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Hands-on Gear Review
Delsey Shadow 3.0 21 Review
Cons: Handle was sticking even when brand new, too wide for many airlines.
Bottom line: Great suitcase for people who like to pack heavy, but you'll be taking a risk of being forced to check it.
The Delsey Shadow 3.0 21 inch hard-sided spinner bag has been completely redesigned in recent years. It now has an open top design similar to a traditional carry-on (as opposed to a clamshell design like most hard-sided bags), an extra carrying handle on the side, an expandable zipper, and an interior plastic pouch for toiletries. While we love all the new updates to this bag, our previous complaints of sticking telescoping handles still persists. In fact, we couldn't even get the handle to fully extend straight out of the box unless we shook it violently. If you are really into hard-sided luggage, we'd recommend the Samsonite Inova over this bag. The Inova lacks a little in storage capacity and features, but looks more stylish and actually worked from the get go. Otherwise look at our Editors' Choice winner, the soft-sided Eagle Creek Tarmac AWD Carry-On, which is well-constructed and loaded with features.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Delsey Shadow 3.0 21 trolley measures 23 x 14.5 x 10 inches and weighs 8 lbs 9 oz. This bag is technically over the maximum legal carry-on limit of 45 linear inches (for most but not all airlines — check out our Buying Advice article for a listing of all major North American airlines' carry-on baggage restrictions). While it didn't fit in some sizers, it did fit in the overhead bin. This bag has an expandable zipper, three interior pockets, including a plasticized pocket for toiletries, and an integrated TSA lock. It's made of 100% polycarbonate and has two carrying handles (top and side). It has four swivel-mounted wheels, and the telescoping handle (when you can get it to open) locks at two different heights. It's currently available in Black, Purple, and Gray color choices.
Ease of Transport
The Delsey Shadow 3.0 21 has a split-wheel design (two mini wheels on each corner) for superior rolling ability and maneuverability on smooth surfaces. While these wheels were better than the small spinners on the Rockland Melbourne, they were not as easy to roll on uneven surfaces. Most of the two-wheeled bags in this review use large in-line skate wheels which can handle a variety of terrain, whereas the spinner bags cannot. This bag is also on the heavy side, which made it harder to push (or pull) than the lightweight Samsonite Inova. If you never see yourself crossing a gravel parking lot or walking down a sidewalk with your luggage, then a spinner bag is just fine and you'll be happy with the Shadow, but overall a burlier wheel is more practical and functional.
This is a roomy bag! So much so that it technically exceeds the legal carry-on limit. It easily held everything in our "wintertime long weekend" pack test, including a pair of heels and a nice dress. In fact, Delsey states that this bag could hold ten shirts, four pairs of pants, two coats, four shoes, and two toiletry bags. With such a bold, and seemingly impossible statement, we couldn't resist putting it to the test. Lo and behold, the Shadow could indeed fit all this, without having to undo the expanding zipper. There was even still room to cram some sock and undies in there as well. (Editors' note: the clothes used were a women's size small, and we included a pair of flips flops in the shoes because who flies with four pairs of runners?). Delsey states that this bag holds 65.6 L when fully expanded, and while that might seem a bit generous, it is likely not too far from the truth. We checked our Editors' Choice Eagle Creek Tarmac AWD Carry-On and Top Pick for Business Travel Briggs and Riley Baseline Domestic to see if they could hold the same volume, and while we had to leave one pair of shoes out of the Tarmac (or expand the bag) the Baseline ate up all those clothes and had room for a full suit as well.
The one downside to the storage aspect of this hard-sided bag is the lack of external pockets. If you travel with a laptop or lots of anti-boredom material when you fly, you'll definitely need a boarding bag or briefcase as opposed to just a purse when using the Shadow.
The Delsey Shadow 3.0 21 has several features that travelers will find very useful, the first of which is its easy-to-use lock system. The zipper pulls connect into an integrated combination lock on the side of the bag, so you don't have to worry about misplacing a separate lock (you do still have to remember the combination though!). It also has a plasticized interior pocket for toiletries, just in case you have a blow-out mid-flight. We were interested to see if we preferred the new open top design of the Shadow versus the old split "clam shell" design. While it does seem easier to load this bag up with clothes in the new configuration, the older split design offers a nice way to separate clean and dirty clothes mid trip. In the end, we prefer the Samsonite Inova's design, with a divider that zips one half of the bag entirely closed.
When we tested this bag a year ago, the telescoping arm did not fully extend properly. After trying unsuccessfully many times to get the handle to extend, we finally made it happen by violently jerking the bag down while holding on to the handle. As part of our durability test, we raised the handle up and down 25 times, and slowly began to see it opening without needing to use as much force. The arms seem to be very tight in the slots, so perhaps with more use they are wearing out slight grooves and opening easier. During our testing of the previous 2.0 model, we discovered the reverse; over time the handle became sticky and more difficult to use. While retesting the 3.0 this year, we haven't had any durability issues so far, so it could be that we just happened to end up with a defective bag last year, but the current handle is still slightly wonky and doesn't have the same sturdy feel as other bags, like the Travelpro Platinum Magna 2. We did appreciate the durability of the Shadow's textured 100% polycarbonate shell and noticed very few scratches on the exterior.
All the new additions to the Delsey bring the weight up to 8 pounds 9 ounces, making it 2 pounds heavier than other hard-sided models in this review.
The new style lines of this hard-sided bag aren't quite as sophisticated as the previous 2.0 model. While the expandable zipper is a nice touch, it's set back from the main zipper, which means there are now two large strips of black rubber and zippers on the outside of the bag. The new split-wheels also have a more clunky design to them. The finish on this bag did help to mask scratches, dents, and dings, which is nice if you prefer your luggage looking new even after lots of use.
This spacious bag is useful for city-to-city travel where wheeling over hard (specifically, polished) surfaces is the primary mode of transportation. The addition of a side carry handle also makes this bag more stair and escalator friendly. The new expanding zipper is also great if you're the kind of traveler who can never seem to fit everything they brought with them back in their bag, even if you didn't acquire anything along the way.
This bag is listed for $260 retail on the manufacturer's website but can usually be found for at least half that price on popular online retailers. Considering that you might be forced to check this bag, we'd opt for the similarly priced SwissGear Meyrin 20 or Travelpro Maxlite 4 22 over this model.
While we really liked many of the new features on the Delsey Shadow 3.0 21, it still has several flaws that keep us from recommending this bag wholeheartedly, namely its sticky telescoping handle and wider-than-normal body. We like the large capacity for a hard-sided bag and the option to expand, but you might be taking a risk flying with it. We think it's worth spending a little more to get a quality bag like the Eagle Creek Tarmac AWD Carry-On, that is sure to last longer with fewer issues.
This bag is available in a shorter 19 inch version and larger 25 and 29 inch checked baggage size.
— Cam McKenzie Ring
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