Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Lightweight, Spacious, Expandable
Cons: Has a very nondescript look, Not the most durable
Best Uses: General airline travel
Throughout this review, we tested bags with some serious bells and whistles (literally two Osprey bags had whistles). And, to be honest, it was a little bit of a relief to get to test a carry-on that was, you know, *just a carry-on* – a plain old classic rolling bag that fulfills its purpose very, very well. That carry-on was the Travelpro Maxlite 2 22 and it won our Editor's Choice Award. This super lightweight bag has two-wheels, soft sides, and structured walls. It measures 22 x 14 x 9 and has one external pocket that will fit a 15" laptop. It also has the added bonus of being expandable, which is a great solution to that problem of "When I started my vacation, everything fit into my bag and now for the life of me I can't get it back in." Although it might mean checking your Rollaboard on the trip home, you can simply unzip the expandable bit and voila you have seven extra liters of space to work with. One of the only categories where the Travelpro fell short was in our Style metric. We will be the first ones to admit that this bag looks pretty nondescript and it only comes in navy and black. The Travelpro Rollaboard certainly has a professional look to it, but it's not chic like our Top Pick Award winner, the Samsonite Winfield 2 20. It also lost a few points in durability below we will discuss both its draws and flaws in detail.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
A fantastic bag for general airline travel, the Travelpro Maxlite 2 Rollaboard is a great option for individuals who want a lightweight, easy-to-roll bag and aren't interested in detachable daypacks or converting their luggage into backpacks. It's not the most stylish bag, but it has some very useful features and fairly sturdy construction and at $240, it is relatively affordable. If you're looking for a simple bag that rings up at almost $100 less than the Travelpro, be sure to check out our Best Buy Award winner, the REI Wheely Beast 21.
Ease of Transport
The Rollaboard easily tips up onto two wheels and features a telescoping handle that has two heights. Although you can't push it around the airport like the four-wheeled bags that we reviewed, it maneuvers easily and because it's so lightweight it's also easy on the arms. If you are really interested in the four-wheeled design, Travelpro does make a four-wheeled version of this bag. The Rollaboard also has top and side handles that are lined with a gel-like padding. Bags like the Samsonite Winfield 2 and the Delsey Helium Shadow 2 21 are both missing the side carry handle, a major design flaw that makes it more difficult to carry your bag down the stairs or even at your side. The one downside of the side carry handle is that we found that it occasionally got caught up on the edges of the airline seats as we pulled it down the aisle.
One of the most spacious bags in our review, the Travelpro Expandable Rollaboard held everything in our pack test without a problem. The bag's structured walls ensure that the bag stays within the required airline measurement even when it's stuffed and its exterior pocket provides a useful space for a laptop or reading material. Moreover, this carry-on is expandable, thanks to a zipper that sits just between the main compartment and the exterior pocket. With the bag expanded, we were able to fit in a full-sized pillow on top of all the other items in our packing test.
As we started discussing above, one of our favorite features on the Travelpro Rollaboard was the fact that it expands to hold more items. This is perfect for trips where you end up purchasing extra souvenirs and don't quite have enough space (or the items that you brought magically grow in size). Simply expand the Rollaboard and check it. In addition to this bonus, the Travelpro Rollaboard has interior compression straps, two interior mesh pockets in its main compartment, and one mesh pocket in its exterior pocket. This exterior pocket is deep enough to hold a 15" laptop in a slim case (but does not have built-in laptop padding). Finally, this bag has a pull handle on the bottom, which is useful for tugging it out of tight spaces. Overall, this bag is relatively simple, especially in comparison to the bags that convert into backpacks. If you are looking for a piece more suitable for "off road" travel, be sure to look into our Top Pick Award winner, the Osprey Ozone Convertible 22.
Durability & Construction
The Travelpro Rollaboard has durable self-repairing zippers and a sturdy telescoping handle. The main fabrics are 400Dx400D Jacquard Polyester and 800Dx400D Polyester and didn't show any wear or tear throughout our review process, although we did notice that several threads snagged. Most of the other bags that we reviewed had some sort of frame sheet on the entire length of the back side (underneath the encasement for the telescoping handle); however, the Rollaboard saves on weight and forgoes reinforcing the middle of the back panel. There is a frame six inches down from the top and six inches up from the bottom (both of which provide structural support to the bag), but the nine inches in the middle of the back panel are comprised solely of fabric. While we did not experience any trouble with this design, it may be easier for an item to punch through or rip this fabric over the long term.
The Rollaboard's wheels also had us raising our eyebrows. They are made of less sturdy plastic than those on some of the other two-wheeled bags, so we loaded up our bag full of heavy items and pulled it down a set of concrete stairs, letting it plunk down each time. The wheels held up fine, but this is an important area where Travelpro could beef up its parts.
When we first picked up the Travelpro Maxlite Rollaboard, we were shocked at how light it was. At 5 lbs 15 oz, it's actually one of the lightest bags in this review. As we mentioned above, the bag sacrifices a bit on some aspects of durability to help make this happen, but overall we think that the decreased weight is a huge draw for this bag. The only bags that were lighter were the Timbuk2 Aviator Travel Backpack, the Patagonia MLC Wheelie, and the Osprey Ozone.
A basic bag that comes in black and navy blue, the Rollaboard is not the carry-on to choose if you want to make a statement when you fly. It certainly has a professional look to it, but it's also just nondescript. This is primarily due to the fact that this bag uses the tried and true two-wheel design with top and side handles and an exterior pocket. But – and this is the thing – after completing several months of testing, there's a reason why that design is so popular in carry-on luggage: because sometimes basic is better. So, if you aren't overly concerned about looking super chic or cool when you travel, we highly recommend the Maxlite 2 Rollaboard, but it's not a bag that suits everyone's tastes. For the super sophisticated traveler, we suggest you check out the Samsonite Winfield 2 or for a cool techy look, the Osprey Ozone may suit your needs.
A spacious bag with a solid two-wheel design, the Travelpro Maxlite Expandable Rollaboard is ideal for general airline use, especially for longer trips or heavy packers. The expandable feature is also great for individuals who want a little extra versatility and the option to use the Rollaboard as a small checked bag.
At $240, this carry-on is right near the middle of the price spectrum for the bags in this review. We think it is a great value, especially given its versatility as an expanded checked bag, its lightweight design, and its significant internal capacity. Furthermore, it comes with a lifetime warranty.
We really appreciated this classic bag's simplicity and lightweight design. The Travelpro Maxlite 2 20" Expandable Rollaboard is a sensible carry-on that does its job well and will make packing up for your next trip a breeze.
Our Editor's Choice winner also comes in these models:
Travelpro Luggage Maxlite 2 Duffel, $140.
Travelpro Luggage Maxlite 2 Rolling, wheeled version, $200.
Travelpro Maxlite 2 20, wheeled version, $280.
Travelpro Maxlite 2 25, wheeled version, $280.
— Amanda Fenn
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Most recent review: October 21, 2013
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