As many folks know, I'm obsessed with many things photo/video, but if there's one thing i know is 100% at the top of my obsession list: Is Carrying cases. I own a lot of them, all different types, sizes, etc.. I like to have the right bag for the right situation. Drones introduced a new dilemma, and a search for the right bag for it.
Planning for a journey
Right around the time i bought the Phantom 3, my wife and i were planning the first trip to see my now parents-in-law. My wife is Ukrainian, so of course this trip was to be to the Ukraine. I stressed over whether or not to bring the drone at all, i knew it would require its own bag and generally be a hassle. So my hunt began for a case to help convince me to haul it along.
The desires: small as possible, backpack, all sided protection, discrete, fits all essentials, reasonably priced. I found this case to fit most of those. Here's a quick breakdown:
-Fits most of the essentials, 8.4" tablet barely fits with some modification
-Molded foam all around, good protection
-Feels decently comfortable, Back cushions leave a sweat channel
-No waist strap, does include chest strap
-Priced somewhat reasonably for what it is
Vs the others
I looked at all the other available backpacks like the GPC and fearless brands, but had to rule them out because they don't provide any top protection, I wanted peace of mind. I also looked at the cheaper options, one of which is super cheap and i just didn't trust it, and then the other hard shell ones which did have a nice look but no molded foam on the top. Right around this time the DJI official pack was announced but not yet available. I wasn't crazy about the look of it, but overall it seemed to fit the bill.
In the meantime i tried one of the other hard shell packs, and despite the description, it simply did not fit the P3, it was meant for a P2 which is shorter. It also lacked any sort of top protection. Finally the DJI model was released, and i caught it under a generic name for under $100.
I opted for one of the generics because the price was right. Comparing it to the photos of the DJI official model, aside from the logo badge, there don't appear to be any significant differences.
It fit everything that came with the p3, plus 3 more batteries and some nicknacks. I also pack a polarized lens, a pen, some cleaning cloth, and a neck lanyard. For a tablet, I bought a Samsung Tab 4 8.4" and it just doesn't fit anywhere, i suppose any 8" or under tablets have a good chance of fitting. The slot for a tablet is where the extra props are to go, there is a deeper section in there. I carefully excavated some foam out and now i can just barely get the tablet in there and have the extra props alongside it. The catch? I have to remove the phantom to be able to take out the tablet, no biggie.
If you find yourself in the same tablet predicament as me. Here's how i made it fit: I bought a clay modelling tool like the one in this kit: http://amzn.to/1WPxXj4
I set up the case next to my stove, and went through a fairly quick process of heating the modelling tool on the burner, then using it like a hotwire to excavate the foam. It did take a lot of re-heating, but it actually worked quite well. It has a round edge on one side, and a flat edge on the other. You can pick one up at any art shop for a few bucks.
I like that the P3 sits on a bit of softer cushy foam, and the camera appears to have a lip to rest on so when the back is worn and the p3 is facing down, the gimbal mount doesn't sag much.
You can pop the whole foam section out of the shell, The shell is actually pretty flimsy. It does it's job though: serves as a watertight/rugged outer barrier, the foam makes up the actual structure of the case. It's no pelican, but it also doesn't weigh nearly as much.
I don't really like the look of the case, anyone who is familiar with it will know i have a drone. I've ghetto customized it for my mountain trekking by grey tapping some translucent plastic along the top and sides. My main goal with this was to reduce the exposure to the sun, since this is a dark black plastic it will attract a lot of heat.
Hiking the mountain & Customizing attachments
Our journey was to climb the tallest mountain in Ukraine: Mount Hoverla, 2060meters tall. The problem? Aside from the bare drone accessories, there's no room for knickknacks in or on this pack. I had to figure out how to attach things to the outside. I didn't want to make any holes in it and compromise the water resistance, so i used the only other attachment available: the top handle.
The top handle is just a bit of fabric, it's not rigid at all. But that didn't stop me! I got out some trusty paracord, and made some loops. The first loop goes around each end of the top handle, then drapes down the back. This would be for my rain jacket (rain was forecast, thankfully we avoided it). Next, i certainly needed a water bottle. Another loop dangled down one side, solved.
But i also wanted to have a regular camera with me. This was an issue. Thankfully i have a wife who would only complain about 60% of the time about me making her carry gear for me. But i did what i could to lighten the load: I made another loop on the right side of the pack and secured a lens pouch. It mostly behaved and stayed on the side, but would often visit the rain jacked in the back. Later I would relocate this to my belt for convenience. As you can see in the photo, i also looped in a sunglasses case, and that little pouch is where the gopro lived.
All in all, it wasn't perfect(the jacket would regularly drape to the side) but the mods got the job done. I forgot to mention: all the loops terminated with carabiner clips for easy removal. A more recent mod i did to secure a basic landing pad made out of corrogated plastic: i made some notches in that plastic you see taped to the side of the pack, and gave it carabiner clips. Also works surprisingly well for the lightweight item.
Considering the other options on the market, this one was the only option that suited me. It passed the journey test with flying colors. It didn't have as much versatility as i would have liked, but being that i love DIY/Modding, my additions worked just fine. Is this the right pack for you and your P3? That will always depend on you and your needs. This pack suits mine