With Americans spending more on vacations than ever before (pent-up demand + increased airfare = just let me hit the road/skies), airports, resorts and Nana’s guest room are getting more crowded than ever. So with all this to-ing and fro-ing, I treated myself to an upgrade from that same old tired wheeled duffel I’ve been dragging around. I was in the market for a carry-on that looked a little bit cool, but was still classic and above all, sturdy enough to withstand the rigors of being slung into Uber trunks and hoisted into overhead bins. Also…it just couldn’t be black, since I am so over having a bag that blends in so well with everyone else’s luggage.
Can a Recycled Plastic Suitcase Hold Up? We Test the Paravel Aviator Carry-On Plus
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- Value: 18/20
- Quality: 19/20
- Ease of Use: 20/20
- Aesthetics: 20/20
- Sturdiness: 18/20
Over a recent long weekend when I flew halfway across the country to Houston, I gave the Paravel Aviator Carry-On Plus suitcase a try. The lightweight, hard-sided case caught my eye because I was already a devotee of the brand’s chic little packing cubes (with optional monogramming!). Paravel’s vegan leather accents reminded me of the understated elegance of classic T. Anthony luggage—at less than a third of the price, and with greater eco bragging rights. That’s because the super sturdy yet lightweight shell is made from recycled polycarbonate, and the lining is made from 15 upcycled water bottles. And that leather trim? It’s not real leather at all, but a remarkably close, spendy-looking facsimile.
I selected the Aviator Plus in “scout tan,“ a nice way of describing basically a white piece of luggage with beige trim. It’s just begging to be scuffed, stained and otherwise sullied, wouldn’t you think? But that’s not the case. The ribbed sides of the case hide any little shadows of dirt, and the surface wipes clean as fast as you can say “business hotel washcloth.” Corners are sheathed in satin-textured, curved steel, so there’s no chance of every little knock soiling it, and the steel handle telescopes up and down with hardly any effort at all. The top and side vegan leather handles are sturdily fixed. And I was worried about the spinner wheels, because I have had bad luck with previous carry-ons whose wheels got stuck during mad dashes across multiple concourses. But these four do just what they are meant to…spin fast and wild right along with me.
The inside of the case is equally distinctive, as it’s outfitted with the sort of organizational niceties you wouldn’t expect at this price point. There’s a zip-enclosed half where I kept two pairs of shoes and toiletries; the other half has an interior compression board that kept my shirts and trousers nicely folded flat. (There’s even a small separate zip case where I stashed my laptop charging cable.)
If we have any quibble, it’s that this bag looks way too theft-worthy, since it seems to be much more expensive than it is. But we never need to take our hands off it, especially now that we have our eye on a matching Weekender bag. It slides right over the case’s handle, so we don’t need to be weighed down by so much as a purse when we are traveling. And here’s the thing I’ve learned about luggage—practically any mishap, flight delay or crummy hotel room is improved when your handsome carry-on is perched next to you.
Buy It ($275)