Old Pan Am Life Rafts Make Surprisingly Good iPad Cases [Review]


Life Raft by Station Supply Co
Category: Cases
Works With: iPad 2+, iPhone 4+
Price: $45 as tested

Pan Am, a U.S icon that died in 1991, thankfully before it’s name could be ConCatenAted into PanAm, and not before some clever entrepreneur with an eye to the future squirreled away dome of the planes’ old life rafts.

Fast forward to today, when those rafts are being chopped up and made into cases for another American icon: the iPad. For just $20, you can wrap the back of your tablet in a strip of – uh, whatever life rafts were made of in the 70s.

I have been using one on my iPad mini for the last week or two. It’s fantastic, but I had to administer some tough love to get it onto shape.

What It Is

The product page says it best. What we have here is a “rugged and protective skin for your iPad Mini made from a salvaged 1970′s PanAm Life Raft.” I have the version with writing on it, as you can see in the pictures, and it goes pretty well with my dark gray Smart Cover (more on that in a second).

The rubbery, textured material is coated on the inside with an adhesive from 3M, and it’s cut to perfectly fit around the various holes and ports of the iPad’s body.

Putting It On

I swabbed the back of the iPad generously with alcohol – don’t worry, no good liquor was wasted.

This was easier than I thought. I peeled away the backing paper from on long edge (the camera side) after swabbing the back of the iPad generously with alcohol (the rubbing kind – don’t worry, no good liquor was wasted). I lined it up with the pear folded back double, and then stuck it. Once I was happy with the positioning and angle I pulled on the paper and rubbed my thumb up and down as more sticky backing was revealed. I ended up with a couple of bubbles but these disappeared soon enough.

The Good

The official trim is very accurate. Unlike mine…

It’s tough and light – just as you’d expect of a safety device that had to be carried on a plane.

The case looks great, and is both tough and light – just as you’d expect of a safety device that had to be carried on a plane. It also makes the iPad easier to grip in the hand, and I don’t worry about putting it down on rough or damper surfaces anymore. After all, if it was good enough to protect smoking, hat-wearing, rayon-covered men as they sweated and bobbed on the high seas back in the 1970s, it’s good enough for my little aluminum and glass friend.

The Not-So-Good

Rough edges add to the charm.

It could have been my swabbing technique, but the case would’t stay stuck to the edges of the iPad. The adhesive sticks to the back like glue (because, uh… it is glue?) but the sections that wrap around onto the sides kept peeling off at the corners. This might also have been improved had I been able to clamp them in place for a while, but my iPad isn’t really out of use long enough for that.

I think it’s a combo of the above, along with the stiffish, thickish rubber that it’s made of, making it less happy to bend around tight curves.

So I fixed it. I peeled the edges back an went at them with scissors. I initially used an X-Acto knife, but then realized (duh) that I was going to scratch the iPad underneath.

Cover Up

Which brings me to the Smart Cover. The Lift Raft actually covers the part of the iPad where the cover snaps on, but that caused no problems at all. The magnets are strong enough to work as normal, even when held a little further away. Still, when I trimmed the case I took a little extra off the spine side so the cover would sit back on bare metal.

The Verdict

Pretty great. Trimming the edges has done nothing but make the case fit better. If anything, the slightly ragged edges just add to the cool effect of this rough old strip of, uh, whatever it is. I plan on leaving it in place until I have to test something else that forces me to remove it.

And that might not be so soon, as the iPad will still fit in some cases even with the rear skin attached.


Product Name: : Life RaftThe Good: Just look at it. It’s a strip of life raft from a Pan Am plane. What more do you want?

The Bad: Edges can come unstuck.

The Verdict Not cheap, but it’ll last you as long as you want it too. Also, it’s an amazing bit of history.

Buy from:Station Supply