Checking Out the Checked Bags
By Neil Wolkodoff
Traveling is stressful enough without continually fighting your luggage. One of the keys to luggage is to pick the right carrier for your belongings that fit your style and needs.
Head to head tests are almost non-existent in luggage as for some reason most manufacturers don’t want side by side comparisons like you would find for running shoes, skis, bikes and even blenders.
So, we decided to perform a side-by-side test of four very different pieces of luggage to see how they pack, roll, lock, exit the car and hold your belongings when you check a bag. And, that is what we did. We packed them, zipped and closed them, jostled them, repeatedly lifted them in and out of the car, rolled them around the airport, went straight, made turns, parked them. When you think about it, luggage has to do all these things well. Here is a summary of each one and our comments after the test.
Ask people who travel, and they will tell you Eaglecreek is like a tough SUV, it does everything and keeps going with lots of creature comforts on the inside. If you are going for a week or less, the Eaglecreek Tarmac 25 AWD is the perfect size bag that is durable, extremely easy to grab, roll and navigate. Don’t let the 25-inch size fool your packing theories, as it expands 15% when more stuff needs to go in. The polycarbonate shell is perfectly mated with their Bi-tech fabrics, with added features like a coat keeper and a piggy bag clip for securing another bag. $389
Sometimes, a duffle bag seems like the travel answer, but the traditional duffel doesn’t roll or offer any protection. For gear for your recreational vacation, we found the Pivotal Soft Case Gear Bag to be the perfect combination. A rigid frame and bottom can protect fragile items while clothes and other soft goods can be placed just about anywhere using the internal divider support system. In a hurry? Stuff it in and go. Lots of straps and handles make this easy to get in and out of the vehicle, and the award-winning Pivotal handle in combination with the longer length makes rolling direction changes a breeze. Despite the two wheels in back, the clever bumpers let it sit upright with just about any packing configuration. $249
Traditionally, hard sided luggage has been hefty to be durable. For the week or longer trip, the Lojel 29 Kozmos Magnesium, hard-sided spinner is just the right size, so nothing gets left behind, and it’s well projected. Construction is a light-weight combination of advanced aluminum, mesh, and polycarbonate that might protect the crown jewels. The interior divider system separates items, and the nifty TSA built in lock & latch system simplifies security. A bonus feature of the Kozmos is it looks spiffy as well in either the aluminum or black finish. $595
If you travel for work or recreation and have to carry items like tripods and scientific equipment with your clothes, look no further than the Pivotal Transport Case, in 41 and 44-inch lengths. This hard sided case is a larger than standard checked sizes but will protect those valuable work or recreational items with the hard shell case. Also, the large rolling wheels in combination with the Pivotal handle make moving this anywhere a breeze, and it’s easy to identify. Extra nylon tie down straps makes sure the contents stay secure in the case. $349