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Tell me about Pelican cases, for check in

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Looking to find a better way to haul my gear around, and I'm thinking of a radical change - check the camera gear, carryon clothes.  

My thinking goes like this.  I haul a heavy carryon (40 pounds) holding my Nauticam housing, 230mm dome port and whatever other bits I can stuff in there around the dome.    I have a 50 pound checked bag that contains all my dive gear, plus remaining Nauticam camera bits that don't fit the carryon, like a macro port.   Finally, I have a 3rd bag the same size as my carryon, which gets checked, that holds my clothes and toiletries.  This bag is light, typically weighing around 30 pounds. I carry a waist bag that holds my camera and three lenses, plus passport, a book, and a few batteries.

My main driver has been fear of packing the dome port in checked luggage, so it's driven me to always have to be in Group 2 boarding to ensure I have an overhead space to put the bag.  It's a Thinktank roller bag. (Airport International).

If I can safely pack the camera gear in a Pelican case, then it really frees me up.  If I'm going to check two bag anyway, they might as well both be 50 pounds to free weight from carryon.  Better yet, in almost every flight I've taken they offer to gate check roller bags for free, which would really free me up on the plane.  (Batteries are an issue.)

It gets down to how light a suitcase-sized Pelican case is.   If less than around 16 pounds, it should work.

Thoughts on the strategy, and using Pelican cases in general?

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I would not check in a camera which is far more delicate than a rugged housing and a port

If you intend to check in a pelican you need to have a full foam insert not a bag so that all items are locked. In essence you need to cut the foam to fit your camera and lenses.

I rather keep the camera and lens in the hand luggage and check in my dome (which is 180mm)

I have recently checked in my dome on a connecting flight to the red sea in a north face duffel bag with some towels around it. the nauticam bags are rugged and so is the dome even a fall is not going to crack it easily as long as it is inside its container

For smaller domes and ports i have a hard cap so that is pretty much bullet proof

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Hmmm, not an easy one.

For years I have travelled with a 1510 Pelican roller case which has the padded dividers and the lid container with zips for small bits and bobs. It holds my D500 housing with the camera inside, 2x Retras, a macro port and tons of small bits. The weight is 18kgs/39lbs. That, with a camera bag with an additional body and lenses with another 15kgs, is quite a load. 

I've always managed to wheel the Pelican onto the plane but, could, if necessary check it. But I think Massimo makes a good point: I'd be very wary of having it hold-loaded with a camera inside the housing.

We've all seen folks pulling significant sized Peiican boxes off the luggage belt which appear to contain dive/camera gear. My sense is that if well-packed, dome ports wrapped in a wetsuit or bubble wrap, all should go well - assuming something isn't stolen! I'd take that risk.  I've packed lenses in the usual lens padded cases in my hold baggage - and they've been fine. But I don't think I'd risk cameras unless, as Massimo suggests, they are in foam inserts. Even then I'm not sure!

Ditching all the heavy, fragile cabin carry-ons is very tempting indeed. Would it stress you more - or less - at the thought of it being in the hold?

 

 

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25 minutes ago, TimG said:

Hmmm, not an easy one.

For years I have travelled with a 1510 Pelican roller case which has the padded dividers and the lid container with zips for small bits and bobs. It holds my D500 housing with the camera inside, 2x Retras, a macro port and tons of small bits. The weight is 18kgs/39lbs. That, with a camera bag with an additional body and lenses with another 15kgs, is quite a load. 

I've always managed to wheel the Pelican onto the plane but, could, if necessary check it. But I think Massimo makes a good point: I'd be very wary of having it hold-loaded with a camera inside the housing.

We've all seen folks pulling significant sized Peiican boxes off the luggage belt which appear to contain dive/camera gear. My sense is that if well-packed, dome ports wrapped in a wetsuit or bubble wrap, all should go well - assuming something isn't stolen! I'd take that risk.  I've packed lenses in the usual lens padded cases in my hold baggage - and they've been fine. But I don't think I'd risk cameras unless, as Massimo suggests, they are in foam inserts. Even then I'm not sure!

Ditching all the heavy, fragile cabin carry-ons is very tempting indeed. Would it stress you more - or less - at the thought of it being in the hold?

