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Updated Jul 28, 2023 3:32 PM
Unlike gunhunters, bowhunters need a bow case to protect the much more fragile parts of their setup. Bow cases aren’t just for storage, they’re vital to protect your bow and keep it in operating condition. That means shielding it from the elements, pets, kids, airline baggage handlers, bumpy rides, and pretty much any other hazard you can and can’t think of.
I’ve traveled to nearly every major ASA tournament, to the arctic circle, and just about everywhere in-between with a bow. I’ve also had the opportunity to test almost every bow case on the market in the past ten years. And fortunately, the market is rife with cases designed to house your precious investment. Finding the right one for your needs is an individual task. You know how you live, travel, how and when you hunt, so you’ll want to find the best bow cases for those conditions and decide which one fits your style best.
How I Evaluated the Best Bow Cases
I’ve traveled for hunting trips everywhere from the midwest to the arctic circle and I travel to at least one archery tournament per month. I also work at Lancaster Archery Supply, which carries many of the best bow cases available. Using my frequent bow flying miles, I selected the best bow cases for a wide range of use cases.
The Best Bow Cases: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Overall: Pelican 1745 Air
- Padded interior divider
- Foam arrow holders
- Towing wheels
- Weight: 23.15 pounds
- TSA approved latches
- Secures your bow inside
- Airline worthy
- Customizable to haul your gear, your way
For decades, Pelican has been the industry leader in building cases to protect delicate electronic gear, especially camera equipment. They took that know-how and built the Pelican Air bow case. It’s a hard plastic case that’s sturdy enough for airline use. With 44 inches of interior width, 17 inches of depth and 8 inches of height, this case is a tank. It can take a beating, whether it’s bouncing around in the back of a pickup bed, on the floor of a johnboat, or on its way to the belly of an airplane.
The floor of the case where you store your bow features movable foam pads, so you can protect the parts of your bow that need extra padding. It also has movable straps to secure your bow to the floor. Once you secure your bow, you can strap over the top of it with the padded lid. It looks like the top half of a soft bow case, complete with exterior pockets for storing small items. That soft case top can also be strapped to the lid of the Pelican when the lid is open, so it’s out of your way while you’re working with your bow.
The lid has slotted, foam pads capable of holding a dozen arrows, plus a separate strap for an arrow tube. There also are two zippered bags for storing small gear such as, releases, broadheads, tools, a rangefinder, and more.
Even with all the assigned gear locations packed, there’s still some room inside the Pelican for stowing additional gear, such as clothing, binoculars, and other bowhunting essentials. And that extra space comes in handy when you’re flying somewhere to hunt.
The Pelican Air has six push-button latches–two of which feature TSA-approved locks. These are handy, because they allow TSA agents to open your case for inspection in the airport without having to call you for keys.
The wheels on the Pelican Air are pinned tightly in place at one end of the case. That minimizes the chances of them snagging in transportation and separating from the case. (I don’t know how that happens in the airport, but trust me, I’ve seen it happen on other cases.) And don’t worry about water or dust getting inside the Pelican Air. When latched, this thing is sealed tightly, thanks to a rubber O-ring lining the case’s edges.
If you want one case that excels for multiple purposes, it’s hard to beat the Pelican 1745 Air.
Best for Air Travel: SKB iSeries 4217 Double Bow Case
- Capacity: Two bows
- Handle and towing wheels
- Multiple points for adding locks
- Weight: 24.3 pounds
- Interior Dimensions: 40 inches x 16 inches x 6 inches
- Lots of interior space
- Plenty of padding
- Wheels and handle make it easy to transport
The SKB iSeries 4217 Double Bow Case is an injection-molded, water/dustproof case that’s built to hold two bows. A padded divider comes with the case to separate the bows, which can be up to 40 inches long, including the cams. It has a handle for carrying the case horizontally and another handle and wheels to tow the case through the airport. There are six latches and four metal rings for adding locks to secure your valuables.
The sturdy construction of SKB makes it one of the best bow cases for air travel. Bow cases take a beating in baggage, and if you buy a cheap case, you will regret it. I’ve had cases come off planes with such damage that I can’t even imagine how someone loaded them. Even if the SKB iSeries 4217 is damaged in flight, their killer lifetime warranty will cover its repair or replacement. That’s a valuable feature worth investing in.
Also, this case is big. It’s classified as a double bow case, but I never use it for that. I pack it with one bow and a bunch of stuff, which is vital for flying to bowhunting destinations. You’ll always want to take more gear, but airlines have that 50-pounds-per-bag weight limit. You have to check a bow case as one of your checked pieces, so why not carry one that you can fill with stuff besides your bow? I know from practice that you can cram lots of clothes and gear into this case with your bow and arrows to get its total weight to 49 pounds.
This case weighs just under 25 pounds, which leaves 25 pounds of gear that you can add before hitting the weight limit. Stuff it to the max. I don’t know how many bowhunts I’ve gone on where I checked two bags that each weighed 49 pounds, and one of those bags was my SKB double bow case. Yes, single-bow cases are lighter. But there’s not as much room to add extra gear, and checking a 30-pound bag is a waste of 20 pounds in my book.
