The SNEWS® team has tested enough suitcases to fill a baggage carousel, and the Briggs and Riley Explore 25 Upright stands out from the pile. Really, there are three things that make this a great bag -- its toughness, its smart components for organizing all that you carry, and its storage capacity.
From airports to the train stations, from Canada to Salt Lake City, our team put this bag through some tough testing, and it came up aces every trip.
Constructed of 420-denier ripstop nylon, the Explore Upright exterior fabric withstood all the scrapes and bumps that luggage typically suffers. After several journeys, the bags we tested appear clean and unscathed -- save for a few scratches on the plastic reinforcing the wheel areas.
And the wheels are a definite plus, as they’re made with thick rubber that allows the bag to roll easily, and quietly, over all types of surfaces. Also, plastic wheels can get scuffed to the point that they become slick or deformed, but this was not a concern with these rubber wheels. Plus, a metal flange reinforces the wheel axle, so it would take great force to break the wheel or knock it out of place.
It also helps that this bag is wide (18 inches), which makes it more stable as it rolls along.
“I never had a problem with it going all topsy-turvy on varying terrain,” said one tester. “It always stayed on course rather than wobbling around and flopping over.”
One typical weak spot on a suitcase is the telescoping carry handle, but the handle on the Explore Upright never became loose or wobbly. It deploys easily by pressing a tab at the top of the handle and slides smooth as silk. One thing our testers really liked was that the handle compartment lies on the exterior of the bag rather than the interior. This allows more storage room inside, and the base of the bag interior is flat and free of annoying ribs, so you can place things on a truly flat surface.
While the Explore Upright is durable, it also sports a number of pockets and panels that allowed us to pack a great amount of clothing and other items, and also keep things tidy and organized. We really liked the two flaps of fabric at the base of the interior that are attached to the bag with elastic bands. Once you’ve placed clothing under the flaps, and buckled the two flaps together, the contents are compressed to free up room in the bag along the inside edges. “Because they pulled all the clothes tightly together, I was able to stuff extras in the space, like shoes, a hair dryer, hair brush and phone charger cords,” said one tester.
There is also a waterproof pocket on the interior of the bag’s main lid, and we found it made a great place to store toiletry kits, without fear that any liquids would spill into the main compartment. A sizable square pocket on the interior of the lid is pretty shallow, but still useful. “It was good for smaller miscellaneous clothing pieces, like undies, bathing suits, socks, scarves, hats and gloves,” one tester reported.
A large, square zippered pocket on the exterior of the bag is gusseted and holds more than you’d think, and one tester said she used it to hold a coat, noting that she could get to it quickly if it was raining or cold outside the airport. Above that pocket is a long, shallow zippered pocket with a really clever feature -- storage well for your identification tag. If you don’t want other travelers to get a peek at your personal info, just slide the tag into the well.
Another aspect of this bag that really stands out is its storage capacity. You can put a whole bunch of stuff in this bag, and there’s even a zippered expansion flap to make the main compartment a couple more inches deeper. Once you’ve stuffed the bag, you can crank down side straps to streamline the load.
Roomy, durable and chock full of useful storage compartments, the Explore Upright was clearly designed by folks who know what travelers really want and need.
SNEWS® Rating: 4.5 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $320
For more information: www.briggs-riley.com