I recently reviewed the Pelican 1637 Air Wheeled Hard Case, which I consider the ultimate checked luggage case for photography gear. However, larger video tripods are too long to fit in that case, and in that case, the Pelican 1615 Air Wheeled Hard Case becomes the ultimate choice.
Primarily, the 1615 and 1637 differ dimensionally. Both cases are ideal for transporting cameras and lenses, including as airline checked baggage, and the shape of the 1615 is also ideal for general luggage.
I'll skip the repetition, so be sure to read the Pelican 1637 review for the backstory of why I'm now frequently checking camera gear.
Pelican offers their Protector (the long-standing favorite), Air, and Storm series cases. The Air cases are 40% lighter than the Protector cases and the Storm cases, acquired through the Hardigg Industries acquisition, are also lighter. The Storm cases feature a push-button latch, while some of my Air case latches have a push-button design and others have Protector case-like latches. The Storm and Air cases are just slightly less durable and rigid than the Protector cases.
It makes sense to take advantage of the space allotted if paying for checked luggage. The dimensions do not add to the cost as long as the case remains within the standard size allocation (usually 62" — W+H+D). Oversize charges are significant — for each flight.
Weight is an issue when flying, and exceeding 50 lbs with checked luggage weight comes with a significant additional cost that is added to every flight. While larger cases provide more carrying capacity, they also weigh more. Maximum check-in-sized Pelican Protector series cases take a significant chunk from the standard weight allocation.
The Pelican 1615 Air case maximizes the allowable dimensions while consuming the least of the weight allowance.
The previously reviewed Pelican 1637 Air differs in the following:
Like the 1637, the sum of the exterior dimensions of this case measure 62", precisely at the standard checked luggage size limitation. Thus, this case maximizes the storage volume allotted and avoids the large oversize checked luggage costs (a single round trip of avoided oversize luggage fees can pay for the Air case upgrade).
Basically, the 1615 is longer and narrower than the 1637. The closer to a cube shape, the greater the volume, and the 1637 has a modest advantage in this regard.
Unfortunately, video tripods, including the Manfrotto 645 FAST and Cartoni L507 require all of the length the 1615 provides. Increasing either of the other dimensions would cross the oversize luggage boundary.
As mentioned, the shape of the 1615 makes it a great option for general luggage use, and the survival rate of this case is far better than most alternatives.
Carrying this case full of gear is not something you want to do for very long, but the wheels and retracting handle make transporting on smooth surfaces easy.
As mentioned, the Protector series cases are more rigid, but the HPX2 Polymer still offers significant crush and impact protection. The slight flex on the larger surface areas may be advantageous for absorbing impact, but your gear should be packed within padding inside of the case. The waterproof feature will be found helpful in some situations, especially for outdoor productions.
The push-button latches model I received are easy to use – and quieter than the alternative Pelican uses on the Protector cases.
There are five models (in addition to color choices) to choose from.
The Pelican 1615AirNF Wheeled Hard Case with Liner, No Insert is the lightest and least expensive model. This model provides no interior padding for protection of the case's contents, so additional cushioning, such as a photo backpack, is required for sensitive gear. All other models have an increased weight.
The Pelican 1615AirWF Wheeled Hard Case with Foam Insert is the mid-priced option. The layers of foam can be customized to hold specific items. While the lid and base foam add significant protection to camera gear, the deep layers of middle foam seem awkward to use even in a customized layout.
The Pelican 1615TRVL Wheeled Check-In Case Lid Organizer and Packing Cubes is the next model in the progressively increasing cost list. As made obvious in the name, this model features a lid organizer with zippered pockets along with non-padded packing cubes to organize the contents.
The Pelican 1615AirWD Wheeled Hard Case with Divider Insert costs only a few dollars more than the traveler model. Though this model is more expensive, the padded dividers are nice, featuring a higher than average quality. The padded dividers increase the versatility of this case by creating a highly-protective, easy-to-configure internal storage configuration.
The yellow color of the padded dividers is ideal for visibility. Most cameras and accessories are black, contrasting strongly against this color.
Leaving the only surrounding pad in the case provides excellent protection to a backpack and other items stored in the case, especially if TSA does not repack optimally after an inspection. Don't forget to protect stored items from impact against each other if removing the interior dividers.
Coming in at the highest price is the Pelican 1615AirTP Wheeled Hard Case with TrekPak Divider Insert System. The TrekPak dividers are easily cut (cutting tool provided) to the desired size for a fully customizable storage arrangement.
In addition to crush and impact protection, security is a concern. The Pelican 1615 Air is a case, and cases can be stolen. Being vigilant is an important deterrent to theft, but running away with a full Pelican 1615 is not as easy as getting away with a few items stolen from the case. Locking the case avoids the latter issue. Carrying adequate insurance coverage is the superior concern.
The Pelican 1615 provides two metal-reinforced areas for locks, and if you are going to lock expensive gear in an expensive case, it doesn't make sense to buy the cheapest locks available. My choice is the Nanuk 900 TSA-Approved Case Lock.
The attractive Nanuk locks are materially substantial, weighing 3.1 oz (87.7 g) each, and are relatively inexpensive.
Yes, I know that some photographers use zip ties to lock their Pelican cases. While this technique works fine, it is easier to break into a zip-tied case than a TSA-locked case, I don't want to keep a supply of zip ties with me, and combination locks do not require a knife or wire-cutter to open. I expect TSA to re-lock the case without instruction if they open it.
Note that the red strap is functional and looks classy, but expect it to be lost within a few flights. Nanuck offered no replacement options when asked.
If the Pelican 1637 Air Wheeled Hard Case is not the right size for your checked luggage and other transportation needs, the Pelican 1615 Air Wheeled Hard Case probably is. As with the 1637, when traveling with camera gear checked in the Pelican 1615 Air, there is no longer a stress or strategy to get overhead storage or fear of having a gate agent deciding that the bag will not fit on the plane. The Pelican 1615 Air provides significant protection for your expensive cameras, lenses, tripods, and accessories and peace of mind for you.
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