Last month while on TDY my suitcase self destructed. I had a Luggage Works Regal 1 bag . I bought it January 2008. Over the last 2 1/2 years it served me well. It had one busted telescoping handle, one busted leather handle and finally a busted frame.
I dropped it off two weeks ago to get inspected. The cracked frame wasn't under warranty but the repair guy fixed it for $15. In the meantime I used my backup bag.
My Luggage Works bag was looking pretty worn. The busted frame was my last draw. It will now be my back up bag as my current back up bag was gifted to my wife when I bought the Luggage Works bag.
I thought long and hard about buying a heavy duty luggage works bag. Before I buy anything over $10 I research the hell out of it. The Stealth series from Luggage Works is heavy duty, but also really heavy. I asked around and those that have it love it, except for the weight. This lead me to a company called Strong Bags.
Strong Bags has a 22 inch (max size to fit wheels first in an overhead bin!) bag with a full metal box frame. I only found one other pilot that had a Strong Bag, but he loves it. He did not complain about the weight. He liked how all repairs are done at home with the company shipping out parts. This is better than dropping my bag off at a repair shop and waiting. Monday night I whipped out the Amex and purchased a Strong bag Vortex II and a Strong Duffle Bag . After a 10% airline discount and shipping the total was just over $250. That's $15 less than the base price of the Luggage Works Stealth series.
The bag arrived today. I am very impressed. The bag isn't noticeably heavier than my Luggage Works bag. It feels much more substantial. The zippers are much higher quality. There is one less exterior pocket and there are no interior tie downs which is a little annoying.
The interior is a little larger than my luggage works bag. The outside dimensions are exactly the same.
Luggage Works uses a single piece of steel for the handle on the Stealth series. This makes it very durable compared to most telescoping handles. The Strong Bag uses a telescoping handle, but it's much higher quality and thicker than the aluminum handle on the Luggage Works Regal bag.
Beyond the new suitcase I also bought a new kit bag. Kinda.
When I was hired, I bought the middle of the road Luggage Works kit bag. It cost $179. It's a Split Grain Leather bag. It was great at first. But a few years of rain, snow, curbs and elevators wore it down. The bottom started to sag. A little investigation revealed why....it's cardboard!!! I assumed it was wooden or metal...nope simple cardboard. Cardboard, especially thin non-reinforced cardboard, isn't designed to hold the weight of 20+ pounds of books and crap.
I whipped out gorilla tape a few months ago to reinforce the bag. Looked tacky. I did some research and found an all alluminum bag that is slightly smaller (about a 1/2 inch for each dimension) but much more durable than the Luggage Works bags. Where did I get it? Harbor Frieght Tools. It's actually a tool bag, but will do very nicely as a kit bag. Tacky? A little. But I don't want to spend $400+ on a Scott's Leather bag right now. Scott's makes the best kit bags. I know several Captains that have had their Scott bag for 15+ years.
This new combo should last me a few years. I have much more faith in my Strong Bag than I ever had in my Luggage Works bag. It's a good 2-3 pounds lighter than the Luggage Works Stealth bag.
The Strong duffle bag will easily hold my small laptop bag, lunch and a ton of other crap. The Strong Vortex II has a clip to hold the duffle bag making it very mobile.