You most likely know Otterbox from the cell phone world. Whether it’s you or someone you know, you’ve probably got a story of how Otterbox saved the day when someone’s phone fell out of a window or some other crazy story.

Good news. Otterbox now makes a limited range of coolers designed to withstand much the same abuse. Both Otterbox and Pelican coolers come from companies whose primary mission is to save all your stuff from disaster, so we’re pleased to see their range of tough-as-nails coolers.

Let’s take a close look at both brands to see which one deserves the prime spot in your next road trip in our Pelican versus Otterbox Review.

About The Brands

Both the brands have a few things you should keep in mind as we go through this review. The overall pros and cons can help clarify any issues and questions, plus give you a head start on choosing the right one.

Otterbox

Why We Like It

  • extreme ice retention (14 days)
  • includes a dry goods tray
  • accessories track for hanging your GPS or other essentials

Why We’re Skeptical

  • More expensive than Pelican
  • limited choices

Pelican

Why We Like It:

  • more affordable than Otterbox
  • grizzly proof without the locking system
  • aggressive styling

Why We’re Skeptical

  • half the ice retention rate of Otterbox
  • no accessories track or dry goods tray

Pelican And Otterbox Comparison

Pelican and Otterobox are cut from similar cloth. Pelican started by producing things like cases for tactical gear and heavy duty accessories while Otterbox has the indestructible cell phone case. They took that bold aesthetic to the world of coolers, producing beefy, sturdy designs with few soft lines. Although they aren’t exactly the same, both belong in a decidedly masculine design category.

How Are They Similar?

Let’s start with what ties them together first. Like most high-end coolers, they do use the same sort of process for manufacturing to produce similarly robust coolers that can withstand a lot. They’re investments you’ll have for life rather than just a few seasons, so consider what you’re getting into.

Materials

Both companies use a process called “rotational molding” to manufacture their coolers. Rotomolded coolers are made exactly as they sound, by rotating the mold as plastic is poured. This method creates an even coating and produces a body that’s much stronger by eliminating weak points. The exterior is crack resistant and doesn’t degrade under UV exposure the way cheap coolers will.

The interior uses two to three inches of pressure injected, commercial grade insulation to achieve better coverage. There are no temperature inconsistencies and ice retention. Latches are a rubber blend that also resists cracking even with heavy use.

Design

Both styles of coolers use an aggressive design that holds in the cold and feels pretty beefy in your arms. The Pelican coolers have a wide overhang for the lid, like Otterbox but even more pronounced. Both have fewer smooth edges than other comparable coolers, but the corners and sides do have rounded ends that won’t snag or bruise you if you walk by.

They both also have non-slip feet at the bottom with molded tie-downs so you can secure the cooler in a variety of environments even when slippery on your boat or after rain in the back of your truck. No more gimmicky, rigged tie downs and crossing your fingers that everything holds.

Both can be used as extra seating because the tough exterior supports eight much easier without bowing. The tough roto molded plastic makes everything more sturdy and more efficient although you may get tired of moving every time someone wants something.

Preparation

Prepping your cooler is going to be the key to getting those really long ice retention times that everyone talks about. The problem with insulation in these coolers is that it absorbs the ambient temperature of the room over time. If your cooler has been in your hot garage for two weeks, the insulation is going to be a little warm. Put your ice in, and it’ll melt as the insulation cools back down again.

To get a head start, pack your cooler overnight with ice and close the lid. In the morning, drain off any excess water and top off with fresh ice. You should experience those long ice retention times everyone is talking about.

Durability

Both coolers have limited lifetime warranties for defects in both the exterior and interior as well as common weak points such as latches and hinges. Both are reinforced with the hinges molded into the body of the cooler itself and the latches being a durable blend of rubber.

They’re also certified grizzly proof by the IGBC when locked with the locking kits. This is important not only for your safety but also for the protection of bears which often eat things they shouldn’t when they encounter man in the wild.

How Are They Different?

The basic concept of both coolers is the same, roto-molded exterior with commercial grade insulation, but there are a few things that set them apart. Let’s take a look at some differences that could finally give you the clarity you need to decide between them.

Accessories And Details

Both companies tried to add a few little extras to their coolers to make them more convenient to have around. Pelican’s accessories include molded-in drink holders at the lid of the cooler and bottle openers located on the sides. ON the larger coolers, there’s even more than one bottle opener.

Otterbox took a different approach with their accessories. Molded into the sides of the cooler are tracks designed to help you mount various kinds of accessories to keep them right at your fingertips. You could hang your GPS or fish tracker, for example, or never lose your phone again. It also has an extension for a butler’s tray on the side so that you don’t have to pick up your drinks each time you want to open the cooler.

Soft Coolers

The soft options from both companies take a sharp deviation in design. Pelican’s only soft cooler option is a really aggressive cooler with a rubber-like look that mimics wetsuit material. It features a zip-around lid that flips open to give you better access to everything inside.

