Briggs & Riley Baseline CX Carry-on

For the past three years my primary carry-on bag has been the Briggs & Riley 20″ widebody.

It’s been a great bag, barely scuffed after three years of travel. Briggs & Riley offers a serious lifetime guarantee on their bags, which to me simply signals that they’re well-built. I don’t pay extra for a bag because of the guarantee — you’re going to always have to go through the hassle of getting the guarantee honored, handling the shipping, and the future is uncertain enough — for any company and for how well a guarantee will be honored down the line — that I don’t make a purchase with the expectation that the promises will be delivered on. Tumi’s guarantee, for instance, used to be far stronger than it is today.

But reports are that the guarantees from Briggs & Riley really are honored, and their willingness to offer that guarantee matches up to a quality build.

Some folks like four wheels, this is a two-wheeled upright. The wide body means I can pack more stuff in it — six days at the beach has been no problem, four nights in Paris during winter (lots of fashionable layers..) as well. But it also means that it doesn’t roll down the aisle of a plane back through coach. And without four wheels I can’t roll it sideways. That means if I’m not upgraded I pick it up and carry it down the aisle. That will bother some.

Briggs & Riley’s PR rep e-mailed me and offered to send me a new Baseline CX carry-on bag. I don’t usually take free items for review, but I really like my three-year old bag and I’ve been meaning to check out the new one that’s supposed to be lighter and with new ‘compression technology’ is supposed to be able to carry more stuff. So I accepted. I decided I would try out the bag on a trip, and then either give it away if I didn’t want to keep it or make a charitable donation equal tot he price of the bag if I wanted to use it. Bottom-line is I’ve made a charitable gift.

The new Briggs & Riley CX compressible suitcase is very similar to my existing Baseline widebody.

It has the handle on the outside, I like the handle and Briggs and Riley markets it that it’ll help keep things from wrinkling because you don’t have the handle’s bumps at the bottom of the bag.

On the back of the bag, in the middle of the handle assembly, is a pocket where you can stick your freedom baggie for easy removal at the security checkpoint (although if you overstuff your ziploc it won’t fit in that pocket). I tend to put my baggie in my laptop bag for easier inflight access anyway, if only because I’ll have some Purell hand sanitizer in their which I’ll use during travel.

They’ve redone the front pockets of the bag and they’ll now fit more stuff.

But the major improvements are that the bag is lighter, and they’ve added a new compression system to really fit more stuff.

Since I never want to check luggage the number one criteria I have in a rollaboard is the ability to shove in as much stuff as possible. And this 21 inch bag expands by about a third. It does that without the second zipper that most carry-ons use, too.

You gently pull the handle on the inside of the bag, one on each side, and then pull up side of the bag. That makes it bigger. Fit in all your stuff. And once you zip the bag closed, you just push it down to compress. It’s their new high tech version of sitting down hard on the bag, without having to jump on it.

I’ve never been a huge fan of the bag’s suiter, or really any suit carrying section of a bag that also meets carry-on guidelines.

Instead, I try to fold suits in a way that will minimize wrinkles and I stick them in the bathroom while I shower to use the steam to help get out the wrinkles that do materialize.

But I do use the suiter, it’s better than not having it, and the separate compartment can be useful when returning from a trip too — I usually bring a trash bag as a laundry bag to separate out my dirty clothes but I can also shove them into the compartment as well.

Now, these are expensive bags. Not the most expensive by any means but you need to be a pretty serious traveler to make them worthwhile. And even then a part of me is still the $25 bag picked up on Nathan Road kinda guy. Run a carry-on into the ground, toss it, replace. But I’m past the point where I want a bag that doesn’t balance well or where the handle is inconvenient to pop up,. So I do like a better bag.

For the majority of folks where a $400 bag makes no sense at all, I’ve long recommended a nice middle ground between the cheapest bags and making an extra car payment — a Travelpro Crew series carry-on can usually had for under $130 and gets you 80% of the way there to a top notch bag. Probably the best overall price-value combination for someone looking for a lower price point.

Bottom-line though is that I like this bag. I wouldn’t make the investment if I wasn’t doing well over 100,000 butt-in-seat miles a year with just a carry-on on all but perhaps two of those trips. But for a frequent traveler a good back makes sense, and I expect to be making good use of this one over the coming years.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Have you ever tried the Costco Rollaboards? They are a bit heavy, but seem very solid and well thought and well built. They used to be $99 but I think they are up to $109 now.

  2. I can’t say enough good things about Briggs bags and their guarantee. I upgraded from Travelpro. My first trip with the Briggs bag and it was damaged by the airline with a tear that looked to have been from a box cutter or razor of some sort and it was replaced with a brand new bag for $20.00 shipping. No questions asked. Well worth the money if you travel frequently.

  3. B&R are even better as checked luggage. When the baggage handlers inevitably wreck your bags, B&R guarantee kicks in. I have had my large case repaired twice with no quibbles. Carry-on gets less abuse so happy to go with my travelpro – though I recently had to do a DIY job on the top handle after a over enthusiastic cabbie

  4. @Gary: Do you know what’s the difference between the domestic and international versions? Which one is yours?

  5. Thanks for the great review and link to less expensive bag as well. Do you have any recommendations for a durable laptop bag??? I carry two laptops, a 17inch dell and a MacBook Air, along with a few accessories and files, and I am on my third bag for the year, buying junk bags just isn’t working out!

  6. I have been through 3 bags in the past 2 years, including 1 Travelpro and Tumi Tech. I recently took advantage of the $129 deal for the Choclate BR Baseline at Costco and I have to say, this bag is awesome. I personally don’t like suiters, however this one does a very good job of not taking up to much space.

