The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Eagle Creek Tarmac AWD Carry-On Review

A non-conventional carry-on for the outdoor enthusiast.
The Tarmac AWD Carry-On
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $349 List | $244.30 at Amazon
Pros:  Loaded with features, easy to travel with, large storage capacity.
Cons:  "Technical" styling not for everyone.
Manufacturer:   Eagle Creek
By Cam McKenzie Ring ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Jul 16, 2019
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87
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 8
  • Ease of Transport - 25% 9
  • Storage - 25% 8
  • Features - 20% 10
  • Durability - 10% 9
  • Weight - 10% 7
  • Style - 10% 8

Our Verdict

We love the consistent excellence of the Tarmac AWD. It scored at or near the top of the field in nearly every performance metric and earned our appreciation and Top Pick Award. This bag rolls smoothly on a variety of surfaces, can handle a week's worth of clothes and expand to fit more, and is loaded with handy features. This bag is built to last, with quality construction and durable materials. There is no internal suiter or any way to keep your fancy clothes wrinkle-free, so we'd opt for the Travelpro Platinum Elite over this model for business travelers. And it does have a more relaxed look to it — it's somewhere between a rolling duffel and a traditional carry-on. But if you like to show your outdoorsy side in your luggage and want something that has a place for everything, the Tarmac is the way to go. For a more affordable option, the Travelpro Crew, our Best Buy winner, is also an excellent choice.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award  
Price $244.30 at Amazon$209.00 at Amazon$230 List$569 List
Check Price at Amazon
$101.49 at Amazon
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Pros Loaded with features, easy to travel with, large storage capacity.Extremely easy to maneuver, stylish design perfect for business trips, durableFair price, durable, easy to use, easy access outer pocketsWell-constructed, loaded with travel-friendly features, classic designLightweight, spacious, expandable.
Cons "Technical" styling not for everyone.Heavier modelMay need to check if expander is usedExpensive, heavy, not as maneuverable as a four-wheeled bagHas a very nondescript look, not the most durable.
Bottom Line A non-conventional carry-on for the outdoor enthusiast.A high-end bag built to make travel easy and to last a lifetime.This easy roller offers a little luxury at a nice priceA high-end bag that will last a lifetime, and then some.Inexpensive bag when purchased at the usual "street" price.
Rating Categories Tarmac AWD Carry-On Platinum Elite 21" Expandabl... Crew 11 21" Expandable Spinn... Briggs and Riley Baseline Do... Maxlite 5 22 Expandable Roll...
Ease Of Transport (25%)
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
6
10
0
7
Storage (25%)
10
0
8
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
8
Features (20%)
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
6
Durability (10%)
10
0
9
10
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10
10
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10
10
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10
10
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6
Weight (10%)
10
0
7
10
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8
10
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8
10
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5
10
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9
Style (10%)
10
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8
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10
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10
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9
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5
Specs Tarmac AWD Carry-On Platinum Elite 21"... Crew 11 21"... Briggs and Riley... Maxlite 5 22...
Measured Weight 8.13 lbs 7.81lbs 7.20 lbs 9.19 lbs. 6.31 lbs.
Dimensions 22" x 13" x 9" 22" x 14" x 9" 22" x 14" x 9" 22" x 14" x 9" 22" x 14" x 9"
# of Wheels 4 4 4 2 2
Number of interior pockets 4 5 4 2 2
Number of exterior pockets 3 2 2 4 2
Compression system Compression straps Compression straps with integrated accessory pockets Compression straps CX expansion-compression system Compression straps
Lock No, but lockable No, but lockable No, but lockable No, but lockable No
Main Material 1000D Helix Poly Twill and Polycarbonate shell High-density nylon fabric with DuraGuard® coating resists stains and abrasions. High-quality ballistic nylon fabric with DuraGuard® coating for stain and abrasion resistance 95% Nylon Polyester fabric with water and stain resistant coating
Unique features Hybrid hard/soft-sided design, coat keeper strap, expandable zipper, add-a-bag strap Removable toiletry pouch and dedicated power bank pocket Dedicated power bank pouch Built-in suiter, unique expansion-compression system, external handle stays for maximum internal storage, add-a-bag strap Expandable zipper
Handle height (inches) 37", 39", and 41" 36”, 38”, 40” and 42.5” 38”, 40” and 42.5” 36", 39", 41" and 43" 38" and 42"
Other Versions 20", 25", 28" 19", 25", 28" 26"
Warranty Lifetime Lifetime Lifetime Lifetime Limited lifetime

