Gregory “Alpaca” Roller Duffel Bag

Gregory Alpaca Roller DuffelHere’s my issue with many rolling duffel bags: they don’t hold their shape. There are a few other nits — the material is too light and punctures or tears easily, the zippers give out, and weirdly, they’re heavy, making me wonder why I didn’t just go with a hard sided bag. Gregory’s new Alpaca Roller Duffel addresses all these complaints and then some, plus, the frame has been re-engineered so it doesn’t eat up valuable space in your bag.

Gregory’s Alpaca Roller Duffel is sort of a hybrid bag — the bottom and the wheelbase is lightweight molded plastic covered with tough fabric — this helps the the bag keep it’s shape; it also makes it easy to pack because unlike a lot of roller bags, the bottom is flat and the hard sides help it hold its shape. The upper part of the bag is treated fabric, tough, waterproof and hey, mine is red so if I do end up checking it, it’s easy to spot on the baggage carousel.

The handle is so much easier to use than the misnamed quick release handles on my other roller bags. There’s a strap to hold it in place when it’s down, but I imagine myself losing that and finding that, oh, look, the handle still stays down just fine. The big fat wheels mean it’s easy to maneuver, though I don’t yet know how that translates in the narrow aisles of a coach cabin.

The straps on the top of the bag Velcro together with a grip like most bags, but the straps themselves are designed like backpack straps. This is a nice compromise, it means when you’re finding your destination in that neighborhood that’s all narrow walkways or navigating the staircases of the train station, you can carry your bag like a backpack. That’s a really thoughtful touch. You can take the straps off, too, they’re designed to be easily removed if you’re not using them.
The interior lid of the bag is a netted, zippered compartment; there’s a strap with a clasp on it sewn in place, answering the question of where to put your keys while you’re not using them. There are cinch straps at the bottom of the bag to keep your stuff in place — and cinch straps on the outside for additional security.

On the outside of the bag there are lots of loops and tie downs; I suppose you might tie your muddy hikers to them, or your wet swimsuit. There’s a little pocket for your ID, and another small zippered pocket for odds and ends — it’s probably a convenient place for your travel documents while you’re wheeling through the airport.

Getting the perfect piece of luggage is tricky, that’s probably why I have so many bags. A soft-sided bag isn’t going to protect all the electronic gadgets I haul around; that’s a concern. I’d love an outside pocket for sandals — it’s bad form to have stuff flopping all over when you’re boarding a plane. But the Alpaca 22 (the 22 is carry on size, it comes in a 28 as well) , paired with my favorite digital backpack, is big enough, sturdy enough, and versatile enough to see me through a week or a month of travel.

The Alpaca Roller comes in Tarmac Black or Sunset Red. The 22 retails for $299, the 28 for $349. The bag hits retail stores in July, 2011.

What to pack in a carry on – ten things Gadling readers actually use

What to packSo, you’ve got yourself the ultimate carry on for your upcoming air travel. Now, you have to figure out what to pack in it.

For those of us who check a bag, it can be hard to decide what, exactly, to bring on the plane with us. Valuables and documents are a must, for safety, but do you really need that computer cable? Do you need Bandaids? Did you splurge on a stupid gadget you’ll never use? Traveling light is key; it’s no fun lugging a full, heavy carry on around. We asked our readers on Facebook what they actually use during their flights. Take a look at this list before you overpack and weigh yourself down.

Ten things Gadling readers actually use from their carry ons:

1. Kindle – Marsha, Christine, Martha and Max

2. Book and/or magazine – Saadia, Amy, Karen, Despina, Norma and Nicole

3. Noise canceling or other headphones – Christine, Arun, Norma and Shelby4. Knitting – two Nicoles

5. Hand sanitizer or wet wipes – Candace, Saadia, Karen and Anna

6. Lotion – Saadia, Amy, Arun, and Karen

7. Neck pillow – Stephen and Norma

8. Contact lens gear – Max

9. Music device – Stephen, Arun, Despina, Martha, Ben and Max

10. Snacks or gum – Norma and Shelby

So. When you look at that carry on bag and wonder where to start, put in your valuables and documents, then take a look at the list above. Don’t cram it full in dire fear of boredom, and don’t worry about “emergency” stuff like Bandaids. They have those on the plane, you know.

What else do you use? Want to join in the conversation? Visit the Gadling Facebook page!

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Photo by ahhhnice via Flickr.

Top five best carry on bags for travel gifts

Top Five Carry On BagsIf you’re looking for a gift for a traveler this year, consider getting them a stylish, utilitarian carry on bag. Carry on bags make great travel gifts, because not only are they useful, but travelers are happy to have more than one — there’s nothing more depressing than having no options.

