Having worked in the airline industry for a few years, I have become all too accustomed to living out of a suitcase. Flight crew members expose bags to a variety of surfaces, tourture on zippers, and countlesss handle extentions. Furthermore, the holdall bears first hand witness to the abuse dished out by baggage handlers and their machines.
I have owned a few different roll-aboard suitcases throughout my career. Nearly all have disintegrated too soon and none has lasted for even a year, with one exception. I can easily pack for a week-long adventure in my 23"x14"x8" suitcase, not including camera equipment, and cannot imaging owning anything larger. More cavernous bags end up too heavy when packed to easily carry through airports and subways. Also, the larger ones don't fit in the overhead bins on airplanes causing a delay at baggage claim at your destination and increased risk of lost luggage.
Interestingly, the same folks that produce the extremely overpriced Tumi brand manufacture the Dakota line of suitcases. The major problem I encountered with this bag was the main zipper breaking several times. This continued to occur as a result of poor design. The main zipper is placed exactly on the outer edge of the bag, exposing it to frequent grinding on concrete, floors and other baggage. I was fortunate in that the zipper always failed when the bag was closed, keeping the contents inaccesible to me.
Secondly, the retractable handle was a bit short for somebody of my height, a bit over 6 feet. Though it never failed to extend or retract I often kicked the bag with my heels while rolling it through the airport. This was not only very annoying but many times cause the back to rotate onto its side, off the wheels and onto the zipper.
Finally, the plastic "add-a-bag" hook broke twice. Both times it was in cold weather with my 30+ pound flight case attached. I am not surprised that it failed. A metal hook would have been a simple solution to this problem. Customer service was always willing to send me a replacement.
After three zipper failures and a couple of broken hooks, I gave up on this bag.
This is probably the most widely used and marketed roll-aboard suitcase in the airline industry. Some airlines even require their employees to use only this suitcase. This product however, is of less quality than Dakota, Samsonite or Luggage Works.
The zippers on this bag seem to be reliable, though I cannot count the times I have witnessed the telescoping handle break. Usually, it simply fails to retract, leaving the owner with the option to either deal with the massive inconvienence or break it off. I see more handle problems with this line than any other.
Balance on this produce is miserable too. The bag has a severe tendency to tip over forward. In one case, I added metal furniture feet to the bottom of the bag with hopes of gaining a more stable suitcase. The results were marginal.
This is my current bag and I love it! This used to be made by a company named Purdy Neat Stuff; however, it seems to be distributed soley by Luggage Works Online now. I use the 23 inch Stealth NG. The first thing that impressed me was how smoothly it rolled. One could almost be convinced that it is a self-propelled suitcase. Furthermore, it rarely becomes unbalanced while being rolled or begins to wobble and threaten to tip over while on the move. Rolling this bag is a real pleasure.
The main compartment zipper is inset from the edge by approximately 2 inches offering it fantastic protection unlike many other suitcases.
The bag is a bit heavy but that is a result of the amount of metal used in its construction. The extra long handle is manufactured from solid stainless steel and has never even hinted at refusing to operate properly. The bottom of the suitcase is also solid metal extending up the back several inches. There is even a solid metal frame around the entire exterior. Even pulling the bag up concrete curbs cause it no damage. The add-a-bag hook is made of metal and has taken all abuse that I have given to it.
The amount space is fantastic and easy to use. The exterior pockets are great for stuffing a book or newpaper into, allowing rapid access as you board the aircraft. The bag is a bit less deep than many others, but the size is accounted for in the width. I can easily fit a pair of my shoes in the bottom of the bag, whereas with many others it is a very tight fit.
Luggage Works Online also offers an additional small duffle that easily attaches to clips on the outside of the roll-aboard designed specifically for this purpose.