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Briggs & Riley Luggage Review

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LEFT: The Briggs & Riley carry-on has a smooth, efficient box shape for easy handling on planes and trains.

Construction

The Briggs & Riley upright has a "honeycomb memory frame," which is a fancy way of saying that the bag is a semi-rigid box on four sides. If you apply pressure to the empty suitcase, you can see the frame give slightly and return to its original shape when released.

Unlike many uprights, the Briggs & Riley suitcase has an external handle system, meaning that the telescoping handle and its tubing don't create lumps or bumps inside the bag. The handle has two locking positions, making it convenient for tall or short users. (Being able to use the handle in the lower position is also handy in crowds.)

The bottom of the bag has a large skidplate and two features that I really like:

  • Replaceable wheels with a thick layer of rubbery material, which are noticeably quieter than the hard plastic skate wheels used on many competitors' bags.

  • A large fixed handle between the wheels. This makes the bag easier to lift out of airline overhead compartments or train luggage racks.

Packing features

In comparison to the TravelPro Crew5 that I reviewed last year, the Briggs & Riley upright brings a minimalist philosophy to interior suitcase design. It's basically a simple rectangular box for travelers who have their own favorite ways of packing and don't want engineers telling them where to put their shoes, shirts, or dirty laundry. It does have several useful features, however:

  • A suiter that works like a simple garment bag. (You can use it without reading instructions: Just unzip the nylon bag, insert items on hangers, then rezip and fold.)

  • Interior pockets in the lid for the suiter or a bathrobe, rolled-up neckties, etc.

  • A zippered waterproof bag for toiletries that snaps to the inside of the inside of the suitcase. (The bag is fairly small, so I use a separate nylon bag for dry items.)

  • An exterior zipper that gives access to two pockets: a large one for file folders or a couple of magazines, and a smaller zippered pocket inside the large pocket that's just right for maps, a travel alarm clock, and a flighlight.

  • A narrow zippered pocket between the handle tubes on the rear of the bag, which is just the right size for a travel umbrella.

Thanks to its uncluttered interior, the Briggs & Riley carry-on is a great match for nylon or mesh packing cubes. You can easily mix and match these in the bottom of the bag, place your trousers or kilts or dresses on top, drop in the suiter, and you're done. This makes it very easy to pack and repack when you're on the go, and it saves time during security or customs inspections.

"One-Touch" expansion

Briggs & Riley brags about its "zipperless, patented One-TouchTM expansion system," which replaces the accordion-fold cloth panel with wraparound zipper that you'll find on other expandable suitcases. At first I was skeptical, but after using it, I'm a convert.

Here's how it works: The suitcase has two sliding expansion channel mounted within the frame. When you want to expand the bag, you squeeze two buttons and pull up on the rim. The upper half of the bag slides upwards, and you now have a suitcase that's 2 inches or 6.35 cm deeper than it was before. The added 31% of packing space is inside the frame. Instead of having a box with a bulge, you have a deeper box with a wheel or leg at each corner. This offers more protection for the bag's contents, and--just as important--it makes for a better-balanced suitcase that won't fall over when you set it down.

Note: You can save money by purchasing a model with a conventional zippered expansion panel instead of the "One-Touch" system. But in my opinion, the higher-priced expansion feature is well worth the extra cost.

To read about my experiences with the Briggs & Riley Expandable Upright Carry-On in real-life travel situations, go to the next page.

Next page: Field tests, Web link, related articles


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