Entries from July 1, 2008 - July 31, 2008
For those who hate to fold: SkyRoll
And now for something completely different, the SkyRoll garment bag - an innovative solution for the business traveler, weekender, or light traveler who simply hates to fold clothing. Here’s the concept in a nutshell: take a full-size garment bag and wrap it around a rigid tube, the hollow part of which can be used for stowing shoes, toiletries, personal care items, and clothing which can be rolled or stuffed. OBOW put the SkyRoll through a hands-on test and here’s what we found.
A weapon in the war on wrinkles
The SkyRoll gets high marks for its think-outside-the-rectangle crease-fighting design which means a traveler’s main items of clothing – shirts, blouses, skirts, dresses, trousers, and sport coats – can be carried in the garment bag. Because it’s not folded in half or in thirds but is wrapped (rolled) around the triangular center tube, the Skyroll garment bag effectively reduces wrinkles by eliminating the hard folds which are inescapable in suitcases or folding garment bags. I found it worked best on jackets and pants. Shirts still had some wrinkles but they were mostly vertical (probably due to the hasty way I tucked them into my sport coat) rather than horizontal and – to my eye – less noticeable than normal. The thicker material of my pants and jacket fared very well and probably would look near-perfect after being hung up overnight. The manufacturer says it’s best not to use hangers in the bag, but recommends thin wire hangers if you insist on using them. The opening in the top of the garment bag will allow the hanger hooks to protrude if you position the double zippers properly. Without hangars that bag can be completely sealed. There are no devices to hold clothing in place in the garment bag: the pressure produced by wrapping the bag and cinching it up with adjustable buckles takes care of that. I noticed no movement of my garments during transport.
Buckle up for action
So different a luggage concept requires a bit of explanation. The process of unwrapping, packing, and re-bundling the SkyRoll at first appears daunting but is actually quite simple and intuitive. There are three buckles on one end of the garment bag and two on the other, so knowing where to start is easy. The shoulder strap must be unbuckled, then you undo the three outer (“ending”) buckles and the bag can be unrolled. The two inner (“starting”) buckles then allow the garment bag to completely detach from the tube. A double zipper lets the garment bag open on three sides. The bag is generously sized unlike the undersized suiters that come with some carry-on suitcases. Up to a size 44 men’s coat would fit comfortably and larger ones will work as well, though they may be a little scrunched. Two zippered mesh pockets on the garment bag accommodate small items, underclothing, or ties. There’s also a long (but not so deep) zipped exterior pocket.
The core of the Skyroll is the hollow two-compartment tube. It is zippered on each end and has a fabric divider in the middle. Either end of the tube will swallow a pair of shoes up to about men’s’ size 12 or 13. The other end can be stuffed full of socks or underwear, toiletries, hair dryer, et cetera.
My packed SkyRoll (see bottom of post for what it held) had dimensions of 23” x 10” x 11” which puts it just under the normal U.S. carry-on limit of 45” combined inches. Some carriers specify a maximum length of 22” but SkyRoll inventor Don Chernoff assured me he’d had no negative feedback from customers about carry-on size problems. The odd shape and the fact that you can sling it vertically on your back means that it looks a good bit smaller than it is. It should also tuck nicely in the top of an overhead compartment. International air travel, where carriers are usually more concerned with weight than dimensions, should present no problem. The SkyRoll weighed about five pounds empty which is pretty light considering the rigid frame of the tube. My packed weight was 16 pounds.
Carrying the load
The provided strap has a sliding pad which is reasonably comfortable. There’s also a padded handstrap. I really like the fact that you can sling it almost vertically on your back – makes squeezing down a crowded airplane aisle much easier. One end of the bag has a pull handle.
Contruction & materials
The SkyRoll is made of 1200 denier ballistic nylon. It’s an imported bag but quality of construction looks quite good. It’s very important that the zippers function well since the garment bag zips on three sides. Zippers might be one area where the USA-made bags are superior.
At $109 the SkyRoll appears to be an excellent value. If this bag were made in American you could probably expect to pay $200 or more. I can’t say is would be as bullet-proof as a Red Oxx, but looks like a lot of bag for the money.
Who needs it
The cleverly-designed SkyRoll is an excellent solution for the short-trip business traveler or anyone who needs to travel with nice clothes but hates to fold. Its capacity is somewhat less than a traditional, rectangular, max-sized carryon but its garment bag utility is something special. I hate to fold, and if I had to travel with a suit on a regular basis this bag would be at the top of my wish list. The only downside for the business traveler is that any printed matter or computer equipment will have to travel in a separate bag – it’s pretty much shoes- and clothes-only. But the ability to slide in a pair of shoes is a nice feature. The SkyRoll is not a full-time one-bag solution for everyone, but it might be the business traveler or snappy dresser’s best friend.
