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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Road Testing Travel Products in Flight

Today, I will officially inaugurate my Suitcase rating system for travel accessories. One Suitcase means a product is of little use, while Five Suitcases is 'da bomb.

Let's start with luggage, shall we? For this trip, I brought a plum Biaggi foldable bag and colorful Heys Britto carry-on. Having previously used the former with much success for the tight spaces of the Trans-Siberian, I realized collapsing it too many times on the last trip caused the retracting handle to be a bit finicky for this train jaunt. Give it two and a half suitcases, because while the concept is good, but it doesn't stand the test of time and heavy use. As for the Heys, which is made of lightweight polycarbonate, the exterior design suffered from the wear and tear of an African adventure. I love Heys carry-ons, but the fancy ones are best used in circumstances where baggage handling by others is limited. That said, while the lovely exterior did get beat up, the bag did its job in terms of protecting the contents inside. So, functionally--four suitcases; aethestically, what started out as a five suitcase rating ends up at 2 1/2.

The other bag I brought was an STM Linear Laptop Shoulder Bag ($89.95). It's perfect for carrying an iPad or tablet, plus a cell phone, a small wallet, and a banana. The bag has several separate compartments so it's easy to put a room key in one pouch, a banana in another, and your devices...well, they can be left to their own devices. Me likey. Five suitcases.

After you make your toting decisions, it's time to decide what to bring to improve your onboard comfort--particularly for an 18-hour flight like the one I took from Dulles to Johannesburg on South African Airways I'm always game for trying products that claim to improve on-board posture, so the Verti-ZZZ intrigued me. While it looks like a slingshot, it's meant to be a combo back straightener, head cradler, and eye shade. If one manages to sit still the entire flight, the product has potential. But it slips out of place too easily, thus contorting the neck, not supporting it As a slingshot, the Verti-ZZZ gets four suitcases, but as a device to ensure comfort, it gets a one. Maybe others agreed--the company website no longer seems to exist.

Next, I tried the Tri-Pil-Lo, with not one, but three, inflatable compartments for your in-flight pleasure. It was very difficult to blow up; the guy in the adjacent seat had to help me ( after first laughing at my futile attempts. Once inflated,it turned out to be a very nice foot rest. It didn't work as a back pillow, though, because the seat was not deep enough. At the end of the flight, it proved difficult to deflate. Right now, the Tri-Pil-Lo gets only three suitcases, but the company promises it is coming up with an easier-to-inflate model which will sell in the U.S. for $19.95.

Compression socks are not just for old ladies anymore. Zensah makes fashionable Compression Leg Sleeves for men and women (starting at $39.95). Colors range from navy blue to neon pink. Since they are above-the-ankle "sleeves" and not socks, no one will know you are wearing them, unless you choose to don them with shorts. In that case, you, my friend, are a little odd. At any rate, the sleeves didn't squeeze, and they seemed to relax my legs during the 18-hour flight. Of course, sitting in the bulkhead emergency row seat didn't hurt the comfort of my gams. Nevertheless, I'll give Zensah credit and a five suitcase rating.

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