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Review: Rimowa’s Budget-Friendly Polycarbonate Case Doesn’t Disappoint

Traveling through Mexico with a German luxury brand.

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As I jogged through New York City’s JFK Airport, luggage was the least of my worries. A combination of bad traffic and confusion — apparently AeroMexico does not fly out of Terminal 4 — had me pressed for time. While passing lines of passengers at ticketing counters, my jet-black Rimowa glided over the polished floor. This is the territory the German luggage maker calls home: sprawling concourses, automated conveyor belts, sidewalks lined with taxis. But this trip was taking the Rimowa out of its element, traveling to the rugged southwestern Mexican state of Oaxaca.

Though the close association between luxury travel and Rimowa suitcases has existed for over a century, the brand cemented its standing with the jet set by way of its aluminum luggage, first produced in 1950. The grooved metal design was understated, and the lightweight case could withstand abuse for years of travel. But I wasn’t taking that Rimowa with me. I was taking the brand’s polycarbonate case, the Salsa Deluxe, the lighter-weight, more affordable option. No stranger to polycarbonate, Rimowa actually released the first polycarbonate luggage 16 years ago. The Salsa Deluxe features the same aesthetics as the brand’s flagship models, but at $695, it costs half the price. The case is, as is the nature of polycarbonate, noticeably flexible; it bends and compresses with pressure, a trait that actually adds to durability and longevity.

The case is, as is the nature of polycarbonate, noticeably flexible; it bends and compresses with pressure, a trait that actually adds to durability and longevity.

In the airport, the suitcase’s Multiwheel system, comprised of a set of four rotating double wheels, made transport effortless. The case was built to be guided by its handle, whose height is incrementally adjustable; it is made for ease of use for both tall and short. Sides handles on the Salsa Deluxe are easy to use. After arriving in Oaxaca, I was able to load the seemingly cumbersome 29-inch case into a waiting SUV in a single movement.

The sidewalks of Oaxaca City are incredibly varied, far removed from the glassy-smooth concrete of airports. The Multiwheel system was not designed for uneven paving and sidewalk obstructions, and in the short trek to the hotel, I momentarily relived the inconvenience that comes from schlepping a normal suitcase. But the Rimowa quickly re-endeared itself to me on departure.

During my time in Oaxaca, I procured a few bottles of rare mezcal. On the return flight to the JFK, the Rimowa proved a superlative treasure chest, protecting my investments as they traveled to Mexico City, and then on to New York. Upon arriving on home soil, I found the bottles nestled in the case just as I had left them. Dings and scratches on the exterior of the Salsa Deluxe hinted at rough handling behind the scenes, but the unaffected goods inside speak to the durability of the case on a whole. While it may get tripped up on rocky roads of remote regions, this classic case won’t let one down when it’s called to do its most important job: carrying valuable cargo, safely and with style.

Buy Now: $695

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