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

Oct 20, 2020

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Once upon a time, I traveled for many years and hundreds of thousands of miles by just cramming my stuff in a $20 duffel bag. That seemed like a normal and effective packing strategy until we had our first daughter and started traveling with more things, more people and more bags.

Then, the type of luggage I used quickly started to matter. Carrying additional bags on our shoulders was no longer cutting it as we trudged through the airport like a line of pack mules.

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We tried a few different rolling bags as we graduated from the duffel, but as airlines started to crack down on carry-on bag measurements, about six years ago we found ourselves shopping again for the perfect piece of luggage. We splurged on what was then known as a Rimowa Salsa Deluxe Cabin Multiwheel IATA bag. (Two currently available versions are the Rimowa Essential Small Cabin Case or the fancy Original Cabin suitcase in aluminum.)

(Photo by Lisa Weatherbee/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Lisa Weatherbee/The Points Guy)

The Rimowa bag cost upwards of $600 and was a massive leap from our duffel bags of yesteryear. But after six years and well over 400,000 miles of flying, I can definitively say this suitcase was more than worth the price.

The Rimowa bag I have is made from durable but lightweight polycarbonate, and its dimensions are 21.7 inches by 15.8 inches by 7.9 inches. Technically, this bag is too wide to meet some airline carry-on restrictions, but since the telescopic handle is mounted inside the bag, it fits in most airport bag sizers (which are a bit larger than the stated airline dimensions). The bag weighs about 8 pounds, though there’s a “lite” version that is half that weight.

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The four-wheel design makes it so easy to maneuver I could push it around with my pinky finger. In fact, my preschooler can push the bag in any direction with her finger — it’s that easy on a smooth surface.

Rimowa carry-on after 5 years and many trips around the world (Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
Rimowa carry-on after five years and many trips around the world (Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

It’s insanely helpful to have the four wheels that go in any direction when you’re pushing this bag sideways down the airplane aisle. I quickly transitioned from pulling it behind me on two wheels, as some old-school roller bags operate, to predominantly pushing it upright through the airport using all four wheels.

The trade-off is that on bumpier terrain, such as concrete or cobblestone streets, it isn’t as easy to pull. But with my travel patterns, I’ll take that trade-off for easy use in the airport and down the aisle of the plane since we don’t typically cover long distances on foot with our bags. Just consider how you travel with your bags before deciding if this is the right bag design for your style.

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The Rimowa small cabin carry-on has two removable and adjustable flex-dividers that I use to hold small items such as swimsuits, toiletries, hair ties and other accessories. Overall, the storage is much better than I expected given its relatively small size. I’ve been able to pack for eight- to 10-day around-the-world trips in just this carry-on.

When I’m stuffing it to the brim, I do have to put some pressure on the bag to get it to shut. But once zipped, it’s good to go. The bag also has a TSA-approved combination lock at the wraparound zipper.

(Photo by Lisa Weatherbee/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Lisa Weatherbee/The Points Guy)

If you only travel once or twice a year, I wouldn’t consider spending this much on a carry-on bag. (Check out the $225 Away bag for a less expensive but similarly styled alternative.) But if you fly as much as I do, it’s important to have a bag that’s so easy to use, durable and that you know with certainty will fit as an airplane carry-on.

My Rimowa bag, now six years old, doesn’t roll quite as well as it once did and has some well-earned scratches and scuffs — but it’s still my go-to bag. While it still functionally does the job just fine, I’ll admit that I’m starting to consider its replacement. When the time does come to upgrade to a newer model, the odds are high I’ll buy another Rimowa — maybe this iconic aluminum bag.

Travelers with The Platinum Card® from American Express can use the annual Saks Fifth Avenue credits toward the purchase a Rimowa at Saks Fifth Avenue, though always compare the price before purchasing, as Rimowa bags are sold at a variety of retailers. Sometimes, there’s also an Amex Offer available that will give you a heap of bonus points or statement credits if you meet the requirements of the offer.

Read on to find the best luggage for you and your family:

Featured image by Lisa Weatherbee/The Points Guy

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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