 

 

Alex Mustard made a good point when discussing luggage once. He uses standard luggage with inserts for all his stuff nothing that looks like dive gear or photography gear

I still have my mares cruise roller but after a positive experience with north face duffel bags (not even rigid) I am considering ditching the entire lot for rugged duffel bags also for my diving gear.

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2 hours ago, Interceptor121 said:

I would not check in a camera which is far more delicate than a rugged housing and a port

If you intend to check in a pelican you need to have a full foam insert not a bag so that all items are locked. In essence you need to cut the foam to fit your camera and lenses.

I rather keep the camera and lens in the hand luggage and check in my dome (which is 180mm)

I have recently checked in my dome on a connecting flight to the red sea in a north face duffel bag with some towels around it. the nauticam bags are rugged and so is the dome even a fall is not going to crack it easily as long as it is inside its container

For smaller domes and ports i have a hard cap so that is pretty much bullet proof

This is exactly what I do. My camera, lenses, and Lithium batteries go in my carry on and my housing, WWL-1B (with hard cap), ports, flash, video lights, etc. all go into a Pelican case with "custom cut" dividers to hold everything in place.

The Pelican can be carried on (size is okay, weight is not) or checked and I have options.

I've done some pretty serious travel in the past year and never had a problem.

IMG_2229.JPG

Regards,

- brett

 

Edited by TmxDiver
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My experiences may not apply to everyone so take it as you will. I travel for work a lot and fly Delta with mostly domestic US and some international. I have a large collection of Pelican/Storm cases for equipment. The weight of each case is listed on Pelicans website. I have packed my housing in a pelican case and checked it with no issues. I usually use a 1510 case with photo dividers and carry on. With Delta I have never had my carryon weighed but I rarely go to Europe/Asia. Mostly North, Central and South America and the Caribbean. I don't use a soft bag like a ThinkTank on the off chance I have to gate check my carry on. 

For a while we would bring a large HP laser printer to some of our jobs. It was exactly 70 pounds in the Storm case with half a ream of paper in it. That made it every time and continued to function just fine. 

Delta recently cut back on baggage allowances. I used to be able to bring 3 70 pound bags anywhere but now I am limited to 2 50 pound to most international destinations. I now have to make more decisions about my packing. 

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I am fortunate that I travel with hundreds of underwater photographers each year and have developed my baggage strategy with many ideas learned down the years. It all starts with a clear understanding of what I really need on a trip and what I don’t. In fact, learning what not to pack is the key to everything. For me Pelican cases offer the ultimate in protection. But they definitely attract thieves, dubious custom officials and extra security checks (which can mean missing connections). 

Also my baggage strategy needs to be flexible because of variations in airline rules depending on destinations. I am generally limited by Economy allowances and sometimes by very restrictive charter flights (Red Sea). Generally my approach is to make sure the bags are light and strong - because even when I do have generous allowances, I am always trying to maximise the amount of camera gear I can take. And when I don’t have generous allowances, I need to make sure I can still bring everything I need.

I will always take a much as I can in carry on. However, 1) many flights from Europe have very strict carry on allowances (5-7kg/10-15lb is common). I try and fly with more generous airlines, but this is not always possible. And 2) I do not try and get a basic system in carry on. This is because baggage loss is very rare (as we do not need to fly through hub airports much in Europe). And also I have too many delicates cameras, lenses, laptop etc to have hand luggage space for ports, strobes and strobe arms etc. Carry on bags need wheels - you do not want to be carrying that weight. And they don’t need to be rigid as you have them with you.

So for checked luggage I use 2 bags when allowed. One is a lightweight hard case. One is a lightweight rubberised canvas dive bag - which we will deal with first (https://www.mares.com/en_GB/attack-titan-rouge). This contains dive gear, batteries, chargers, non-delicate camera gear (clamps, arms) and delicate gear that is well protected in its own boxes (WACP, EMWL). I also happily put my Matty Smith dome in here - wrapped in bubble wrap and wetsuit. I used to use non-branded dive bags to be slightly more discrete - but I think only a diver would actually recognise this bag as a dive bag.

The other bag is a lightweight samsonite hard case. These are ever more expensive, but Samsonite has regular sales and this is the time to buy them. I have had this bag for at least a decade and done many flights without any issues to gear inside. The trick is not to get too big a case. I have the small - 65cm one - as the bigger ones end up over the standard 23kg/50lb limit when fully loaded. And the strength comes when full. https://www.samsonite.co.uk/c-lite-spinner-69cm--deep-blue/122860-1277.html - in this bag I pack strobes, domes, housing (when not in hand luggage) electricals etc. Each delicate item is bubble wrapped. Plus clothes for extra padding and toiletries. 

