IntroductionIn anticipation of my trip to Japan next year, I was confronted with the need to get luggage. I have always been a proponent of picking up cheap suitcases from outlet stores, but on the last few trips kept breaking on me. Further, in this case I needed to restrict myself to something that would make it as carry-on luggage.
Turning to the Internet was, as usual, both a curse and a blessing. There are people way too obsessive about luggage lurking about, and it's quite easy to get caught up in the search for perfection. Flyertalk.com turned out to be an excellent resource, and had me considering the relative benefits of hard-shell, soft-shell, duffle, spinner, wheeled, shoulder-carry and other kinds of options.
Duffel to the Rescue
I opted for a wheeled duffel -- the wheels and handle mechanism add weight and take up space, but since I will be traversing a fair distance by foot and public transit, the idea of not having to carry all the weight was a winner. Further, I am taking a camera backpack with me, so I cannot conveniently carry anything on my back or shoulder -- otherwise, a convertible backpack probably would be the way to go. A duffel generally has the best weight-to-volume ratio, as it only has fabric instead of a rigid structure to add to the bulk. It also means that the bag is generally squishy, which may end up being good for actually fitting it into an overhead bin. The downside of course is that if I do end up having to check the bag, the contents aren't as well protected as they would be within a hard or even semi-rigid shell. Since I generally only intend to carry clothing and similar items, this is an acceptable trade off. As added protection against damage if checked, the particular model I settled for has a no questions asked warranty; the manufacturer will repair or replace the bag even due to airline inflicted damage, with no complicated legalese requiring paperwork or attempts to get the airline to pay up first.
Eagle Creek ORV Trunk 22
Today the bag arrived, an Eagle Creek ORV Trunk 22 in palm green. Eagle Creek has a cheaper, lighter model not covered by their comprehensive warranty, and a bit simpler in construction. I decided that the warranty was worth the extra cost, and I also gained cinch straps and handles on every side of the bag for easy hauling. There are two exterior pockets and one main compartment with an integral shoe bag. The duffel is geared towards adventure travel, but fit my needs otherwise. It's marketed as "lightweight" and it comes in at 7 pounds 8 ounces, or 3.4 kg which does in fact make it lighter than most carryon luggage of the same size -- though you can get below 6 pounds with other wheeled models if this is your top concern.
The topmost of the exterior compartments has a mesh pocket, clip, and little organizational inside sleeve. The bottom compartment is plain without any interior features. The top compartment measures about 10" by 5.5", the opening being half an inch smaller. The bottom compartment measures about 10" by 8". Both compartments are roughly rectangular, so the size remains uniform troughout. Both have a depth of about 1", but being fabric they'll adjust. It's obvious by looking at them, and confirmed by user comments on the forums, that putting much of anything into these pockets will make the bag bigger than the carry-on size. All of the exterior zippers have overlapping holes and can be locked with a small padlock or similar device. I intend to use zip-ties if the bag has to be checked since slicing it open seems like a trivial way to circumvent an actual lock and the nylon ties should do a good enough job at making sure the zippers do not accidentally get undone.
Inside, the bag is wide open. There is a shoe compartment that takes up about half of the interior compartment, but since it is made of fabric you can just push it against the bottom of the bag. I'd rather not bother with it, but it is made of a thicker, vinyl-like material and would probably do a good job of isolating dirty footwear from the rest of the contents. The lid has a single mesh pocket along its entire length, and that is it for the interior features. There are no straps. Both the top and the bottom of the lining have zippers on three sides, allowing you access to the inside of the lining. Otherwise, their purpose seems obscure, as they don't allow you to remove the shoe compartment, nor rearrange the interior in any way.
Please see the gallery for more detailed shots and nitty-gritty detail.