archivelogo
 The Brancatelli File

joe LUGGAGE,
OUR MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

February 8, 2001 -- You're among friends, fellow flyers, so admit it: You're obsessed with your luggage, aren't you?

In your mind, you're never carrying the right bag. You've got a closet full of them, but you never have the right one. Your stash is piled high with kit bags, too. And computer cases, briefcases, luggage tags, a backpack from college and all the other totable detritus of a life on the road. How many of those little luggage locks do you have? You never use them, of course, but you're afraid to toss them. You've kept every amenity kit from every business- or first-class flight you've ever taken. One day, you figure, you're gonna use all those tiny tubes of Colgate. At last count, there were at least a dozen cheap duffel bags, too, all emblazoned with some lame logo or another. And let's not even talk about all those frayed shoulder straps from bags that long ago went to the big baggage carousel in the sky.

That's the way it is for us. It's our magnificent obsession. We're only as good as our luggage. We go through phases: Only nylon bags, then only really great leather bags. Then we buy cheap, disposable luggage because it all breaks anyway, so let's keep the cost down and we won't feel guilty when we toss them. Wheelie bags. Garment bags. Pullman cases. And, somewhere, back in the deepest recess of your luggage closet, you've even held on to that hideous set of coordinated, pastel-colored, hard-sided suitcases that once belonged to your parents.

Now if you're figuring that this is where I bring some sanity to your excess physical and emotional baggage, forget it. I'm no better than you. I got most all of that stuff up in my attic. I've even got an Eastern Airlines "Wings of Man" flight bag from 1980 squirreled away up there.

If you're looking for baggage clarity, then go somewhere else. Me, I'm gonna recommend even more stuff that you should buy.

THE BEST BAGS FOR FREQUENT FLYERS
I've said it before and I'll happily say it again: The best bags for frequent flyers I've ever seen come from Glaser Designs of San Francisco. Myron and Kari Glaser, who've been making luggage for 25 years, are at least as obsessed as we are. Their luggage, briefcases and travel accessories are superbly crafted, exceptionally well designed and incredibly flexible. Glaser's leathers are exquisite, the nylons are extremely strong and all the little things--rings, straps, buckles, dividers, handles, zippers--are of the highest quality.

Over the last decade, I've bought two Glaser garment bags, own two of the company's briefcases and I recently purchased Glaser's 19-inch Litigation Bag. It doubles as my carry-on bag and my computer case. I also bought my wife one of their briefcases. As far as I can tell, Glaser bags are absolutely indestructible and they wear beautifully.

Glaser bags aren't for everyone (Myron and Kari stubbornly refuse to make a rolling bag), they aren't cheap (prices start around $400) and, bag for bag, they are heavier than the execrable soft-sided stuff that department stores and luggage shops sell. But if you want the best, check the embryonic Glaser website http://www.glaserdesigns.com, then call and talk luggage with Myron. After all, when was the last time a luggage salesman asked you about your life on the road--your travel patterns, your suit and shoe sizes, how you pack--before he recommended a bag?

THE MOST STYLISH LUGGAGE TAGS
For all that we obsess over our luggage, we pay no attention to our baggage tags. Think about what your bags are wearing right now: dated elite-status tags sent to us by an airline we no longer fly; the flimsy tags that came with our bags; a laminated business card from two jobs ago; faux-leather tags from a hotel we stayed at 20 years ago; or, worst of all, a string-and-paper tag we slapped on our bag just before it went off to wherever checked bags go.

Believe it or not, there is a solution to this bag-tag trash. A company called Artag now makes an amazingly high-quality tag that is also beautiful. First the quality proposition. The tag itself is manufactured from thick, impact-resistant optical polycarbonate plastic. The strap is made from a wide strip of black polypropylene and a sturdy, side-release nylon buckle. The beauty proposition is equally remarkable: reproductions of dozens of classic travel posters and advertising art and creative new nature and art designs. Check out the selection at Artag's website http://www.artag.com and I think you'll agree you've never seen luggage tags like the ones offered here. The 2.75 x 4.5-inch tags cost $9 each.

This column originally appeared at biztravel.com.

Copyright 1993-2004 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.