That post title alone will hit three synapses of a frequent traveler’s brain. Travelpro makes great luggage for road warriors. National Geographic has been a media and exploration icon for more than a century. The Kon-tiki was the boat Thor Hayerdahl sailed across the Pacific Ocean in 1947 to prove that Polynesians populated parts of South America.
So this suitcase had a lot to prove when I tried it out on a recent trip. Would it live up to all the name-dropping?
So far, yes. Years of use will be the real test, but my first impression is that this is an excellent, well-made bag that hits all the right notes for leisure travelers.
I’ve said in no uncertain terms that I’m no fan of this recent retro bags trend—there’s a very good reason we don’t use gear from the 70s and 80s anymore. It sucked. Like bell bottoms and leisure suits, those designs (and fabrics) should rest in peace as historic artifacts. This Kontiki line from Travelpro is the first batch I haven’t dismissed out of hand. That’s because the retro call-out is subtle and also because, let’s face it, we didn’t have suitcases with wheels back then and the fabric here is synthetic, so you can chalk this all up to fashion consultants.
Also, the big suitcase I tried is officially called the “Kontiki Expandable Rollaboard,” though I don’t know any commercial airline on the planet that will let you “roll aboard” a 26-inch suitcase. On a Lear Jet maybe?
I would love to talk about its merits instead of misleading marketing tags though, so let’s move on. When it comes to how it functions, none of that matters because this is a great bag.
First of all, this is a check-in bag. There are plenty of others in the National Geographic Kontiki line to choose from, but this one is for when you’re flying on Southwest, taking an international trip, get a free checked bag from your credit card or elite status, or are willing to cough up the money for baggage fees. You will not roll it aboard. It’s large and wide, with total linear inches of 56.5. It weighs in at 8.4 pounds, which is pretty average for a soft-sided bag with wheels and lots of pockets.
Inside there’s a map of the world on the fabric, which is a nice Nat Geo touch, plus a built-in removable laundry bag that my wife was really excited about. It doesn’t have the crappy little wheels you see on cheap suitcases, but ball-bearing inline skate wheels that you only get on quality bags meant to last through years of heavy use. The retractable handle feels solid, the zippers are heavy-duty, and there’s another built-in pocket with a water-resistant lining in case you have to stow something like a wet bathing suit.
The retro look of this Travelpro suitcase doesn’t affect the functionality since it’s made of water-resistant nylon and the leather is all faux. What I did appreciate was how easy to spot this was on the luggage carousel. No need to tie on a ribbon or stick on colored duct tape to set your bag apart from the sea of others.
There is a padded front pocket you could use for a laptop, though if you’re crazy enough to put a laptop in checked luggage, you’ve got more money to blow than I do. Use it for cheap souvenirs you bring back instead. Otherwise, you’ll appreciate the corner guards, skid bars and kick plate that protect it from damage.
Our previous family go-to checked bag was an Eagle Creek 26-inch bag I’ve had for five years now and it’s still cranking. This one holds a bit more though for when you really need to take a lot. See all the specs and the other Kontiki bags at the Travelpro site.
The Travelpro warranty has a lot more wiggle room for them to back out of than the ones from Eagle Creek or Briggs & Riley, but going by all the Travelpro bags you see airline crews carrying, this one should keep going strong for a while.
This Travelpro National Geographic 26-inch suitcase is just getting out into the marketplace right now, but you should be able to find it soon at most quality luggage stores and you can order it now through J&R or their marketplace on Amazon. It lists for $189.