Pelican or generic?

Protective Cases Comparison – Pelican 1450 vs. Duratech Precision MPV4

If you need a watertight, dustproof, shock absorbing and crush resistant case for transporting your valuable gear, there is no product which can match the decorated testamur of the Pelican case.

From protecting precious military equipment in the Middle East to allowing researches in the pacific to swim to shore with their equipment intact, the Pelican case has been there, done that, again and again and again.

Naturally then, you’d expect to pay for such protection and that’s definitely the case here (no pun intended).  But there are cheaper alternatives available that are around half the price of their Pelican equivalents. However, as you would probably be carrying thousands of dollars worth of equipment in these cases, would you risk buying what could be a lesser product to save just a few dollars?

So to see the difference between a Pelican case and a typical Pelican equivalent, I’ve chosen to compare the Pelican 1450 and the Duratech Precision MPV4 which is sold by Jaycar Electronics.

Sizing them up

The Pelican 1450 (on the right) is the smaller of the two, with internal dimensions of 371x258x152mm.  The internal dimensions of the Duratech MPV4 (on the left) are 400x322x145mm.  Both can be purchased with easily customisable, ‘pick and pluck’ foam inserts, or padded dividers.

In terms of range, Pelican wins hands down with literally hundreds of different sized cases available.  The Duratech range is limited to four sizes, with the MPV4 being the second smallest available.  The reason for choosing a larger Duratech case for this comparison is simple- Pelican simply don’t make a case in the same size, with the next largest case available being the 1500 (425x284x155mm).

A side by side comparison of the Duratech MPV4 (left) and the Pelican 1450 (right).
‘Pick and Pluck’ foam is available for both the Pelican 1450 and Duratech MPV4.  The foam for the Pelican 1450 comes in a single layer, whilst the Duratech MPV4 has two, smaller lays of foam, allowing customisation in depth as well.  Both cases have ‘egg crate’ foam lining the lid.

First Impressions and Cost

My first impression was there is not much difference between the two cases, apart from the pricetag.  Typically, the Pelican 1450 can be purchased for a nominal price of $200AUD online, whilst the MPV4 comes in at half the price – available for $99.95.  So what could be worth the extra $100?  I’ll try and answer this question below…

Build Quality

There can be no denying the quality of mouldings for both cases.  In terms of material, the Pelican 1450 is moulded from a polypropylene copolymer, which feels harder than the moulded ABS contruction of the Duratech MPV4.  Both mouldings feature external ribs allowing them to be stacked.  However, due to the size difference between the two cases, the stacking features are not compatible with each other.

Front view of both boxes, showing the moulded features allowing for easy, secure stacking.
Front view of both boxes, showing the moulded features allowing for easy, secure stacking.
Bottom of the MPV4 (left) and 1450 (right).
Bottom of the MPV4 (left) and 1450 (right).

Handles

If you’re going to be carrying this box with a few kg of gear inside, you’d want the handle to be comfortable to hold.  Whilst the MPV4 is the larger of the two cases, it has the smaller handle of the two.  The combination of a larger handle with a soft, rubberised grip gives the Pelican 1450 the edge for this round.

With that being said however, the handles for both cases are attached using two steel pins and both did not feel like breaking anytime soon.  Therefore I would have the highest confidence in the longevity of both handles.

Latches

To me, if a protective case can’t close, it would simply be a glorified shoe box.  Now there is a significant difference between the two latch designs.  The latches on the Pelican 1450 are far tougher to open and lock than the latches on the MPV4.  This is because the 1450 latches relies on the elastic deformation of the latch to ‘snap’ into the locked position.

On the other hand, the MPV4 utilises a spring loaded design, which makes it far easier to lock and undo – perhaps a little too easy to undo, as the springs aren’t very strong.  Whilst both latch designs are the same width, the actual locking contact surface of the MPV4 is around 1/4 the length of the 1450 contact surface. Whilst both designs seem strong and capable, my opinion is that the 1450 latches are far stronger in design and definitely less likely to accidentally open.

Close up of the 1450 latch
Close up of the 1450 latch
Close up of the MPV4 latch
Close up of the MPV4 latch

Hinges

Opposite the latches are the hinges which are equally important in keeping your gear dry and dust free.  As the lids of both cases do not swing open the full 180deg, accidentally dropping the case, or having something fall on the case when it is open may cause the lid to rip off, if the hinges aren’t strong enough.

