Admit it, you hate your luggage.
Luggage these days is cumbersome to carry and lift.
It relies on bumbly follow-me rollers and was designed before security measures turned jet travel into a lug-a-thon.
Now road warriors are ruled by security agents who poke and prod, and by airlines that model passenger and overhead bin spaces on the Tokyo subway at rush hour.
I am forever zipping, poking and sifting to find my tickets, my boarding pass, my ear plugs.
When did travel become such torture?
Though the answer may be to demolish the system and start over, there is a glimmer of good news in the luggage game.
Several ambitious companies are taking a fresh look at the mainstream luggage market with positive effect. These companies are either new, or come from a nontraditional baggage background -- one is known for golf bags, another for bulletproof vests. And while none of these new bags solve the entire luggage puzzle -- they are limited to carry-ons and specialty cases -- they are nonetheless bringing new materials and a sense of style to the luggage carousel.
Pack Them In
I like what
Civilian Lab in Long Beach, Calif., is doing with its new line of harness packs and lossless wallets.
Its Business-Class LT ($68) is an interesting use of an over-the-shoulder harness mixed with modular compartments. Also worth a look is the Israel-based
Kata, which specializes in cases for the video-production industry and the military.
These cases have a nice, professional style and make good use of zippers and padded liners that work for the general user. The MC 61 ($220), for example, is a solid mixed-use, hard and soft stuff-lugger designed primarily for photographers. But it's also nice for business travelers laden with knickknacks.
But the most interesting luggage company for my money is
Ogio out of Bluffdale, Utah. The company, primarily known for its top-flight
golf bags, recently made a move into general-purpose luggage with a full line of bags. For the past few months I have been testing its midmarket laptop and carry-on bag, the Boss SS (starting at $139), which is matched to its new Shling carrying system.
The Boss is no wimp. At nearly six pounds empty, this over-the-shoulder gear monster is divided into three compartments.
Files and accessories go on one side, a padded laptop case is on the other and the center compartment holds cables, gadgets and other paraphernalia. The whole thing hangs off a hard plastic harness -- the Shling -- that distributes weight evenly across both shoulders and claims to put an end to the dreaded business ailment known as laptop-bag shoulder.
For sure, the Boss lives up to its name. This piece can literally carry a ton. It easily held my full-sized H-P 17-inch laptop, a full set of paper business files, a GPS unit, a router, three cell phones, a flashlight and the full complement of wires, chargers and peripherals -- the 43 pounds, according to my fairly accurate bathroom scale, needed to keep my mobile life running. That should cover any world traveler.
Better yet, the whole mess was not complete torture to lug. The Shling does, in fact, distribute the weight across one's shoulders. Rather nicely, in fact.
And the bag's materials and workmanship are of high enough quality to not tear under stress. Ogio has taken a cue from its golf bag tradition. The Boss is genuinely attractive, with nice features, zippers and pockets. The unique harness, which looks a little like light football pads, also makes a nice conversation piece for professional nerds on the go like me.
But there are issues, mostly with the Shling. Yes, it is comfortable, but the thing makes a significant fashion statement. And if you don't wear it precisely as intended, it can feel awkward.
It is hard plastic after all, so if you don't watch it, you can ding up your (or someone else's) shoulder. Since the harness sits across both shoulders, I couldn't swing the unit under my arm like a normal shoulder bag, so I had a hard time pulling stuff out or even making room on a crowded train.
In general, I can recommend the Ogio Boss SS as a nice addition to the otherwise grim luggage market. You can carry a lot in relative comfort -- just expect to make a bit of a spectacle of yourself as you're doing it. Otherwise, look to Kata and Civilian Lab for any upcoming travel needs.
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Jonathan Blum is an independent technology writer and analyst in Westchester, N.Y. He has written for the Associated Press and Popular Science and has appeared on Fox News and The WB.