Not that many years ago I traveled by packing in what was essentially a duffel bag.  I didn’t really think anything of it until after we had our daughter and started needing to travel with more bags.  The type of bag we used then quickly started to be a problem.  My husband essentially became a “pack mule” through the airport and our packing style in an assortment of duffel/shoulder bags clearly needed to change.  At his insistence, I pulled the trigger on a Briggs and Riley 20″ Expandable Upright Wide-Body Carry-On and used it happily for several years until recently.  Who knew pulling a bag behind you was so much easier than schlepping it on your shoulder?!

A few months ago United Airlines decided to “crack down” on the size of carry-on luggage and began enforcing the written max carry-on dimensions of 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches with more gusto.  My Briggs and Riley bag was 7.5″ x 15.5″ x 20″, so it was a bit too wide…hence the name I guess.  It fit in the overhead bins on most aircraft just fine, but would not fit in the United sizers, mainly since the hardware for the handle was on the outside of the bag and not included in their stated dimensions.  It had no shot of being squeezed in the sizers, and believe me I tried.  I was “busted” by the United baggage police a couple of times, but even when I was able to carry my bag on-board, it had become a stressful experience not knowing whether I would have to check it or not.  Sadly, I needed a new bag again way before I expected I would.

Before our recent around the world journey, my husband gave me an early Mother’s Day present via the Rimowa Salsa Deluxe Cabin Multiwheel IATA bag.  This bag is made from a durable and light polycarbonate and has the stated dimensions of 21.7″ height x 15.7″ width x 7.9″ depth.  This makes it still technically too wide, but since the step-less telescopic handle is mounted inside the bag, it fits in the United sizers just fine.  The sizers are a bit larger than the stated dimensions, and if it fits, it rolls on board.

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I had first seen this type of bag on Star MegaDo 5 as it was offered for purchase with a SMD5 logo (that event also toured a Rimowa factory).  I passed on purchasing at the time as my carry-on was working just fine, and there’s no denying the price for this Rimowa is quite high.  However, I got to try out pushing the bag around since others had it on that trip, and I found the four-wheel design to be so easy to maneuver.  I could literally push the bag around using just my pinky.  In fact, my four-year-old kid can push it in any direction with one finger – it’s that easy.

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Being able to push this bag down the aisle of the airplane “sideways” thanks to the four wheels that go in any direction was insanely helpful.  I quickly transitioned from pulling it behind me using two wheels the way my old bag operated, to pushing it through the airport using all four wheels.  The trade off is that on bumpier terrain, such as concrete once you leave the airport, it doesn’t pull quite as smoothly on two wheels (canted at an angle) as my previous bag.  I’ll take that trade-off for such easy use in the airports and down the aisle on the plane, but think about how you use the bag before deciding if two or four wheels is best for you.

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The bag has two removable and adjustable flex-dividers that I used to hold smaller things like swimsuits, toiletries, hair ties, etc.  Overall the storage of the bag was better than I expected given it’s relatively small size.  I was able to pack for our eight day around the world trip in one carry-on!  I would not be able to do this if I needed winter clothing, or many pairs of shoes, but for a beach trip and Amsterdam it worked amazingly well.  I had to put some pressure on the bag to get it to shut, but once it zipped it was good to go.  I even had a few outfits in there I never got around to wearing, so I was very happy with the amount this one carry-on could hold.  The bag also has a TSA approved combination lock at the wrap around zipper.

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What I loved about this bag (in addition to it looking pretty nifty), was that it was amazingly easy to maneuver, can turn on a dime with four wheels, it is very light, holds way more than you might guess, and it fit in the carry-on sizers just fine.  Just in the last week or two I flew on United, Turkish, Singapore, and EVA with this bag as a carry-on with no issues at all.  No one even looked twice at the size as I was boarding.