  7. The guarantee is real in my experience. My bag has been in a few times for repairs and it’s been painless. The local B&R dealer handles the shipping and logistics for a flat 20 bucks.

  8. @Carl – I have only heard good things, haven’t used them, view as roughly same pricepoint as the Travelpro Crew bags on sale so have always just recommended those

  9. I own the slightly larger one, and I once took someone else’s bag from Heathrow because it had an identical zipper pull broken off (mine came off the second week).

    The zipper itself failed a bit later

    I just switched from two wheeled Tumi to four wheeled Tumi and have not had a problem with any of their bags

  10. @Jen I recently got the Targus Checkpoint-Friendly Laptop Case for <$100 and I love it. They tend to run large so if you got the 17" or even the 16" you'd probably have plenty of room for both your laptops. I have the 13" which fits my Dell 15" inspiron and there's plenty of room in the second compartment for my ipad, travel wallet, kindle, and assorted power cords.

  11. Travel Pro quality went out the window and the bags fell apart
    Costco bags were too heavy and ugly
    I became a Briggs and Riley guy.Pretty good bag and not a rip off like Tumi.Downside?Shipping costs to get the bag repaired 🙁 I have a big beast of theirs and the smaller one which fits in an overhead bin

  12. I can bouch for the Briggs and Riley guarantee. My B&G rollaboard is about 12 years old. I usually carry it on, but do sometimes check it. Checking bags often results in damage. I have sent it in TWICE to B&G. Both times it was fixed at no charge AND they even fixed/replaced items (i.e., scratched telescoping handle) that I had NOT requested. I will NEVER own any suitcase OTHER than B&G. Their guarantee is REAL and NOT a hassle. Even if the damages is due to airline fault, the repairs are free.

  13. Guess I am geographically lucky (for once).

    But I have had B&R bags for years and I just take it down to our local shoe repair shop. They repair and send the bill to B&R. Once a bag was not repairable, they shipped back to B&R (I paid shipping), but B&R paid shipping for free replacement.

    Really not that many repairs, this has been over a period of 15 yrs.

  14. @Jen – Like Gary, I use a Tom Binh bag as my personal carry-on. The Tom Binh bags are terrific – virtually indestructible, great warranty and well designed with the road warrior in mind. Have had a Western Flyer for 2 years now – still looks new and altho larger than the Checkpoint flyer, have never had an issue re the size as a personal item with any of the airlines. The shoulder comfort strap is IMHO, a must have option.

  15. These wide-body bags are great for international or cross-country trips where bags fit wheels out, but they don’t fit in the overhead on smaller regional jets where you could fit a normal rollaboard sideways. I’ve also had problems fitting mine in the smaller overhead bins on the upper deck.

  16. This looks like a great roll-a-board. Anyone who prefers travel that is not taxi-airport-hotel-repeat should strongly look into non-wheeled bags since the wheels and handle-frame take up about 40% of a roll-a-board’s capacity.

    onebag.org was the site that turned me into a one-bag evangelist. I now travel with one bag–a Red Oxx carry on bag–on trips up to 6 weeks long.

  17. @MileValue yes, as we have discussed before you and I do very different styles of travel. 🙂 And it’s not so much what sort of travel one *prefers* as much as what sort of travel one *does*….

  18. Gary, useful advice as I was looking to replace my old TravelPro which is 10+ years old.

    You wrote: “And without four wheels I can roll it sideways” but did you mean “can’t”? which is why you have to pick it up going back into coach?

    Keep up the great column.

  19. The best bag guarantee is called Costco. Every time your bag breaks or is damaged, you just simply return it to the store and get a full refund. Then, you buy another one. Their $99 carry on has been great. The only money I’ll ever have to spend on luggage again will be the inflation of the price each time I return a bag. I LOVE Costco!

  20. “On the back of the bag, in the middle of the handle assembly, is a pocket where you can stick your freedom baggie.”

    Since you put your 3-3-1 baggie in your laptop bag, what do you store in the back pocket?

  21. We use Briggs and Riley for the check in luggage, for the reasons you cite above- they get much more beat up. I bought the largest wheeled bag they make when I first moved to Asia in 1996. Small children could fit inside.

    After 14 years of being beat to hell by the luggage handlers, everything was breaking down- handle, corner, zippers. Someone told me about the life time guarantee, and I was in the SF Bay Area anyway, so I took a drive down to Half Moon Bay, where they have one of their two national service centers.

    It reminded of the old Maytag ads- the loneliest man in the world! Quiet repair shop, no one else came by in the 20 minutes that I was there.

    They contacted me back a few days later- the bag would need to be completely rebuilt, which they were willing to do, but that would be so expensive they offered me a 50% of my original price towards a new, much lighter bag.

    I love the idea of a contest for your old carry on! Your fans would enjoy it, and the bag would certainly get more use.

  22. I pulled it up on Amazon and there’s a 1 star review that mentions the Prop 65 warning about cancer causing materials in their bags; there are bags that don’t have this, correct? To their credit, Briggs-Riley admits it, but would you have a recommendation for something that’s a little more safe? http://www.briggs-riley.com/proposition-65/

  23. I have to also put in a little plug for Eagle Creek bags. They too have a lifetime guarantee. I have one of their larger bags, which I only use on long trips, and it does have to be checked. I have sent it back to Eagle Creek twice in twelve years and have only had to pay shipping one way each time. I chose the bag in part because of their guarantee and have been very happy with their commitment to that, as well as with the bag itself.

  24. I like this bag too. I’d like to actually to go with a higher line Travelpro, but here’s the issue with Travelpro. It’s their add a bag hook. Too easy for a thief to swipe my briefcase off the hook vs the closed loop add a bag systems. It’s happened to me before. I can’t believe Travelpro hasn’t addressed this. Can’t buy with that hook.

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