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Luggage Review: Arlo Skye The Check-In

Jan. 07, 2018
7 min read
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Yawn or awe. Those are basically the only two reactions to a piece of luggage. Most basic bags in black or gray rarely make an impression and blur together on the carousel or walking to a gate. But then there are the rare pieces that make you stop and go “ooh.” The question, however, is whether the bag’s specs match its style.

Arlo Skye is a new direct-to-consumer luggage brand whose founders previously worked at Louis Vuitton and Tumi. They spent over a year refining and launching their first product, the aluminum Carry-On, that was a hit with the fashion and design world after its November 2016 launch. (It’s one of those that makes you go “ooh.”) Recently, they launched a big brother alternative, The Check-In, for longer stays or for people who need a bit more packing space.

Like the clothing and mattress industries, the luggage world was ripe for disruption and like its competitor Away, Arlo Skye cuts past typical wholesale channels to offer bags direct to consumers online. The result? A big, gleaming behemoth of a roller that wheels around so quietly it might sneak up on you — for under $500. We took it for a spin.

Arlo Skye bag

The Specs

The Check-In is spacious yet manageable: 27” x 17.6” x 11.1” with a 66L capacity. The exterior is made of virgin makrolon (aka micro-textured) polycarbonate with two aluminum alloy corner caps and an aluminum alloy frame.

It weighs a light 10.5 pounds, roughly on par for a similar polycarbonate bag of this size. The bag retails for $395, has free shipping in the US and is sent out within 24 hours. (It’s also sold in a set with The Carry-On for $895, a $50 savings on buying individually.) There are two TSA-approved locks and the wheels are 60mm and claim to be “15% quieter than their polyurethane counterparts.”

There’s not a zipper to be found the outside, but plenty in the interior, which has multiple pocket dividers and compression straps. It also comes with a leather name tag, two shoe bags, one laundry bag and a cotton “dust protection cover” in case you take a long break between trips.

The Look

Arlo Skye says their products are for “the design-obsessed,” so it’s no wonder the bag is quite good-looking. On picking me up from the airport, my friend immediately mentioned how sleek it looked. It’s attractive enough to be wheeled into a five-star hotel, but you might feel a pang of guilt knowing that it’ll be knocked around the luggage carousel. No outer pockets or zippers means nothing will snag or break — but also means you can’t grab anything quickly after your flight.

Currently, The Check-In comes in three color options: Penguin Black, Sardine Silver and Champagne. The Check-In has the same grooved outer shell—which brings to mind Rimowa—as its kid sister, The Carry-On (the big different is the mini version is made of aluminum-magnesium alloy and has a built-in charger).

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The Road Test

Arlo Skye recommends The Check-In for trips ranging 15 to 21 days; I took it on a New York-to-California trip that lasted 12 days, but was grateful for the extra room (it was about 65% full when I left) because I’d be hauling back Christmas presents.

The interior compartments and fabric divider with multiple pockets cut down my packing time significantly. Everything seemed to have a place and the combination locks shut with a satisfying click. The dual compartments on either side of the shell could be very convenient dividers for couples traveling together who only want to check one bag (no mingling of socks or underwear necessary).

One major realization: I never knew how obnoxiously noisy the wheels on my other bags were; you could hear me coming from two terminals away. But this was whisper-quiet and easy to navigate. The recessed handle wasn’t wiggly or wobbly and I wasn’t worried about the bag toppling over. The bag doesn’t look or feel as big as other monster-sized check-ins — you know, the ones that look like they’re hauling the entire cast’s wardrobe for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

After checking the bag at JFK, we met again at Hollywood Burbank Airport (formerly known as the Bob Hope Airport, and by far the most chill place to fly in and out of LA). After one go-around on the carousel it had a few small black scuffs and some nicks on the corners. Of course, bags are going to get dings and scratches — a pristine bag reveals you rarely travel — but the light Champagne color made them a little more evident.

The second test came at California’s Fresno Air Terminal, when I arrived five minutes too late to check my bag. (The 45-minute cut-off prior to departure is one important detail to remember if you’re used to carry-ons.) But the kind American Airlines agent said he’d give me a “Hail Mary” pass; if I removed any oversized liquids, I could go through security and gate-check my bag instead of having to pay. This doesn’t happen often/ever and I wondered if my good luck was due to my shiny new bag or because the airport was practically dead and there are still good people in the world. Either way, I was grateful.

Sure enough, by the end of my trip I had somehow acquired twice as much stuff — including a two-quart saucepan, two thick books, new shirts, sweaters and pants. Somehow, it all fit for my return trip. The hardshell case protected picture frames and other breakables and felt like a mini vault.

The Details

The Check-In is also available in a limited-edition sage version through a collaboration with Sight Unseen with a graphic pastel interior designed by illustrator Antti Kekki. If you care to know your bag’s origins, it’s assembled in China, with parts sourced from Europe, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and China. If the price isn’t right, you might want to look elsewhere. Since it’s a direct-to-consumer company, Arlo Skye doesn’t have sales or promotions; this is more of a take-it-or-leave-it deal.

For those wondering, the company got its name from a vintage children’s book titled Arlo and added “Skye” because the founders say they love getting lost in the clouds. Arlo Skye has a 21-day return policy: You can road test the bags and there’s a free shipping return and a full refund.

The Takeaway

If you care about style, but don’t want to spring for a more expensive Tumi or Rimowa, Arlo Skye is a durable and handsome alternative. If you’re a minimalist packer, The Check-In may be too roomy, but if you’re looking at a longer haul and could use organizational help, the numerous pouches and sections make it almost impossible to pack this bag poorly. Just remember to get to the airport with enough time to check your check-in.

Photos courtesy Arlo

Featured image by Arlo Skye The Check-In