Travel

Gear review: luggage for the well-wheeled crowd

TravelTrips and VacationsTransportation Security AdministrationBoxingSamsonite

Luggage with wheels. What a concept. It's a pity it took the world so long to think of it. But pulling a two-wheeled suitcase still isn't all fun and games. You're always just a bit off balance because the case rolls at an angle. The solution: four-wheeled luggage, some of which is so lightweight and flexible that you can dance circles around travelers dragging the older style. And pulling it seems easier on your back. The suitcases are upright, so you can be too. We tried three carry-on-size bags on international trips and were pleased with all of them.

Silhouette Hardside

First look: Introduced in 1958 to celebrate the jet age, Samsonite's Silhouette luggage is now in its 10th generation. We tried a red Silhouette Hardside 22-inch Spinner. The bag is solidly constructed, has sturdy handles and Travel Sentry locks approved by the Transportation Safety Administration. It weighs 11.25 pounds and has an interior trifold suiter and toiletry kit. Interior cross straps help keep contents from shifting.

Likes and yikes: Everyone loved the look of this case, including a bellman, a cabdriver and an airport shuttle driver -- people I wouldn't have expected to comment o a piece of luggage. Its sporty red color helps it stand out, but the bottom line is that it is well designed, both inside and out. It also is practical, easily fitting into the overhead luggage compartment and traveling well when checked. But it's much heavier than the other bags we tested.

The 411: $219 to $370. Available widely, including Bloomingdale's, Macy's and online. Info: (800) 262-8282, www.samsonite.com.

Salsa carry-on

First look: The Salsa carry-on, made by the century-old German luggage company Rimowa, is an urbane and sophisticated-looking ultralight piece. It is a tough polycarbonate bag with four sturdy, double-ball-bearing wheels, a lock approved by the TSA, outside zipper opening and easy-to-manage handles. The inside is roomy and well-organized. Rimowa trumpets its origin with a removable "Made in Europe" tag to distinguish itself from other luggage brands manufactured in China.

Likes and yikes: The Salsa carry-on moves easily and swiftly by a traveler's side, whether you're walking in the terminal or down an airplane aisle. It is roomy but weighs in at a little more than 7 pounds, a nice surprise when you're trying to heft it into an overhead bin. It has the distinctive grooved surface that is the Rimowa signature; another trademark of this manufacturer is a five-year guarantee. The downsides: It's pricey, and some of the scuff marks it suffered in transit seemed to be permanent.

The 411: $450, available at Beverly Hills Luggage, Savinar and Bag'n Baggage, Mission Viejo. Info: (888) 837-4373, www.rimowa.de.

Titan

First look: If you want to go light, Titan may be your bag. The company's sleek-looking Xenon brand is made with 100% polycarbonate and is ultra-light: The carry-on bag weighs in at 7.5 pounds. It opens with a zipper, has a TSA-approved combination lock, telescoping handle and ball-bearing wheels. Inside, it has plush lining, a couple of zipped compartments and contains removable garment and toiletry bags.

Likes and yikes: This piece looks expensive -- and it is. The 20-inch version I tested, called the 360° Four, costs $425. The carry-on is on the small side and, like other hard-sided bags, doesn't have the convenient outside pockets that are handy for stashing newspapers, books or other small items. But it's efficient, lightweight and looks great. Plus, the wheels are so smooth and flexible, you'll glide through the terminal.

The 411: $425, available in the Los Angeles area at Beverly Hills Luggage, Luggage 4 Less (Brentwood and Hollywood) and Rootens (Irvine). Or call (888) 470-3537, www.titanluggageusa.com.

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