Review: The World’s Most-Awesome Suitcase

Air travel is hard on luggage.  Just yesterday, I was sitting on the tarmac at Washington National (DCA) as we waited for our arrival gate to become available.  The ground crew were loading baggage into the departing aircraft and did not elevate the loading elevator quite enough.  Several suitcases and a Pack ‘n Play (the technical, brand-inspecific term for these things is a “playard”…who knew?!) toppled blissfully off the end of the elevator and landed in a pile beneath the aircraft.  That’s just the stuff you see…

Until recently, I managed to travel carry-on only most of the time, something that preserved the life of my inexpensive soft suitcase far beyond expectation.  However, the proliferation of checked bag fees has caused thrifty passengers to stuff as much stuff as possible into their carry-ons, making the overhead bins a nightmare.  My employer is willing to pay for the first checked bag when I travel for work, which is 90% of cases or more, so thrift is slightly less motivating for me.  I suspect that checked-bag fees have also increased the size of the average piece of luggage, making it perilous for my small soft-sided bag.  So, like U.S. drivers of 10 years ago who preferred gas guzzling SUVs for their “safety,” I decided to fight back with a hard-sided suitcase.

After a trip to Europe in 2008 in which one of our soft-sided suitcases was essentially destroyed, Sarah was on board with this idea.  I proposed a Pelican case at the time, but she thought it was ugly and “looks like a toolbox.”  Since it’s a well-known fact that women drive household purchasing decisions, it should be no surprise that we ended up with a set of highly-rated, yet inexpensive hard sided suitcases.  After one or two domestic trips, one of these developed a crack.  The trip to Greenland in January of this year was impetus for me to take matters into my own hands:  I bought a Pelican 1560 (empty with no foam) and the 1569 lid organizer.

The genius of the 1560 is that you can’t load it to more than 23 kg with “normal” contents.  Although, Sarah—and airline, security, and customs employees the world over—would argue that very little that goes into my bags is indeed “normal.”  It’s only a little more expensive than a department-store suitcase and definitely cheaper than most of the high-end brands.  And, of course, it’s indestructible…and it floats.  What’s not to like about that?  There is one downside—it is almost always loaded to near 20 kg, so it’s heavy.  But, until the airlines force us to pay by the kg, I have my suitcase for life.

Upon return from our latest trip yesterday, the two larger hard-sided suitcases had big cracks in them.  “I think all of our suitcases should be Pelican cases,” Sarah remarked as we left the airport.

Ethan Miller, K8GU, is a regular contributor to and writes from Maryland, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

9 Responses to “Review: The World’s Most-Awesome Suitcase”

  • Craig,N7CPC:

    I’m sorry. Did I miss the part about Ham Radio?

  • k8gu:

    Nope…I did. syndicates posts from my blog that have specific tags. I was going to comment on the fact that the case is appropriately sized to carry my portable HF station. But, I left that part out of the post without removing the radio tags. I have removed the tags but I don’t know how Matt generates the site so it may or may not disappear. Thanks for catching my mistake!

  • Benjamin KC9UNS:

    Still its a good story, if you think about it alot of hams travel over seas and knowing what suitcase to buy so ones equipment doesn’t get messed up on its way to your destination is a good thing to know.

  • Goody K3NG:

    Somehow I thought the “World’s Most Awesome Suitcase” would get a good review 🙂

  • Richard Corso:

    The only problem with using Pelican cases is that they get stolen as most airport handlers know that they hold expensive equipment. I used one to transport some data test equipment, I actually witnessed it being loaded. Once the flight had landed – I like the rest of the passengers waited by the luggage carousel for our case. Gradually the passengers collected their baggage and left for customs and the exit – I didn’t see my case – it didn’t make the carousel – it was stolen between the aircraft hold and the carousel loading bay. I have now seen Pelican cases with stickers saying that there’s “no tools or expensive items in this case”. I immediately reported the theft and completed the necessary paperwork advising the airport authorities that the equipment was worth over $100,000. The case was “found” three days later and a member of the ground staff was arrested. Fortunately the case had additional locks so the case had not been opened. If your going to use a Pelican case use one of the very bright colors like yellow or orange and put plenty of stickers on it – make it look unattractive to steal.:-)

  • k8gu:

    Well, for being a mistake, this post is pretty popular.

    That’s an interesting point about them being a target for theft. In my case, they’d have to dig through a lot of dirty underwear to find no fencible material…the case is probably worth as much as the contents. But, of course, that doesn’t change the fact that having it stolen would be a nuisance.

  • Goody K3NG:

    It is kinda scary when we can talk more about luggage than amateur radio 🙂

  • k8gu:

    That would be typical hams…talking, talking, talking… 🙂

  • Matt W1MST:

    As someone who takes expensive ham gear with him while travelling, I thought the post relevant even though it didn’t specfically mention radio.

    I have found great enjoyment following and getting to know the amazing folks who contribute here even when the posts are only tangentially related to our hobby.

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