Sunday, June 06, 2004

Best of the Bags

It's in the Bag - Which carry-on bag is best? By Seth Stevenson
Samsonite Ultra 3000 XLT Sideroller Carry-On Upright Suiter, $139.99 at

Nothing flashy here. Completely generic, Samonsite-y looks. Yet it's a great value for its price. In terms of functionality, it's not appreciably different from the high-end bags. The Samsonite features oodles of useful pockets inside and out and is again well-appointed with accessory bags and a tri-fold hanger. The wheels are rollerblade style and feel strong. The main compartments are quite spacious. And here's the kicker: Separate, tiny wheels let you crabwalk the bag sideways, to create a narrower profile when you need to squeeze through a tight space. I tested this out in my simulated airplane aisles and was impressed. I could easily picture the Samsonite slipping untouched through a slalom of obese airline passengers, their fat haunches spilling under armrests and into the aisle. The little sideways wheels aren't all that strong and don't roll as smoothly, but they'll do the trick for that mad jaunt from the jetway to your seat. Granted, if the Victorinox and the Samsonite were the same price, you'd want the Victorinox, but the cost difference is way too much to be overcome. Unless you're talking about a bag like …

Tumi Vestry 22-inch Wheeled Packing Case, $295 at

In the luggage brand senior yearbook, Tumi was voted "Most likely to be stowed in a Phnom Phen airport locker, bulging with stacks of non-sequential U.S. currency." Tumi designs are always sleek, modern, and just a little bit dangerous. The Vestry model is no exception, with its bold, black, streamlined look. It also excelled at each challenge I set for it. It rolled more smoothly than other bags in the walking-around test; did not leak when subjected to the rainy-day test; fit comfortably into my simulated aisles in the fake-airplane test; and seemed to almost chuckle dryly as, during the butter-knife test, I feebly attempted to injure its thick and muscular hide. You can feel the solidity of the construction—the unbreakable zippers and unbendable handle. With its excellent layout of compartments and pockets—including dedicated shoe slots—the Tumi is delightfully packable. It's lightweight, too.

And so we have a winner. One look at this bag and you'll long to strut confidently through foreign airport terminals, Tumi rolling alongside. A tad expensive? Yes. But remember Eddie Murphy's farsighted wisdom. A bag like this will stay with you for life—and that's exactly what you'll want.

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