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Tarmac AWD is a unique hybrid hard-sided/soft-sided bag. It has a polycarbonate shell on the back to protect the handle and add durability and structure, while the front coated polyester gives you more options for storage and packing. This bag weighs 8 lbs 2 oz and is 22 x 13 x 9 inches.

Performance Comparison


No problems getting this bag into the sizer.
No problems getting this bag into the sizer.

Ease of Transport


This model ranked at the top of the luggage pile for Ease of Transport, often a problematic metric to score, because what made one bag more maneuverable on polished surfaces (namely four spinner wheels), usually made it more challenging to handle on rough terrain. Conversely, a bag with large wheels worked great in a gravel parking lot, but had a large turning radius and was more challenging to navigate down tight airplane aisles.

The Tarmac straddled the middle of these two lines and offered excellent maneuverability in most conditions. The four-spinner wheels are highly maneuverable through tight airports and plane aisles and never locked up on us. When switching to rough surfaces and dragging it behind us, it pulled well and was not prone to tipping over. This bag is also available in a two-wheeled version if you still prefer that style, and from previous testing, we can assure you that it is always easy to travel with. If you want to know more about the differences between two and four-wheeled bags and the pros and cons of each, head over to our Buying Advice article where we break that down for you.


The extra features on this bag also make this model a breeze to travel with. The "Coat-Keeper" attachment keeps your arms less cluttered when you're already juggling your phone and ID through long security lines, and the extra pockets on the outside are great for stashing your tablet or boarding passes. The bag itself is also not too heavy, and there are several carrying handles for those occasions where you need to haul it up or down a flight of stairs.

The "coat keeper" bungee cord secures your jacket or sweater  keeping your hands free for checking in.
The "coat keeper" bungee cord secures your jacket or sweater, keeping your hands free for checking in.

Storage


You can pack a lot of clothes into the Eagle Creek Tarmac AWD, even though it is slightly smaller than some of the two-wheeled bags in our review. The following chart illustrates how the Tarmac AWD ranked in our lineup for the Storage metric.


This bag held everything in our "Pack for a Week in Winter" challenge, including two pairs of pants, four shirts/sweaters, workout clothes, running shoes, fancy shoes, toiletries, and socks/underwear. Then you can unzip the expander, which adds 2 inches to the width of the bag, allowing you to squeeze even more things in there. With the bag expander unzipped you might not be able to carry it on the plane anymore, as that takes it over the legal carry-on dimensions, but it's a good option for people who like to acquire a lot of souvenirs on their travels. Carry your bag on the plane on the way there (just in case it gets lost), and then check it on the way home.

This bag will hold a lot of clothes  and it also includes a padded laptop sleeve.
This bag will hold a lot of clothes, and it also includes a padded laptop sleeve.

There is an interior pocket that runs the length of the bag that you could fold up a suit or nice clothes, but that section is on the fabric side of the bag as opposed to the shell side. It doesn't have the same structure to it as thick nylon or a hard-sided suitcase, so don't be too surprised if they end up a little wrinkled. For business travel, something like the Travelpro Crew or the Travelpro Platinum Elite, with their integrated suiters, is the way to go.

The pull tabs on the zippers are a great touch. They're also lockable  and distinctly different from the expandable zipper  which means you're less likely to open that one by accident.

Features


This bag ranked a perfect 10 in our Features metric!


