The Pelican 1535 Air Case Carry-On is the latest iteration and possible successor to the highly popular Pelican 1510 Carry-on. Utilizing new technology and innovations, the Pelican 1535 Air Case features a super-light proprietary HPX² polymer to help reduce the weight, while retaining the strength and durability that Pelican is known for. Weighing in at 8.69 pounds, the company claims that this is up to 40% lighter than other cases on the market. The weight saving is what initially caught my attention. The newly added option of the TrekPak divider system was also something I was keen to try out.
As a long-time Pelican 1510 Carry-On user I wanted to see if the case is worth the “upgrade” and lives up to the high standards and expectations of the original. After several months of real-world use of the Pelican 1535 Air Case Carry-On this is what I came to find.
Who It Suits
Photographers, video makers, military personnel and various outdoorsmen. Those that require maximum durability and protection on the go.
Who It Doesn’t
Any traveler who doesn’t require extreme protection. The case is highly specialized so it’s not necessarily made for traditional travelers with typical luggage.
Premium protection is what Pelican has become synonymous with and what comes with that is peace of mind. When it comes to protecting delicate and often expensive belongings such as camera equipment, the case delivers on the expectations.
“Utilizing new technology and innovations, the Pelican 1535 Air Case features a super-light proprietary HPX² polymer to help reduce the weight, while retaining the strength and durability that Pelican is known for.”
The case is built tough utilizing a new Pelican™ lightweight HPX™ resin, a proprietary formula that rebounds without breaking, making it crushproof. The internal honeycomb structural elements are said to be stronger than solid polymer material that will save your valuables from unexpected drops. In a pinch, I’ve used the case to double as an apple box / step stool to get additional height when taking a photo and it offered enough support to hold my weight (about 170 pounds on a good day), helping me to get the shot.
A key element that makes this case a standout is the watertight O-ring gasket, providing reliable protection from the elements including dust and water. The company claims that the case has been proven to be submerged for up to 30 minutes in a depth of one meter, but I didn’t have the courage to test that out for myself. However, having to deplane on the rainy runway before entering the dry comfort of the airport the case held up with no issues, keeping my gear dry.
The interior compartment holds just enough gear for quick trips with interior dimensions of 20.39″ x 11.20″ x 7.20″. Pelican offers multiple options for internal organization including foam, padded dividers, and the new TrekPak divider system – my personal preference. The TrekPak system is simple to use and includes the customizable divider panels, locking pins, and a cutting tool. The panels are made of dense foam for support and stability. I found the system to be very easy to use to create perfectly sized dividers to neatly organize my gear, making it easy to find when in use. The TrekPak system gets additional support with 1″ egg crate foam plus 5/8″ foam found on the lid of the Pelican 1535 Air Case, while the bottom of the case gets 1″ thick foam padding. I do suggest taking the time to measure everything so there’s no wasted material or extra money spent as a replacement full insert kit is over $100.
An upgrade over the 1510 Carry-On is the card holder, which snaps into place and fits a traditional business card nicely either on the front or the side of the case.
The Pelican 1535 Air Case Carry-On rolls around smoothly on hard surfaces and packed carpet that you may find inside airports and takes slightly more effort through dirt, grass, or any other varying surface where a photoshoot may lead you. The wheels are durable and with Pelican’s “Unconditional Lifetime Guarantee” you should be set.
“Pelican offers multiple options for internal organization including foam, padded dividers, and the new TrekPak divider system – my personal preference.”
If style and looks are important to you, I found the style of the Pelican 1535 Air to be sleeker than its predecessor. It is also available in multiple colors – black, orange, silver and yellow (I wish it was available in OD Green like the 1510 is).
The Not So Good
My major gripe with the Pelican 1535 Air Case Carry-On, which I found to be quite significant, is the lack of a top handle. By deleting the top handle, which I’m guessing was to shave off some weight, you’re forced to use the telescoping handle in instances such as pulling from an overhead bin. Here’s the major flaw: if I pulled on the handle hard enough (as I came to find out the hard way) from an overhead bin the handle had a tendency to come right out due to the force alone, which then almost destroyed my foot on the flight as it extended with a loud and heavy thump. It would also come detached from the sheer weight of the camera gear as I tried to use it to walk through the airline aisle, which became quite embarrassing and somewhat dangerous as 30 to 40 pounds with a hard resin from even a foot off the ground could cause some damage.
“My major gripe with the Pelican 1535 Air Case Carry-On, which I found to be quite significant, is the lack of a top handle.”
Also due to the lack of the centered top handle, if you’re carrying it by the telescoping handle the case will lean into your body, making it awkward to carry. The bottom of the case would often hit my leg as I walked. I tried switching positions so it goes outward, but that’s even more ergonomically challenging due to the weight imbalance.
The cost may come into play as well as the Pelican 1535 Air Case Carry-On with foam is currently about $220 on Amazon and the Pelican 1510 with foam is only $160. The question will be is $50-60 worth about 3.5 pounds of savings?
Overall, the Pelican 1535 Air Case Carry-On is a great option for optimal protection for your valuable gear, while providing peace of mind when traveling and on location. The weight saving for me is ample enough to make the switch, but the lack of a top handle makes me hesitate. If they add a top handle to a new model, I’m all in.
The TrekPak system is a game changer. A bit more costly, but worth it for protection, versatility, and optimal organization.
Note – the bottom feet of the 1535 Air and 1510 do not line up so they are not compatible with each other for stacking. So if you have a collection of 1510’s and like to keep things ultra-organized and stacked you would need to completely make the switch.
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