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Gear & Gadgets

Travel smoothly on these sets of wheels

© St. Petersburg Times
published February 23, 2003

One reason that life on the go is easier is innovative wheeled bags. Products have been tested by the author and may be available in area stores. Price does not include shipping.

WHEELS AWAY: Wheels are helpful for lugging heavy loads, but they can make bags heavier and awkward to maneuver in crowds or bad weather. McKlein has devised an ingenious solution: business cases and backpacks with detachable shells that contain the wheels and retractable pull handles.

Use the bag with the wheels when needed. Otherwise, retract the handle into the shell, unzip the bag from the shell and carry the bag via its built-in handles, shoulder strap or backpack straps (when provided).

What to do with the shell? Carry it separately in its nylon cover, stash it in your car or hotel room, or put it in checked bags for use at your destination.

Bags are available in leather or ballistic nylon.

McKlein R Series bags with removable wheel/handle shell start at about $150. To find a store, contact McKlein at toll-free 1-877-625-5346;

DESK TO GO: Waiting time can be more productive with this carry-on-size wheeled bag from AJ Prindle that has a fold-out plastic desk. The desk pops open from the back of the bag, with the upright bag functioning as one set of legs and collapsible legs attached to the desk anchoring the other side.

Measuring 22 by 14 by 9 inches, the expandable polyester bag has a telescoping handle, zippered and padded laptop compartment, roomy interior and zippered outside compartments for files, cell phone, tickets and keys.

Mobile Desk with laptop compartment (10061) is $159.95; without laptop compartment (10291) $139.95; toll-free 1-866-774-8278;

LADIES' CHOICE: The Overnight Insider from Travelon is a combination wheeled duffel and cosmetic organizer in a cleverly compact configuration.

Measuring 17 by 10 by 11 inches, the duffel has an easy-access, U-shaped opening when unzipped. On the inside of the flap is a zipoff cosmetic organizer with a spacious zip compartment and large plastic pouches to hold full-size personal-care products. The organizer has a nylon mesh tab for hanging on a bathroom hook.

Two zippered outside pockets are for books, tickets and a water bottle. The duffel can be wheeled using the retractable handle, carried vertically or horizontally by the built-in handles, or carried as a shoulder bag using the padded, detachable shoulder strap.

Overnight Insider in ballistic nylon is about $130. To find a store, call Travelon toll-free 1-800-537-5544.

STRAIGHT AND NARROW: It makes sense that a luggage pioneer such as Samsonite would find a way to make a wheeled bag steady enough for rushing through airport corridors, yet able to navigate narrow aisles. The new Silhouette 8 SideRoller can be wheeled the usual wide-side way via two inline skate wheels. When you are confronted with narrow spaces, flip the bag on its side, where additional wheels turn it into a svelte, 10-inch-wide wonder. (The telescoping pull handle works well either way).

The bag has a built-in combination lock, see-through mesh inside divider, removable suit bag and three zippered outside pockets. At 23 by 15 by 10 inches, it should pass as a carry-on on most large planes but may need to be checked on aircraft with smaller overhead compartments.

Silhouette 8 SideRoller in black or steel blue ballistic nylon is about $190. To find a store, contact Samsonite toll-free 1-800-262-8282;

SHOP, DON'T DROP: The sturdy Newport Shopping Satchel from Traveler's Choice is a roomy polyester tote on wheels that's great for transporting purchases through city streets or country markets. Padded shoulder straps make hefting the bag up stairs easier, and an outside zip pocket is handy for stashing maps, city guides, tickets and extra cash.

The retractable pull handle zips under cover when not in use, and the bag folds flat enough to stash in a large duffel when not needed. Double zippers make for secure locking. The bag is tough enough to ship as checked luggage, though it meets most carry-on requirements as well at 22 by 15 by 9 inches when fully stuffed.

Newport Shopping Satchel (RT-0100) in navy, black or red is about $30. To find a store, contact Traveler's Choice toll-free 1-800-237-0387.

-- Judi Dash is a freelance writer who lives in Beachwood, Ohio.

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