Traveling in Robust Style – Review of Pelican Progear Elite Luggage

neuroanatomist

I post too Much on Here!!
CR Pro
Jul 21, 2010
24,649
2,181
I have used Pelican and Storm hard cases for several years, in sizes ranging from small (Storm im2050 for my EOS M kit) to large (Storm im2720 for a 600/4 and 8-10 other lenses). The cases are waterproof, crushproof, and offer excellent protection at home and away. While I use most for storage at home, I often use a Storm im2500 as carry-on luggage when traveling with camera gear, just in case a gate-check is forced. Most of my trips were overnight, with both the camera gear (in smaller cases like a Lowepro Toploader and Lens Cases) and my personal items in the one hard case. Fitting camera, 1-2 lenses, a travel tripod (RRS TQC-14), change of clothes, and toiletries in one carry-on case is often a tight squeeze, but far more convenient than checking luggage.

I have recently begun to travel for business more frequently, usually on trips longer than a single night. It occurred to me that it would be nice for the rest of my stuff to have a higher level of protection than offered by typical luggage, both from the vagaries of airline travel and from the elements during transfers, e.g. walking to a hotel in the rain. In addition, on longer business trips I generally take a personal laptop (17” MacBook Pro), and it would be convenient to put that, the travel tripod, and sometimes other electronic gear into checked luggage.

To meet those needs, I recently purchased a set of three of the new Pelican Progear Elite Luggage. It uses a double-wall construction so it’s lighter than typical Pelican/Storm cases (note that lighter doesn’t mean light), while still being waterproof (including submersion), crushproof, and impact-proof.



The three available sizes are pictured above: the 22” Carry-On which meets airline carry-on size regulations, and the 27” Weekender and 30” Vacationer which both meet airline checked bag size regulations. The full dimensions are as follows:



As I stated, despite Pelican’s claims of being ‘lightweight’, the 30” Vacationer at 15.6 lbs may account for 30% or more of your checked bag weight limit, depending on airline and class of service. Then again, many 28-30” soft side cases are in the 8-10 lb range and similarly sized hard side cases are in the 8-12 lb range, so the Pelican cases aren’t too much heavier…and those other cases generally not water/impact/crush proof.

The cases are constructed from injection-molded HPX polypropylene resin and have the typical rugged Pelican build quality and their lifetime guarantee. Basic features include a locking, retractable handle and ball-bearing wheels that roll smoothly (they are two-wheeled cases).

Looking at the dimensions prior to purchase, it seemed the The 22” Carry-On would be a good size for a 600mm f/4L IS II including the reverse-mounted hood. I also noticed the very tight tolerance between the exterior dimensions of the 27” Weekender and the interior dimensions of the 30” Vacationer (as little as 0.1” in one dimension), and I wondered if the cases would be able to nest for storage – the answer is yes.



A zipper closure is a common failure point on typical luggage, but that’s not an issue here. The cases close securely with Valox press-and-pull latches, two for the 22” case (front) or four for the 27” and 30” cases (front and sides). The operation of the latches is similar to those found on the Storm cases, which can be opened and closed with minimal effort and no noise (unlike the double-throw ‘knuckle-buster’ latches on Pelican cases which make a distinctive and unavoidable ‘snap’ that sounds quite loud when leaving a hotel room for pre-dawn photography…or so my wife informed me on a trip some years back).



The cases feature Pelican’s automatic pressure equalization valve to maintain ambient pressure with changing elevation; the valve’s Goretex membrane prevents water ingress.There is also an integrated TSA-approved lock for security, with a user-selectable three-digit combination. The hasp for the lock clips down below the lock when not in use.



Those used to Pelican and Storm cases will notice a few design differences in the Progear luggage. Instead of fold-down handles, these cases feature three recessed handles that are essentially rubber-covered stainless steel straps. The flat design takes up less space on the exterior of the case, but is not as comfortable to hold for longer durations as the solid round handles on Pelican/Storm cases.



