The best hard case for your camera gear

A camera bag is more of a specialized backpack or briefcase, really. It’s perfect for most events, day trips, and micro-adventures because it’s lightweight, easily accessible, and has enough storage to safely carry your camera, lenses, and various other accessories (like a tripod and a cleaning kit). For something more expansive, however, you want something more protective and substantial. You want a hard case.

A hardside suitcase is luggage with a hard outer shell and a soft interior (usually a foam or liner or fabric divider). It’s designed to be much more crush-resistant – and generally larger – than a traditional camera bag. If you’re traveling, especially with lots of cameras and lenses, a hard case will provide more protection (and peace of mind) for all your expensive camera gear.

There are a number of hard case manufacturers, most of which make models specific to carrying cameras; you can also buy hard cases for other things like instruments, medical equipment, audio and video equipment, weapons and other goods. Before buying a hard case for your camera gear, make sure it will meet your needs.

What to look for

Cut: Hard cases come in a wide range of sizes, shapes, and weights. You want to make sure the one you buy can hold the camera gear you’re traveling with and also adapts to your travel needs; for example, hardside suitcases are available in carry-on sizes as well as much larger luggage.

Foam or padded dividers: Hard camera cases usually come with one of two types of dividers: foam or padding. In general, foam dividers are more compact and protective, while padded dividers are generally more flexible. Most hard cases can be purchased with either foam or padded dividers, depending on your preference.

Sustainability: Hard cases come with different shock and water resistance ratings. Both are important for protecting your camera gear from the elements as well as other travel hazards.

Lock system: A hard case’s locking system is another essential feature to keep your gear protected and sealed. It is also a security feature that prevents people from entering your camera equipment and stealing it.

Transport possibilities: A hard case can be purchased with various luggage features, such as wheels or an extendable handle, that make it more convenient for travel. Especially with larger hardside suitcases, you’ll probably want them to have those features that make it easier to transport.

Choices

Pelican iM2050 Storm Suitcase

Pelican iM2050 Storm Suitcase

Cut: 11.80 x 9.80 x 4.70 inches
Lester: 3 pounds (with foam)
Sustainability:
IP67

Pelican’s Storm Case range is known for being really tough, crush resistant and waterproof. It has a number of convenient features, including a push and pull latch for quick locking and unlocking, plus casters and an extendable handle for easy mobility. The iM2050 is the perfect size for carrying small digital cameras and multiple lenses. It has a foam interior (which you can customize via company website). The exterior is also available in three different finishes: black, green or yellow.

Vanguard Supreme 40F

Cut: 16.86 x 11.63 x 6.86 inches
Lester: 9.7 pounds
Sustainability: waterproof up to 16.5 feet

Vanguard’s line of Supreme hard cases are designed to be virtually indestructible. Each case is waterproof and airtight, and can survive extreme heat and freezing temperatures. There is also an automatic pressure equalization valve, which ensures that the air pressure in the case does not change during air travel. The 40F model is one of the largest bodies in the company’s Supreme line and is ideal for a mirrorless or DSLR camera and multiple lenses. It has a foam interior.

Nanook 935

Cut: 22 × 14 × 9 inches
Lester: 11.6 pounds
Sustainability: IPX7

The Nanuk 935 is another extremely sturdy and durable hard case. It has wheels, an extendable handle, and it’s small enough to be considered carry-on luggage. It features the company’s patented PowerClaw locking system, which opens and locks easily. And you can buy in your choice of finish, including black, orange, silver, olive, red, or blue. It can be purchased with foam or padded interior dividers.

Pelican Air 1525 Suitcase

Pelican Air 1525 (with Trekpack dividers)

Cut: 21.96 x 13.97 x 7.49 inches
Lester: 7.13 lbs (with foam)
Sustainability: IPX7

Pelican’s line of air cases are designed to be both protective and lightweight. They’re waterproof and crushproof, but the outer shell is made of a proprietary polymer that the company says is 40% lighter than most similarly sized hard cases. You have the choice between padded or foam dividers. In addition, the 1525 model is available in four different finishes, including black, yellow, orange or silver.

Pelican 1510LFC Protective Laptop Case

Pelican 1510 laptop case with foam

Pelican
amazon.com

$294.95

Cut: 22 x 13.81 x 9 inches
Lester: 13.60 (with foam)
Sustainability: IP67

The 1510 laptop case is the maximum size that is still considered hand luggage. It gets its name from its detachable laptop sleeve (and accessory pocket) located inside the lid when you open the case. But it’s also just a very durable, protective and waterproof case for your camera equipment. It has wheels and an extendable handle for easy movement. And it comes with a foam interior.

Manfrotto Reloader Tough L55

Manfrotto Reloader Tough L55

Cut: 13.78×7.87×21.65
Lester: 9.81 pounds
Sustainability: IP67

Manfrotto is best known for its pro-grade tripods and gimbals, but its Reloader Tough L55 is also one of the best hard cases you can buy. It’s roomy enough for two camera kits and comes with a pretty unique tripod mount system. It also comes with flexible padded dividers designed to be modular; you can unfold them (or remove them) so that they hold your equipment perfectly.

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