- Buyer's Guide
ROAM Jaunt Carry-On Review
The ROAM Jaunt aims to take personalized travel to the next level with customized luggage…
If you haven’t been paying attention, you might not have noticed that recently there’s been a bit of a shake-up in the luggage market. Over the past five-ish years a steady stream of new brands has been unsettling the established juggernauts by bringing a new perspective on luggage. For a very long time, luggage brands were only talking about one thing, making suitcases as light as possible. Now Kickstarter campaigns, smart luggage, and direct-to-consumer models are changing the luggage conversation.
Customization is another new concept that a few brands have recently been dabbling with, giving customers the option to add small details like monogramming or custom decals. Now a new start-up has emerged that’s taking customization way further than anyone else to date. Two years ago ROAM Luggage launched with the most comprehensive customization luggage platform yet. And unlike many of the other luggage newcomers, the brains behind ROAM are long-time industry pros in Larry Lein and Charlie Clifford. The duo had spent the past 30 or so years at the helm of a little brand called Tumi before starting ROAM. Over the past few months, I’ve had the chance to design and travel with my own ROAM carry-on spinner, dubbed The Jaunt. So, how did the veterans do in this new era for luggage?
Who It Suits
The ROAM Jaunt is a carry-on hardside spinner. Hardside meaning it’s a plastic shell and spinner meaning it has four caster wheels so you can spin it around. This type of case is built for air travel. It’s ideal for packing into overhead lockers and running between airport gates. Given the size, the Jaunt would be perfect for short trips between two cities. Or potentially as a carry-on addition to a check-in suitcase for longer trips.
That said, the big drawcard here really is the custom color which is particularly well suited to frequent travelers. Also, anyone with a sense of style or an eye for design will definitely enjoy creating a piece that’s uniquely their own.
Who It Doesn’t
There are a few well-discussed downsides to hardside luggage in general that make it a less suited format for various types of travel. Access is slower than soft luggage, and the smaller wheel size isn’t great on rougher terrain. Basically, they’re not great for when you’re traveling off the beaten path. Also if you’re traveling somewhere a bit dangerous you might not want to stand out, which makes the custom color less fun.
If you are in the market for hardside luggage there’s really nobody who wouldn’t want their own custom color. I mean it’s custom, you can make it however you like. That said, if you’re on a tight budget or you want to go incognito perhaps you won’t see the value in the customization aspect.
Before we talk about the luggage, one of the most important and enjoyable parts to ROAM is the design process. The customization all happens online via the ROAM website. After selecting your size, you land on a page that lets you play around mixing and matching colors across six of the case’s main components. The customizable parts are a combination of big elements like the shell, down to little details like the zip bumper.
The colors available to pick from are well thought out and a big highlight. ROAM has worked with a colorist to develop a modern, distinctive pallet that’s got a lot of flexibility. There’s room to make your ROAM Jaunt fun with contrasting brights or to take it in a subtle, understated direction. All in only seven or eight individual color options. What’s more, it’s foolproof, meaning you can’t really design an ugly case. I tried putting this to the test by going as wild as possible. And so far it’s gotten a lot of love.
Given that not everyone is comfortable making creative decisions, it’s nice that ROAM has built in three levels of customization depending on how confident you’re feeling. For those who might be nervous, there are pre-set designs that help you to get started. In the middle, there’s a streamlined design process. Then at the extreme end, the platform allows you to dive right into the details and tweak each individual item, which is where I ended up.
To visualize your design you’re presented with a realistic 3D render of the case which you can spin and zoom into to see from all angles. There are a few features that I would have liked to help make the final decision, like being able to save and compare designs or showing some more real-life examples of each color to get a better sense of how it’s going to look IRL. But these are more nice-to-haves; overall the system is super straightforward to pick up and play with.
Then once you land on a design, the case is made to order in ROAM’s US assembly facility, taking just a few days before being shipped directly to you. The welcome card that comes with the luggage is even signed by the maker, which is a nice touch.
