Luggage worth buying

This item appears on page 37 of the October 2010 issue.

Whether you travel with just a carry-on or also check a bag or two, what types of luggage do you travel with these days and why? A number of readers answered those questions, as shown below. (Also see Aug. ’10, pg. 39 & Sept. ’10, pg. 42.)

If you write in, describe the backpack, carry-on and/or suitcase with which you have been most satisfied. Give the brand name plus any identifying model or style name or number. Tell where you found it and how much it cost. Lastly, what about it would you want improved? Write to Luggage Worth Buying, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818, or e-mail (include the address at which you receive ITN).

For reference, on most international airlines a checked bag cannot exceed 62 linear inches (combined length, width and depth) and a carry-on, 45 inches (March ’10, pg. 2).

Kaye Tobin at Señor Frog’s in Matzatlan, Mexico.

My husband and I travel extensively, frequently using local transportation. My husband has his own luggage, so I need to be able to manage my own, getting in and out of trains, planes and trams, stowing luggage in racks above my head, etc. I have some mobility issues and require a cane, thus I need my hands free.

I’ve tried standard luggage, duffels, rolling duffels and luggage that converts to a backpack. All of them impeded my leg as I walked or while pulling the suitcase behind me.

The luggage that converted to a backpack caused issues, as it sat too far down my back (even the shortest-length pack was too long) and limited the range of motion for my hip. I started experimenting with more compact packs at our local mountaineering store, but nothing had the correct dimensions.

When I saw the Turbo Transit Pack in the catalog from L.L. Bean (Freeport, ME; 800/441-5713 or 207/552-3028,, it jumped out at me. Measuring 19"x14"x9", it weighs two pounds five ounces and costs $69.95.

I’ve been very satisfied with it. The pack is strong enough, and so far I’ve been able to carry and lift it without assistance. Getting it on and off is easy, and the arm straps are sufficiently padded as to be comfortable for long periods.

I’m an efficient packer, and I used this pack for a week’s stay in Mexico in a resort with a dress code (requiring more clothes than I normally pack) and for a month-long vacation in Europe with two weeks worth of clothes (I was able to do some laundry while there).

The area at the bottom of the back is useful for shoes. I normally wear my heaviest pair and pack two other pairs.

When I have to check this bag, I tuck the arm straps and the pack belt close into the back of the pack and use a hook-and-loop-Velcro-type belt around the circumference of the pack to keep them in place. I’ve had no problems with damage or airline complaints.

Kate Wilke

Calgary, Alberta, Canada

My favorite backpack is a Rick Steves’ Velocé (Edmonds, WA; 425/771-8303, — about $80). It has lots of pockets, with the biggest one being zipper-expandable.

It’s my carry-on, and I keep it under the seat, choosing accessibility over foot room. It’s light enough to use as a daypack once we get settled in at a destination.

My wife and I also both check standard 22-inch wheeled suitcases of the type that many travelers put overhead. Ours are from TravelSmith (Novato, CA; 800/770-3387, — $285) and have a zippered expansion feature, which is handy when doing packing. Starting with it unzipped, we close the main compartment and then, while kneeling on the bag, close the expansion zipper to compress the items within.

Irv Smith

Missouri City, TX

I bought a wine-colored, 25"x20"x10" Walkabout Lite 2 from Travelpro (Boca Raton, FL; 800/741-7471, in 2009 and am very happy with it. It was on sale for perhaps $135 at Macy’s (800/289-6229, At the time, that was the only place that had the wine color, and I wanted something other than black so it’s easier to spot.

The bag is expandable and has a very sturdy frame and two pockets accessible from the outside. It’s stain resistant and has a retractable handle and replaceable wheel units. Inside are two long pockets on the sides and two belts that hold the clothes in place. It also contains a hanging garment bag, which I have not used.

On my travels, I also take an 18-inch wheeled carry-on that I’ve had for many years. It’s easy to handle and fits under the seat.

Bea Emanuel

Minneapolis, MN

I have found two carry-on bags that I love. They are both Walkin’ Bags from Swany America (Johnstown, NY; 800/237-9269 or 518/725-3333, One is a Pocket Bag and the other a Quilted Bag. Each measures 18"x9"x 12" and costs $160.

Each has four wheels that swivel so you can go in any direction. I can run through the airport with the bag right at my side, not dragging it.

These bags are very tough. I have had to check them on more than one occasion and they still look like new. The Pocket Bag holds everything I need, including my netbook. I use the Quilted Bag when I need just a bit more room.

