The Best Pelican Case Alternative?

In the world of photography, protecting one’s gear is paramount. When it comes to buying cases for equipment, one name often springs to mind – Pelican, the industry leader. However, a new option has emerged on the market: The Seahorse Camera Case.

Despite years of carrying camera gear, I’ve never quite found the right bag or case to protect my expensive gear, and I’ve never been able to justify some of the outrageously expensive camera cases out there. That’s why, when I first heard about the Seahorse line of protective cases, I was so intrigued. Could this be a more affordable Pelican case alternative?

What is Seahorse?

Seahorse has been designing protective cases for all sorts of equipment since 1997. Each of their cases is designed and manufactured in Southern California, and the company is staffed with a loyal group of designers, customer service reps, and fabricators. They strive to continually improve products based on customer feedback and real-life product testing.

I received my Seahorse SE830 to test courtesy of Evergreen Cases. Evergreen is a company that has partnered with Seahorse in a variety of ways and is their preferred authorized dealer. My experience in ordering and customizing my case was simple and pleasant, so I can attest to the quality customer service experience I had with Evergreen.

Seahorse SE830 Waterproof Protective Case Review

Seahorse SE830 Waterproof Protective Case Design
Kim Magaraci / ViaTravelers

The Seahorse 830, is a robust hard-shell and waterproof travel camera case. This case has earned a reputation for being highly durable, similar to the well-known Pelican cases, making it a compelling Pelican case alternative.

I travel all around the country taking photos, and I use my photo gear for all sorts of purposes. I’m primarily a landscape photographer, but I do often shoot photos for equestrian events and soccer leagues. That means the amount of gear I carry as I travel changes all the time.

Sometimes, I’m just carrying one camera body and one lens, but most of the time, I’ve got multiple lenses, two camera bodies, a tripod, memory cards, and all sorts of photo accessories. I recently pulled together a list of the best travel accessories for photographers based on what I tend to lug around.

As soon as I received my Seahorse camera case, I loaded it up with gear and threw it in my car for a weekend of snapping photos down the shore. The Jersey Shore offers many photo opportunities, but it also presents a lot of challenges: sand, sun, and saltwater aren’t great for sensitive electronics. I figured that if I was going to put the case to the test, this would be a great spot to start.

After using the Seahorse Protective Case to keep my stuff organized over a couple of days of shooting, I was pleasantly surprised at how well it held up! Let’s take a look at what makes the Seahorse case a fantastic alternative to Pelican cases.

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Design and Features

Overall, I was impressed with the sturdy build quality and customization options in the case. I wasn’t sure how this would hold up to industry-leading Pelican cases, but after testing it out a bit, I think it is every bit as protective.

The retractable roller handle allows for easy transportation alongside the roller wheels. It meets the dimensions for carry-on travel, which is super important to me as a (wannabe) minimalist traveler.

The Seahorse 830 can be purchased with a foam lid or a compartment mesh bag lid. The latter option provides an organized packing and unpacking experience for those with lots of photography accessories.

Additionally, the bottom of the Seahorse Camera Case is equipped with Velcro foam dividers, though users also have the option for the traditional pick-and-pluck foam. Both choices offer adaptability to the ever-changing needs of an on-the-go photographer.

Sturdy Waterproof Case Design

Seahorse SE830 from Evergreen Cases
Kim Magaraci / ViaTravelers

This sturdy hard-shell case is clearly impact-resistant, which is important to me because I might be the world’s clumsiest photographer. From an initial look at the Seahorse Camera Case, one can see it is indeed built to last; the heavy-duty handles and latches require some strength to maneuver, alluding to its sturdy construction.

Even when tossed in the trunk of my sometimes chaotic Jeep Renegade and sharing the back seat with my dog, I didn’t have to worry – the case offered complete protection against the average bumps and scrapes you can expect in such an environment.

Pressure Equalization Valve

Seahorse Case Pressure Equalization Valve
Kim Magaraci / ViaTravelers

This is a standout feature for anyone who flies with their camera gear. If you’ve ever opened up your travel toiletries or brought a bag of chips on a plane, you know how even pressurized cabins can mess with items that aren’t used to being at 30,000 feet.

The automatic pressure equalization system in the Seahorse case means that each twist lock latch doubles as an air release valve and provides stable pressure. You’ll find the same features on Pelican cases, but it’s nice to know you don’t have to sacrifice gear safety when you’re on a tight budget.

