Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Protective Cases on a Budget

If you have gear that you want to keep dry and unbroken, you're going to need a protective case of some sort.

Pelican has been the standard for waterproof shipping/storage containers for many years. They make them in many sizes and shapes to fit just about anything you might want to protect, but they're not cheap. Pelican cases are also made in the USA if you're trying to avoid imports. My photographer friends don't have a problem spending a couple hundred dollars on a quality case for a camera/lens set-up that cost several thousand dollars, but they can also write it off as a business expense.

Amazon has their own line of hard cases and several of the “discount” tool stores like Harbor Freight (HF) and Northern tools offer alternatives to Pelican that are a lot cheaper. As an example, I went to my nearest Harbor Freight store and bought one each of their X-small, Small, and Medium cases for what a single Medium Pelican case would have cost.

For storing and shipping my electronics and a few other toys, I'm happy with the quality I got from HF. Here's what you need to look for when shopping for hard cases:

Most lines offer at least a small, medium and large case, with Pelican having the most variety of sizes. Your mileage may vary, but I like having cases that are uniform in size because it makes stacking them easier. If you're only going to need a few cases, shop around to find the ones that fit the tools and toys you're looking to protect.

Most of the makers are now using “Pick and Pull” foam for the bottom liner with “Egg Crate” foam on the lid. The Pick and Pull foam is about 1.5 inches thick and pre-scored (cut almost all the way through) in a roughly 0.5 inch grid. You can trace the outline of what you want to store on the foam and then remove the foam blocks to make a custom fit. It helps to make the holes slightly smaller than the object to ensure a tight fit. Several brands are using a solid foam base and two or more layers of Pick and Pull foam in their cases to allow for basic protection and more customization options.

IP Rating
I think I mentioned IP Rating when I wrote a review of my new cell phone, but I'll go over it again. IP stands for Ingress (sometimes International) Protection and is a two-digit number. The first number is for dust, the second is for water, and the higher the number the better the protection. Anything with a rating of 5 or more is considered dustproof/waterproof, so look for at least that level. By the time you get a water rating of 7 it is good against full immersion A good chart for the various levels can be found here.

Pelican doesn't list their IP ratings, but most of the others are in the 55-68 range.
Just remember that waterproof means that water can't get out, either, so if you put something away wet it will sit in that moisture until you open the case and dry it out.

Different manufacturers use slightly different plastics, with polypropylene being most common. Polypropylene is a good industrial plastic than melts at 266°F (130°C), so it should stand up to the heat you'll find anywhere in the world. It does get brittle at temperatures below freezing, so care must be taken in colder climates.

Pelican cases tend to have thicker walls than the cheaper models, so paying the extra money may make sense if you're protecting something really fragile and valuable. I have a friend who carries a pair of Glencairnwhiskey glasses in a small Pelican case when he goes camping, and the thin-walled crystal has survived several years of travel in that case.

This is a sticky one, as some folks want to save a few bucks while others will pay a premium for a brand name and/or better protection. I fall somewhere in the middle; I will pay for better protection for the few things that are going to need it, but will put the pistols and other hardware in cheaper boxes.

Here are a few prices for similar cases listed by brand, dimensions, and price in 2019.

  • Small
    • Pelican 1200: 9x7x4 $55
    • HF 1800: 8x6x4 $15
  • Medium
    • Pelican 1400: 13x11x6 $100
    • HF 3800: 15x10x6 $40
    • Amazon Basic: 12x11x6 $33
  • Large
    • Pelican 1600: 24x19x9 $200
    • HF 5800: 20x11x6 $90
    • Amazon Basic: 22x14x9 $125

I'm trying to get more organized in my storage, so I've been looking at a lot of cases and containers lately. Things like communications gear and some tools are going to find new homes in waterproof cases to protect them while keeping all of the cords, cables, chargers, and accessories in the same damned place. I'm not going to be five hours from home and find out that I forgot that unique cord for connecting my radio to an external antenna any more.

Springfield, Sig and a few other gun makers are shipping a lot of their new firearms in hard-shell cases that can serve as shipping containers as well as storage boxes. They usually have foam liners that are pre-cut to hold the pistol and magazines shipped from the factory, with a little room for extras. The ability to put a lock on the case makes it a bit harder for the thieves in the back rooms of various shipping companies and airports to get to your toys. They usually have the gun maker's name embossed on the lid so they're not great for discrete shipping as the thieves will know what's in the box. While these cases offer some security and foam padding for protection against damage, they're not normally waterproof.

No comments:

Post a Comment

The Fine Print

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Creative Commons License

Erin Palette is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to