I didn’t have plans of getting a new carry-on bag for many years as the Briggs and Riley bag I had was very good, but once I dealt with the very high price for this Rimowa bag (retail price around $595), I started to love the beauty of how easy it was to use.  If you only travel once or twice a year I wouldn’t even consider spending this much on a carry-on, but if you are flying as much as we are, it is very nice to have a bag that is so easy to use, and that you know won’t be a problem to carry-on the airplane due to its size.

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Now if they would only make a kid’s bag that is as easy to pull as this one since my kid now prefers pulling my Rimowa to her penguin thanks to the four wheels!

What type of carry-on do you use for your family?

Posted by Mommy Points | 27 Comments

27 Responses to “Review of the Rimowa Carry-On Bag That Took Me Around the World”

  1. Rich A. says:

    HAPPY MOTHER”S DAY, MP!!!!

  2. Sarah says:

    Thanks for sharing this info! We are soon taking a 10 day trip to Europe and I am hoping to use only carry-ons. Any tips on what essentials to pack in just a carry on?

  3. Chitti Babu says:

    I wish you had stated the price ($595!) up-front, so I could have skipped the rest of the article. Honestly!

  4. Sfmom says:

    Last summer our family did three weeks in Europe in carry ons. Kids brought their things in their school backpacks. We brought just a couple of outfits each – two day outfits, one night, no jeans – and a small kit to do laundry including a packable clothesline. It made traveling around so much easier, and no dilemmas about what to wear! I did invest in K Way rain jackets that folded into small pockets, and it was good I did as we got caught in a thunderstorm in Umbria.

    MP, we all do carryons and while we used backpacks in Europe I was looking for spinners for my kids for domestic/Asia travel. I agonized over the Rimowa but ended up passing because we are going to Asia next summer and I read that the Hong Kong airport polices carryons and can tell if your bag is even a hair over. I ended up getting the kids a line called Lojel Wave, which are 14″ by 9″ by 22″ and 4.3 pounds. They also come in bright colors, in particular a saturated bright pink my daughter loved. They aren’t as chic looking as the Rimowas but are considerably cheaper. They fit easily in the regional jet overhead we ended up in.

    If you’re in the market for your daughter I do recommend a spinner. The kids LOVED their new spinners on our first trip and proudly handled their bags the entire time. Thanks to the weight they could easily pick them up. Our biggest problem is the bags were almost too mobile, as in my son loved hurtling his down long passegeways and running after it. Luggage and entertainment, all in one. LOL

  5. MisterChristian says:

    Happy Mother’s Day to you. I’ve read that 4 wheel bags tend to migrate on hills or inclines. Did you find that to be the case? Also, Amsterdam has a lot of cobblestone streets. Did it fare well there? Another also, you’re obviously a thorough person. Did you anecdotally understand that this is pretty much the best in the price range? Finally, does it go on sale much? Thanks.

  6. mommypoints says:

    Rich, thanks!
    Sarah, that sounds like a good post to write soon. Quick tips are really limit the number of shoes and wear your bulkiest items and jacket on the plane even if you are leaving from somewhere warm.
    Chitti, it is a ton of money for sure. Sadly all the Rimowas I have run across are pricey. Hate that it costs that much, but if you travel a bunch it is kind of like a runner having really good running shoes. Stings like heck, but really made things nice. Hope to never have to spend that much on a bag again though!
    Sfmom, thanks for all the info!
    MisterChristian, I suppose it could if you let it go on an incline. I certainly could push it really far across the airport if I wanted to! I didn’t have a problem with it getting away from me, but that doesn’t meant it couldn’t if you let it go on an incline. I didn’t have any real issues where we pulled it, but I wasn’t pulling it long distances on uneven roads. If you expect to be doing that frequently on trips, a good two wheeled bag would probably be a better choice as that is not this bag’s strength. In terms of price, I haven’t seen Rimowas go on sale very much, but I suppose it could happen. Here is an article on some different bags for comparison.
    http://www.smartertravel.com/photo-galleries/editorial/10-best-carry-on-bags-for-every-traveler.html?id=606

  7. 02nz says:

