Using a hard case for travel and storage isn’t a new concept. Plenty of pack horses carried wooden crates along trails in the wild West and wanigans were carried by outdoorsmen in the 19th century in canoes to house all the camp kitchen gear here in New England. There’s a reason we pack important equipment and parcels in hard-shelled cases instead of soft. Eggs aren’t sold in bags (ok, Eggbeaters are sold in cartons), football helmets aren’t leather anymore (but they should be and more emphasis should be placed on tackling with shoulders!) and high-security jails are made from brick not canvas or nylon. I’m partial to using a good hard case for carrying my gear and storing it in my traveling base camp. I used a long-gun Pelican case to carry my rifles and sidearm to Alaska last summer and I’ve carried everything from medical gear to cell phones to my pocket-carried items in smaller boxes while on the river canoeing and kayaking for years. My largest volume Pelican Case is something I get asked about regularly. Students and associates want to know A: What I tend to carry with me and B. why haul something like that? I can’t stress how useful a hard-shelled travel trunk is in transit and in places where bags aren’t always treated with finesse.
In early April of 2017, I had a conversation with my Sayoc brother Kyle DeFoor about Pelican Cases while at a shooting class he was teaching. He mentioned how he often uses a Pelican Case as a checked bag for clothing and gear. He also joked about the dimensions of the case and what the upper limits are for rental car trunks. It wasn’t long before I purchased one to add to my growing hard-case collection and I ended up using it in lieu of a duffle bag on many trips. You’re probably still wondering “why” though, right?
Just as a little kid gropes and shakes Christmas presents under a tree, would-be thieves can do the same thing to your bags. A good hard-case adds another layer of security to your travel plan. Whenever I use my Pelican cases as luggage or in my luggage, I always secure them with professional-grade Master Locks. Sure, any lock or case can be broken into with enough time but a hard case and a strong-bar lock will slow down and discourage a thief. It is a hell of a lot better than just using a fabric bag to secure your goods. Afterall, how would you, a Fiddleback Forge knife user, get to something valuable through something so easily cut? Not to mention, have you ever found something you packed in your bag poking out of the side through the fabric? Another aspect of security worth noting is the protection the case affords the user and wherever it is packed, like on the fabric of your vehicle’s back seat. You don’t have to worry about something sharp in the case cutting you or your car’s interior. Also noteworthy is the ability to lock a case to a tie-down point or around a back seat post with a strong cable.
The Trade Off
I know what you’re thinking, “but those cases are so heavy and bulky.” Yes, they are. They’re sturdy and can take a beating and that is what you pay for. That added durability isn’t lightweight but that allows you to use the case as more than a case. I believe the empty weight of my Pelican 1650 is upwards of 24 pounds without the foam. Still, it is worth its weight in utility. I’m only really concerned with the weight while flying and even then I just get creative with my allowed personal item and carry on packing most of my clothes in the carry on and legal-to-carry gear in my backpack. Plenty of times I’ve covered my Pelican and used it as a makeshift table. I’ve also used it as a seat. When traveling long distances by foot, I’ve used the rolling case to hold my other bags on top of it instead of shouldering them. As stated in the title of this blog, when not in use as luggage, it also serves as a foot locker at the base of my cot. I also know the weight of the case is insurance the contents inside will be intact when I open it up at my destination.
What I Carry
In terms of what I carry in my traveling case/footlocker, the possibilities are endless. Depending where I’m headed, it may be packed with plenty of sharp objects like my Fiddleback Outpost canvas roll of Fiddleback Forge knives or a broken down AR 15 along with accessories for a marksmanship course. One word of warning, don’t pack ammunition in your travel case if your firearm inside the case isn’t packed in a secondary hard-case that is also locked. If I’m teaching, there may be a collection of resources I use for demonstrations, patches for successful completion of the course, and cigars in a travel humidor along with a small flask of an American libation for afterward. If I’m headed somewhere to do some photography for an article, my Pelican is jam-packed with lighting, a tripod, my primary camera along with some back up cameras and spare batteries. To keep everything from rattling around inside, I usually throw in an extra layer of insulating clothing or my Kifaru quilt to serve as more functional packing peanuts. As always, what I’m doing dictates what I carry.
How vital is your equipment to your mission? I can’t compromise losing time or jeopardizing my ability because my gear has been damaged, broken, or stolen. You’ve probably heard the expression, “buy the best you can afford” and the same rings true for whatever hard case you decide to purchase. Do you want to trust your gear to an inexpensive and unsecured bag or something stronger? Think about how your planning and preparation will change with a different type of transport system. It will give you peace of mind to let you focus on accomplishing what you intended to do when you left your house. Next time you plan a tip and want to pack a bag, think about using a trunk instead.
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