You might have heard the buzz around smart suitcases, or seen them advertised, and wondered what the big deal is. What do they do exactly? Are they worth the splurge?
We think some of the smart features like power banks and location tracking can be pretty handy, so we rounded up the best smart luggage 2018 has to offer. Click on the photos below to see info and shop, or scroll down for detailed smart luggage reviews.
UPDATE: Beginning in early 2018, airlines are taking steps to ban smart luggage that includes a non-removable battery. We’ve revamped this post to include ONLY smart bags with removable batteries, so some popular brands like Bluesmart no longer make the list. We’ve also included info on the ease of removing the battery for each (because who wants to be stuck in an airport line fiddling with a screwdriver?).
|Luggage Brand||Weight (carry-on)||Location Tracking||Self Weighing||Power Bank||Self Locking|
|Luggage Brand||Weight (carry-on)||Location Tracking||Self Weighing||Power Bank||Self Locking|
|Arlo Skye||8.5 - 9.5 lbs||No||No||Yes||No|
|G-RO||9.3 lbs||Yes (but as an add-on)||No||Yes (but as an add-on)||No|
|Barracuda||8.8 lbs||Yes (but as an add-on)||Yes (but not built-in)||Yes||No|
Despite having pared down features, Away has become a big contender in the smart luggage market. They’ve promoted themselves heavily among influencers, and Away’s modern design has drawn quite a bit of acclaim.
Away’s luggage shells are made of lightweight Makrolon polycarbonate, and they boast “unbreakable”, scratch resistant construction.
While my bag did accumulate some scuffs and scrapes, it came through its first trip to the airport looking better than the Raden. Their prices are slightly lower than some of the brands featured here, which they claim is made possible by selling direct to consumers–that is, you won’t see Away bags in your local luggage shop anytime soon.
Away makes quality luggage, but as you can see, the smart luggage features are really just a power bank, and that power bank is only available in the carry-on sizes. While you will probably spend more time with your carry-on bag than a checked bag, I sometimes pack only a checked bag, and found it useful to have a power bank on my large Raden bag.
You’ll need to charge your power bank before each trip, and it is easily removable from the exterior of the bag, allowing for potential upgrades in the future.
As useful as a power bank might be–and Away gets kudos for being ahead of the curve when it comes to making the battery removable– it’s disappointing to see them moving into 2018 without expanding the integrated tech in their bags. Still, if you’re attracted to the style of the case, and appeal of mobile charging, an Away carry-on bag may still be a great choice for you. Your carry-on is less likely to exceed the weight limit (or be weighed by airlines to begin with), and since it mostly stays within close proximity, you’re less likely to need location services.
If you’re on the fence about Away, scroll down to the bottom of this article to see how you can easily upgrade any suitcase with smart features.
The non-tech features contribute to Away’s status as a solid case. The handy integrated TSA lock functions the same as Raden’s, locking onto the zipper pulls. Premium Japanese Hinamoto spinner wheels guarantee smooth sailing, and your shell, zipper, handle, and wheels are all covered by a lifetime warranty. Just contact Away if you have any issues and they’ll repair or replace your case. Away’s luggage also compares favorably when it comes to weight, coming in as the lightest of the bunch, something that’s very noticeable when handling the bag.
While it’s nice to know that you’re covered if something breaks, the insubstantial feeling handle did give me a little pause. I frequently set a backpack on top of my carry-on, leaning against the handle, and the handle just felt like it bent and twisted to much to support the heavy backpack. I know I’m not the only one who does this, but I have to concede that it’s probably not part of the manufacturer design–and that bag functions just fine when you don’t ask it to support this extra weight. Away does say that the handle is meant to flex a bit in order to absorb shock.
Overall, Away’s quality and warranty set them apart as some of the best smart luggage out there.
Arlo Skye is a newcomer to the smart luggage market, but its founders are no strangers to the travel industry or to luxury, having worked as execs at Tumi and Louis Vuitton.