    @MisterChristian: Yes it’s true that the same four wheels that give the advantage of greater maneuverability also mean they don’t stay in place when you want them to, e.g., on a moving bus or on a hill. I had a couple of times when my four-wheeled luggage lunged forward in a bus like an unguided missile (thankfully no damage or injury caused!). But this is easily dealt with: you either support the luggage with your body or other object, or better yet set it down on its long side (most four-wheeled bags, including the Rimowa Salsa, have feet on one of the long sides). Very minor inconvenience compared to the massive increase in maneuverability, particularly on the smooth surfaces common to most airports, where four-wheeled luggage require almost zero effort even if heavily packed, and in narrow airplane aisles, where you turn the bag 90 degrees and push it in front of you, instead of lugging a two-wheeler that bumps up against the side of every seat.

    Those looking at getting Rimowa luggage who also have the opportunity to travel to Germany should consider getting the luggage there – depending on the exchange rate prices can be slightly lower, and with the VAT “refund” you can easily save $100 or so.

    I’ve had both the Salsa and the Salsa Hybrid carry-ons and liked them both (the latter has fabric external pockets), but sold them when Briggs and Riley came out with the Torq – the 80/20 design of the Torq is so much easier to pack than the 50/50 clamshell of the Rimowa. The Torq is available in two carry-on versions (both four-wheeled; one is slightly smaller, with an external laptop pocket, and another is the “widebody” which exceeds most foreign carriers’ carry-on size limits and has no external pocket, so maximum interior volume).

  8. David says:

    i’ve long considered getting just the bag you suggest, to replace my Alum. 2-wheeled Rimowa cabin bag (same dimensions, metal case, 2 wheels). but, my old bag never wears out. the big wheel work great, even cobblestones or dare i say if you have to snow. the hard case structure as you point out if deceiving how much you can squeeze inside.

    A REAL FEATURE though it using the Rimowa as your “trolly” to carry down below & above heavy bags, the lower one if need be checked.

  9. avi says:

    How does it compare with its much cheaper cousin heyes? Is it worth the extra $ over heyes?

  10. David says:

    MP, where did you buy your daughters carry on bag? We are looking to buy a similar one for our daughter.

  11. GUWONDER says:

    I don’t like 4-wheel spinners even for cabin bags as when I use them on public transit vehicles they tend to more easily go flying around and falling down if not held the entire time than is the case with two-wheel cabin bags. And when it comes to use on public sidewalks or streets, pulling the two-wheel cabin bags works better than pulling or pushing the four-wheel cabin bags.

    The more expensive Rimowa bags take a beating pretty well but they look more obviously like they took a beating than is the case for most other luggage which I’ve owned. I guess that is the reason protective plastic skin covers for the bags are relatively sought-after — because they desperately need them.

    One of the cheapest way to get Rimowa bags seems to be to get airline staff in Germany to help buy them and then get the VAT rebated by exporting them out of the EU.

  12. I accept Briggs and Riley hand me downs with great pleasure!

  13. Looks like a solid bag! At that price do you consider it better than a Tumi Alpha?

  14. Erik says:

    It’s funny…our last flight was on United from DTW to IAH round trip on that $128 first class mistake fare. I had read all the stories about people getting busted for the new policy, so I left my 20″ B&R widebody at home and took an older 20″ TravelPro Crew 5 that I felt would probably fit the sizer a little better. Maybe it was due to the fact that we had morning and evening flights, but I was amazed that nobody was checking the size of any passenger’s carry-on. My own eyes spotted a few that looked large, but people were allowed to bring them on. To the person that asked about 4-wheels and hills, yep, you need to be strong enough to hang onto them. We had a lot of checked luggage on a trip to Maui and my 5 y.o. was easily pushing our 4-wheel 27in. B&R as we exited baggage claim. However, there was a slight slope going to the area where you pickup the rental car bus and I had to drop some bags to chase after my daughter/bag before it got away from her. Lesson learned.

