I’ve been on the hunt for new luggage, and being the tech blogger I am, I was interested in learning what’s new in the baggage market. Smart luggage is all the rage, with features like on-board charging, self-weighing suitcases, added GPS tracking and more. Luggage is also becoming better designed, lighter and easier to use. I recently had the chance to try some smart carry-on suitcases from Away Travel.
Away Carry On luggage review
The Away luggage arrived well packed and nicely wrapped in a beautiful box which is a nice touch that makes the overall package feel special. Previously I had a chance to test the Away Bigger Carry-on. It’s a touch larger than my current carry-on, and a smidge larger than the ‘regular’ Away carry-on size, which I’ve also been able to test out on a trip to Nashville. One of the key features of these bags is that you can get them with removable batteries so you can keep all your gadgets and gear charged up on the go.
Away bag specs:
Away Carry On: Exterior measurements 55.1 cm x 34.8 cm x 22.9 cm, Interior measurements 50 cm x 34 cm, Weight 3.7 kg, Capacity 39.8 L
Away Bigger Carry On: Exterior measurements 57.7 cm x 37.3 cm x 24.3 cm, Interior measurements 53 cm x 37 cm, Weight 3.8 kg, Capacity 47.9 L
Away Daily Carry On with Pocket: Exterior measurements 42 cm x 44 cm x 22.8 cm, Interior measurements 41 cm x 38 cm x 19 cm, Weight 3.7 kg, Capacity 36.9 L, Pocket 33 cm x 28 cm x 2.5 cm
Away Bigger Carry On
The Bigger Carry On does seem bigger, and I think that’s due in part to the fact the edges are squared as opposed to rounded like my old bag. It seems like it makes better use of interior space. The case itself is more rectangular then it is rounded which I trust will make for a roomier experience.
Initially I was a little bit nervous about the size when I set it side-by-side with my existing Heyes carry-on. My Heyes luggage can fit into the airplane overhead bin on its end and still have the door close securely. While I had no doubt the new Away suitcase will also fit in the overhead, I was pretty sure I’d have to turn it sideways to get it to fit. Not ideal on crowded flights. I guess I could have just chosen the smaller version. Hindsight.
It turns out my concern was for naught, since the bag fit perfectly in the overhead bin on a Westjet flight from Calgary to Palm Springs, California. I have seen some planes with slightly smaller overhead compartments, and I might one day get caught, but in this case, the Bigger Carry On bag fit just fine. In fact, while I’ve had a few tight fits in flights since I first had a chance to try out the Bigger Carry On, I’ve never had a problem with it fitting in the overhead.
Away Carry On
The Carry On is a great size for shorter trips where you need to bring less. Even so, it’s super roomy. It’s got the optional removable battery too and the overall interior design layout is the same as the Bigger Carry On. See more below…
Checking out Away Daily Carry On with Pocket
The Daily Carry On with Pocket is a new release from Away, and has some features the other bags don’t:
– Opens from the top
– accordion organizer inside for files, folders, laptop
– pocket made from abrasion and water-resistant nylon
– Lockable zipper
– Exterior pocket fits boarding passes
– Padded interior pocket fits a 13” laptop, magazines, or tablets
– Extra interior pockets can store phones and passports
Daily Carry-On with Pocket is designed to carry shorter trip essentials like a laptop and change of clothes, making it perfect for travelers on shorter business overnighters or a quick visit to the fam. This suitcase opens up a bit differently; it’s accessed from the top, providing quick access to the removable accordion, which allows you to keep the important stuff handy and the rest private. The accordion has three compartments that organize and protect your files, laptop, and more, that can easily be unsnapped and detached. Daily Carry On with Pocket has thoughtful features designed to help you pack more, with a zippered enclosure on one side for harder items like shoes and toiletries while the other side has a compression pad to maximize space.
Away Carry On Suitcase with built in charging & removable battery
One of the things I’m most excited about is the built-in charging in the Carry On bag. Tucked inside a small but easy-to-access flap underneath the handle are the built-in charging ports.
There are two USB ports: a standard USB port with 1A output (designed to charge phones at standard speed), and a USB port with fast charging. Both USB ports can be used at the same time. The battery is a 10,000 MA battery, which generally speaking is capable of charging an iPhone up to five times.
Also under the hood here is a small micro USB port which is where you will re-charge the suitcase (a charging cord with a folding plug is included and is hidden away inside the bag in one of the pockets.) A series of four LED lights indicates at a glance how much power the bag has left.
Away says the battery complies with all transportation requirements and can be checked or carried. But there are rules about batteries in checked bags, and they’re changing as I write this (more on that in a sec). Some airlines won’t allow them. Fortunately this battery is now removable.
Away recently changed its configuration for the battery compartment, allowing the battery to be popped out with a springy mechanism so you can remove it in a second. (Previous versions of the Away Suitcase required a screwdriver so you can take it out and was accessed by unzipping the interior lining.)
Smart charging suitcases banned by airlines?