Arlo Skye offers a sleek aluminum carry-on case with a built in (but easily removable) battery in 3 shades, as well as a polycarbonate carry-on that’s part of a collab with Sight Unseen.
Their larger checked size cases are all polycarbonate with aluminum trim, and don’t include any integrated technology. However, in terms of aesthetics and quality, even the larger bags are a rung above many others on this list.
We took an Arlo Skye aluminum carry-on for a spin, and I have to say I was pretty pleased with how it held up.
Since the bag didn’t need to be checked, I can’t speak to how easily it may dent over time, but my bag came through it’s first couple carry-on trips looking gorgeous, with little to no noticeable scratching. However, I can’t say that I’ll mind when it does inevitably acquire a more distressed look–there’s just something about a well traveled aluminum bag that looks pretty sexy. Rimowa even took the opportunity to highlight some of their beautifully beat up iconic aluminum bags last year.
As with Away, the power bank is the only smart feature in these bags, though I feel like I’m getting some extra value here with a bag that’s clearly higher quality and (in my opinion at least) more attractive. If a power bank is all you’re looking for, this is a solid bag to consider.
The non-tech features include a aluminum-magnesium alloy body with full grain leather handles, super smooth and quiet spinner wheels, anti-odor lining, compression straps, and TSA locks on the buckled closures.
If you’re concerned about security, the closure type alone is enough to give this bag consideration. While TSA locks on zippered bags are enough to discourage casual theft, even locked zippers are actually easy to open with nothing more than a pen! The buckle style closure is a more secure design, and frankly gives the bag a higher end look.
In addition to being one of the pioneers of smart luggage, Raden’s cases are, in my opinion, some of the most attractive out there.
Their beautiful, minimalist cases showcase Raden’s commitment to great design. They utilize sleek Makrolon polycarbonate, which has the advantage of being thin and lightweight without sacrificing strength. Check out their impressive demonstration video here.
Raden offers their cases in a rainbow of colors and matte or gloss finishes, putting them miles ahead of the competition, and making them the obvious choice for the style conscious.
The downside is that the colorful finish is scuffed and scraped easily when it comes in contact with rough baggage handlers, so you may need a luggage cover to keep your suitcase looking nice. I speak from personal experience on this, people–it’s a little disappointing to have your new luggage scuffed up after just one flight. Ultimately, this isn’t a huge concern for me; I’d always planned to plaster my Raden suitcase with stickers; clearly I just need to do so a little faster.
Raden’s “Smart” features are pretty standard for smart luggage. The battery is straightforward, allowing you to charge your mobile devices via USB cord. You’ll need to charge the power bank before (or during your trip) using the included USB cord, or it can be removed completely if you don’t want to take it along. Because it’s easily accessible and removable, Raden’s tech will also be easier to potentially upgrade in the future.
The weight sensing handle works well in my experience, but it cannot be used without the accompanying mobile app. You must download the app (available for iOS and Android) to your phone and sync with your suitcase to check your bag’s weight.
Raden advertises location tracking, yet the actual functionality is a little more complicated. The Bluetooth tracking will find your suitcase if it’s within 30 feet of you, but any further and you’ll need to rely on “crowd GPS”– that is, other Raden owners with the app installed on their mobile device. This seems like a stretch even for a more ubiquitous brand. If you’re concerned about losing your bag, go with a brand that offers GPS based tracking, like Bluesmart.
The bag’s non-tech features are also worth mentioning. Even Raden’s larger suitcase is reasonably lightweight at 13 pounds, and and the spinner wheels are super smooth and easy to maneuver. The integrated TSA lock is a nice feature as well, with an easy to set combination lock that attaches to the zipper pulls and prevents unauthorized access to your bag.
One small concern is the 5 year warranty. Competitor Away offers a lifetime warranty, and I’d hope that a case in this price range would last far beyond 5 years. Still, Raden’s bags are full of features, and some of the best smart luggage 2018 has to offer.
