Away Expandable Large Review
Cons: Heavy, fabric is easier to mark
Manufacturer: Away Travel
Our Analysis and Test Results
Weight is an important factor for larger suitcases since it's easy to put them over flight weight limits in the first place. But if you tend to pack bulkier, lighter items or just like a lot of space for your stuff, the Expandable Large offers good looks and smart organizational features, making it a compelling choice.
Storage & Organization
This bag doesn't look all that large, but it holds just as much as or more as bags that look much larger. This is helped by a compression panel and an extra ring of fabric that unzips to expand its depth. The Expandable Large also has one of the largest volumes in our test without seeming bulky. We really appreciate the stealth capacity.
We also appreciate that this bag helps us keep track of all the stuff it will hold. It unzips right down the middle, opening like a clamshell, with equal-sized compartments on either side. On the left, there is a big, open pocket with a zip-away mesh panel. It's great for stuffing bulky items away with abandon. The right-hand side has a structured panel that you can use to compress your clothes. Simply put squishy items behind it, and ratchet down on the straps. The panel itself has a mesh pocket in the front to tuck away a few items that you might want to find at a moment's notice — this area is also a great sock drawer.
If that's not enough space for you, unzip the 1.75-inches of expansion fabric. While we like this option, we don't love it on any of the expandable bags we tested. The expansion fabric does not have much structure, and if your packing job doesn't provide enough rigidity, the soft fabric can let the entire bag flex, putting a lot of strain on the zipper. Still, in a pinch, it's a great option.
Unfortunately, this is the heaviest bag in our test by quite a bit. While this doesn't make much of a difference when you're wheeling it around, if you're packing for a plane, you often need to stay under 50 pounds. With this bag, you're starting with 14.5 pounds of just suitcase, and it gives you tons of room to overpack. So watch those scales.
Ease of Transport
The Expandable Large is shorter than many of the other options we tested, and also wider. That keeps the center of gravity low, which seems to help it roll well and stay stable in turns. Larger wheels that easily spin a full 360-degrees also help. We found this bag stable and smooth in corners when lightly or fully loaded. Cobblestones, gravel, and curbs are all fair game.
The telescoping handle is one of the thinnest of our tested models. It still feels comfortable in the hands, but we tend to prefer larger options that let the hands relax more. It has two height settings, at 37 and 41-inches. We like the flexibility for different users and different circumstances. What we don't like is how much the handle flexes when it's fully extended; it bends so much that we're afraid it might not be as durable as the other options.
This suitcase sports three external grab handles — an obvious one on the top, another on the side, and one that's tucked away in a fabric fold below. Between them, it's easy to pick the bag up or move it around in the back of a car. Again, though, the bag is heavy and can fit a lot, so you may need your muscles.
The zippers on the Expandable run smoothly, and the nylon feels sturdy with no snags during testing. The leading edge along the bottom showed some scuffing relatively quickly, and with no bumpers, we expect that area to sustain the worst of any wear and tear. It does have four bumpers along its left side, so if you need to lay it over, choose that edge. The nylon fabric is water-resistant and does a great job of beading up splashes or the first few minutes of a rainstorm. The zippers don't keep water out, though, so don't leave this puppy out in a rainstorm if you can help it.
The wheels seem well made and stood up to our testing antics. We don't see any obvious way to replace them, though, should that be needed. Many bags have a visible screw or hex that would let you quickly replace a busted one. An integrated TSA-approved lock lets you lock the zippers from the main compartment securely. We really like this feature. You'll just have to be careful about what you stash in the forward compartment unless you buy a second lock.
She's a heavy one. At 14.5 pounds, the Expandable Large is the heaviest bag we tested. However, it rolls so well that we didn't notice this unless we were trying to pack a lot on a flight or pick it up to get it in a car or off a conveyor belt.
We really like the look of this suitcase, with its nice color options, appealing fabric, and horizontal line detailing. Being able to stash a few extras in the front pocket — a layer, your laptop, your ticket, and your ID — go a long way to feeling put together and in control.
If we knew for sure this bag would last a good five years of heavy use, we'd say it's a good value. You get a lot of storage space, style, rolling, and organizational support for your money. Given the promising durability signs so far, we'd say its value is about average, giving you just what you pay for and not much more.
This good-looking suitcase packs a lot away and holds everything in place as you head from point A to point B. It even gives you a little easy-access storage for the places in between. If you can work with the weight, it's a great option.
— Clark Tate
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