Here’s what I packed:
Two dress shirts
Two pairs of cotton dress/casual pants
One small book
One pair of dress shoes
Two pairs of socks
3-1-1 liquid bag and minimal toiletries
Travel hair dryer
One long-sleeve casual/athletic shirt
Weight empty: 5 pounds
Weight packed: 16 pounds
The SkyRoll comes in black only
Top three pictures courtesy of SkyRoll
…with powdered toothpaste. Amy at WriteBrained is getting serious about light travel and is testing prodcuts. Read here review of Eco-Dent here. Also, see her excellent in-depth post on a feminine 3-1-1 strategy - very helpful and way above my level of expertise.
…and also for the fairer sex - seven days of outfits in one carry-on.
Tom Bihn iw working on new bags and packs designed to meet the TSA’s “checkpoint friendly” standards. The end result will be that with one of these bags you won’t have to remove them from the bag for screening which minimizes hassle and damage risk. Last week Tom flew to a west coast airport for a run-through with the TSA. This post from the Tom Bihn blog explains a few things about the checkpoint friendly program that I was unaware of:
The results? The prototype briefcase is a success: in multiple configurations, it provided x-ray images that met the TSA screening standards. Tom continues to refine the design of the as-yet unnamed prototype checkpoint-friendly briefcase. We expect the briefcase to be available for pre-order within weeks. Tom also has designs in process for a “checkpoint friendly” backpack and messenger bag. These bags aren’t and won’t be just checkpoint friendly: they will offer the same tough materials and handsome, cleverly engineered design that you’ve come to expect from a TOM BIHN bag. We think that you will also appreciate that your TOM BIHN checkpoint friendly bag, specifically designed to go through U.S. airport security, was also designed and manufactured in the U.S.A. under the watchful eyes of our Seattle factory crew. Two current TOM BIHN laptop cases — the Archetype molded laptop case and the Soft Cell laptop sleeve — are already “checkpoint friendly.” That means that sometime in August/September — when the TSA officially initiates the “checkpoint friendly” program — you can leave your laptop in your Archetype or Soft Cell while it goes through the x-ray machine, protecting your laptop from scratches and bumps. (Note: these bags will meet the new TSA requirement as long as you put *only* your laptop in the case, no accessories.) Our experiences testing Tom’s prototype “checkpoint friendly” briefcase revealed the potential this program offers that will save you, the traveler, both time and hassle as well as protect your laptop.
While researching a question from Buzz in the forum I came across this interesting shirt - a travel oxford that doesn’t look like a travel shirt. It’s 73% Coolmax/27% cotton so it should dry quickly. A shirt of this type might be a real boon for the business traveler. Here’s hoping it has a comfortable collar. It’s also available in white and standard blue.
We told you a couple of weeks ago about the massive, motorized suitcase from Live Luggage. Well, Ginny McGrath of the excellent Times of London travel section has tried one out and she’s not so bloody well happy with it:
Steps were the greatest challenge - going up and down them meant carrying the heavy bag - but there’s also challenges like loading it into cars/onto beds/off baggage carousels.
It’s not the best looking piece of kit either - I got some sniggering comments from a stag party checking in ahead of me about its size and clunkiness - and more than one person likened it to a giant Dyson vacuum cleaner.
The sheer size of the suitcase means getting on and off busy trains or buses means there’s bound to be a few unhappy travellers whose toes you’ve run over - that said, during an airport delay it made a handy table for a game of cards. - from the Times, see video here.
Oh, and it weighs about 50 pounds and costs ₤700 ($1400!).
282 miles per gallon and very little luggage storage; the car of the future:
Total storage space behind the seats: 2.8 cubic feet. No steamer trunks or adventure duffels. Read it about in the Daily Mail.
July 15, 2008
WASHINGTON – The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) today announced expanded deployment that will bring Advanced Technology X-ray (AT) and Passenger Imaging to 21 of the nation’s busiest airports by the end of 2008. TSA also plans to purchase and deploy approximately 300 additional AT X-rays and 80 Passenger Imagers, bringing the total to 900 AT and 120 Passenger Imaging units nationwide in 2009.
“This major step up in technology coupled with our enhanced security training for our officers will elevate security across the board,” said Kip Hawley, TSA administrator. “AT X-ray and Passenger Imaging technologies greatly enhance our ability to find small improvised explosive device (IED) components made of common items, which remain the greatest threat.”
Passenger imaging technologies enable TSA to detect prohibited items including weapons, explosives and other metallic and non-metallic objects concealed under layers of clothing without physical contact. Advantages of AT X-ray include a greatly enhanced image with the ability to target novel threat items resulting in fewer bag checks and faster throughput, and the ability to upgrade the system with enhanced algorithms.
The following airports will receive new technology in the coming months: Chicago O’Hare, Atlanta, Newark, Boston, Indianapolis, New York LaGuardia, Tampa, San Juan and San Francisco.