Best Budget: Plano 1111 Protector Series Bow Case
- Hard case
- Dedicated storage area for arrows
- Tie downs to hold the bow in place
- Weight: 10 pounds
- Durable to an extent
- Keeps your bow safe at home and in the truck
- Plenty of storage for your whole rig
- Won’t stand up to heavy falls and abuse
The Plano 1111 Protector is a basic, plastic case that’s 49 inches long and 19.5 inches wide, so it will hold most compound bows on the market today. The inside has a foam mat with Velcro ties to strap your bow in place so it doesn’t bounce around inside the case. The lid has rubber strips to hold a dozen arrows firmly in place. And four plastic clasps keep the lid closed.
After you’ve got your bow and arrows stowed inside, the case still has plenty of room for extras. You can easily stash your bow-mounted quiver, stabilizer, release aid, and other equipment you need for target shooting or hunting. You should be able to keep your sight on your bow inside this case, unless it’s set unusually far out from the riser. In that case, you can loosen the sight-bar retaining knob and simply slide the bar in for travel. If you have a stabilizer that’s six inches or longer, you can count on having to remove it from the bow for it to fit in the case.
Many bowhunters just need something to keep their bows safe in the truck on their way to the stand or the range and protected from pets, kids, and normal life activity. This case is perfect for that, and it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.
Buyers need to understand that this case isn’t airline worthy. If you’re flying somewhere for a dream hunt, this is not the case for your bow. Yes it has loop holes so you can add locks, but this plastic can’t take the abuse of air travel.
Best Soft Case: Legend Monstro Compound Bow Case
- Material: Nylon
- Interior and exterior pockets
- Adjustable cam protectors
- Cable tie downs
- Carry handle and shoulder strap
- Dimensions: 47.2 inches x 3.9 inches x 19.7 inches
- Plenty of room
- Adjustable cam protectors are genius
- Multiple pockets allow for organization
- Multiple carry options
The Legend Monstro is a soft-sided case with 45 inches of interior, horizontal space. It will hold any hunting compound bow.
Inside the case, there are two cam protective sleeves with Velcro tie downs to grab each cam. You can move the sleeves to match your bow’s length so your 28-inch bow won’t slide back and forth inside. But having the extra room is nice when you decide to opt for a 34-inch bow next year, and you won’t need to buy a new case. You just simply slide the cam protectors to fit your bow.
To further secure your bow, there are two Velcro tie downs that attach to your bow’s cables. Also, the interior has two mesh-face zippered pockets for extra gear storage.
The exterior features two long pockets for storing more gear. One is 39 inches long and is deep enough to hold a telescopic arrow tube. The other pocket is 31 inches long, so it has plenty of room for stabilizers, releases, tools, grunt calls, and anything else you need for a day in the tree.
Soft cases don’t offer as much protection as hard cases, but they also aren’t as bulky. If your bow rides in the back seat of the truck, it just needs minor protection from a bumpy ride. And the Legend Monstro will fit a lot nicer back there with all your other gear than a bulky hard case.
Best Traditional Recurve Case: Legacy Leather Deluxe Traditional Soft Case
- Material: Green canvas
- Water repellent
- Fits strung recurves and longbows up to 62 inches
- Exterior accessory pocket
- Simple, well-made case
- Good storage space
- Heavy duty zipper
- Doesn’t fit big bows over 62 inches
The Legacy Leather Deluxe Traditional Soft case looks like the case you’d expect a trad-bow fan to carry. It’s 62 inches long, so it’s capable of holding strung recurve bows up to that length. It also has a 34-inch-long pocket on the outside of the case that’s more than sufficient for carrying a dozen arrows, plus finger tabs, arm guards, and other gear you’ll want to have for shooting your bow.
Inside, the case is lined with a padded felt material. Recurve bows aren’t as delicate as compounds. Realistically, what you’re protecting your bow from most inside this case is scratches. You can be kind of rough with a one-piece recurve bow and not cause any structural damage, unlike a compound bow.
The shape of the case is bowed, which is why the manufacturer specifies this case is intended to haul strung recurve bows and longbows up to 62 inches long. Unstrung, 62-inch bows would not fit inside this bow case. And a handle in the center of the case is perfectly positioned for balanced carrying.
Best for Crossbows: Sportsman Outdoor Products Echo Crossbow Case
- Dimensions: 39 inches x 24 inches x 10 inches
- Carry handles and deployable shoulder straps
- Zippered bolt pocket
- Several storage pockets
- First most standard, narrow, and reverse-draw crossbows
- Good storage
- Backpack straps are a nice touch
- Probably won’t fit all crossbows
The Echo Deluxe will fit most standard crossbows with bows sitting perpendicular on top of the stock. But the unique tapered shape from the limb ends back to the stock end widens the case in just the right places so that it can also accommodate reverse-draw and narrow crossbows.
It has a zippered pocket designed for holding bolts up to 24 inches long and multiple exterior pockets to organize and stow other small pieces of gear.
