If you’ll be doing a lot of rolling on flat, smooth surfaces, this Atlantic Compass 2 suitcase glides along with almost no effort. It also comes in at eight pounds even thanks to a honeycomb framing system and EVA foam construction. That’s about as light as you’re going to get for a sturdy suitcase with good construction, four wheels, and lots of pockets.
If I’m doing real travel that’s going to involve stairs, dirt, and uneven sidewalks, I’ll leave the wheelie suitcases at home and lighten up with a backpack or the Tom Bihn Aeronaut. When it’s going to be nothing but planes, trains, and automobiles though, it makes a lot of sense to take something with wheels. The last trip I went on was almost all flat surfaces and smooth sailing at a decent hotel, so it was a good time to try out this spinner suitcase from Atlantic Luggage—a division of venerable company Travelpro.
These 4-wheel, upright suitcases have taken off in recent years and I’ve dismissed them as something for people too lazy to even hold up a tilted-over bag. I can’t get away from the image of someone walking a big poodle through an airport when I see a person gliding one of these alongside them like a pet. Is a 2-wheel suitcase so difficult that you need two more wheels?
I’m closer to understanding the appeal now though after using this one from the Atlantic Compass collection. Although I still ended up tipping it over and using it as a 2-wheeler when I was in a hurry or when going down the airplane aisle, it was nice meandering with this through the check-in line and in the airport lounge. On this version the back wheels are actually larger though for when you do tip and go—a nice touch. In my tests the wheels swiveled and glided effortlessly 360 degrees and I wasn’t afraid they would melt from the friction.
The physics are kind of off with the telescoping handle of all the 4-wheel bags when they’re upright, but this one seems to be sturdy enough to hold up to its 10-year warranty. It’s got all the features you would expect in a quality piece of luggage. One zipper allows it to expand, there’s a clip on the top for fastening something like a laptop bag, and there are straps inside to keep your clothes in place.
One nice feature on this I haven’t seen elsewhere it the extra-long front outside pocket. It extends the length of the suitcase, then there’s another small pocket over it at the bottom. So I could travel with just one carry-on for a weekend trip and have my laptop in a sleeve in this front pocket. It also has “self-repairing zippers.” I haven’t had occasion to test that claim, but very useful if it works. I’ve got one suitcase in my closet that’s in permanent expanded mode because one zipper is stuck.
Now, are you ready for the best part about this luggage? It’s a bargain. This 21-inch carry-on version I tried out retails for $100 when it’s not on sale. The largest one tops out at $150 list. That’s a great deal for something guaranteed for 10 years.
See more luggage reviews from Practical Travel Gear
Tim Leffel is founder of the Practical Travel Gear blog, as well as the Cheapest Destinations blog and the narrative webzine Perceptive Travel. He is the author of The World's Cheapest Destinations (now in its 4th edition), Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune, and A Better Life for Half the Price.
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