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I distinctly remember the moment I first laid my eyes on an Away suitcase. One of my coworkers had been talking nonstop about her new carry-on, and before heading out of town one day, she rolled the hard-shell spinner into the office. Like a proud new homeowner, she took our team on a tour through its features, leaving me mesmerized by its built-in compression straps and portable battery pack, as well as its stylish and sturdy design.
Though awestruck, I didn't immediately purchase my own; I was never one to invest in baggage—and the introductory price—$225 when it first hit the market—was beyond what I thought luggage was worth at the time. Following an ill-fated journey to Australia, in which I found my checked bag split open on the baggage carousel, the zipper having burst after I overstuffed it, I knew it was time to upgrade.
My first Away bag was The Bigger Carry-On, and despite having previously thought of luggage as glorified boxes to transport my travel essentials, I was immediately obsessed. For an overpacker, I was surprised how much I could stuff into the suitcase. Constantly slipping in “just one more” thing in, the zipper always held tight and the shell showed no signs of bulging. While on the go, the light glide of the wheels could tackle any surface, even cobblestone streets. Plus, the sleek, minimalist design just jived with me.
Being the space hog I am, I later upgraded to The Bigger Carry-On Flex, which added an extra 2.25 inches of expansion, meaning even I was able to go on a two-week trip with just a carry-on. As much as I’ve banged it around and overstuffed it, it’s remained impervious to my abuse.
These days, I often see other brands trying to mimic Away's features—a sign of just how much it’s changed the luggage industry. What makes it all the more surprising is that Away is still a relatively new company, having roared onto the market in 2015, with one simple goal: understanding travelers.
“From the beginning, we set out to expand the conversation around travel, solving real world travel pain points by keeping an incredibly close pulse on our customer’s needs,” Away’s chief marketing officer Carla Dunham says. “We dissected and developed a solution to all of the common headaches of travel while revolutionizing what it meant to be a travel brand.”
Founded by two female former Warby Parker executives, including Jen Rubio, who still serves as the CEO, Away was sparked by her own broken baggage disaster, noticing there was a hole in the market for luggage that was fun and functional.
After talking to hundreds of travelers, the initial carry-on was designed to meet all the most common needs—a lighter and stronger hard-side with an impact-resistant polycarbonate shell that moved easily with premium 360-degree wheels, with thoughtful features like a snap-in mesh laundry bag to keep clean to separate clean and dirty laundry, and a removable battery pack to eliminate the fight for the airport outlets.
The result wasn’t just success—the brand quickly entered the zeitgeist. Stars from Margot Robbie to Mandy Moore were spotted toting them, and Meghan Markle is believed to have given 17 Away bags as party favors at her baby shower. They've turned up on screen, too. Dunham says her favorite pop culture moment was when Portia tossed her Away away in The White Lotus. “It seemed so natural that she had an Away suitcase and that spoke to the brand’s unique position in culture and continued relevance.”
Since launch, the price points for the standard editions—which now start at $315 for The Carry-On and go up to $475 for the newly introduced The Trunk—have gone up, and are a notch above what casual or new travelers may be used to paying, but are still fairly reasonably priced for the suitcases' quality.
The brand has ventured into other travel accessories since launch, too, with both hits (packing cubes) and misses (travel pillows, now discontinued)—and added an outdoor collection, F.A.R., last year. It continues to evolve based on the needs of the moment. With the growing number of power outlets available on flights and around airport terminals these days, Away just phased out its distinctive built-in battery charger from its core product last month, as part of its first major refresh of its original classics line.
“Each update is incredibly intentional—from the improved features like a redesigned zipper shape, additional interior organization, and an updated trolley system, to the fresh color palette and new gloss finish, underscores how we obsess over every detail to make the journey smoother for our customers,” Dunham says.
As the brand continues to evolve, more updates and new products are sure to come, but some of the products remain staples. Here, we round up the Condé Nast Traveler team’s most-used Away bags and accessories.
