The Best Waterproof Hard Case for Travel

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Ranking the top water-resistant suitcases for protecting your goods on the go.

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We’ve all seen videos of luggage attendants recklessly lobbing suitcases into planes and onto conveyor belts, with little concern for the precious cargo inside.

More so, how many times have you got your suitcase back from a long flight only to discover the zip is busted, the handle’s come off, or the wheels are newly misaligned?

If all this feels familiar to you then we have some bad news — if you know the kind of damage your case is going to go through on its global adventures and still buy the conventional ones, any damage it takes on is squarely on you.

Instead, why not turn your attention to the vastly superior world of ultra-rugged hard cases?

At a glance…

Our Top Pick
Pelican 1510 Case With Foam (Black)
Runner-up
Nanuk 935 Waterproof Carry-On Hard Case with...
Best Mobility on Rough Terrain
Condition 1 22" Large Waterproof Rollable Hard...
Hard Case
Pelican 1510 Protector
Nanuk 935
Condition 1
95%
95%
85%
Perfect For
Military, industrial, or outdoor recreational use.
Search and rescue missions, first responders, military, industrial, marine, diving uses, "rugged travelers".
Big teams or productions prioritizing maneuverability on a rough terrain.
Our Top Pick
Pelican 1510 Case With Foam (Black)
Hard Case
Pelican 1510 Protector
95%
Perfect For
Military, industrial, or outdoor recreational use.
Runner-up
Nanuk 935 Waterproof Carry-On Hard Case with...
Hard Case
Nanuk 935
95%
Perfect For
Search and rescue missions, first responders, military, industrial, marine, diving uses, "rugged travelers".
Best Mobility on Rough Terrain
Condition 1 22" Large Waterproof Rollable Hard...
Hard Case
Condition 1
85%
Perfect For
Big teams or productions prioritizing maneuverability on a rough terrain.

Last update on 2021-11-12 at 10:18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

These are like normal cabin-friendly travel cases but built with military-grade attention to durability. They can withstand brutal impacts and spend time fully submerged underwater, all while perfectly protecting the expensive and fragile gear inside.

They may take on a few battle scars, but like ourselves, each one represents an incredible tale that we can tell for years to come — fully intact, as we prepare for the next adventure.

So, we’ve gathered the absolute finest in waterproof, cabin-friendly hard-shell travel cases for your cross-country jeep adventures, your globe-hopping explorations, or your always-ready bail-out bag.

In a hurry? Check all our recommended brands and products.


What to look for in a rugged travel waterproof case

These are no ordinary luggage products.

When buying a case to transport sensitive equipment like cameras, drones, or laptops in unpredictable conditions, there are certain specifications you need to consider to ensure your gear arrives safely in one piece, without absorbing so much as a drop of water.

Military specifications, IP ratings, materials, and design will help you to distinguish the truly tough from the well-marketed trash, so we’re only considering products on our list that have one or all of the following BIFL qualities:

#BIFL

Rugged: Water resistance and next-level durability are our non-negotiables, so we’ll be looking at travel cases with a durability certification like MIL-STD-810G, and cases that are IP-rated for protection against ingress of foreign substances.

Repairable: Extra points given to cases with long or lifetime warranties, as well as replaceable parts like wheels, latches, and handles.

Upgradable: We’ll be looking out for cases that are personalizable to your own needs and preferences — like those with dividers and padding that can be custom-fit for your gear, as well as cases with different grip or mobility modes.

Multipurpose: Finally, we want our cases to be able to serve different purposes beyond just travel. So, all our picks will have the 22 x 14 x 9in sizing suitable for carry-on travel in the overhead compartment, but also be just as practical as a tool case on a construction site, a gearbox in a military environment, or as a bail-out bag in the basement.

Let’s get into it.

#BIFL Rating 95%
Nanuk 935 Hard Case | Image Credit: Nanuk com - 712 x 712
Nanuk 935 Hard Case | Image Credit: Nanuk com.

It’s always reassuring when a company has one, singular focus in its product line, and Canadian brand Nanuk cases has exactly that. They do protective carry and transport systems, and protective carry and transport systems only.

And what better environment for making and testing rugged travel cases than the unforgiving, icy conditions of northern Canada?

The Nanuk 935 is just as comfortable transporting your personal effects as it is transporting photo gear, video gear, audio gear, medical equipment, industrial equipment, and outdoor gear. It’s a cabin-friendly, wheeled hard-shell case with an extendable handle and horizontal carry grip.

