Made In The USA: Pelican Coolers

True story: Last year I spent three days exploring the ghost towns of Colorado with a nature photographer and his best friend, who also happened to be the model for some of the photos used in the article I wrote from the experience. When I got to the photographer’s house, I saw that he had YETI… everything. Four different sized YETI coolers. A whole bunch of YETI insulated cups. YETI stickers on his truck and on his photo gear. He was all about the YETI.

I was confused because the only YETI I knew was the high-end bike maker that sadly moved to Taiwan for production about fifteen years ago. But I didn’t give it any more thought, until last week. That was when YETI became involved in a whole bunch of drama regarding its decision to withdraw its support from the NRA. To be honest, I’ve read twenty articles about the YETI/NRA thing and I still don’t know the truth. YETI claims it was all a misunderstanding — but is that just a case of a company walking back a social-justice policy when they realize just how unpopular said policy is among the hunters, woodsmen, and explorers that make up the company’s customer base?

In the middle of all the drama, Pelican Coolers popped into social media with a very canny promotion: buy a USA-made Pelican Cooler using a certain code (PELICANPROUD) and the company would donate ten bucks to the NRA. Plus you’d get a (Chinese-made) insulated cup similar to the YETI one that every thirtysomething mother in the Midwest has in her immediate vicinity at all times. So I took a look at the company’s offerings. They had a 30-quart cooler that looked about perfect for my summer NASA/SCCA/BMX/skatepark/World-Challenge season. And it was available in Lime Green. The price was a bit breathtaking, but I justified it using some absolutely stupid math that I’ll share with you after you CLICK THAT JUMP.

Most of you will be happy to hear that you don’t have get your cooler in lime green with a grey interior. You can get the reverse! And about ten other colors that have nothing to do with lime green. There are more colors on the Pelican site but at the moment the company is heavily backordered. Their NRA promotion has been a raging success as people blow up their YETI coolers and order Pelicans. It took about eight days for me to get mine, only one day of which was due to shipping time.

So what do you get for $229.99, which is the proverbial shit-ton of money? You don’t get wheels, I’ll tell you that. But wheeled coolers are overrated in my opinion. I’ve had a wheeled Coleman since 2007 that I bought for my race team. We never use it. Too much hassle — and it doesn’t work very well. The Pelican works. Last night, I filled it up with two fridge-box loads of ice and a bunch of water. Today, I took it to a long, extremely sunny BMX race where we had no shade whatsoever. Over the course of six hours, the Pelican kept everything cool despite being opened about a dozen times. It’s light enough for Danger Girl to carry it without trouble. I can sit on it without deforming the top, which means that I can use it when I change wheels and tires at the racetrack. It is Certified Bear Proof by an independent testing facility. This is only relevant if you live in an area with heavy bear penetration, such as Yellowstone or San Francisco. It is lockable using your choice of shackle lock.

You can drop it, kick it, or hit it with a car and Pelican will replace it free of charge. It is entirely made in the USA, unlike the coolers YETI, RTIC, and pretty much everybody else. The top lid has metric and standard rulers built into it, which seems ridiculous but might come in handy some day. The workmanship appears to be utterly beyond reproach. The tests I’ve read online say that it can keep ice from melting for up to six days. It’s a good product and I’m glad I have it.

How can I justify the price? Well, I’m doing it like so. By filling it with water and soda at home, I’m preventing myself and my team from buying about $30 worth of cold drinks per event. After a summer of that usage I should break even. This is particularly useful at Mid-Ohio where the concession stand usually closes well before the day is over. Because I brought eight bottles of water to the BMX race today, I didn’t feel like I was wasting money when I poured that water on my son’s head to cool him off between races. He was noticeably stronger than his competition on the second half of the track today, going from third to first on the long fifth straight in eighty-five-degree heat, and I think keeping him cool and hydrated was part of that advantage. He beat a kid whose bike was at least $800 more expensive. So I’m spending my money wisely, for the first and last time.

If you’re in the market for an outrageously expensive cooler designed to last forever, I recommend Pelican without hesitation. Mine even came with a sticker. Which I will not be putting on my truck. The end.

37 Replies to “Made In The USA: Pelican Coolers”

  1. Shrug

    Kudos to them on the good business sense to take advantage of the cult of the NRA to make a shitload of money. If there was an option to donate instead to an actual charity that does actual good things for people that need it most, unlike the NRA, I’d probably even take them up on it next time I need a cooler. The apparent quality and color selection certainly helps.

    Reply
      • Ark-med

        It’s a cult in the sense that any voluntary-to-join-or-leave-organization is, if its mission is at cross-purposes with our mayoral elite cognoscenti’s agenda.

        Reply
  2. Robert

    That’s a good looking cooler. I’ve owned a Pelican 1660 case for my telescope for 15 years, it still looks and works like new. Definitely worth it as a long term ownership proposition.

    If you want to optimize your cooler space even more, try freezing water bottles the night before and using them instead of ice. The cooler stays dry and you can drink them as they melt. Pour a little bit out first so they don’t burst.

