Explosive underwear, full-body scans, luggage fees? Welcome to the friendly skies. To subdue some of travel's travails, shop smart for luggage; no one wants a finicky travel companion. With airlines' checked-luggage charges, carry-ons have renewed appeal. The newest batch strives for lightnessgenerally good but not if shaved ounces compromise durability. As with all luggage, look for bumper guards, plastic kick plates, big zippers, high-denier fabrics, and reinforcements on key wear spots. Convertible rollers/backpacks are sweet, especially with fully adjustable, padded suspensions. But if you're not taking a Guatemalan chicken bus or hoofing it off-road, stick with a standard roller. When gear-intensive endeavors are on the menu, you want a giant duffel with external compression straps, a molded hard bottom, and split-apart design. And whenever you're looking at a new bag, investigate all mechanical parts. Look like something is flimsier than the rest? Next!
This year's winner is the Osprey Sojourn 25", which masterfully combines DNA from Osprey's technical packs with perhaps the most intelligent convertible-luggage design available. The foundation is the company's High Road Chassis, an amalgam of high-grade aluminum frame, composite base, fiberglass matrix inlay, ergonomic two-position handle, and large, high-traction wheels. During tramps in Alaska, Colorado, and Mexico, testers gushed about how nimble and balanced the Sojourn felt, testament to the Straight Jacket design, which employs foam sidewalls to compress and center the load like an oversize taco. Its zip-away suspension performed like a real backpack, using load-lifter straps and a sprung back panel that conforms to your physique. Inside the drop door you've got 3,600 cubic inches, with compression straps, front panel, and side mesh pockets for organization. The multiple haul handles were plush and provided excellent lift points for roof-rack tosses. Quibbles? Nada.