Hard Cases

Professional photographic gear and other electronic equipment is expensive and delicate. But you already knew that. When you’re carrying your own gear you can afford to be as careful with it as possible. But once you hand off your gear to someone else—airport baggage handlers, limo drivers, overnight couriers, and the like—the only thing safeguarding your gear is the case you put it in. If you have anything worth protecting you should do it the way the pros do—with Pelican hard cases.

Even if you’ve never used a Pelican case, you’ve surely seen them. Wedding photographers, DJs, and field service technicians use them all the time. They are usually black, but Pelican makes them in all sorts of colors, various shapes and sizes, with wheels and without.

Pelican hard cases are unbreakable, watertight, airtight, dustproof, chemical resistant and corrosion proof. They’re made of ultra high-impact structural copolymer, with 0.25-inch neoprene o-ring seals, rugged double-throw latches, and automatic pressure equalization valves that adjust the internal air pressure according to changes in the surrounding atmospheric pressure. The cases come in sizes that will fit anything from a cell phone to a desktop computer and everything in between. All of the cases feature stainless-steel hardware and minimum temperature ratings from -10° to +199.4° F; most are stable to +210° F and some down to -40° F.

Because the cases are waterproof and airtight, they float. And each case will float with a certain amount of weight inside. Buoyancy specifications are for salt water, but the cases will float with nearly as much weight inside when placed in fresh water. The cases will remain completely dry inside for at least 30 minutes.

Cases with foam cushioning inside feature Pelican’s Pick ‘N Pluck foam. Thought it comes as one piece, the foam cushioning consists of pre-cut half-inch cubes that can be plucked as needed to create a cutout that fits whatever gear you want to put in the case. All you have to do is trace out the item you want to put in the case and remove the foam cubes that fall within its outline.

The chart below shows the sizes and special features of some of the more popular Pelican cases. The model number of each case is also a link to the product on B&H’s website. There you can see all the different colors and options available, along with any special features and pricing.


Exterior Dimensions (inches)

Interior Dimensions (inches)

Handles Insert Weight (pounds) Buoyancy (pounds) Special Features
1020 6.82 x 4.75 x 2.12 5.31 x 3.56 x 1.68 ring and lanyard soft liner  0.56 0.75  
1040  7.5 x 5.06 x 2.12  6.5 x 3.87 x 1.75 ring and lanyard soft liner  0.71  1.26  
1050  7.5 x 5.06 x 3.12  6.31 x 3.68 x 2.75 ring and lanyard soft liner  0.83 1.74  
1060  9.37 x 5.56 x 2.62  8.2 x 4.25 x 2.25 ring and lanyard soft liner  1.03 2.5  
1120  8.12 x 6.56 x 3.56  7.25 x 4.75 x 3.06 fold down 3-pc foam  1.23 5.0  
1200  10.62 x 9.68 x 4.87  9.25 x 7.12 x 4.12  oversize 3-pc  foam  2.87 12.55  
1400  13.37 x 11.62 x 6.0  11.81 x 8.87 x 5.18 fold down 3-pc foam  4.41  20.0  
1450  16 x 13 x 6.87  14.62 x 10.18 fold down 3-pc foam  6.39 30.0  
1500  18.5 x 14.06 x 6.93  16.75 x 11.18 fold down 3-pc foam  7.05 50.0  
1514  22 x 13.81 x 9.0  19.75 x 11 x 7.6 retractable foam  15.2 64.2 wheels and dividers
1520 19.78 x 15.77 x 7.41  18.06 x 12.89 x 6.72 fold down 3-pc foam  9.36 40.0  
1550  20.62 x 16.87 x 8.12  18.43 x 14 x 7.62 fold down 4-pc foam  11.9 69.89  
1560  22.06 x 17.93 x 10.43  20.37 x 15.43 x 9.0 retractable foam  20.0 104.0 wheels
1600  24.25 x 19.43 x 8.68  21.43 x 16.5 x 7.87 fold down 3-pc foam  14.1 75.0  
1610  24.83 x 19.69 x 11.88  21.78 x 16.69 x 10.62 retractable 5-pc foam  23.57 120.0 wheels
1620  24.81 x 19.38 x 13.88  22.06 x 17 x 12.56 retractable 6-pc foam  26.1 150.0 wheels
1650  30.75 x 20.5 x 11.62  28.5 x 17.37 x 10.5 retractable 4-pc foam  35.49 181.0 wheels

Discussion 4

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I use a similar case to the Pelican and use it to ship my gear ahead of me to shooting locations. 

You can ship your gear safely *if* you follow a few precautions.

1. Insure your gear - and keep a complete inventory of every piece, including model numbers and serial numbers.

And if you do any paid work at all, your homeowner's insurance won't cover your camera gear.  Talk to your insurance agent about an "Inland Marine Policy", which will cover your gear for replacement value, not the depreciated value.

2. Buy additional insurance from the shipping carrier (FedEx or UPS - I don't even consider the Post Office).  And declare full-value.

3. Ship your gear so that it arrives at a secure location at least one business day early.  And track the shipment early in the process, so you have the best chance of catching problems early.

4. Pelican cases do a great job of this - pad your gear to withstand a 4-foot drop onto a concrete floor.

Read more details in my recent blog post here: http://bit.ly/gLUbF2

Charlie MacPherson

I have had one Pelican case for about 30 years now and it is still as useful now as it was then.  I still recall early on being concerned when I could not open the case one day after having come down a few thousand feet in elevation.  When I finally got one corner to open and I heard the whoosh of air getting into the case, I knew that this case would keep all that was in it safe and dry.

With my changing uses and hard wear on it, I finally broke down and bought a new foam insert and o-ring about 5 years ago.  Now it is again keeping my equipment clean, dry and safe.  I also bought another one a couple of years ago for some other electronic gear of mine

About 15 years ago, I used to do quite a bit more hiking and climbing here in the Pacific Northwest, which seems to be always wet. I'd carry a small size Pelican case in my backpack to hold my camera body and favorite lens when I knew that I'd be someplace that would be dangerous. One particular afternoon, I was edging along a ledge on a cliff on Canyon Creek, and I slipped and fell into the water below. My camera (an EOS A2) came out snug and dry... but I can't say the same for myself :)

- Matthew Gore


I recently did a lot of shopping around for a hard case to transport my Steadicam Pilot. I looked, but never considered a brand other than Pelican. They truly have industry credibility. I ended up going with Pelican's line of Storm Cases (a brand they bought not too long ago). I found the Storm Cases to have the same build quality and offer the same protection as traditional Pelicans, but the latch system is far superior.