    Reply
  3. CJinSD

    Pelican phone cases are unreal. A woman I know lost her Galaxy S7 in the Pacific Ocean in one and it was recovered over a month later in working order. The person who found it brought it to Verizon, where it was charged and she was contacted to retrieve it. Bear proof stuff would be handy in my neighborhood, where bears raid bird feeders and rip deer apart in a manner that traumatized one of my neighbors. Ever seen a black bear running at full speed? They don’t have to run FROM anything. Think about that next time some imbecile tells you they’re docile and harmless. The rulers are there for people who fish, who are often also people who hunt. Different fish need to be of various sizes to be legally kept when caught.

    The political class’ war on the Bill of Rights is worth dissolving our union over. They’ve ravaged the first amendment in the name of ‘hate speech’ and ‘marriage equality.’ Ignorance and stupidity are their weapons against the second amendment. How long until we’re quartering soldiers in our houses?

    Reply
  4. Dirty Dingus McGee

    About 4 years ago I bought a YETI cooler. It has taken every bit of abuse I could dish out to it. Worked so well, that I soon bought 3 more for use by our work crews. Within a couple months, 2 had been stolen. Now there are cheap ass Coleman or Igloo coolers supplied and money set aside for a bag of ice a day.

    Were I in the market for a new cooler, I would seriously look at a Pelican. I will NOT however blow up/chop up or otherwise destroy something I paid nearly $350 for. Just because they are now singing a tune I don’t care for, doesn’t change the fact that they already have my money and I ain’t getting it back.

    Reply
    • WhiskeyRiver

      It’s a lot more fun to just paste a huge NRA sticker over the Yeti name and move on. Everybody that sees it gets it.

      Reply
  5. hank chinaski

    Lingered after the Ghost Town piece, caught the blurb on DG. Good stuff there, but ‘Mazda Perfume’?

    On the fence on joining NRA or GOA. Maybe both.

    Reply
    • Disinterested-Observer

      Metric is useful for when you are exaggerating the size of your… “fish”

      Reply
      • Felis Concolor

        Metric’s okay until you start working with wood, at which point the superiority of US units for hobbyists and crafting becomes immediately apparent. The best part is using a framing square older than yourself and instantly locating the 32nds and 64ths points on the visual scale.

        Reply
  6. silentsod

    I own several Pelican cases for firearms and camera equipment and they are all outstanding products. They’re great buys and should last more or less forever.

    Reply
  7. Fred Lee

    “””
    How can I justify the price? Well, I’m doing it like so. By filling it with water and soda at home, I’m preventing myself and my team from buying about $30 worth of cold drinks per event. After a summer of that usage I should break even.
    “””

    I know you’re being a bit tongue-in-cheek. But as you probably know a Coleman Xtreme cooler would accomplish the exact same thing. For a lot less money. And they are “MADE IN USA”!!! (MAGA). https://www.rei.com/product/849529/coleman-xtreme-5-cooler-70-qts

    Don’t get me wrong; I don’t doubt that on a 5-day trip through the Mojave a Pelican might (emphasis on might) outperform an Xtreme. Though I’ve been on a 2-day trip through the Mojave in 120+ degree heat and frequent forays into the cooler where an Xtreme did the job admirably.

    At the end of the day, paying $200+ for a Pelican (or Yeti) is a vanity purchase. And I say that as the owner of a $6000 Yeti SB66c. Which I’ll acknowledge was a vanity purchase.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      The stainless Coleman coolers are pretty slick as well. They’re almost too pretty to use.

      Reply
      • Ryan

        I’m still using the green steel-belted Coleman my grandfather bought in 1968. It weighs as much as a Challenger when loaded down, but will keep my various packages of cured pork and beef cold for a weekend in the woods.

        I’ve considered a Yeti (or similar) because I’d like something a bit larger, but with everyone and their brother having one (in addition to being made overseas), I’ve kind of waffled on it. It’s good to know that the Pelican is similar in quality to their other gear, an ad of theirs popped up on my Instagram feed but I have yet to pull the trigger. I’d be interesting in hearing about how it holds up after you’ve used it on some hotter weekends.

        Reply
      • Felis Concolor

        Nice to see they’re still making ’em in the USA, especially for their “steel belted” line – and that latch mechanism still captivates me as much as it did when I was a child. My parents had to call me away from the cooler some times as I would keep cycling it open and shut for minutes at a time.

        Reply
        • sabotenfighter

          I’m glad to hear someone else appreciates that latch mech. Have an old stainless Coleman that has been passed down through the family for over 30 years now. Still kicking and holds enough beer (about 24 bottles and cans of craft) and sandwiches (at least 4 big hoagies) for at least two guys on a day long fishing trip.
          Id get something new and lighter if they werent so god damn expensive for non-junk in Japan. Crappy base model Colemans sell for at least 2-3x their price in the US and decent Daiwa fish coolers are up there in the YETI price range.

          Reply
  8. JMcG

    Grizzly coolers are also Made in USA. Pretty much the same construction for a little less money than Pelican and a lot less money than Yeti. Seems like all the stainless cups are Chinese made along with all the soft sided coolers.
    I have two Grizzly coolers so can personally vouch for them.