Carry on bags, in this traveler’s opinion, need to have a few basic things:

  • a slot for easy access to travel documents
  • multiple compartments to keep things organized
  • space for a laptop in a sleeve
  • lightweight build
  • space for at least one change of clothes

As long as it meets those basic criteria, any bag at all can be used as a carry on. Still, some are far and away better than others. Check out the gallery below for Gadling’s Top Five Best Carry On Bags for Travel Gifts — these are sure to delight the recipient’s aesthetic and pragmatic desires.

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Gadling readers have spoken – Spirit Airlines carry-on bag fee is a bad idea

Several days ago, we asked you for your opinion on the Spirit Airlines carry-on bag fee. As a quick refresher – the airline is planning to charge up to $45 for each carry-on bag that does not fit under the seat in front of you. This is in addition to their checked bag fee.

The whole plan has triggered a lot of responses, from both sides. Some people are (justifiably) annoyed that airlines don’t pay much attention to oversized bags from passengers that take up too much space. Others (correctly) point out that when airlines started to charge for checked bags, passengers had no choice but to carry stuff on board.

Still, nothing makes a point better than some cold hard numbers in the form of a survey – a whopping 5,425 of you took the time to respond (thanks!). The results are pretty clear – 93.2% are against the fee and a mere 6.8% think it is smart.

Of course, 5,425 Gadling readers won’t be enough to convince Spirit Airlines that they making a stupid mistake, but if enough passengers do indeed decide to fly someone else, the message will eventually get through to them.

Spirit Airlines CEO stuffs himself in an overhead bin to justify paid carry-on fees


Spirit Airlines president and CEO, Ben Baldanza took some time out of his busy schedule to try and calm the masses about their upcoming paid carry-on baggage fees.

In his video clip, he claims passengers are annoyed by full overhead bins, and long lines to board the plane. He tells people that Spirit has lowered ticket prices, and lowered checked bag fees. In his logic, by introducing these new carry-on bag fees, the entire experience of flying Spirit Airlines will improve.

Now, lets take a look at his logic – too many people bring too much stuff on the plane. They crowd the overhead bins, and they create long lines for boarding. Why do people bring stuff on the plane? Because Spirit Airlines is one of a long list of airlines that charges for checked luggage ($25 for the first two bags when paid at the airport).

So, instead of removing that fee, and making the experience nicer for everyone, the airline earned itself the ridicule of the airline world by introducing the carry-on bag fee.

And seriously, even though the CEO thought he could be cool by trying to spin this with a funny video, the fact remains that the move to paid carry-on bags will probably cause the airline more than they’ll ever make off their new scheme.
Assuming Mr. Baldanza reads Gadling, I’ll explain why his scheme sucks from the perspective of a traveler:

  • People carry bags on board because they don’t want to pay the checked bag fee – they also want to prevent the airline from losing their bag, setting it on fire or having someone steal the contents.
  • Telling people that their carry-on bag fee is offset by really low price of their ticket doesn’t make the situation any better – people have a built in distrust of anything an airline tells them. A family of three may be forced to pay for three carry-on bags (each way). I suspect Spirit Airlines won’t be able to show that these tickets will be $270 cheaper when the carry-on fee is introduced.
  • People will vote with their wallets – there are still airlines out there that don’t charge for checked bags, and as of right now, Spirit is the only one with a carry-on bag fee.

In a Reuters interview, Ben Baldanza sated the following:

Sprit has reduced fares “by at least as much, or even more than the amount of the carry-on fee”, says Baldanza. “Southwest makes you pay for checked bags even if you don’t check bags, since they have to cover those costs but give you no break if you don’t use the infrastructure. At Spirit, you spend only for what you use and don’t pay for what you don’t use.”

We did an entirely non scientific test to check that. On a Boston Detroit-Tampa ticket, we found the following cheapest prices:

Spirit Airlines: $195.40 total

Southwest Airlines: $220.80

Both flights are priced after the new carry-on fee goes into effect. As you can see – Spirit really is cheaper (by just over $25). This means that a passenger on Southwest Airlines will pay more than on Spirit Airlines.

Assuming of course that the passenger on Spirit is able to pack a weeks worth of luggage into a bag that will fit under their seat.

In reality, nobody is able to do that (unless they ship their bags), so a family of three will end up saving $76.20 on the ticket, but will have to pay a minimum of $90 for three carry-on bags (if they pre-pay online, $135 if paid at the airport).

Goodbye savings.

To me, the fact that the CEO of the airline had to resort to filming a stupid video means the PR backlash from this idea has hit them a little harder than they expected. At least Ben Baldanza is no stranger to bad PR (though he is no Michael O’Leary).

In the end, I’m sure the new measure will take place no matter how much we complain, though I doubt it’ll create the “soaring sales” claimed by Mr. Baldanza, as I really can’t think of a single kind of traveler that saw the new fee and thought “hey, that is really smart – let me start flying this low cost carrier with all the fees”.

What is your opinion? Do you think the idea is smart? Or more importantly – why do you think it is smart (or not)?

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UPDATE: See the results of the poll here. A surprising number of folks actually like the new fee.