I am not a “hard case guy,” but I know many who use them, and I know they are essential for a lot of photographers, videographers, and creatives who are constantly on the go and need extra protection for their gear. And, if you have even given hard cases a moment of thought, the Pelican brand of protective “stuff” is guaranteed to have made it onto your radar because the term “Pelican case” is often used even when referring to both the brand’s products and its competition. (We torture-tested one Pelican case in this video.) Will the new Pelican Vault V525 Carry-On Rolling Case (available with foam or padded dividers) make me a “hard case guy?” Let’s find out!
Pelican’s Vault Line
The Pelican Vault Line is marketed by Pelican as its “Affordable new case line from the worldwide leader in protection,” indicating that this is its entry-level line, as far as price point. Well, if this is Pelican’s entry-level offering, I really don’t know how much better its standard or Air cases could be over the Vault line of storage units.
Yes, there are differences—the most important being that Vault cases are not waterproof. They have an O-ring seal, but if you plan on submerging your camera gear, the Vault cases are not rated as waterproof. They are crushproof (why else would you want a hard case?), dustproof, and weatherproof.
Another difference: The Vault line has a one-year warranty instead of the lifetime warranty of many of the other Pelican cases.
Let’s go flying! The Vault V525s are standard carry-on size for airline travel. Of course, the carry-on size varies from airline to airline, but many case and luggage manufacturers have adopted a set of maximum dimensions that seem to work for most airlines/airliners. The Vault V525s should be able to slide under the seat in front of you (goodbye precious leg room) or in the overhead bins (use caution when opening since items may have shifted and a hard case to the head is not fun for anyone). I will compare the V525s to the other carry-ons from Pelican, below.
These Vault cases feature two easy-to-use push-button ABS latches that are substantial and sturdy. Simply push the button and lift the latches—it is a great design, intuitive, and easy to operate. I will say that my 18-month-old son was confounded by the latches. The photographer’s assistant training will continue.
These V525s feature stainless ball-bearing wheels that give them a smooth ride (over smooth surfaces). I took a V525 to the beach for some photos of it out in the elements, but I did not roll the case through the sand, because I’m sure that would not have played nice with the wheels and bearings. (Since this was the same location where I destroyed an underwater Leica camera, I did not feel like adding to the beach’s win total.)
The main carry handles (front and end), as well as the roller carry handle are oversized and comfortable. Neither of the three are padded, but their girth makes them comfortable for long-duration carries.
Another nice feature not seen on some other cases—the Vault cases have stainless steel lock hasps instead of simply holes for a lock molded into the plastic. This added security can definitely keep honest people honest.
The Vault cases are crushproof (you can use them as a seat) and dustproof, in addition to the aforementioned weather resistance.
Pelican Carry-Ons Compared
Pelican now sports three wheeled carry-on hard cases in its lineup: the Vault V525s discussed here, the 1535AirWF, and the 1510. Because the carry-on qualification makes the three cases almost identical in outer dimensions, it is the weight that differentiates the trio:
V525: 11.5 lb
1535AirWF: 8.7 lb
1510: 13.6 lb
According to the B&H specs, and Pelican’s own website, there is no weight difference between the foam and padded dividers for any of these carry-on cases.
If you need to travel light (and waterproof), you might want to go with the Air case. If you need super heavy-duty ruggedness (and, again, waterproof), the 1510 might be your case.
My Plans for the V525
I have no plans to retire my soft-sided camera shoulder bag(s) or backpack(s), but I do have a fantastic mission for the V525: protecting my astrophotography gear.
My Meade LX85 70mm f/5 Quadruplet ED APO Astrograph shipped with a foam-lined hard case that I immediately put onto a shelf and forgot about for several reasons: 1) the foam seemed too stiff to cushion the scope (when I unboxed it the first time I was almost expecting to see damage); 2) with the camera adapter and T-mount in place, the scope does not fit into the foam cutout; and 3) I added an Arca-type-compatible plate to the dovetail so I could mount the scope on an Arca-type quick release tripod head. With these “additions” to the rig, I felt that altering the factory case would not work well to protect the modified scope, so I never use it.
Confession time. When I head down the road to a park for (semi) darker skies, I have been carrying the astrograph on the passenger seat of my car wrapped in, um, a beach towel. Yep.
Enter the V525, and my astrograph will be riding in padded comfort in the trunk of the car from now on! I chose to customize the foam version for the Meade + Arca-type plate + camera adapter and T-mount + an additional cutout for the camera so that I don’t have to mount/dismount the camera when setting up.
Before I custom-cut the foam, I had visions of a beautiful installation. Well, that didn’t quite happen. Does my cutout work? Yes. Was I careful? Kind of. Is it pretty? No. I kind of wish the V525 came with Pelican’s Pick “N” Pluck foam, from which you tear away precut squares of foam to make space for your gear, but I will make do with the eyesore cutting that I managed for now.
I also chose to mount the Meade toward the near edge of the box to allow me the option of cutting holes for other lenses and gear. I haven’t committed to what those lenses and gear will be just yet, so the foam remains untouched for now.
Hard Case Guy?
So, am I now a “hard case guy?” The Vault V525 definitely has found a place in my gear closet, and it will be getting nighttime workouts hauling my Meade astrograph, camera, and other lenses to astro shoots.
I am sure that sometime in the future, I will find a need to carry other camera gear in this case, and I will not hesitate to grab the V525 with padded dividers for those missions. I will add this thought as well: Even though the Vault line represents the “value” segment of the Pelican family, I am completely content with the V525 for my needs and don’t feel it necessary to look into the lighter Air model or the beefier standard Pelican 1510.
So, the Vault is a great place to start an experience with Pelican products, but the Vault case is only the portal to a line that goes beyond the basics of the features that the Vault offers.
Do you have questions about the Pelican Vault line? Let us know in the Comments section, below!