There was a period last year where I was doing a lot of 2 and 3 night trips, coinciding with the airlines getting all money-grabbing about fees for checked luggage. So I sought out a smaller bag that could carry 3-4 days worth of stuff, but still fit reliably into an overhead bin. It had to be light, but have wheels. Additionally, I wanted something that could stash a slim computer bag into so that I could get down to 1 bag when possible. I’m guessing a few of my readers are in the same boat, so I thought I’d post a review of my final choice: The Eagle Creek Hovercraft 20.
I searched a bunch of different options, from more mainstream Samsonite to internet-only obscure ones, but after looking at several bags in person settled on the Eagle Creek. This is actually my first Eagle Creek bag. In the past I’ve been turned off by their utilitarian styling, but I actually like the way this one looks, especially in the grass green color.
The 20” size that I got (it comes in several larger sizes too) fits into almost every overhead bin I’ve found due to its tapered shape (puddle-jumpers it doesn’t work on, but usually you have to check bags at the gate anyway, so it’s not a big deal).
But the Hovercraft holds a huge amount of stuff. The inside is open and unobstructed. The rails for the telescoping handle poke out of the bottom, but by not flattening the floor Eagle Creek opened up more space. There are two compression straps. (Click on all pictures for larger images.)
It’s with the smaller pockets that the intelligent design really shines through. There is a small pocket on top of the bag, which is where I keep my plastic baggie with liquids — easy to access at the X-ray — and small items like airplane laptop charging cable, iPod, eye-shade, etc. The main front pocket is very large and quite deep, and carries a substantial amount of stuff. I keep my toiletries bag, deflated pillow, magazines and books in it.
Inside there is a mesh pocket that covers the entire inside of the “lid”. I assume this is mostly for the shirt module (below), but I also use it for the aforementioned slim laptop bag (an Incase jobbie). It slides in nicely for those times when the bag is not stuffed to the gills, and frees me up from a second bag.
I also bought a shirt-storage bag and a cube. These both work well, and do help clothes to not get wrinkled. The shirt folding approach is not as effective here as in my larger Victorinox bag however.
The handle extends a nice distance and seems sturdy (though I still prefer the mono-pole design of the Victorinox’s, with their pivoting handles.) The top of the handle is covered by a zippered flap when not extended. The bag is stable, and the wheels seem solid (though quite grippy on carpet, there is noticable drag). The opening around the base of the handle makes a pretty secure place to put a cup of coffee while hanging out waiting for the flight.
The top and side handles are sturdy and very comfortable, and there is a large stand on the base of the bag to keep it upright, which also doubles as a handle. My one complaint about this stand is that it would be nice to have some mini feet on it, so when it’s been standing on wet ground your hands don’t also get wet… All the materials are top-notch, and the scuff points are all well protected.
There is a water bottle flap on the side, which is great. It holds every size of plastic water bottle I’ve found at airports. (Just remember to zip it back up before sliding the bag into the overhead, a mistake I made once…)
Lastly, it is feather light. Even lighter than the Victorinox’s I think, which were about the lightest I’d found (while still being sturdy). The specs say it’s almost 7lbs, but it sure doesn’t feel it. It is also quite rounded, so doesn’t bang uncomfortably against you when carried.
Overall I’m really impressed with this bag. It’s a piece of luggage I actually enjoy having with me.