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Gadget Bag: Being A Hard Case

On a road trip, you can usually bring a lot of gear, and to keep it safe, a hard-shell case is an excellent solution
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Go Professional Cases

Camera bags and backpacks are wonderful ways to carry your camera gear in the field, but for the ultimate in protection on your photo road trip, a hard case is good to have, as well. You might reason that, hey, the bag is in the car, which will protect it. But on the off chance you’re in an accident, or a boulder rolls down onto your car while you’re parked in a remote area and knocks it into the river, a hard case can provide added protection. Many hard cases are airtight and waterproof for protection against the elements, and those with wheels make it easier to get gear from the car to your motel room or tent. Hard cases also provide extra protection when locked in your motel room—while you can’t prevent a determined thief from breaking in, you can make it difficult enough to drive the thief elsewhere.

Naturally, you should get a case that’s big enough to hold the gear you intend to carry in it. If you have a lot of gear, you might want to acquire two cases, so the one case doesn’t become too heavy to carry. Because of the protection it provides from moisture and dust, you might want to store your gear in the case(s) full time at home when you’re not using it.

Most hard cases come with foam interiors that you can cut to fit your gear precisely. With others, the foam is an extra-cost item. Be sure to consider this when comparing prices. Some foam inserts are precut into small cubes, allowing you to create the spaces for each piece of gear without using a knife.

Many hard cases are airtight to keep out dust. These should have an automatic pressure-equalization valve to avoid problems with changes in altitude (and, thus, pressure)—especially if you use the case to ship your gear by air or drive up into the mountains with it.

Hard cases are available in just about any shape and size you can imagine. Check out the websites of the manufacturers listed here to get a look at the dizzying full range from each.

The Flashpoint SealTite 1514 Water-Resistant High-Impact Hard Case with Wheels and Foam ($105.99) measures 22.1×14.0x11.4 inches, with a useful interior space of 20.1×11.5×9.9 inches. Featuring a shell of structural copolymer with SBS-plastic latches, the 1514 case comes with two-layer diced foam inserts for easy customization. The case is water-resistant and dustproof, and it will float, too.


Go Professional Cases
Go Professional Cases offers a line of hard cases and backpacks for quadcopter photo drones (and their accessories) and for GoPro action cams. Choose from compact cases when bulk is a prime concern to larger cases that hold the drone in ready-to-fly configuration. The Waterproof Ground Station Case includes a sun guard that protects monitors up to 17 inches and can be supported by a tripod or light stand.


HPRC offers a wide range of hard cases, from 5×3.5×1.3 to 31.9×23.1×18.9 inches, plus a hard (but comfortable) backpack measuring 17×14.6×7.3 inches. Made of TTX01 blend polypropylene, the cases are strong, light, watertight and impact-resistant, and can withstand temperatures from -40° F to 176° F. They’re available empty, with foam inserts, or with a removable bag.

Lowepro Hardside

Camera-bag maker Lowepro offers three Hardside camera cases, each featuring an ABS polymer outer shell and a removable soft insert with adjustable dividers. Completely dust- and waterproof, the cases provide protection from the elements, as well as from impact damage. The Hardside 200 holds 5 to 10 video action cams, the Hardside 300 (sized to meet airline carry-on requirements), a DSLR with a 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 zoom attached plus 4 to 6 additional lenses, and the Hardside 400, a pro DSLR with a 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 zoom and 6 to 8 additional lenses.

Nanuk Plasticase

Plasticase offers a line of Nanuk hard cases in sizes from smartphone through pro camera system. The camera cases are padlock-able, waterproof, impact-resistant, crushproof and dustproof, and feature stainless-steel hardware. They’re available with foam inserts or padded dividers, TSA-approved padlocks and shoulder straps. The 935 measures 22.0×14.0x9.0 inches, is made of lightweight NK-7 resin and meets airline carry-on requirements. A retractable handle and polyurethane wheels make for easy travel over smooth ground.

Pelican 1510M

A big name in hard camera cases, Pelican offers a wide range of cases, from tiny (for memory cards and smartphones) to huge (for pro camera systems). Four of the larger ones are available in a multi-terrain configuration, with larger, thicker 4.0-inch-diameter, 1.5-inch-wide polyurethane wheels and stainless-steel hardware and ball bearings. Stabilizing blocks compensate for the larger wheels when the case is lying horizontally. The cases are water- and dust-resistant, crushproof, and come with configurable foam inserts and a lifetime guarantee of excellence. The 1510M Carry On measures 22×13.8×9 inches, the 1560M, 23.8×18.3×12.1 inches, the 1610M, 26.2x23x13.7 inches, and the 1620M, 28.2x23x15.6 inches.


PortaBrace offers a full line of hard cases, plus a hard backpack with comfortable straps. The latter, the PB-3500, has external dimensions of 13.3x13x21 inches, and sells for $199 empty, $279 with a divider kit, and $309, to fit a DSLR. PortaBrace hard cases range from 13.2×11.4×6.1 to 32x23x15 inches in size, and $69 to $359 in price. Made of high-performance hard resin material with reinforced corners, cases are water- and airtight. They’re also lighter than many cases of equivalent capacity, saving shipping costs.


SKB offers cases for still, video and action cameras, DSLR kits, tripods and light stands, lenses, a laptop case with a sun screen and more. The iSeries of injection-molded waterproof cases is
available in more than 40 configurations, in black and (with some styles) pink finishes. The iSeries 1914 Pro DSLR Case‘s high-quality, 19×14.4×8-inch interior features PE foam, and can hold two pro DSLRs, four lenses and accessories. The bodies are held so the card slot can be accessed without removing the camera.


Vanguard Supreme series hard cases are waterproof to 16.5 feet, can withstand temperatures from -40° F to 203° F and are padlock-able. They range in size from 11×9.7×6.8 inches to 24.8×20.5×9.5 inches and in price from $79.99 to $299.99. Removable, divider bag soft cases are available for several models. Vanguard’s lower-priced VGP series cases feature aluminum-alloy frames, customizable foam interior, dual locks, comfortable carrying handles and removable straps. There are four, ranging in size from 9.5×7.5×4 to 18.1×12.8×6.8 inches, with prices from $54.99 to $104.99.

Cut-Proof Camera Bags


There’s an old joke about two photographers out for a hike in bear country. One asks the other, “Aren’t you worried about the bears?” His buddy replies, “Nope.” The first one asks, “Why, can you outrun one?” His friend replies, “Nope, but I can outrun you.”

You can’t prevent a determined thief from getting your gear, but you can make it difficult enough that he decides to look elsewhere. One way of doing that is with a cut-proof camera bag. It helps whether you’re carrying the bag, or cable-locking it to your car or unmovable furniture in your motel room.

Pacsafe‘s Camsafe bags incorporate lightweight stainless-steel eXomesh Slashguard material, which resists cutting. They feature Carrysafe Slashguard straps, and even RFIDsafe pockets to block thieves from stealing ID data from your RFID-chipped e-passport, credit/smart cards and key cards. Designs include the Camsafe V9 anti-theft camera sling ($150), Camsafe V6 anti-theft top-loading bag ($120), Camsafe V17 anti-theft camera backpack ($180) and Camsafe V18 anti-theft expandable sling bag ($150).