Review: Hook Casemandu iPod Travel Case
Pros: The first true hard case specifically designed to hold iPod and several accessories together; offers waterproof and shockproof iPod protection.
Cons: Largest iPod case yet sold, yet can’t hold encased iPod and can’t use iPod while inside (except with iTrip), all limiting its practicality. Small fit and finish issues detract from its appearance. iPod and iPod mini inserts require purchase of separate cases.
iPod cases come in two flavors: small form-fitting designs, and larger holders known as “travel cases.” To date, we’ve seen numerous small iPod hard cases, and a few large iPod soft cases, but no large iPod hard cases. Sensing an open niche, Hook Industries developed Casemandu ($39.95), the first iPod-dedicated hard carrying case large enough to also hold accessories.
Design and Features
Casemandu consists of three main components: a hard plastic carrying shell originally developed by Pelican, a fabric wrist strap, and a foam insert custom-made to hold one specific type of iPod - either any iPod or any iPod mini - plus several accessories. The hard shells are available in a variety of colors, including iPod-matching white and iPod mini-matching blue, green, and pink metallics, as well as a more generic black. We received and tested the green and black cases, both of which came with black fabric wrist straps.
Each case splits into two halves, held together with a hinge on the back and a sturdy clasp on the front. Thin foam pads the interior top of the empty case, while rubber padding lines the bottom and makes the halves fit tightly together once the clasp is locked in place. On the black case, that clasp is black, and on the green case, it’s clear. A small clear plastic vent on each case’s front acts as an automatic air pressure purge point, and a white Casemandu label sits on the top half’s left side.
Like a standard Pelican case, each Casemandu has three major advantages: it’s generally waterproof, dustproof, and shockproof. But Hook’s self-developed foam lining extends past the Pelican’s standard anti-shock capabilities to guarantee the safety of the iPod and accessories inside. Consequently, you can lock your iPod inside Casemandu, drop it into a pool or the ocean, knock it off of a ledge onto hard pavement, or drag it through a desert without worrying about whether or not your iPod and accessories will be safe. Even if the case scuffs, which we’ve noticed it can, your iPod won’t. Hook calls this military-grade iPod protection, and compares its foam insert to what NASA and some military teams use to protect their own gear.
Casemandu’s waterproof protection also works well: it’s rated by Pelican to 30 feet depths, and in our testing, the case didn’t leak when we submerged it, and always floated immediately to the surface of the water. This wasn’t the case with other waterproof iPod mini cases we’ve tested, but then, their intended applications were a bit different; Casemandu is right for the person who wants to be sure he’ll find his iPod if it drops off a boat while inside the case, but not for the person who wants to actually use and listen to the iPod underwater.
Hook’s foam inserts are pretty good, but not perfect. On the positive side, they fit the Casemandu cases properly and hold both your bare iPod and some accessories - specifically, a power cube or charger, a cable, your iPod, an iTrip, and headphones. Your iPod’s especially firm in the insert if an iTrip’s installed, but still safe even if not. One of Hook’s foam inserts is made specifically to fit iPod minis and an iTrip mini, and does that without an issue, while the other is made to fit any full-sized iPod and normal iTrip, and similarly did that without a problem across all of the old and new models we tested.
Less positively, XtremeMac’s AirPlay and other accessories not shaped like an iTrip are an uneasy fit with the iPod in the foam. And you can’t really fit an already-encased iPod inside the foam and get the case to close properly. But would you want to do this?
Perhaps. Casemandu’s major advantage is that it lets you safely tote your iPod and accessories around boats and other places where water or other damage is possible. But except for one limited situation, you’ll need to open it up to use your iPod: unlike the other travel cases we’ve seen, there’s no hole in Casemandu to let you attach your headphones, and less surprisingly, there’s no way to access the screen or controls. Hook explains this by noting that you can still use the iPod if an iTrip’s attached, but that’s a bit of a stretch for typical users. Moreover, once you open Casemandu up, your iPod’s going to be entirely bare. You’ll have to pull it out and bring it into whatever environment you might be in.
Therefore, the case might or might not be right for you, depending on your intended applications. Some of the other specialized waterproof and water-resistant cases we’ve reviewed, such as Otterbox’s cases, might meet your actual needs better.
Because of Hook’s decision to allow so much room and padding for the iPod and accessories, Casemandu is also the largest iPod case we’ve seen. It measures 9 3/8” x 5 9/16” x 2 5/8”, which is slightly shorter and narrower than the previous record-holder, Monster’s iCase (iLounge rating: B), but two and a half times as thick.
Additionally, unlike Handstands’ smaller competing iPak/iSnug travel case (iLounge rating: A-), Casemandu can’t be split in two or made smaller for added flexibility and convenience. The size and bulk limits its practical utility, as does the fact that you need to order foam inserts separately for different iPods. Handstands even includes separate mini and full-sized iPod inserts for its comparable price.
As a final note, there are two little fit and finish issues that detract a bit from Casemandu’s generally professional appearance. First, our review cases had some scuffs and small rough edges in their plastic molding. One of our editors pointed out that some of these marks are similar to ones found in Pelican’s original cases, and they don’t impact the case’s protectiveness whatsoever. Second and similarly minor is that the Casemandu sticker isn’t quite up to snuff with the rest of the product’s look and design. It’s the only thing that really stands out from the body, and thankfully is easily peeled off by the aesthetically conscious consumer.
Overall, Casemandu offers a package that will appeal to a narrow but real audience - the hallmark of our B- rating. As the first large hard case that can carry iPod and accessories together inside at the same time, and especially given its water and shock resistance, it definitely has a unique total package to offer.
But there are ways in which each of its components have been done better in other cases, and there’s little doubt at the end of the day that it’s a repurposed Pelican box with a new foam insert and iPod-friendly colors. That said, while you could approximate its features at a lower price, you wouldn’t get exactly the same thing. Therefore, if you need its specific functionality, don’t mind the size and are willing to look past its few and little rough edges, you’ll like what Hook’s Casemandu has to offer.