Sherpani has been around since 2003 making backcountry and urban packs and bags for women. Last summer, the company expanded its repertoire by adding a travel luggage line complete with wheeled luggage, duffels, totes and toiletry bags in eye-catching colors like palm, rhubarb and sea mist.
The Hemisphere 25-inch upright wheeled luggage that we've been testing on the road and in the air has a decidedly feminine styling with Sherpani's signature look that's prevalent in the line. The suitcase has curves and rounded edges and stands out on the baggage carousel among a sea of drab luggage. It has lots of details that appeal to women, such as embroidered logos on the main body of the bag as well as logo-branded zipper pulls, which not only looked great, but were also easy to grab. The suitcase is constructed with partially recycled materials and weighs about 7 pounds, 8 ounces.
It has polyester wheels similar to those on inline skates. They glide smoothly on flat terrain, but tend to stall on rough, gravely terrain. Both the wheels and lower back panel have skid plates that have taken a beating from rough paths and baggage bays of planes. Like the wheels, they're a bit scuffed up, but these are high-wear areas and that's to be expected. The retractable handle has a one-touch button to release it and comes out smoothly. Once fully extended, there's no looseness or jiggling.
One definite kudo we can give the Hemipshere is that it's balanced correctly. Whether empty or loaded, it always stays upright, and it hasn't fallen forward with a heavy load -- and we've gotten it up to nearly 50 pounds. Also, on uneven terrain or going off sidewalk edges, it's never gotten topsy-turvy or rocked from side to side as if it's going to fall over as we've experienced with other bags.
The upright is not lacking in compartment space, pockets and the like. All told, it has about nine sections and pockets. On the outside, it has two small zippered pockets on each side and a large, front-panel compartment. The front section can hold smaller items, like underwear, socks, a hair dryer, etc., and has two additional mesh-lined pockets. Inside, the suitcase's main area can be divided into two sections via a mesh divider. It also has mesh zippered pocket running the length of the top flap and a smaller zipper pocket on the side.
We played around with different packing options and found that the back wall panel that contains the handle provided the structure needed to protect more vulnerable items, such as shoes. The top area held clothes and had only one compression strap toward the front, while we would have preferred a second one at the back to secure clothing. And it seemed like we always had a free corner where we could fit one more must-have item, like a power cord or a brush.
For those needing extra room, the bag has a zippered expander that provides about three extra inches in depth. It proved handy, but packers have to make sure they're not overzealous cramming the bag if they want to stay within the 50-pound weight limit of most airlines.
While the majority of the bag's features have led to happy travels, we did encounter a bump in the road. The Hemisphere has two rounded handles on the outside with a snap closure. They're similar in look and styling to those found on its handbags albeit larger and sturdier. While a nice homage touch to the brand, they've been a bit troublesome. If the bag is filled to capacity, even with a smidge of room to spare, it's hard to get the snap to close, let alone stay closed. Also, if the bag is full and the snap does close, it's very difficult to get a handhold on the straps to carry it like duffel. After a few months of use, the stitching on the snap closure is mostly unraveled and barely hanging on. If the handles and strap closure were each a smidge longer, this all could probably be avoided.
We'd also like an additional grab handle at the bottom or side of the bag to help heave it into a car or luggage rack. With this addition and a tweak to the handle design, the Hemisphere would be nearly flawless. As it stands now, it’s a welcome addition to our luggage collection, and an indicator that Sherpani is serious about serving the travel market.
SNEWS® Rating: 4.0 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $249
For more information:www.sherpani.us