With global travel at an all-time low, luggage was bound to follow. Brands, such as Away and Samsonite, continue to reel in the wake of the damage wrought by the novel coronavirus as travel bookings saw a near 90 percent plunge.
However, those in the know also know that good luggage does not go out of fashion. Well-made travel accessories can outlast pandemics, recessions, shut-downs and delays, and will be ready to roll with style and efficiency once the going gets going again.
At the 2020 Travel Goods conference held in the pre-pandemic days of March, the luggage innovations were out in force offering solutions to travelers who, at the time, were traveling more than ever and needing convenient answers from the luxury end as well as the everyday lines.
Whereas in past years, the conference was dominated by smart luggage embedded with trackers, chargers, and drivers that turned bags into handsfree rollies that follow owners around the airport, and other bags that would morph into small transport vehicles with seats, this year’s lot proved to be lower key. The focus was one of usability and functionality rather than splash – which proved to be a good move as the country, state-by-state, began to shut down.
“We definitely have seen a hit in sales but luckily we offer everyday bags and goods and that has made it easier for us to stay afloat,” said Jacob Durham, co-founder and CEO of Nomatic, a boutique line of smart-looking travel packs, camera bags and roll-on luggage in the mid-priced range. “Our mission since we launched in 2014 has been simple: function, innovation and quality, and that has kept us going.”
The company backs that up with a no-questions-asked exchange for any defects and also with an affordable three-year extended warranty that allows easy exchanges for any damage a customer might do to a bag for what basically amounts to the cost of a scone and latte at Starbuck’s.
While the company is doing business online and partnering with such companies as Best Buy for distribution, Durham says he sees a shift for this year, although he remains confident that travel will return with force, and with it, the joy of upgrading one’s luggage.
“Pre COVID, our customers were traveling at least every month if not more. But now as people are not yet comfortable getting on planes, travel is shifting to car trips so investing in bags is not so much on people’s minds. This will change, especially as business travel comes back. Then people will be looking for the right bags with the right look, feel and weight, with all the pockets in the right place,” he says.
At the travel goods show, several interesting and innovative luggage options stood out from the crowd and could be seen as solutions toward smoothing the discomforts of travel – whatever route that travel might be taking.
The Problem: You arrive at the check-in counter at the airport with luggage in tow and prepare to check that bag in when the check-in attendant tells you your bag is eight ounces over and you owe an extra $100 on that ticket.
Solution: GetSet offers lightweight luggage in three sizes that weighs the bag you are packing as you go. No airport surprises, no inaccurate bathroom scale readouts or chaotic repacking scenes at the check-in desk. The bags come with an embedded scale and LED readouts in pounds/kilos that can be viewed while packing is in progress. The key differentiator from other self-weighing luggage is the readout appears as you pack rather than after the process – no need to close, zip, lift and weigh the bag, and then re-pack.The bags come in an assortment of colors in carry-on, mini and large sizes. The hard-shell polycarbonate suitcase is fixed with plenty of extras: A removable battery charging station, an affixed TSA-approved combination lock, durable wheels, easy-grip telescoping luggage handles, and a zippable internal clothing divider with storage compartments.As an extra convenience, the bag comes with a portable coffee tray that fits onto the luggage grip to hold that Starbuck’s and scone while waiting to board. The bag rolls with perfect balance and even manages to maintain that balance when you place a second bag on top of it. The bags are found at getsetluggage.com
2. Briggs & Riley
Problem: You have a long list of things that you absolutely need to take with you, but you don’t want to go to the trouble of lugging around another piece of luggage.
Solution: Briggs & Riley, an independently-owned brand that’s the travel authority in the luggage space with an almost cult-like customer base, offers a patented compression-expansion tool inside its better carry-on bag selections. The engineering allows travelers to expand a bag up to 34 percent, but then compress it back down to carry-on size. In durable soft or hard cases, the expander is released and pops up to turn the luggage sides into solid expanded walls. The traveler places items inside to create an overstuffed case. The bag is zipped and then the compression design takes over as the bag is easily pushed back into its original carryon dimensions with all the goods inside. Meanwhile, the latest at Briggs & Riley is a series of convenient day and weekend packs under the Delve moniker. “We make solving customers problems a fundamental part of everything we do and building products as well as services that can do that is the key to our brand,” said Richard Krulik, chief executive of Briggs & Riley, in a 2019 interview. “There is a steady progression to keep pushing the boundaries of innovation for real solutions that have staying power and make a traveler’s life less stressful.”The company is the only luggage brand to offer a lifetime repair guarantee on all bags. briggs-riley.com
The Problem: You live in a New York apartment the size of a Kleenex box and you travel so much that any remaining space is given over to storing bulky luggage. Or you are taking a cruise and inside the tiny stateroom, luggage either becomes something you eat on or trip over.
