Review: Pelican S130: the Ultimate Laptop/Camera Adventure Backpack?

We all love to take pictures. Fueled by social media and the era of the smartphone camera, it seems like we've all become semi-professional photographers. While the iPhone is certainly an invaluable photographic tool, there are times when it just can't do the moment justice, no matter how many photo enhancement apps you have on board. Enter the Pelican S130 Sports Elite backpack ($178.18 at B&H Photo), with an optimal solution for carrying your higher quality digital-SLR on your adventures this summer.

Master your iPhone in one minute a day:

Sign up to iPhone Life's Tip of the Day Newsletter and we'll send you a tip each day to save time and get the most out of your iPhone or iPad.

Review: Pelican S130. The Ultimate Laptop/Camera Adventure Backpack

They say the best camera is the one you have with you. Using this logic, it could be argued that our iPhones are our best cameras, since we almost always have them with us. But I think we can also agree that while the iPhone is awesome for spontaneously catching pics on the go and quickly sending them to friends and family or posting them to social networks, the iPhone camera is limited in quality and performance. If, as they say, your best camera is the one you have with you, then what good is your fancy Nikon or Canon, and all those pricey lenses, filters, and light reflectors, if you don't have them handy?

To the rescue is Pelican’s S130 rugged camera backpack, ($304.95 at Pelican's website) the go-anywhere, adventure-proof camera bag that will inspire you to get out with your serious camera gear more often. The S130 is designed from the ground up to allow you to venture into the wild with your valuable camera equipment (and laptop too!) without having to worry about the safety of your gear. The S130 is made to take a beating; in fact it's one of the toughest, extreme-duty camera/laptop backpacks you'll find!


Review: Pelican S130. The Ultimate Laptop/Camera Adventure Backpack

The S130 is a feature-rich backpack that is rated crush proof, watertight, dust proof, and able to handle extreme temperatures. It is TSA-compliant and the laptop case not only has a convenient pressure equalization valve (preventing “vacuum lock”) for when your treks take you to high altitudes, but it is is actually watertight to one meter for 30 minutes! That's pretty impressive!

The construction of this pack is superb. The fabric the pack is constructed of is extremely durable, with hexagonal rip-stop stitch weave. It sports a rigid front plate for impact protection, load compression straps, a chest clip and removable hip belt, and floating shoulder straps and lumbar pad with specially designed, ventilated padding. The bottom of the pack has expandable sling storage for a sleeping mat or a rolled up jacket. The S130 has two side water bottle pockets and one large external top front pocket for miscelaneous items. The interior has a removable padded divider set, and above the divider set there is ample (25 liters) storage space where you can pack away other provisions and gear.

As an avid outdoor explorer and amateur photographer, I was very impressed with this backpack. I found it quite comfortable to wear for long stretches, though I have to say, the padding between the back panel and your back and spine could have been a little more generous. Other photographers I know who have used this pack have also expressed to me that they would have appreciated some extra back padding for comfort’s sake.

Review: Pelican S130. The Ultimate Laptop/Camera Adventure Backpack     Review: Pelican S130. The Ultimate Laptop/Camera Adventure Backpack


  • Even though the Pelican S130 sells for $304.95 at the Pelican website, it can be purchased for as low as $178.18 from B&H Photo, making what might have been considered a pricey backpack an excellent deal.

  • Crush proof laptop case that holds up to a 15-inch computer.

  • Convenient access to all compartments, TSA-friendly.

  • Overall an extremely rugged, outdoor-ready backpack, one that should last for many years of hard use.


  • At just over seven pounds it's a little on the heavy side.

  • The back of the pack could use more padding. As you can see from the above image, the center of the back has a large area where there is no padding and your back is exposed to the hard shell of the laptop case. It makes bending forward uncomfortable and could potentially be a problem for anyone with back issues.


If you are looking for the perfect heavy-duty laptop/camera bag for your adventurous summer travels, especially if you'll be heading into extreme environments, then the Pelican S130 may be just the pack for you.

All photos courtesy of Gabriella Wallace

Master your iPhone in one minute a day: Sign up here to get our FREE Tip of the Day delivered right to your inbox.

As Senior Gear Editor at iPhone Life, Dig reports on the latest and greatest accessories built for the iOS ecosystem. From rugged gear and Bluetooth speakers, to headphones, unique iDevice cases, and iOS remote controlled vehicles, Dig's articles cover a wide range of great gear for the iPhone and iPad. A core gamer for over three decades, Dig also writes iPhone Life's Game Centered column, which focuses on the best iOS games and game related news. Additionally, Dig's company, iDoc Tech Support, offers web design and administration services as well as iPhone and iPad repairs. When not at his work desk, Dig loves spending time with family and enjoying the wonders of nature. You can follow him on Twitter @idoctech