Next-level luggage: Smart suitcases are here and we want every one

High-tech travel cases that weigh themselves and follow at your heels hands free!

High-tech travel cases that weigh themselves and follow at your heels hands free!

(Source: Instagram, @raden)

As anyone who's dragged around a broken suitcase knows, luggage was long overdue for an update, and a rush of new brands have modernized this key piece of travel gear.

All of them address typical luggage pain points by using lightweight, ultra-strong materials for the shells, and wheels that won't jam or snap off. But what truly makes this new luggage "smart" are its next-level technological features. Tracking technology via a smartphone apps ensure you'll never lose your bag again, built-in, removable batteries charge electronics on-the-go, and scales allows for last-minute weigh-ins, so you'll never be charged an overage fee again. There's even a hands-free robotic suitcase that follows at your heel as you make your way through departures.

Here's a quick peek at six of the category leaders, all 22" (56cm) long to meet carry-on requirements on most international airlines.  

This hipster brand was conceived by a couple of Warby Parker execs, and comes with a millennial nomadic lifestyle attached. There's an online magazine, garment cubes, travel accessory gift sets and stickers for personalizing your case. The slogan - "First class luggage at a coach price" – rings true as Away is one of the cheapest entry points into the smart luggage category. There is no location tracker or scale, but if those are negotiable and you're mainly in it for the charger, this is the best overall value. Comes with a 100-day trial, a lifetime warranty on the luggage, excluding the electronics, which are warrantied for two years.  

The Carry-On by Away, $345, awaytravel.com

Raden had us when we spotted their video of a man jumping with full force onto a suitcase and then springing off it like a gymnast on a trampoline. The list of features is equally compelling, starting with a 100% polycarbonate shell that guarantees flexibility while not cracking. Add to that its silent 360-degree spinner wheels, waterproof reversed zipper to prevent catching or jamming, and an integrated TSA-approved lock, and now we are talking. Its battery features a 7800mah integrated portable power bank, with 2 external USB ports to charge all of your devices on the go. Plus it has a weight-sensing carry handle, Bluetooth-power and stylishly sleek lines. There's a 30-day return on all cases, a five-year warranty on the case, and one-year warranty on the electronics. Raden doesn't ship to Canada at the moment, but Canadians can purchase through Amazon.ca and get free shipping.

Raden A22 Carry $380, amazon.ca  

First thing you notice when the G-RO rolls into view are its trademark axle-less, gi-normous wheels. Suitcase wheels are known to jam or break off, so this design decision was an instant crowd pleaser, and the oversize wheels are reportedly just as easy to manoeuvre as the four-wheeled versions. Its ballistic nylon shell might not please those who insist on a hard shell case, but the work station with its dual charger and those revolutionary wheels have made it a practical and popular choice for business travellers and flight crews.

The G-RO, $515, g-ro.com

This American luggage brand has a cult following in the design world and its recent collaboration with visual art tastemakers, Sight Unseen, will only solidify that artworld cred. Sight Unseen has created a suitcase series using next big colour – sage – and an interior lining print by Finnish illustrator, Antti Kekki. Meant to evoke the hidden cafes and cobblestone streets of Helsinki, this is a case for the design-obsessed wanderer, with the zipperless, weatherproof, durable shell and charging capability that makes Arlo Skye a stylish contender in the smart luggage category. There's a 21-day trial and a five year warranty for carry-on bags, plus a two-year warranty for electronics.

Arlo Skye Carry On, $469, arloskye.com

    

Admittedly, this brand makes the list primarily because Rimowa is the legacy brand in the hard shell, lifetime guarantee luggage market. The line is indisputably high-end, with celebrities like Michelin star chef Massimo Bottura and designer Karl Lagerfeld backing its sleek, arte moderne aesthetic. While newer competitors employ internet age electronics, Rimowa banks on an electronic bag tag for tracking, and the durability of aluminum to safely ferry its fans' precious goods around.

Rimowa Salsa Air 22" Cabin Multiwheel, $595, travelsmarts.ca

Developed by a team in San Francisco (natch), this is the world's first fully autonomous suitcase and robot, meaning it will follow you around the airport, lock automatically and never get lost. The battery will operate for four hours, getting you through most airports entirely on its own power. Built-in sensors detect and avoid people and objects, and it adjust its movements on the fly. It responds to a smartphone app or voice commands, and the electric motor and internal components that enable autonomous functionality take up almost no space, accounting for less than 3% of the suitcase's volume. In addition, there are convenient features like a customizable design, a built-in scale, an integrated camera and much more. It comes in three sizes – small, medium and large. No word on whether it will make dinner reservations or unpack itself upon arrival, but anything seems possible in the world of robotics right now.

Travelmate Robotics, $1415, travelrobotics.com


Ilona Biro is a Toronto-based journalist who writes about food, personal finance, culture – and most happily – travel. Follow her on Instagram @ilonabiro or Twitter @ilona_biro.