I am off to Canada tomorrow - so you can see what is in the Samsonite case (3 x strobes, 5 x ports, port extensions, strobe accessories, cables and chargers, EMWL - which is usually in its case in the other bag, but since this is a Goldwater trip, the other bag has more dive gear, less space than usual) - clothes and toiletries still to pack and pad with: 

IMG_2481.thumb.jpg.3c28289b4296829aad274bb81747c690.jpg

Hope this helps 

Alex

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32 minutes ago, Alex_Mustard said:

 

So for checked luggage I use 2 bags when allowed. One is a lightweight hard case. One is a lightweight rubberised canvas dive bag - which we will deal with first (https://www.mares.com/en_GB/attack-titan-rouge). This contains dive gear, batteries, chargers, non-delicate camera gear (clamps, arms) and delicate gear that is well protected in its own boxes (WACP, EMWL). I also happily put my Matty Smith dome in here - wrapped in bubble wrap and wetsuit. I used to use non-branded dive bags to be slightly more discrete - but I think only a diver would actually recognise this bag as a dive bag.

 

Alex

Thank you

The attack bags looks great value considering other duffel bags from north face run over £150

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It is quite a long bag - as it fits freediving fins. I once had Easyjet tell me it was too big for the standard luggage - and had to go down the oversized chute. But zero problem on any other trip, including today.

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I use a storm cases now (lighter than pelicans with more latches) with wheels-gave upon pelicans as they did not have wheels years ago-the storm is bright yellow so hard to miss or steal

This case is the largest thgat still fits teh airline checked baggage specs

The housing and strobes etc in that case (all foam compartments) and  I carry a small scale so that box is 49.9#-checked-this bag is bright yellow

I want all yellow bags checked bags-I want them seen -they do nopt steal bright bags

The other now is a yellow  LL bean rolling bag-for dive junk -fins, wetsuits cloths, etc misc regulator -this bag is 49#s-I also have a balck rolling dive bag yet to be used

I carry all lens ,camera  in a photo carry on photo  backpack or regular carry on backpack that never leaves me-this bag varies in weight

and is black or gray 

 

Back in the 75# days per bag It was all different stuff-mostly hard box cases

Been carring dive photo geat since 1982 so I have had many improvements -the above is what I'm doing right now

Heading for a 24 day Bali trip mid oct with this above setup

Edited by onokai

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The best way to pack gear when you have to check is a pretty subjective thing.  Alex has much more travel time with underwater photo gear than I do, and if he says it works, then it must.  Nevertheless, I can't quite get comfortable with the ideas of packing gear in a polycarbonate suitcase.  Regardless of brand, polycarbonate suitcases are durable because they are flexible and compress  under impact.  That makes the case itself more durable, but fragile gear inside requires a lot of soft padding around it to avoid taking the impact.  I know TSA has opened and checked my bags before, because they leave little notes.  They do not always repack the bags the same way after going through them.  I guess am too paranoid to pack photo gear in something flexible.  My gear is insured, but I would hate to get somewhere and have a housing or port damaged.

I use a pelican air 1615 air case.  It weights 14 lbs and is the maximum size allowed without over-size fees.  I am not sure Pelicans are that much more prone to theft (I hope).  Mine is black and for ease in seeing it on a carousel or tarmac, I use brightly colored duct tape on it.  I have not seen many credible reports of baggage thieves focusing on pelicans...I am sure it happens, but I also suspect that high-end luggage brands may be more appealing.  Ultimately, i think loss of a bag through airline negligence, or damage to a bag or contents is more likely,  and I feel the gear is more protected in a Pelican or similar case.  But I am probably overly cautious.  I have posted before about baggage kickers and other abuse.

One of the few things I miss about using my M43 stuff was the ability to (usually) carry housing, mini dome, macro port, and flash units on board.  Although as soon as I added a bigger dome and a viewfinder, that became problematic.

image.thumb.png.9284fdbb70646901cfb3c8c888af9481.png

 

image.thumb.png.ed8ef240ab53c35651d7e82ccf22fd2b.png

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Just an anecdote about protection.

