The zip files
Business Traveller test-drives a new crop of cabin bags.
Samsonite Litesphere Mobile Office 50
Some airlines let you take both a wheel-on case and a laptop bag on board – others, such as Easyjet, don’t, so if you need to travel with a laptop then you will have to fit it into your carry-on.
The Litesphere has a neat system whereby one half of the bag has a padded sleeve for your laptop, while the other is kept for your clothes with cross straps. This means you can open each part separately, allowing you to pull out your laptop or papers without going into your clothes. That said, this is slightly smaller than some carry-ons, and the divide cuts down the space for clothes. On a two-night trip, there was no way I could have put in my gym gear or a spare pair of shoes.
The case is light, at 2.3kg, and the exterior is made with Samsonite’s Pointshock technology – dot printing abrasion-resistant shields in key areas giving good protection. It’s available in maroon or brown. The two wheels handled rough pavements well, and there are two handles – one for picking up the bag, while the other raises for you to pull it behind you. It has an integrated combination lock accepted by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). TO
- Size 38.1cm x 22.1cm x 50cm
- Weight 2.3kg
- Price £235
- Guarantee Five years
- Contact samsonite.co.uk
Antler Business 100 C1 Two-Wheel Standard Mobile Office
This bag also works well when you are only allowed to carry one item on board. The two-tone polyester case is split into two compartments – one for your papers, chargers and laptop, the other for your clothes – while a substantial front pocket contains a removable pouch that fits a 15.6-inch laptop.
The main body is a decent size for a short trip (two nights max), and has a zipped cover so you can open up the case to access another pocket for papers without exposing your clothes and personal belongings. Elasticated straps keep things in place.
The case wheels well, and has a strong slide-up handle wide enough to balance a separate laptop case against. It comes with a clear plastic liquids bag and a fixed TSA lock. The case is elegant, discreet enough not to clash with your outfit, robust and hard wearing. Good value, too, though a little on the heavy side. TO
- Size 55cm x 40cm x 20cm
- Weight 3kg
- Price £139
- Guarantee Two years
- Contact antler.co.uk
Eagle Creek Tarmac 20 Wide Body
This two-wheel case looks more casual than others on the market, but I was really impressed with its quality – I pulled it for five miles when it was empty and two miles when full, and it wheeled along smoothly for the duration. Made of recycled nylon and polyester, it comes in black, green or red, and didn’t mark – I tried the red version, the lightest colour.
The handle was of good quality and easy to extend, and the padded side handle was comfortable to use even when the case was heavier. The quality of the zips is excellent. The interior doesn’t look spacious when you first open it but I was surprised by how much I could fit in – enough for a three- or four-day trip, with padded interior straps keeping everything in place.
Inside are two mesh zipped pockets and a door panel pocket that was ideal for my laptop, as it was protected by the padded front pocket – you would easily fit in a 15-inch laptop. There is also a useful pocket on the front for your travel documents. ZP
- Size 51cm x 41cm x 23cm
- Weight 3.3kg
- Price £200
- Guarantee Lifetime
- Contact penrithsurvival.com
Delsey Helium Four-Wheel Trolley Case
This hard case is very light, as it is made from 100 per cent polycarbonate, yet feels strong. It has a smart, minimalist design with a matte finish and comes in black, silver, grey, lime, blue or peony. It is slim, at 20cm, and has a built-in TSA lock.
There is no laptop compartment, nor any exterior pouches for documents. Inside, the main compartment has elasticated sliders and a zippered storage space in the other half of the case – ideal for bulky items. I was able to fit in enough clothes for three days, with room for a little more.
The case glides smoothly and the four wheels allow you to wheel it beside you and manoeuvre through crowds easily. There is a flexible yet solid plastic handle at the top of the case for carrying it, while the pull-out handle locked into place at various heights.
The wheels did not have much grip, or locks, and when standing on a train to the airport, it would drift away from me unless I held on to it tightly. The case could do with a base guard near the back wheels, as scratches appeared here. Other than that, I was impressed. RD
- Size 54cm x 40cm x 20cm
- Weight 2.3kg
- Price £195
- Guarantee Five years
- Contact delsey.com, selfridges.com
Carlton Aztech Spinner Laptop Trolley Case
Made of black polyester twill with orange lining, Carlton’s Aztech case has a padded exterior compartment for a 17-inch laptop, and an outer pocket for documents. With four wheels, it’s easy to maneouvre – though can wander on uneven surfaces – and there is a padded top handle and a pull-up one.
The interior doesn’t look as big as some other bags, and the built-in handle means the surface isn’t flat, but there is enough space for a two- to three-day trip. It has criss-cross straps, a mesh zipped section in the lid and a flap pocket for small items.
