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.