The PowerClaw latching system clamps the case air-tight, and two reinforced metal padlock holes offer security from prying hands.

The case features an integrated air pressure equalizer that accounts for changes in altitude, temperature, and humidity in order to maintain an ideal, watertight atmospheric pressure differential.

You can purchase as is in your choice of eight colors, and with additional foam padding or dividers to custom-fit your gear.

Durability | Nanuk 935

Everything about the Nanuk 935’s design screams ultra-durable, with its MIL-STD-810 rated, injection-molded resin shell with rounded corners for concentrated impact resistance, and IP67 rating for full protection against dust and powerful water jets.

The wheels are made from tough polyurethane complete with stainless steel bearings, for smooth and quiet mobility over multiple types of terrain.

Backing up their rugged claims, a purchase of the Nanuk 935 entitles you to a limited lifetime warranty, complete with a 30-day satisfaction guarantee.

PROsCONs
+ MIL-STD-810 impact-resistant shell material Padding and dividers sold separately
+ IP67 water-resistance The pick-and-pluck foam is tricky to set up and can be difficult to reconfigure
+ Limited lifetime warranty 

PRICE: Above $200.

PERFECT FOR: Designed for front-line protection, search and rescue missions, first responders, military, industrial, marine, and diving uses, but perfect for any rugged traveler.

Nanuk 935 Waterproof Carry-On Hard Case with...
  • The Nanuk 935 case with wheels is approved by the FAA as the maximum carry-on size - Interior...
  • Waterproof (IP67 rated), dustproof, shockproof | Automatic purge valve equalizes pressure on the...
  • Designed for mobility with a 2-stage retractable pull handle with quick release button and smooth...

Last update on 2021-11-12 at 10:18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Pelican 1510 Protector Carry-On Case

#BIFL Rating 95%
Pelican 1510 Protector Carry on Hard Case | Image Credit: Pelican com - 712 x 433
Pelican 1510 Protector Carry on Hard Case | Image Credit: Pelican com.

You can’t do a ‘best travel cases’ list without including the brand synonymous with the very idea of foolproof gear protection — legendary American case-makers Pelican.

The Pelican case was born when scuba diving enthusiast Dave Parker designed a first-aid kit that could be taken underwater. Impressed with its water and dust resistance, divers started throwing out the medical contents and began storing other valuables for their underwater expeditions.

Since then, Pelican have been the leading name in protective hardware for military, law enforcement, fire safety, and consumer use.

The USA-made ‘Pelican Protector’ line of products – all features chemically-resistant polypropylene hard-shells, with the 1510 Carry-on Travel Case offering protection that slots right into an overhead compartment.

It comes in three muted colors (black, desert tan, olive green) and features two wheels, a side handle, and a retractable hauling handle.

As with the Nanuk 935, the Pelican 1510 features an automatic pressure equalization valve.

Durability | Pelican 1510

The Pelican 1510 boasts IP67, STANAG 4280, and Def Stan 81-41 certifications, which means it’s watertight, crushproof, and dustproof.

And while the standard purchase comes complete with a foam insert, they also offer the widest range of companion accessories on this list, including a divider kit, lid organizer, replacement O-rings, and even a ‘design your own foam’ option.

As with the prior entry, Pelican offers a limited lifetime warranty against workmanship defects with each purchase.

PROsCONs
+ Three rugged certifications; IP67, STANAG 42780, and Def Stand 81-41 Limited colorways
+ Wide range of accessories and replacement parts available Might be harder to carry over rough terrain due to its small wheel size
+ Limited lifetime warranty 

PRICE: Around $200.

PERFECT FOR: Military, industrial, or outdoor recreational use.

Pelican 1510 Case With Foam (Black)
  • Watertight, Crush-Proof and dust-proof. Lid depth:  1.79" (4.5 cm); bottom depth: 5.79" (14.7 cm);...
  • FAA maximum carry on size
  • Open cell core with solid wall design to make a strong yet lightweight travel case

Last update on 2021-11-12 at 10:18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Pelican 1535 Air Travel Case

#BIFL Rating 80%
Pelican 1535 Air Travel case (no TRVL) | Image Credit: Amazon com - 712 x 474
Pelican 1535 Air Travel case (not “TRVL” series) | Image Credit: Amazon com

Did we mention Pelican are the name in tough-as-nails travel cases?

