation. The insulation is commercial grade and pressure injected for better coverage and fewer weak spots. The gasket lid seals off quickly and prevents any leaking or temperature inconsistencies. It has molded handles and tie-downs to secure the cooler along with non-slip feet to make sure it’s stable even on a wet surface.
The clips are Pelican’s unique easy-pull clip, and cup holders in the top give you a comfortable place to store your stuff. The cooler has reinforced latches and hinges and can be used as an extra seat in a pinch. Pelican guarantees all their coolers for life, so once you invest, you’re covered against any defect in the interior or exterior manufacturing as well as hinges and latches. No worries.
What Customers Like:
- lifetime guarantee
- aggressive styling
- seven days of ice retention
The Best Cooler For You
Both Yeti and Pelican are long-term, heavy-duty coolers that give you a lifetime of use once you invest. If you just need a cooler for a few hours, they both might be overkill unless you’ve got the budget to spend in the best. The construction is similar, both are bear proof, and both have ice retention of over a week under ideal conditions, but the one you choose depends on a few deciding factors.
Get a Yeti If:
- you like the smooth, vintage styling and want no harsh edges
- you like a T style clip or are better able to manipulate that style
- you prefer a slimmer profile
- you need a cooler where every ounce counts (Pelican is slightly heavier)
- you prefer the smoother finish of Yeti
Get A Pelican If:
- your budget is the final deciding factor
- you prefer more aggressive, masculine styling
- you like a wide overlap for the lid
- you prefer the rougher, scratch resistant finish of Pelican
- you want a lifetime warranty
Both Yeti and Pelican are premium investments, so once you’re ready to upgrade, we think you’ll be pleased with your improved ice retention rate. The strength and durability of both are unmatched, and while the Pelican does edge out the Yeti in price, it’s also bulkier. This decision may be a matter of style preference.
We love Yeti’s softer, more refined edges with a slimmer body, but it’s frustrating that the numbers don’t match the quart size. Yeti’s beefier design is masculine, but the bulkier profile does make it slightly harder to carry. However, the performance for both is neck and neck, with each cooler giving you over a week of ice retention with preparation and the right conditions.
That weekend trip to the great outdoors and your tailgate in the fall is about to get just that much easier. The only thing you have to worry about now is how you’re going to say no when everyone wants to borrow your awesome cooler. Happy camping!