The Travel Insider
 

Travel Accessories

Distinctively Different Bags

Some innovative alternate solutions to your carry-on luggage needs

There's no real limit as to how inventive people can be when designing unusual luggage for special needs, such as the combination suitcase/chair shown opposite.

Here are reviews of some more practical bags that you might find helpful and valuable in your own travels.

Scroll down or click these links to jump to the review you wish to read

Eagle Creek Pilot EXP

Porter Case PC II

Red Oxx Safari Beano 5.5

SeatKase Carry-on Luggage (opens in new webpage)

SkyRoll Carry-on Luggage (opens in new webpage)

Eagle Creek's Pilot EXP carryon bag

Eagle Creek Pilot EXP

Point A Expandable Carryon PLTX


This is very different in design to the traditional wheeled carry-on bag, but ends up offering almost the same functionality, and at half the weight of its heavier competitors.

Lots and lots of compartments make it versatile, and a combination of solid construction and a solid guarantee make it a good choice for people seeking a less traditional approach to their carry-on luggage.

Price and availability

$165

With their excellent service, competitive price and generous guarantee policies, we generally recommend eBags for most luggage purchases and they stock a full range of Eagle Creek bags.

Warranty

The card with the bag says in bold letters 'Lifetime Guarantee' and the detail offers to repair or replace the bag free of charge.

There is no specific exclusion for airline damage, and their website offers more details about what seems to be a fair and open ended warranty policy, with no obsessive need for paperwork or other hassles.

Official size

21" x 14" x 9" (44" total)

Measured maximum external size

This bag is not simply rectangular in shape, and being soft sided, is rather amorphous.

The long side is fairly easy to measure, at about 22".  But, assuming you haven't woefully overpacked, the other two dimensions - width and thickness - are about as specified by the manufacturer.

This makes the bag a legally sized bag in all dimensions.

Measured internal size

About 20" long, and 13" wide, with 5" of depth in the main bag compartment.

The bag can be overpacked to a reasonable extent because the sides are soft rather than inflexibly hard.

Expandability

Yes

An unzippable gusset adds another 1.75" of capacity to the bag.

Weight

6.25 lbs claimed.  Tests to about that weight.

This makes it the lightest of all bags reviewed, and half the weight of most.

Construction

The bag is constructed out of 420 denier textured twill Nylon.

The base and back are fairly rigid, the sides and top are soft.

Most of the construction is with rivets rather than screws.

There is no special protection on the corners, but being soft and amorphous, it is more likely to simply absorb impacts rather than deform.

The zips on the main locking compartment have eyelets that you can pass a padlock hasp or cable through if you wish to lock them.

Compartments are lined.

Color choices

Red  Black  Blue

Bags are designed in a three color scheme, making them distinctive and easy to spot on a carousel (if checked).

Handles

Only one handle, on the top, and just the one set of support legs, on the bottom.

This is a curious weakness.  For a bag that has just about everything else, it is surprising that they didn't add a side carry handle, or even backpack style straps.

Towing Handle

Extends 37" and 40.5".

Telescoping design with three sections.  Doesn't wiggle much.

Mounted internally.

Wheels

Two wheels that roll with a little resistance, measuring 3" by 0.85".

About one third of each wheel is protected inside the bag structure.

Stair skids

Some rudimentary plastic strips above the wheels - could be a bit longer to be fully effective.

Outside compartments

The bag has lots of compartments, in a backpack style.

On the top of the outside cover, there is a 1.75" gusseted compartment measuring about 10" x 5.5".  A single zip goes around the top and half the sides of this.

Inside there is a smaller mesh sided compartment with top zipper, measuring 10" x 4".  This compartment also acts as a divider in the larger compartment.

Also inside is a lanyard with clip for clipping keys onto.  The clip is poorly designed out of plastic, and the retaining spring was loose meaning the clip was not sealing closed.There are no compartments on the back or sides, all are on the front.

Beneath this compartment is a larger one, measuring about 10.5" wide by 13" deep, with a 1" gusset.

Inside is a double divider, a small zipped mesh pouch, a pen sleeve, and another couple of pockets.  With so many organizer type pockets, this bag could do double duty as a briefcase.

Both compartments have protective padding on their outsides.

