Battle of the bags

February 6 2007

A few months ago, my laptop bag died an untimely death.  Through this blog, a Tumi "angel" discovered my plight and convinced me to give them another try.  Then, on the very day that I bought my new Tumi bag, Briggs & Riley's PR manager read that blog entry, and offered me a test drive of their latest @work rolling bag.  The evaluation unit arrived a few weeks later, but I was ensconced in the Tumi bag at that point.  So the Briggs & Riley bag sat waiting patiently for a turn.  Lotusphere week, I made the switch -- I knew that I wanted a wheeled bag for Lotusphere, no doubt about it.  So, after spending a few weeks traveling with each of these worthy contenders, it's time to review.

The Tumi 26141 is a great laptop bag.  It's sleek and easy to work with.  It's relatively lightweight, and the overall construction and durability is excellent.  I especially liked the removable computer pouch, which I used anytime I was just popping over to Starbucks to work for a bit.  The front pouches on the Tumi bag had more capacity than I expected, and I liked the little carry case stored within the front upper left pouch.  In fact, the only downsides I could point out about this bag would be 1) it doesn't come with any kind of owner's manual, so some of the features and compartments are left up to the buyer to figure out, and 2) since the bag is farily commonplace, it's important to keep an eye on your own bag.  I still wish I could figure out which pouch is meant as a travel document holder and which one is for an umbrella.  The logical waterproof pouch is on the back, but that means that an umbrella in there produces an odd bulge in the backside.

As an aside, at the moment, Tumi seems to believe that I've moved to the UK -- all prices on its website are in British Pounds.  I checked this on two machines in two different browsers, so it's not a cookie issue.

The Briggs & Riley BR214 started out with one demerit.  My first day in Orlando, I found this bag uncomfortable to pull around.  The handle didn't extend to my arm's length, so I was essentially pulling it by my fingertips.  Only after about 24 hours of retracting and extending the handle did I realize that one section of it was stuck unopened.  Once I got that open, the handle extended another six inches, now at an appropriate height.

With wheels and a handle, the B&R is heavier than the Tumi.  The shoulder strap has some elasticity in it, which absorbs some of the movement and heft  when carrying it.  The construction is excellent, and I especially like two features: 1) the retracted luggage tag, which hides away without being hidden, and 2) the clamshell on the back, which easily mates this bag to the pull handle on a larger suitcase (even one that's not Briggs & Riley).  There's a whole lot of storage areas, though I find it more difficult on the B&R to get to the elastic area hidden behind the computer sleeve.  Like the Tumi, the computer sleeve is removable -- but is attached by zipper, so no grab-and-go thug is going to take it out of there (remember, it almost happened to me....).

The Briggs & Riley has two other major advantages over the Tumi -- 1) it's cheaper by $75 or more, for comparable construction and quality and 2) has a lifetime warranty, while Tumi's is limited to five years.

The bottom line for me -- the Tumi is a bit more organized, while the Briggs & Riley is a bit more practical for my kind of travel.  I wondered at the time that I obtained them whether the answer for me was simply that I needed both kinds of bags, much like I have four or five different kinds of other luggage.  In the end I think that's the answer -- and I recommend them both.  I hope this Tumi proves more durable than the last, so come on back in three years and we'll see where we're at (I'll ask Kathleen to be prepared to give the competitive update for her Briggs & Riley laptop bag).

I just bought four new tires for my SUV -- if only evaluating them was somehow this easy.....

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