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Most of us have been in a situation where an old bag starts to fall apart, and we start thinking about getting a new suitcase. Until only a few years ago, it seemed like most suitcases were pretty similar in design and features with the exception of some higher-end luxury models. Though in the past year or so, one luggage brand seems to be popping up everywhere — it’s the Away Suitcase. In this post/video, I’ll share whether I think the Away suitcase is worth getting, as well as highlights that make the suitcase unique.
Away suitcases are everywhere!
If you’ve traveled in the last year or even been on Instagram, you’ve probably seen the Away suitcase. This brand exploded in the past three or so years, and I’ve started to notice them everywhere.
First off, I want to point out that this isn’t a sponsored or paid post. The opinions that I am going to share are completely my own, and I wasn’t influenced in any way. Also, my wife and I have two Away suitcases, one of which was purchased by us. The other was given to us as a wedding gift from Sebastian and Mandy over at AskSebby.
The history of Away
Away started in 2015 by Stephanie Korey and Jennifer Rubio in New York City. Both were former colleagues and executives at Warby Parker, which is another famous and successful start-up. Away set out to make a more thoughtfully designed suitcase using a direct-to-consumer model. That means that you can only get Away suitcases from them, not at other retailers.
Though like a lot of start-ups, Away has depended heavily on social media to advertise their products. With that came a lot of Instagram influencers who were sporting the suitcase and selling a lifestyle with their luggage. And it worked— I started seeing the suitcase everywhere, not only on Instagram but also at the airport.
What are my initial thoughts on the suitcase?
Putting aside the aggressive marketing, does the suitcase actually live up to the hype? Do I think they are overrated? To be honest, I like them!
The two models that we have are the Carry-On and the Expandable Bigger Carry-On. The Carry-On is their base model that weighs 8 pounds and has a capacity of 39.8 liters. The suitcase measures 21.7 inches in height, 13.7 inches in width, and 9 inches in depth.
The Expandable Bigger Carry-on is a newer model that has an extra front pocket and the ability to expand in size. This model weighs 9.92 pounds and has a capacity of 47 liters, which can be expanded to 52 liters. The suitcase measures 22.7 inches in height, 14.7 inches in width, and 9.7 inches in depth. Though since it is expandable, the depth can increase to 11.5 inches.
Away suitcase features
1. Strong outer material:
I think the build quality on the Away suitcase is very good. It might not be at the level of a luxury suitcase like Rimowa, but for the price point, the quality is impressive.
On the Carry-On suitcase, the outside shell is a durable and soft polycarbonate. This might not seem as rigid as other hard cases, but Away claims that they choose a plastic that was softer in order to absorb bumps and shocks. The result is a nice textured shell that should protect your belongings against both impact and moisture.
The harder shell is prone to scrapes and scuff marks though. However, I found that I was able to remove the scuff marks using a magic eraser cleaning tool, which is what Away recommends as well.
On the Expandable Bigger Carry-On suitcase, it is a nylon material that is water-resistant and more flexible than the polycarbonate version. The fabric feels high-quality and even has the same grooves on the front side as the hard shell version.
2. Retractable handles:
You’ll notice that both suitcases have two handles—one on top and one the side. On the Expandable Bigger Carry-On suitcase, you’ll find basic handles on both sides of the suitcase. However, on the Carry-On suitcase, the handles have an interesting retraction feature, which minimizes them from catching onto other objects. This is especially useful when moving through tight spaces or when you are forced to check-in your bag. The handles stay out of the way when not used, and when you do use them, they feel sturdy and strong.
3. Smooth and grippy retractable handle:
The main handle that you’ll use when rolling the suitcase has a nice textured feel and grip. The handle smoothly extends and retracts. I haven’t run into any situations where the handle wouldn’t retract back. This is often the case with lower quality suitcases, especially when they are fully packed. That extra pressure can affect the base of the handle and make it stick in place. However, that doesn’t appear to be an issue with these suitcases.
4. Quality zippers:
The zipper is often a weak point on bags. Luckily, Away uses YKK AquaGuard zippers, which are water repellent and a strong and durable upgrade to standard zippers found on most suitcases. AquaGuard zippers have a larger lip, which covers most of the zipper when it’s closed. The zippers aren’t waterproof, but they should protect against the elements in the event that you experience inclement weather on your trip.
5. Robust wheels:
Wheels are probably the most vulnerable part of the suitcase, and it’s often the place that breaks first on a suitcase. This is especially true for four-wheel suitcases since they tend to have more complex wheel systems that rotate and spin. To combat some of the abuse that your suitcase might experience while rolling, Away uses wheels designed by a Japanese company called Hinomoto. Many of you may not have heard of Hinomoto, but among frequent flyers, it is known to be a top manufacturer of wheels. Overall, they are larger and more sturdy than the smaller wheels you’ll find on less expensive four-wheel suitcases. They roll and spin without much effort.
6. Well-designed compartments:
The organizational compartments inside are well laid out. One side features a slot for harder items like shoes and toiletries. The other side is designed for clothes, with a compression pad and straps. The pad also allows you to store smaller items inside.
I typically like to use packing or compression cubes with my luggage. However, I find that the extra compression pad and straps work well with creating additional room. Most of my other suitcases just have straps, which can help hold things in place but aren’t as effective at compressing my clothes.
