I’m in love. Or I should say, I’ve been in love for a long time … at least as much as it’s possible to be in love with a black plastic tube. For well more than 25 years, I’ve been traveling the world with what I consider to be the ultimate gun case for airline travel.
Boiled down to its basics, the Tuffpack gun case from Nalpak isn’t really anything more than an incredibly tough and sturdy, locking black plastic tube in which you transport firearms and/or a myriad of other gear, equipment, and clothing. Yet, its simplicity is only part of what makes it my nominee for the title of “World’s Greatest Gun Case.”
These days, I’m only interested in acquiring “Lifetime Hunting Gear.” That’s gear which I will have to buy only one more time in my hunting career even though I expect that to span another 25 years or better. The stuff I want to buy now will be of quality and lasting value that I’ll not need to buy it ever again—unless I need a second or third of something.
The Tuffpak fits that definition perfectly except that the one I have been traveling with for all these years still functions perfectly, and securely protects whatever I put in it. So I won’t need to buy another one myself.
That’s after scores of trips to remote locations as distant as Africa, South America, Europe, and North America’s high arctic regions. I’ve witnessed some really tough handling of my gun case, and thereby its contents, so I can only imagine what it has been through that I haven’t seen. Yet the Tuffpak has never failed, nor has its contents been damaged.
My Tuffpak is one of the originals from when Nalpak first ventured into the gun case market. Their history and background was in making transport cases for the film industry—stuff like tripods and expensive, fragile movie cameras. The Nalpak tripod cases made a natural and easy transition to the world of airline travel with firearms.
Though the design is simple, the Tuffpak cases offer many advantages. First, there’s ample space inside for even two long guns and additional gear. When traveling for waterfowl hunts, for example, I stow my shotgun inside a thick soft case in the Tuffpak, but there’s also plenty of room for bulky waders, parkas and more gear. I take it right up to the airlines permitted weight limit which is usually either 50 or 75 pounds. On big game trips, in with the soft-cased rifle goes optics wrapped in jackets or vests, survival kit, cameras, flashlights, radios, etc.—anything I need to take that can benefit from hard-sided protection.
Packing firearms in their own well-padded, soft cases is a huge advantage in itself. Many times, when you are traveling into a remote camp by bush plane, horseback, ATV, or even pickup truck, there’s no room or weight allowance for any kind of hard-sided gun case. Having the soft case there allows your firearm much needed protection from dings, dust and debris. And when you leave the Tuffpak at the jumping-off-point, it serves as a fantastic locker for any other gear you can’t or don’t want to take to spike camp. It’s where I leave a clean change of clothes for the trip home, cell phone (since there won’t be a connection in the bush), and anything else about which the outfitter tells me “… oh, you won’t need that.” Pitch it all in the Tuffpak, lock it up, then put the case in a secure location. It doesn’t get more secure than that.
I may have simplified the design of the Tuffpak just a bit too much by calling it a locking, black plastic tube. It has wheels, too, which are extremely welcome when you or an airport agent is hauling it around with 70 pounds of gear inside! The problem with wheels on so many luggage items is that they are cheap and included almost as an afterthought. That’s not the case of the wheels on the Tuffpak. I’ve worn out wheels on virtually every other piece of luggage I’ve owned in the last 25 years, but not on the Tuffpak. The same wheels it wore when I bought it are still on it, and still working perfectly today.
Since those early days, Nalpak has expanded the Tuffpak line. Today there are models specific to transporting bows, take down firearms of various lengths, and with different locking mechanism options. Mine has a simple, flush mounted key lock, but newer models are available with TSA lock options that allow inspection by authorities without you having to provide the key—sometimes this is mandatory.
Considering their simplicity, you may recoil a bit at the prices on the various Tuffpak models, but please think before you balk. Wherever you are in your hunting career, you’re only going to have to buy a Tuffpack once. And consider the value, both monetary and sentimental, of the gear the case will be protecting. And, finally, think about how much you’re investing in a once-in-a-lifetime hunting trip. If your gun or bow or any mission critical gear goes missing or shows up in unusable condition, at the very least its going to be a major hassle and it could jeopardize the entire hunt! Compared to that, a $400 investment in the best possible protection doesn’t seem so bad.
Perhaps there is another travel gun case out there that equals the durability and versatility of the Tuffpak, but I guess I’ll never know because I don’t need to buy it or try it! The Tuffpak is one definitive piece of “lifetime gear” I already own.
If you want to try to save a few dollars, but get the Tuffpak quality, you might try a look on Amazon. They generally list only the Tuffpak tripod cases, but by carefully comparing the features of these cases to the Tuffpak sport cases on the Nalpak home site, you can find comparable products sometimes for a bit less money.