Inside compartments in base

There are no compartments inside the base.

Inside compartments in lid

The cover has a mesh cover over its entire opening, with a full length zip most of the way up.  There are no other compartments in the lid.

Suit carrier included

No

Other Removable holders inside

No

Waterproof compartment

No

Packing Straps

Two adjustable webbing straps in the main base running across the short dimension of the bag.

External carry hook/strap

Yes - one adjustable piece of webbing that is permanently fixed onto the top of the bag, loops around and then clips onto itself.

ID holder

No.

Other features

There are various straps that can be used to compress the bag if it is fully packed.

Zips have web pulls attached to their handles making it easier to find where the zips are and to then grasp and pull them.

Porter Case PC II

With Saddlebag, Suitbag and Laptop carrier options

The Porter Case PC II is very different to every other bag reviewed.

It represents as a clever and ideal compromise between a product that is as lightweight as possible while still being extraordinarily strong. The differences between this and traditional wheeled carry-on luggage are generally positive, and this bag combines robustness with multi-functional purpose that can enable it to be used either as a semi commercial or industrial carrying tool as well as a regular traveler's bag.

In the illustration you can see it as a regular wheeled carry-on bag, open, and in its unique role as a luggage cart.

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Price and availability

$229 for the Porter Case PC II.

$29.90 for the saddlebag and $22.95 for the suit carrier.  The laptop computer sleeve is $29.95.

Available direct from the manufacturer.

Special Note :  If you order by phone, ask for the Travel Insider special deal - you'll get a free saddlebag when you buy the case.

Warranty

The Porter Case comes with a three year limited warranty (reminiscent of the three year limited warranty with Travelpro when their bag is being used for commercial purposes), and excludes airline type damage.

This is a regrettably poor warranty and the worst of all suppliers reviewed, however our understanding is that they fairly give you the benefit of the doubt if you have claims.

Official size

22" x 14" x 8" (44" total).

Measured maximum external size

22.5" x 14.25" x 8.5" (45.25" total) - this is close enough to legal for most airlines.

Measured internal size

21.5" x 13.5".  The base is 5" deep, the lid adds another 2.5".

Expandability

No.

Weight

13 lbs.  Tests to about this weight or slightly less.

The saddlebag and suit carrier add about 1.5 lbs to the total weight.

Construction

The case is described as made of 'durable space age materials'.  This appears to be primarily ABS for the case itself.

The case is hard sided, with tight corners so as to get the maximum amount of internal space.

There is no added protection around the corners.

There is a metal sealing strip where the two parts of the case hinge together, and three hinges on the back of the case.

The case is secured by two snap fasteners that lie flush against the case when closed.  A combination lock is in the middle of the case as well, but this is not a TSA approved lock and so it is best not to set the lock if you're checking the case.

I always worry when traveling with bags that have snap fasteners such as this that they can be accidentally opened if checked, with the only solution being to place duct tape over both catches once they've been closed.

Construction seems to be predominantly riveted.

The inside of the case is lined with a soft felt type material that is glued to the case exterior.

Color choices

Black

Handles

Only one, on a long side.  The towing handle also has a short position that allows it to protrude just an inch or so above the case top, so it could be used as a second handle if necessary, albeit with slight inconvenience in opening and closing the handle (requires both hands to do this).

There are extra feet on the base of the bag - these would be necessary when the bag is in its trolley position.

Towing Handle

Extends 38.5" when the bag is in the normal upright position, and 40" when the bag is in its trolley position.

The handle requires both hands to open and close, and also has a second position open just an inch or two, enabling it to be used as a regular carry handle.

Telescoping design with two sections.  Appears to be almost unbreakably strong.

The handle is mounted externally but is largely recessed and so is well protected from external forces.

Due to its dual purpose design, when the handle is used to tow the case in the traditional carry-on type manner, the handle is not next to the wheels but instead on the opposite side.  It takes a while to adjust to which way to tilt the case before towing it.

When used in its luggage cart mode, the handle is next to the wheels.

Wheels

Two very solid wheels that turn with freely.

Wheels measure 4" in diameter and 1" wide, with a flat tire shape so the whole width of the wheel contacts the ground.

The wheels are about two thirds recessed, but don't have side protection, although they are flush with the rest of the outside of the case.

