I compared the Away Bigger Carry-On bag to my Samsonite luggage, and it convinced me to switch to the newer, trendier brand
Rachel Askinasi/Business Insider
- On a recent domestic trip, I tried out the Instagram-famous Away luggage for the first time. The company with a $1.4 billion valuation as of May 2019 offers a fleet of different luggage sets with lifetime warranties.
- I was thinking about purchasing an Away bag before my trip, but when I saw the price, I decided to borrow one from a friend and try it out first - the bag I was going to get would have set me back $245 before tax.
- I usually travel with a Samsonite carry-on rolling bag.
- My luggage, like the Away Bigger Carry-On that I tried, has four wheels, an expandable handle, two non-expandable handles - one on a long side and one on the top, and an interior mesh divider and compression straps for holding my belongings in place.
- There were a lot of features on the Away bag that I loved and wish my luggage had - like a removable battery, laundry bag, and a shoe compartment - but there was one major characteristic that really bothered me: The Away bag felt considerably heavier than my Samsonite.
- Here's what my experience with the Away Bigger Carry-On was like and how it compares to my Samsonite luggage.
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Away cofounders Jen Rubio and Steph Korey started selling the now Instagram-famous luggage bag used by Influencers and traveling millennials in February of 2016.
The pair have a shared background in startup companies as they met while working at the optical brand, Warby Parker.
When they reconnected, they came up with the idea to craft the perfect carry-on bag for travelers.
They told Business Insider that they liked how Warby Parker transformed customer experiences and slashed prices, and they "decided the luggage industry needed similar improvements."
So they set about creating high-quality luggage at a fraction of the price, and relied on consumer feedback to fix as many travel complaints as possible.
Through surveys, they found out that travelers wanted, among other things, better organization and a portable battery.
They determined that people really had issues with the lifespan of their phone battery when traveling.
To address this issue, they built a removable battery directly into the skeleton of the luggage.
Now, the brand offers eight different construction options of wheel-able luggage including two sizes of carry-on and checkable luggage, a kids' size, and both carry-on sizes with an outside pocket.
On a recent domestic flight — within the US — I tried out the brand's Bigger Carry-On without the outside pocket seen here on the left. I typically use the Samsonite seen here on the right.
I was traveling for a two-and-a-half-day vacation, so I knew I could fit everything I needed in a carry-on.
While the Away luggage is on the more affordable side of the luggage spectrum — consumers have compared the bag to Rimowa, which costs $670 for a small carry-on — it's still an investment at $245 plus tax.
For frequent fliers who prefer a carry-on, it makes sense to spend your money on Away. I don't take quick trips that often, so I didn't want to make the purchase without seeing whether it would fit my needs.
The first concern I had was if I'd be able to fit everything in the non-expandable bag. I always overpack, so I anticipated having to go through a few more rounds of outfit edits than I normally would.
Another concern was whether the bag would be approved as a carry-on size. The website confirms that the carry-on sized bags are within TSA regulations, but you never know with TSA, so I remained skeptical.
I was celebrating a bride-to-be, so I had to pack a pair of shoes appropriate for each event. Had I been visiting family, I could have packed a pair of sandals, traveled in sneakers, and called it a day.
In my Samsonite, I struggle to pack my shoes so their dirty soles don't touch my clean clothes, and so that there is enough room for everything else on top. I even use bags to keep them separated.
I dedicated the zippered half of the Away bag to shoes and bags. I was able to pack my shoes without worrying they would get my white pants dirty. I also didn't have to shove them in corners and packed them as pairs.
I was really looking forward to the bag's compression panel. From videos social media, the panel looked like it would use buckles and straps to squish everything down so I could pack more than would normally fit.
My Samsonite has a buckle and two straps that look like they should do the same thing. They do keep my clothes in place and help to hold them down, but not as much as the Away compression panel did.
Away's panel has a zipper and mesh pocket — the perfect place for undergarments. There's nothing more annoying than tearing a suitcase apart looking for that last pair of clean underwear that bunched up between pants.
Another great feature of Away's product is the laundry bag. I typically pack a scrunchable bag for laundry, but it was nice to have one with a zipper so I could lay it flat instead of keeping it in a ball that takes up more room.
Also, if you don't end up using it, it lives in this convenient little pouch inside the bag that takes up virtually no space.
I ended up making harsher cuts to my wardrobe, which kept me from overpacking. While it did take me less time to get dressed, I wished I had more shoe options.
After I got everything packed, I loved how I was able to look at this pretty full bag and think that it didn't look overwhelming. When I pack my Samsonite to the brim, it looks visibly stuffed, which is kind of overwhelming.
The hard shell — and trendy color — make the Away bag look calm, cool, and collected even when you have to smush the sides together to get it fully zipped.
The battery pack lives inside a little hatch near the expandable handle.
While the battery itself is super easy to remove — you just have to push it down lightly and it pops right out — the hatch is a little more difficult to open.
I had to use my nails to get a good hold on the door. Although a seemingly vain part of the experience, if you splurge on a manicure before vacation, it's kind of a bummer to ruin it before the trip even starts.
That being said, having the portable charger came in handy throughout my entire trip. I was able to charge my phone in the airport ...
... but also on the beach. Since it's removable, the battery acts as a portable charger that can be taken anywhere.
But, when we used the battery at the beach, it would turn on and off intermittently even though it was fully charged. It also was pretty slow to charge — one person had only gained 20% battery life in an hour.
The battery is roughly the size of an iPhone 8+.
It fit in my beach pouch easily.
The battery has two USB ports, so I was able to charge a phone and Bluetooth headphones at the same time.
When it came to actually traveling with the bag, there were a few things I loved about the experience. For starters, it looks pretty and made me feel like an influencer.
I also liked that the four double wheels made it easy to roll the bag next to me with little effort, except when it came to the carpeted floor of Newark airport.
The first thing I noticed was how heavy the Away bag was. I'm able to lift up my fully-packed Samsonite by the handle and carry it up and down the subway stairs like a pro, even fully-stuffed.
Even carrying the Away bag down the steps of my apartment, it felt noticeably heavier. It required more effort to lift the Away bag up over a curb and even onto the security check belt at the airport.
Once I got to my gate I counted three other Away Bigger Carry-On bags in my sight. One of them belonged to someone I was traveling with. It made me feel like I was part of a community of travelers.
My flight was completely full, so there was limited overhead space. The crew announced that people would have to check their bags at the gate — thankfully mine fit beautifully in the compartment above.
After using this bag, I realized how much I like to have an outside pouch on my luggage — my Samsonite has two.
I'll usually keep things like disinfecting wipes in the pocket for easy access. Since I was missing that pouch, I left certain items at home and stuffed my wipes in a backpack that sat on the floor under the seat in front of me.
The organization features were my favorite part of the Away bag. The fact that I had a spot for everything was great and made living out of a suitcase for three days much easier than usual.
Plus, everything really stayed in place thanks to the compression panel.
I also thought the built-in lock system was a smart addition. While I thought the bag was really heavy and was annoyed with the lack of an outside pouch, I had no other complaints.
Using the Away luggage made me way more open to actually spending the money on one myself.
And a few months later, I actually did! If you don't have someone to borrow the bag from, but you want to try it out, Away will let you test it out for 100 days so you can decide for yourself.
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