Reinforced Locks

Seahorse Case Reinforced Locks
Kim Magaraci / ViaTravelers

If you’re staying in a hotel, working on a busy set, or otherwise have to leave your case where others may have access, it’s a smart idea to invest in a lock. While it certainly won’t prevent someone from walking off with your camera case, most property crimes are crimes of opportunity, and a lock is often enough to discourage sticky fingers.

I liked the way the lock spot was reinforced with metal, which made for easy on/off when I tested a TSA-approved luggage lock I have. This is a nice touch – a plastic hole for locks would have been fine, but this attention to detail really elevates the Seahorse protective cases.

See Related: Quince Hard Shell Suitcase Review: Is It Worth the Price?

Telescoping Handle and Smooth-Rolling Wheels

Seahorse Case 
 Telescoping Handle and Smooth-Rolling Wheels
Kim Magaraci / ViaTravelers

So far, these bulky, wide-track wheels haven’t let me down. While I prefer the rubbery “rollerskate” style wheels on most luggage, the heavy-duty plastic ones on this Seahorse case are smooth enough on hardwood and tile floors.

The telescoping handle is nice, too, as it tucks neatly out of the way when the case is in use and feels sturdy and stable enough to handle the heavy and fragile camera gear inside.

Tons of Space for Camera Bodies, Lenses, and Accessories

The Seahorse 830 Camera Case can accommodate an impressive amount of photography gear for its size. On my recent shoot down the shore in New Jersey, I was able to include all the necessary equipment, right from my Olympus camera body with its lengthy lens to my portable hard drive.

Options: Lid Organizer, Hook-and-Loop dividers, Pick and Pluck foam insert

Seahorse Case Organizer
Kim Magaraci / ViaTravelers

Photographers all have different styles and preferences, and these are usually reflected in the way they set up their Pelican-style cases

I’m friends with a landscape photographer who refuses to use circular filters, and she carries enormous square filters everywhere she goes. I also know someone who shoots a ton of time lapses and goes through batteries like you wouldn’t believe.

I configured my Seahorse case with a compartment lid. This seemingly simple amenity proved to be exceptionally useful. All those small, loose items like memory cards, external flash, and extra batteries that typically get misplaced were easily stowed away.

If you need something extremely tough or more impact-resistant, you may want to keep the foam lid for more protection.

See Related: Peak Design Travel Tripod Review: Unboxing & Testing

Pros & Cons of Seahorse SE830 Waterproof Protective Case

Pro: Waterproof and Durable

Dog on top of a Waterproof and Durable Seahorse Case
Kim Magaraci / ViaTravelers

I’m not all that careful with my gear. I travel a lot, I drag my camera equipment to horse shows and to soccer games, and I hike with my gear. I also live in a house with two entitled dogs who think that everything in the house belongs to them.

Seahorse Case Waterproof Test
Kim Magaraci / ViaTravelers

It goes without saying, then, that my gear needs to be durable, and that extends to cases, too. If I’m shooting a soccer game and it starts to pour, I don’t want to have to worry about my camera case on the sidelines. If I’m forced to gate-check my carry-on, I need to trust that it can withstand whatever airport abuse it’s about to endure.

Luckily, I have absolutely no hesitation in trusting the Seahorse SE830 Waterproof Protective Case to protect my lenses and bodies. It hasn’t stopped raining this year, so I even tested the empty case by leaving it outside in the rain overnight, and when I opened it in the morning, everything inside was dry. It’s not just water resistant – the inside was bone dry after a good downpour.

Pro: Customizable

Inside the Seahorse Case
Kim Magaraci / ViaTravelers

As a travel photographer, I never know what I’m bringing on my next trip. When I’m shooting wildlife in Yellowstone National Park, I need my long lenses, a monopod, teleconverters, and at least two camera bodies.

On the other hand, if I’m heading to Newport Beach, the long lenses stay home, and I’m bringing a tripod, wide-angle lenses, and neutral density filters. Plus, lots of lens wipes and a Lenspen to keep the sand and salt out of my electronics!

I chose the versatile hook-and-loop dividers. These allow for easy modification depending on what I’m bringing with me on that particular day. This feature was especially beneficial to me when transporting my two tripods and smaller lenses so I could ensure a snug fit.

