VisaVis
The 55 and 68 shot in their natural habitat, wishing they had a 74cm big brother. AAaawwwwww.

 

I was so sure that this time it was the real thing.

Hobbits had it easy. I’ve spent decades on the quest for the ‘Perfect Luggage’ with little success.  I’ve fought baggage handlers and trains’n’boats’n’planes with duffel cases, suitcases, big cases small cases, cheap cases and more expensive ones, but nothing has made an airtight case to convince me that “This Is IT”.

Until I saw Crumpler’s new Vis-a-Vis range of hard shell cases.

Stunning hardly comes close to describing their looks and design. Add that to Crumpler’s legendary reputation for toughness (I’ve had several of their camera gear bags, and it’s TRUE!) and it should be move over Samsonite, Antler, and Co. to the realm of ‘just cases’.

The vis-a-vis range includes a laptop bag but the headline act is the trio of 55cm cabin size, mid sized 68cm and the 74cm big daddy.  These three come in all black which is understated classy, or black with red straps which is a whole other level of ‘wow’!

The first thing you learn is that finding these in the black and red is a whole holy grail quest on its own since the first batch sold out almost entirely months ago.  In Australia anyway, you’ll have more chance of locating Red October than red vis-a-vis. New stock of the black and red is not expected until around June -ish.

After more sleuthing than Sherlock I tracked down two, took the plunge and bought a 55cm cabin size and a 68cm mid-sized ‘trunk’ (as Crumpler calls it).

 The 55cm Cabin: Cabin fever or carry-on smiling?

What is a carry on bag FOR?  It’s a great question with no single answer.   First off, it has to GO IN the cabin. Most flyers are driven nuts by the plonkers who wheel on cabin bags that you could smuggle a small pony in and then have another bag piggy-backed on top of it.  They then expect the flight attendants to find a space for them.  I can think of one.

I’ve taken the vis-a-vis cabin 55 on several QANTAS domestic flights and a few international ones and it is the perfect size for carry on.  It slides in above (wheels first of course) on the domestic 737-800s with just enough space on top of it for a folded jacket or even a box of Krispy Kreme’s!

VisaVis4
The cabin 55 in a QANTAS 747-800. Like a glove.

I also took it as cabin on an internal Air New Zealand flight on a little Bombardier Q300.  This was a bit more of a squeeze and took a little wriggle to fit in in sideways into to the overhead bin but nothing drastic.

VisaVis1
On the Bombardier Q300. Breath in……. No worries.

It’s an incredibly roomy cabin bag but you may need to watch if your airline is fanatical about enforcing a ludicrous limit eg, a 7kg weight limit on Air NZ.  QANTAS almost never worry about weight but Air New Zealand made me decant some things out of it and in to my 68 hold case as it was ‘over weight’.  This would seriously defeat the purpose of using this, or any other carry-on bag for a short day or weekender trip where you plan to use carry-on bags only. As this one weighs 3.3kgs you are left with a paltry 3.7kgs of content.

I have also taken it as a ‘weekender bag’ for a few non flight trips and it is perfect.

I was sure that the ‘piano-black’ finish would rapidly lose its lustre with use, but no.  It still looks fantastic.  The red straps have the odd slight scuff mark but nothing at all above normal ‘wear and tear’.  Crumpler have a winner in this finish.

As a hard shell case, the 55 is not going to ‘double up’ and become your one and only carry on bag.  I tried this on one trip as an experiment and it failed miserably.  This is not a cabin bag to dip in and out of on board if you need your Dr Dres , book or i-pod. By the time you open the TSA combi-lock, release the tension straps, un-pop the handle, and open the zip, part the shell halves and potentially take out the passenger beside you, your flight may have landed.  No.  This is a pack it and leave it case so bring your handbag or man bag along as well for the little things you need ready access to.

