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Rugged Luggage

Adventure travelers need tough bags to transport and protect their gear in the field.

By Gibbs Milliken

While all sports luggage is tough enough to handle the rigors of most outdoor adventures, it’s a good idea to consider exactly how you plan to use the bag before making a purchase.

In traditional design, perhaps the most distinctive look and feel and highest-quality construction can be found in bags and accessories made by C.C. Filson in Seattle since 1897. Each piece is made of water-repellent, heavy-duty canvas twill with strong bridle leather straps, industrial-strength snaps and brass zippers. This luggage ranges from an Extra-Large Wheeled Duffle Bag to a small personal effects Travel Kit and Fly Reel Case. In between are mid-size pieces like the Medium Travel Bag and a Fly Rod Travel Case that can also serve as a camera or spotting scope tripod carrier. The entire Filson line is designed to take years of travel abuse and still age gracefully without any functional failures. As the tan-colored canvas mellows, it takes on a look that shows the pieces have often been afield and are richer for the times spent and marks accrued during these adventures. ($425, XL Wheeled Duffle Bag,#284-TN. $245, Travel Bag, Medium #246-TN. $220, Fly Rod Travel Case, #216P-TN. $79.50, Travel Kit, #218-TN, $95. Reel Case, #2017-TN. C.C. Filson, 866-860-8906, www.filson.com )

The contemporary-styled Pelican Case is molded of durable hard-sided polycarbonate materials. It is a watertight, dustproof and crushproof unit intended to house optics and other delicate items during transport and storage. This case has a soft-padded interior, comes in several sizes, and is ideal for boaters needing to keep cameras, lenses, camcorders and other instruments dry and free of sand and salt spray. The light desert tan color reflects sunlight, helping to reduce heating inside the case. There is little doubt that this is just about the toughest luggage available, as evidenced by the U.S. military’s using them for a number of strategic applications. ($151.95, Pelican Case, PC-1500DT, with $79.95, Padded Divider Set, #1505. Pelican Products, 800-473-5422, www.pelican.com )

Another example of traditional design at its best is found in the Bass Pro Shops’ Bob Timberlake series of soft luggage. Each piece meets the very highest standards of quality in materials and construction. The large 42-inch Wheeled Drop Bottom Duffel carries enough gear for an extended expedition to your Texas hunting camp or the more distant plains of Africa. It has separate compartments to isolate your clean clothing from items like soiled hiking boots and waders. The matching Wheeled Garment Bag keeps outfits and personal items both organized and looking fresh in its many mesh compartments. Completing the set is a 52-inch Gun Case that is fleece lined and offers good protection to your rifle or shotgun. This luggage is reinforced with heavy oil-finished leather at all the corners, wear surfaces and stress points. The Timberlake line is made to stand the test of time and look even better after gaining the patina that comes with age and use. ($359.99, Wheeled Drop Bottom Duffel, #38-611-020-01. $249.99, Garment Bag, #38-654-879-00. $229.99, Gun Case, #38-622-574-00. Bass Pro Shops, 800-976-6344, www.basspro.com)

Note: Most black luggage is undesirable for outdoor use in warm climates because it absorbs and retains excessive heat in direct sunlight, which can permanently damage sensitive contents.

Also, if traveling by air, remember that luggage size and weight restrictions often vary. It is best to check in advance with the airline for that information. Nothing is worse than finding out that on the last leg of your journey, the small bush plane will not accept your luggage.

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