    Reply
    • cwallace

      I’d never heard of Grizzly coolers prior to your post. Online, you can get one with the Second Amendment printed right on the lid.

      Hitting Yeti where they ain’t. Very shrewd.

      Reply
  9. tyates

    Great review. For obvious reasons most companies (and many reviewers!) aren’t looking to embrace the “buy it for life” philosophy, unfortunately, so it is up to us consumers to spread the word. Which is of course, why the only pet I can unreservedly recommend is a giant tortoise.

    Reply
  10. Hogie roll

    Lid rulers are for measuring the length of fish to determine if they are long enough to keep. These types of coolers are de rigueur on boats, especially center consoles.

    Reply
  11. ScottS

    Jack,

    Good choice on the 35 qt. I bought a Pelican 45 quart ProGear Elite in deep blue nearly 4 years ago, and my only complaint is that when fully provisioned it is VERY heavy.

    Justification is easy for anyone who ventures outside the sphere of urban convenience and stays for more than a day. These coolers will hold ice and keep things cool for 4 to 5 days in the most brutal conditions and they will take a relentless beating in the back of a truck. As mentioned above, Pelican also makes a plethora of quality cases for all your firearms.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      If the vast majority of the population was anti-gun, we would have Chicago-style gun control across the nation.

      The NRA’s fabled “war chest” is one-twentieth of Hillary Clinton’s. George Soros, ALL BY HIMSELF, spent more money on lobbying than the NRA did last year.

      The NRA gets results because they have voters, not because they have money.

      Reply
      • Bigtruckseriesreview

        The vast amount of the population is in NY, California, Texas and Florida.

        A large number DON’T VOTE.

        I never said “the vast number of voters”.

        And then a large number are sanndwiched in Blue States and only have so much electoral power.

        Reply
        • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

          Look at it this way… Gay marriage has become the law of the land almost everywhere despite the fact that it had something like a 70% disapproval rating when the media campaigns began.

          Our left-wing masters have no trouble getting 30% policies enacted into law. Which suggests that gun control has less than 30% backing.

          Reply
          • Bigtruckseriesreview

            Gay Marriage and Gun Control are two very different issues.

            As the bodies of dead children pile up, the voter will CONTINUE to become more anti-gun.

            As the bodies of DEAD CIVILIANS murdered by cops pile up, the voter will continue to abhor guns.

            I call it the DEATH THRESHOLD.

            It takes a certain number of deaths to force political action.

            Sandy Hook wasn’t enough.

            Vegas wasn’t enough.

            Parkland wasn’t enough.

            But the one thing I always recognize is that there is always someone looking to get a higher score and eventually the NRA/lobbyists will run out of excuses.

          • Daniel J

            Our lives are already over regulated and over legislated as it is. An armed society keeps the government from fully taking over.

            I mean, we see how illegal drugs are doing. Making guns illegal will mean sunshines and rainbows right?

    • arbuckle

      Maybe, but I’m guessing that the vast majority of people buying $300+ “bear proof” coolers aren’t anti-gun and the David Hogg brigade is unlikely to start buying those products just for the NRA snub.

      So likely a poor business decision on Yeti’s part and that’s probably why they are waffling on the issue rather than doubling down on virtue signaling.

      Reply
  12. Felis Concolor

    Depending on how (not) humid your part of the world is, another excellent means of cooling off consists of a 1L Solo hand pumped sprayer filled with water and set to the finest mist setting possible. If it’s dry enough, the resulting mist sublimates instantly, creating a strong chilling effect on whatever surface the sprayer nozzle has been aimed towards.

    And when you set the nozzle to stream, it can reach misbehaving cats from across a room with startling speed and accuracy.

    Reply
  13. sabotenfighter

    @Jack
    Do you know anything about Copper Hinge glasses? Apparently made in the US and pretty reasonable looking prices. I need to replace my glasses this year and I basically gotta look overseas for something to accommodate my “tall” nose and big eyes. An ad for them came up on my Instagram and being as they prominently advertise being made in America, I thought of your blog.

    Reply
      • sabotenfighter

        Love me some vintage Persol sunglasses (folding Ratti were my favorite till they cracked in the boat glovebox one hot summer day), but being as basically every eyewear company is buying out of China and/or are made by the Luxotica group now, I’d really prefer to avoid any of that nonsense. Especially what Luxotica charges for frames. Incredible brand name markup.

        Reply
        • Ryan

          I can’t speak to Persol as I’ve never owned a pair (the PO2803S is the only one which remotely fits my face and doesn’t have Steve McQueen fetishism associated with it), but Luxotica has slowly ruined Oakley. I have pairs from 10+ years ago that look better than the warranty replacements that I received last summer. Even the Holbrooks I have differ significantly between the Chinese replacements and the older ones. They claim that the lenses are still USA-made, but I’ve noticed a decline in quality there too.

          It would be nice to find a decent pair of USA-made (or somewhere else in the first world) sunglasses that aren’t aviators or similar. Dillon comes close, but I can’t say that I am a fan of their frame design. I’ve tried a few pairs on and can definitely say that the lenses are better than anything I own presently.

          Reply

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