Trunkster’s unique suitcase design started as a phenomenally successful Kickstarter project, and is now available through their website (link includes $20 discount). They aim to revolutionize luggage with a zipper-free rolltop design, and smart features.
Currently, Trunkster offers just one case; a carry-on, available only in black, made from scratch and impact-resistant polypropylene.
Trunkster’s smart features are comparable to others on this list, with a powerful battery for mobile charging, digital scale and location tracking to find lost luggage.
Their power bank is not only removable, but also easily upgraded. Trunkster says you can switch out their battery “with any USB compatible power bank.” This is great, consumer friendly design, and We’d love to see more of it from other brands!
However, the scale and tracking function a little differently than others. The built in digital scale does not require an app to check the weight; it’s fully autonomous–just check the display on your suitcase to see how much it weighs! Location tracking relies on GSM service. You’ll receive a year of free tracking with purchase of the luggage, but after that, you’ll need to pay for the service.
Trunkster’s unique design also sets it apart from the competition. The zipperless rolltop entry allows for easy access to your items, but does not include a built in lock, disappointing for luggage at this price point. Also, in contrast to every other case on this list, the interior is simply a large open space, with no organization, making packing cubes a necessity for most (we’ve got packing cube picks for every traveler here). This may be appealing to minimalists, though I appreciate a small amount of built in organization in a suitcase.
The interior is at least more roomy due to the full width handle that retracts back into the sides of the case, rather than taking away from packing space. Finally, Trunkster is a little on the heavy side at 10.3 pounds, but does seem more durable as a tradeoff for the small weight increase.
Newcomer G-RO’s smart luggage is a unique offering, and not just because of the oversize wheels. The line offers modular electronics that can be purchased separately, so it’s really more “smart tech compatible.”
It’s available in just one size, the 22″ carry-on suitcase.
For a nylon bag with no included tech, the G-RO is pricey at $449 retail.
You can separately purchase a G-RO power bank that plugs into the built-in USB charging port, as well as a tracking module that works via GSM-GPRS and the G-RO app (you’ll need to pay a monthly subscription fee for the tracking service).
The good news is that they don’t force you into their proprietary tech! You’re free to attach your own power bank to the USB charging port, and to look for other location tracking systems (See our section below on options to add tech to your luggage).
Our initial impressions are surprisingly good. The large wheels, which we were tempted to brush off as gimmicky, work pretty well–and don’t seem to take away any space from the roomy suitcase interior.
G-RO’s large wheels are, in fact a cool feature that may come in handy for some travelers. They roll more easily over uneven surfaces, so those city curbs or European cobblestones will be smooth sailing.
We didn’t spring for G-RO’s branded add-on location tracking or power bank, but didn’t have any problems attaching and using our own power bank.
Overall, its a case to consider if the wheels are appealing, but we’re not sure it’s worth the price when you have to shell out more to add smart technology.
Barracuda’s smart carry-on suitcase is part of a trend of collapsible luggage that makes storage easier for people with a small living space. Their offering is indeed compact, collapsing down to about 4 inches thick.
The case is available in just one size, the 22″ carry-on.
Beyond the collapsible feature, the Barracuda offers a power bank, laptop tray, and rotating handle.
Other smart features are add-ons, like the location tracking device that can be ordered separately, and the luggage scale that is included with purchase, but is just a separate device, NOT built in, and identical to one of the luggage scales we recommend below.
One hyped feature is the large handle with rotating circular handle at the top. This is supposed to make it easier to maneuver, but the circle doesn’t actually rotate freely. Rather, you need to choose a position and lock it into place. Frankly, we didn’t see the benefit here, and found that the wide handle arm sometimes gets stuck when you try to push it back into the bag.
The fold out laptop/ drink tray actually came in handy, surprisingly often, but it flexes under even lightweight laptops, and we’re concerned about its durability.
