Having watched my last cabin bag disintegrate before my eyes in Hamburg airport last year, I have in recent months been road-testing a rag bag of various roll-on and carry-on bags.
Some of them had previously been sitting, neglected, in a corner of the office, others have been sent in for review.
Best by a long way has been the Gate 8 Tri-fold garment Mate.
Firstly, the warning. There is no bag perfect for every trip and every traveller. Clearly, a garment carrier will best suit (pun intended) those who wear suits, or are taking a supply of cotton formal shirts away with them on a trip, or have a jacket they wish to be able to pack and wear at their destination without having to iron it.
If you travel in jeans and polo shirts, you don't need a garment bag, a standard roll-on will be fine.
But for those of us who wear suits, a roll-on can do horrible things, and the integral "suiter" that are incorporated in some takes up lots of room, and doesn't work particularly well in any case (second pun intended, but I'll try to stop now).
Gate 8 luggage is a British-designed brand that is affordable, well-designed, robust (the nylon outer material is similar to Tumi bags) and fairly light-weight (3kg).
The man behind it - Alistair Callender – is passionate about his luggage (he demonstrated it to me at the Business Travel Show this year), and he listens to every bit of feedback from his well-travelled customers.
Every element of the garment bag has been thought-through, and for that reason there are very few irritations with it.
The bag folds in three (hence the "tri" part of the name) and then zips up, with two detachable pockets in the top corners, and various pockets and zippable sections in side. There's even a hook allowing you to hang the whole bag up in the wardrobe at the hotel.
It is made of ballistic nylon, although I'm not sure I'd trust my life on it stopping a bullet, but it is water repellent and kept clean of marks — those that there were wiped off with a wet cloth.
The wheels are strong and suitable for most surfaces; cobbles were no problem but it leapt up kerbs when crossing roads easily enough.
So, off to Berlin – a four-day trip, suit obligatory, ten appointments each day. I needed three fresh formal shirts, a spare pair of suit trousers and a casual shirt, trousers and a jacket.
If I'd also been packing another pair of shoes or my gym kit, then I think with all those clothes I might have needed a bigger bag and had to check it in, but as the hotel didn't have a gym I added only a clear plastic bag for toiletries, underwear and socks and a laptop computer, power source, iPad and other assorted power cords and there was room to spare.
I was flying with Easyjet, which at that time still had the one bag rule. Here the bag excels, since not only can the laptop be packed in the outside pocket, making it easy to access at security and in the lounge, but there is a second outside pocket for toiletries, meaning you don't have to unpack to get at them for security.
There was no question the bag would fit in the cabin (measurements are listed at the end of this review).
The outside pocket can also be unzipped from the main case, meaning that when I arrived at my destination, I had a laptop case complete with shoulder strap taken from the main bag.
The laptop case took my 17-inch laptop without a squeeze, and there was enough room in the main bag for me to lay the bulky power and plug on top of it and zip up the bag.
I found it takes a day or two to get used to a bag, and after a slight learning curve as to where items were best distributed I grew to like the Gate8.
If you put heavy things at the bottom of the main compartment it can cause the bag to sag slightly and drag on the ground as you wheel, so don't do that, and you have to learn to walk it slightly to one side as you pull it behind you or it can hit your heels.
But, otherwise, it performed better than many bags twice the price.
Excellent value, and good for trips up to four days.
- WEIGHT 3.1kg
- DIMENSIONS 53 cm x 36 cm x 15 cm