Brenda Garrity

Hemet, CA

I received the Victorinox Swiss Army (Monroe, CT; 888/658-0717, Wheeled Eurotote (“boarding tote”) as a gift several years ago.

It is still available at Bankhardt’s Luggage & Gifts (Cincinnati, OH; 800/997-7875 or 513/791-4021, — about $270). A great carry-on. Very durable.

Nancy Hesselbrock

Cincinnati, OH

Kaye Tobin on her way up the Great Wall in China.

I travel a lot. My sons gave me a 20-inch E-Motion® 360° Trek Pack Plus backpack with a detachable daypack from Victorinox Swiss Army in 2002 and it has gone around, up and down the world with me many times.

A strap on the detachable bag tore a bit, but I took it to Nordstrom, where the bag was purchased, and the daypack was replaced for FREE under the lifetime warranty. Last year a zipper was stuck on the bag. Nordstrom sent the bag to T.W. Carrol & Co. (Tuwila, WA; 206/575-1064,, and I was sent a 22-inch Victorinox E-Motion® 360° Trek Pack Plus for FREE. Now I have a new, bigger bag and two detachable backpacks (but I only use one).

The empty bag weighs about eight pounds. In January ’10 I went from 80°F beaches in Mexico to below 0° in China with all that I needed, which weighed 12 pounds, for a total carry-on weight of 20 pounds, and it fit great in the overhead bin.

I’m 80 years of age and have been on a roll traveling since I was 15. Having so little luggage helps me save money by being able to use public transportation. I have the freedom to travel by myself, staying in hostels. With the money I save, I’ll be able to go back to China for the World’s Fair in October 2010 and finish the year in Canada, Kuwait and Colombia.

Kaye Tobin

Arcata, CA

I can’t recommend any bags in particular, but I can recommend a bag company. I ordered a top-quality, 22-inch Skyway bag from eBags (Greenwood Village, CO; 800/820-6126,

There were no shipping charges, the bag arrived in about two days and the cost was only $49.99. This was a special offer and shipping is not always free, but I was very pleased. After checking local sales, I found that this was indeed a good buy.

Ellen Jacobson

Centennial, CO

When traveling overseas, I always carry a laptop computer and some professional-grade camera equipment. For many years I struggled with (and worried about) these delicate and expensive items in a standard carry-on. I really don’t care to hand thousands of dollars of electronics to anyone at a gate check. I never found a workable solution until I ran across the Lowepro CompuDaypack (Sebastopol, CA; 707/827-4000,

The CompuDaypack measures 17.5"x13.8"x 8.5" — well under virtually any carry-on size restrictions, even on small planes. It has wide shoulder straps and is quite comfortable to carry on your back. It has a built-in handle as well. The computer is easy to access for the obligatory security scans. The entire pack is extremely well padded and provides superb protection for its contents.

The zippered lower compartment is designed to accommodate a full-size SLR camera and two or three lenses or accessories, held securely by padded, user-adjustable dividers.

The main zippered upper compartment is designed to hold a standard laptop (it will take some 17-inch computers).

Another zippered upper compartment has a number of built-in pockets for pens, a cell phone, business cards or keys. That compartment is large enough to hold my Bose headphones, a paperback, computer cords and a few other small essentials. It also has a clever little outside pocket that will hold an iPod, with a built-in rubber gusset through which you can thread the headphone wires.

Lowepro products are not inexpensive, but the quality, materials and construction are as good as they get. The CompuDaypack retails for about $99.99. Mine has been all over the world, in some pretty nasty environments, and it still looks like new.

For traveling with expensive electronics and optics, the Lowepro pack is the most convenient and safest solution I’ve found.

Tom Bulloch

Woodland Park, CO

For 20 years or so we’ve taken along with us everywhere a Porter Case (South Bend, IN; 800/356-8348 or 574/289-2616, This PC11 Elite Series hard-surface, 14"x22"x8" case has been a life saver.

It has ball bearing wheels and lying flat becomes a luggage cart that can carry up to 200 pounds. I believe the designer meant the Porter Case to be just a carry-on, but we check it through and it has survived lots of heavy traveling.

Although our specific case is no longer available, there are similar cases on the website that can carry photo equipment, laptops and more. Prices range from just under $200 to just under $400, and the savings in tips make it worth the price.

Our most outstanding story around this case — many years ago we were let off near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, and we just piled our stuff onto our Porter Case, maneuvered down the Champs-Élysées, turned onto avenue George V and wheeled into Hotel George V to the surprise of the bell captain and staff!

Phyllis Mueller

San Jose, CA