For most of us, a journey to the great outdoors no longer implies leaving behind all our electronic doodads. To the contrary, our cameras are digital, our compasses and maps are in our phones or GPS, and our nighttime reading is on a tablet. Which means unless you have the heart of a gambler (much less the navigating skills of a scout), you need to take steps to protect your tech, with something like Pelican ProGear's U100 Urban Elite Backpack.
Pelican is known for its line of ruggedized and waterproof hard cases that are used by professionals to protect everything from cameras to concert equipment. The company's latest, the U100, is a backpack that houses a waterproof, virtually indestructible hard internal case for laptops. In order to test out the U100's chops, we secured a laptop in its internal case and then jumped in some water – specifically, the Madison River in Yellowstone National Park. We swam across the Madison and this very review was typed on the other side. As you might deduce, Pelican's claims of waterproofness are genuine and our laptop stayed as dry as the day it was manufactured. But we should also point out that the rest of the backpack – and the items inside – got thoroughly drenched. (Pelican doesn't imply the backpack itself is waterproof, but we thought it wise to point this out, anyway.)
The U100 has a 16-liter capacity, and can fit a 15-inch laptop or 17-inch MacBook in the waterproof (and, it turns out, dust- and crush-proof, too) case. It also features four internal compartments, including an impact-resistant zippered pouch on the front for a tablet. The built-in ballistic nylon rigid case (with an equalizer control to prevent it getting vacuum-locked) forms the base of the backpack, which explains the extra plush lumbar back panel, and the next expandable compartment builds out from there. The third compartment is a top-loading, fast-access, TSA-compliant compartment for liquids and the like. Behind the padded back is a hidden compartment that is great for keeping your passport, currency, or other valuables during a trip abroad. While we suspect it could actually last far longer, Pelican says the case is rated to survive for up to 30 minutes in 3.3 feet of water.
The pack, it turns out, dries pretty quickly, especially if you pull the padding from the lumbar support. So now, to swim back.... [$300; pelicanprogear.com]