Gadling Gear Review: Ozone Ultralight Roller Bag

Ospery Ozone Superlight Roller BagI look for three things in a roller bag. The bag should be easy to handle, easy to pack and be as light as possible. Osprey has tacked the weight issue head on with their new Ozone line of roller bags, and they score on handling and packability, too.

The bag comes in three sizes: an 18-inch (backpack size), a 22-inch (maximum carry-on size), and a 28-inch (you’ll have to check this one, fliers). I tested the 18-inch bag for four days of late summer travel.

The bag holds it shape well enough when you’re packing it and it held almost everything I needed. I could not get a second pair of shoes in without sacrificing something else. I’m not a heavy traveler and most of the items I packed were for summer weather, so if you decide to go with this bag as your carry-on travel bag, get the 22-inch version. The interior is lined with mesh pockets so there are good places to stow your odds and ends, your cables and gadgets – that kind of thing. There are two exterior pockets on the front for stuff you need access to, like your bag of three-ounce liquids, for example. And there’s an external pocket on the back of the bag that was the perfect size to hold my netbook. Compression straps cinch everything down when you’ve closed the bag, so it’s a very neat little piece of luggage. That’s a nice feature in a soft-sided bag.

A single telescoping handle runs down the center of the back of the bag, but it’s easy to pack around. And the bag handles very nicely, the hardware is smooth and everything works well. Part of the ease of handling is, I’m sure, in the barebones weight – it’s much easier to wheel around a bag that’s half the weight of your typical denier fabric roll-aboard.Because the fabric is so light, you’ll want to pack really smart when it comes to your crunchables. This isn’t an issue with the bag so much as it is with what you’ll be doing with it, but be aware that if the baggage guys are hurling out of the hold on to a cart, there could be collateral damage. This is not a bag for protecting your belongings; you’re going to want hard-sided luggage for that.

I liked traveling with this bag a lot. I really appreciated how light it was and how easy it was to move around. The grips are in the right place, it’s easy to pack, and it’s well designed. There’s one feature the bag doesn’t have that I’d like: a shoulder strap or stowaway backpack straps. Let’s face it; sometimes you have to carry your bag. You can’t always wheel it and weaklings like me can’t carry a grip for very long.

The Ozone comes in two colors, a bright green and a gray. The 22-inch (that carry-on size) lists for $199.

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.