Carrying On

Latest in luggage is easier to pack, stow and haul

April 02, 2006|By JUDI DASH | JUDI DASH,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The days of pack-and-go are pretty much over. Nowadays travelers have to make sure their bags weigh the right amount, can fit in a crowded overhead bin and also pass a Transportation Security Administration inspection without blowing a zipper. Creators of luggage and accessories feel their pain and are trying to make it easier and simpler for people on the go. Lighter luggage, multi-tasking bags, organizational aids and tools for helping travelers follow the rules all serve to minimize at least some of the stress of setting out. And if you've never been a fan of the single carry-on bag, the recent news that airlines lost about 30 million bags last year - some temporarily - might change your mind. We've tested a few of the new products and found some standouts. Spring break is in the bag with these trendy new accessories. subhed Spinner winner

Silhouette 700 Series Space Master Carry-on Spinners / Samsonite / $300. It makes sense that a luggage pioneer such as Samsonite would find a way to make a wheeled bag steady enough for rushing through airport corridors, yet able to navigate narrow aisles. The Silhouette 700 Series Space Master Carry-On Spinners can be wheeled the usual wide-side way. When confronted with narrow spaces, flip it on its side, where two additional wheels turn it into a svelte 8-inch-wide side-rolling wonder. The bag has two external pockets, one with an extra zipper at the bottom for access to the contents while the bag is stored in an overhead compartment. At 22-inches-by-14-inches- by-8 inches, it should pass as a carry-on on most large planes. Available in black, blue, burgundy or tan ballistic nylon. To find a store, call 800-262-8282 or go to samsonite.com.

Mighty Messenger (1)

Classic Messenger / Timbuk2 / $60-$90. Messenger bags - those big, roomy flap-closure sacks favored by bike messengers - have gone mainstream as trendy travel bags. Timbuk2 Designs builds some of the best-made - and most colorful - messengers in four sizes, from a small bag that works well as a purse or briefcase, to an extra-large bag that can hold a weekend's worth of clothing. The bags are made of ballistic nylon lined with waterproof vinyl, and have internal organizer pockets, quick-release plastic buckle closures, reflective strips on the bottom, and a shoulder strap and cross-strap (both removable) for extra support and stability. The bags come in a wide range of colors, and most weigh less than 3 pounds. And for an extra fee, the bag can be customized to personal specifications. For information, call 800-865-2513 or go to timbuk2.com.

Multi-tasking (2)

3-in-1 Garmet Duffel / Travelon / $80. The designers at Travelon must have had a field day engineering the ingenious new 3-in-1 Garment Duffel. Fully opened, there is a zippered hanging garment sleeve for keeping suits and other clothing wrinkle-free; zip it up and fold it over and, voila, a garment bag with a shoulder strap for carrying. But wait, there's more. Zip up a few side panels and it's a roomy 22-inch carry-on duffel bag, with the garment-bag metamorphosing into a kind of giant egg-roll for travel gear. The upshot is that travelers get a duffel bag and a garment bag in one, cleverly conforming to the airlines' carry-on limit of one bag. This is also a great way to separate hanging clothing from shoes, toiletries and other clunky gear. For information, call 800-537-5544.

Light and bright (3)

Cross Roads Expandable / Eagle Creek / $200-$230. With airlines more strictly enforcing luggage size and weight limits, the race is on for bags that provide the most space within the rules. Eagle Creek's new Cross Roads nylon expandable wheeled bags are winners. The 22-inch wheel-aboard model weighs 7 pounds 9 ounces, and has a capacity of 3,060 cubic inches that increases by 25 percent when expanded. The 25-inch version - the most popular size for checked luggage - weighs 8 pounds. Both bags convert to backpacks via built-in shoulder straps and hip belts hidden behind a zipped back panel. Both also have exterior compression straps for securing the load, as well as side pockets for water bottles, a front slip pocket for magazines, and soft handles at the top and side. The bags are available in graphite, tomato or frog green colors. Call 800-874-9925 or go to eaglecreek.com.

Mobile security (4)

ToteSafe / Magellans / $64.85. A tight grip on your tote may not be enough to foil thieves, who these days can be armed with knives for cutting shoulder straps or slashing the bag's bottom. Enter the ToteSafe, a roomy nylon bag that has stainless steel-fortified shoulder straps, steel-mesh-reinforced front and bottom panels, and a tamper-resistant main zipper that latches shut. The ToteSafe also has padded cell phone and camera compartments, credit card slots and dual zip-away water bottle holders. A rear sleeve slips over the handle of rolling luggage. With all the reinforcement and compartments, the bag weighs just 23 ounces. Call 800-962-4943 or go to magel lans.com.

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