Here, we round-up ten luggage innovations that could make your traveling life easier…
1. LAT 56º BACKPACK
$230 lat56.com INNOVATION Military-grade materials Specially designed for business travelers, the “Urban Warrior” range from Scottish brand Lat 56º sees the use of “bombproof NASA-spec memory foam” on the inside and a “shock absorbing dual layer of military-spec molded EVA [ethylene vinyl acetate] foam” on the outside. The effect makes the black exteriors of the briefcases, laptop bags and backpacks (such as the one pictured) look like rubbery armadillo shells, which aren’t exactly chic.
Still, fashion doesn’t seem to be the objective here as Lat 56º describes the products as looking and performing like a piece of armor. The backpack weighs 2.9 lbs, measures 15.7 in x 13.8 in x 7.9 in and can handle “anything from acid rain to a tropical typhoon” so is essentially waterproof.
VERDICT The materials used have actually been around for decades – NASA invented memory foam in the 1960s and EVA foam is commonly used in everything from ski boots to bike saddles. What’s unique are the ergonomics and aesthetics of this unusual-looking, high-performance range of luggage.
2. I-STAY LAPTOP BAG £40 ($67) i-stayput.com INNOVATION Non-slip strap
I-Stay entered the market in 2012 with a series of nonslip straps and business luggage. The webbed rubber shoulder pad may only be a small design tweak but it does make a difference – not only is it annoying to constantly lift your bag strap back on to your shoulder when rushing to catch a plane or train, but it’s bad for your body.
This clever innovation ensures that the weight of the load is spread evenly across the shoulder and the webbing grips to clothing. It has even earned I-Stay a commendation from the College of Chiropractors.
Not only can the strap (available in red, black, white and gray) be bought as part of an I-Stay-designed piece of luggage (such as the laptop bag, pictured), but it can also be purchased separately to replace your own bag’s disobedient strap.
VERDICT If you have neck or back problems, you shouldn’t carry weight on one side of your body – distributing it across both shoulders with a back pack would be better. However, the nonslip strap definitely works.
3. CROSSKASE SOLAR 15 BACKPACK £140 ($235) crosskase.com INNOVATION Solar panel
It can be inconvenient, if not disastrous, to nd your electronic devices have run out of power at a crucial moment, but this rucksack can help ease your worries thanks to its built-in three-watt solar panel and internal battery.
Made from ballistic nylon for durability, the bag has numerous pouches and compartments for phones, tablets, cameras and laptops up to 15.6 inches in size. It’s a little on the heavy side at 3.8 lbs, but this isn’t so perceptible when worn over two shoulders.
Inside is a charging cable and a pack of eight connectors for your handheld gadgets. To charge a smartphone battery to 50 percent, you have to leave the backpack in bright sunlight for six to eight hours (or plug it into the wall). But the Crosskase is unable to recharge larger devices like laptops or iPads.
VERDICT A handy innovation, especially when traveling in hot countries or working outdoors with sporadic access to electricity. Even in a city, it is useful to be able to charge your smartphone while on your way to a meeting.
4. TUMI TEGRA-LITE INTERNATIONAL CARRY-ON $595 tumi.com INNOVATION Bullet-proof plastic
Since 2012, Tumi has had an exclusive
deal with US army textile and chemical company, Milliken, to produce a line of hard-shell suitcases engineered from Tegris, “a revolutionary polypropylene thermoplastic composite.” It nds uses in protective gear for NFL players, body armor and NASCAR, which means this case is light (6.4 lbs) and tough.
According to Milliken: “Tegris provides a two to 15 times improvement in impact resistance [compared with] typical thermoplastics and composites. Its performance is so good that it is being used as armor against ballistic threats.” If you happen to be in a war zone, you can use your suitcase as a shield – failing that, it will have no problem enduring every-day knocks and bumps.
The Tegra-Lite four-wheeled International Carry-on also has an aircraft-grade aluminum X-Brace 45 telescopic handle, TSA integrated locks and break-off zips that can be replaced free of charge.
VERDICT These suitcases are expensive – ranging from $595 to $995, but they will last for years, look seriously sophisticated, and score highly on design and performance.
5. ANTLER JUNO CABIN SUITCASE $200 antler.co.uk INNOVATION Ribbed, injection-molded shell – in white
Distinctly futuristic to look at, Antler’s Juno suitcase is made from two ribbed, injection-molded shells fashioned from polypropylene (the same material as used for car bumpers). This makes it highly durable, flexing gently when pressure is applied, and comes with a guarantee of ten years.
Also available in black, the white option looks the most striking, but runs the risk of attracting lots of scuffs and marks. With a packing capacity of 1.6 cubic feet, and measuring 22 in x 14 in x 9 in, the Juno, which was launched in August, is also very light at 5.2 lbs (the largest version weighs just 9.3 lbs).
VERDICT Injection molded polypropylene suitcases have been around since the late sixties, but the bone-like ribbed design of the Juno makes this Antler unique.
