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ROAD TEST

The big tippers

December 30, 2007|Rosemary McClure

STURDY, BEFORE THE FALL

For the people who think big is better, there's only one thing superior to a large suitcase: a large, expandable suitcase. That way, tourist trinkets will fit into your luggage for the trip home. Eiffel Tower replicas from Paris; miniature black-rock volcanoes from Hawaii; wedding T-shirts from Vegas inscribed "Lucky in Love." Expandable luggage can be a marvelous thing, but it often becomes so off-balance that it topples over. The expandables have been on the market for more than a decade; almost every line of luggage includes them. We tested a sampling of expandable carry-on cases, each with wheels, to see whether the problem still exists. Sadly, we found that it does.

First look: Eagle Creek's 22-inch Hovercraft Rolling Upright is a fine, lightweight case made by a manufacturer known for its adventure gear and travel luggage. It has a spacious main compartment, plenty of pockets, padded, easy-to-grip handles at the top and side, and a solid, telescoping handle. The add-a-bag strap at the top is detachable, a nice feature.

Likes and yikes: This sporty-looking bag weighs in at 7.6 pounds and survived a couple of cross-country flights with nary a scrape or scratch, even when we checked it. It opens like a book, making it easy to pack and unpack, and it has a well-organized interior. Its expandable zipper compartment adds 2 extra inches of fabric, which increases the size by 15%. But alas, when unzipped and filled to the brim, the bag tips over.

The 411: Available from Magellan Travel Supplies, (800) 962-4943, www.magellans.com.

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CLASSY, THEN IT KEELS OVER

First look: The 19-inch Zero Halliburton carry-on we tested is unusual because it's one of the few hard-sided cases that is expandable. It's also ultra-lightweight and stylish, with several features not commonly found in hard-sided luggage. Among them: interior pockets, a removable garment bag and a pocket where you can store that swimsuit you didn't have time to dry. Other practical features include Transportation Security Administration-acceptable locks, a center divider and a laundry bag.

Likes and yikes: Zero Halliburton has specialized in aluminum cases since the 1930s; its polycarbonate line is similar in design. The bag we tested has classic style and uses curves, horizontal lines and simple arcs to make a fashion statement; it would appeal to sophisticated business travelers. The polycarbonate did well on the Hawaiian flights we tested it on, fitting in the overhead compartment and surviving the luggage compartment when we checked it. However, when we unzipped the expandable compartment, adding 1 1/2 inches of space, and filled the bag, it toppled.

The 411: $225; available at Kensington Luggage and Jay's Luggage; or (800) 500-9376, www.zerohalliburton.com

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A PLEASURE, TILL IT PLUMMETS

First look: Our third test was on a 22-inch expandable Delsey carry-on. The case is part of Delsey's attractive new premium line of lightweight luggage called Helium Pilot. It is an exterior-pocket-lover's dream, with two that are gusseted and have lockable zippers. The third is a flat portfolio pocket. Other features include ball-bearing wheels, a hideaway ID tag and locks that should make it past the TSA.

Likes and yikes: This nice-looking bag should appeal mainly to pleasure travelers. It is covered in ballistic Teflon-protected nylon and is well organized, with a detachable, clear toiletry kit, a couple of mesh pockets and a detachable garment bag. We tested it on an international trip and found it roomy, easy to handle and able to survive the overhead compartment and the rigors of being checked. But when we unzipped its expandable compartment, adding 2 more inches to the interior space, and filled the bag to the brim, it fell on the ground.

The 411: $400, available at Macy's and Bloomingdale's; or (410) 796-5655, www.delseyusa.com.

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