Airports already operating new technologies include; Baltimore-Washington, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Albuquerque, Denver, Dallas/Fort-Worth, Detroit, Miami, Ronald Reagan Washington National, New York John F. Kennedy, Washington-Dulles and Las Vegas.
TSA will also continue to deploy Bottled Liquid Scanners. This technology is used at the security checkpoint and by transportation security inspectors to ensure sealed containers do not contain hazardous liquids. TSA anticipates deploying up to 900 bottled liquid scanners to the nation’s busiest airports by the end of 2009. - TSA.gov
Haven’t we all seen this:
A Clark Griswold-ish family of four spends many minutes in the security line dithering about what to do and where to go, holding up the many other passengers who already know the drill, having been paying attention over the last seven years. Mrs. Griswold is noticed removing a gallon-sized plastic bag from her carry-on and placing it into one of the bins to go through the X-ray machine. Said bag contains at least 6 full-size bottles of sunscreen, lotion, shampoo and bug repellent. Mind you, the bag was all by itself in plain sight in the bin, visible to anyone.
The bin is slid into the X-ray unit, and the TSA agent in charge of scanning the items just passes it right on through. No stopping the belt, no reversing the belt to check it again, just thank you and have a good day…
So here we are: The Federal government places arbitrary, burdensome and onerous restrictions on the traveling public, and then becomes quite lax and sloppy in enforcing them. This trend will undoubtedly continue until some other tragedy occurs, at which time we will be told that we need even more restrictions on our freedoms, as the previous ones proved to be ineffective. Next stop - clear ponchos over naked bodies and no carryons. Think it won’t happen? I wouldn’t take that bet. - The Northern Muckraker
Here’s a post to accompany this discussion in the OBOW Reader Forum about compression straps. Here’s Vic technique for adding straps to his carryon:
“Here are the pictures for the “compression straps on the outside” thread -
Click on the thumbnails below to see the larger images.
Checking a bag with British Airways is like rolling dice:
But BA calls this improvement
BA said T5’s overall performance had improved significantly since the March 27 opening and the airport’s overall missing baggage numbers had fallen since last year, with eight bags a thousand going missing. A BA spokesman said: “All major hub airports have issues in making sure that transfer bags travel between flights in the same way that transfer passengers do. This is due to the complexities of baggage procedures and how bags are moved through a series of security systems to get loaded on to their next aircraft.” - The Guardian, London
The recent word was that Heathrow Termimal 5 was improving after its disastrous opening several mothis ago, but figures don’t lie. BA is in no danger of losiing its unofficial slogan: “Fly the flag, lose the bag.”
(Thanks to OBOW reader Mike for referring this one)
You might be a luggage geek if…part of your daily routine is checking an OBOW thread about a piece of luggage that has (to date) only 143 comments. People are talking about us:
“Apparently there is a whole group of people that take immense pride in being one-bag carry-on people. There are whole blogs about it. (One Bag One World). These people debate the differences between brands like Red Oxx and Tom Bihn, MEI, REI, and Rick Steves. Hardly the Tumi vs. Samsonite vs. Swiss Army luggage wars I was used to, but they have many valid points. And the same things that attracted them to each of those brands caused me to consider each of them. These bags are lightweight, well made, well organized and designed to be carried by a real person with today’s luggage limitations.”
Actually that’s very kind. Click here to read the blog post and see which carryon this self-described “geek chick electrical engineer” chose with the help of OBOW and its readers.
And here’s her Europe packing list Polyvore:
Get ready for fuller overhead bins and more gate stress - Northwest has joined US Airways, American, and United on the charge-to-check bandwagaon. NWA will charge $15 for a single piece of checked luggage. The fee will apply to tickets sold after today for departures of August 28 or later in the United States or flights to Canada.
And here’s a travel oxford that definitely doesn’t look goofy.
The rush is on to develop laptop cases that allows the traveler to breeze through security without removing the darned computer from the bag. The TSA wants “checkpoint-friendly” bags. Travelers would appreciate “traveler-friendly” procedures and agents, but I digress…
“Two problems with the existing laptop cases are that security officers have difficulty seeing inside them with X-ray equipment, and many of the cases are so crammed with extra gear — power cords, a mouse and the like — that the computer is obscured.
The new cases include either a fold-down section in a bigger briefcase or a stand-alone protective sleeve that contains no extra clutter and can be readily viewed through the scanner.
More than a half-dozen luggage manufacturers, among about 60 that initially responded to a T.S.A. request for proposals about three months ago, have submitted prototypes for testing at checkpoints at three airports: Dulles, outside Washington; Austin-Bergstrom in Texas; and Ontario, near Los Angeles.” - New York Times
Here’s hoping the small bag manufacturers can keep up with the behemoths mentioned in the linked story (Pathfinder, Targus). This is not a great economy for small companies to have to spend $$ for R&D and retooling. Here’s an example of what the new bags may look like.