Saturday, September 11, 2010

Luggage refit

When traveling on business, I take my favorite piece of luggage, the rolling folding garment bag. I bought this a few years ago, and it's now been on several trips and has been hauled around various city sidewalks in different weather. It's gotten beaten up a fair bit. The last such trip that I remember it was on was Copenhagen in winter time—I remember rolling it to the hotel from the metro on cold, slushy pavement. That did a number on the bag's bottom that tends to drag on the ground when I overstuff it. I've been re-applying duct tape to the bottom as a way to prevent more damage, but having to replace this every trip was becoming a sticky, gooey mess. The last trip I took it on (to San Antonio), the bag came back with the handle screws ripped through the bag's top fabric (maybe the third time this has happened). I knew it would happen, it was only a matter of time. Previously, the plastic backing that was there had broken and so the only thing between the handle bolts (on the outside) and the nuts (on the inside) was fabric. It couldn't last. So for a long time I've been thinking about some kind of backing, but I couldn't decide on what to put in there. Plastic? That would break sooner or later. Wood? No...I can't remember what made me finally think of it, but aluminum was finally what I came up with. At the hardware store I found two cheap pieces of aluminum that seemed just the right size: one for the inside, the other as a kind of guard plate to replace the duct tape. The above pics show one of the plates (trimmed with tin snips) going in. I had to drill four holes and had to get the alignment just right to get the handle to line up. At bottom are two more pics of the outside. The plate took 12 bolts (stainless) to hold in place. I used rubber washers to prevent moisture from seeping in. I used oversized fender washers underneath all the nuts to ensure that they don't rip through the plastic/fabric. Hopefully this will hold for a while.
Oh, I should also add that the wheels you see above are roller-blading wheels that I bought at a sporting goods store. I've replaced the factory-made luggage wheels twice now. Both times they (Victorinox) were good enough to send me a pair for free, but all three pairs (including the original) were fairly cheap plastic things, which these sort of rubber bands glued to the outside. All three pairs wore out rather quickly. The roller-blade wheels are solid, roll pretty well, and hopefully should be more durable. So far so good—the couple of trips they've been on they've performed really well. And they're fairly distinct so picking out the bag from the rest similar black rollies on the luggage carousel was fairly easy. That aluminum backing plate should also help.