I got an email from Nordstrom yesterday letting me know that they now carry Tumi’s new “Alpha 2” collection, successor to the popular “Alpha” collection you can see trailing behind many road warriors. Along with Briggs & Riley and Rimowa, Tumi is one of the more premium and popular luggage manufacturers for frequent travelers — and of course everyone has their opinions on who’s the best or who’s just overcharging.
One Mile at a Time alerted many readers to a sale opportunity at Amazon.com for the Tumi Alpha 20″ International Carry On, and the fact that other retailers were offering similar discounts (though not with the additional 20% off Amazon offered for joining a newsletter) led me to suspect there was a new product release coming soon.
I wouldn’t say I’m a huge luggage snob. I like a quality, sturdy, and attractive bag because I use it so often and have been disappointed with some cheaper options. I used to have a Victorinox NXT 4.0 and Megan had a Travelpro Crew 8. She’s had issues with her bag tipping over, etc., because it’s not well balanced, so I decided to give her my Victorinox and shop around. Eventually I settled on the Tumi Alpha 20″ International Carry On not just because of the sale but for a lot of features that, unfortunately, Tumi seems to have eliminated in the new Alpha 2 series.
Among the changes are:
- Plastic protection caps on the corners
- A larger expansion capability
- A new retractable handle
- Four 360-degree swivel wheels
- New side handles
So I walked over to Nordstrom during lunch yesterday to take a look at the bag in action. Let’s start with the positive: The new retractable handle works much better. Amazingly well, and this is worth noting as my major concern about the original Alpha bag when purchasing it is that the handle seems a bit sticky. The new bag is also significantly lighter (only 6.6 lbs according to Amazon.com), which can be helpful when flying on international carriers with less generous weight restrictions.
But as I suspected, I don’t like the appearance of the plastic corner caps. Maybe they offer better protection, but I prefer not to have a mix of hard and soft construction. (Overall, the new Alpha 2 looks similar to the hard-body Tegra series.) I also think the bag looks less attractive when it’s expanded. I really don’t like the 360-degree wheels, which were the main reason I turned against Rimowa. I always drag my bag behind me, and every time I tried a sharp change in direction with swiveling wheels (e.g., move backward instead of forward) they would lock and the bag would lurch. Finally, the side handles for picking up the bag have less relief, which makes it more difficult to get your hand under them.
I’m glad I was able to buy the old bag (and you still can at a few merchants, including Zappos). If you want to stick with the new series or just can’t find an original Alpha bag anywhere, some Alpha 2 bags do exist in a two-wheel form, including a special two-wheel Frequent Traveler bag that looks most similar to the former Alpha International Carry On. However, I didn’t see the Frequent Traveler bag on display when I stopped at a few bricks-and-mortar stores.
If you want a more positive review of the changes, check out this piece from Gear Patrol.