It was my time to look for new luggage. My main set was getting tired. So many advances have occurred in the past eight years!
Luggage is better designed than it was then. No, not all luggage, but many of the top makers have renewed dedication to modernizing and improving their lines.
My old set had a pull-up handle with the pull-up tubes inside, making the suitcase inside bottom not flat and uniform. Though of high quality ballistic material, each piece was heavier than today’s heavy-duty products. Piping on the old was a source of damage and abrasion. Vulnerable corners were not as well protected as they should have been. The inside framing design did not hold up well to the rigors of travel. Zipper pulls bent easily. The trolley strap from the largest bag did not maintain its attachment to the big bag very well. As the bags each had what could be termed excess material to make the outside pockets more voluminous, this arrangement proved another source of wear. The material became abraded with loose threads in abundance. The final nail in the old set’s coffin was that the brand went out of business! The lifetime guarantee was of no value at all.
In my research for a set to replace my aging luggage, one theme was prominent – SPINNERS! These are four-wheeled bags that are so very popular today. I observed two types.
First, I noticed hard-sided, all plastic (ABS), slick-looking stand-up bags of what can only be described as a clamshell design. Rimowa appears to have a top-notch reputation for excellence in hard-sided spinners. These bags are split vertically into two equal halves. This is quite a popular style, but I was to discover a deal-breaker of impracticality in this style/design.
The clamshell design makes it impossible to set this type of bag on a traditional luggage cart or bench at the foot of a hotel bed and open the bag. It is oriented all wrong for this operation. A bag needs to be able to be set upon the bench or luggage cart rotated 90º from the vertical orientation a clamshell bag is made to open, access and for packing. With this configuration in which both halves are packed, where does the other half go when the suitcase is open for packing and unpacking? Normally, the top of a bag is opened and rests against a wall or is flipped up and over and out of the way. With clamshells that have both halves used for packing, this just does not work, other than to put the bag on a large table of the bed, or a deep couch. The impracticalities of requiring half to be packed in one side and the other half of the load to be placed in the other half of the bag become obvious. I often have odd size items that must accompany me. I need the added height that, in a conventional design bag, allows items of size to be placed on the suitcase floor and to extend upward beyond the halfway point.
You see my dilemma?
The spinner concept makes sense, but not in the hard-sided clamshell configuration, at least not to me. I looked into the other spinners from other brands, focusing on design elements, durability, apparent wheel quality and value.
Here is what I like, looking first at the 27” Expandable Upright Spinner (available in black, retailing for $529). The wheels seem sturdy. This bag is virtual rectangle inside, with handle outside, not obstructing the bottom inside of the bag. This allows folded clothing to lay flat inside, preventing wrinkling that would most certainly be the result in customarily uneven “floors’ inside luggage with inside pull-up handles. Everything is carefully considered in the design and execution of Briggs & Riley luggage!
Their Simple as that® lifetime guarantee is among the very best, if not THE best in the industry.
A cloth bottom handle lies flat, almost like a pocket, and is there when needed, a simple and elegant solution to a bottom assist handle. Sides are sturdy. It feels like a quality bag.
Once in my hands, I tried a few things. Not accustomed to rolling a bag from the top side on four wheels, I walked around the neighborhood with the bag, adding about 25 pounds of ballast to this lightweight, 13-ish pound bag. The first thing I noticed was the ease with which the bag rolled, though I would prefer that the wheels were more adept at going in any attitude. It seems as if it wanted to rotate slightly off the line that was the track upon which I wanted the bag to go. It rolls straight, just slightly askew, with the front and back wheels not in perfect plane with each other. Why? It was because I was manhandling the bag using the outside handle as the guiding device. Once I switched to the top-of-bag handle, located central to the bag’s top, the suitcase moved appropriately, without rotating. I learned something!
It is easy to use the zipper, with its twin interlocking zipper pulls. I appreciated the bag’s simplicity and intelligent expandability. One set of wheels is on the expandable side of the suitcase, which is exactly where they need to be. Other luggage I’ve seen have wheels that are not under the expansion. Therefore, when expanded, the bag is front-heavy over the expanded area. This is NOT smart. Briggs & Riley designers were smart!
There is something positive to be said for this spinner design. Maneuvering a vertically-oriented 4-wheel bag to the side or in front is altogether different and more pleasing than the normal two-wheel attitude – dragging it behind or pushing it to the front, both on two wheels. With a spinner to one’s side, it can roll even though oriented sideways, the narrow way, so it goes more easily through narrow openings, unlike traditional luggage. Think about where one’s hands must be when moving along both types of product. It is easy to see that the spinner’s vertical orientation allows a more natural position and use of one’s hands. And it is possible to add to the top of the bag a small additional bag that may stay in place using the pull-up handle or using the ingenuity of the traveler.
Most if not all spinners also allow tipping onto two wheels for more traditional drag behind or push ahead operation. And some also feature the ability to attach other bags via a strap or a strap and fixture on the main bag, a “trolley” of sorts. Some call this “add-a-bag.”
Hanging a smaller bag near to the ground to provide a low center of gravity would, I believe, work well. I am sure the physics of a two-bag trolley in spinner format with high-hanging luggage would create an imbalance rendering the arrangement unsuitable.
I appreciated the ease with which this Briggs & Riley bag rolled during my trip AND the lack of stress upon my shoulders as I moved it along.
Also of note are touches including the ID tag that is easily retrieved, yet parks retracted away from prying eyes. There is a large and sturdy front pocket that can easily hold a coat or umbrella.
This is a solid bag and a well-designed Briggs & Riley line that should be part of anyone’s luggage shopping consideration. Compare as I did to see the value this company provides consumers; price, killer guarantee, intelligent design and feature set. If you are a heavy-duty road warrior as I, you’ll be hard pressed to find better for less, and you will have chosen a brand and collection sure to stand up to rigorous travel as well as anything available.
I also took along another Briggs & Riley bag in the Baseline collection during my recent trip to the Housewares Show in Chicago. The other bag is their U421X, a (retail) $399, 21-inch One Touch Carry On that is both lightweight (under 10 pounds!) and expandable. It’s a perfect -wheel carry-on, rigidly and ruggedly built. Don’t let its plain appearance fool you. Rectangular and trim, this bag with its characteristic outside handle holds plenty and can expand to carry 30% more! Though unassuming in appearance, it is smartly designed with thoughtful touches of company genius.
These include a small pocket on the front at the top, perfect for mobile phones, ID and pants-pocket materials that must be removed before going through security. Lined with orange colored material it is going to get your attention if this pocket is open. Once through inspection at the security checkpoint, it is easy to unzip to remove contents to put them back on your person. A large pocket beneath this one is perfect for larger items in need of quick access, such as an umbrella. Hit the above link for the rest of the story on this bag and others in the Baseline collection.
Before closing, I hope you will explore the Baseline collection AND the company’s other collections where you may find even more to love.
Though prices are pretty consistent and close to the retail set by the manufacturer, remember to always check with my go-to luggage retailer, Savinar Luggage in Canoga Park, CA. Call them at 818-703-1313 and ask for Mark. Be sure to let him know Mr. Gadget sent you! If you find a better price elsewhere for luggage locally or online, buy it!