Travel Loot

A Ludicrously Capacious Bag

by Team Fathom
Clockwise from left: Rimowa Original Aluminum / photo courtesy of Rimowa; Cassette Intrecciato Bucket / photo courtesy of Bottega Veneta; TUMI Just in Case / photo courtesy of TUMI.
Happy Thursday from Team Checked Bag (Pavia) and Team Carry-On (Jeralyn). The latest post on Way to Go, our reader-supported email newsletter, is about our favorite luggage. As a treat, we’re making it free for all subscribers and the internet at large. To get articles like this directly in your in box, please subscribe to the newsletter.

We know that packing for a trip elicits a full spectrum of emotions — excitement, trepidation, angst, pride, grief, awe. We’ve had experiences. We have opinions.

So we made a list, taking into account the kinds trips we’ve packed for: polar expeditions, tiger safaris, city hops, and beach breaks — through snowstorms, downpours, scorchers, and temperate days while amassing souvenirs ranging in size from tiny spice bundle to king-size quilt (Pavia). Not to mention desert glamping, multi-week DJ tours, private island escapes, Mediterranean road trips, Central American jungle romps, and National Park expeditions — often for five people at a time, and often only using carry-ons (Jeralyn).

Rimowa Essential Spinner. Photos courtesy of Rimowa.

The Hard Shell Spinner

Best For: City travel, multi-stop trips, anyplace that includes lots of walking.

Fathom Favorites: Rimowa Essential Cabin, Samsonite Proxis, Delsey Paris Titanium Hardside, Briggs & Riley Sympatico, Lojel Cubo

For travel in tight spaces, on hard pavement, or across multiple locales, a compact case with excellent rolling capabilities is a must. Jeralyn has had her Rimowa carry-on for over 15 years with no issue yet (looks good and every part works like a charm). Rimowa’s wheels turn in every direction and glides like a dream. Pavia likes the Briggs & Riley case for its jewel tones (plum and navy) and internal compression system. No matter what, don’t bother with two-wheeled luggage (it should be discontinued). Do yourself a favor and look for 360-degree spinners.

TUMI Alpha Expandable Carry-On. Photos courtesy of TUMI.

The Soft Case

Best For: Overpackers (always) convinced they can squeeze in one more cardigan.

Fathom Favorites: Hideo Wakamatsu Tarpaulin Carry-On, TUMI Alpha, Rains Texel Cabin Bag

There is a loves-and-fishes quality to a soft-sided suitcase — the best seem ready to accommodate just one more swimsuit or last-minute caftan. If you’re a jam-it-in-there kind of packer, this is your luggage. Pavia (Team Softie) is a decades-long Tumi devotee and is especially grateful for an expandable zipper when the souvenir demon strikes.

Patagonia Black Hole Duffel. Photo courtesy of Patagonia.

The Duffel

Best For: Safaris, gorilla treks, active overland adventures.

Fathom Favorites: Filson Rugged Twill Duffel, Patagonia Black Hole Duffel, Cotopaxi Allpa 35L 

If you are the kind of person who shudders at the thought of filling your kitchen with single-use gadgets, you probably won’t like hearing that you need a specific piece of luggage for an African safari. But the reason is purely practical: Many lodges and camps are in destinations only accessible by light aircraft. Weight and size limitations vary, but they’re pretty strict (Jeralyn recommends this handy luggage scale to keep within the limits.)

Paravel Aviator Grand. Photos courtesy of Paravel.

Old Reliable

Best for: Schlepping valuables on long-haul trips.

Fathom Favorites: Paravel Aviator Grand, Pelican Air Travel Case, Rimowa Original Aluminum Check-In

These are the workhorses. The kinds of suitcases you check and forget until your destination — because you know everything will be safe and sound. These classic cases look good even when beat up a little. Paravel gets extra points for its sustainably sourced materials.

Lo&Sons Catalina tops off a suitcase. Photo courtesy of Lo& Sons.

The Tote

Best For: In-flight carry-ons, weekend travel.

