As anyone who has ever lugged around a broken suitcase knows, the luggage was long overdue for an update, and a rush of new brands has modernized this key piece of travel gear.
All of them address typical luggage problems by using lightweight, ultra-strong materials for the trays and wheels that won’t jam or break off. But what makes this new luggage really “smart” are its technological features at the highest level. Tracking technology via a smartphone app ensures you’ll never lose your bag again, built-in, removable batteries charge electronics on the go, and the scale allows last-minute weighing so you never get overcharged again. There’s even a hands-free robotic suitcase to follow you through departures.
Here’s a quick look at six of the leaders in the category, each measuring 56cm in length to meet the carry-on requirements of most international airlines.
This hipster brand was conceived by a couple of Warby Parker executives and is associated with a millennial nomadic lifestyle. There is an online magazine, clothes cubes, gift sets for travel accessories and stickers to personalize your case. The slogan – “First Class luggage at the price of a coach” – sounds true, because Away is one of the cheapest entry points into the category of smart luggage. There is no location tracker or scale, but if these are negotiable and you are primarily betting on the charger, this is the best overall score. Comes with a 100-day trial, a lifetime guarantee on luggage, excluding electronics, which is guaranteed for two years.
Away’s carry-on luggage, $ 345, awaytravel.com
Raden had us when we saw her video of a man jumping on a suitcase with full force and then jumping off like a gymnast on a trampoline. The list of features is just as compelling, starting with a 100% polycarbonate shell that guarantees flexibility without cracking. Add to this the quiet 360 degree spinner wheels, the waterproof reverse zipper to prevent snagging or jamming, and a built-in TSA-approved lock, and now we’re talking. The battery has an integrated 7800 mAh portable power bank with 2 external USB ports for charging all your devices on the go. It also has a carrying handle with weight detection, Bluetooth power and stylish, slim lines. There’s a 30-day return policy, a five-year warranty on the case, and a one-year warranty on the electronics. Raden doesn’t currently ship to Canada, but Canadians can shop through Amazon.ca and get free shipping.
Recommend A22 Carry $ 380, amazon.ca
The first thing you notice when the G-RO rolls into view is its signature, axle-less, gi-norm wheels. Luggage wheels are known to jam or break off, so this design choice was an instant crowd-pleaser, and the oversized wheels are reportedly just as easy to maneuver as the four-wheeled versions. Its ballistic nylon shell may not appeal to those who insist on a hard case, but the workstation with its dual charger and revolutionary wheels make it a practical and popular choice for business travelers and flight crews.
The G-RO, $ 515, g-ro.com
This American luggage brand has cult status in the design world and its recent collaboration with Sight Unseen, the taste makers of visual art, will only cement this credo of the art world. Sight Unseen has created a suitcase series with the next big color – sage – and an inner lining print by Finnish illustrator Antti Kekki. Reminiscent of the hidden cafes and cobblestone streets of Helsinki, this case is a case for the design-obsessed hiker, with the zipperless, weatherproof, durable case and charging function that makes Arlo Skye a stylish competitor in the smart luggage category. There is a 21-day trial version and a 5-year guarantee for hand luggage and a 2-year guarantee for electronics.
Arlo Skye Carry On, $ 469, arloskye.com
Granted, this brand is on the list largely because Rimowa is the legacy brand in the hardshell luggage market with a lifetime warranty. The line is undeniably high-end, with celebrities like Michelin-starred chef Massimo Bottura and designer Karl Lagerfeld supporting its sleek, modern aesthetic. While newer competitors are using electronics from the Internet age, Rimowa relies on an electronic luggage tag for the tracking and durability of aluminum to safely transport its fans’ valuable goods around.
Rimowa Salsa Air 22 “Cabin Multiwheel, $ 595, travelsmarts.approx
Developed by a team in San Francisco (natch), this is the world’s first fully autonomous suitcase and robot, which means it follows you through the airport, locks automatically and is never lost. The battery runs for four hours and will get you around most airports entirely on its own. Built-in sensors recognize and avoid people and objects and adjust its movements in the blink of an eye. It responds to a smartphone app or voice commands, and the electric motor and internal components that enable autonomous functionality take up almost no space and make up less than 3% of the suitcase volume. There are also practical features such as a customizable design, built-in scales, an integrated camera and much more. It is available in three sizes – small, medium and large. It’s not yet known if it will make dinner reservations or unpack on arrival, but anything seems to be possible in the world of robotics right now.
Travelmate Robotics, $ 1,415, travelrobotics.com
Ilona Biro is a Toronto-based journalist who writes about food, personal finance, culture – and happily – travel. Follow her on Instagram @ilonabiro or Twitter @ilona_biro.
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