Pelican, Yeti Coolers vs. Chest Freezer: Finding the Best Cold Storage for You
One question we get all the time is: "What is the best way to store/transport my IcePlates?" We have two basic choices that apply to most people/applications: Coolers and Freezers.
Coolers and freezers go hand in hand. You need access to a freezer to initially freeze the IcePlates. A cooler is a useful next step depending on set-up and circumstances. Premium coolers from companies like Yeti and Pelican have been all the rage the last few years. They are impressive products, holding up to bear attacks, keeping ice in extreme conditions for extended periods of time, displaying a great design aesthetic and communicating a rugged/outdoor lifestyle that many people find appealing. We own both Yeti and Pelican Cooler products here at Qore Performance. While we love them both, we have found them to have surprising limitations in both usability and value. Simultaneously, chest freezers from companies like Haier have become incredibly affordable and energy efficient, delivering amazing value and drawing so little power that they mount a credible and often overlooked competitor to the premium cooler. In this article, we will take a quick look at both categories of products and which solution is right for your mission/application.
Pelican and Yeti Coolers
This is not a cooler review. The world has tons of reviews on both Yeti and Pelican Coolers. We don’t need to add to this list. In fact (and full disclosure), we partner with Pelican for our IcePlate Pelican Package and use it regularly, which gives us intimate familiarity with the product.
What many people don’t know about Pelican and Yeti Coolers is that they require some preparation and work to function properly. Both Pelican and Yeti products require “pre-cooling” to work as advertised. This involves going to the grocery store and buying a bag of “sacrificial” ice to place in the cooler a few hours in advance. This process is effective, but time consuming and not super convenient. It also makes a heavy cooler even heavier. When loaded, Pelicans and Yetis are so heavy that anyone not named Dwayne Johnson requires a buddy to lift them into the bed of your truck/SUV or a dolly if you want to wheel the cooler down a dock or something similar (unless your Pelican Cooler has wheels like ours). One other thing we’ve noticed in using both the Pelican and the Yeti the coolers is that once they start taking on heat from the outside, they are powerless to reverse the melting process of the contents inside. Their effectiveness and duration are inversely correlated to the number of times users open the lid.
We commonly use the Haier Chest Freezers for trade shows and demos. We use Insignia Chest Freezers for Dutch Bros Coffee Arizona and Dutch Bros Coffee West Valley stores. In fact, we’ve been told we purchase more chest freezers than most Best Buy store locations. Let’s take a look at the utility of the Chest Freezers with a recent personal experience: setting up the Qore Performance Rehab Tent at the National Tactical Medic Competition hosted by SOARescue in Charlotte, NC. Our company chest freezer has all sorts of bumps, dents and scratches on it (but still runs perfectly) from repeated loading and unloading in my truck for shows and events. I loaded the chest freezer in my truck in about 10 minutes by removing the frozen IcePlates, lifting the chest freezer into the bed, reloading the frozen IcePlates once the chest freezer is in the bed of the truck. It was pretty quick. With a buddy present, removing the frozen IcePlates would not have been necessary. I could have lifted the chest freezer directly into the bed; it is light enough to do this and I’m not the strongest guy around with a Deadlift just under 350 pounds. Yeti and Pelican Coolers are simply too heavy and cumbersome for me to do this alone and have far less storage volume due to the insulation. I could not fit 35 IcePlates in my Pelican Cooler (we own the 45), but the 3.5 cubic foot Haier Chest freezer devoured 35 frozen IcePlates no problem.
I drove six hours in 90F+ heat (it was sunny) from McLean, VA to the Gaston College Training Academy in Dallas, NC (you read that correctly) with the unplugged Haier chest freezer in the bed of my truck. When I arrived, the IcePlates were still frozen solid. Rock solid. I then plugged the chest freezer into a local outlet using my 100-foot extension cord that I carry in my truck (purchased at Lowe’s Homes Improvement for about $20) and we were good to go. Note: I didn’t open the chest freezer once from the time I left my garage in McLean to the time I pulled up to the venue in Charlotte. This is equally important for the Pelican Cooler, Yeti Cooler and Haier Chest Freezer.
Not only did the freezer keep the IcePlates frozen solid for the six hour drive, but once I got on site, I was able to plug it in and recover any thawing that had occurred (which was near zero, but this is a nice capability to have and might have been necessary in a different scenario or longer drive).
The National Tactical Medic Competition was a great way for us to see how incredibly powerful the chest freezer is for portable cooling jobs. The Haier 3.5 cu foot Chest Freezer retails at Best Buy for about $200 while the Pelican 45 sells for $380 and the Yeti Tundra 45 sells for $300. You would need two 45 quart coolers to hold the equivalent volume of the 3.5 cu foot freezer, which makes the Haier freezer a much more economical purchase. That is a tough value proposition by itself, but especially daunting when you consider I could solo-load the Haier, while the Yeti and Pelican each require buddy loading. For any situation or mission requiring maximum cooling with infrastructure accessible inside of a 24 hour period, the Haier is the clear winner.
Qore Performance sells the Insignia 5.3 cu foot, as well as the 7.0 cu. foot chester freezers. The 5.3 ft. is particularly useful, with shelving that simplifies IcePlate storage. Reach out to our team info at qoreperformance dot com for more pricing information.
However, if you are going to locations/sites without power or which require extraordinary durability, then our IcePlate Pelican Package might be the better solution. The Pelican and Yeti Coolers are still excellent for expeditionary situations where power is not available, weight isn’t a concern, storage density/capacity aren’t an issue and where budget isn’t a serious concern.