Have you ever wondered what the lovechild of a waterproof/crushproof box and a laptop case would look like? Well I hadn’t either… but it seems that someone at Peli did, and the U100 backpack is it.
I’ve used Peli (called Pelican in the US) cases before with expensive camera equipment and they are simply awesome. They are super tough and durable, surviving pretty much any knock or weather condition, but the down side is with all that protection is weight and size. The U100 – a name which instantly made me think of a WW2 German submarine – also suffers from the weight issue (3.65kg) but strangely it doesn’t seem as bulky as a regular peli case.
The backpack itself has been nicely designed considering its hybrid conception. Its smart enough to take to a job interview but tough enough to survive getting thrown about thanks to its ballistic nylon construction. The laptop section is waterproof to 1 metre for 30 minutes (IP67) and the other 16 litres worth of compartments to store charger, paperwork, pens etc. are water resistant. You can see from the picture above that the myriad pockets have been arranged for the business person in mind, with sections clearly defined and a set of expansion/compression straps to minimise bulk when you’re not carrying a full load.
The padded crushproof section can store 15” laptops/17” macbooks and opens with a single chunky push button latch. Closing the latch gives a comforting “click” to tell you that the laptop is now in safe hands, protected behind a sort of O-ring seal in its own environment. There are foam spacers supplied so if you have a smaller laptop it won’t float around inside this section too much.
The back panels are well padded with space to allow some ventilation, and the straps are chunky with a chest clip. I was impressed by the extra details like elastic loops over the excess straps to keep everything tucked away and not looking like a morris dancer. Other design features that get the thumbs up are the reinforced base to help it survive outdoors without getting piles, and the fold out soft rubber handle on top which Peli call ‘supergrip’ and acts like a briefcase handle.
The potential problem with the Peli U100 Urban Elite – aside from the slightly strange name – is that it’s a bag which will appeal to a tiny number of people. It’s very heavy, so won’t be ideal for commuter cyclists, and it’s certainly no outdoor/backcountry product. The best niche we could come up with was for motorcyclists, where the weight matters less but the uncompromising waterproofing and crash protection would be a bonus. Sadly it hasn’t been motorcycling weather since we got the sample in so it hasn’t had a thorough test on 2-wheels yet.
What it has been used for is as a vehicle for safe carriage of a mapping laptop during missing person searches. It’s survived well outside in the cold, and the quick-access main pocket has been easy to use. For that extreme niche it may well be the perfect bag.
SUMMARY: Like all other Peli cases the quality is evident and the lifetime guarantee speaks volumes, but quality comes at a price and with a RRP of £250 it’s a steep one for being able to tweet from the Lake District. For someone who needs their laptop for work outside (photographer/ outdoorsy scientist/ assassin) it may be worth the money as the ultimate protection in a single product. But cheaper alternatives make it a hard case to swallow.
More: Peli Products