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COMPACT AND DURABLE At six pounds and change, this agile carry-on is the choice for fast-and-light travel. Its 2,800 cubic inches carried enough for a week in Mexico, where my giddyup included planes, boats, taxis, and a conked-out scooter that left me hitchhiking. The rigid, lightweight aluminum frame handled trunk-stuffing…

Here’s a cleanly designed multitasker with the right goods for road tripping, globe-trotting, or anything in between. Trundle this 2005 Gear of the Year fave up to the reception desk at the W Hotel without looking like you’re fresh off the mountain, then zip off the bomber backpack to launch…

NO SWAG LEFT BEHINDPack the swim fins, for the cavernous XL Traveler can swallow gear up to 34 inches long. The tele-scopic handle swivels to your liking, and a front pocket holds the quick-grab stuff as you roll up to the check-in counter. On a Panama dive trip, the drop-bottom…

TOP TREKKING TAKE-ALONGThe load-compression scheme on this 5,100-cubic-inch convertible hauler progressively cinches your stuff, trash-compactor style. The Waypoint’s cushy handle and hidden suspension kept it streamlined and obedient during an eight-hour layover in Frankfurt. When the road ends and the trail begins, deploy the real-deal adjustable suspension and turn this…

CARRY-ON CHAMPHere’s a carry-on that hauls like a suitcase and scoots like a wheelie. The 3,112-cubic-inch interior assimilated a week’s worth of traveling essentials for Caribbean island hopping. Close the telescopic handle and stake out your turf in any overhead bin. With water-bottle holders and a headphone port, the zip-off…

VERSATILE CARRY-ON Packed tight and smart, this trim 1,831-cubic-inch carry-on had just enough real estate for a weeklong jaunt in Trinidad. While I was scouting hotels in Port-of-Spain, the Wapack’s supersmooth polyurethane wheels and telescoping, ice-pick-style aluminum handle made it easy to weave through chaotic crowds without whacking anyone. In…

1. The Stratocruiser 25 is a chameleon. It’s stylish enough to wheel inconspicuously through swanky hotels, but still tough enough for epic-trip abuse. After 18,000 air miles and a half-dozen rattling safari drives in South Africa, it posted a perfect unscathed score: no tears, breaks, or blown zips. Credit…

Your wish—sturdy backpack, civilized wheelie, suitcase-style interior—is this bag’s command. The versatility of this carry-on-compliant hybrid was welcome during a couple of weeks of Greek-island hopping. Pack the 3,060-cubic-inch Cross Roads in your sleep; its undivided main compartment and front-panel pockets make the procedure blessedly simple. When cobblestone gave…

BIG AND SMART This extra-long, 5,400-cube roller easily accommodated everything for a week of diving in Bora-Bora. All of the well-built details that define Swiss Army’s luggage are here: The extra-large in-line skate wheels are the smoothest around. The fully rotating, cork-gripped, aircraft-grade aluminum handle is the trickest setup I’ve…

Employing handle or shoulder strap, the Tour totes as a mild-mannered side satchel, easily stowing in overhead bins. But where planes and trains stop, this travel chameleon gets going. Deploy the cushy, adjustable hidden suspension and the Tour morphs into a legit 3,750-cubic-inch backpack primed for cruising inn to…

TAKE IT ALL If you can’t fit it in this dual-compartment, 7,690-cubic-inch beast, you don’t need it. On a weeklong mountain-bike tour in South Dakota, we designated one compartment “clean”—for fresh laundry and camera gear—and stashed everything else, from helmets to a couple of tires to a 12-pack, in the…

Take it on the road with this ingenious 8,064-cubic-inch rolling duffel, which mounts on rooftop racks. The Rack Lash cruised like any good wheelie, and when late arrivals meant trudging along darkened streets, its reflective fabric helped safeguard against unpredictable traffic. Peel open the Big Mouth top and its…

MOST WEATHERPROOF While I was stranded at Denver International Airport during the blizzard of ’06, this 4,600-cubic-inch hauler sat for over an hour in a slushy puddle. But my stuff stayed dry, thanks to the Cargo Hold’s compression-molded plastic underbelly and PU-coated nylon fabric. And when canceled flights meant trudging…

Always in a hurry? As with many carry-ons, stashing this ten-inch-deep roller in overhead bins is fast and simple. Unlike with many, extracting it is just as quick: A strategically placed bottom handle puts an end to frustrating yank-athons. The Vienna is a petite 2,150 cubes, yet its compression-strap…

TOWN AND COUNTRY On a quick trip to Vegas, this bag pulled double duty during a long weekend of outdoor adventure coupled with deluxe digs. Despite its brawny skid plate and oversize hollow wheels, its sleek and inconspicuous design didn’t blow our cover rolling through the Ritz-Carlton’s lobby. Later, on…

Rainforest explorers and Weather Channel illiterates, take note: The aptly named WeatherShed defies the elements. It’s roofed with a rubbery topside fabric, sealed with a water-resistant zipper, and finished with a bathtublike plastic bottom. The duffel yawns open like a doctor’s black bag, exposing a 4,100-cube interior that isn’t…

LOVES ABUSE The Shuttle’s DWR-coated, heavy-duty nylon fabric is virtually impervious to weather. On a Colorado road trip, I overloaded it with 70 pounds of hike ‘n’ bike gear, lashed its D-rings to my truck’s rack, and found that everything remained dry despite several afternoon thunderstorms. And when it tumbled…

This world beater survived a 20-bag squashfest trucking over 13,000-foot passes in Bhutan, never blowing a seam or busting an axle. The kicker? Back home, we marveled that fragile, wooden treasures from the world’s last Buddhist kingdom made the journey unscathed. The cavernous 8,360-cubic-inch interior has upstairs and downstairs…

OFF-ROAD WARRIOR How comfortable is the Doubletrack as a backpack? With a 25-pound load jammed in the single, 1,950-cubic-inch main compartment, it felt so comfortable I wanted to ditch my flight and keep on walking. Why? The airy back panel and fully adjustable (and hide-away) suspension system—complete with load-lifters and…

Wheel it, shoulder it, sit on it, kick it—Osprey’s Meridian 22 adeptly adjusts to any adventure and absorbs every road-inflicted insult. It relieves you of attachment anxiety, since it’s carry-on legit, but magically stows everything you need for an around-the-world journey. Can’t resist picking up that wooden mask in…

Strange but true: It feels good to run all day. Prep yourself with this go-far gear.

Learning Curve

Like travel itself, the latest gear for the road is full of wild surprises