The vis-a-vis range seem to have more straps than a Kings Cross bondage salon but this is no flashy form over function.  They make absolute design sense.  The chunky handles are so comfy you could tote one of these babies all day, although with 4 wheels that let you spin and steer with literally one finger, you will hardly ever need to.  As Orwell nearly wrote, “Two wheels bad, four wheels good”.  The two tension straps are as reassuring as they are practical.  When you really PACK one of these, you never have to worry about the zip splitting open, a) because the zip itself is well-nigh industrial quality but then when you slip those tension straps into place you can SEE them taking the strain and the zip breathing a sigh of relief.  Brilliant!

Inside is pretty standard with space and a nice flat velcro system to compress the contents flat to save some space and to stop everything from moving around and falling out when you open it.  Crumpler calls it a ‘CLOTHES COMPRESSION SYSTEM’ that is ‘patent pending’ so maybe there’s more to it than met my eyes.

 Verdict:

As good a cabin case as you will ever get.  Tough, roomy, perfectly sized, glides on air, and come on, admit it, damn the science, you just LOVE the look of it.

The 68cm Trunk: Breaking up is hard to do

I took the 68 with its little brother on its maiden voyage, a two week business trip to New Zealand, but what should have been a wonderful bonding experience quickly soured as the 68 cracked open wider and almost as quickly as the Titanic did on its first outing.

VisaVis12
Peek a boo, hoo, hoo

The case packed well but even as I was packing, I was thinking that I might need to go for the trifecta and get the 78cm trunk as well for upcoming month long trips.  These were after all, going to be THE cases for the next 5 or 10 years of travel.

The Adelaide to Wellington leg was no problem and I THOUGHT that a short hop Wellington to Hamilton flight was also fine.  I didn’t think to ‘check the luggage’.  Why would you?  A) This is Crumpler we’re talking about and B) Most of us are just so relieved to see our cases actually emerging on the belt.

I lived out of the case for a week and it was only as I was repacking that the horror hit me. What looked like a black hair in the corner of the case was in fact a huge crack.  The corner foot had been driven through the ABS shell.

As I’d put the case into the car and taken it out at the other end carefully indeed, I can’t think of anywhere else that this damage could have happened other than on that short hop flight.

 

Now……we all know that luggage gets damaged. Nothing in luggage world is 100% indestructible. But for a case of Crumpler quality to go down on its first trip.  That’s bad.

 

VisaVis7I’m not an engineer but as I looked at the damage – the foot that seemed to have been pushed through the floor of the case, I did wonder if these ‘feet’ might be a weak spot in the design.  I can just see a baggage handler in a hurry “setting it down” (from a height of a foot or two) and a full case of about 20kg landing at an angle on just a single foot.  Would that be enough to do this kind of damage?  I don’t know.

 

The ABS shell does seem to be quite thin, no doubt to help keep the case’s weight down.  It seems about the thickness of an Australian 10c coin, about 2mm thick.

VisaVis23
The thick of it. 10c coin against the broken ABS shell edge.

 

I’m sure Crumpler test all of their designs and some indeed are “torture tested”, so maybe my 68 was just a freak one with a flaw or weakness.

The problem is of course, that a case that breaks this badly is a bit like having a bad meal at a restaurant.  You are very reluctant to go back for more.

So that’s what I’ve done.  I’m treasuring my vis-a-vis Cabin bag but I just can’t risk another big trip where this could happen again to another 68cm or even the bigger 74cm.

To their absolute credit, Crumpler showed why they have ‘fanboys’ like me.  I took the case into my local shop on the Saturday and called back for a full refund on the Monday.  When Crumpler offer a “lifetime guarantee” it actually means something.

I’m working through the grieving process at the loss of my vis-a-vis and I have decided to go ‘back to fabric’ for my hold luggage.  For my next 2 week trip, I’ve ordered a Crumpler Dry Red #11.

This could be the start of something big.

 

24 Responses to “From Love at first flight to a nasty split. How I fell out of love with my new Crumpler Vis-a-Vis case: a real life road test review.”

