The Pelican 1514 Case : A Bag You Can Check Under The Plane & Know Your Gear Is Safe In

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15/04/2009 – The Pelican 1514 Case : A Bag You Can Check Under The Plane & Know Your Gear Is Safe In

Few travel cases can withstand the significant abuse of hard travel. The limitations of most bags and cases become more prevalent for photographers due to traveling with not only expensive equipment, but also fragile equipment.

As some airlines become more rigid in enforcing the carry-on allowance weight of cabin baggage, and reduce the “1 carry on & 1 personal item” policy to “1 carry on,†the need to find an extremely durable case for traveling with equipment is increasingly becoming an important topic among photographers.

While placing camera equipment in checked baggage is never ideal, and there are risks involved, there are instances when it cannot be avoided. There is the ‘vest trick’; carrying your gear out on your shoulders, which some European low cost carriers no longer allow; stuffing everything info a really small bag, which is a problem if your bag is randomly weighed at some international airports; and of course the situation of simply traveling to much equipment to fit into a standard carry-on bag.

The safety of cameras and lenses is at the forefront of every photographer’s mind when setting foot in an airport. I have experienced the panic of checking my cameras and lenses, primarily during the United Kingdom’s ban on carry-on baggage and subsequent 1 carry-on limit policy. There is a sinking feeling of checking a case loaded with three camera bodies and seven lenses, I have experienced it, but I have relied on singe case to protect my equipment each time it must be checked under a flight.

My durable, bangable, non-drownable, droppable, shipping case of choice for the past few years has been the Pelican 1514.

The Pelican 1514, a Pelican 1510 with padded inserts, is legal for carry-on with the vast majority of international airlines in terms of size. With the case’s 45-linear inch (114.3-linear centimeter) dimensions, recessed wheels and recessed handle, the Pelican 1514 conforms to every baggage template I have dropped it into (with the exception of one now defunct airline).

Many photographers seem to view the Pelican 1514 as a limiting case due to its rigid construction, when it reality the case can hold a substantial amount of equipment.

I first wrote about this case for traveling with camera gear back in early 2007 in this post:
8-February-2007 : A Case You Can Torture And Have Your Gear Be Just Fine (And It’s A Carry On!)

The above post was followed up in late 2007 with an entry about using the Pelican 1514 to pack portable lighting gear here:
27-November-2007: “I Need To Travel In One Light Weight Legal Carry On Bag, Pack Two Lights And I Hate Backpacksâ€

While my equipment set up changes for each shoot, switching between camera body types, lenses, and other gear needs, for the most part I can comfortably pack everything I need into a Pelican 1514.

Below is a photo of the current contents of my Pelican 1514
2 – Canon 1D series bodies
1 – Canon 16-35f2.8L
1 – Canon 70-200f2.8L
1 – Canon 24f1.4L
1 – Canon 24f3.5L TS-E
1 – Canon 50f1.4 USM (with hood affixed)
1 – Canon 85f1.2L
1 – Canon 580EX Speedlight
1 – Nikon SB-28dx Speedlight
2 – Pocket Wizard Set (1 sender/ 1 receiver)
4 – Canon 1D batteries (2 hidden under 70-200f2.8)
1 – Canon 1D battery charger (hidden under 70-200f2.8)
2 – PC Cords (not visible, taped under lid)
1 – Bogen 3007 mini-tripod with extension pole (not visible, taped under lid)
2 – Sets of AA rechargeable batteries (packed under flash units)
1 – Canon E-TTL Cord (wrapped around stack of lens hoods in the lower left of photo)
5 – Lens hoods (stacked under 14f2.8 in lower left of case in photo
1 – Mini-roll of gaffers tape (not pictured, sits on top of two lenses)

This Pelican 1514 set up has flown under multiple regional jets and turbo-prop and while the case gets some nicks and scraps, my contents always arrive in perfect working condition exactly as they were placed inside the case.

For a case that can be carried on, checked on, and take almost any abuse you can throw at it. The Pelican 1514 is the only choice on the market for versatility and durability.

Below is a photo of my Pelican 1514 packed up and a photo of the exterior of my scraped, scratched, nicked up Pelican 1514.

