My pockets are full.
My bags are bulging.
My cables are tangled.
My screen is cracked.
If you can admit to more than one of the statements above, you need to read on. This article takes a walk around the internet to find the latest and greatest in supremely organized storage, comfort while you travel, and gadget safety on the go!
Trillium by Higher Ground
Higher Ground’s Trillium sparked a bit of nostalgia in me for a concept from years ago. I remember being so excited at the idea of the folding portable workstation when I first saw the OpenAire, a concept that unfortunately never became a reality. The idea of this self-contained workstation meant a user was in their “office” wherever they were. Trillium, a bag that “blooms” like it’s namesake, is the practical reality compared to the OpenAire’s high design fantasy. It’s a 3 in 1 bag constructed of a very standard waterproof material with strategically placed rigid support where needed. It’s a briefcase with a very nicely done rubber reinforced handle, a backpack when you expose the hidden straps in their own zippered compartment, and a portable laptop sleeve when you need something light.
There was definitely thought put into each and every corner of this product. The company doesn’t waste any opportunity to improve a seemingly mundane aspect of the design. There are raised foam pads in the main laptop pocket to allow for airflow and a cooler lap for you. That main laptop compartment is also fully removable and doubles as a standalone laptop case which is very similar in shape and function to the Shuttle 2.1 (Manufacturer - $59.95) a newer product and a big seller for Higher ground.
The design can feel a bit overwhelming. The trillium is so packed with zippers and compartments leading to other compartments, that at times you might lose something entirely not recalling which pocket you left it in. Landing on the side of why not, the inside cavity of the main laptop pocket is double purposed as CD/DVD storage. Let’s hope this is the last product that they design with consideration for those ancient, dust-collecting plastic discs.
If device protection and comfort during on-the-go use are at the top of your list, you can do a lot worse than the Trillium. My one point of caution here is the zippers. A product with no less than 11 (I counted) zippers should have spent a bit less time on CD storage and a bit more time on a more durable zipper design. I didn’t see any breakage during testing, but these are a very standard zipper that don’t inspire a lot of confidence. Zip lightly.
Impulse medium laptop backpack by STM bags
STM’s Impulse laptop backpack gets most of the little things right. First the basics - awesome zippers, great back padding with air channels, curved backpack straps, and dedicated padded storage for laptop and tablet. Next, the unexpected - interesting aesthetic design choices, a separate front bottom pocket that’s perfect for device chargers, and a fully adjustable and truly comfortable sternum stabilization strap. That all adds up to a great bag on the whole.
I particularly enjoy the zippered side pocket that’s perfectly sized to hold a large external battery pack to charge your phone in your pocket or in your hand while you wear the pack and move freely around the world. The lone drawback to my experience here was the fact that the pack takes on a bit of a “lumpy “ look when filled with a reasonable amount of typical pack needs. Many packs correct for this with more rigid materials in some places that might see higher stress from a full pack.
This bag is quoted to hold most laptops up to 15”. If you want STM but use a larger screen, the only option is a bag that is filed under “laptop bags” but is really just a piece of carry-on luggage - the Jet roller wheeled laptop bag.
Silhouette Sphere hardside spinner business case by Samsonite
This is the part where you realize that every piece of luggage that you’ve ever owned is deficient because it didn’t have a “removeable tech locker”. What is a removeable tech locker? The interior accordion storage piece attaches with several buttons. When installed, you have very capable padded storage for up to a 15.6” laptop and a lined laptop pocket as well as several smaller spaces for chargers, phones, etc. You aren’t left with much space to store clothing though in this configuration. You are left with a choice, gadgets and tech toys, or socks and shirts. The nice thing here is that you get to truly consider your actual need trip by trip. If you’re flying in and out or staying for a single night the tech locker is great. Luckily you can literally pull it out in a snap (actually four snaps) and you're left with a large open space to accommodate clothing and supplies for a 2-3 night trip. Versatility is invaluable. Needs change with time and this bag should keep up nicely.
While marketers love to reference “reinventing the wheel” for any product, Samsonite is literally trying to reinvent the wheel with the Sphere. Luckily, this feels like more than a gimmick. The motion of this four wheeled case is very free-flowing and unrestricted, the case really does float across most surfaces. That’s especially true on a smooth airport floor but still applies to the real world from city streets to hotel carpet. You’ll pull those wheels around with the case’s gel-infused handle, a feature that seems like unnecessary overkill until you actually use it. It’s novel for 2 minutes and then it’s awesome. Finally, the exterior of this case is a resilient and lightweight polycarbonate material that feels like more than enough protection for the rigors of frequent travel.
Odell Roller 39L by Dakine
If you like a basic piece of luggage, but you also refuse to settle for basic style, Dakine is here to wake the neighbors with loud colors and unexpected patterns (that’s right, we’re talking cascading wolf prints) Colors and patterns galore, this look is meant to stir the depths of your junior high school memories. There is no denying that this bag was influenced (read directly copied from) the now iconic Jansport “Right Pack” backpack of our shared youth. It's a very successful homage that is familiar enough to turn heads.
One thing that Dakine does better than any other bag in this article is include an incredibly durable set of wheels. If these aren’t actual skateboard wheels they are very close and they are recessed into the bottom of the case for added security. These feel like they’ll last and last.
Overall, this piece really is about a look and nothing more. I don’t say that to discourage you, just know that it’s your basic two front pocket, large interior pocket luggage configuration without any flourishes. There are five very distinct color choices available in the Odell series to suit most personalities. For this reviewer, just the right amount of time has passed for this to be quirky enough to make me smile. Throw your ironic cassette iPhone case on, grab that bluetooth powered rotary phone, and let’s go skateboarding for old times sake.
Torq International carry-on spinner by Briggs & Riley
This has the look and feel of Robocop’s luggage. The hard shell polycarbonate exterior, with an almost armor-like sculpted look, makes me feel as if previous luggage that I’ve seen was made out of tissue paper and doilies. A very useful hinged front pocket is accessed with the push of a button and pops out to reveal your laptop (up to 15.6”) and any other documents or thin gadgets needed within a moment’s notice. The Torq spinner offers a built in TSA approved lock. The “control panel” accepts both zippers to secure the main compartment, and it also covers the hinged front pocket. It’s clear that the research and design team are hard at work to find practical additions that can change the idea of luggage as a whole. A little digging revealed that Briggs & Riley’s parent company (U.S. Luggage) invented and holds the patent for wheeled luggage and a number of other features “adopted” by the industry as a whole today.
If that’s not enough, the company’s “Simple as that” lifetime guarantee means that this could be the only piece of luggage you’ll ever need. I haven’t had a chance to test the warranty fulfillment process myself, but the company does state in writing that they will repair any damage, even if it was caused by an airline. Adding some doubt to the process though, they protect themselves with the following disclaimer:
“Due to the nature of certain types of repairs and normal wear and tear, it is not always possible to return your bag to its original condition.”
For my money, that feels like - If we can’t fix it, we won’t fix it, and that’s that. That sentence alone is enough to leave a slightly sour taste in my mouth overall. If you advertise along the lines of, “we’ll fix it for life for any reason”, there can’t be any scenario where I’m left without a functioning piece of luggage.
That's the end of part one of this series. Part two is still to come with even more exciting travel tech focusing on comfort on the go.
Thank you to the companies mentioned above for providing samples to evaluate for this site.