One of the participants on the Atlantis image makers has packed her housing, ports and cameras in a Pelican case.

TSA took the housing out and dropped it, bending a lever and rendering the housing inoperable, until we were able to get a spare part. I should point out that they did not own up to the damage :)

So, despite appearances, once the TSA or other security/customs officials get involved, all bets are off as to the items' safety.

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Some replies here, and more specific information requests.

First, I never said anything about packing a camera in the housing.  In fact I explicitly said I carried my camera and three lenses in a waist bag.   I am mystified why the first respondent went off on this.

Second, this is really all about weight, for me.   My goal here is to NOT have to carry on a heavy bag holding a dome and housing.

So - here's the specific wish list I have.    My Z9 wide angle setup weighs 26 pounds out of the water, and that does include the camera and a bunch of batteries.   (230mm dome, extension, dual strobes and focus light).  I need to get that dome packed into a suitcase suitable for checkin, Pelican being the case I'm thinking of.   I would like to additionally put in both viewfinders, the  macro port, the vacuum pump, spare o-rings and the like.   Really, just as much weight as I can get in there, up to the 50 pound limit.   I just hauled a 42 pound carry-on to Roatan and back, along with two checked suitcases and a waist bag.    One of the suitcases only weighed 25 pounds, packed.  

My goal is to find the SMALLEST (and lightest) Pelican case that will physically hold the equipment.   I figure a bigger bag than is required just ends up wasting baggage weight on the bag, instead of the gear inside the bag.   This is where I have all sort of issues trying to figure out what to get as I don't really have a good idea of the size of these things and what they will hold.  I am currently fitting my gear into a Thinktank carry-on like this: https://www.cjcphoto.net/uwcamera/all.html

I was thinking Pelican Air 1535Trvl, but ... yes, the interior and exterior dimensions are given on the Pelican web site, but I don't see the weights.  I looked up one suitcase-sized Air case, and it weighed 'only' 17 pounds.  Which means I can only pack 33 pounds in that one, probably with wasted space.  Hence the idea to get the smallest sized case that will hold the gear, until it hits 50 pounds.

The second checked bag will hold my dive gear, and I've been putting that in the lightest big suitcase I could find.  (My late wife was an expert at finding these, but my bag is worn out now.)   I'm not averse to having a second Pelican case for this stuff too, though it seems a bit heavy for gear that doesn't need much protection.    Some of the 50 pounds of weight in that bag were from Nauticam parts that didn't fit in the carryon, so getting more in a Pelican for that frees up additional room in my dive/clothes bag.  Which then means less for carry-on.

A key here is that I end up with two bags AND a carryon AND a waist bag.   That's 3 roller bags for 2 arms.   Thus I stack the smallest suitcase (25 pounder) on top of my Thinktank when I'm (literally) dragging this stuff through an airport.  So a key feature for luggage is stackability, in case Pelican has some tricks for turning two bags into one for movement.   Should I end up with two 50 pound checkins, my carryon will have to be light - possibly even a backpack.   I doubt I'll get by traveling without a carry-on, and that's in addition to my beloved Thinktank waist bag holding camera, lenses, passport, water bottle, and some batteries.

By the way, due to the way I've had to pack, I've generally packed my laptop in the suitcase with my dive gear.  One of the things I bring with me is a big 36 quart plastic cooler bag to use with the housing, and I just stick that on top of everything for padding and put the laptop inside it.   TSA can't resist checking a laptop.   Last trip I found two TSA receipts inside it, from the Phoenix, and then Houston overnight stop.

 

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As posted earlier, I use the Pelican Air 1535 but I think you will have a hard time fitting a 230mm dome in it along with a FF camera setup. I could be wrong.

As a point of reference, I just weighed my Pelican 1535 with my dividers in the case but no equipment and it weighs 10.8 lbs. 

- brett

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Perhaps this will help:

https://www.buycasesforless.com/t-pelican-case-sizes.aspx

And yes, if you check a laptop, it is very likely to result in the bag being searched.

Good luck with this.  It sure is a a challenge to safely transport dive camera gear, isn't it?!   I won't even consider a 230mm dome and I can't fit my stuff in the same size bags you are using or looking at.

 

 

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38 minutes ago, Draq said:

Perhaps this will help:

https://www.buycasesforless.com/t-pelican-case-sizes.aspx

And yes, if you check a laptop, it is very likely to result in the bag being searched.