Being able to choose from a foam lid (more protection for those filters!) or an organizer lid (lots of ways to keep batteries organized) is just one great feature of the Seahorse case. Other customizable options like pick-and-pluck vs. hook-and-loop, plus two color options, make it easy to design the perfect case for your needs.

Pro: Portability and Carry On Size

Sturdy Seahorse Case Handle
Kim Magaraci / ViaTravelers

As a traveler, I refuse to check a bag unless I really need to. When I was sifting through the Seahorse case options on Evergreen’s website, I ended up choosing this model because it fit the carry-on requirements of the airlines that I fly the most.

While I haven’t flown with this case yet, I’m glad that I can roll it along in the airport and into overhead compartments without having to worry about my gear being at the whim of the baggage handlers.

Pro: Affordable

Screenshot of a Seahorse SE830 Camera Case configuration
Seahorse SE830 / Evergreen Cases

As of writing, the most similar Pelican case to the SE830 is the 1510 Protector Carry-On Case, which starts at $244.95 and comes with pick-n-pluck foam. A similarly configured Seahorse SE830 rings up at just $198.20.

As you add options, it’s clear that you get more bang for your buck with the Seahorse case. The most expensive configuration of the 1510 Protector Carry-On Case will cost you $320.95 and come with their proprietary divider system and a foam lid, but no keyed locks and no compartment lid.

The most expensive configuration of the SE830 includes hook-and-loop dividers, the organizer lid, and custom keyed TSA-approved locks – and it still only hits $306.63. When you start to compare prices like that, it’s clear that this is an affordable alternative.

Pro: Lifetime Guarantee

Seahorse Protective Cases warranty
Seahorse / Seahorse

Seahorse offers a lifetime warranty on their cases, which is something that’s hard to find in the world of sensitive electronics! Any sort of damage caused by normal wear and tear is covered.

Examples given on the Seahorse website include wobbly wheels, loose latches, and even “a bit of moisture in the case after taking it white water rafting with you.” I love a company with a sense of humor.

Of course, intentional abuse or non-standard use of the case (as their “Filling your case with firecrackers”) won’t be covered under the warranty. I’ll cancel my 4th of July plans…

Pro/Con: Not Quite A Pelican Case

I’m a little on the fence about how much this one matters. I don’t often shoot on set with multiple photographers, but if I did, I could see the appeal of having the “industry norm” by my side.

It also can be a little harder to trust a case that’s less known. However, that also means that gear snipers won’t be as quick to recognize your case as one filled with photography equipment. Really, the fact that the Seahorse case isn’t a Pelican is a big plus to me, but I could see how others may be turned off.

See Related: Best Camera Bags for Travel

Con: Case Depth

As mentioned in my video review of the Seahorse camera case, the case depth was an issue for my (rather compact) Olympus lens. The Seahorse Camera Case’s depth was somewhat limiting, which was particularly evident in the corners closest to the wheels.

My longer lens required some adjustment to fit – the tripod ring had to be loosened and rotated so that the lens would fit snugly. This inconvenience is far from a dealbreaker, but it’s definitely something to consider when planning the accommodation of larger and bulkier gear.

Con: Heavy, Even When Empty

This is a given when it comes to hard-shell protective camera cases, but it still deserve mentioning. The big plastic case is heavy, even when it’s empty. I weighed it as-is, and with the organizer lid and hook-and-loop organizers, it tipped the scales at 11.2 lbs.

Final Verdict: Are Seahorse Cases Worth It?

I’ll admit it: I’ve been burned in the past when looking for alternative cases and searching beyond industry leaders. This time, though, I think I’ve hit the jackpot: the Seahorse camera case is a fantastic way to travel with a lot of camera gear, and it’s a more affordable option.

I’ve put this hard case to the test and have not once worried about my camera equipment getting knocked around. I’ve actually started to use the Seahorse camera case to store and organize my camera bodies and lenses in my office instead of just on the road.

Overall, I was pleased with the performance of the Seahorse 830 travel camera case when used for day trips. Despite some minor limitations, the case is resilient and straightforward to transport. Most importantly, it provides a cost-effective alternative for those considering a Pelican case. The Seahorse Camera Case from Evergreen Cases could very well be the budget-friendly option you’ve been seeking.

Related Resources

Seahorse SE830 Protective Case

Starts at $161.17

Seahorse SE830 Waterproof Protective Case


Pros

  • Waterproof and Durable
  • Customizable
  • Portability and Carry On Size
  • Affordable
  • Lifetime Guarantee


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