This bag has almost too many features to list. If you've thought of it at some point, it's probably on this bag. Some way to stash your coat or neck pillow, so you are not walking through the airport with it on your neck? Check. Padded laptop sleeve? Check. Lockable zippers with easy pull tabs, add-a-bag strap, and a keyring? Check, check, and check! They must have a team of hard-core travelers at Eagle Creek who were tasked with thinking about any and every little thing that could make traveling easier, and then they put it on this bag. Is it too much? We don't think so. Instead, it's like a little surprise every time you use this bag — you'll find yourself repeatedly saying, "Oooh, I didn't know it could do this!"

The main front pocket has handy organizing slots for your travel documents and electronics.
The main front pocket has handy organizing slots for your travel documents and electronics.

Durability


Our testers were impressed with the solid construction on the Tarmac AWD. The handle pulls out smoothly every time and doesn't feel too wobbly, unlike some lower-end bags like the AmazonBasics Oxford. The polycarbonate back provides extra structure and durability, and the wheels are solidly built. The "Bi-Tech Armor" fabric is a coated polyester for abrasion and weather resistance. While not completely waterproof, water will bead up and roll off it, which is great for rainy environments. There's also a skid plate on the bottom for extra protection.


This bag rated similarly to The North Face Rolling Thunder 22 for durability, as we felt that both bags were built to last. If something does go wrong, this bag is covered by Eagle Creek's "No Matter What" guarantee, which covers "repair and replacement due to product failure during the product lifetime, regardless of the cause."

The spinner wheels are sturdy and well-built  and protected by Eagle Creek's lifetime guarantee.
The spinner wheels are sturdy and well-built, and protected by Eagle Creek's lifetime guarantee.

Weight


At just a little over 8 lbs, the Tarmac is one of the heavier bags in our fleet, only weighing in lighter than the 9 lbs 3 oz Briggs & Riley Baseline Domestic. We didn't find that hauling it up a flight of stairs or lifting it into the overhead bin was much more difficult than the other bags we tested. Also, the spinner wheels help take some of the load off your arms, as it is easier on your shoulders to push a heavy bag rather than pull it.


This is not the lightest bag  but because you can push it beside you it helps take some of the weight off your shoulders.
This is not the lightest bag, but because you can push it beside you it helps take some of the weight off your shoulders.

Style


While we weren't the biggest fan of the look of the older version of this bag, the newer one is a little chicer. The updated fabric is more matte than gloss, and the hard-sided back makes it look less like a rolling duffel bag.


Eagle Creek is known for its functional and outdoorsy-styled luggage, and they delivered more of the same with this bag. Does it look like every other rollaboard coming off the conveyor belt? No, and that's a good thing. But, the styling and the color choices are a little on the dull side. This bag doesn't look like something you'd take on a business trip to Europe — more like an eco-tourism vacation in Costa Rica. We preferred the sleek look of the AmazonBasics Oxford, with its brushed hardshell surface and minimalist design. Once you start attaching coats and bags to the Tarmac AWD it starts to look like a Christmas tree, which is handy, but not very sophisticated.

This bag straddles the line between casual and professional. We like the updated style and fabric.
This bag straddles the line between casual and professional. We like the updated style and fabric.

Best Applications


As we just mentioned, we wouldn't hesitate to pick this bag for adventure traveling, heading on safari, or even just going back home for the holidays. It can hold a lot of clothes and expand to hold even more when needed. The only thing we wouldn't recommend it for is business travel due to the casual styling and lack of an integrated suit/dress compartment.

Value


This bag is more expensive than the many other quasi-rolling duffels in this review. We do see the extra expense as worth it though, as you get many traveler-friendly features with this bag that you don't with the others. If you are looking to save a few dollars and still want a quality piece of luggage, then something like the Travelpro Crew is a great option.

Conclusion


The Eagle Creek Tarmac AWD won our Top Choice award for being one of the easiest to use and most versatile pieces of luggage we've tested. It comes loaded with handy features that make traveling that much easier, and it should withstand many years of trips.


Cam McKenzie Ring