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Samsonite’s Firelite collection features luggage that's both lightweight and strong, while a polyurethane coating on the zipper tracks also makes the bags tamper- and water-resistant.
The range includes luggage in 55, 69, 75 and 81cm sizes – that’s the measurement of the longest side of the bag, usually from the ground to the top when the bag is standing on its wheels.
This week, we give the 55cm spinner a real-world trial on an overnight trip to Auckland.
Who’s it good for?
With a recommended retail price (RRP) of $549 in Australia, the bag is clearly targeted at serious road warriors – not your ‘once a year’ traveller.
The total linear dimensions of 116.5 centimetres (55cm x 38.5 cm x 23cm) see the piece just outside the maximum dimensions for a cabin bag on Qantas domestic and international flights (115cms) – although as it’s unlikely to cause a fuss, the Firelite makes for a good carry-on.
It also doubles as a sturdy checked bag, which is where you’ll need to stow it on Virgin Australia flights – the airline’s published baggage rules don’t permit any rigid bags above 105cms in the cabin.
Construction and usability
Made in Europe, the 35L bag uses an exclusive-to-Samsonite ‘Curv’ material for the shell – consisting of a layer of woven polypropylene fabrics which are formed into self-reinforced composite sheets.
This patented procedure results in a strong yet lightweight fully-lined bag, which the manufacturer claims is highly resistant to impact.
Despite weighing just 1.90kgs, the Firelite feels surprisingly solid in my grasp – it looks much heavier than it actually is.
Leading to the handle is a single, sturdy pole – providing a little extra strength which makes navigating the bag a breeze. However, it does make it near-impossible to securely balance a laptop bag on the top while walking with the bag on an angle (as you would with a two-wheeled bag).
On the plus side, shorter travellers can adjust the handle to a more suitable height – but if you’re tall and want to extend it the full way, remember to hold the button down while you’re ‘raising the bar’, else it’ll click into the first (and significantly lower) slot.
Underneath, four multi-directional wheels make the Firelite easy to navigate on level ground, although as with all four-wheelers, you’ll want to avoid placing the wheels on a sloped surface – it’ll start to disappear in front of your eyes!
Joining the shells together is a tamper-resistant zipper design, whereby the zipper tracks have a polyurethane coating right to the edge, which doubles to make the bag water resistant.
There’s also a TSA-compliant combination lock which houses the zippers, preventing them from being moved by unscrupulous baggage handlers to re-zip the bag if it’s been tampered with.
For extra security, it’s also possible to attach a small padlock through the zips when they’ve been secured, allowing your bag to stay closed and locked even if the primary lock has failed.
On the downside, the bag gives no indication if it’s been opened using a TSA key instead of the combination – if this is important to you, we’d suggest attaching a suitable, TSA-indicating padlock as described.
Pockets and storage
When opened, the bag divides into main storage areas – one half can be completely zipped closed for privacy, while the other uses lowered elastic cross ribbons to hold in your bits and pieces:
On that basis, we’d recommend storing your laptop under the cross ribbons while hiding your chargers, cables and clothing in the zip-up space – you’ll be able to speed through security faster if you can simply pull out your laptop at the checkpoint:
Inside the bag, you’ll also notice a smaller zip compartment:
It’s great for storing those travel essentials like pens, headphones and medication, while also keeping your iPod snug when you’re passing through security.
What’s missing is an external pocket to keep itineraries and travel documents at easy reach and to quickly store your wallet, watch and other valuables out of harm’s way when they have to be removed.
Choosing your colour
Available in Charcoal, Chili Red, Deep Blue and Off White (not pictured), all Firelite bags come with a global limited 10 year warranty.
I’d opted for the Chili Red for this trip, which looks a lot more professional and business-appropriate in person than it does in photographs.
However, I’m glad to have avoided 'Off White' – despite handling the bag with kid gloves and using it as a carry-on rather than a checked bag, the exterior glossy coat picked up a few noticeable (yet mostly superficial) scratches.
It wasn’t anything serious enough to require a trip to the panel beaters, although these wouldn’t be as noticeable on a darker bag – so if you plan to use the Firelite as your main suitcase, perhaps Deep Blue or Charcoal (black) are safer bets.
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