6. KNOMO SCALA NORTH/ SOUTH WHEELED TROLLEY $349 knomobags.com/usa INNOVATION ID registration code
As with all Knomo products, the Scala North-South cabin case from the new Fitzrovia line for women comes with a unique “Myknomo” ID number which can be registered online. If the bag is lost, the nder can contact Knomo directly (online or via an international telephone number) who will reunite luggage and owner free of charge.
Tumi has a similar program called Tumi Tracer, while Booq’s extensive line of bags and iPad cases have Terralinq (booqbags.com).
Knomo’s carry-on cases come in cherry, black and marine, and also feature a front compartment for a 15inch laptop, an external pocket for a mobile or keys, double-stitched diamond quilting, EVA foam padding, a zip-away telescopic handle and a magnetic clasp that wraps around the leather handles to keep them together (a nice touch).
VERDICT An attractive, well-thoughtout design across the Knomo line. However, the Myknomo system relies on the honesty of the nder, so a tracking device might be better.
7. TUMI TICON PASSPORT COVER $95 tumi.com INNOVATION RFID protection
Tumi’s Ticon collection of bags and wallets are woven with a layer of metallic thread to protect ID documents and credit cards that are RFID- (radiofrequency identi cation) readable.
This passport cover is only useful to those with a biometric passport (which is most of us who’ve been issued a passport in the past decade or so) or contactless payment debit and credit cards. These contain electronic chips that store all your personal information and can be hacked with a handheld scanning device. But by keeping them in a Ticon wallet with “Tumi ID Lock” technology, a wireless RFID reader will not be able to access it.
I downloaded two NFC (near- eld communication) apps to test this out – the oficial UK Passport Reader from
the Identity and Passport Service and the NFC Passport Reader, both for Android devices only. In both cases, with the passport unprotected, I was able to unlock information stored on my biometric chip. Neither app worked when I put the passport inside the Ticon wallet.
VERDICT Good for peace-of-mind but in reality it seems pretty hard to steal your data with an RFID scanner, unless criminals have more powerful readers that can detect your biometric passports and credit cards through your bag (which they might).
8. REBOUND TAG membership) reboundtag.com INNOVATION RFID microchip
Most frequent yers have had their luggage lost at one time or another, but if there’s a Rebound Tag attached to your bag, there’s a better chance you’ll be reunited with your belongings.
The tag is tted with two RFID microchips – one is rewritable and designed to be encoded with ight information each time you y, and the other is for permanent personal information linked to your account. The tag is also printed with a barcode and a unique ID number, so if someone nds it, they can visit reboundtag.com, enter the digits and send you a message.
If an airline or airport retrieves your bags, you will automatically be ale alerted by e-mail or SMS. Tags need to b be registered online and the $58 fee inc includes one year’s membership for unl unlimited ights (renewal is $17 a year).
VERDICT A handy piece of equipment with wit the added advantage of being able to use u the online “Members Area” to update up personal information on the RFID chip. chi On the downside, there is a certain amount am of hassle and expense involved tha that will put some people off.
9. 9.TRAKDOT $50 store.trakdot.com INNOVATION INN Cellular-based tracking
Thi This newly launched palm-sized device (4.5 oz.) is designed to be placed inside you your suitcase before check in. The Tra Trakdot then employs “newly patented micro-electronics and ground-based cellular telephone technologies” (as opposed to GPS) to inform you of its whereabouts.
To comply with Federal Aviation Administration regulations, the gadget automatically enters “ ight mode” when it senses the plane taking-off. Upon touching down, it will switch back on and report its new location via SMS or e-mail.
You can track it via free iPhone and Android smartphone apps, as well as on your computer. There is a one-time activation fee of $9 and an annual service fee of $13.
VERDICT Knowing your case has arrived is reassuring, and being able to prove that it is elsewhere in the world could be very useful. A unique and compelling proposition for business travelers, Trakdot complements existing measures in place to prevent you from losing your luggage.
10. SCOTTEVEST REVOLUTION PLUS JACKET $200 scottevest.com INNOVATION Lots of pockets
Everyone who has to endure shorthaul ights on budget carriers knows the perils of the one-bag policy, so the idea of a multi-pocket jacket for your belongings is both amusing and credible.
US company Scottevest offers jackets, coats, trousers and even underwear, all with numerous hidden compartments.
Business Traveler tried the Sport Jacket for men and the women’s Travel Vest, but no one could bring themselves to wear them, so zero points for fashion appeal.
But the Revolution Plus, designed for cold weather, looks bulky anyway and has 26 pockets, including ones specially designed to accommodate iPads, Bluetooth headsets, water bottles, money and smartphones, as well as loops for headphone wires and slots to hide the in-ear buds. The sleeves and hood are also detachable.
VERDICT Not the most stylish of garments but a good idea if you can only travel with one small case. Remembering where you put your passport could be a problem, though. BT