Re: laptop choice
"Lots of plastic that seems one good bounce from disaster."
There are some PC lines that are designed to be more rugged in laptops. I think that's HP's EliteBook line (hard to find retail) and there's one other major brand I can't remember, similar claims for "stronger case and hinges" than the usual. Then there's the king of the pack, Panasonic Toughbooks. Pricey, but designed for field use by commercial users. They made ToughPads as well.
Of course at those prices, you can buy 3 "consumer" machines and just keep two as hot spares down below.