Luggage is like a fresh haircut — if it's good, you shouldn't think much about it. If it's bad, it'll make you crazy at every turn.
Particularly for business travel, luggage is key. Compact, sturdy and reliable make 5:30 a.m. wake-up calls and long hours in the airport far more tolerable. That's why we arrived at the recent Summer Luggage Gift & Travel Goods Show in Chicago with an eye on the new, the reliable and the useful. Here is some of the best of what we found while trolling the aisles.
1. Business backpacks — Several companies recently have taken a shot at this increasingly popular item. Kenneth Cole, for instance, offers a black backpack retailing for $99.95 that has thick, fashionable zippers and would look absurd on a hiking trail — by design. "You don't want to walk into a business meeting with a JanSport," a dealer told me. "We want to make something that looks good and transports easily."
2. The "wide body" — The typical rolling carry-on is 22 inches tall and significantly taller than it is wide. The newer 20-inch-long design is closer to a square so business travelers can fit the bag in overhead compartments of increasingly common regional jets, which have much smaller storage space. Like the backpack, several companies also are making this bag, including Travelpro, Briggs & Riley, and Hartmann.
3. Your carry-on becomes a table — After seeing a traveler drop his laptop twice at a terminal, Michael DeVolder came up with this contraption that retails for $39.95 and weighs a shade less than 2 pounds. Simply extend the handle of your roller case, unfold this table and attach via two rounded hooks. "It's an instant table, whether for your computer or your lunch," he said. It's a tad bulky to drag around but beats a hot laptop on your lap. (traveltable.com)
4. Korchmar's magnetic snapping briefcase — A fourth-generation family-owned company based in Naples, Fla., Korchmar has developed a line of cases that are easy to open but stay snugly closed thanks to neodymium boron magnets. Better still, they look great. (korchmar.com)
5. Zuca's suitcase that ... doubles as a chair? —Sure enough. It comes in two models, the Zuca Pro and the Zuca Sport. The Zuca Pro, designed for business travelers, fits in overhead bins. The 19-inch-long bag is encased in an anodized aluminum frame that indeed makes for a sturdy and comfortable seat, perfect if airport seats at your gate are full or, as is sometimes the case, gross. It retails for $285, but we saw it at overstock.com for $205. Or visit zuca.com.