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Archive: 15 January 2007

A Case Of Love

You know you have a great piece of luggage when the TSA guy rooting through it at the security checkpoint asks where he can get one.

As it turns out, we have four great pieces of luggage, all from Briggs & Riley.  I’d never heard of them either, at least not before walking into a luggage store this past October.  However, if you’re someone who travels a lot, or even someone who appreciates real quality in a product, then you need to hear about Briggs & Riley.

Let me start off with the coolest part: their lifetime unconditional repair guarantee.  If your luggage breaks or is otherwise damaged for any reason whatsoever, including damage caused by airline handling, Briggs & Riley will fix it for free.  Why?  Because they use that failure information to improve future models.  They take the cost of fixing a sold product as an investment in real-world research.  That’s smart, and had me ready to like them from the start.

That said, I shudder to imagine the forces that could damage one of these cases enough to require repair.  They’re tough, solid bags.  They cost quite a bit more than the stuff you can get on sale at Target or Kauffman’s, but they’re worth it.  They’d be worth it even if the warranty was time-limited.

For checked bags, we got two expandable cases.  These have two heavy-duty expansion rails on the inside of the case which can increase its depth by almost 20%.  They’re two-position mechanisms that lock into place, so you don’t have to worry about the suitcase self-expanding or -compressing.  On the flip side, the rails that contain the pull handle, the one that slides up or down, are on the outside of the case.  That gives you more interior room.  They’ve also got serious rubber tires, not cheap plastic rollers.  Like I said, these are solid cases.

They’re also exceptionally well thought-out.  Every detail quietly announces attention to and consideration for the end-user.  The piece that really sold me is the Executive Traveler.  It has three compartments: one for suits, complete with a hang-bag; a slightly deeper clothing compartment; and sandwiched between them, a slot for the laptop briefcase that comes with the bag.  On the outside are two zippered compartments with a lot of pockets, and on the other side, between the handle rails, is a zippered pocket that would easily accept a bottle of water, if you could bring that sort of incredibly dangerous substance through security these days.  Not to worry: it makes a fantastic place to put a book, an iPod, and some compact headphones.

The Executive Traveler is sized to be carry-on luggage, and has enough space for a five-day trip with a suit or two, if you’re efficient with your packing and don’t take along a second pair of shoes.  (If you do pack a pair, then you can probably still get three days of clothes in there, including suit.)  What else?

  • Inside one of the outer zippered compartments, there’s a heavy metal clip on the end of an elastic strap, which is perfect for clipping on your car keys for easy access when you get back home.

  • At the center of one edge, there’s a zippered compartment built into the case that has an intense orange interior.  It’s meant for travel documents, and it’s bigger than it first seems.  It can take a collection of passports and boarding passes, keeping them right where they’re easy to slip out and back in.  The orange interior provides contrast when you’re rooting around in there, and it also makes it really obvious when you’ve forgotten to zip it shut.

  • There are bunches of elastic straps in the clothing compartments to keep things in place.  For the center briefcase compartment, there are elastic stretching membranes that let you open it pretty wide while holding things together.

  • It comes with a hangable compact toiletry kit that holds more than it seems like it should.

  • Any place there’s a snap, one half of the snap is mounted on a loop of fabric and the other half is mounted on a small tongue of fabric.  This lets you slide your finger through the loop, put your thumb over the tongue, and press the two together.  Snap!

And then there’s the computer briefcase, which is good enough to have become my default.  It’s wide enough to accept a 17″ laptop, with a padded interior on the laptop compartment.  It’s slim, with leather handles that can be pushed in so they’re flush with the case sides.  There are a goodly number of pockets and so on in the front compartment.  It also has a flap on the back with an open top and a zipper across the bottom.  If you zip it shut, it’s an extra exterior pocket.  If you open the zipper, the whole thing slips over the retractable handles on the main case—or any Briggs & Riley case’s handles.

Here’s the kicker: remember the padded laptop compartment?  The padding is a little bit wooly, in a way; not scratchy, but a little fuzzy.  The case comes with two small padded brackets that go around the edges of the laptop.  Good enough, right?  Oh no.  It gets better.  These brackets have Velcro on their exteriors, so they grab onto the compartment’s padding and don’t let go.  They become static, padded holders for the laptop—and thanks to their Velcro, you can reposition them if you change laptop sizes.  For extra bonus points, when positioned to hold my 15″ Mac to one side of the compartment, there’s just enough space left over to hold a regular-size mouse, a small digital camera, or any number of other goodies.

You’d think it would be really hard to get them in, and you’d be right, except Briggs & Riley ships them with heavy cardstock sleeves.  You put the sleeves over the brackets, place the brackets where you want them without any trouble, and slip out the sleeves.  The compartment sides press against the brackets, the Velcro latches onto the padding, and you’re done.  Sheer genius.

This might seem like a bit too much love for a travel case, but trust me, it’s just the start.  I could go on at least twice as long.  Frequent travelers already know why I’m so over the moon about these suitcases, and are probably wondering where they can get their own.  Even infrequent travelers should bear Briggs & Riley in mind the next time they’re in the market for luggage.  The high quality and lifetime unconditional warranty make them more than a worthwhile investment, and they’re sturdy enough that you don’t have to be too concerned about the fate of your stuff.  I mean, sure, you still have to worry about TSA folks opening your luggage, but with these cases, at least you know they’ll be impressed when they do so.

January 2007
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