When you are at the airport and see travelers toting four-wheeled “spinners” or shiny polycarbonates in a rainbow of colors, do you get luggage envy?
If you are in the market for a new carry-on bag, here are a few things to consider:
HOW MUCH? “Frequent travelers should spend a little bit more money on a higher quality bag that lasts a lot longer. In the long run, they will spend less than they would having to replace cheaper bags over and over again.” advised my favorite luggage guru, Lou Briasco, the owner of Michael Bruno Luggage on Market Street in San Francisco. “Those who travel at least once per month should invest around $300 for good bag that won’t break when you really need it.” Briasco offers deep unadvertised discounts on all his merchandise. “It’s the only way I can stay in business and compete with the online retailers,” he smiled.
SPINNERS: Nearly all manufacturers are now rolling out new bags with four wheels, which are rapidly replacing older two-wheeled versions. The four-wheel spinner system allows the bag to be rolled easily in an upright instead of tilted position. Plus, the wider four-wheeled bags can be turned sideways to easily pass down airplane aisles.
WHEELS: Despite their popularity, “spinners” have a few drawbacks. First, they don’t move as fast as the two-wheeled variety. Also, wheels are often the first thing to break on a bag, so with four of them you are doubling your chances of malfunction. Since wheels often break, even on high quality bags, Briasco recommends looking for sturdy wheels that can easily be switched out if broken. For wheeled bags, Briasco said that external frame telescopic handles result in more room inside bags.
WARRANTY: Make sure the bag you choose has a good warranty — for example, my crimson four-wheeled spinner is covered under Briggs & Riley’s famous, no-questions-or-exceptions lifetime guarantee, which covers normal wear and tear or airline damage. Briasco says that the high-end (and very popular) Tumi line has added too many exceptions to its warranty (such as proof of purchase requirements) in recent years, so he’s stopped carrying it in his store. For occasional travelers, he stocks less expensive Delsey bags, which he says are suitable for infrequent use. But you get what you pay for with its rather thin warranty that specifically rules out coverage for damage caused by airlines.
PLASTICS: Ballistic nylon is still the number one best seller, but polycarbonate hard side luggage is the hot new thing. Polycarbonate offers the benefit of being very lightweight and durable, but frequent travelers should be sure to choose from top quality brands like Rimowa, Heys, or Victorinox. Other brands may not be as durable for the long-haul. Also note that most of those sleek and smooth polycarbonate bags don’t have exterior pockets, which means you have to open the entire bag to insert or remove smaller items you might need along the way.
DIMENSIONS: Carry-on bags are getting shorter and wider. For example, Briggs & Riley says that its 9″ x 16″ x 20″ wide-body bag is now its company’s bestselling carry-on. The wider but shorter profile allows for the same packing capacity as the more narrow and taller case. The advantage to this new dimension is that it fits more easily in the overhead compartments– but may not pass muster with the “baggage police” that sometimes enforce the standard 9″ x 14″ x 22″ standard.
WEIGHT: Luggage manufacturers are using composite materials to help lighten the load on travelers and avoid overweight baggage fees. When choosing new luggage, it’s a good idea to lift two different bags simultaneously to compare their “tare weight” (the weight of the empty bag). However, while a light bag is easier on your back, frequent travelers should also consider function and durability — look for features like heavy duty stitching and zippers, sturdy wheels placed far apart to avoid tipping, and well-padded, reinforced handles.
COLORS: Black is still the number one seller, but I’m seeing a lot of newer, brighter colors, which are easier to ID in the overhead bin!
What type of carry on bag do you have? Do you love it or hate it? If money were no object, what type of carry on bag would you get? Please leave your comments below.