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Carry-on luggage showdown: Away vs. Rimowa

Aug. 12, 2022
8 min read
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As avid travelers who sometimes live out of their luggage more than their homes, it's fair to say that TPG staffers have strong opinions about suitcases: Hardshell versus softside, backpack versus wheeled luggage and checked versus carry-on.

When the team gets together, it's fun to see all the brands in attendance, including Tumi, Briggs & Riley, Samsonite, Rimowa, Away, Calpak and Osprey, to name just a few.

Related: Keep calm and carry on: TPG shares its favorite travel carry-on bags

From the budget-friendly Amazon Basics softside carry-on spinner to the splurge-worthy Tumi Arrivé Continental dual access four-wheeled carry-on ($1,695.00), you'll see a wide variety of suitcases at TPG.

While it can be entertaining to think about all the different things your luggage brand of choice says about you, after a fun debate specifically about Away versus Rimowa, two of us (TPG director Summer Hull and senior editor Benét J .Wilson) decided to explain what we loved -- and didn't love -- about each of these specific carry-on suitcases. Here are the results.

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Side by side

While each brand has a variety of suitcases in its lineup, here's a comparison of the basics of Away's Bigger Carry-On with Pocket versus the Rimowa Essential Lite Carry-On.

Away Bigger
Carry-On with Pocket
Rimowa Essential Lite Carry-On
SizeExterior: 22.7 inches by 14.7 inches by 9.6 inches.Exterior: 21.7 inches by 15.8 inches by 7.9 inches.
Weight8.4 pounds.4.2 pounds.
Features
  • Leather details, including a black leather luggage tag.
  • Ejectable USB charger.
  • TSA-approved combination lock.
  • 360-degree spinner wheels.
  • Interior compression system.
  • Hidden laundry bag.
  • Lightweight polycarbonate material.
  • Telescopic monopole handle.
  • TSA-approved locks.
  • Nylon zip curtain.
  • Multiwheel system.
Cost$345$675

Related: Carry-on luggage showdown: Away vs. Roam

Pros and cons of the Away carry-on

Pros:

(Photo courtesy of Away)

The Away line has a tremendous number of sizes, colors and materials that help you personalize exactly what you want. The Basic Carry-On starts at $275 and comes in eight colors, or for $625 you can get a fancy aluminum edition carry-on. Then there are tweaks to the bags, such as the Away Bigger Carry-On with Pocket that we'll focus on today.

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The bag is sized to fit in overhead bins of U.S. airlines, even when expanded. This model currently comes in navy and black, both of which are great at camouflaging scuffs and scratches.

The telescoping handle is comfortable to hold and the 360-degree wheels roll smoothly.

Inside, one side of the bag has a mesh zipper area to keep your clothes secure. The front pocket offers easy access to items including laptops, tablets, documents and magazines or newspapers.

Overall, it's a good price for an attractive and well-made suitcase. There's also a 100-day period to try it and return it if you don't love it; afterward, there's a limited warranty.

Related: Review of an Away carry-on bag

Cons:

While the black and navy are pretty hardy, some Away colors and styles scuff quite easily. And the limited-edition reflective colors they've produced in the past wear especially poorly.

(Photo by Benét J. Wilson/The Points Guy)

The suitcase only has two levels on the telescoping handle, which can be an issue for some. Also, while it sounds cool, note that the USB batteries that some styles of Away bags can come with aren't especially useful as they must be removed constantly due to air travel restrictions.

The interior zipper can also be tough to shut.

Related: Is expensive luggage worth it?

Pros and cons of the Rimowa carry-on

(Image courtesy of Rimowa)

Pros:

Rimowa bags look like they are primped, primed and ready to fly at all times. The silver aluminum model is especially stylish, but they are all very attractive bags.

But looks aren't everything, and Rimowa suitcases also come with a lifetime guarantee for all functional aspects of the bag (read: not cosmetic wear and tear).

This particular model, the Rimowa Essential Lite, is extremely lightweight with its polycarbonate shell weighing under 5 pounds. The polycarbonate is flexible and makes it easy to squeeze a little extra in and still get it to close shut (unlike the aluminum ones, which have no give at all). The wheels are a dream to maneuver on smooth surfaces, like at an airport.

It has fit in every sizer and even in small regional jet overhead bins we've tried and never let us down. There are also now handy mesh inserts on both sides of the bag, which wasn't the case on some older models.

Related: Over 400,000 miles and counting: Review of the Rimowa carry-on bag

(Photo by Lisa Weatherbee/The Points Guy)

Cons:

While there are many price points with Away bags, Rimowa prices just go up, up and, well, away. The cheapest models are still over $600, so that's a real barrier to entry and drawback to purchasing a Rimowa bag.

But even with those high price tags, there aren't really bells and whistles that come with this bag, so don't expect little extra laundry bags or USBs or anything like that.

I'd argue it doesn't need those though — it's just an awesome bag that stands on its own. But if we have to pick a real con -- it's that the wheels aren't so fabulous once you get to something like an old cobblestone street.

Related: Luggage showdown -- Away vs. Roam

Should you buy Rimowa or Away?

Before getting her Away bag in the summer of 2021, Wilson had what she describes as a mishmash of carry-ons from TJ Maxx and eBags sales.

The Away Bigger Carry-On with a pocket was the first "grown-up" suitcase she had and it didn't disappoint. She's been able to even pack for a few trips in one given all its space, such as when she went to Disney's Star Wars Galactic Cruiser Hotel and the South Beach Wine and Food Festival in one trip.

Hull got her first carry-on Rimowa about eight years ago and that very bag now has hundreds of thousands of miles logged, and is still the go-to on more trips than not. It's held up fabulously and can hold way more than it seems thanks to its flexible shell.

However, it's not cheap, and by no means is it a must-buy if you don't want to blow your budget on luggage. There are also several Away bags in Hull's family that have also held up well -- as long as you avoid the lighter or special reflective colors as those can get dinged up in a hurry.

If you really specifically want a Rimowa Essential Lite Carry-On, you're unlikely to be let down or disappointed by it.

But, if want you really want is a stylish bag that can hold a bunch at a price that doesn't rival a monthly car payment, then the Away line may have more options.

Wilson's favorite, the Away Bigger Carry-On with Pocket, costs a little more than the entry-level Away bags, but it comes with very functional bells and whistles that can keep you and your stuff more organized on the road. Just note that Benét's Away Bigger Carry-On with Pocket no longer comes in the soft side option that she has and loves.

In Away vs. Rimowa, there are no losers -- just a variety of pretty fun luggage options at different price points, though none that are what we would describe as extremely affordable.

Featured image by Strong zips. (Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
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The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

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  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

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  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023