Consider the Expandable series if you need a front pocket
The Expandable Bigger Carry-on also has a front pocket area with multiple compartments. The pocket has some useful slots for both smaller and larger items. In fact, the larger slot can easily accommodate a larger laptop, which might be something to consider if you are a minimalist traveler.
7. Water-resistant laundry bag:
At the bottom of the clothing area is a detachable laundry bag that can hold wet items. The laundry bag is on the smaller side, but I appreciate that they include it. The fact that it’s water-resistant is a nice touch, especially when you have swimming trunks or swimsuits that are still wet when you need to pack them.
I personally prefer to use a compression sack as a laundry bag for larger trips. However, I’ve also been guilty of forgetting to pack it. Since the Away laundry bag is integrated into the suitcase, it means that I don’t have to remember to pack it.
8. Integrated locks:
Away suitcases come with integrated TSA-friendly locks that connect to the zipper. To be honest, it’s not something that I personally require in a suitcase, but I think it’s a nice touch. While it’s unlikely to deter a determined thief, it should give you some peace of mind in situations where you might need to leave your suitcase unattended, like when you have a hotel hold your luggage after check-out.
9. Battery pack:
The Carry-On suitcase has the option for an ejectable 37-watt lithium-ion battery to charge your devices. This battery is located under a flap in between the base of the retractable handle. The battery pack has a capacity of 10,000 milliamp hours and includes two USB ports. The battery itself is charged with an included micro-USB cable. Away also includes a charging kit with plug adapters for most countries.
You should be able to get three to four full charges on your average smartphone using the battery. The battery is also covered by a two-year warranty in case it fails or doesn’t hold a charge.
Adapts to evolving rules around traveling with a battery
I appreciate that the battery pack is easily ejectable as well. Some airlines require an inspection of your battery or even proof that it can be removed in the event that the suitcase is checked-in. It’s nice to know that you can easily pop it out if needed.
I know a lot of you already have battery packs, so you might opt-out of this option. For me, I usually carry my smaller Anker battery charger, so having this larger option is useful.
10. Warranty service:
One of the biggest selling points on the suitcase for me was that they have a limited lifetime warranty. This means that Away will cover any damage to the shell, wheels, handle, and zipper. In fact, on one of our previous videos comparing four-wheel vs. two-wheel suitcases, one of our community members mentioned that she had a wheel replaced on her Away suitcase at the store without any issues.
Granted, you may not have an Away store close to you. As of this post, there are only Away stores in ten major cities, with London being the only international location. But this is a major benefit for me, as I suspect the wheels or zipper will be the first things to eventually wear out on the suitcase. If that happens, it nice to know that I can head over to the store and have it addressed immediately.
11. 100-day trial period:
Away gives you 100 days to try out the suitcase and return it if you don’t like it. You can even take it on a trip to see how well it works, and if you decide it’s not a good fit, you can return or exchange it. It’s a very generous trial period, and I think it speaks to their confidence in the product quality of the suitcases.
Things I wish were better with the Away suitcase
Bottom handle on all their suitcases
If I had to be nitpicky, I would say that I wish the Carry-On suitcase had a handle at the bottom. My old TravelPro suitcase has one, and I think it’s handy when you have to put your suitcase headfirst into the overhead bin, which is sometimes the case on smaller airplanes. Having the bottom handle makes it much easier to pull out the suitcase. The Expandable Bigger Carry-On has a bottom flap that works as a handle, so I’d love to see that across the models.
The other thing that I noticed is that there is a bit of play in the retractable handle on both of our Away suitcases. It’s not enough to cause any issues, but I think it could be tighter. Again, I’m being a bit too critical, but it’s something that I noticed when using the suitcases on our last few trips.
Is the Away suitcase worth getting?
Now the big question—is the Away suitcase worth your money? In my opinion, it’s a great suitcase, especially if you’re someone who travels frequently and is looking for something a bit more durable and thoughtfully designed. The suitcases start around $225, so they’re not inexpensive. However, they’re also not in the same price range as luxury suitcases like Rimowa, which are made from lightweight metals like aluminum and feature highly-engineered components.
Determine your travel needs
While I really like the Away suitcase and would recommend it to anyone looking for a more premium suitcase, I’m not sure that it’s worth the cost if you’re an infrequent traveler. The biggest advantage that I see with Away is that you can take the suitcase to an Away store and have it fixed or replaced on the spot. But if you’re someone who is a budget or infrequent traveler, you’re unlikely to put a high amount of wear and tear on the suitcase, and you’re probably better off getting a more budget suitcase like those sold at discount stores and warehouse clubs.
At the end of the day, you just need to assess what type of suitcase you want to get and your overall travel amount. If you’re a frequent traveler or someone who wants a quality suitcase, I highly recommend checking out Away. The 100-day trial period makes it easy to try it out and see if you like it. And for those who may be traveling once or twice a year, I’d recommend sticking to what you have or buying a cheaper suitcase. Unless you’re trying to make it on Instagram…then you definitely need to get one! 😉
What do you think of the Away suitcases? Do you have one? Are you looking to get one? Or are you content with what you have?
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