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What you stuff inside your suitcase is your business of course, but there are thousands of companies and a bevy of inventors that have made it their business to try to sell you a bag for your travels. Here's a round-up of some of the latest offerings in luggage, including carry-ons that morph and fold, stop bullets, kill bedbugs, upcycle airplane seat leather and massage your feet.
—By Harriet Baskas, special to CNBC. Follow Road Warrior on Twitter at @CNBCtravel.
Posted 25 Oct. 2014
Watching other passengers try to stretch their legs while their laptop cases were stored beneath the seats gave Jin Kaur, now president and co-founder of LEGGAGE, the idea to create a laptop case that could also serve as a foot rest and foot massager.
The lightweight, hard polycarbonate carrying shell not only protects a laptop, but has room inside to carry power cords and carry-on essentials. The ridged, angled outside of the case offers a variety of massaging positions for weary feet and legs. ($79.99 from Leggage).
Finding bedbugs in a hotel room is icky enough. But letting the critters hitch a ride home in your suitcase could trigger a household disaster. For protection, you might spray your luggage with pesticide each time you get home, but Thermalstrike's plug-in luggage (20" carry-on, $199; 24" upright $249) has interior infrared panels that heat up to 140 degrees, a temperature entomologists say kills bedbugs and their eggs.
"This essentially allows the consumer to take a bedbug heat treatment device with them as their luggage," said company sales director Brian Hirsch.
Sometimes you need a rolling bag. Other times, a duffel or a backpack would be better. Why buy one of each and let them clutter up your closet? The new EC Lync system, by Eagle Creek, combines all three in a line of transformable/stowable travel gear. The ultra-lightweight (4 to 5 pounds) rolling bag can be converted into a backpack or a duffel and, when not in use, the frame folds up so it can be stored in its own small stuff bag. Due out in spring 2015 in several colors (graphite, brilliant blue, and flame orange) and system sizes. (Suggested price: $254.95 to $299.95.)
The High Altitude Flight Bag ($58) is designed to attach to the seat back tray table in front of you on an airplane. The bag maximizes space, keeps gadgets from falling off the tray table and allows you to access and keep an eye on your stuff.
With its optional Portable Mobile Charger you can also power up your gadgets during the flight.
The bag is part of the Genius Pack line of travel bags, most of which have labeled compartments to remind you to pack (and where to find) often-used items.
Variety is the spice of life, so why not make it easy to change the look of your travel gear?
AttachaPack is a line of ready-made and customizable backpacks (prices start at $49.99) with zip on/zip off pockets available in a wide range of mix and match colors and patterns. Among the accessories sold for the backpacks are zipper pulls, clip-ons, key chains and a bulletproof shield insert made up of 17 layers of a machine pressed fabric called Dyneema.
"There is no metal within the shield, so it will go through any metal detector without issue," said founder Christina Thomas, a retired police officer who runs the business with her daughter.
If Les Amman's Kickstarter campaign is successful, his Chair-Pak invention—a combination backpack and folding chair—will hit the market sometime in 2015.
Designed to support over 250 pounds and compact enough to fit in the overhead bin of an airplane, the 6-pound Chair-Pak has a soft cooler, adjustable seat, four separate compartments and water bottle holders and will also come in a version that includes a solar charger that can power two devices.
North Carolina-based Skyebags (their slogan: "Inspired by flight. Crafted by hand") transforms retired Napoleon Blue aircraft seat leather donated by Delta Air Lines into upcycled travel gear that includes the Kitty Hawk Tote ($128) and the Raleigh Dopp Kit ($185).
There's also the Guthmiller Wallet ($118), named for Matthew Guthmiller, who at age 19 became the youngest pilot to fly solo around the earth. Ten percent of the profit from each item is donated to a non-profit selected by Delta Air Lines.
Mari Cla Ro is a small firm in Ontario, Canada that makes bags and accessories out of recycled materials ranging from reclaimed car seat belts, leather and upholstery to truck tarps and exploded airbags. The company's Atlas collection is made with recycled leather from Alaska Airlines seats and the names of the briefcases, purses, satchels and shoulder bags in the line correspond to the 3-letter codes of airports in "cities we like to travel to or have been," said Sven Schlegel, company founder and president.
Some travelers swear by the roll-it method of packing, while others advocate layering. There are also legions of fans of packing cubes that make it easy to separate and organize a bag's contents. Multiple companies make the portable, multi-sized "drawers for your drawers," and this season eBags Packing Cubes ($29.99 for a three-piece set) will be available in three trendy new colors and patterns—red paisley, purple chevron and leopard—in addition to the rainbow of colors currently available.
Forget mere chocolates at turndown.
This holiday season (Dec. 15 through Jan. 5, 2015), guests who book a special suite package at the 5-star Brown's Hotel in London will receive a custom-made 21-inch Globe-Trotter suitcase, made at the company's flagship store located next door to the hotel.
Planning ahead is required, because three weeks before arrival, a guest will be asked to choose the colors for the outside of their suitcase, the lining, the clasps and the preferred monogramming. The bespoke suitcase (along with a fine bottle of Champagne) will then be waiting in the suite at check-in.
Rates start at £2,000, or about $3,200 per night.