Stair skids

No.

Outside compartments

None.

Inside compartments in base

None.  For this reason we recommend you consider getting a saddlebag (see below) as well, and note that Porter Case are offering a saddlebag free if you tell them you're a Travel Insider reader.

Inside compartments in lid

None.

Suit carrier included

An optional suitcarrier can be purchased, and would probably be carried in the lid of the case.

This is a basic tri-fold carrier with a loop at the top rather than hanger.  The loop does double duty both for securing clothes hangers inside the bag and also for attaching to something in your hotel room.

There is also a mysterious fold over snap loop, but I couldn't work out what it is for.

There is a wire frame inside one of the thirds to give form to the carrier.

Other Removable holders inside

No.  We did however evaluate an optional external removable holder - what they call a saddlebag.

This is a useful accessory and acts in place of the compartments you'd otherwise find in a regular style wheel-aboard bag.  It is a large bag, about 14.5" wide and 21" long, and 3.5" deep.  It has a handle that can be looped over the extendable handle of the bag and held in place that way for carrying.  It also has a shoulder strap and two carry handles for carrying by hand.

On one side it has no pockets.  On the other it has a large pouch with fold-over velcroed flap, measuring about 14" wide and 15" deep.

There is an external pocket on top of this, measuring 14" wide by 9.5" deep.

The main compartment of the bag opens with two zips that run around the top and first 4.5" of the sides.

The bag has good padding to protect its contents.

Waterproof compartment

No.

Packing Straps

Two elastic straps in an X shape go across the lid of the case.

External carry hook/strap

Yes.  A long 6 ft length of 1" webbing is designed to run from a D ring on the case up to a friction clip on the top of the handle to hold a pile of other boxes and bags on top of the case when it is being used as a trolley.

ID holder

Yes, a cheap but quite robust plastic thing on a plastic loop.

Other features

Leaving the best for last, the most distinctive feature of this unique case the ability for the case to pivot 90° away from the towing handle, switching instead to becoming a trolley base onto which you can add up to a massive 200lbs of additional luggage.

This is a very clever and easy process and makes the bag ideal for times when you're traveling with a lot of luggage.

There are various other accessories that can also be purchased from the Portercase website to go with the bag.

These accessories include a very useful soft computer carry bag that can be used as a stand-alone bag as well as packed inside the main Porter Case, and also computer sleeves to keep your computer protected.

 

Red Oxx Safari Beano 5.5

No wheels and soft-sided, but lightweight and extremely rugged

The Porter Case PC II is very different to every other bag reviewed.

It represents as a clever and ideal compromise between a product that is as lightweight as possible while still being extraordinarily strong. The differences between this and traditional wheeled carry-on luggage are generally positive, and this bag combines robustness with multi-functional purpose that can enable it to be used either as a semi commercial or industrial carrying tool as well as a regular traveler's bag.

In the illustration you can see it as a regular wheeled carry-on bag, open, and in its unique role as a luggage cart.

Price and availability

$185 for the Red Oxx Safari Beano 5.5.

Other units of generally similar style but with larger or smaller capacities are also available at prices variously higher and lower.

Available direct from the manufacturer.

Warranty

All Red Oxx products come with a lifetime warranty.  The warranty is about as short and simple as we've ever seen, with no exceptions or complicated procedures or any catches at all.  Indeed, they boast on a tag on the bag 'This product is guaranteed forever, be sure to include it in your will.'!!!

Bravo to Red Oxx for such a 110% warranty.

Official size

27" x 11" x 11" (49" total).

Measured maximum external size

27.5" x 11.5" x 11.5" (50.5" total) - this is close enough to legal for most airlines, and because it is all soft-sided, the chances are you could squeeze it into any official sizing box.

Note that due to the soft-sided nature of the bag, it was very hard to accurately measure.

Red Oxx don't actually describe this bag as a carry-on bag.  They make four sizes of bag in this series, with the two smaller sizes being 100% carry on legal, and this bag and its larger sibling being recommended as checked bags rather than carry-on.  You might feel comfortable taking this bag with you as carry-on; certainly most of the other ostensible carry-on bags we've reviewed are even larger than this one.

