Tested: Pelican 50QT Elite Cooler

By Justin Walker 1 July 2020
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Keep your food and drinks chilled for longer at your campsite with Pelican’s sturdy cooler.

The humble cooler – or ‘esky’, as Aussies know it – has been the go-to food and beverage hold-all for short trips for decades. These simple units, packed with ice, are ubiquitous to campgrounds around Australia for good reason: as long as you have access to ice, an Esky will never fail.

The construction means there’s nothing that can go wrong with them and, for the most basic ones, they are pretty cheap. If you’re camping consists mostly of weekends away – or you’re a regular boatie and/or angler – they are brilliant bang for your bucks when it comes to keeping food (or your catch) fresh and beers cold.

Pelican is a brand renowned for producing near-indestructible protective cases for civilian and military use, ranging from those designed for laptop computers through to larger storage cases that can be secured in or on your car or on your boat. The brand branched into the cooler market a couple of years ago, bringing with it all you’d expect in terms of construction standards, build quality and optimum performance.

Its Elite Cooler range covers capacities from 19 to 236 litres, in a variety of colour schemes. This white and grey 50QT (QT signifies the US-specific Quart measurement, which equates to 47 litres) Elite Cooler has been residing in the back of the Walker Discovery for the past year or so.

The Pelican 50QT Elite Cooler has performed as claimed during the entire 18 months of testing, keeping food and drinks cold and fresh.

As you’d expect with any product adorned with the Pelican label, this thing is built tough (the company offers a lifetime guarantee). The hard plastic exterior protects 50mm of polyurethane insulation inside, and there’s a freezer-grade gasket lining the lid. All hardware is stainless steel for resistance to corrosion; the moulded handles are tough enough to use as tie-down points; a drain and tethered plug take care of melted ice; there’s a lock hasp; and there’s a bottle opener in the lid. Plus, there’s a fish scale (measure) on the lid for anglers.

Pelican is very confident in the chilling capabilities of its Elite Cooler range, claiming up to 10 days of ice retention. That’s a very big claim and one that is, of course, somewhat reliant on conditions and where you store your cooler when camping (in the vehicle, the tent vestibule, or under a shady tree).

Every component of the 50QT is overbuilt to ensure decades of reliable service. The heavy duty latches and rubber seal assist in keeping the ice inside solid for linger, aiding cooling.

During one particularly hot three-day camping trip, with the 50QT spending time in the sun (and then inside the tent awning, and also the back of the Disco), we didn’t come close to needing to replenish the ice – unlike our fellow campers who did an ice-bag run on day two of the three days. The 50mm of insulation and the super-tight seal definitely helped here.

Whether we’d get the claimed 10 days would, again, be totally dependent on conditions, but having used a variety of eskys over many years of camping, this one definitely excelled.

The hardware and thick insulation, plus the unit’s overall size (762mm x 516mm x 518mm), contributes to a hefty dry weight of 12kg – and necessitates plenty of cargo space. Even empty, this thing is a handful to lug around – pack it full, and it’s a two-person job. The 50QT’s bulk also saw it chew up a fair amount of space inside the Disco’s cargo area; although, I had no qualms loading gear on top of the lid, as it’s a solid unit.

The asking price is high, but with incredibly robust construction, the fact it retains ice for a more-than-decent amount of time, and the lifetime guarantee, you can safely assume you’ll still be pulling coldies out of this big bopper 10-plus years from now. You can’t argue with that.

The 50QT’s thick insulation and beefy handles saw it account for a fair bit of cargo space in the back of the Discovery. (Note: all bags/boxes were tied down securely before we left.)

RRP: $444.95 Available at the Australian Pelican Store