Packing up the boot and hitting the asphalt? Here are MT‘s top luggage picks.
WORDS & PICTURES BY CHRIS ROWLANDS
When is a bag not a bag? When it’s an uncomplaining companion that’s held all of your on-the-road belongings for more than 3 months, been stuffed into the boot of a Mini, visited many an AirBnb – and lived to tell the tale.
Meet our motley crew of rucksacks, holdalls and carry-ons: a multi-colour menagerie of holders and haulers that saw our shirts, socks and smalls safely transported around the Continent – in style.
Sure, we could have come up with a more practical selection, fit for filling the nooks and crannies of our trusty motor’s boot and footwells – but, given the choice, we’d opt for these fine sacks time and again.
Eager to meet them? Well, here they are.
Beara Beara Mochita Green backpack
bearabeara.co.uk | £105
First up, this beautiful backpack from Beara Beara. An apt replacement for a handbag, a spacious central pocket meant we had no trouble filling it with tasty nibbles and good reads as we strolled around the city centres of Europe.
A clever pocket which sat against our back was a perfect space to store secrets and valuables, too, making the Mochita an ideal strolling companion – not to mention its beautiful build quality.
In fact, fans of fine fabrics will love its woven details and sumptuous green suede shell, whilst the important bits are all made of leather – so there’s no doubting its toughness, despite its perfectly petite proportions.
Better still, it’s easy on the conscience: based in London, Beara Beara ethically sources its leather from Bolivia, supporting craftsmen to provide employment and opportunities that span generations.
Manhattan Portage Big Apple backpack
manhattanportage.co.uk | £59
Whilst this bright number from serial sack-makers Manhattan Portage might look simple enough, it’s got plenty of skills to make it a stellar walkabout bag.
Reinforced, cushioned straps, for one thing, mean that it’s comfortable – even when full. It’ll take a 15in laptop at a squeeze (with tablets posing no problem), as well as a DSLR camera, a book and a rolled-up jacket.
Sure, some might wish for more internal division, but the main compartment is surprisingly spacious, uninhibited by dividers. For smaller items, the front pocket offers plenty of depth, too.
Admittedly, you do have to be wary in pick-pocket hotspots, as there’s no way to lock the small front pocket, which can feel a little exposed.
All the same, it’s a well-made, sturdy backpack that never left us in any doubt as to its ability to carry all we stuck in it.
Jekyll & Hide Woodstock holdall
jekyllandhide.co.uk | £299
Designed to suit the sophisticated traveller, Jekyll & Hide’s range of leather bags and accessories offers a taste of luxury for the modern age – and its Woodstock holdall is no exception.
Wonderfully well-made, with a sturdy-yet-stylish shoulder strap – as well as strong hand loops – we couldn’t get enough of its versatile class, resplendent as it was in tan leather that only improves with age.
A spacious main compartment makes it the ideal weekend bag – or, in our case, a perfect holdall for three-night rotations – with just the right number of internal pockets to keep keys, cables and cards organised in useful fashion.
Compact enough to cram neatly into a boot or an overhead locker, it’ll happily carry a long-weekend’s worth of clothes, whilst its leather exterior – using materials sourced from tanneries in Brazil, India and Argentina – is the perfect partner to a smart travel outfit.
With a little love and care, this could be the carry-on to last a lifetime.
American Tourister Bon-Air suitcase
americantourister.co.uk | £89
Not the biggest bag around, this 4-wheeled roller from American Tourister is unquestionably bright – and spacious to boot.
Available in several size variants, our 55cm-case was the perfect fit for our Mini’s trunk, sitting snugly beside a stack of books and a heap of jumpers, whilst holding a hefty amount of our road trip belongings within its tough polypropylene shell.
Able to roll in all directions and controlled by a pleasantly strong handle, it proved itself a truly stable suitcase as it bobbled across the cobbles of many a European street. In-built zip-locks made it safe, too, whilst, at 2.5kg, it hardly weighed us down.
As for storage, an internal divider and elastic retainer straps meant the Bon Air was capable of keeping stacks of shirts, trousers and jumpers organised, crease-free and accessible, courtesy of a half-and-half compartment arrangement.
There’s an added boon for flyers as well, as it’ll fit within most cabin baggage restrictions – making it a knock-proof pack of ideal dimensions. Sure, brakes would be a useful addition, but we’re sold on the Bon Air’s ability to carry and roll with reinforced assurance.
Ravinala Marine tote bag
cocobay.co.uk | £30
Our go-to bag for bits and bobs, this stripy tote from Ravinala was a super home for our favourite paperbacks and picnic bits whilst on the road.
Sustainably made by rural artisans in Madagascar, the open-top sack was capable of hoisting fairly heavy loads – from food to films – whilst a drawstring cotton closure kept contents safe from dust, dirt and prying eyes.
Leather handles add an appropriate touch of charm – even if they don’t feel the firmest – as the patterned exterior ceaselessly stimulated visions of beautiful beaches and coastal retreats.
Happy trotting the world, the Marine tote is kind to it, too: the body is made from natural woven reed, whilst the cover employs hand-woven, reclaimed mixed fibres – making it an eco-friendly option, as well as a stylish one.