Baggage claim

Published: September 22nd, 2005

In this business, you get to be something of a connoisseur of bags. At various events over the years, as part of the press kit, I’ve received knapsacks, portfolios, carry-alls, overnight bags and satchels. It got to the point where anyone who came to visit me got a free gift bag — “Thanks for comin’ out, eh?” It was either that or open a store (and in retrospect, the store sounds like a better idea).And don’t get me wrong — I appreciate a nice sling pack as much as the next guy. I was just out of room.
My point, and I do have one, is that I’ve seen a lot of interpretations of the function of baggage, so I’m not that easy a sell on containers to haul my crap around. At the same time, though, I must confess to being a little impressed by Kensington’s Contour Roller, a laptop case on wheels from the provider of computer accessories.
This is not your low-profile, economy-size laptop bag. It is large. Pushing the definition of carry-on-luggage large. On the one hand, that could be considered inconvenient. On the other hand, suck it up — you can practically fit an entire office in the beast.
The main compartment hosts a cozy, padded sleeve for a laptop — my 15-inch Toshiba fits with nary a problem — and a second sleeve for a power supply, portfolio, documentation or another, thinner profile device. A second, zippered compartment alongside will manage a change of clothes — casual, mind — or more material. My little BenQ flatbed scanner fits comfortably, but I doubt I’d chance it — the pocket isn’t well shock-protected.
On the outside of the bag is another zippered compartment with dedicated sleeves, pockets and loops for pens, business cards, PDAs, cellphones, keys and the other bits and pieces that tend to get lost somewhere in the depths of a duffel bag. And, speaking as a man who lost his passport and had to go through the process and expense of getting an emergency replacement, the travel document compartment on top of the bag is very much appreciated.
The two pieces of the carrying handle snug together when you pick up the case, and since they’re on either side of the main compartment, you don’t have to zip it up to pick it up. Likewise, the stowable strap anchors on diagonally opposed corners in case you have to move along quickly.
The plastic wheels are surprisingly sturdy and run smoothly. They’re mounted on the long dimension of the case.
A curved handle pulls out from beneath a flap on the top of the case. Since the case is running sideways, not standing up lengthwise, the combination of low centre of gravity and well-designed handle makes for a smooth trip through an airport concourse.
That’s the “Roller” in “Contour Roller.” The contour part of the equation comes into play when you’re lugging it over the shoulder by the strap. The inside wall of the case — it’s plastic-reinforced to further protect the contents — curves away from the hip. This lets the weight of the bag sit closer to your body, which Kensington says is ergonomically a good idea.
I just know it’s an easier carry.
So it’s all good, right? Not so much. It’s hard to fault the design, but there are a couple of drawbacks.
Fully loaded: This. Bag. Is. Heavy. I haven’t stepped on the scale with it, and Kensington offers no specifics, but with laptop, some gadgets, a portfolio and a binder, I was pleased to have wheels.
Second, it is painfully obvious that this is a computer bag. Maybe that’s tantamount to blaming the sky for being up, but it is a travel consideration. Bags that obviously contain valuables are a target for thieves.
And third, it’s generous to say Contour’s bag will pack a change of clothes. Shorts, socks and a T-shirt, maybe, and you’ll be hard-pressed to fit your toiletry kit in. But in its defence, it’s designed as a travelling office, not as a suitcase. True innovation will arrive in the form of a combo bag that totes tech toys and personal items.

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