One of my favorite scenes from “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” is when Tuco comes wandering into this small village, dehydrated and barely able to stand after being left for dead in the dessert by Clint Eastwood’s character, “Blondie.” After quenching his thirst at a horse trough, he finds himself in desperate need of a gun, and he turns his attention to an aging shopkeeper who’s about to close up for the day. Tuco walks up to the counter and utters one word, “Pistols.” The shop keeper shows him a display of the latest gimmick weaponry but Tuco will have none of it, he sweeps them all to the floor with his arm and barks, louder this time, “PISTOLS!” Hustling over to a display case, the shop keeper says, “Here’s where I keep the best ones! Here’s a Colt, Remington,
Sometimes I wish I could do the same thing with luggage. There are five or six legitimate players in the laptop bag industry, and while some of them come close to making the perfect bag, none of them have all of the pieces they need to make the perfect bag. Some have the perfect wheel setup, but they loose points for having floppy handles. Others have the perfect handle, but a weak extension bar that won’t last when you drag it behind you.
To get the bag that makes the most sense for your style of travel, there are two rules that you’ll have to bit the bullet and abide by. One rule is, you’re going to have to spend some money and the other rule is, you’ll probably still have to take it to a luggage repair shop for “modifications” before you take it on the road, permanently.
I’ve grown to love my bag. I call it the “Frankenbag” because it’s made of parts from lots of different manufacturers. Travel Pro, Swiss Army, Rollerblade, and the ABEC bearing company all had a hand in making my bag. I wanted a bag with a cushioned area for my laptop, room for a quick change of clothes if I had to spend the night somewhere unexpectedly, compartments for receipts, my cell phone, GPS, power cords, pens, pencils, CDs, tickets, papers, a handful of candy, a water bottle, and other miscellaneous crap I find along the way. It needs high quality wheels because I’m going to pull it behind me for miles through sand and gravel and snow. It needs to shed water in the rain, resist tears and scrapes, have high-grip zipper pulls and a nice tight cushioned handle for when it need to hoist it that doesn’t flop around all over the place and get in the way. Nobody, I mean nobody makes that bag.
Travel Pro came close to making that bag. I burnt out the wheel bearings less than a month after purchase however, and while they offered to replace them under warranty, I would have to send them the bag (thus, doing without it for a few weeks) and I knew I’d just burn out the next set of poor quality wheels they’d give me. The solution was to buy a high performance set of wheel bearings and a high speed rated pair of rollerblade wheels. I took them to a local luggage repair shop (I asked a local flight attendant where to go and she recommended an excellent shop, fairly close to the airport). I told the shop keeper, “I need you to do whatever it takes to get these wheels onto this bag. While you’re at it, I’ll need new zipper pulls, stronger zippers, a skid plate on the bottom for hopping over curbs, and a sturdier telescoping handle that doesn’t wobble so much. I’ll pay…”
Do the wheels match the bag? Of course not. Are they silent, smooth, fast, and effortless to pull through town? Absolutely! My fellow travelers often stop and comment on the bag the same way a newly licensed teenager would stop to comment on a tricked out hot-rod! “Nice bag, looks fast!” You have no idea…
EXTRA: If you have questions for Ken regarding business travel, hotels, airplanes, etc, please call 1-877-49-EXPERT. Your questions will be recorded and Ken will answer the best ones in his Ask the Expert podcast show.