It secures tightly with two buckle closures on the front and will float temporarily should you drop it in the water accidentally. It comes in a 12-can, 24-can, and 48-can capacity and has a compression molded, anti-slip base. There’s no backpack option, but this style is rounded and really convenient to carry because it’s about half the weight of standard hard-sided coolers.

Otterbox’s soft-sided cooler is a lot different. It comes in two sizes, 20 and 30 quarts, and uses a different, but equally as durable exterior material to create a waterproof, tear-resistant cooler. The 30-quart converts from a shoulder carry to a backpack.

Both include accessories mounts, and a bottle opener is standard on the front. The base is a heavier material that’s non-slip. It has exterior storage pockets with duraflex hardware. The opening is extra wide, so you have access to everything that’s inside, and it comes in a few different colors.

Capacity

The capacity of Pelican is a bit more varied with much larger choices than Otterbox. You can find a cooler up to 250 quarts. The largest Otterbox available is just 65 quarts. They both have a good range on the lower end, but Pelican still edges Otterbox out. In fact, Otterbox has only three capacities of-hard-sided cooler and two for their soft-sided cooler whereas Pelican offers seven hard sided capacities and three soft-sided capacities.

Price

There’s a small price difference between the two with Pelican edging out Otterbox by a hair. They run neck and neck in price with a Pelican 50 quart being the same price as an Otterbox 45 quart. Five quarts may not make much of a difference if you really love the Otterbox style, but for those of you on a budget, Pelican is the winner here.

Our Favorite Models

We’ll be honest. We love everything that both these companies make, but we do have some favorites. We’ve chosen two models we think should satisfy the majority of your needs. They were both picked on moderation of size and portability.

Otterbox Venture 45 Weekend Cooler

The Venture 45 is a rotomolded cooler with a 45-quart capacity. It features aggressive styling and a variety of color choices. It includes molded tracks along the body to mount your favorite accessories and a dry storage tray.

The interior has two inches of commercial grade insulation and can keep ice cold for up to 14 days. Yes, you read that right. 14 days, nearly twice as long as the Pelican claim with proper preparation and ideal conditions.

Small details like a bottle opener on the side and non-slip rubber feet plus molded tie-downs make it a convenient cooler to transport. Molded grips on the sides are good for solo or tandem carry, and the gently sloped drain spout keeps things cleaner without having to top the cooler over completely.

It’s certified bear-proof by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee and comes with a limited lifetime warranty against cooler defects including the exterior and interior walls, the hinges, and the latches.

Why Customers Like It:

  • excellent ice retention
  • accessories track molded to the outside wall
  • comes with a lifetime guarantee

Common Complaints

  • heavy
  • condensation builds around the drain plug

Pelican Elite 50 Quart

Pelican’s comparable cooler is a 50-quart option that features Pelican’s tactical styling with a few hard lines and a beefy exterior. It has a wide overhand from the lid making it easy to carry solo or tandem, and the 50 quart is true to size. It has no slip feet and molded tie downs to secure the cooler to even slippery surfaces.

The interior has up to two inches of premium insulation which holds in the cold with an ice retention rate of around seven days with preparation. You may even experience a few more days with proper preparation first.

It also includes a few little details such as cup holders molded directly to the top of the cooler and a bottle opener located on the side. A wide drain spout helps keep the cooler cleaner without tipping it over. It doesn’t come with a dry goods basket, but you can always purchase one directly from the company.

The cooler is a little on the heavy side, but it’s bear proof as certified by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, and it comes with a lifetime guarantee for defective manufacturing including exterior and interior walls, hinges, and latches.

Why Customers Like It

  • excellent ice retention
  • holds a little more than the Otterbox
  • aggressive styling

Common Complaints

  • no organizational tools included
  • half the ice retention of Otterbox

The Best Cooler For You

The best cooler for you is going to depend on a few things. Both coolers have excellent styling, great ice retention, and lifetime guarantees. You’re investing in a cooler that you should have for the rest of your life, no more replacing your cheap cooler once a season. Let’s look at a few determining factors that could sway in one direction or another.

Get An Otterbox If:

  • you need the most extreme limits of ice retention
  • you prefer the multi-color options of Otterbox
  • you’re already an Otterbox fan through their other gear
  • you have a lot of accessories and no good place to put them
  • you can’t live without a dry goods tray

Get A Pelican If:

  • you prefer the beefy styling
  • you like more traditional colors
  • you’re budget minded, and that’s the final deciding factor
  • you’re already a fan of Pelican’s other gear
  • you prefer a simple latch system

Final Thoughts

Both Pelican and Otterbox fulfill the manly cooler niche in looks, but the ice retention in both is excellent. Otterbox blows most coolers away in this area, but at the cost of a few more dollars spent. If your budget is the final deciding factor, you’re still going to get a respectable ice retention rate from Pelican without the extra cash.

The choice is clear. For sheer performance, go with the Otterbox. For budget purposes, Pelican is your best bet. Between those two things, decide which one works better in your favor and that’s the cooler you’re going to love most.

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