This article is part of Condé Nast Traveler's first-ever Luggage Week, for which dozens of suitcases, backpacks, and weekender bags were road-tested by our editors.
Weight: 7.9 lbs.
Dimensions: 23" x 15" x 10"
A recent convert from a larger suitcase that often had to be checked, editorial assistant Jessica Chapel says the refreshed Bigger Carry-On suitcase “does wonders,” especially since she can fit almost as much in this more compact hardside spinner, which she recently took on a five-day trip with plenty of room to spare. She’s already traveled with the 7.9-pound bag by plane, bus, and car, and put it to the test when delays allowed her only 15 minutes to get between gates. She swiftly pulled the bag out of the overhead compartment thanks to “the perfect mix of convenient handle placements and the texture of the luggage,” put the bag on top of her head—an unconventional carrying method, to be sure—and sailed through the crowd. “It's the little things, including the unique placement of the luggage's underside handle—with a small dash of adrenaline—that certainly does the trick for easy access without any shuffle, which is exactly what's needed in an airport rush,” Chapel says. (She made her connecting flight in the knick of time.)
Also notable, she says: the interior lining, mesh, and drawstring laundry for dirty clothes (no longer snapped, as part of the refresh), are made of recycled polyester. Deputy global editorial director Jesse Ashlock concurs, having depended on the classic version for more than three years now, calling it a “solid workhorse polycarbonate bag that suits a lot of different trip styles.” I recently tried the updated version of The Bigger Carry-On, and was able to pack enough for a weeklong California getaway; I am especially loving the additional inner pockets to keep my essentials more organized.
Weight: 10.4 lbs.
Dimensions: 26" x 19" x 11"
During a two-week car trip to Rhode Island and Martha’s Vineyard, destinations editorial assistant Charlie Hobbs brought along the “perfectly light” 10.4-pound medium check-in sized hardside, able to fit enough in to not have to do laundry the entire getaway. The interior of the upgraded version—which he found “unassuming”—includes more storage pockets: The compression flap, which used to have just one large zipper mesh compartment, is now divided into two zippered sections on one side with an added large pocket on the backside. Additionally, the zipper closure for the top half of the suitcase now has a zippered pocket on it. He also noticed what’s perhaps the most commonly called-out downfall of Away’s hardsides: “Despite only ever being in the car, this bag is already quite scuffed up,” he said. (When I was in Estonia with two other travel writers last month, looking at our three Away bags, we commented the same thing.) Each suitcase does come with Away's own version of a Magic Eraser that helps remove light scuffs, though a bit of elbow grease might be needed to get them out. That said, Hobbs found the 360-degree wheels rolled “perfectly well” and appreciated the new ergonomic curved zippers. Like Chapel, he found the luggage easy to lift up in a bind, when he had to put it on the roof of a Toyota for a ferry ride, noting it was easy to sling it up, “thanks to the side handles.”
Weight: 8.15 lbs.
Dimensions: 22" x 14" x 9" (not expanded)
“The joy of this luggage is its simplicity,” global director of audience development Lara Kramer says. At 8.15 pounds, this model has the expandable 2.25-inches of zipper space going from 39.8 liter capacity to 46.7 liters, providing “the luxury of expanding to add more room if needed,” she adds. She and her husband both use it as their carry-on suitcase—in part because it moves so well, “gliding smoothly and easily with its 360-degree spinner wheels.” Otherwise, she finds the other features “pretty straightforward,” also noting the issue of the exterior scuffing “very easily,” especially noticeable on a dark suitcase. “They're generally surface scuffs and not hard to buff out, but against the black color, it can look pretty jarring,” she adds. That said, Kramer says, “I still truly love this piece and it has continued to hold up despite many uses.”
Weight: 2.45 lbs.