Solution. The Rollink Flex Earth bills itself as the world’s thinnest suitcase. These items come in neon colors or black with popsicle-hued accents. The hard shell bags offer all the classic dimensions of a regular suitcase but then squish down, accordion style, into a flat surface that is no thicker than the latest Thomas Piketty tome. The bags roll on two wheels and are designed so that a small suitcase can fit flat into a larger suitcase and be popped into action as the need arises. The bags stack neatly into closets or under beds for safe navigation. rollink.com
The Problem: You need a handsome portable, be it a backpack or carryon, and you need it to be built your way. You don’t see any cookie cutter combos to fit what you are seeking and want certain compartments and packing solutions that will keep you organized.
Solution: Nomatic is a Utah-based baggage builder that has the business traveler in mind. The company focuses on backpacks, briefcases and carry-ons that can be customized to suit the traveler with smart design and surprise features. Top seller is the Carry-on Classic that has enough space to pack in a work-week full of clothes. The rollie offers a yawning interior that can be filled with clothing and compressed up to 30 percent for carriage through a patented magnetic strapping design and using separate compression packing cubes. The shells are strong enough to be carried into a war zone or slammed with a sledge hammer, should these occasions arise. Wheels, handles and zippers follow in line. A built in TSA-approved lock keeps items safe, and the strong, balanced product allows for easy luggage stacking and rolling with the help of a three-tier telescoping handle. Other travel accessories include an apparel sleeve for wrinkle-free travel, a vacuum bag that acts as a sort of duffle and then compresses the load by 50 percent, toiletry bag, packing cubes and a shirt organizer. Customizable backpacks also provide lightweight comfort and organization. The company is offering comfort-boosting discounts in these COVID times. nomatic.com
The Problem: The world is drowning in discarded plastic bottles.
Solution: Solo New York has a bag for that. Solo’s Re:cycled Collection takes discarded plastic bottles, breaks them down, melts them into fiber, and weaves them into stylish go-bags, briefcases and backpacks. The company is a sister enterprise with Briggs & Riley and offers a varied line of products and styles to fit the Millennial set in handsome textiles of greys and blacks. Currently, the Re:cycled Collection is available only for the Re:move Duffel, the Re:vive Mini Backpack and the Re:store Tote, but a new robust line of bags are in the offing.
6. Zhampagge All in One Organizer
The Problem: You need to carry just a few things for an overnight or special engagement and you do not want to take a suitcase. Solution: The silky organizer with an unlikely name can be worn like a purse, weighs very little and keeps all your items wrinkle free and in their right places. As a two-sided flat item it expands to a 14×21-inch quasi suitcase that turns into a flat slider or folded crossbody purse. Ten intelligently considered pockets hold toiletry, shoes, shirts and pants, tech devices and chargers, notebooks and pill cases, and can be placed atop contents in a suitcase for quick access, or work separately and easily hung on a rack or in a closet. The bag can be thrown into the washing machine for easy cleaning. The polyester blend is waterproof for a convenient answer to storing soiled clothing, liquid containers or bathing suits while traveling. The Zhampagge comes in six colors and retails for $99 at zhampagge.com
7. Raido Luggage
The Problem: Traveling well requires luck and who could not use a boost from some higher powers for a safer, hassle-free trip?
The Solution: Raido Luggage, with offices in Miami and Florence, embeds ancient runes into their designs. These are the letters of an ancient Germanic-Etruscan alphabet, the Futhark, each ideographic symbol representing a cosmological power.Raido’s suitcases are made from strong and light plastic material, and have a practical topside TSA lock, four silent wheels and expandability to add 30 percent capacity to the case. For those travelers who want to bring their pet along, Raido offers an airlines-approved case that allows passengers to carry their pet in two hassle-free ways: 1) With the removable wheels on, they can attach the pet carrier “wagon style” to the rolling Raido carry-on and take the pet in tow; or 2) they can remove the wheels and stack the carrier on top of a rolling Raido carry-on, Fido wheeling alongside, protected by the runes and loving the ride. raidoluggage.com