We've all been there: frantically scouring the airport terminal for an unused AC outlet, desperate to top off your phone in order to make some ludicrous conference call. As it so happens, solving a problem that's shared by enough people is an excellent way to make a living, and that's where Away comes in.
Founded by Jen Rubio and Steph Korey (of Warby Parker fame), Away is a company that does one thing really well. It makes luggage built to take a beating, designed to class up the dude or dudette pulling it, fit in pretty much every overhead bin this side of a CRJ200, and recharge the gadgets that keep us connected while flinging ourselves from one town to another.
The nuts and bolts
Since you're wondering, the 38L capacity is really impressive for this category, as is the 7.2-pound weight and 21.7" x 13.7" x 9" overall size. That fits in every major airline's overhead bin, including the bantam CRJ900 (trust us, we had room to spare!).
The four Hinomoto wheels are buttery smooth, and we had zero issues swapping from four-wheeled rolling to the more traditional two-wheel pull. If you're curious, these very wheels have traditionally been reserved for luggage pushing the thousand-dollar mark, whereas Away's carry-on is priced at $225. (Shipping is gratis to the continental US, while our UK and Australia readers will have to pony up an added $65 to have it shipped overseas.)
The handle is constructed to take every inch of the abuse you'll no doubt put forth, and there's an inbuilt TSA-approved lock to keep prying hands at bay.
Perhaps most interesting, however, is the removable interior 10,000 mAh battery and two USB ports, which allow multiple devices to charge at once. (Away throws in a wall charger as well, and suggests you top it off some eight hours prior to leaving home.) That's a massive battery, capable of recharging an iPhone five times and an iPad nearly twice. With an increasing amount of laptops also capable of being rejuvenated via USB, the allure is even greater.
Putting Away to the test
We drug Away's 21" carry-on through a weeklong trip that involved four flights, one of which was on a tiny CRJ900, and another on an Embraer 175. It also traveled 1,258 miles via motorcar, was hauled in and out of three hotels, and saw both snow and astonishing desert heat. It carried six total outfits, two pairs of shoes, an electric toothbrush (naturally), two pairs of workout gear, a Nikon D800 DSLR, two prime lenses, 18 KIND bars, an assortment of hygiene gear, a power outlet extender, and a few knickknacks we're surely forgetting.
That's a lot of kit in a bag that didn't even scrape the top of the CJR900's overhead bin, which is a fair bit smaller than bins you'll find on long-haul jets. During our journey, the fully-charged internal battery proved to be enough to get us through a week, We used it on several occasions to recharge two phones while waiting in the airport, and critically, to recharge an iPhone that was nearly kaput after capturing loads of photos and videos at an all-day national park excursion.
The USB ports are wisely located in a recessed area under the handle. This keeps your cable ends protected, and also prevents crumbs and other travel grime from getting where it shouldn't. And, for those intending to check the carry-on or use it within China, a screwdriver is all it takes to remove the battery prior to flying.
A cool customer
You'll be hard-pressed to find an equally sized carry-on of this quality for $225. Away sells direct-to-consumer, axing the middleman and passing the savings to the end user. It's also dead serious about its lifetime warranty. That includes "any damage to the shell, wheels, handles, zippers, or anything else that functionally impairs the luggage." It doesn't get much more direct than this: "If anything breaks, we will fix or replace it for you." Of note, the battery is warrantied for two years, and Away has promised that it'll offer improved batteries for sale in the years ahead for those who wish to upgrade.
For those used to packing a single-depth carry-on, it'll take a moment to acclimate. Away's carry-on opens right down the middle, forcing you to load half of your kit on one side and half on the other. One side is clearly engineered for clothing, with a broad compression plate that squishes down threads better than anything else I've ever seen.
Our only real niggles are these: because the lock is fixed on the top, you have to zip one zipper from the back, around the bottom wheels, and all the way back up to the top each time. We constantly dinged our knuckles on the wheels in the process, so be aware of that. Secondly, we longed for a handle on the carry-on's bottom. We tend to grab our suitcases from the overhead bin handle-first, and once the rear is out, having a lower handle is really convenient for getting it down. With Away's bag, we found ourselves trying to grasp one of the 360-degree wheels to gain stability, which - for obvious reasons - doesn't work too well.
Going forward, we'd love to see Away offer a top-loading bag in addition to the split-loading model it currently sells. Shortly before departing for our trip, Away announced that it was tripling its product line with the addition of a medium ($275) and large ($295) bag for those who just can't come to grips with minimalism.