It felt robust – Carlton puts the case through a 2km rolling road test, a “tumble test” subjecting it to more than 100 “random impacts”, and a one-metre drop test. It also tests the zips by opening and closing them 1,000 times, though I found the main one could stick a little. A TSA lock is supplied. A good quality case, especially at this price. MM
- Size 55cm x 39cm x 20cm
- WeighT 3.1kg
- Guarantee Three years
- Price £109
- Contact carltontravelgoods.com
Briggs and Riley International Carry-on Expandable Wide-Body
This business case is extremely well made. Available in black and olive green, its ballistic nylon exterior helps to keep it clean. Its padded top and side handles make it easy to lift, while the main handle extends to three lengths. The two wheels are sturdy and the zips well made.
There is a large outer pocket for quick access to items, with a smaller one for travel documents, and a small pocket on the back with a concealed luggage tag. It has a hidden strap for attaching another bag, and a TSA lock. The flat interior is good for wrinkle-free packing, with mesh panels and straps keeping everything in place.
The case features Briggs and Riley’s CX Expansion-Compression system, which allows you to extend the bag by more than 6cm, then compress it back to original size for storing in overhead lockers – it is easy to operate and meant I could fit in enough clothes for a five-day trip. The built-in garment folder holds two suits. A mesh pocket allows you to store smaller items. At 4.2kg, the case is heavy – packed to its expanded capacity, I would struggle to lift it high. RA
- Size 50.8cm x 39.4cm x 20.3cm (expands to 26.7cm)
- Weight 4.2kg
- Price £369
- Guarantee Lifetime, covers airline damage
- Contact briggs-riley.com, johnlewis.com
Rimowa Salsa Air Ultralight Cabin Multiwheel
Rimowa launched a lighter version of its Salsa Air carry-on last year, weighing only 1.9kg – good if you have to meet strict weight requirements, but note it has no laptop compartment or exterior pockets. Made of polycarbonate, it is a smart, glossy hard case that comes in ultra violet, Inca gold, aquamarine, navy or cognac.
The four wheels glide nicely – though, as with the Carlton case, can wander. The zips work well and the T-bar handle extends smoothly. There’s a top handle and a built-in TSA lock. Empty, I was afraid it might not be that strong, as it flexes easily, but once full that didn’t worry me.
Each half of the case is made up of a big mesh zip compartment. One is flat while the other, because the handle is built in, is raised along the middle. It meant I could separate my clothes from other items but reduced the space I had, so while it was fine for my two-day trip, I wouldn’t have been able to get much extra in.
Going through security was a bit cumbersome, as I had to unzip the case, then the compartment to get to my liquids, then do the reverse airside. MM
- Size 55cm x 40cm x 20cm
- Weight 1.9kg
- Price £353
- Guarantee Five years
- Contact rimowa.de, londonluggage.co.uk
- MM Michelle Mannion
- RA Rania Apthorpe
- RD Rose Dykins
- TO Tom Otley
- ZP Zoe Prophet
- Tumi’s slimline USB travel adapter (£75 from its London Piccadilly store) is easy to slip into luggage and works in 150 countries, while its electronic scale (£50 in-store or online) will help you stay within your weight limit. tumi.com
- Ettinger’s Lifestyle passport case (£58), in red, black, blue, pink or tan, is made of waxy hide leather with a pig suede interior, and is an elegant way to carry your most important travel document. ettinger.co.uk
- If your case doesn’t have a laptop section, Knomo’s Bayswater quilted sleeve (various sizes, £45) will keep it safe. Choose from teaberry, ultraviolet, or black. The matching cable pouch (£25) doubles as a make-up bag. knomo.com
- Carry your iPad in style with Thomas Lyte’s Byron case (£175). Made of calf leather and suede, it can be flipped over to create a stand-up display, and comes in sand, mustard and sea green. thomaslyte.com
- LAT56’s Urban Warrior range of military-grade, ultra-light bags and accessories include the Suit Packing System (£69), which holds two suits and fits into hand luggage, and a leak-resistant washbag (£39). lat56.com
MartinJ - 09/02/2013 20:23
Thank you for this most informative review. One thing I'd like to see included in an updated version is the capacity of the bag in litres (or gallons, if you prefer ;-) The outer measurements may matter to the airline but how much I can fit in matters to me!
PeterCoultas - 19/02/2013 12:09
Most carry-ons heavy enough to effectively rule out camera equipment (other than mobile phone type)....why no mention of qantas with their 50 cm max length and other carriers with reduced size dimensions
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