Measured internal size

This is an unlined duffle bag, so there's almost no waste space at all, with the internal dimensions being almost exactly the same as the external dimensions.

The main compartment is about 19.5" long, with the remaining up to 8" of length being used by two end compartments.

Expandability

No.  But....  the ability to shape and squeeze this soft duffle into a variety of shapes gives it some flexibility in how you pack it.

Red Oxx say this bag is sufficiently sized to hold 50lbs of clothing, making it perfect for either carry-on (when there's no weight restriction) or as a checked bag.

Weight

Not stated by the manufacturer, but tests to exactly 4 lbs.

Construction

Wow!  This is a bag that is built like a battleship.  No wonder they give it a lifetime plus warranty.

The simple details of the bag's construction don't give justice to the immense impression of unbreakability one gets as soon as one takes the bag into one's hands, but here they are anyway.

The bag is constructed of 1000 weight urethane coated Dupont certified Cordura nylon fabric.  The zippers are oversized #10 YKK and are self locking, and most of the zip openings have zippers at both ends.

Stitching uses #92 bonded SolarMax thread, and all seams are double stitched and bound.

As for the fastenings, the bag uses 304 welded stainless steel sailboat hardware and Mil Spec snaps.

Color choices

The bag is available in twelve choices, ranging from bright yellow (see picture above) and bright red to more subdued colors such as a dark olive, midnight blue, and black.

All bags have their material color offset with black webbing.

Handles

There are two webbing carry handles, one on each side of the top of the bag, and a loop fastener to join them together for carrying.

There is also an adjustable length shoulder strap with a rubber anti-slip shoulder pad.

Towing Handle

Not applicable to a soft duffle.

Wheels

No wheels.

Stair skids

Not applicable.  But this bag is so tough (and the warranty so comprehensive) that we suspect you could drag it up stairs, and even along the road behind you while driving to your destination for a considerable distance before the bag started to show any signs of wear.

Outside compartments

There are five outside compartments.  At each end of the duffle there is a gusseted outside compartment and on the outside of this is a smaller pocket.

The outside compartments measure the full width and depth of the bag, and are about 4" long.  The exterior pockets are also full width and depth, but have no gusseting.

The fifth outside compartment runs along one side of the bag.  It is about 7" deep and 19.5" long, with no gusseting.

Inside compartments in base

There are no inside compartments inside the interior of the duffel.  Just lots of space to fill with whatever you're packing.

Inside compartments in lid

None.

Suit carrier included

No.

Other Removable holders inside

No.

Waterproof compartment

No.

Packing Straps

No.

External carry hook/strap

No.

ID holder

Yes, a cheap but quite robust plastic thing on a plastic loop.

Other features

On one of the two long sides of the bag is an external pocket, and on the other side is a strip with zips at top and bottom.  If you open the zippers, you then have a sleeve still attached to the bag at each end, and you can use this then to secure around the handle of some other traditional bag or trolley, making for a secure way to carry this duffle.

 

SeatKase Carry-On Luggage

A good bag, a great price, and a clever extra feature

On the top of the SeatKase bag is a flap.  Open it up and you have either a seat you can sit on, or a work table you could perhaps place your laptop on.

The wheels lock up when you sit down on the bag, giving it a stable base.

This clever extra feature in no way detracts from the bag's main mission, and so provides a positive reason to consider SeatKase next time you need a new roll-aboard luggage piece.

Click to go to new page with full review

 

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SkyRoll Carry-On Luggage

Literally an 'outside the box' approach to garment storage

The SkyRoll carry-on roll aboard suitcase is notable for the wrap-around suit carrier that is wrapped around the outside of the inner suitcase.

With a capacity for three suits, it can carry a lot of clothing, and SkyRoll claims it reduces wrinkling and creasing.

The design changes needed to allow for a wrap-around suit carrier have, however, meant some compromises to the usability of the bag as a whole.

Click to go to new page with full review

Review methodology

Please note that weights and measurements are approximate.  Measurements in particular are surprisingly subjective, and almost no bag/case has even measurements across every part of the bag.

External measurements are usually taken at the largest possible part - like an airline would do if trying to negatively prove your bag was illegally oversized.

Originally published 17 Sep 2004, last update 15 May 2010
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer
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