Luggage Review: Incase NoviConnected Travel Roller Carry-On Bag

Oct 8, 2017

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Are we currently living in the golden age of luggage? Going by the number of new suitcase brands popping up — whether in shops or on crowdfunding websites — and innovations being introduced by established names, one might think so.

Short of your luggage flying itself to your destination, it also seems like suitcases can do just about anything these days. They act as charging stations for your tech gadgets, most come with phone apps so you can track their whereabouts during a trip and some of them are made of nearly indestructible materials that you can jump on without fear of anything breaking.

The latest to join the fray comes from Incase, a brand known for sleek-looking backpacks, camera cases and laptop sleeves. Incase has been making all sorts of luggage too, but recently introduced the Novi range — a collection of hardside suitcases in a variety of sizes and colors. For a week-long trip to Argentina, I used the Novi 4 Wheel Hubless Travel Roller 22 ($249) days after it officially hit the market in July.

Image courtesy of Incase

The Look

Like a lot of newfangled bags out there, aesthetics play a huge role in the Novi roller. I chose mine in an elegant navy, but more eye-catching colors like red and white are available alongside more modest black. What I love most about the way the luggage looks is the clean, matte exterior. There’s literally nothing extra attached to it. There’s the pull-up handle and a grab handle at the top of the case, but otherwise, it just looks like a box on wheels — which I appreciate.

When it’s comes to functionality, however, I would have liked another handle on the side. Yes, it wouldn’t look as streamlined, but it would certainly make it easier to hoist it into the overhead bin. Right now, because there’s only one, you need to one-arm the process which isn’t comfortable when you’re 5’6”and wearing a backpack — all while an impatient passenger is trying to hurry you along an aisle the size of a balance beam. Another feature I really like, however, are the wheels. They’re hubless, smooth-glide, 360-degree wheels. In plain speak, the wheels are hollow in the middle, making the whole thing feel lighter than it already is.

You would think that because mine is in navy that it would be difficult to spot it at baggage claim, but that wasn’t the case at all — there is a very subtle sheen to the shell that separates it from other dark-hued suitcases. I was also surprised by how scratch-resistant the polycarbonate material is. I brought some wine back from Argentina, which means I had to check the bag in for my return flight. I was worried about what the luggage would look like when I picked up at JFK, but except for a couple of light scratches, there was very little visible wear on the exterior.

The Specs

The Novi 22 measures 22.17″ x 13.77″ x 9.06,” weighs just over nine pounds (while empty) and can fit 41 liters of stuff in a two-compartment setup. There’s also a zipper-closure mesh pocket and a laundry bag inside. It’s a standard size for cabin luggage and as long as you’re not one of the last people to board the economy section, you should be able to fit it in the overhead. This suitcase and a larger-than-standard backpack were spacious enough for the outgoing leg of my weeklong trip to a destination that was a little cold (in other words, I packed heavier items of clothing). On the return flight, because of the two bottles of alcohol I purchased, I had to move some clothes to a larger-than-usual tote. If you travel light and don’t bring home souvenirs or bottles of liquor when you travel, this is the perfect size for carry-on luggage.

The Details

On September 18, two months after the one I already used was introduced, Incase launched an upgraded version. It’s called the NoviConnected 4 Wheel Hubless Travel Roller — it’s $299 and is essentially the same bag, but there are a few more options. There’s a pink one now, which is very millennial, and the black and the white come in glossy versions. But the big news with this release is the app-enabled power bank: The battery is in fact capable of charging not just phones and tablets, but MacBooks, too, so there’s no need to gather round the one charging port at the gate! The app also tells you how much juice the battery has left and where your luggage is. It also has a TSA-approved lock. The problem here is if you’ve never used a lock on your luggage before, you’re going to need to research how to get it done since instructions did not come with the bag.

The Takeaway

While brands like Away have disrupted the luggage market with lower prices, Incase bags are priced comparatively with hip brands like Raden and lower than competitors like Tumi. I like the Incase roller largely because of how it looks. It’s very stylish but super subtle, too. Because I sometimes get seduced into checking my bag, I was impressed that the exterior didn’t scratch all that easily after going through what I can only imagine as backend chaos at two different airports. The added tech features are nice, too, if those are important to you. The limited lifetime warranty on the physical case is great if you never want to buy another piece of carry-on luggage again, but note that the battery only has a two-year warranty.

All images courtesy of Incase

What’s your carry-on of choice? Let us know in the comments, below

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