What Makes A Good Travel Bag, With Luggage Designer Marcus Johnsson
Marcus Johnsson, Pacsafe’s Vice President of Bag Design, has been building bags and other accessories for over a decade. He’s also an avid traveler and has visited more than 60 countries. Needless to say, Marcus has tested, trialed and built plenty of luggage in his lifetime. He thinks about its construction more than most. Here is some insight, with Marcus Johnsson.
What is the first thing people should look for in a good travel bag?
Marcus: One of the big things people think they’re looking for is a lightweight travel bag. But that’s not always the best thing. You want it to be easy to move and get around, but you also want it to be durable. After traveling a couple of times with a super lightweight bag, you often realize how fragile they are. Baggage handlers at the airport and general wear on the road can be really tough on luggage, so you want something that will last the distance. That might add some weight to make things high-quality and strong, but if you have some other components to make it easy to move, then the tradeoff is worth it.
What are the three features you look when you buy a travel bag?
1) Sturdy Wheels. Wheels are a must, especially with large travel bags. Look out for good, sturdy wheels that can go over different surfaces – from cobbled streets to along thick carpets in hotels. Most people buy bags in malls with easy, hard floors where any wheels will work well. Sometimes you forget that’s not the surface that you’ll mostly be rolling your luggage on.
2) Multiple Handles. Handles make a big difference. Make sure the bag has has multiple solid handles. With telescopic handles that pull out, look for one that doesn’t rattle around in its casing. That means it could break easily. The other handles are the lifting or hold handles on the bag itself. This makes it easier to grab the luggage off the belt or get in and out of cars. Also, make sure the handles are well-padded for hand comfort. Your hand should be able to get in easily, instead of needing to dig through it.
3) Good zippers. I use Tough Zips on the products I build at Pacsafe. As the name indicates, this makes them tough and strong. One thing that can easily happen during transit is zippers breaking up and exposing your contents. Tough zips are also puncture-proof, which make it almost impossible to get into the bag by piercing the zipper with a pen.
A bonus is also good security. Security wise, it’s good to be able to lock all your zippers together. Ideally, they lock down onto a single point, so you don’t need multiple locks for every bag compartment. Puncture-proof zippers are also important, because it’s silly to have a bag that locks well but can still be easily broken into using a regular Bic pen. Last, a good option is to have some kind of anchoring system if you need to leave your bag in busy places. Some of our travel bags have steel wire cables that help you lock your bag around a pole or table, or even just together with other bags. Great for when you want that bit of extra security.
And the big one – which is better, soft cases or hard cases?
Soft cases for sure. With hard plastic or metal cases, you can’t just open them up a little bit to stuff something extra inside. It’s really frustrating if you want to add things in on-the-go. You have to fully unzip it and open things on the floor. For soft luggage, you can zip it open a little standing up and shove in a jacket or something you’re not using.
From a packability point of view, when stacking things in your car, soft luggage also means you can move things around and squash them in easier. You don’t have those rigid restrictions. If you are transporting something a bit fragile, you still have the option of putting that in the more structured bottom half of the bag. It’s like you’re getting the best of both worlds: security and structure + the flexibility of a duffel.
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This article is adapted from Pacsafe