Fathom Favorites: Lo&Sons Catalina, Junes The Grande Tote

Pavia had long looked for a better version of the classic L.L. Bean Hunter Tote. One that was just as chic, lightweight, and sturdy, but had pockets, a sleeve for sliding onto a rolly, and flexible configurations. Lo&Sons, a mother-and-sons company that crafts using eco-friendly materials, hit the jackpot. (She has two sizes.)

TUMI Just in Case Foldable Bag. Photo courtesy of TUMI.

The Emergency Tote

Best For: Surprise shopping sprees, souvenirs, laundry you don’t want to deal with.

Fathom Favorites: TUMI Just in Case 

This is Jeralyn’s pinch-hitter – it is sleek, super lightweight, snaps into a little square when not in use, and has a trolley sleeve that slides over the suitcase handles for easy transport. Pack it without regrets.

Loewe Puzzle Fold Tote (left); Numéro Huit Mini. Photos courtesy of Loewe and Polene.

Trending Travel Pieces

Best For: On-time arrivals. HELLO.

Fathom Favorites: Loewe Puzzle Fold Tote, Numéro Huit Mini, Bottega Veneta Cassette Intrecciato Bucket, Lindquist Hilma, Sézane Mara

Woven, bucket, drawstring. The season’s simple silhouettes will upgrade your travel lewk — and maybe even your seat?

SteamLine Architect Collection. Photo courtesy of SteamLine.

The Vintage Trunk

Best For: Automotive travel, yachting adventures, photo shoots, spaces where your luggage is on display.

Fathom Favorites: SteamLine Architect Collection

We’re happy we don’t have to wear white gloves or high heels when we leave the house anymore — and yet we get nostalgic for some elements of old-fashioned glamor. SteamLine’s pieces are vegan leather and lined with the fun prints and look like set pieces. Jeralyn’s kids have a mini suitcase which they use at home as a play prop (when not in use, it efficiently and beautifully stores all their junk).

Zippered Duck Bag. Photos courtesy of Baggu.

The Commuter

Best For: Urban day trips

Fathom Favorites: Solo New York Parker Hybrid Backpack Tote, Baggu Horizontal Zip Duck Bag, Niwaki Nizyū Kanō Rucksack

Pavia’s go-to is cute inside (seersucker lining, padded laptop compartment) and out (the tote becomes a backpack when the shoulder straps are untucked) and has a low price of $83. She also likes Solo New York’s Re:Cycled collection of backpacks made from recycled plastic bottles.

Collapsible luggage. Photos courtesy of Rollink.

The Space Saver

Best For: Small apartment dwellers.

Fathom Favorite: Rollink Collapsible Luggage

Pavia loves Rollink’s innovative hard-shell suitcase because it collapses way down for easy storage in small spaces. Its folded size — a mere two inches — clocks in 75 percent thinner than the average suitcase.

Wet bag. Photo courtesy of Wander & Perch.

Cute Little Bags

Best For: Last-minute swims, toiletries, creating a sense of control in a chaotic environment (ie: your purse).

Fathom Favorites: Wander & Perch Wet Bag, Baggu 3-Piece Go Pouch Set

The best bags for separating out wet swimsuits work just as well for organizing power cords and cables; make-up; piles of receipts, currencies, and passports; and an iPad Mini. Jeralyn sticks a Baggu in the seat back pocket of her plane for easy access to necessities (phone, charger, lip balm, reading light, pen, mints, chocolate, tissues, hand sanitizer), fills another with a change of clothes, and hides her Ziploc of toiletries in the third.

The Insider Packing Cubes. Photo courtesy of Away.

Packing Cubes

Best For: Organizing your luggage life and saving space in your suitcase.

Fathom Favorites: Away The Insider Packing Cubes, Paravel Packing Cube Quad

Totally get it if you’re like, “Shut up about packing cubes already.” These simple suitcase solutions really have been getting a lot of attention over the last few years because they work. If you have a deep suitcase, these little zippered pouches can save you from throwing things into it like some black hole. If you’re sharing your suitcase with your partner or children, cubes will keep you from dismantling all your nicely packed items. We recommend a mesh set with a double zipper, but any kind will do to help you make sense of your belongings and save space. Game changer.

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We make every effort to ensure the information in our articles is accurate at the time of publication. But the world moves fast, and even we double-check important details before hitting the road.