No surprise then that they take up two spots on the list. The Pelican Air 1535 Travel Case provides an alternative to the 1510 for those who value convenience and versatility over the absolute highest levels of durability, without sacrificing ruggedness altogether.

A lighter and ever-so-slightly smaller case than the prior entry, the Air Travel model is made from proprietary polypropylene blend, and this time comes complete with packing cube organizers, a lid mesh, and zippered storage compartments.

It’s targeted purely at on-the-go travelers over people using a protective case to carry specialist gear – featuring a solid retractable wheely handle, horizontal grip, and TSA-approved press and pull latches with locks.

Durability | Pelican Air 1535

As mentioned, this case is not as sturdy as the Pelican 1510, but is still leagues ahead of a standard hard-shell suitcase in terms of toughness thanks to its polypropylene construction.

The Air 1535 is rated IP67, meaning complete protection from dust particles [1] and protection from temporary submersion in water at a depth of three feet for 30 minutes [2].

You can stack, arrange, and rearrange the transparent mesh packing cubes any way you want, or even replace them completely with their TrekPak dividers or Pick N’ Pluck foam interiors for different types of trips.

As standard with Pelican, each purchase offers you the Guarantee of Excellence limited lifetime warranty.

PROsCONs
+ Lightweight but still tougher than the average travel storage solution The retractable handle might be too short for people taller people over 6′
+ Comes with versatile storage compartments Might be harder to carry over rough terrain due to its small wheel size
+ Limited lifetime warranty (Not as tough as Pelican 1510)

PRICE: Above $300.

PERFECT FOR: The dedicated traveler looking for a more secure travel storage solution than the average suitcase.

Pelican Air 1535 Case with Trekpack Dividers (2020...
  • PREMIUM MULTI-PURPOSE HARD CASE: Crushproof, dustproof, watertight, universal hard case for the best...
  • FEATURES: Watertight, crushproof, and dustproof hard case. Pelican Air cases are up to 40% lighter...
  • DIMENSIONS (LxWxH Inches): Exterior 21.96 x 13.97 x 8.98 | Interior 20.39 x 11.20 x 7.21 - Weight...

Last update on 2021-11-15 at 12:49 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Condition 1

#BIFL Rating 85%
Condition 1 Hard Case | Image Credit: condition1 com - 712 x 712
Condition 1 Hard Case | Image Credit: Condition1 com.

Proudly manufacturing and operating out of Sherman, Texas for over 35 years, Condition 1 offers rugged, water-resistant cases and custom soft sewn bags.

Possessing roughly the same construction and dimensions as the other top picks from our list, the C1 300 offers reliable all-around protection in a cabin-friendly format.

It also possesses a few additional unique selling points (not least of which is the eye-watering orange color option that you couldn’t possibly miss on the luggage collection belt).

The patented latches on the C1 300 offer one-finger case-locking. With the grippy, rubberized handles, this case is perfect for when you need to dash to an airport terminal in a rush.

Additionally, the wheels set this case apart from the rest, which are wider with an off-road pattern that will have no trouble gliding over grass and dirt. It comes with a pluckable cube-style inner foam to fit your specialist gear.

Durability | Condition 1

Condition 1 300 is IP67 rated for water resistance equating to full water submersion at a depth of three feet for 30 minutes.

Its steel hinges offer strong and reliable opening and closing that will last, and the cases are designed to be stackable, with the ability to securely fit one on top of the other for commercial customers transporting lots of gear.

It comes in four colors with the option to buy replacement foam or additional padded dividers.

Each purchase grants you their limited lifetime warranty for the case itself (but not the foam padding).

PROsCONs
+ Off-road wheels can handle multiple terrain types Padlock slot composed of polypropylene, not stainless steel
+ Stackable for efficient transportation of gear in big teams The pluckable foam quality
+ Limited lifetime warranty

PRICE: Above $200.

PERFECT FOR: Big teams or productions prioritizing maneuverability on rough terrain.

Condition 1 22" Large Waterproof Rollable Hard...
  • TRAVEL FRIENDLY WHEELS AND HANDLE - premium all-terrain rubber wheels are built to last and perform,...
  • IP67 WATERPROOF AND DUSTPROOF - can be dropped into a body of water 3-feet deep for 30 minutes....
  • PRESSURE EQUALIZATION VALVE - don't think twice about catching a flight with your favorite airline...

