Taking care of expensive firearms, optics, camera gear and other electronics while traveling is a priority for those who've invested time and money in such equipment. Whether you're flying, hauling gear in the bed of a truck, or operating in an environment that's cold and wet, quality protective cases can help ensure your valued equipment stays safe and functional.
Here's a look at some products that do just that.
Pelican has long been an industry leader in hard-shell, protective cases. New this year is a six-case product line they've dubbed "Air," designed to cut weight without sacrificing durability. The new cases weigh up to 40 percent less than other polymer cases. They're molded from a proprietary, lightweight resin and previously solid structural elements are now honeycombed.
Like other Pelican cases, they're engineered with an o-ring gasket to be waterproof. An automatic purge valve balances air pressure inside the case. Each case has rubber overmolded handles, stainless steel hasp protectors, standard double-throw latches and a handy business card holder.
The Pelican Air 1535 (pictured above) is the model designed specifically as a carry-on piece, with dimensions perfectly matching the maximum size allowed by most airlines – it'll fit in overhead compartments of all but the smallest regional jets. This case got a workout on multiple trips this year, including one frantic dash through the Vancouver airport: The stainless-steel bearing wheels and retractable extension handle were put to the test, and the near-indestructible case occasionally slammed into the sides of walls and moving conveyor belts.
With foam inserts, it weighs just under 10 pounds. You can get traditional inserts, where you pluck out the compartments to hold your gear, padded divider inserts or a new TrekPak system that uses pre-installed wall sections, divider panels, locking pins and a great little cutting tool that ensures safe, straight cuts. The dividers are made from corrugated plastic with dense foam on each side. It took me about 20 minutes to configure, cut and set up my case – extra divider material is included in case you make a mistake or want to reconfigure later.
TrekPak for the 1535 model comes with two perimeter pieces, two 15-inch dividers, two 20-inch dividers and 20 pins. It increases cost, but this TrekPak option was a superb choice.
Cost: Manufacturer's suggested price is $250, but can be found for $189 ($220 with foam). TrekPak kit sells for $127.
Guarantee: Pelican guarantees its injection-molded products for a lifetime against breakage or defects in workmanship. They're also guaranteed to be watertight to a depth of 3.3 feet for 30 minutes when properly closed with an undamaged o-ring in place.
You can fit more than your rifle into the SKB iSeries 5014 case
Photo Credit: Ken Perrotte
Two long rifle cases, very similar in features and airline approved, performed well. Each case easily handles two long firearms, and while you can custom cut or pluck the foam to precisely fit your firearms' dimensions, I've always tended to use the layered foam and then pack additional gear into the case, trying to max out the 50-pound weight limit most airlines authorize for economy travel.
The SKB iSeries 5014 case has taken a pounding over the last two years, handled many times over multiple flights, including one trip to Africa where the case was misrouted and handled at least a dozen times in various airports.
Injection-molded from polypropylene copolymer resin, it has a roomy interior (50 inches long, 14.5 inches wide, 6 inches deep), a watertight gasket, four patented "trigger release" latches and padlock locations, and an automatic ambient pressure equalization valve. For handling, it features sturdy, snap-down rubber over-molded cushion grip handles on three sides and in-line skate style wheels that rolled effortlessly across everything from asphalt to packed gravel. Much of the made-in-the-USA design is military standard (MIL-STD-648C). With layered foam, it checks in a little under 25 pounds.
Guarantee: Lifetime warranty, plus $1,500 in content coverage should items be damaged. Parts such as locks, handles and wheels are designed for easy replacement and are supplied at no charge if they fail. Learn more at www.skbdirect.com
The Pelican 1750 comes with a three-piece foam set.
Photo Credit: Manufacturer
Next is the Pelican Model 1750 case, nearly identical in interior dimensions to the SKB product (a big skinnier at 13.5 inches). It's watertight, crushproof and dustproof, and includes an automatic pressure equalization valve.
This case comes with two fold-down, overmolded handles – none on the end with the easy-rolling polyurethane wheels with stainless steel bearings.
This case has four "double throw" latches that are easy to open and close crisply and securely. Two of the four padlock locations are protected with stainless steel. It's available in black, olive-drab green, or desert tan.
Cost: About $200 at some retailers, including a three-piece uncut foam set.
Guarantee: See Pelican guarantee above.