Monday, March 2, 2015


Field folks/road warriors, when you're going out on a multi-day trip, what do you bring?

I use one of two suitcases: one is small, for just a couple days in the field in the summer or for a conference. The other is reasonably large (but not gigantic). Both are a color that's relatively popular, but they're not black and I never have a problem recognizing them at the baggage claim.

Many of my coworkers tend to use giant duffel bags. I will bring along a smaller duffel in the winter for the multitude of clothing I may need (sweater, fleece, jacket, coveralls, mittens, etc). But for the stuff I'll change into or out of at the hotel, I much prefer a suitcase, because it has a lot more "top space" to rummage around. Also, I can add a laptop or other heavy stuff and wheel it around.

The worst of both worlds is the rolling duffel. I used to cart around a gigantic, rigid-bottomed duffel with two wheels, and it was impossible to wheel around and the wheel/bottom made it less suitable for stuffing and tended to whack you painfully when hoisted. Now it sits on the floor of a closet and is used only as out of season storage.

I got my two-suitcase set about 5 years ago, and it's a "rugged" soft-top line of a pretty good brand (Samsonite), but both suitcases have seen a lot of hard usage. Say, 100 flights? And then they've been chucked in and out of various vehicles for probably 100 weeks of non-airline travel. The open bed of a pickup truck in the rain/snow? Check. Crammed into a car with pointy, metal equipment? Check. So they're starting to show their age. Nothing catastrophic, but lots of frayed bits and chewed-up edges and iffy wheels.

I'll keep my luggage going for a while (another few years at least), but maybe the problem is that I'm picking luggage that isn't rugged enough? Is it worth paying more for bulletproof luggage, or is it better just to get reasonably cheap stuff and expect to replace it on a regular basis?

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