Eagle Creek Traverse Pro Roller Bag

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve made the full jump to the roller bag. It’s what I pack now, unless I’m traveling super light, and then I just take a little day pack. The perfect bag remains just out of reach, though I’ve noticed some real improvements since I got my Costco standard sized carry on a few years back. Luggage is lighter and more versatile these days, and generally more thoughtfully designed.

The Traverse Pro is a combination bag — a day pack and suitcase in one. There’s a TSA friendly zip-off backpack and a standard roller bag. The bag is overhead bin sized even with the day pack on it, though if you’ve really stuffed it tight and you’re on a smaller plane, you may find you can’t stow the whole thing in the bin. To test the bag, I packed for a short weekend away, I flew to my destination –that’s how I know about the overhead bin issue.

I wasn’t thrilled with packing the Traverse, though it’s easier to manage with the auxiliary backpack zipped off. The bag zips most of the way open with a large flap; I wanted it it to open all the way and to lay flat and it doesn’t quite do that. It’s not a dealbreaker, it’s just a minor detail that could be improved.

The bag has your standard “keep your stuff in place” straps and the inside of the lid is a full zippered pocket for your lose items. There are two outside pockets on the front, one big sleeve, one smaller. You have to keep in mind that they’re not easy to get to if you’ve got the day pack zipped on, so don’t put your boarding pass in there.

The bag was easy to wheel around — I liked the locking handle and the maneuverability of the wheels — those things can be clunky sometimes, the handle sticks or the wheels just aren’t smooth. This bag has nice base hardware and is easy to move around. Plus, it’s light compared to anything else I’ve tested in this category. The zipper pulls are nice — they have those round, finger tip shaped things that make the bag easy to open and close, but the zippers themselves were a little resistant when going around the corners on the bag.The day pack is handy, and it’s a nice one, it’s got padded straps and a sleeve for your laptop. It’s got some nice organizer pockets sized right to hold your phone or your pocket camera. There’s a key hook which is great if you’re me and you’re always digging in the depths or your bag to find your house key while you’re on the front porch in the rain. It doesn’t have external water bottle pockets, something I always want on a pack and something that seems to be often left off a luggage system. (See also, this review of the Airporter pack.)

Top and side grips make the bag easy to deal with when you’re hefting it in and out of the rental car trunk, or again, up into that overhead bin. There’s a nice little luggage tag sleeve on the side that tucks out of the way — a small detail that I’m seeing on newer bags and really appreciating. I’ve had airlines lose my bags repeatedly and knowing that there’s ID on them helps. (Sidebar: I have also always had my bags find me. Up to five days later, but still, they find me.)

Eagle Creek pairs this bag with a recommended, optional packing system which I also tried out. It includes a couple of packing cubes and a folder. I’m coming around to the idea of packing cubes for things like socks and underwear, the smaller bits that go wandering around the inside of your bag. Eagle Creek makes their own, but candidly, I’m not brand loyal and hey, I used to just use plastic shopping bags. I still do for dirty laundry.

Eagle Creek suggests you include their Pack-It Folder. It’s the exact size of the base of the bag — you fold your stuff up inside it, cinch it down, and it stays nice and flat. There’s even a folding guide for the folding challenged. Thing is, I can fold like no one’s business. While it’s tempting to stuff my clothes into a great wrinkly wad, I don’t. I don’t need a folding system. You might. If you’re packing challenged and just can’t make yourself fold your shirts properly, this is going to help you out a lot. And if you’re traveling for business or need to look pulled together, a folding system is worth checking out as a crutch. My shirts did stay nice and neat, I didn’t have to iron.

Get the bag and the packing system directly from Eagle Creek — the bag retails for just over 300USD. Bits and pieces in the packing system go from 15-40 USD.

5 best suitcases for kids and teens for $100 or less

It’s hard to say whether these suitcases are meant for the kids or the parents. Adorable enough to entertain kids and stylish enough to appeal preteens, and teens, these five affordable carry-ons may be just the thing to encourage children to roll their own gear through the airport.

Isabella Fiore
Italian designer Isabella Fiore launched a hard-shell suitcase this fall that proves that suitcases don’t have to come in boring black. The floral pattern is sophisticated enough for preteens, teens, and adults alike. Bonus: The 20-inch polycarbonate wheelie bag weighs a mere 6.5 pounds — and with a stylish bag like this, your precocious child may even start looking forward to packing.
Cost: $100 for a 20-inch suitcase; available in white, pink, and blue floral prints
Where to Buy: Dillard’s stores

Beatrix New York
With whimsical designs such as a robot, an owl, a monkey, a ladybug, and a dinosaur, I only wish that these 16-inch wheelie bags also came in grown-up sizes. Bonus: The handle is perfectly sized for kids, but the height cleverly extends a bit longer for adults who may need to take over wheeling the bag through the airport.
Cost: $94
Where to Buy: www.dantebeatrix.com

Ecozoo Rolling Series by Ecogear
Ecogear’s Rolling Monkey is the latest animal to join the Ecozoo menagerie, which already includes a panda, puppy, pig, and frog. Padded shoulder straps transform the rolling bag into an easy-to-carry backpack.
Cost: $50
Where to Buy: www.ecogear-products.com

I recently spotted a pair of the tiger-shaped Trunki suitcases at San Francisco International Airport. The pint-size wheelie suitcases can be filled with toys, games, and other distractions — and best of all, kids can hitch a free ride by sitting on the hard-case suitcases. And when your flight is delayed, the suitcase is certainly a cleaner place to sit than the airport floor.
Cost: $39.99
Where to Buy: www.melissaanddoug.com

Hello Kitty by FAB NY
The beloved Sanrio character is still going strong after 35 years. And even if your little one eventually outgrows her Hello Kitty obsession or decides that pink isn’t for her, the 16-inch wheelie bag is one of the most affordable suitcases of the bunch.
Cost: $39.99
Where to Buy: www.toysrus.com


Save 35 percent on a Timbuk2 wheelie bag

I first wrote about the Timbuk2 Checkpoint wheelie when it came out in Dec. 2008. The San Francisco-based company is now adding new colors, which will become available online starting Feb. 5. In the meantime, you’ll find that some of the original versions have been marked down by 35 percent. The 22-inch carry-on in brown with orange detailing, for example, is now $163, down from $250. The company hopes to clear that inventory by June.

I loved the Checkpoint so much that I ended up buying one for a family member as a Christmas present just last month. I don’t normally pay retail if I can help it, but I see luggage as an investment so I happily forked over the $250. Tip: Like many retailers, Timbuk2 often has free holiday shipping, which saved me $10 back in December.

Now that the bag is on clearance, I’ve just ordered another one for my mom. She had called me last week because she’s going to Taiwan in March and was shopping around for a new carry-on bag. Did I have any suggestions? Well considering that I salivate over luggage the way some people collect purses, I sent her links to some new lightweight luggage. To my surprise, my mom liked the boldness of the Timbuk2. No basic black, she told me. And at under 8 pounds, I know my mom won’t have trouble lifting the bag into the overhead bin by herself. So you see, the company that earned its reputation for producing durable bike messenger bags is expanding its appeal.

As for the new colors debuting next week, you can expect a green Checkpoint bag with lime trim, as well as one in gray (from $250). Expect to add about $10 for shipping.