    • mommypoints says:

      Erik, I have never had any problem at IAH with United Baggage Police. My worst experiences have been in the New York area domestically (especially EWR), but IAH is usually pretty reasonable about it. Thanks for sharing your runaway bag story!

  15. Thought about purchasing a Rimowa a few years back, but the price and spinners kept me from choosing it. Went with a TravelPro Crew 7 20″ and its worked great over the last 500K miles its flown. Have to agree that its a lot easier to keep control of a two wheeled bag when on a hill, etc.

  16. nomad says:

    Completely agree with GUWONDER!

    Spinners might work for some travelers on smooth airport surfaces but are useless on Europe´s streets, public transport, in particular on London´s tube and on the numerous underground stairs.
    My experience on countless overseas trips is the bigger the 2 wheels, the better and more comfortable it pulls up the stairs, over extremely large, rough cobblestones (try East-Berlin!)and other hard-to-negotiate obstacles.
    When traveling overseas with carry-on only, in addition to size, a foreign budget airline can also refuse your carry-on baggage for being overweight. Allowance is generally only 17lbs and extra charges are not un-common.
    Heaven forbid if you have to check the precious Rimowa carry-on at the gate – like is common in the US on the small regional jets – and it will have to take the usual beating just like the other checked baggage on your flight!
    One might as well invest in the cover that is available, to try and keep its pristine condition as best as possible.
    On another note: there are numerous good-looking 4-wheel spinners on the market, but they obviously don´t make the same statement that the name Rimowa does.
    It´s like carrying the old LV knockoff handbag that so many women seem to love – it performs the same tasks only for a fraction of the genuine brand!

  17. LarryInNYC says:

    I understand this $600 carry-on bag does a great job of keeping one’s fancy-pants in tip-top shape. ;-)

    • mommypoints says:

      True you can get hit with weight issues with some carriers. No two ways around that though we didn’t have that problem. It was weighed by Singapore but was permitted. As far as a cover, no thanks. Too much work! Some scratches and dings give it character…or something like that.

  18. GUWONDER says:

    My favorite carry-on bag is an Oakley two wheel rectangular black canvas cabin bag I bought several years ago at an Oakley outlet store. It’s flown over a million miles and is nearly as good looking and as good as when I bought it and I have had no issues with it despite tons of checking it in gate side or otherwise and lots of use on streets/sidewalks/stairs and on public transit in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Oceania. I doubt my Rimowas could handle all those journeys as well.

    My only regret about that Oakley cabin wheelie with a detachable external netbook case and inside zipper mesh holders for each half of the bags contents? I only bought one instead of two or more or them. I doubt I’d ever have that kind of regret about a Rimowa cabin bag.

  19. Laura says:

    Hello!

    What a wonderful read! Sounds like an amazing journey. RIMOWA actually does make a children’s case. It comes in the Salsa Air collection, called the Mini. It retails at $425 CAD. I have posted a link to the case on the Rimowa website: http://www.rimowa.com/en-mu/salsa-air/820.42.22.4

    Good luck in all your future journeys!

  20. Vivian says:

    I looked at this bag but it was the wide body? That’s all the store had. They also had the Salsa with the telescoping handle and zipped inside mesh as carryon. I’m not sure I’d like that telescoping handle. I have a 29″ Salsa that I’ve had for 4 years–taken all over Europe (checked) great bag! But I want a carry on so I can put my purse/knitting bag on top of it and take on the plane because I get tried of carrying it in airport after I have checked my bag. Do you think that wide body carryon will fit most flights? The store said it would fit on domestic flights.

  21. Erick Robinson says:

    Pretty but low quality. I have had three Rimowa bags fail completely over just three trips. I recommend a less expensive bag that you can replace for a low cost or Tumi if you need a brand. My Tumi bags have never failed.

    • Mommy Points says:

      Erick, yuck! Mine has held up fantastically, but I do love that Briggs and Riley have amazing warranties if you are interested in that.

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