Happy Flying!
–Click Images Below To Enlarge Them–
a bag full of camera lenses and lenses a black suitcase with stickers on it


  1. Steve, I bought a 1510(1514) right after your original article in 2007 and I’m still using it as my primary today. I absolutely love it! It’s by far the most bang for your buck if you want to protect your gear on a plane/car/boat/dogsled/hot-air-baloon/spaceship/whatever your mode of transport is!
    Still wish I had a fish sticker though. ;P

  2. Ross,

    On a Turbo Prop & RJ the Pelican 1514 is valet checked (stair checked) and redelivered to you at the stairs upon arrival. The 1514 can fit under the E-170/190 seats, but not those of a CRJ, EMB-135/145, Dash 8/Q400, or ATR-42. I have jammed it under the seats of a BAe-146 though.

    Happy Flying!


  3. I can confirm that the 1514 will fit under the seat of a CRJ, but it protrudes into your seat partner’s foot space (which has not been a problem for me flying with the wife). They will ask you to gate check it, but I’ve had luck telling them it will fit under the seat and having them let me bring it on board.

    If you’re not traveling with a friend, you’d better have something to bribe your seat partner with!

    Love my 1514 by the way. It’s my everyday case, location foot stool, carry-on, camera vault……

  4. Jonathan,

    The 1514 will fit under ‘some’ CRJ seats. Some airlines have seats with less vertical space than others, which can prevent a 1514 from sliding under there. The other problem, as you mentioned, is you had better be sitting alone or with someone you know to slide it under there.

    The 1514 can also fit under certain Q400 seats, I stuffed it under the seats of a Horizon Q400 once, but it does not fit fit under the Dash8 seats of the airlines I fly with (Q400 is the ‘new’ version of the Dash 8).

    As a rule, I plan for the case to not fit under the seats, rather than deal with the hassle.

    Happy Flying!


  5. Good to know and a good rule to follow in all cases.

    The airline was NWA by the way. Even so, you can’t trust that the attendant will let you carry the case on, so it goes back to planning on gate checking it.

  6. Yup I’m a 1514 devotee, absolutely love the case, and oddly an even bigger fn of the organiser lid too…

    Seriously considering getting one of Pelican’s custom name plates, has anyone gone down this route??

  7. Has anyone flown with this using Air Canada? It seems like it’s 1/2 inch over spec. I really don’t want to check thousands of dollars worth of equipment…

  8. I have flown Air Canada with the Pelican 1514 flying on Boeing 767, Airbus A320, EMB-170, Dash-8 and CRJ aircraft. My flights have been US-Canada, domestic within Canada and trans-Atlantic between Canada and the United Kingdom.

    Happy Flying!


  9. Hi, thanks for the informative posts, I was just wondering what your solution is on shoots where you have to take a laptop and all the associated kit as well as the usual camera gear but are still faced with the 1 bag carry on rule. I can just manage to get all the essentials into a LowePro rucsac but it weighs 18kg and that’s too heavy to carry all day while travelling.

  10. Fish:
    So glad to hear that you’ve had success with carrying on this case on Air Canada. I was worried about that extra .5. The Storm iM2500 and HPRC 2550 both are 21.5 –so perfect with AC but neither have the bang for the buck that the 1514 does (with the foam, the two cost the same as the 1514). Hopefully they haven’t clamped down on this in the intervening years since you posted that.

    I stumble back upon your site once every two years or so and am always pleased with the good info!

  11. Justin,

    Glad I can help, even if only once or twice a year. As far as I know, Air Canada has not changed its carry on restriction and the 1514 is within its established carry on limits.

    Happy Flying!


  12. Fish,

    If confronted with a gate check (valet check) demand immediately before or upon boarding, would it be possible to slip a couple of non-TSA padlocks on the Pelican 1514 for security? It seems that since the bag has already been screened and will be returned to you on the jetway upon landing, that either leaving it unlocked or using the near worthless TSA approved locks would invite theft.


  13. 1514 is great for all international travel except within Europe if you are flying Ryanair. For that reason, I use ThinkTank Shapeshifter.

  14. Wondering if Anyone tried Camouflaging their Pelican case with A Suitcase cover/ Skin ? To give it a More Luggage less expensive Toy Box look?

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