- Buyer's Guide
Raden A22 Carry :: Drive By
Lately, it seems like I am constantly uttering the words “what took so long” when it comes to legacy markets being disrupted. We live in an incredible time where age-old industries like eyewear, vacation lodging, and taxi’s have been turned on their heads by companies (Warby Parker, Airbnb, Uber) who leverage technology to bring a better good to the consumer, at a lower price. Last year seemed to be the marquee year for the a shake-up in the mattress industry but 2016 seems like the year for luggage to steal the show.
Luggage has always been one of those products where you either pay a little and get junk or have to pay a lot to get something good. There is not much of a middle ground when it comes to suitcases! The problem is most of us don’t travel enough to justify, or simply can’t afford, the high end. At the same time, we don’t want our bags falling apart each time the airlines get done with it. Like the mattress industry, luggage is dominated by a few large brands and they have no incentive to offer a product to consumers with a high value proposition.
Raden, a company made up of industry pros from Quirky and Bonobos, launched late March of this year after raising $3.5M in funding. They offer both carry-on and check-in suitcases in a large array of colorways and a bevy of technology features using a direct to consumer approach. The company was kind enough to send me a review sample of their A22 Carry, which I put through its paces on a four night, five day trip to Salt Lake City.
Here’s what you get for $295:
- TSA approved dimensions: 24″ x 14″ 9″
- Polycarbonate shell
- 8.4 lbs
- Eight colorways including matte options
- TSA-approved locks built into the zippers
- Built in scale, bluetooth connectivity for locating, and two USB charge ports
Who It Suits
The A22 is perfect for a tech-savvy, connected traveler whose needs don’t extend past four days of clothing and accessories. While every person packs differently, the A22 is a hard-shelled suitcase which means there is no expanding zipper or nylon material to stretch or bulge. Four days is the sweet spot but you can certainly fit more if you are creative in how you pack, and if you are clever in utilizing multi-purpose articles of clothing and/or doing laundry on your trip.
Who It Doesn’t
If you’re the type of person that brings three bags and a backpack to an overnight trip, the A22 is not for you. It’s also not great if you live in a country with uneven surfaces (ie cobblestone streets), but that’s true of any rolling luggage. Lastly, it’s not great if you often overfill your carry-on luggage and need the expandability of soft-sided luggage.
The Raden A22 Carry is one slick kit. The marketing for this suitcase is great and I haven’t been this excited about luggage in a long time. The box fits the suitcase perfectly and does its job without being overly wasteful with packaging. They sent me a Hunter Green color which I think looks very classy but different than the typical blacks and reds you typically see. Inside the box, the A22 sat inside a large cloth bag with a drawstring. This is actually a laundry bag that comes included with the A22 but also serves a secondary function – protecting the A22 and allowing you to easily grab onto something so you could more easily pull out the suitcase. How many of us have had to dump an expensive product onto the floor by turning a box upside-down? It also comes with a little soft-sided case with an eye mask, micro-USB cable, and earplugs which I thought was a nice touch but I didn’t use them.
The first thing I noticed was the weight. The A22 weighs just 8.4 lbs empty which felt really light to me. I am coming from a Samsonite bag which is a full three pounds heavier (11.4 lbs). The three pounds really made a difference in my opinion. My old bag also only had a pair of fixed wheels while the Raden comes with a set of four Hinomoto (Japan) wheels that articulate 360-degrees. I know this is old-hat to many folks but I never realized how amazing for my back it was to push the A22 upright through the terminal, instead of pulling it at an angle.
The interior is nicely organized with a zip covers on both sides, one solid and one with some mesh material and an extra pocket for incidentals. Using packing cubes, I found the A22 to be extremely easy to pack and organize and fit everything I needed for my trip, despite having some room taken up by the extension tubes (for the handle) and the battery.
Battery? Yup, I told you this thing was loaded with tech features right? Sitting in it’s own nylon in the center of the backside of the bag, is a 7,800 mAh battery. It’s used to power the bluetooth module and is connected to two USB ports for charging. Anytime I am waiting for my next flight, I am usually reading the news or listening to a podcast or music. This quickly drains the battery on my S6 so it’s nice to have ports you I can use to charge. Before you ask – yes, the battery is certified for flight and passes all TSA regulations. I have to admit, I was nervous that the battery would looks suspicious during security scans or would not be permitted on the flight, but I had no issues at all.
The built-in scale is a crazy useful feature. I currently use a standalone luggage scale whenever I fly but having it built into the carry handle of the A22 is awesome. The process to use it is really simple: first you enter the weigh function in the app and put the suitcase on the floor to calibrate. Then you lift it up by the handle and the weight is displayed. If you tell the app which airport(s) you’re flying through and which airline, it will figure out the weight limit and tell you how much of your limit your suitcase has used up. I rarely have weight issues, especially domestically, but it’s nice to have that reassurance.
The built-in TSA lock integrates directly with the two zippers and works really easily. To be honest, I’ve never put a padlock on any of my luggage but since it was included, I found myself locking up my bag whenever I left the Airbnb rental for the day. I know that a determined thief could cut or burst through any luggage they’d want to, but I feel like a lot of trave security measures are a matter of deterrence rather than impenetrability.
The Not So Good
Despite being so impressed with the A22 Carry, I had some niggles about it. First, the connected app is only available for iOS devices. I know most of you are Apple users out there but I use an Android mobile device so the only way to test any of the app functionality was to ask my girlfriend to connect the suitcase to her phone. I am told an Android app is due this Fall so we’ll see how that fares.
Once connected, I was impressed at how sleek the app was designed and for the most part it worked well. Except, I had an issue with the weighing function. When I weighed the suitcase empty, it reported a weight of around 130 lbs. Then, after I updated the firmware of the suitcase (I love that this is a thing), it started reporting better, but still inaccurate readings. I decided to then load up the suitcase with my travel contents and weigh it again. This time it came back with 24 lbs. I guess the lesson here is: don’t weigh your suitcase empty! I also was not able to really test the bluetooth location functionality but from what I saw of it, it would be of limited use. Basically it relies on pinging off of other Raden app users to create a report of where your (lost) luggage might be. This is great because it uses very little power (Bluetooth Low Energy) but also assumes a successful and widespread adoption of Raden luggage and the app.
The exterior of the case is made of a light and strong Makrolon polycarbonate. I can confirm that it is indeed light and strong but the shiny surface got quickly scuffed up. Similar to how you care a little less about scratches on your new car after you get the first one, I cared less about scratches after I arrived in Salt Lake with scuffs courtesy of the United baggage handlers. I think it’s a bit of a shame to choose such a shiny material knowing it’ll visibly show scratches after the first use.
I was not a fan of having no side handles. I think handles are key to loading a suitcase into and out of a trunk or backseat and onto a luggage cart on the tarmac before loading a small pond skipper.
Finally, due to being a hard-sided suitcase, you can’t “cheat” by having it bulge out a little. The upside is you know you are exactly within TSA regulations but I’ve only seen a gate agent stop a passenger once for having too large of a carry-on. I feel like they just kind of eye it and if you are close, it’s good enough.
Others to Consider
The other obvious choice is Away which, like Raden, is a startup trying to disrupt the luggage market. Their equivalent product is called The Carry-On and offers very similar features.
I did not realize how much suitcases had remained stagnant until I tried something from the new breed. The Raden A22 Carry hits all the right points with just a few misses, none of which are dealbreakers for me. Considering my last carry-on is still going strong after 10 years, I expect luggage to last a while so I am willing to pay Raden’s asking price. I think it’s a fair price for the feature set you get. The thing that would really drive it home for me is an Android app.