There are few things that can make a trip or break a trip more than a piece of luggage. If it’s too hard to maneuver, it can weigh down your whole trip. Too big and bulky, it becomes a hindrance. Too small and the luggage is bursting at the seams or you’re ditching souvenirs before you get home. This is very much a Goldilocks scenario — it needs to be just right.
Raden sent me one of their A28 Check luggage to see if it could hold up to my challenge. After the abuse it took, I won’t be sending it back. (I received no other compensation for writing this review.)
Once every year, my family takes an extended vacation over the holidays utilizing remaining vacation days, weekends and lots of built-in holidays like Christmas and the New Year holiday. This trip would take us over 18 days and span six countries with the following itinerary for those so inclined: PIT-YYZ (car) YYZ-ORD-PEK-SYX-CAN-BKI-BWN-BKI-HKG-PEK-DFW-YYZ YYZ-PIT (car). It looked like this:
This piece would replace a carry-on which would greatly limit or in-airport equipment, but had to hold up to the rigors of 21,000+ miles of travel in just over half a month. That’s a lot of abuse and not all bags have been up to the challenge.
Raden is one of several “smart luggage” manufacturers. The first was BlueSmart, then Away, and there are now several others. Raden offers the following features in their A28 Check luggage piece:
- In-Handle Digital Scale
- Smart Phone application for both Apple and Android
- Relative proximity tracking
- Charging (Tablet and Phone)
- Light-weight polycarbonate case
- Omni-directional dual-rolling wheels
- Combination lock
- Reverse zipper
- 13 lbs
Many manufacturers have a few of these features, but few have all of them. Traveling with a child, one that we didn’t think would be particularly interesting was the material strength of the polycarbonate case — that was helpful as my daughter routinely jumped on and off the case and it never took a dent. My Rimowa Topas… was not so lucky.
The scale was quite helpful as we flew (for the firs time in a long time) coach on a carrier for which we did not hold status with that carrier nor the partner. Being able to weigh the case accurately gave us some vision as to how we would need to adjust the weight in our bags for the one segment where language would be difficult and we would have no status saved us from luggage fees.
Having both a “tablet” charger and a “phone” charger (dual USB ports) was excellent. There were a few times where this came in handy. Specifically post flight, waiting for a taxi or the other bag to come around the carousel, the tablet charger would have my phone out of the danger zone until we could get to the hotel. I have no doubt that you could charge both a phone and tablet at the same time without an issue. The battery was quite large, and held a charge no less than 60% from the time we left Pittsburgh until the time we returned.
The durability of the suitcase was tested a few times. The A28 Check consistently exceeded 70lbs in weight for much of the trip, was tossed, dropped, and jumped on (by a 30lb toddler), was shoved into taxis, pushed onto luggage carts and plopped onto carousels only to be heaved into cargo holds and jostled through turbulence before doing it all over again. On our trip it was checked and flew on nine separate flight segments in between all of the other abuse. While we were concerned when it arrived with a plastic strap around it in Toronto, we were relieved to see that despite an ambitious bag agent in China (I will discuss that shortly) that it lived through every test.
What Went Wrong
There are some issues with lithium-ion batteries in checked bags, and China was particularly difficult to navigate. Due to the language barrier, I was inadequately equipped to discuss the matter and explain the benign nature of the battery and in fairness, even if they spoke English or I was fluent in Mandarin, I doubt I could have left the battery operable in the case. The solution was simply to disconnect the battery and deposit it elsewhere in the bag, however, it made one feature of the case inoperable, the proximity indication. Their proximity indication will let you know (using a series of pings) when the case is nearly to you, and keeps a track of places you’ve been. It doesn’t, however, actively track the location of the bag in real time in the instance that case is lost and misplaced.
The placement of the battery is not ideal should you need to retrieve the battery, so if you plan on flying to or through a country that will not allow batteries connected in the luggage, plan ahead and remove it first. On the way home, though we passed through mainland China, we departed from Hong Kong who did not flag the battery issue to us. As a result, Chinese baggage handlers in Beijing not only removed the battery, but then left a note (as TSA and CBP do in the US) to let us know they had been in the case and if just to give us a scare, they then put a plastic strap around the bag twice.
Some baggage handlers attached stickers to the outside and most were easy to remove. Little baggage trackers (white numeric stickers with bar codes) are easy to remove and fall away. Oversized (and weight) orange luggage stickers were not so easy to remove. I reached out to Raden regarding this and they indicated that they offer a simple cleaning kit, we had no trouble getting the case back to “like new” condition, though we also appreciated the patina.
The case was also a little heavy for those that might not have the weight allowances that come with status. It had no effect on our trip, however.
Would I Buy One?
Absolutely! The A28 Check was reliable, durable, and had the features and benefits we actually used. The lock was excellent and easy to set, the zipper kept liquids out and our valuables dry, the scale was helpful and accurate — there wasn’t much we didn’t like.
The price is really in the mid-range when comparing to other premium products at $395, an A22 Carry is available for $295 or the pair for $590 (known as the A50). It comes with a lifetime warranty (which beats our beloved Rimowa’s 5 year warranty or Tumi’s five year limited warranty) and service before and after the sale was excellent. In future, we will remove the battery from packing before leaving home, but we will make this a regular part of our trips around the world.
Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this review. Any opinions or impressions, positive or negative are my own.