The laptop tray, as with other parts of the bag, like the collapsible walls, feel poorly made. They’re plastic, with too many clips and moving parts that seem destined to break, sooner rather than later. To be fair, they held up in our limited testing, but we’d be concerned longer term.
One nice feature is the variety of colors, which can be difficult to find in smart suitcases. However, Amazon only carries the Silver color right now, so you’ll need to shop from Barracuda’s website for other colors.
Overall, while we love some of Barracuda’s features, we’d recommend waiting to see if they work out some of the design flaws in future iterations.
Good luggage can make or break your trip, but once you move beyond basic quality issues, the best luggage features are a matter of personal taste and lifestyle. What makes me deliriously happy with a suitcase may leave other people yawning.
That said, Raden is our pick for the best smart luggage of 2018. They have a good balance of smart features and attractive design. In addition, they’re the only contender to offer a power bank in their large cases, a feature which has come in handy for me. Away and Arlo Skye are our runners-up, still fantastic choices for a carry-on suitcase.
Love the luggage you already have, or just don’t have the budget for a smart suitcase? Plenty of the features of smart luggage are easy to add to your existing case:
There’s a huge variety of portable luggage scales out there. Most are small enough that they won’t take up much space in your suitcase, and they function in much the same way self weighing handles do. Simply hook onto the top of your bag, then lift up your bag using the scale to see the bag’s weight.
If you’re a chronic over-packer like me, this can save you serious dough on baggage fees by giving you forewarning that items need to be left at home, or re-arranged among bags. A scale is also more handy in some ways because it’s not tied to any one bag. Weigh your entire family’s bags with one device, then toss the scale in your checked bag. You may want to check out our lightweight luggage picks!
Ok, so we don’t actually recommend drilling holes and trying to integrate a power bank into your suitcase, but you can buy a dedicated power bank to keep in your suitcase.
While you want something compact for everyday carrying in a purse or pocket, you can easily go with a larger, more powerful battery to keep in your luggage. Yes, you won’t have those handy exterior ports on your suitcase, but the battery itself will be basically the same thing that ships inside all of these fancy suitcases.
Using location tracking to prevent and find lost luggage is the most complex to implement, with most solutions offering tracking via cellular or Bluetooth. GPS systems are available, but generally require purchasing a subscription.
In addition, keep in mind that tracking devices may need to be charged regularly. This means that your tracking device could potentially run out of juice on a long haul flight, defeating the purpose of having that device once you arrive.
Tile offers the simplest and most popular devices, with Bluetooth tracking that takes advantage of their user network once your item is out of your phone’s range. The battery lasts for one year, then you’ll need to replace the tracker.
Smart luggage tags as a method of location tracking are becoming increasingly popular. They’re an affordable and easy way to integrate tech and keep track of your bags.
What is a Smart Suitcase Anyway?
Smart Luggage is really any suitcase that has integrated technology.
That built in tech could be just one thing, or many. The field, and available features are growing and changing as you read this, but some common examples of this technology include: Phone App Integration, GPS or Bluetooth Location Tracking, Built-in Scale for self-weighing, Remote Digital Locks, and a Power Bank for your mobile devices.
The Future of Smart Luggage
The cases we’ve covered are currently the top players in smart luggage for 2018. However, with the growing popularity of smart luggage, it’s only a matter of time before major brands start to incorporate tech into their products in a meaningful way.
Delsey has a smart suitcase in the works, called “Pluggage”, and was recently asking for input on features their customers would like to see included. Along with some of the tech you’ve seen above, they’re considering features like Fingerprint ID, Interior Lighting & Speakers, and On-board Notifications, so you know if your luggage made it on the plane.
Another cool example is Rimowa, who are pioneering a really neat integrated digital luggage tag. Others won’t be far behind. Look for plenty of innovation and competition in the smart luggage market in 2018, the sky’s the limit! (pun intended). We’ll be updating this article to include new players as they come on the scene.
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