“Papa’s got a brand new bag”

Actually, Papa’s got two brand new bags, with a tip of the hat to James Brown’s classic 1965 hit.

Musing about holiday gifts last month, I narrowed down the search for a replacement of my twenty year old Hartmann two-wheel roller to two-wheelers made by Zero Halliburton and Briggs & Riley (I am not a fan of spinners).  The old Hartmann has served me well, but is showing its age, as evident in these pictures:

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It was a tough call to choose between ZH and B&R. I finally decided to buy both, justifying the decision by sharing the bags with my wife.  I didn’t know which I’d like better for functionality and durability, and this way my wife and I have two “forever” bags we can use when we fly together.

Here are two views of the new Zero Halliburton (I fancied the brilliant red ZH available in the same model, but it was $50 more, so opted for the classic brushed aluminum that made the brand famous):

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It was an easy decision to buy both bags since I eventually found appealingly low prices. I got the Briggs & Riley from ebags.com (Amazon was nearly $100 more for the same model). Zero Halliburton’s best prices are on the ZH website, and the company had a deep discount sale going on to clear inventory of current models before launching newly designed cases in late January (2020).

Two pictures of the new Briggs & Riley (I liked the olive color, and it didn’t cost extra):

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When the new pieces arrived, I first measured them to compare with my old Hartmann, which is 22 x 15 x 10.  The Zero Halliburton is 21 x 15 x 8, and the Briggs & Riley is 21 x 14 x 9.  Doesn’t sound like much of a dimensional difference, but both the new pieces are quite a bit smaller than the Hartmann I’ve depended on for years, as can be readily seen from these pictures:

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Initial impressions:  While the two new ones are the legal size, the Hartmann has never been challenged by any airline anywhere and fits just fine in most every overhead compartments (excepting the Lilliputian overhead bins on some first gen RJs, which won’t take the other two, either). Of course the Hartmann holds more, just as it appears it would, so though I’m happy to have two bags that are “legal” size, I’m disappointed they are tinier than my old reliable two-wheeler.  Here’s what they look like when open:

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The February 2020 issue of Consumer Reports gives Briggs & Riley the top spot for carryon bags, with an overall satisfaction score of 92 and best in five categories measured: ease of carrying, wheelability, ease of packing, durability, and stowability.

I cannot account for why Zero Halliburton isn’t listed in the 21 carryon luggage brands (32 for checked bags) unless ZH was deemed too esoteric or costly.  If Zero Halliburton was omitted due to expense, then I find it curious, as the ZH and B&R bags were close in price.

Next month an old friend is joining me for another trip to the Kruger National Park in South Africa (see many posts about previous Kruger trips at www.allenonafrica.com). After nearly 30 years of frequently visiting the park, I have my routine down pat for 12-14 days and nights.

Knowing I am going to do laundry once or twice while there, I usually pack 6-7 of the basics (boxers, socks, tees, shirts), plus the clothes I wear to fly over. I pack one extra pair of khakis for a total of two, counting the pair I wear over. I always take two pairs of shoes, one of mesh sandals (which I pack) and the other running shoes (to wear going over and back). I do not pack outerwear, instead wearing a light jacket going and returning.

From experience I know that all of those items, plus my toiletries and a few other things, will fit into the Hartmann two-wheeler. So as I pondered the big size difference between the old Hartmann and the two new carryons, it occurred to me to test the new bags against what I always put in the Hartmann.

The Zero Halliburton appears to have the smallest interior and does not have the special compression technology built into the Briggs & Riley.  Thus I decided the ZH would be the acid test.  I assembled all the usual Kruger trip clothing and shoes to see if they’d fit, the only concession being to pack six, rather than seven, of the basic articles. Here are the results:

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The good news is that it all fit with a little room left for a couple of baseball caps for sun shade.  The two halves of the Zero Halliburton closed without forcing it.

However, the other items I usually throw in the Hartmann suitcase won’t fit in the Halliburton.  Things like my toiletries, reading material, reference books, Kruger maps, vitamins and medications (e.g., anti-malarial drugs), and binoculars.

But since I always take a second “personal items” bag—a small backpack—most of the items will instead fit in that, along with travel documents, Bose noise-canceling headphones, clothesline and clothespins for drying laundry, and such.

The smaller volume available forced me to pare down what I have always taken.  My friend is packing a pair of field glasses with stabilizing technology far superior to my 1990s model Nikon, so that will stay in Raleigh, as will my beloved, but bulky “Robert’s Birds of Southern Africa” (I found an abridged version that is slim and light instead).

Kruger trips, always 12-14 days, are normally the outer limit of my time away.  Therefore, the outcome of my experiment in packing is all good. If the new bags work for the Kruger, then they will be fine and dandy for my usual three, four, or five night business trips, even with business attire packed (yes, I still wear a coat and tie on business).  I’m jazzed to start using my new Briggs & Riley and Zero Halliburton bags!

2 thoughts on ““Papa’s got a brand new bag”

  1. It’s a difficult thing to do, discarding your old friend. You’ve been thru a lot together, took my old roll on for an outing to SYD a few weeks back, we were happy to be back on the road together again.

  2. The only reference you made to the lifetime warranty that Briggs and Riley offers is the ‘forever’ comment which is a bit vague. The lifetime warranty is worth it’s weight in gold for any frequent traveler. I’m not sure if ZH offers this but if not, that is a big difference for comparison purposes.

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