My husband — as he’ll be the first to admit —has a serious luggage fetish. Over the years, our closets and attics have become jammed with suitcases, backpacks, daypacks, duffle bags, satchels, stuff sacks, and zippered pouches of every configuration. In times of stress, I can always divert Rich’s thoughts to a more cheerful direction by uttering the magic phrase, “I saw a suitcase today that might interest you…”
Paradoxically, Rich’s goal is to travel with less luggage. We both love the greater freedom and mobility of packing light. But having tested this to the limit in our recent luggage-free travel experiment, we accept the fact that most journeys require more clothing, toiletries, and electronics than we can carry on our persons, even when we’re wearing the kind of outerwear equipped with upwards of a dozen pockets. So our quest continues for ever-better, more minimalist options. In case you’re considering downsizing your luggage, here’s what we’re using now and exploring for the future.
The Ultra-Light Roll-Aboard Suitcase
One heft of the IT World’s Lightest Carry-On — a mere 3 lbs. 8 oz. — and we were hooked. We bought the original model measuring 21 x 13 x 7.5 inches; current versions are slightly larger. We’ve dragged these bags everywhere, including three months of train travel, and they’re still going strong. There are other bags worth considering, many in the 5 lb. range; when they exceed 8 lbs., you’ll want to consider carefully whether they’re worth the weight.
You’ll also want to make sure your purchase meets current airline regulations for cabin baggage. These vary widely, but a safe bet would be 22 x 18 x 10 inches including wheels. And you’re going to want wheels, unless you’re tremendously young, fit, and hell-bent on proving that being cool is more important than moving about comfortably. The four-wheeled models are great for smooth terrain such as major airports but tricky to maneuver on cobblestones or rough pavement; two wheels, spaced as widely apart as possible, provide better stability on uneven ground.
The Roll-up Bag
This week a friend wrote me about the Rolo, a flat bag you carry rolled up like a yoga mat, then unfurl and hang up on arrival. While the roll-up design makes it impractical with the small laptops we often carry, for some shorter trips Rich and I are thinking of trying a Rolo for our combined clothing and a daypack for the electronics. I’ll let you know how we like it.
If we do tote our electronics about in a daypack, we may need to consider something along the lines of the Pacsafe Luggage Venture Safe 25L GII, which comes with elaborate security features including anti-slash wire mesh embedded in the fabric and RFID-blocking technology to keep thieves from stealing your data. Right now, my valuables are generally tucked inside my 17-pocket Scottevest, so I carry a discount-store daypack that sends out a don’t-bother-it’s-not-worth-it vibe. In the unlikely event it gets stolen, the thief will be disappointed to discover it contains little more than snacks and bottled water.
Whatever luggage you choose, you’ll want to secure it with a padlock that has a combination you set yourself. Many newer models display a TSA logo indicating they can be opened by the US government’s Transportation Security Administration, allowing them to search your baggage. (Don’t get me started on the kind of world we live in, where having strangers authorized to open your bags while you’re not present is defined as a safety feature.) We carry a metal cable for attaching bags to fixtures in hotel rooms, and fit our daypacks with zipper clips, which require sufficient fiddling and tugging that you’ll be alerted to any attempts to get them open. Our big, colorful luggage tags discourage thieves (who prefer to make off with anonymous bags so if caught they can claim it was “an honest mistake”) and contain contact information that might help us get them back.
Exploring the world of luggage design is a never-ending journey. And this is a good thing. Because just a few minutes ago, Rich suffered one of those ghastly data losses that plagues the life of every computer user from time to time. Luckily, this occurred just as I was about to send him the link for the high-tech daypack. I know he will cheer up immensely when he sees the subject line “luggage that might interest you…”
Have you found any luggage or travel gear especially useful on the road? I'd love to hear about it!
Unlike some of my better-organized and more practical blogger friends, I don't accept sponsorships of any kind. The products mentioned in this post are here because I thought you might find them interesting. I haven't tried every one of them, and I welcome your input and feedback.
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I'm an American travel writer based in Seville, Spain and currently visiting my home state of California.
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