Monday, June 21, 2010

Troop Transport and Storage Product Comparison

Now that I have all of the components to build an interchangeable 2000 point army, I’m going to need a way to transport it to and from battle. I want a solution that will meet the standards set by most airline companies (45 total inches accounting for the height, width and length of the luggage piece), because one day I would like to attend a BoLScon!
I have found a handful of companies that sell bags and carriers created specifically for table-top gaming miniatures. Two such companies are Sabol Designs and Battlefoam. I made a list of functions or qualities that I will want my troop carrier to have.
  • Size was the first one- it must meet airline standards for carry-on luggage and fit in an overhead compartment.
  • Storage access- I want to access the storage compartment of my troop carrier from the top, not from the side. With an access point located at the top of the bag, I can remove foam trays one at a time, whereas with an access point located on the side of a bag, I will have to remove all trays at once before I can access my figures.
  • Durability- I want a bag that will protect my army and game pieces.
  • Easy Transport- a telescopic handle and wheels aren’t so important around town; however these features become a necessity in airport travel- especially when transporting multiple carry-on bags.
So, based on the above criteria, here are the contenders I am considering:
The Battalion:
Manufacturer: Sabol Designs.
Dimensions: Height: 24", Width: 14", Thickness: 9", Depth: 8"
MSRP 74.99 (empty)
Thoughts: By appearances, this bag looks well cushioned and insulated. I need to verify that this case is a top-loader and not a side-loader. There are zipper pockets for books, templates and miscellaneous game equipment. The dimensions total 48 inches, which should make it acceptable for most airlines and allow enough room to stow in the overhead compartment of a plane. Foam for the battalion must be purchased separately.

The Division:
Manufacturer: Sabol Designs.
Dimensions: Length: 24", Width: 15", Depth: 10"
MSRP 74.99 (empty) 
Thoughts: This case opens like a suit case, which would make accessing army units much easier. My concern is with the dimensions of this case, as 10 inches is cutting it close when attempting to stow it in an overhead compartment of a plane. In addition the Division’s total inches is closer to 50-51, which may or may not draw further scrutiny from airline associates. The walls of this container are not reinforced and would require extra care when transporting miniatures. Additionally, I would not trust it handled or stored with typical luggage without causing extensive damage to my army. Packing foam may be purchased separately or in addition to the Division case.

Battlefoam 1520:
Manufacturer: Battlefoam
Dimensions: 22H x 16W X 12L 
MSRP 156.00 (empty)
Thoughts: When I first watched Romeo’s video demonstration of the Battlefoam 1520 I was sold. However, when I did a little investigating I discovered that this case would not meet all of my needs. Battlefoam is the new kid on the block, and as a result my LGS did not have any product for me to test. I don’t like the fact that miniatures are inserted through a side compartment in the case due to the fact that this would leave potential for clumsy extraction of foam trays.
On the other hand I did know a guy that purchased the 1520 that had similar criteria to mine for a troop carrier. I will not divulge his identity out of respect for my source, however he stated that as a result of the 1520’s shape, he was not able to stow it in the overhead compartment of the plane(s) he flew. These factors coupled with the price of the bag forced me to pass on the 1520. Battlefoam is a slick product, and their bags are said to be durable and well made. One additional fact about Battlefoam that is unique is the company’s foam: Battlefoam offers precision cut foam pieces for unique miniature(s) and game pieces. In fact, the Battlefoam website hosts a program that allows customers to request customize the cut of foam pieces tailored to their specific needs- very cool. In addition, Battlefoam will etch your name or logo into each foam piece that you order. As a small business or retailer, think of the advertising possibilities! 

Standard Carry-on Luggage Piece:
Manufacturer: Various
Dimensions: 24" Height, Width, Length (to be announced)
MSRP 20-50.00 (empty)
Thoughts: I’m tempted to purchase a single piece of luggage emulating the dimensions of the Sabol Designs Battalion carrier to use as my troop carrier and save some dough. There are some great deals on 24 inch containers with reinforced lining and edges that offer similar transport capability as those I mentioned above for a very competitive price. This would allow me to allocate more money towards foam to better store and transport my army.

Battlefoam: Battlefoam offers precision cut foam trays and even offer customized cut foam pieces specified by the customer. I have read some very good things about Battlefoam’s foam trays and I may purchase one or two sheets for specific figures. Prices range from 9.99- 40.00 depending on the size and load out. A 13.5 x 10 inch figure tray at 1.5 inch thickness sells for 9.99, whereas Sabol Designs sells a 7.5 x 13 inch 2 inch thick figure tray for 8.49. As you can see these are comparative, so preference comes down to two things: Is one foam better than the other and which set of trays will best fit my troop carrier? Now, my Local Games Shop (LGS) carries Sabol Design product, including their foam. I was able to handle the foam and get a feel how plush and resilient it was. Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to handle Battlefoam's foam trays for comparison. I will say that I really like the idea of customizing a specific number of trays to store specific models and units unique to my army, like my Baal Preds, Predators and Land Raider. 
In the event that I decided not to purchase a troop carrier from either Sabol Design or Battlefoam, and I was unable to snugly fit their foam trays inside such a case, then I might utilize Foam By Mail’s (FbM) product. FbM sells slabs of foam ranging in 1/2 inch to 3 inch thickness. Unfortunately, FbM does not offer a 4 inch foam tray- something to consider.

I like the Battalion case: It is the right size, foam sheets are accessed through the top and it has wheels and telescopic handle. In comparison to other troop carriers, the Battalion’s MSRP isn’t that bad. However, the Battalion cannot compete with a generic luggage piece with similar dimensions. I really like Battlefoam's precision cut foam especially for specific pieces of my army that will remain static (or in my collection for some time). So, I think a combination of foam from Battlefoam, Sabol Designs and even Foam By Mail will suit my needs. In the end, I want the product that will best protect my army at a cost efficient price.

Suggestions, or comments? I would like to hear from you- how do you store and transport your army? 

Further consideration:
Sabol Designs


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