Last update on 2021-11-12 at 10:18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

SKB Cases iSeries 3i-2011-7DL

#BIFL Rating 80%
SKB Hard Cases iSeries 3i 2011 7dl | Image Credit: Amazon com - 712 x 770
SKB Hard Cases iSeries 3i 2011 7DL | Image Credit: Amazon com.

The SKB Flyer series of luggage solutions are made in the USA and specifically designed by and for photographers and videographers of the Think Tank Photo company[3], making them the perfect solution for transporting camera gear of all types.

Available in a range of airline-approved sizes, the case comes with removable lid organizers, foam liners, and nylon dividers designed to fit all manner of camera bodies, lenses, flashguns, SD cards, and cables snugly.

You can quickly remove the soft inner-case to check all your equipment at airport security with the attached tabs, and slot it right back in to regain the hard-shell protection for your expensive gear.

The 3i 2011-7 model is big enough to fit two camera bodies and up to 7 lenses.

As well as the lid organizer and high-contrast padded dividers, the case comes with an iPad top-load pocket for when you need to check your work on a bigger screen.

Durability | SKB Cases iSeries

The 3i 2011-7 describes itself as watertight and dustproof thoroughly tested at Chesapeake Bay, Marine Target Pierside, Naval Air Warfare Center, Patuxent River, Maryland [4]. Which, if anything, undersells its durability credentials.

This polypropylene copolymer resin case is MIL-STD-810G rated, which gives it resistance to corrosion, impact damage, UV exposure, solvents, corrosion, and fungus as well as being dust and IP67 watertight thanks to its gasket-seal.

It features metal locking loops for added security, with a horizontal handle and a top handle with wheels for easy transport.

The case comes with the so-called ‘unconditional’ lifetime warranty.

You can also purchase it with a companion soft outer case that features a pocket for a laptop and an over-shoulder strap for even easier stowing and carrying.

Editor’s Note – We love the SKB case and think it’s tough as nails. The reason it didn’t get a higher score – than the Pelican Models or Nanuk – is because the SBK is mostly specialized in camera equipment. Based on our evaluation system it scored lower on “multipurpose” and versatility.

So, a general-purpose customer might be wasting money on the included camera-specific internal organization accessories that they may not use.

While SKBs are really good for photographers, if you still want one and aren’t a photographer, take a look at this chart to see all the sizes available. Then, contact the manufacturer for custom foam organizers.

PROsCONs
+ Specifically designed for camera equipment (which could be also a CON for the general traveler) Not the best option for general-purpose use
+ Slottable inner case for speedy security checks Narrow wheelbase makes it slightly unstable when traveling.
+ Unconditional lifetime warranty 

PRICE: Around $250 (with organizers) and around $150 – just the empty case.

PERFECT FOR: Photographers and videographers of all kinds who travel frequently for work.

SKB Cases 3i-2011-7DL iSeries Airline Approved...
  • SECURE: 2 patented trigger latches and metal reinforced locking loops keep case securely locked
  • AIRLINE APPROVED: Airline carry-on approved size
  • SEALED: Watertight and dustproof

Last update on 2021-11-12 at 12:08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Comparison table

With as many great options as we’ve just listed, we thought it would be handy to put together a comparison table featuring all the key specs, so you can identify the most suitable option for your needs.

What is the best waterproof hard case for travel?

With all of that in mind, we can confidently recommend the following two products for your next extreme adventure, outdoor recreational excursion, or professional assignment.

Given the identical BIFL scores, the Pelican 1510 Protector and Nanuk 935 cases would be our top picks.

The Pelican 1510 is a classic in the travel hard case space for plenty of reasons. Achieving the highest level of certification for water and impact resistance on the list, you can be confident that your gear will stay safe and dry in practically any environment you expose it to, and the lifetime guarantee puts the 1510’s money where its mouth is.

Perhaps the only edge this case has over the Nanuk is that it comes with an internal organization foam set, which puts their almost identical prices in perspective.

Having said that, the Nanuk is a slightly lighter case despite boasting bigger dimensions which will suit the frequent traveler and has a wider range of color options for the more aesthetically minded.

They’re both fantastic options, so either way, you can’t really go wrong. Pack ‘em up, hit the road, and be sure to enjoy your next adventure without giving a second thought to the safety of your belongings.

Safe travels!

Ser
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