Apart from it being fun to see your design come to life, whilst traveling with the ROAM Jaunt I found some unexpected perks of having a personalized piece of luggage. Of course, there’s the basic functional benefit of being able to spot your luggage in a carousel line-up. Beyond the practical though, there’s a warm and fuzzy side to making your luggage more personal. By being involved in the creation process it’s hard not to have more of an affinity for your creation. In an uncanny way, this small connection feels particularly relevant to luggage. I guess because when you’re traveling, luggage is the one thing that’s always next to you. It’s nice to have a travel companion that you’re a little more attached to, or even a little proud of.
Using the luggage, you can tell the team has put effort into the details. ROAM’s branding leans into the heyday of international air travel. And the sharp ’50s inspired design plays out consistently across the luggage. Custom details like the zips, handles, and dust cover tie in nicely with the minimal, modernist case design. The embosses on the case continue on the brand language and also minimize scratches, which is a nice little touch.
Underpinning the good looks and impressive customization of the ROAM Jaunt is fundamentally a high-quality piece of luggage. Going through the product specification you get the sense that Larry and Charlie have gone back to the Tumi playbook when designing it. Co-founder Larry Lein even made the bold claim that ROAM is aiming to be “the BMW of luggage”. While there are no major new technical innovations in the case, every component used is top of the line. The shell is 100% polycarbonate that’s been both extruded and formed in the US. Its finish is a unique matte finish PC and the shape has been designed to increase breaking strength in order to reduce weight.
An internally mounted four-stage trolley handle is on the back. The ribbed extrusion of the aluminum has the feeling of a quality camera tripod. It also has an impressively small amount of rake and wobble. Then you’ve got the TSA locks, water-resistant YKK zips, and the top-of-the-line, ball-bearing Hinomoto wheels which are super smooth and super quiet. The wheels are so smooth that on a number of occasions the case quietly rolled away without me noticing. The noise reduction they provide was really appreciated when walking the case across a few city blocks. Instead of the usual loud rumble, the case only emitted a dull hum.
Finally, my personal favorite feature is the dual internal compression systems. The system works by securing all your clothes hard against the shell through a simple frame and strap design. As a result, everything stays where you packed it even on the bumpiest trips. This means things don’t break and shirts don’t wrinkle. It’s not a new system, but once you’ve used it you won’t go back. Altogether it’s an impressively robust case that does a good job of balancing durability and weight, coming in at just under 3kg (6.6lbs).
Not So Good
When weighing up where ROAM ranks against other pieces of luggage in the market it’s hard not to notice the price (US$495). There’s no denying it’s at the higher end of what’s available, but that’s not to say it’s overpriced. For your money, you’re getting great quality parts combined with USA manufacturing. And most importantly, your piece will be made to order. That’s where ROAM has made a difficult decision. No matter if you want full custom or not, you pay the same. The logic is that pricing both options the same encourages everyone to design their own piece. Unfortunately on the flip side, if you’re just after a stock color, you pay for a feature you don’t need.
Beyond the issue of price, all other negatives are really just nit-picking. For example, on my case the monogram emboss was a little wonky. Other areas for improvement are the way in which the internal compression system is mounted into the case, which could be refined. It works well, but it’s not as well resolved as the rest of the luggage. Also, the trolley handle itself stands out as a touch-point that could be both ROAM branded and customizable. Lastly, for a brand that has aspirations to be the BMW of luggage, it would be nice to see ROAM bring some unique innovations beyond custom color. Obviously, that’s a big ask but it would help to clearly cement the Jaunt as a notch above the pack.
When shopping for luggage it can be easy to look at hard luggage as all the same, just a plastic box on wheels. In doing so you overlook how important good luggage is when you’re traveling. Paying more for good luggage is an investment in making travel easier. There is less chance of having to deal with a cracked suitcase when you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere. It means your clothes stay neat and your case will glide down the street. In short, investing in good luggage means your luggage doesn’t get in the way of a good trip. The ROAM Jaunt ticks all these boxes and adds customization on top. For frequent fliers, or anyone itching to get back into air travel when it gets back into full swing, ROAM is definitely a brand that should be on your shortlist for new luggage.