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  • By John R. Quain

Tuff Stuff: Luggage That Can Weather a Storm

A lot of luggage looks tough but isn't waterproof or strong enough to protect fragile electronics. The Pelican Elite BA30 Vacationer is the exception, luggage built by a company known for making hurricane-proof cases for first responders.

The Pelican Vacationer is a hard case with a double-walled design that can withstand up to 1,500 pounds of pressure. It eschews zippers in favor of recessed latches that won't jam or get torn off. A watertight rubber O-ring seal keeps things dry inside, and it's rated to remain submerged in three feet of water for an hour without leaking. Should it end up overboard, there's a built-in purge valve that automatically vents the interior to maintain equal pressure inside and out, preserving the waterproof seal.

The case is relatively light (compared to some metal and even soft cases) and the retractable handle is rugged. Pelican's wheels also operate smoothly and are recessed so that they are unlikely to jam or get broken in transit. I've hauled several models of Pelican cases--including this one--around the world through some of the toughest security and most inclement weather and every time my valuables remained unscathed.

One downside: There aren't any nifty compartments for organizing your gear and keeping dirty linens in check. The Pelican Elite is essentially one big empty case. That provides for a lot of flexibility when it comes to stuffing different objects into the luggage. But if you have a propensity to organize clothes into separate sections, you'll have to provide your own packing organizers or choose the B30 with the Enhanced Travel System, which includes a lid organizer, toiletry bag, shoe sack, laundry bag, and garment bag, for about $50 more. If you are carting around valuables you can't afford to have crushed on your perigrinations, Pelican cases are absolutely worth the money. Not only will your gear survive the most unruly luggage handlers, but everything will stay dry. This big boy case lists for $465.95. That's hundreds of dollars less than hard cases from brands like Tumi, which lack the first-responder street cred.

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