The Echo has handles on both sides of the case, so you can carry it left- or right-handed, and it has nice shoulder straps so you can carry your crossbow case like a backpack. The zippers are heavy duty, which might not seem like a big deal, except these are extra-long zippers running nearly the whole way around the case. When big zippers are cheap, they separate in no time. These will stand the test of time.
- 8600 cubic inches
- Dimensions: 42 x16 x14 inches
- Telescoping handle
- Interior zipped lid pocket
- Top accessory zippered pocket
- Internal compression straps
- Tons of storage
- Can carry a bow, arrows, gear, and clothing
- Easy to pack over 50 pounds
If I’m not hunting, I can travel with just a small carry-on bag, but even a three-day turkey hunt requires a ton of gear. Good luck fitting a vest, calls, boots, Permethrin, Thermacell, and hunting clothes into a carry-on. That’s why I’ve been flying with a Sitka Nomad lately. I’ve taken it waterfowl hunting in eastern Colorado, to the Lancaster Archery Classic, turkey hunting in Nebraska, and to the 2023 Outdoor Life gun test. With thousands of air miles on the bag, I’m sold that it’s the perfect piece of hunting luggage.
The interior of the Nomad is a lot like a duffel—a large empty space that you can fill with gear. No useless compartments or space-hogging pockets. One of the key things that make the Nomad better than a duffel bag is its rigid frame and wheels. The rigid frame provides enough protection to use the Nomad as a bow case. I strap a bow to the bag using the compression straps and then pack clothing around it for added protection.
You can easily fit all the gear and clothing you need for a seven-day hunt into the Nomad, but you can pretty easily pack it over 50 pounds. I’ve found if I pack it full of clothing and some gear, it will hit 50 pounds. So with a bow and a lot of gear, I pack some clothing in the Nomad and the rest in a carry-on.
Aside from it being easy to push the oversized baggage limits, the other cons I’ve experienced is that the zipper is sticky. Both are manageable cons and are outweighed by the Nomad’s functionality. – Scott Einsmann
Things to Consider When Buying a Bow Case
Not all bows fit in all cases. With compound bows, for example, some are too long or too wide for certain cases. Make sure the case you’re considering is long and wide enough to carry your bow.
Ideally, you’ll also want some wiggle room. A bow is not something you want to have to force inside a case and then shut it quickly before it pops out. Pressure on a bowstring is never a good thing, regardless of the type of bow.
If you’re only driving with your bow from home to your hunting spot, then you don’t need a case that’s suited for airline travel. But if you plan to fly to distant hunting destinations or do some adventure bowhunting, then you don’t want a case that’s only designed to carry your bow in the back of your truck.
And be honest with yourself. If you tend to be hard on equipment, get a case that can withstand your lifestyle. A cheap plastic case bouncing around in the back of the truck with the spare tire, gas can, tire iron, and chainsaw probably isn’t going to survive too many rides. When the case fails, your bow is in danger.
Presumably, you are buying a case to protect your bow. So think about what you’re protecting it from and choose accordingly.
What do you want your case to hold? If you just need to store your bow, then you don’t need a ton of extra space or pockets. But if you want your bow case to hold everything associated with shooting that bow, that’s a different story. You need more space and organizing pockets for release aids, finger tabs, field points, broadheads, stabilizers–the works.
A lot of bowhunters want their bowhunting backpack and bow case sitting by the door ready to go, without wondering if the release is in there, or the quiver. If the bow case is where everything lives, you need room to store it all.
I have one bow case that I use only for airline travel. It’s a big case that can hold my compound bow, all my related shooting gear, plus clothes and other items. I need that case to be large and roomy for a specific reason.
Q: How much does a bow case cost?
Bow cases usually cost anywhere from $50 to several hundred dollars, depending on the material used and added features. You definitely get what you pay for when it comes to bow cases, but there are options that can fit your needs without breaking the bank.
Q: Should I choose a hard case or a soft case?
Choosing a hard case or a soft case comes down to personal choice, but practicality should also guide your decision. Hard cases offer more protection against hard knocks, but they’re bulky and cumbersome to carry. Soft cases are portable and easy to maneuver inside a vehicle with other gear, but lack the extra protection of hard cases. If you do a lot of long distance traveling, you’ll want to invest in a hard case. If you just need something to make sure it doesn’t slide around in your truck, a soft case is the way to go.
Q: Can I take a bow on an airplane?
While you can’t stash it in a carry-on, you can definitely fly with a bow. You just have to transport it as checked luggage. And you’ll want to invest in a case that’s rated for air travel. Case manufacturers use different materials in airline grade cases than regular plastic ones. That’s why they are so much more expensive. But trust me, you want the strongest case on the market to protect your bow when you’re flying. The damage I have seen done to even airline grade cases over the years is astonishing. Basic plastic cases that cost $100 or so will not survive.
Final Thoughts on the Best Bow Cases
The best bow cases don’t require you to spend a small fortune, but they are something you don’t want to cut corners on. If you need top-end protection, then get it. Trust me, you’ll regret it if you don’t. If you don’t need a case for air travel, then simply consider how and where you’ll be transporting your bow and buy accordingly. Keep in mind, whatever you spend on a case is likely to pale in comparison to what you’ve invested in the contents it’s carrying.