The hinges are also constructed differently, using a series short transverse stainless steel pins rather than longer rods running along the length of the case. There’s a very practical way in which they are different – the Pelican/Storm case lids have a travel limit that stops the lid from opening further at a bit past 90°, whereas the Progear luggage lids will continue until they are >180° and resting on the floor. The top and bottom of the interior are lined with a durable fabric, and design attention was paid to minimizing the protrusions into the case interior from the wheels and retractable handle, effectively increasing interior volume.



The cases are available in a range of colors, although with the exception of the orchid with black trim that I chose, they are mostly gray with an accent trim color.



The bright, bold colors are distinctive, and I chose the orchid and black cases as the most easily visible (that, and my daughter preferred the color), which is the same reason my Storm cases are all in the yellow color. The wisdom of that decision was confirmed on my last international trip, where after collecting one piece of luggage in the Zürich terminal, I waited patiently for the other…and waited…and waited. Eventually a baggage handler indicated that all of the luggage was out (there were only ~5 pieces left on the carousel at that point), and I should go to lost and found. As I walked in that direction, I spotted what could only be my missing luggage moving along a belt a couple of carousels over – the bright color was visible across the concourse, and I collected my misdirected case and headed out.

Pelican Elite Progear Luggage can be ordered as the case alone or with the Enhanced Travel System (ETS), which comprises a removable lid organizer, Dopp-style toiletries bag, shoe sack, laundry bag and garment bag. The 22” Carry-On comes with the lid organizer, toiletries bag, and shoe sack; the larger pieces come with those three items and the laundry and garment bags. The extra pieces add bit to the total weight of the case, the three ETS pieces with the 22” Carry-On add 1.3 lbs, the five ETS pieces add 3.3 lbs to the 27” Weekender and 3.8 lbs to the 30” Vacationer (the lid organizer is sized to match the case, all other pieces are identical across the lineup).

The lid organizer completely fills the depth of the lid, and has a large zippered compartment and a small outer mesh zippered pocket. There is also a mesh barrier along the bottom portion of the large compartment to keep things from falling out when the compartment is opened with the lid propped up. The organizer secures to the case lid with eight tabs around the periphery. It’s fairly easy to remove and install, and secure enough to hold fairly heavy items (e.g. a large laptop) inside the organizer.



The toiletries bag is standard, with one small internal zip pocket. For me, it’s the right size for a trip of several days, too large for an overnight and I’d have preferred that a smaller version come with the 22” Carry-On. The shoe sack is appropriately sized with a mesh vent near the back. The laundry bag zips open to reveal a pair of vented internal compartments. The garment bag is open at the bottom and also has mesh at the lower edge (not sure of the need for that redundancy); it holds four suits on their hangers.



The Pelican Progear Elite Luggage line is many things – robust, waterproof, well constructed, functional, and attractive. One thing it’s not is inexpensive, but good luggage is an investment…and I fully expect this to be the last luggage I’ll ever buy!
 

expatinasia

EOS 5D Mark IV
Aug 18, 2011
1,717
10
Asia Pacific
Interesting, thanks neuro.

I have often looked at Pelican's but they just do not fit my travel needs due to the lack of appropriate compartments and their weight. I also would never check-in a laptop as you mentioned towards the beginning of the article, that's just one enormous no, no.

I travel a lot and my carry-on is full of electronics. I have travelled so much and so frequently over the past 20 years that I nearly always now check-in a bag, but it only has clothes and a few wires (such as XLR cables etc) and is often much lighter than my carry-on, which if it looks right, hardly ever gets weighed.

I can definitely see the advantage of the Pelican's and I know a lot of people that have them, but I have yet to be sold on them.
 

CanonFanBoy

Real men single speed.
CR Pro
Jan 28, 2015
5,231
3,450
Irving, Texas
Great review and thank you for posting this. I've used Pelican cases to travel with my guns for years. I use a Pelican 1500 case fitted to carry two revolvers and a 1911 pistol, and Pelican 1750s to carry AR-15s as checked baggage. I've never had a problem and they offer excellent protection. It is great to see that Pelican is making luggage too. Like the OP said, this would be the last luggage one would ever need.
 

wtlloyd

EOS RP
Sep 1, 2010
281
11
Kihei, HI
Thank you for a very informative review.
Weight and waterproof...with the materials science we have today, why can't we have rolling cases that strain the size limits at 7 or 8 pounds weight?
 