The lids of both the MPV4 (left) and 1450 (right) have a 110-120deg opening angle.
The lids of both the MPV4 (left) and 1450 (right) have a 110-120deg opening angle.

The MPV4 has a single, full length hinge design, which seems stronger than the double hinge design of the 1450. Having a full length hinge can also have its benefits in reducing the potential of items jamming the lid open, if it gets accidentally stuck in the gap between the 1450’s two hinges.  However, as with the latches, I’m sure both would snap if someone were to force the lid to open the full 180deg.

Full length hinge on the MPV4
Full length hinge on the MPV4
The 1450 has two, smaller hinges
The 1450 has two, smaller hinges

 

Seals

Not suprisingly, both box designs share exactly the same seal design – a rubber gasket strip embedded in the lid, being compressed by a moulded lip on the main body.

Rubber strip embedded in the foam lid - common in both designs.
Rubber strip embedded in the foam lid – common in both designs.
The contact lip on the MPV4 is slightly larger than that on the 1450, resulting in slighting greater compression of the rubber seal.
The contact lip on the MPV4 is slightly larger than that on the 1450, resulting in slighting greater compression of the rubber seal.

As seen in the photos above, the rubber gasket on the MPV4 seems to be more compressed than the 1450 gasket.  However, both are effective in ensuring an air and water-tight seal.

Both cases feature their own type of pressure purge valve to prevent your gear from barotrauma.  The purge valve on MPV4 is a semi-auto type valve, which will automatically allow pressure to equalise if the surrounding relative pressure drops (such as ascending in an aircraft to cruising altitude).  However, to prevent water and moisture from entering the case, the valve needs to be manually opened in the opposite scenario – i.e. when the relative pressure increases (such as descending back to seal level).  For the MPV4, this is done by unscrewing the cap.

 

The MPV4 only has a manual purge valve.
The MPV4 only has a manual purge valve.
The manual purge valve on the MPV4 does not automatically equalise pressure when the external surrounding pressure increases.
The manual purge valve on the MPV4 does not automatically equalise pressure when the external surrounding pressure increases, causing the case to temporarily distort (at least you know the seal is airtight!)

 

All Pelican cases feature an automatic pressure purge valve, which automatically equalises pressure, both ways – when the relative surrounding pressure is higher or lower than the internal case pressure.  To prevent water from being ‘sucked’ into the case, the valve has a Gore Tex membrane, which only allows air to permeate through.  Whilst equalisation is not instantaneously achieved, it should prevent the temporary distortion of the case as shown above with the MPV4.

The Pelican 1450 features an automatic 'Gore Tex' membrane pressure equaliser valve.
The Pelican 1450 features an automatic ‘Gore Tex’ membrane pressure equaliser valve.

Final word

So what could be so different between a Pelican case and a typical example of a cheaper alternative?  I’ve summarised my conclusions for you below:

  • Moulding material: From what I’ve seen, most of the alternatives out there are made out of moulded ABS plastic, vs. the moulded polypropylene copolymer plastic of which Pelican cases are moulded from.  Now, I don’t specialise in material chemistry, so I won’t pretend to make a judgement between the two, but I’ll just list it as a difference between the two.  In terms of mould quality, both are superb.
  • Latch design: The Pelican’s latches seem stronger and less likely to accidentally open.
  • Hinge: The Duratech MPV4, in my opinion, has a better hinge design, utilising a single, full length hinge, vs. the two hinge approach of Pelican.
  • Pressure equalisation valve: You get what you pay for here, with the Pelican’s automatic pressure equalising, Gore Tex membrane valve clearly being more effective here.  The question is, do you need it?  Can you be without it?  For $100, possibly…
  • Warranty: Pelican cases come with a lifetime warranty, vs. the 3 year warranty available for the MPV4.  However, as much as it is a conspiracy these days with some goods, I don’t think planned obsolescence was instituted in the production of the MPV4.

Other than that, there really isn’t much between these two cases!  In summary, for the extra $100, you get a slightly smaller case, a fancy pressure equalisation valve and a ‘made in USA’ genuine Pelican case with a lifetime warranty and peace of mind that you probably have purchased the best moulded protective case out there.

In the MPV4, you get a slightly larger case, more customisable foam and what is, in essence, a rebranded, generic moulded protective case with a 3 year warranty.  But, I can’t fault this product in any real way- i.e. it is fit for use, doesn’t have any real shortfalls, it is certainly not a lesser product and thus I would not hesitate in purchasing two of these for the price of a single Pelican.

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