Dimensions: 12" x 6" x 18"
Simplicity comes first with this water-resistant nylon backpack, available in five subtle monochromatic shades, that CNT editors have called “functional” with “a classic look that you won’t tire of.” As a freelancer whose backpack is her office, that timeless look also means the backpack strikes the right balance of being professional (I’ve toted it to business meetings and events), travel-friendly (I’ve also taken it on day trips to the Jersey Shore and Long Island), and casual (it’s also doubled as my exercise bag for spin class). When I got caught in the rain at the US Open in New York, the raindrops wicked right off, and the bag's contents stayed dry. But my two favorite magic tricks of this bag are the extended clamshell-style zipper, which opens the main compartment and makes it just as easy to take something out of the bottom as the top, and the bag's weight distribution. Whether it’s the padded straps or the mesh back panel, it somehow makes the contents feel lighter—I’ve stopped at least twice to make sure my laptop was actually inside the 15-inch sleeve. Plus, the thoughtful number of pockets are great for storing little essentials.
Weight: 1.74 lbs.
Dimensions: 19" x 13" x 8"
When it comes to travel backpacks, I’m far pickier than with luggage. I need an uber-spacious main compartment and every zipper and pocket needs to be just in place—so much so that I used the same ratty old Vans Off the Wall one for well over a decade. While I recently tested out a new Tumi backpack, I never liked the placements of its pockets. Enter the F.A.R. Backpack 26L. The main compartment is deep and wide open, yet still has a slip pocket in the back for my laptop. Hidden behind it is another zippered compartment that fits a 15-inch device. The front pocket is surprisingly roomy too, with tons of organizational pockets—plus, there are two water bottle side pockets, each able to hold a 32-ounce container. Add to that the fact the entire bag is only 1.74 pounds and it still fits under the seat in front of me on planes.
While the Everywhere Zip may be sufficient for day trips, personally, I do need the space of the 26-liter bag to fit my basic travel essentials for anything that includes an overnight stay. Plus the shell is tougher for more rugged travels, whether it's outdoor adventures or multi-stop itineraries, where it may be subject to more use. That said, I am still learning to trust mine completely. On two occasions, the zipper has opened on its own and I didn't realize until contents spilled out. But both times were when I was leaving hotels in a rush, so it's possible I didn't properly zip it.
Weight (full set): 0.7 lbs.
Small: 10" x 4" x 8"
Medium slim: 10" x 4" x 4"
Medium wide: 13" x 4" x 10"
Large: 13" x 4" x 7"
Before I tried Away’s packing cubes, I was a skeptic of the travel accessory as a whole. Other cubes I had seen were either bulky, or felt rough, cheap, and pointless. Admittedly, when I first saw this innocuous set from Away, I was still doubtful. But as it turns out, this set of four nylon water-resistant zip bags with one mesh side are as subtle as they are useful. In the smallest one, I’m able to stuff in all my “just in case” accessories—a foldable running cap, beanie, scarf, gloves, and swimsuit, and tuck it into a teeny corner of the suitcase. The medium slim is perfect for organizing my underwear, packing them vertically, Marie Kondo–style, while the medium wide fits my bras, tanks, and socks. The final one, the large slim, rotates between storing pairs of shoes or other bulky items. They all fit together like Legos in my suitcase, weighing a combined 0.7 pounds—well worth it for keeping me organized on the go.
Weight: .8 oz.
Dimensions: 6" x 8" x 3"
Capacity: 0.5 gal.
When I first got this bag, I didn’t think I’d ever use it. It wasn’t quite a dry sack, it wasn’t quite a travel pouch. It was an in-between hybrid that I saw no practical use for. But then one day when I was running out the door, holding too many chargers in my hands, I tossed them in there—and it’s become my go-to tech accessories bag, traveling with me both on trips and in my everyday life. Made of water-resistant recycled ripstop nylon, it repels accidental spills (mostly coffee, in my case), but is so thin and sturdy that it doesn’t take up much space. The recycled nylon handle also makes it easy to grab when I’m trying to fish it out of my bag. Use it for chargers and cords, toiletries, or any other odds and ends, and know that there are small and large versions if you want a full set.