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The Best Hard Cases for All Your Camera Gear

Traveling with expensive camera gear? You want a hard case to prevent any kind of damage.

three open camera hard cases
Courtesy

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

A hard case is a piece of luggage with a hard outer shell and a soft interior (usually a foam or a fabric liner or divider). It's designed to be way more crushproof — and usually larger — than a traditional camera bag. If you're traveling, especially with numerous cameras and lenses, a hard case will provide more protection (and peace of mind) for all your expensive camera equipment.

There are quite a few manufacturers of hard cases, most of which make models that are specific to carrying cameras; you can buy hard cases for other things like instruments, medical equipment, audio and video gear, weapons and other cargo, too. Before buying a hard case for your camera gear, you make to make sure it's going to meet your needs.

What to Look For

Size: Hard cases come in a wide range of sizes, shapes and weights. You want to make sure that the one you buy can hold the camera gear that you're traveling with and also fits your travel needs; for instance, hard cases come in carry-on sizes as well as much larger pieces of luggage.

Foam or padded dividers: Hard cases for cameras 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 usually more flexible. Most hard cases can be purchased with either foam or padded dividers, depending on your preference.

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

Locking system: The locking system of a hard case is another vitally important feature for keeping your gear protected and airtight. It's also a safety feature that protects people from getting into and potentially stealing your camera gear.

Carrying options: A hard case can be bought with various luggage-esque features, such as roller wheels or an extendable handle, that make it more convenient to travel with. Especially with the larger hard cases, you're going to likely want it to come with these features that make it easier to transport.

The Picks

Pelican iM2050 Storm Case

Pelican iM2050 Storm Case
bhphotovideo.com
$59.95

Size: 11.80 x 9.80 x 4.70 inches
Weight: 3 pounds (w/ foam)
Durability:
IP67

Pelican's Storm Case line is known for being really rugged, crush resistant and watertight. It has a number of convenient features, including press-and-pull latch for quick locking and unlocking, along with roller wheels and an extendable handle for easy travel. The iM2050 model is the perfect size to transport small digital cameras and several lenses. It has a foam interior (which you can customize via the company's website). The exterior is also available in three different finishes: black, green or yellow.

Vanguard Supreme 40F

Vanguard Supreme 40F
amazon.com
$199.03

Size: 16.86 x 11.63 x 6.86 inches
Weight: 9.7 pounds
Durability: waterproof up to 16.5 feet

Vanguard's Supreme line of hard shell cases are designed to be virtually indestructible. Each case is waterproof and airtight, and can survive extreme heat and freezing temperatures. There's an automatic pressure equalization valve, too, which makes sure the air pressure in the case doesn't change during air travel. The 40F model is one of the larger cases in the company's Supreme line and is perfectly suited for a mirrorless or DSLR camera and several lenses. It has a foam interior.

Nanuk 935

Nanuk 935
amazon.com
$229.95

Size: 22 × 14 × 9 inches
Weight: 11.6 pounds
Durability: IPX7

The Nanuk 935 is another extremely rugged and durable hard case. It has roller wheels, an extendable handle and it's small enough to qualify as a carry-on luggage. It has the company's patented PowerClaw latching system easy opening and locking. And you can purchase in your preferred finish of choice, including black, orange, silver, olive, red or blue. It can be purchased with either foam or padded interior dividers.

Pelican Air 1525 Air Case

Pelican Air 1525 (w/ Trekpack Dividers)
amazon.com
$306.61

Size: 21.96 x 13.97 x 7.49 inches
Weight: 7.13 pounds (w/ foam)
Durability: IPX7

Pelican's line of Air Cases is designed to be protective yet lightweight. They're waterproof and crushproof, but the outer shell is made of a special proprietary polymer that, according to the company, is 40 percent lighter than most similarly sized hard cases. You've got the choice of either padded or foam dividers. Plus, the 1525 model comes in four different finishes, including black, yellow, orange or silver.

Pelican 1510LFC Protector Laptop Case

Pelican 1510 Laptop Case With Foam
Pelican amazon.com
$294.95

Size: 22 x 13.81 x 9 inches
Weight: 13.60 (w/ foam)
Durability: IP67

The 1510 Laptop Case is the maximum size that still qualifies as carry-on luggage. It gets its name thanks to its detachable laptop sleeve (and accessory pouch) located on the inside lid when you open the case up. But it also is just a really tough, protective and watertight case for your camera gear. It has roller wheels and an extendable handle for easy travel. And it comes with a foam interior.

Manfrotto Reloader Tough L55

Manfrotto Reloader Tough L55
bhphotovideo.com
$329.88

Size: 13.78 x 7.87 x 21.65
Weight: 9.81 pounds
Durability: IP67

Manfrotto is best known for its professional-quality tripods and gimbals, but its Reloader Tough L55 is one of the best hard cases you can buy, too. It's spacious enough for two camera kits and comes with a pretty unique tripod holder system. It also comes with flexible padded dividers that are designed to be modular; you can fold them out (or remove them) so that they perfectly hold whatever gear you have.

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