Testing its insane ice retention

By the staff of Dirt Wheels

This 50-quart cooler retained ice for over four days in the blistering heat and sun of Southern California.

By the staff of Dirt Wheels


The days of heat are finally winding down here in Southern California, which means instead of 105-degree averages, we are settling into the 80–90s. Coolers are always on hand when we go testing ATVs and UTVs. Some we take with us, while others get stowed at camp.

We are tough on our gear and expect a lot out of the products we test. Fortunately, Pelican builds some of the toughest coolers on the market. We wanted a cooler that could fit enough to camp for a few days and keep our items frosty! We picked up a Pelican $299.95 50QT Elite cooler to abuse and reuse.


 Pelican built the Elite out of heavy-duty injection-molded plastic. The interior of the cooler is separated from the exterior by 2-inch polyurethane insulation. On the exterior, there are large molded handles to carry the cooler, molded-in cup holders on the lid, and even a fish-measuring scale.

They continued to impress us with a built-in bottle opener and a metal shank that you can run a lock through the lid and the body to keep the contents of the cooler safe while you are away from it.

Molded-in tie-down points are something we approve of, along with a tethered and threaded drain plug that you can attach a garden hose to. The bottom of the cooler has non-mark and non-skid rubber feet. Two heavy-duty EZ press-and-pull latches keep the Elite closed or make it easy to open.

 The exterior dimensions of the Elite Cooler are 30 inches long, 20.3 inches wide and 20.4 inches tall. Inside the cooler measures at 17.5 by 11 by 13.7 inches with a 52.87-quart capacity. Pelican claims that you can fill the cooler with a 2:1 food/drink ratio of ice, have enough food for two days of camping, along with up to 24 sodas inside. You could ditch the food and instead have up to 34 soda cans inside the cooler with ice. 

You can fit up to two days of food and drinks for a nice camping trip in this model alone.



Our first test was to see how long we could get ice to last sitting in the sun in 90–105-degree heat. We expected maybe a day and a half, but we found a bit of ice left around our water bottles at the end of day four! That thoroughly impressed us. Pelican does say that it has up to eight days of retention, but we assume that’s in the shade and temperatures that won’t burn your skin when you walk outside.

The size was perfect for our normal testing trips to keep food and drinks on hand. We did find out that it gets pretty heavy when fully loaded and were thankful for the large grab handles. Two editors could easily move it around when needed; one would struggle alone, though. Pelican does make a 45QT Elite cooler that has wheels. 

The cup holders on the lid are a nice addition, but we liked the latching mechanisms and the tie-down points even more. We strapped the cooler into a few of our test UTVs to have lunch, cold sodas, and water on the trail. When the cooler sat at camp, the built-in bottle opener was great for cracking open ice-cold sarsaparilla.



 We have abused our Pelican Elite cooler, and it keeps holding strong. It is now our go-to for all of our testing trips in the heat. The ice retention is great, and it lasts longer than we generally need it to. We can fit quite a lot of food and drinks in it, too.

Pelican offers 14 different colorways for the Elite. It is made in the United States and has a lifetime warranty. They are just as confident in their ruggedness as we are. Go to to check out all the different sizes and models of coolers!

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