Pilot Paul's Luggage Buying Checklist

May 20 07:54 2005 Pilot Paul Print This Article

As an airline pilot, I "live" out of my suitcase quite a bit.

Crewmembers are very hard on their luggage and won't tolerate junky luggage that won't perform well over a long period of time. The best value in luggage is good quality,Guest Posting well-built, highly functional luggage that is backed up with a strong waranty. You'll achieve the best value if something serves you well for a long period of time. That way your cost per use will be low.

This eliminates most of the cheaper discount store luggage. Surprisingly, it also eliminates many of the fancy, high priced "designer" bags also.

I've carefully inspected many designer bags offered in the boutique designer logo shops. Often these bags have the quality and features of the cheap ones in the discount stores. Their only value is the "perceived value" of the designer logo.

I've been shocked to find the prices of these bags well over $1000 while they are inferior in quality, duraility, and features of many suitcases costing around $200-$300.

There are only a few brands that I specifically recommend. More on that in a moment.

The following "checklist" for choosing your luggage should help you make a good purchase decision.

Pilot Paul's Luggage Buying Checklist:

Wheels. These are essential. Think about how much walking with your bags is involved in any trip. It is best to have at least one bag in your ensemble with wheels. The ideal situation is to arrange things so with one wheeled bag acting as a cart, you can be completely mobile with your entire luggage. This will save you lots of time waiting for porters and bellmen, plus tip money.

I highly recommend larger, rubberized wheels with ball bearings- similar to the ones on inline skates. These make a noticeable difference when pulling a loaded bag. They give the best performance and longevity.

Recessed wheels are less likely to be damaged. Often, while doing aircraft exterior inspections, I'll find suitcase wheels that have been broken off in the loading/unloading process.

Handle. Make sure that it is long enough. If it's too short, you'll be leaning sideways while walking.

Make sure that the handle locks down so it won't be damaged if you check your bag.

One thing that leads to handle failures on many bags is lifting a loaded bag by the pull handle. Your bag will last longer if you lift it by the smaller grip handles.

For larger bags, two grip handles make it much easier to hoist, lift, and carry your bag. Think of getting the bag out of a trunk of up into an overhead bin.

Outer Shell. There are three different types: soft-sided, hard-sided, and in-between, semi-soft sided. Consider your needs.

Soft-sided are the most lightweight and expandable. They make the best carry-ons, but your bag's contents are most vulnerable to damage. Think about what you'll pack in one, especially if you plan to check your bag.

Hard-sided bags are the best for protecting your stuff, but these bags tend to be heavier. They also don't give or compress if you're trying to stuff them in a tight place, like the trunk of a car or an overhead bin.

Semi-soft combines the benefits of the other two. These are what I like best. They are partially framed and have expandable tops and bottoms. They weigh less than hard-sided ones, but still protect well.

Material. For soft and semi-soft luggage, nylon or ballistic nylon is stronger than polyester. Look for a tight and dense weave. If denier is mentioned, it refers to the thickness of the fiber. High denier means thick fiber.

Zippers. Metal ones aren't good. The newer, synthetic zippers made of coils can actually self-repair when the slide is moved over the teeth.

Self-repairing zippers is one thing that separates the well-made luggage from the rest.

Since people tend to over-stuff their suitcases (especially if they did some extra shopping), the zipper takes the strain of trying to close and hold the suitcase together.

These self-repairing zippers will do that job better than any others will. A standard zipper can fail under that strain. If your suitcase zipper breaks as you are finishing packing and hurrying to catch a plane, you suddenly have a big problem.

There you are, it's time to go and your suitcase zipper is broken. Everything is falling out and you don't have the time or capability to fix or replace it.

Whatever you buy, make sure that it has a large, self-repairing zipper.

Hooks. Many rolling bags have a hook to carry an additional bag. These are wonderful. With these, you can often easily carry two extra bags - one on the hook and one over the extended handle. The bag on the hook tends to counter-balance everything making the downward load on the handle lighter.

Tip - some hooks are stronger than others are. The most strain on your luggage hook comes when you have a heavy bag attached and you are on an escalator. The hooked bag is unsupported. If this is an issue, look for the elevator.

Other Nice Features. Many pockets inside and out are useful. Many bags have some plastic lined pockets. These are great for wet items like swimsuits or workout clothes. If you are getting a bag that will be outside like a backpack, rain flaps over the zippers help keep the contents dry when it's raining.

Warranty. If you buy a good suitcase and use it for a long time, a good warranty is very important.

A long warranty period is a good indication that the manufacturer believes in their product.

Many higher-end bags have lifetime warranties. While these suitcases may cost a bit more, if a free warranty repair is the difference between more years of service and the garbage, it's worth it.

The smart choice is to buy well-constructed, long-lasting quality luggage. That will be the best value, last the longest, and be the wisest choice.

There are four specific brand of luggage that I personally recommend.

To learn which ones those are and why, please visit my complete luggage ratings web page at: http://www.pilot-pauls-travel-accessories.com/luggage-ratings.html

If you go there, you'll also learn the best places to find these suitcases at the best prices.

Copyright 2005 by Ph.Developments USA, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Pilot Paul
Pilot Paul

Pilot Paul is a captain at a major U.S. airline. He also hosts http://www.Pilot-Pauls-Travel-Accessories.com where an airline captain helps you with your travel needs.
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