Good luck with this.  It sure is a a challenge to safely transport dive camera gear, isn't it?!   I won't even consider a 230mm dome and I can't fit my stuff in the same size bags you are using or looking at.

 

 

Whoa!   That list is just about what I need (external dimensions would also be nice, sorted by size would be nice...)

It looks to be MUCH easier to figure out which Pelican to get simply by ruling out all the models without wheels.  Really?  I thought all suitcases had wheels these days?

If I require wheels AND the AIR models, I think I'm left with 1535, 1605 and 1615.    The 1535 is out simply because it's no larger than my current carry-on, and for checked luggage I think I can go bigger.   The 1615 on the other hand MAY be too large, though I don't really know.  I don't like the 17.6 pounds it weighs.

Which leaves me with the 1605... oh wait, it doesn't have wheels.   Argh!   Is there no Pelican Air with wheels with about a 28x20x11 size?

I guess that really leaves me with the 1615 and only being able to get 33 pounds into it.

Seriously, why do so many Pelican cases not have wheels built in?

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You may also want to check Storm cases (owned by Pelican) and Nanuk cases.  They have some in different sizes with wheels.  Because I like to pack my housing "upright," if I can, that limits me to something at least 13-14" wide and 9" high, even with the mounting balls removed.

Because of that magical combination of "wide enough" and "deep enough,"  I would guess that the 1616 is probably the most common large pelican air case for underwater photo gear.  It is bigger than I actually need, but anything else either is too shallow or too narrow or weighs more.  You could shave off 6-7 lbs by going with a polycarbonate suitcase and padding everything well, like Alex does.

My current technique is this.  Heading into the airport, I have the 1615 and a similar sized soft side gear bag, with all the dive stuff in it.  Both bags weigh around 40-45 lbs.  Using an "add a bag" strap or one of those straps that goes around the extended handles on the big bags, I have a small rolling bag on one bag, and my shoulder bag on the other bag.  When I get to the counter, I take those off and attach the shoulder bag to the extended handle of the small roller.  Once the bags are checked, I am left with the roller and shoulder bag combo that are about the same size as a normal rolling carry on.  That is what gets hauled around the airport.

This site shows some more information about case  sizes:

https://peliproducts.co.uk/info/case-comparison/

Note:  I admit that I am more OCD in trying to protect the camera stuff than most people,  but I have had some bad experiences and seen some bad results from less protection, so I try to do what makes me less stressed.  Everyone needs to function within their own comfort zone.

1615 with rolling bag

Bag pic.jpg

Edited by Draq

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Right now I'm leaning toward the 1615, but still looking for something just a bit smaller and lighter, or just lighter.

Still surprised about the lack of wheels on most Pelicans.   I'll look at Storm and Nanuk too.

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3 hours ago, Draq said:

You may also want to check Storm cases (owned by Pelican) and Nanuk cases.  They have some in different sizes with wheels.  Because I like to pack my housing "upright," if I can, that limits me to something at least 13-14" wide and 9" high, even with the mounting balls removed.

Because of that magical combination of "wide enough" and "deep enough,"  I would guess that the 1616 is probably the most common large pelican air case for underwater photo gear.  It is bigger than I actually need, but anything else either is too shallow or too narrow or weighs more.  You could shave off 6-7 lbs by going with a polycarbonate suitcase and padding everything well, like Alex does.

 

Just FYI, I was able to fit my full frame Nauticam Sony a7rIV housing into the Pelican 1535 by removing the balls (solving the "deep enough" problem) AND the handles (solving the "wide enough" problem).

Regards,

- brett

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25 minutes ago, TmxDiver said:

 

Just FYI, I was able to fit my full frame Nauticam Sony a7rIV housing into the Pelican 1535 by removing the balls (solving the "deep enough" problem) AND the handles (solving the "wide enough" problem).

Regards,

- brett

Benefits of your smaller housing.  I would have to lay my housing on its back or front lengthwise, and at that point there is so little room left, it is pointless.  I can put the housing in a shoulder bag and use a carry-on size case for ports, strobes, etc., unless there is a 7kg weight limit.  Empty case and retra strobes are 7kg by themselves.  Add in a couple ports, some extension rings, viewfinder, etc., etc., and airline is likely to make me check it.  At that point I might as well use the larger case.

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