We review a fair bit of luggage on this travel gear blog and most of the time it’s carry-on bags. Frankly we despise the idea of paying checked baggage charges unless we’re getting a super-low fare to compensate, like on RyanAir or Spirit Air. Plus any company can crank out a basic block of a bag with wheels that can be stuffed with a week’s worth of clothing. The challenge is in making something useful that will stow away above your head on a cramped jet.
I’ve been a big fan of Eagle Creek gear since my first backpacking trip around the world and I’ve bought and reviewed loads of their gadgets and accessories over the years. I wasn’t sure that their suitcases would be anything special until I tried out an earlier incarnation of their Hovercraft line back in this 2008 review. Then I kept using it. And my wife kept using it. And we took it on a two-month trip last summer. It’s still going strong, with no rips, broken zippers, or blown-out wheels. That’s probably how they can provide their “No Matter What” warranty: if anything is defective or the bag is damaged—even by the airline—they’ll replace it or fix it free.
This bag looks a lot smaller than the previous version and though it’s technically half an inch over the usual 45 linear inches carry-on limit (at 14 X 22 X 9.5 inches), it is noticeably more compact than many other 22-inch rolling bags out there. In my closet it actually fits inside the old Hovercraft bag I mentioned earlier if that one’s expansion zipper is open. Still, it holds a hefty 48 liters or 2925 cubic inches in carry-on mode, a bit more when unzipping the expansion part.
The Eagle Creek Hovercraft suitcases are designed to be used with packing cubes, so it’s pretty minimalist on the inside to allow plenty of cramming. Just a zippered mesh pouch on the flap, a tiny outside pocket on that, and then a big compartment with cinch fabric and four straps to hold things down. The outside is a different story though. There you find a large exterior compartment with a key fob, a front pocket to keep the essentials handy, another two zippered compartments, a built-in luggage tag, and a side pocket for a water bottle.
All the components feel well-made and carefully designed, including the large solid rubber wheels and quality telescoping handle pictured at the bottom. I also like the cushioned fabric handles (nothing to break) and the quality lockable zippers with rubber on the pulls. It’s got a skid plate and corner bumpers for protection.
It’s not the absolute lightest bag on the market at 7 pounds 6 ounces, but considering the built-for-a-lifetime wheels and hardware, that’s pretty impressive. You have to cut some corners to get more than a few ounces lighter than that on a wheelie bag. (When a pound or two really matters, like on cheapo European airlines, you’re better off with something like the Tom Bihn Aeronaut.)
You can get this in black to look like everyone else or in shades of dark blue and orange. It is also available in an almost identical 20-inch version. See the full lowdown at the Eagle Creek Hovercraft page. At a list price of $250 this is an investment, in line with a high-end backpack, but it frequently goes for under $200 at online retailers like the ones listed below. Shop around.
Get the HC2 Hovercraft 22″ Upright at eBags.com
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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