Briggs and Riley Baseline Domestic Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
Ease of Use
Despite having just two wheels instead of four, the Briggs & Riley rolls extremely smoothly. Though it's low clearance and smooth wheels might make it look like it can only handle the polished floors of a terminal, it's well-balanced and doesn't flinch over thresholds, curbs, or gravel. Pulling this suitcase around is quiet and nearly effortless. The Domestic's telescoping handle is right up there with the best of them, offering four pull heights, cushioned by a soft, rubberized underside, and featuring a flush, easy adjustment button. It's also one of the sturdiest handles of any model we tested.
The Domestic also has some of our favorite zippers we tested, that glide like butter. We never had to fight with them around corners or when the bag was far overstuffed. If you're a fan of pen holders and numerous pockets to organize everything, you might not initially enjoy the exterior of this rollaboard. However, the longer we used it, the more we found the three pockets totally adequate. One large pocket easily stows a 17" laptop. A smaller pocket on top of that keeps little things safe and accessible. And a hidden pocket on the back between the external telescoping handle mount is a perfect spot for your car or house keys - so you always know where they are but don't have to shuffle around them while you're away vacationing on some picturesque beach.
Storage & Features
The inside of the bag is similarly simplistic. The lid features one large pocket and one smaller pocket - just enough to keep your undergarments and swim trunks separate from everything else. The main compartment is perfectly box-shaped. The telescoping handle that typically takes up a bunch of awkward space inside your suitcase isn't there - it's attached to the outside. This makes the Domestic exceptional simple to pack full of anything your heart desires. We easily packed for a 12-day winter trip (think bulky sweaters) one time, and another time managed to fit a pair of ski boots, helmet, goggles, two people's ski jackets and ski pants, several dozen homemade cookies and a Secret Santa gift.
Part of this magic is in the unique expansion/compression system this bag is equipped with. Instead of the old zip-it-bigger trick, Briggs & Riley have created a mechanism inside the main compartment. By lifting a handle on either end of the interior, the entire top rim of the bag expands upwards, giving you several extra inches of packing space. This lets you pack it right to the top and know it will easily fit. Unlike the zipper expansion options, that fall flat when unzipped, so you're never really sure how much room you have for packing.
Once you've filled this cavernous bag, it has a dual compression system. First are the standard compression straps, which have been upgraded to be not-so-standard. By attaching the two sets of straps wider apart in the bag and filling the space between with mesh panels, Briggs & Riley really let you crank down and compress everything in your suitcase - not just the stuff that goes directly under the straps. Once that's done and you've zipped your bag closed, pressing on the top and bottom sides cranks the expanded section down even further, really bringing down the size of the suitcase.
Though it's fully expanded version is a bit larger than carry-on guidelines, this bag does an exceptional job of making a lot look like a little. It's the perfect choice for chronic over-packers, obsessive souvenir and gift buyers, and anyone traveling for extended periods of time. Our only real complaint about it is that it doesn't have many pockets inside - but it does have plenty of space for your own organizational scheme!
In part because this bag lacks the external pockets that let you stuff it until it resembles a snowman, it maintains a fairly professional appearance. We think it's a pretty classic look that works just as well on a professional business trip as a family vacation. The canvas-y fabric might be a bit "old-fashioned", but it works well and stands up to frequent and harsh use.
The Domestic has a removable garment keeper that we really like as well. While some other models have full garment bags that can be removed and hung up in a hotel closet, this bag takes a more minimal approach. A simple panel zips in place that allows you to neatly keep suits and dresses in the top of the lid. When you arrive at your destination, you'll have to remove them from the bag to hang them up, but we don't think that's too much of an issue.
This suitcase also comes equipped with an add-on bag strap tucked away into what looks like another front pocket. It's a fairly simple strap and only attaches a hanging bag to the front of the rollaboard. It's simple and very functional. While rolling your suitcase, the front attachment helps keep it feeling light and balanced. However, it does make it more difficult to stand upright without the whole thing falling forward from the weight of your extra bag.
This bag is built well. Though it has a completely fabric exterior, it's reinforced in key places. All the corners have plastic bumpers and the base of the wheels are very protected. Every handle, zipper, and feature are very sturdy and secure.
As much as we beat up our Baseline Domestic, it continued to look as good as ever. Checking it made no difference, dropping it on cement made no difference. It was nearly unphased. If they did appear, tiny scuffs and scrapes impressively blend in with the bag's outward appearance. We actually ran into a stranger at the airport who was using this same bag, and we asked him about his experience with it. He said he's been using it for years of traveling several times a month and has no complaints about it at all. Incredible.
We're glad this suitcase performs so well with such an expensive price tag. At full price, it's a tough ticket to swallow, but it is an excellent piece of luggage with simple, useful features, that's built to last for years. It's not our top choice, but it's up there - if you can find it on sale, we think it's very worth it.
The Baseline Domestic is a great suitcase across the board. It's durable and classic, exceptionally useful and can fit an impressive amount and variety of things. If you want tons of organizational pockets or four wheels, this isn't the bag for you. But if you're a frequent flier looking for a simple yet functional bag to last for years, we think you'll enjoy this one.
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