Money no object, what’s the best luggage in the world? It’s a question that seems like it would have a straightforward answer, or at least a few so good that it comes down to minutiae. But try to balance durability, looks and convenience, and it becomes strangely clear that there may not be a perfect piece of luggage at any price. Rimowa Topas? Beautiful, but Fabergé-egg fragile. Globe-trotter hard case? Great if you have a porter, a bit affected. Tumi Alpha? Durable, well designed, but hardly the most attractive pick. And those are the revered ones!
As someone who’s been willing to spend money on a piece of quality luggage for at least a year, I’ve been paralyzed by a lack of choice, waiting for my knight in TSA-approved armor to appear on the horizon. Then, a few weeks ago with almost exactly no fanfare, Tumi announced the 19 Degree Aluminum series.
The 19 Degree is effectively Tumi’s take on the Rimowa Topas — a satin black or silver aluminum shell, two latches and four casters. What you don’t get with Rimowa, however, is Tumi’s build quality and attention to detail: the side handles of its 19 Degree collection slowly return to position after use (instead of violently flopping around), while the arms of the main telescoping handle are shaped like rounded triangles to avoid bending. If these sound like small points, try traveling internationally with a busted handle. Both these features are exactly what you’d hope for in luggage with a starting price of $995 (the same price as the Rimowa Topas carry-on). Only time will tell if the 19 Degree can stand up to abuse better than others. For now, I’m cautiously optimistic that my search for the perfect bag has come to an end.