Access to the batteries and removable batteries in smart cases is gaining importance, particularly since some airlines have elected to ban smart charging suitcases if the batteries cannot be removed. (Read more about this here)
I believe the logic is that if a battery caught fire in the cabin, it could, in theory, be put out by flight attendants. Whereas in the cargo, no one will catch it until it really starts a midair burn. On a recent flight I was even asked to remove my Away battery when I carried my bag on.
Exterior – Away suitcase with removable battery
The exterior shell feels very thin and light and is quite flexible. The shell has grooves across the front and the material which is described as ‘Makrolon polycarbonate’. It’s “unbreakable, super lightweight, and has a little give to it,” according to the info pamphlet inside my suitcase. Away says the flexibility means it will bend and not break under pressure, and that it’s a natural shock absorber which is said to make for a smoother ride. Plus it can actually expand a little bit to give you more packing space. The shell is definitely flexible and spongy, and though it feels kind of delicate, I’ll take Away’s word that it’s durable. Certainly on my initial trips with it, I’ve noticed no issues.
I definitely jammed my case full both heading to Palm Springs and coming home in particular. I found the case closed and zipped easily and did seem to hold more than normal.
Spin, spin, spin – wheels on Away suitcase
There are four ‘spinner’ type wheels on this suitcase and they’re super maneuverable. The case will roll straight when you push it and will spin easily without wobbling all over the place.
One thing I did notice however was that when the case was full, it had a tendency to tip over when I would try to pull it along on all four wheels; it most often wanted to be pulled on its back two wheels, on an angle. That’s fine, and it rolls quite well, but when the bag is heavy I find I prefer to keep it on four wheels so the load is on the wheels, not my hand. I suppose this is a personal preference as opposed to a design flaw. This is where I thought a padded handle might be nice, but Away is without that charm.
There is a TSA approved lock so the suitcase can be secured easily, but opened by the authorities if need be.
The telescoping handle on the Away carry-on slides easily and feels very lightweight. It has two locking positions, high, and low. The tallest setting is significantly higher than my existing luggage. As a tall person with a long stride, this is handy when I’m trying to dash through the airport with my bag. Plenty of times I clipped my own feet with my old suitcase because the reach is so short.
Inside Away luggage – 2 compartments in a clamshell
Inside it seems like there is so much room. The suitcase is divided neatly into two sides: one has a mesh covering that zips closed. It’s made to store hard, bulky, and non-compressible items like shoes, toiletries etc.
On the right-hand side, is the area where you store your clothing; anything soft and squishable. You can pile up your clothes, then buckle the compression pad and tighten the straps to pack it all in and down.
I like having the ability to pack in two distinct sides. I find it’s easier to keep things organized and to get things unpacked easily.
Also inside in a small zippered hidden pocket on the bottom is a removable water resistant laundry bag that you can tuck wet bathing suits into. These Away folks have thought of everything.
Keeping your hardshell case clean
I was a little afraid of getting this suitcase dirty. Full disclosure: that’s why I didn’t choose white. I thought it would be a nightmare. But Away says the suitcase will scrub right up with a soft damp cloth, warm water, and mild soap. I got a chance to test that out, since on the way home from my trip I needed to check the bag, and it definitely got dirty and scuffed up.
I tried using soap and water and a soft cloth and a dish brush to remove the worst of the scuffs. No dice. While some of the dirt did wipe off, the black scuffs are now a permanent fixture of the case. So now I AM glad I didn’t get white. Away is also now including a small special scrubbie in it’s user kit that comes with the bag.
Away suitcase guarantee
Away says it will guarantee these bags for life; if the bag or any parts break they will repair or replace the whole thing for free. Now, a lot of luggage companies say that, but make it really hard to make a claim. I tried to make a damaged luggage claim once (from another manufacturer) and was told to pound salt. All I can do is take Away’s word for this right now.
Overall review of Away Carry On Suitcase/smart luggage
I really like the Away bags. The Bigger Carry On is perfect for trying to carry on all you need for a week in the sun; it’s roomy, the wheels roll smoothly and easily, and the divisions inside are smart. Additions like the laundry bag and the built-in charging are convenient. The telescoping handle is smooth and operates easily, and the long reach is handy for taller folks. The bag (on its own) is quite light meaning you can overload it just a bit more and still be able to lift it into the overhead.
The Carry On checks all the same boxes for me, in just a more compact format that’s better for shorter trips or more crowded flights. Daily Carry On with Pocket is an ideal commuter bag or an overnighter when you’re going from the office, to a weekend away, or on a short business trip. You could even use this handy bag instead of a backpack on transit so you can roll your gear instead of carrying it.
If I were to change anything about the bags it would be to pad the handle.
Overall, if you’re looking for a suitcase with style, thoughtful design that makes sense, and smart features, I can definitely recommend Away.
Away is available from Away’s website. The Bigger Carry-On sells for $345CAD, the Away Carry On is $325CAD and the Daily Carry On with Pocket is $345CAD.
~Originally published December 2017. Updated November 2019