Whats the best hard case for a Macbook?
February 24, 2008 4:53 AM   Subscribe

I'm about to go backpacking for a while and need to take my MacBook 13". Can anyone recommend the best hard shell case you can get for it?

I saw this, and I'd be interested in opinions for and against it, or any other brand. Aesthetics be damned, I'm after hard core protection above all else. Thanks!
posted by 6am to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
So by backpacking, do you mean the case will be exposed to hostels or outdoor environments mostly?

The Speck case is a thin plastic layer that fits around the Macbook. It protects against everyday dents and scratches, but it doesn't protect against hard knocks, water, dust, or serious distortions. It is not hard core protection. I'd use it in an office or school environment.

If you want a hard-core hard case, then you need something like one of these Pelican cases. They're waterproof, crush resistant, dust proof, and damn heavy. I'd hate to be lugging one around in my backpacking rig. Though the Hardback or Deluxe might work.

More brands
Otterbox also makes hard cases that are water resistant.
Zero Haliburton should you desire a stylish, but non-water proof box.
posted by Mercaptan at 5:37 AM on February 24, 2008

Where are you going? For how long? The hostels-versus-Sahara question is a pretty big one.
posted by mdonley at 5:50 AM on February 24, 2008

I've backpacked many times with my laptop protected by a custom WaterField Laptop Sleeve. It's not hardshell, but it's wicked durable and should be good enough for standard hosteling (if that's what you mean by "backpacking."
posted by nitsuj at 9:10 AM on February 24, 2008

I have Matias Laptop Armor for my (much larger, much older) PowerBook.

It is very good at protecting against normal drops — I have dropped mine many times and the laptop was unscathed. It has no obvious protection against water. It's not all that heavy, but is large and kind of a pain to lug around since you'll dent or scratch anything you might bump into with it, particularly doors, cars and people.
posted by tomwheeler at 9:39 AM on February 24, 2008

The Speck case is a thin plastic layer that fits around the Macbook. It protects against everyday dents and scratches, but it doesn't protect against hard knocks, water, dust, or serious distortions. It is not hard core protection. I'd use it in an office or school environment.

Ditto-ing. I have a Speck on my MacBook that got put on the moment I bought the machine. It's very attractive, but the shell itself has scratched the MacBook by rubbing against it. Also, since the shell is entirely rigid, some shocks will transmit right through. There's some cracking on the front interior of the machine, next to the trackpad.

Score: B-. It;s okay, but I'd hoped for better.
posted by outlier at 9:47 AM on February 24, 2008

If you're doing true, off-trail backpacking bringing a computer isn't a great idea. If you're just going to tour around Europe or similar, that's a different story, but even then taking a laptop on a backpacking trip doesn't really sound like fun. You've got the worry of damage so you get a hard case which adds weight and bulk. You've got to worry much more about theft and finding a secure place to lock it up any time you don't feel like carrying it with you.

If you're really set on a computer, and I know it can be hard to give it up, maybe consider the Asus Eee PC? It's half the weight of the MacBook and much smaller. It's still a theft magnet like anything electronic, portable, and easy to turn into cash. But at least you're not out nearly as much money if it does get stolen. Throw it your backpack, maybe with a sleeve, and you're good to go.

If waterproofing is a concern you should line your pack with a garbage bag and additionally put everything that you really wouldn't want to get wet in ziploc bags. I bet you'd find a ziploc that would hold the Eee PC.
posted by 6550 at 10:40 AM on February 24, 2008

When I carried a full-size laptop, I used a Boblbee backpack. It's very durable, but doesn't leave much room for anything other than your computer.

I would second the recommendation to get a smaller computer instead of a bigger bag. I carry a Sony Vaio UX when I travel, and it doesn't need any special accommodation. You don't even have to take it out of your bag at airport security! Admittedly, the UX is a bit pricey, but you could get something similar that's cheaper. Some of the UX models have gone way down in price, too.
posted by me & my monkey at 1:52 PM on February 24, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions so far guys (and girls) - to add a little more light to the situation:

I'm going initially (two weeks) to Vietnam, but then followed by several months in New Zealand. I'm not going to use it at all in 'Nam, I just need to keep it protected. We're not doing hardcore jungle or sand or anything like that. Hostels. I just want to make sure over zealous baggage handlers and the odd shower doesn't get the better of my pooter.
posted by 6am at 2:55 PM on February 24, 2008

Response by poster: I should also mention that I am kind of stuck with the macbook. Believe me, I would leave the computer if I could, but I'm away in NZ for four months and part of my reason for going is to do personal animation work when I'm out there.

My alternative I suppose would be ship the computer to friends out there and pick it up. But it'll still get lobbed into the backpack when I do.
posted by 6am at 4:04 PM on February 24, 2008

Not a lot of great options, then. The Booq Vyper is supposed to be a good sleeve; it's been recommended here before. It's made of a semi-rigid foam, which I believe is the same material mine is made of (not a Booq). Seems like it's tougher than neoprene style sleeves.

Easy enough to slip in your backpack but probably not so good for hard impacts. I'd wrap it in a plastic bag as well, if it rains. But it shouldn't stay wrapped up always because it's possible you'd get condensation.
posted by 6550 at 4:45 PM on February 24, 2008

"My alternative I suppose would be ship the computer to friends out there and pick it up."

That seems like a much better idea, especially given its importance to you.
posted by flaterik at 7:40 PM on February 24, 2008

Yeah, hearing that I second the various non-waterproof tough laptop sleeves mentioned here. Around that I'd put a strong plastic bag or, if you're feeling zealous, a dry bag. Into this throw some silica gel packets to prevent moisture from collecting inside.

Anything more than that and you'll hate yourself for carrying that much excess weight.
posted by Mercaptan at 7:41 PM on February 24, 2008

had an old powerbook (OMG I was cool with my monochrome PB 5300) that I took on a year-long trip to Israel. I took a Pelican case with it. Way way overkill. If I could do it again, I would have put it in a sleeve and been done with it. The idea of being able to (literally) throw your computer overboard, or not worry about sand and grit and grime was nice, but not worth the annoyance and weight. When I carried it everyday in an urban(ish) setting, I left the case at home.
posted by zpousman at 8:07 PM on February 24, 2008

I have an Endo Macbook case made by infocase.com

They've had production issues lately, i'm not sure if they're resolved or not, but CDW was a dealer for them the last time I checked.

It is a hard cased, black, nylon covered sleeve with a carrying strap and a couple D-rings on the back and a velcro closure.
posted by ijoyner at 10:47 AM on February 26, 2008

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