Combining the extreme protection of a hard case with the portability of a backpack the Italian-made HPRC 3500 makes a lot of sense if you’re carrying camera gear into challenging environments.
Carrying camera equipment on location is always a balance of minimising the load without compromising your ability to do the job, and balancing the comfort factor with the need for the hardware to be well protected. And it’s usually not just a matter of having to physically carry equipment around, but the modes of transport being used… not always sympathetic to precision instruments. Often, then, a compromise is called for.
The camera backpack is a popular option because it solves a number of problems, but they tend not to work so well if dropped (or are subjected to other sorts of extreme impacts), soaked or exposed to extremes of temperature. The intrusion of dust – a major concern in many parts of Australia – is also of concern with many backpacks. Traditionally, these are situations where the hard case – or flight case – is employed, but have you ever tried walking very far with one? They’re just too cumbersome to be comfortable, even if they’re supplied with a shoulder strap (which often isn’t the case), and are impossible in situations where you need to have your hands free or negotiate difficult terrain. Italian company HPRC has come up with an ingenious ‘hybrid’ of the hard case and the backpack. The rather unimaginatively named HPRC 3500 is, however, a pretty imaginative bit of design comprising a super-tough case mated with a backpack harness. Of course, it isn’t the basic rectangular case, but a more streamlined shell that’s roughly similar in shape and dimensions to a midsized conventional pack. HPRC – which even makes all its products in Italy – specialises in heavy-duty hard cases for industrial applications (and is an OEM supplier to many other well-known brands), and the 3500 employs all the same high-tech materials and design features as its traditional products.
These, incidentally, range from tiny holders for items such as memory cards up to massive trunks you could set up home in.
The HPRC 3500’s shell is made from a special resin called TTX01 which is polypropylene-based but has various special compounds added to make it more elastic and allow for thinner walls without compromising strength. The extra elasticity enhances the ability of the case to withstand physical shocks without fracturing and the 3500 weighs in at just three kilograms. To put this in perspective, Lowepro’s DryZone 200 – which is a similarly-sized, but soft type backpack with full waterproofing – weighs 3.15 kilograms.
The HPRC backpack actually weighs a little more with its full complement of foam inside, but obviously you’ll lose quite a bit of this once you start cutting out sections to accommodate equipment. TTX01 is also scratch-proof, acid/chemical-proof and able to withstand extremes of temperature well beyond what you’d be able to cope with (down to -40 degrees Celsius for instance). Obviously, though, this is very good news for whatever is stored inside.
Being a backpack, the 3500 is obviously vertically orientated and hinges at the base. The hinges themselves – which have substantial steel spindles – each sit within an arrangement of fins that serve as both reinforcement and also the ‘feet’. The HPRC 3500 combines the protection of a hard case with the carrying convenience and comfort of a back pack. The shell is made from a high-tech resin mysteriously called TTX01. HPRC 3500 Hard Backpack 32-
This means the pack is never resting on the hinges. The two sections of the casing mate via a substantial U-shaped channel – which creates an extremely tight seal – and are locked together via hefty clamp-type latches on either side.