Wheels Up with Pelican's Air Cases for Travel

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Wheels Up with Pelican’s Air Cases for Travel

Traveling with expensive, delicate photo equipment is stressful. No photographer enjoys entrusting someone else—let alone airport security—with their gear, but sometimes you don't have a choice. Fortunately, Pelican's Air series includes a trio of hard cases for travelers seeking a smart balance of size, weight, and strength.

Since its launch in 2016, Pelican's Air series has grown to include well over a dozen cases of all sizes for a variety of purposes. This review focuses on the three cases designed for air travel: the 1535, 1595, and 1615. All of them share the same proprietary HPX Polymer exterior, a crush-resistant material up to 40% lighter than Pelican's other polymer cases. For example, the 1535 weighs 8.7 lb versus the comparable 1510, which weighs 13.6 lb. Given that the weight of your luggage can lead to extra fees or having your luggage rejected entirely by an airline, the smaller weight is more than a matter of convenience when traveling by air.

Model

Weight (empty)

Exterior Dimensions

Type*

1535

8.7 lb

22 x 14 x 9"

Carry-On

1595

13.6 lb

28.5 x 17.8 x 10.7"

Checked

1615

14.1 lb

32.6 x 18.4 x 11.0"

Checked

*Check with your airline, as requirements vary

The 1535 is sized as a carry-on for most airlines and can comfortably fit a camera, multiple lenses, a flash, and other accessories. On the other end of the spectrum, the 1615 is as large as you can go for standard checked luggage. This behemoth is capable of transporting way more camera gear than I would ever feel safe entrusting with someone else. The 1595 is the newest of the three cases, fitting comfortably between the 1535 and 1615. I've taken to using this as a studio transport case capable of housing the perfect blend of lights and cameras for simple shoots.

153515951615

1535 (left), 1595 (center), and 1615 (right)

You have a few ways to organize your gear in Air cases: pick-n-pluck foam, padded dividers, or TrekPak dividers. Personally, the TrekPak system is my favorite, especially when I need to maximize the space inside of a case. TrekPak dividers are rigid enough to hold their form but flexible enough to endure bumps and shocks. They are easily tailored to your specific gear using a proprietary cutter tool. I prefer this to the less customizable padded divider set or the wasted space foam padding creates.

TrekPak Divider Kit for Pelican 1615 Air Case
TrekPak Divider Kit for Pelican 1615 Air Case

Two primary attributes make or break luggage: closure and mobility. Unlike the suitcase with a shoddy zipper you bought last-minute from a souvenir shop in Times Square, all Air cases feature Press and Pull latches and stainless steel padlock protectors compatible with TSA-compliant locks. They won't break open no matter how much abuse baggage handlers dish out. All three cases also feature O-rings that seal contents to an IP67-rating to keep contaminants out and a pressure relief valve regulates internal pressure to protect contents.

As for transport, they all use retractable trolley handles and wheels with stainless-steel bearings for smooth, quiet rolling. Additionally, they have over-molded side and top handles for carry. Business card holders are also incorporated to help make your case stand out in the luggage carousel—if you happen to be traveling with a bunch of other photographers.

If you must check your camera gear for a flight, Pelican's Air series offers about as much protection as you could possibly hope for out of a hard case. Before choosing your model, be sure to check with your airline for exact dimension specifications for checked and carry-on luggage.

Do you fly with your gear? Share your tips for keeping your gear safe in the Comments section, below!

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