A Case For The Traveling Photographer; Pelican’s RSV Series: The PCS283

Billed as a "large wheeled camera/computer case," the Pelican 283 (for short) can carry all your gear, and more, in a clever design that holds more than you could imagine in a carryon, wheeled case. In truth, when the entire bag is "together," it can be difficult to stow into an above-seat bin, my main criteria for a bag these days, and in fact the case is a bit larger than carryon specs when "assembled." But this voluminous case is wise to carryon specs, since the "messenger-type computer case" is completely removable from the main bag via a sturdy, zippered attachment. It is not just a flap that can hold a computer and peripherals--it is a fully detachable and secure shoulder bag that can be easily (with a bit of practice beforehand) detached and reattached as needed.

Here's how it worked for me on a recent multi-leg airline trip: I filled the main 22x14x9" compartment with a Canon EOS 5D, EOS 30D, a Canon zoom, a Canon 50mm f/1.4, filters, a long Sigma zoom, cards, CDs etc., plus attached a small Gitzo tripod to the outer edge. I then put my MacBook Pro and associated gear, including AC adapter, more CDs, and various notebooks and stuff into the 17.5x13.5x2" computer case, all of which was still attached to the main bag. I looked at it somewhat skeptically, as it seemed too thick to get into an overhead. I must admit to having practiced attaching and reattaching the computer section to the main bag a few times before I left to, for the most part, spare me the embarrassment of fumbling with it at the airport.

When I got to the security line the TSA official looked at the bag with equal skepticism, although fully attached at one airport it fit into and through the screening tunnel. At another they had made the screening device entrance so tight that the bag would not fit through. But lo and behold I quickly disengaged the computer bag from the main compartment, and met the "one piece of luggage and one personal item" rule with no sweat, plus was able to easily take out the laptop for separate screening without having to open my main bag. Then, after passing through the screening process, I quickly reattached the computer section and could pass the time waiting for the usual late flight with just one wheeled bag. The same process took place once on the plane, where the combined bag would not fit into the overhead (perhaps due to me cramming the computer section with too much stuff). I then simply unzipped the computer section, and to the delight and amazement of the flight attendants easily slipped both into the stowage. I could also have slipped it under the seat in front of me, but I usually hesitate to do that when on the aisle as I can't count on the graceful exit of others occupying the center or window seats.

In short, this might just be a steady traveling companion from now on as it saves shoulder and neck strain while it handles everything most photographers need to lug along these days. And the build itself helps instill confidence that it will do the job beyond its clever design. The case is constructed of water-resistant 1680D ballistic nylon and lined with PVC-coated 210D nylon. The main case has dividers that are quite changeable and that fit both the Canon bodies on the trip without them having to rub shoulders. The messenger case portion was able to handle my portable 17" MacBook Pro with ease, with a wide carry strap that could be looped through the telescoping handle of the main pack, making movement away from the screening area and off the plane prior to attachment easy.

You might not need the 283 if you do not have a complement of bodies, lenses, and a laptop to lug along on your next trip; there are certainly smaller cases that can get that job done. But if you're like me you'll appreciate the combo.

The Pelican RSV Series case is manufactured for Brandess-Kalt-Aetna (BKA) under license from Pelican Products. Retail list price is $399.95, but we have seen it for less in various venues.

For more information, contact Brandess-Kalt-Aetna Group, Inc., 701 Corporate Woods Parkway, Vernon Hills, IL 60061; (847) 821-0450; www.bkaphoto.com.