Oct 11, 2016
1
0
CanonFanBoy said:
Great review and thank you for posting this. I've used Pelican cases to travel with my guns for years. I use a Pelican 1500 case fitted to carry two revolvers and a 1911 pistol, and Pelican 1750s to carry AR-15s as checked baggage. I've never had a problem and they offer excellent protection. It is great to see that Pelican is making luggage too. Like the OP said, this would be the last luggage one would ever need.
Were you able to carry a pistol in a checked baggage? Wow, I thought it is prohibited to carry a gun when travelling by air. It seems many will buy Pelican now if it let them carry a gun without being detected from the x-ray. ^_^
 

expatinasia

EOS 5D Mark IV
Aug 18, 2011
1,717
10
Asia Pacific
Travelmosafer said:
Were you able to carry a pistol in a checked baggage? Wow, I thought it is prohibited to carry a gun when travelling by air. It seems many will buy Pelican now if it let them carry a gun without being detected from the x-ray. ^_^
Here you go Travelmosafer, direct from the TSA:

https://www.tsa.gov/travel/transporting-firearms-and-ammunition

Of course every country is different.
 

CanonFanBoy

Real men single speed.
CR Pro
Jan 28, 2015
5,231
3,450
Irving, Texas
Travelmosafer said:
CanonFanBoy said:
Great review and thank you for posting this. I've used Pelican cases to travel with my guns for years. I use a Pelican 1500 case fitted to carry two revolvers and a 1911 pistol, and Pelican 1750s to carry AR-15s as checked baggage. I've never had a problem and they offer excellent protection. It is great to see that Pelican is making luggage too. Like the OP said, this would be the last luggage one would ever need.
Were you able to carry a pistol in a checked baggage? Wow, I thought it is prohibited to carry a gun when travelling by air. It seems many will buy Pelican now if it let them carry a gun without being detected from the x-ray. ^_^
Yup, guns in checked baggage. The case and contents are inspected in the traveler's presence and then locked with a non-TSA lock. TSA is not permitted to unlock or lock the case. Your gear is very safe. I use those big disk shaped locks. I also cable lock the case inside a suitcase. If the bag goes missing then the FBI and ATF are called in. They will find your stuff and somebody will go to prison for taking it.

I've travelled now with 2x 38 specials 2x 45 ACP, and 1x 357 magnum all in the same case. That's 3 revolvers and 2 pistols. Ammo can also be transported.
 

neuroanatomist

I post too Much on Here!!
CR Pro
Jul 21, 2010
24,649
2,181
CanonFanBoy said:
If the bag goes missing then the FBI and ATF are called in. They will find your stuff and somebody will go to prison for taking it.
Indeed – since the same travel policies apply to starter pistols, I've read suggestions for photographers who need to check their camera gear to pack (and declare!!) a starter pistol in the case.
 

CanonFanBoy

Real men single speed.
CR Pro
Jan 28, 2015
5,231
3,450
Irving, Texas
neuroanatomist said:
CanonFanBoy said:
If the bag goes missing then the FBI and ATF are called in. They will find your stuff and somebody will go to prison for taking it.
Indeed – since the same travel policies apply to starter pistols, I've read suggestions for photographers who need to check their camera gear to pack (and declare!!) a starter pistol in the case.
I've heard the same and I think it is a great idea. The added bonus being a TSA agent possibly going down because of a starter pistol. :)

Crap. I just got flagged.

My carry on bag was inspected in Orlando in 2010 and TSA found this (http://hammerheadrifletool.com/). I forgot it was there. He took it out, made the "nail driving" motion and even fingered the spike on the end. Said, "I guess this is okay."

I thought for sure I was going to lose it. Nope. That thing could do some real damage. Nuts.

People with little Swiss Army knives or too much shampoo didn't fare as well.