Castelli carry on wheelie bag
Before we go any further we need to make one thing clear: there is no point whatsoever arguing the toss over baggage dimensions at an easyJet check-in desk. If your bag doesn’t fit the hole they ask you to put it in, tough. Either unpack something or it goes in the hold.
They won’t give you a tape measure to allow you to prove that their hole is actually smaller than the 56 x 45 x 25cm they allow for carry on luggage, even if they claim to have a tape measure behind the desk. This is actually a good thing because that hole is the size they say it is, and there is no undersized hole conspiracy in operation to force you into paying a hold luggage charge. Put simply, you overpacked your bag.
I of course refused to believe it was even possible to overpack the Castelli rolling travel bag to beyond carry-on dimensions, and I spent a good five minutes pointing exactly this out to a frowning member of the check-in desk. It would have been longer had my dignity not been saved by my travelling companion who had mistakenly paid for hold luggage he did not need.
So the Castelli bag disappeared down the conveyor belt of doom, its little red wheels still rolling in a quiet desperation, me looking on helplessly and wondering if it would survive the total battering I knew it would receive in airside baggage hell.
I shouldn’t have worried. Castelli have a reputation for producing solid kit, and they weren’t going to let themselves down by cutting corners on the vessel they had designed to carry that kit.
The rolling travel bag I was testing is the smaller of a pair of wheeled bags in the Castelli luggage range, which also features a wet bag, saddlepack, holdall, backpack and more. The whole range is styled in a tough, rubber-coated matt nylon with minimal branding, which amounts to a couple of strategically placed logos.
Castelli have stuck their collective necks out with this range - it’s the first luggage collection they have produced and marks an expansion of the brand’s scope. It is a departure from the clothing they have become famous for - decent, dependable, hard wearing clothing. Luggage needs to withstand a hell of a lot of abuse, from the occasional flip on a drain cover and belly-up drag along the pavement to whatever sort of torture lies in the minds of airport baggage handlers. Get it wrong and you could be watching the contents of your bag being paraded along the conveyor belt,Generation Game style. Not a good advertisement for a brand.
It is evident Castelli went to a lot of trouble to get its luggage right. The construction is ridiculously tough, zips robust and wheels of the type that would be at home on a decent skateboard. The extendable tow handle releases at the push of a button and pulls into place with a reassuring click. It is luggage of a quality that befits the brand.
The bag packs a decent bit of kit, too. It unzips at the centre and unfolds to reveal a red centre, a bit like taking a knife to a Turkish delight. Zipped mesh compartments separate kit and ensure it doesn’t all come spilling out upon opening. The back half has an additional zipped compartment for some flattened garments, like the swimming shorts you never use. The front zipped compartment is smaller, to accommodate a travel essentials pocket, accessible when the back is fastened. This pocket is big enough to house a gilet, book, passport and assorted other bits you might need to access quickly.
What you will be able to fit into the bag as a whole is going to depend on how you want to transport it and the duration of your stay. We’ll start with what I crammed in: helmet, shoes, trainers, four complete kits including socks and caps, rain jacket, gilet, mitts. For off the bike: four pairs of underwear, four t-shirts, hoodie, sweater. I think I also squeezed a shirt in and there might have been one or two other bits that never saw the light of day. The wash kit, before you get the wrong idea, went in the bike bag.
So the Castelli rolling travel bag is capable of packing a decent amount of gear - far more, it turns out, than will allow you to take the bag into the cabin of an aircraft. In order to conform to the carry on rules, keep an eye on the depth. Due to the rigid nature of the bag, the length and the sides will not move and are within the size limits. The front of the bag, however, will rise like a well-baked fruit loaf if you allow it. The magic number is 25cm. Stick to this measurement and you’re plain sailing. Or flying, to be precise.
You can’t really blame Castelli for developing a bag that will carry more than you can get away with as cabin baggage, and you can’t blame Castelli if you adopt the “if it fits in, take it,” approach to packing. So be sure to exercise restraint and use a tape measure while loading up. Remember, happiness is a bag that fits the hole.
Summary: The wheelie bag cyclists have been waiting for - a cool brand, solid, dependable, and capable of carrying a bundle of kit - but you won’t get further than the airport check-in desk if you max it out.
4 / 5
This article first appeared in The Times on September 30, 2015