REVIEWED: Barracuda collapsible carry-on luggage

It’s got a fold-out laptop tray, expandable/collapsible design and a compartment for a portable battery, but this smart luggage does have a few design flaws

 

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We love the idea of expandable luggage. Having returned from conferences and exhibitions with far more stuff than we packed, it does appear to make a to of sense. And the way it works on the Barracuda is pretty good. Clips in the interior’s corners construct a temporary wall, and when it’s collapsed, the ‘spare’ material folds over and everything is secured by a Velcro fold-over. Some won’t like the insecurity of that, but I was happy with it. I also loved the way it can be shrunk when you get to your (small) hotel room, easily slipping into a provided bag and then either under a bed, or – thanks to a hook on the bag – hung in a closet.

Fear of falling

When it’s in its collapsed, carry-on size (22x14x9″/55x36x23cm, 36 litres, 8.53lbs/3.87kg), the Barracuda doesn’t stand up on its own, instead toppling over forwards whenever it’s unsupported. Now that’s a design flaw if ever I saw one. In fact, it makes the bag suited only to trips where you’ll come back with extra stuff rather than the other way round.

Left on the shelf

Would you put your laptop on a bag that falls over? Obviously not, though when the Barracuda is ]extended to its full size, there is no issue with stability whatsoever. So we dutifully constructed the fold-out laptop shelf. It’s a great idea; the plastic shelf is housed in the pull-up telescopic handle itself, folded-up into three sections. You unzip a cover – a bit tough, that zip, and tricky to detach at the bottom – flip a lever to unlock the plastic, then drag it downwards. It’s all a bit flimsy, but it does contain have two sizes of cup holder, which is clever.

Laps are for laptops

Put a laptop on that shelf and it’s just not steady. Our Macbook Air 11-inch just about fitted, but typing was difficult, with the entire laptop shuddering constantly. It was much easier to type on our lap. Hence the name laptop, eh? In other words, the Barracuda’s laptop shelf is best thought of as a jolly good cup holder. And when we were busy typing away in the airport, that cup holder proved very handy. The tray actually works better with a tablet – especially since there’s a built-in battery nearby – but there’s another issue; it’s just too low. Is a tougher shelf with an adjustable height asking (way) too much?

Getting a handle on it

Packing-up proved long-winded. Folding the tray up was OK, but having to then thread a zip was not welcome, especially as it was tough and the surrounding fabric needed pulling taught. We snagged a nail. The horror. It then took us over three minutes to get the telescopic handle back into the bag, during which time we were wondering what on earth we would do when on the plane with a handle that refused to go back in. In the end we discovered that the tray had to audibly snap back into place, but the handle was still a bit sticky. Maybe the handle’s ease of movement will improve with time, but it’s typical of the Barracuda so far’ awesome ideas, but slightly lacking in build quality niceties.

Turn, turn, turn

That ‘Halo’ handle is otherwise pretty good; well-sized, a good height and capable of dragging the bag effectively (thanks partly to its excellent, solid wheels). You can turn and swivel the top part into a much more comfortable position, though only by pressing a button that jams too easily. If only it would head south into its home at the touch of a button, too.

Other features

The Barracuda also has a built-in battery, which is pretty unusual. Happily, it’ a massive size, too, offering a whopping 10,000mAh – that’s about six charges of a smartphone – though the compartment is comes in is difficult to open. As in, impossible without a pair of scissors to poke into the darned thing. So that needs a bit of work, too; perhaps a nice, round, soft button to open the door? The Barracuda also comes with laundry bags, shoes bags and (though an added option), a ‘Location Tracking & Proximity Sensor’. Put GPS receiver in bag, download the app for iOS or Android (or go through the web portal), and track the bag wherever it goes! Nice work.

Great ideas

On the unboxing video it looks incredible. What business traveller doesn’t like the look of that? However, in use the Barracuda can take a little getting to know, and some of its design quirks need attention for Version 2. And perhaps a four-wheel spinner upgrade might be wise, considering the target market. But there are some great ideas here. It’s available in red, gold, black, blue, gray and pink.

Price as reviewed: US$349

Buy the Barracuda collapsible carry-on