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Carrying On About Luggage and Other Gadgets

May 07, 1989|JENNIFER MERIN | Merin is a New York City free-lance writer .

Successful shopping sprees can be greatly aided by practical preparation in the form of sturdy, efficient luggage.

Luggage manufacturers offer hard-sided (more protective, but heavier) or soft-sided (more stuffable) cases in a great many sizes and shapes, in plain colors or patterns, with a variety of pockets and special features, and with or without wheels (either built-in or removable).

Choosing isn't easy.

However, interviews with a random sampling of luggage retailers nationwide, found that two manufacturers, Tumi and Andiamo, were consistently mentioned. Both manufacturers are known for their durable and functional products. Tumi's style is conservative and businesslike. Andiamo is more sporty. Both use super-rugged nylon, offer long-term guarantees and are similarly priced.

Tumi's line includes carryalls and carry-ons, as well as large and small suitcases with optional wheels.

Available in cowhide (black or brown) or 1050 Denier Ballistic nylon (black, navy or sage), Tumi luggage is popular with business travelers who carry five-suit ($525 in leather, $335 in nylon) or tri-fold garment bags ($475 in leather, $295 in nylon), both with convenient U-shaped pockets, plus overnighter/briefcases ($295 in leather, $195 in nylon).

Acquisitive travelers should put the packed garment bag into an empty suitcase, then carry purchases home in the suitcase. Or use a small suitcase inside a larger one. Nylon suitcases (with strong and collapsible poplar wood frames) in 24-inch ($250), 27-inch ($275) or 30-inch ($295) lengths are best bets.

When full, 32-inch cases ($315) may exceed airline weight limits; 21-inch ($225) cases are as small as carry-ons. Tumi's sturdy zippers are designed to avoid stress; wheels ($20 per set) are optional.

Tumi is sold in Los Angeles at H. Savinar (4625 W. Washington Blvd.; discounted prices on Tumi and other brands) and By Design (at the Beverly Center in West Hollywood). For brochures and/or other retailers, call toll-free (800) 322-TUMI.

Tutto, neither as well known nor as widely distributed, makes distinctive luggage that conveniently functions as both a suitcase and a luggage cart.

Stable Enough to Stack

Tutto's attractive high-tech, square-shaped bags are made of durable vinyl that has been securely attached to lightweight metal frames on balanced castor wheels. The sturdy cases are stable enough to stack (or carry additional luggage, piggyback-style). They also can be wheeled about with U-shaped metal handles.

Available in 28-inch ($130), 26-inch ($115) and 20-inch ($90) sizes in black, gray, navy or gray-gold, the cases collapse to a width of 2 1/2 inches for easy storage or packing inside each other.

Tutto cases, which have a five-year guarantee, are sold at H. Savinar, Industrial Revolution (7560 Melrose Ave.), Fred Segal in Santa Monica (500 Broadway) or through the American Airlines catalogue. For more retailers, call (415) 873-0254.

Several luggage carts are recommended. A handsome high-tech collapsible model made of black anodized aluminum and gold-colored polyamide plastic, weighing 2 pounds and able to carry up to 66 pounds, is featured in the New York Museum of Modern Art's catalogue for $90. Call (800) 447-6662.

Brookstone, of Peterborough, N.H., offers a big-wheeled aluminum dolly ($55) with an optional case ($19) that carries up to 200 pounds. Call (603) 924-9541.

The flight attendant's luggage trolley from Hammacher-Schlemmer ($89.95) carries up to 175 pounds and has retractable rear wheels for extra support. The store is at 309 N. Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, or call (800) 543-3366.

If luggage pops open, extra bindings can prevent loss. Construct bindings by buckling together several old belts, or order strong nylon straps (72 inches long with buckles, in black or blue) from Le Travel Store (295 Horton Plaza, San Diego, (800) 854-6677) for $4.25 (other stores charge $10 and up).

In addition to sets of small plastic bottles and kits for manicures/sewing, other invaluable packing accessories include Brookstone's see-through vinyl cases ($10 to $14) and special shoe suitcases (which can hold up to eight pairs of shoes, for $55) and Le Travel Store's see-through net ditty bags ($4 to $5), multipocket garment-bag organizers ($15 to $19) and shoe sacks (two pairs for $5.95).

Zippered Portfolio

For organizing travel documents, credit cards, checks, currency and receipts, Yamani's sleek 23-pocket zippered portfolio of soft leather is available from The Sharper Image, (800) 344-4444, for $119.

Although it's advisable to travel with few encumbrances and as light as possible, several gadgets are well worth their weight in comfort and security. Inflatable pillows fit around the neck to allow for comfortable dozing and to prevent stiffness on plane or train rides. Available from Brookstone ($9.50) and Le Travel Store (adult and children's sizes, $9.95).

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