Eagle Creek Tarmac 29" Review
Cons: Unapologetic styling, heavy
Manufacturer: Eagle Creek
Our Analysis and Test Results
We were expecting big things from the Eagle Creek Tarmac 29 in the wake of the Eagle Creek Tarmac AWD taking home the Editors Choice in our Carry-On Luggage Review. And big things it delivered — but not quite big enough to rise to the top of our highly competitive field.
Some of the design cues that won Eagle Creek the Editors' Choice award for carry-on luggage simply didn't translate into the world of oversized luggage. And yet, the Tarmac showed its value across the board. Don't write this bag off just because it didn't win an award. We think the world of Eagle Creek's Tarmac line.
The Tarmac had a solid showing amongst stiff competition. This bag earned its position in 4th place. But don't let the lack of a podium spot deter you. The Tarmac trailed our Editors Choice (Timbuk2 Copilot) by only 3.5 points, while 5.5 points separate 4th position from 5th.
Posting consistent top-level scores in our most important metrics, the Tarmac established itself early in the review as a top contender. We would happily travel with this bag, knowing full well that it would impress us and make our lives easier while jet-setting.
The exterior of the Tarmac featuring an abrasion resistant fabric, proprietary Bi-Tech Armor, and waterproof treatment, already told us that this bag was built to last. The bag features a stout internal frame and strategically placed external gussets to protect the bag at key contact points.
The oversized rugged wheels feature extra bracing and hardware that is made to take a beating while you drag this bag just about anywhere. And the puncture-resistant zippers are the stoutest we encountered during our tests. With not one, but two rows of elements, these zippers are tough.
This bag packs it away. Although the traditional small and large front-facing pockets pander to the last-minute item packer in all of us, the internal storage is the real treat. The interior compartment feels cavernous, and can be expanded should you feel the need; we didn't. Two side-mounted elastic-closure mesh pockets are ready to hold whatever toiletries or accessories for easy access. We found the third mesh pocket with zipper closure spanning down the middle of the main compartment slightly confusing. We still aren't certain what we would use this pocket for.
To round out the storage, the Tarmac features an extra large suit pocket. You won't find a suit folder like the Briggs & Riley Baseline or the TravelPro Platinum Magna 2, but you won't find any problems with storing a properly folded suit or flat-pack items.
Ease of Transport
The extra large 4-inch ruggedized wheels made hauling our test weight a breeze and earned top marks. The Tarmac navigated stairs, cracked sidewalks, and smooth surfaces quietly without an ounce of discomfort at the extendable handle. The carry handles are nicely padded yet sturdy enough to provide confidence when transferring to the trunk of a car. We also found the bottom handle very useful when placing the suitcase on a bed or luggage stand. The Osprey Sojourn with its wide-ranging versatility in transport and the Burton Wheelie Double Deck were amongst the other top scorers in this category.
Features are the forté of this bag. The Tarmac is laden with features inside and out in addition to the stout zippers, go-anywhere wheels, and multiple storage pockets. To start, zippers for the main compartment and exterior pockets are lockable. And the finger-loop pulls attached to each zipper let you open and close zippers even with gloves.
Tucked away behind the top exterior pocket, an add-a-bag strap lets you tether smaller bags to the suitcase, while the coat-keeper straps a jacket to the top of your bag. Both of these features are fantastically convenient and make full functional sense with a carry-on. However, we're not certain how much use these items will see with a checked piece of luggage.
Along the sides, you will find MOLLE webbing for potentially lashing extra gear to the exterior of the bag. But once again, we don't expect many people to lash gear to the outside of their checked luggage. On the interior, rather than a useless elastic luggage strap, a firm tug of the webbing-based luggage strap keeps your clothes right where you put them. There were few bags that wowed us with features like the Tarmac. For more feature-laden options that suit checked-baggage use, have a peek at the Briggs & Riley Baseline or the TravelPro Platinum Magna 2.
Coming in 10.5 lbs, the Tarmac doesn't aim for a light weight, nor does it tip the scales in this metric. With 10-percent of usable payload going toward transporting and protecting your belongings, we would say this bag is about average.
It's almost as if the designers styled the bag from the inside out. They've flooded the interior of the bag with style cues from Eagle Creek packing cube and folders. The styling permeated through the zippers and influenced the exterior which began its life as a standard looking bag. The result: a cross between an oversized children's bag and a professional traveler's weekly workhorse. And we don't know exactly how we feel about it.
Best for the consumer that prefers a soft-sided single compartment packing style with numerous interior and exterior pockets. This bag just screams family vacation with a whimsical splash of color and styling. Take this bag anywhere with confidence that your stuff has the space and protection you need.
Only two candidates outperformed this bag with a lower price-point. So for the price tag, the Tarmac simply makes sense. Those that want this bag would likely shy away from its nearest competitors; and vice versa. The transportability, features, and storage make this a worthwhile purchase.
A great option for large-suitcase shoppers, particularly those with an affinity for Eagle Creek products and styling. With the extra-large main compartment, we believe the Tarmac will excel with Eagle Creek Cube and folder systems. Overall, this bag is a workhorse that we would happily take on vacation or for holiday travel.
— Dave Eyvazzadeh
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