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 started 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.
Update: Away just launched a line of aluminum cases that we’d recommend over Arlo Skye, given Away’s reputation and longer warranty. Check them out here, and use this link for a discount on your first purchase.
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.
We do, however, have some reservations about the value of this bag for the price, coming in at $200+ more than any of the other smart bags featured here.
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.
We took an Arlo Skye aluminum carry-on for a spin, and overall, I was 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 its first couple carry-on trips looking roughly the same, 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. 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 is another reason 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.
Despite the care evident in other areas of the bag design, some features don’t live up to the $550 price tag. Most notably, the telescoping handle sticks, feeling like a handle in a much cheaper bag, and the plastic hinged piece that covers the pop-out battery feels cheap and doesn’t secure well. I can’t imagine why you’d design a “luxury” smart bag and put so little thought and care into this important feature. If you’re in love with the bag, and you’ve got the cash to throw around, I’m not saying don’t buy it, but these two issues should give you pause.
Right now, I think Rimowa is a better overall value if you’re set on aluminum luggage, and Away comes out on top for smart luggage (you can’t beat that lifetime warranty!).
Newcomer G-RO’s smart luggage is a unique offering, and not just because of the oversize wheels. The line offers modular electronics that are easily removed, and have done so since the beginning, far before the recent airline rules squeezed out less flexible smart luggage.
It’s available in just one size, the 22″ carry-on suitcase.
At $399 retail (use my link for a discount), the G-RO is a tad pricey compared to a bag like Away, even when you consider the included tile tracker.
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 because Tile is a large, dependable brand, your location tracking won’t stop if G-RO goes out of business (See our section at the end of this post 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.
The bag does include a power bank, but the flexibility of the design means that you shouldn’t have any problems attaching and using your own power bank if you’d prefer to as well.
Overall, its a tad pricey, but it’s a case to consider if the wheels and overall design are appealing to you. As more and more smart luggage makers die off, there’s something to be said for the flexibility of cases like this that can easily be converted to “dumb” luggage to satisfy airlines, and don’t tie you to their proprietary tech.
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, Away is our pick for the best smart luggage of 2018. They offer a must-have removable power bank, attractive design, and an exceptional warranty. And perhaps most important, they’ve kept up with airline regulations, even offering to retrofit older models to make the power banks removable.
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 carry with you when you travel. Just remember to keep it with you, as most airlines prohibit leaving a power bank in your checked luggage.
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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