• U.S.

How Tough Is Your Luggage?

3 minute read
Lisa Mclaughlin

The first six months of 2006 were rough on checked luggage, with reports of lost, damaged, delayed or pilfered bags up 37% over the first half of 2003. And that was before emergency carry-on restrictions were imposed this summer, further taxing strained airline baggage systems. Overpacked bags and overcrowded holds can wreak havoc on the best-made suitcases, but if you choose your luggage carefully before you take off, you can avoid a lot of aggravation when you land.


For soft-sided bags, opt for materials like ballistic or Cordura nylons, which stand up to slashing and tearing better than leather or canvas. They also provide more protection from weather. The REI Tech Beast ($215) is made of abrasion-, moisture- and tear-resistant ballistic nylon, and the wear points are reinforced with Hypalon patches to better bear rough-and-tumble conditions. The luxe new Tourbach line from Victorinox Swiss Army ($260-$700) boasts a Swiss-engineered fabric called Performax that is tearproof and grime and water repellent.


You might not think much about handles, but they are crucial to your traveling comfort. Straps and grips should be made of wide webbing and padded where they rest on your shoulder or in your hand. The telescoping handle on wheeled bags should be well protected when collapsed. A favorite of frequent flyers is the Travelpro Crew5 series (on sale for $160-$300), which was created by an airline pilot, and is often used by flight crews. Travelpro Crew5’s exterior is microballistic nylon that is Teflon coated and stain resistant. As a bonus, the wheels can be replaced, so you don’t have to ditch the whole bag if one wheel breaks.


When you are traveling with kids, the long security lines and endless terminal corridors can be a real drag. But new bags designed for kids offer both amusement and emergency seating. Züca rolling backpacks ($120) are surrounded by a lightweight aluminum crash cage; the platform on top doubles as a chair that supports up to 300 lbs. Coolest feature: kid-friendly flashing LED wheels. Trunki ($40) is a ride-on suitcase for globetrotting tots. The brightly colored polypropylene bags can be towed with a strap or used as a ride-along toy. When the kids tire of playing, attach the strap to create a shoulder bag.


Hard-shell bags offer additional protection to fragile belongings and any containers of liquids that you were forced to check. Japanese designer Hideo Wakamatsu’s brightly colored scratch-resistant trolley cases ($200-$300) feature smooth magnetic locks and four soft, silent polyurethane wheels recessed into the frame to avoid damage in transit. For travelers with nothing to hide, his Skeleton trolley ($400) is made of superstrong, see-through thermoplastic framed in anodized aluminum.

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