Keep Calm With This Travel Carry-on
Each month, Field Test columnist and contributing editor Jenna Schnuer tries out gadgets and services designed to simplify life on the road.
Goldilocks had it easy. One house, three beds. Amateur. I’d love to see her take on the avalanche of choices that attends the selection of a more-than-a-briefcase for business travel. Try as I might, I’ve struggled to find a just-right briefcase-style carry-on with the perfect combination of pockets and dividers that could take a turn as an overnighter without also looking too damn big on days I meet with clients. Though I happily switch my handbag from day to day, I’m not keen on doing the same with my business tote and prefer to keep mine stocked with all my go-to travel and work gear. After an extensive search, I’d given up and, for the last three years, had used a freebie bag imprinted with a logo from Scottsdale, Ariz.
With that bag on the verge of duct tape repairs, it was time to dive back into the search for something that’s not too big, not too small and won’t tip over just ‘cause I stock it with one too many magazines. Was it possible? Could I find one that’s -- you knew it was coming -- just right?
While searching (and searching), I wandered across Red Oxx, which sells a nylon bag called "The CPA Briefcase" for $150.
Red Oxx’s promise: I’m a sucker for unexpected product description copy so, when I clicked on their CPA Briefcase, was pretty keen on the description: “I’m for CPAs who like tattoos.” But here’s what really grabbed me: “Plenty of room for files, a tablet, a snack, and even a change of clothes—just in case your checked luggage goes to Barbados, while you’re heading to Brooklyn.” Their promise that its closed cell foam padding in front, bottom and back would keep my laptop and notebook safe and upright didn’t hurt either. I requested a bag for review.
Our reality: After adjusting my eyes to the electric blue (the bag comes in 12 different colors, from coal to saffron) I started to pack for the month-long business trip ahead of me. My goal was to fit not just my work files but magazines, a book, some clothes and toiletries. That’s after I’d packed my Kindle, MacBook Air, external hard drive, mobile battery packs and a DSLR camera with two lenses.
Now, pack that much in most bags and there’s a good chance that sucker will just slide right off your shoulder as you’re running through the airport. Though I toted Blue—yes, I named the bag—from Newark, N.J., to Cork, Ireland, there was no slipping and the strap didn’t cut into my shoulder. The bag’s red and super roomy interior made it easy to see what was inside and its dividers and multiple pockets made it very easy to organize. It was becoming a fast favorite. And no matter how I tried to throw off its balancing act, Blue never tipped over.
During the week that followed, I’ve changed up Blue’s contents to suit the needs of my day several times. So far, I’ve been impressed. Elasticized pockets on each end keep water bottles in place, making the bag a good choice for doing a bit of non-business touring between meetings. I can snap the tabs closed on the external pockets with one hand, even when their overstuffed. It’s also incredibly sturdy but, in case anything does go wrong, the company offers a lifetime warranty.
A caveat, the bag’s size does make it easy to overpack. Don’t. A heavy bag is a heavy bag, no matter how sturdy. Also, the interior divider pockets don’t close with snaps or Velcro, and after stowing it on its side during flights, I had to do some digging around at the bottom of the bag to find the bits and baubles I’d stowed in those pockets.
But, really, those are small things. All in all, the bag flies high. And the color? It’s growing on me. After all, it’s electric.