  1. Phoebe

    Great review. Such a shame it cracked – they LOOK amazing. Didn’t but the 78cm based on this – but issue with all these “hard” luggage styles. If only they could get lightness with titanium strength. Seen too many wrecks at the airport graveyard. Keep working on it Crumpler cause your style rocks!

    Reply
    • Philip Darbyshire

      Thanks a lot. Yes, real shame that the great style wasn’t matched by strength. I still use the vis-a-vis cabin size one regularly, BUT if I had to get a new one it would be a Samsonite Cosmopolite FL. Not quite so great looking but MUCH lighter and as it’s more flexible, I think it’s less likely to crack if dropped. My wife bought one and I love it. Great cabin case.

      Reply
  2. Helen

    I also fell in love with the Vis-à-Vis red handle range – first on a bill board then in real life. Stylish, carries and wheels well and so easy to spot on the carousel First trip to Europe all fine, then second trip and somehow, somewhere along the way, one corner was smashed and cracked, on both sides of the zip, not near the wheel, but adjacent to the peg it stands on. The case was just out of warranty, discontinued luggage in the store where it was purchased and the Crumpler web-site said the life-long guarantee did not apply to undue damage or words to that effect. I have kept the case out of sentiment and use it for storage – but maybe I’ll take the case into my local Crumpler shop and see what they say – and stick to soft luggage for the time being

    Reply
    • Philip Darbyshire

      Hi Helen, I feel your pain re; Crumpler’s vis-à-vis range :-( Shame that such lovely luggage seems to have a fatal flaw. I went back to soft for the bigger case but now eyeing up the Samsonite Cosmolites. My wife has the cabin size one and it is a joy. If the larger ones are as good as that, they could be perfect. Maybe because the ‘hard case’ there is ‘softer’ and more flexible, it may be much less prone to cracking.

      Reply
  3. Jeff

    Did you end up getting the Dry Red #11? If so, what do you think of it?

    Reply
    • Philip Darbyshire

      Yes I did. The largest size one. It’s “OK” I’d say. Good capacity for long trips, wheels not too bad but I don’t think as smooth running as the vis-a-vis. If it’s full at maybe 25kgs or so I pull it by the top fabric handle not the extender handle. Seems to be easier. The outer ‘compartment’ is handy to slip in a coat or whatever you might need quickly at the other end. After one or two international trips it is already starting to look a bit grubby and a couple of slight ‘frays’ appearing. To be honest, my next case would certainly be a Samsonite cosmolite the 68 I think. My wife has the cabin size and LOVES it. Light as a feather and the ‘softer’ and much more flexible ‘hard shell’ I think would make it less prone to cracks and breaks that the poor old vis a vis was. When I put her cosmopolite cabin, beside my vis a vis cabin, I’d take hers any day. Mine looks great with the black and red but hers wins in every other department. A beauty. Cheers Philip

      Reply
  4. Simon Sigre

    Just as a quick follow up, my 68 cracked in the same way after its first overseas flight 2 years ago, Crumpler advised this was a known issue and replaced it with a new one (reinforced) and I haven’t had an issue since (its been on a number of trips since.
    They do seem to scuff very easily, would certainly prefer a matt finish.. never the less i’ve been happy with the product and support.

    Reply
    • Philip Darbyshire

      Very interesting that Crumpler now acknowledging that this tendency to crack is a “known issue”. Not sure how widespread that info is. Great that they replaced it no problem. Good customer care makes a world of difference.

      Reply
      • Simon Sigre

        After a few more international trips on my replacement luggage the exact same crack in the exact same spot has re-occurred. :( as much as I love Crumpler and it looks great, it’s just not a robust suitcase

        Reply
      • Simon Sigre

        After a few more international trips on my replacement luggage the exact same crack in the exact same spot has re-occurred. :( as much as I love Crumpler and it looks great, it’s just not a robust suitcase

        Reply
        • Philip Darbyshire

          My thoughts too Simon. Sadly, a triumph of aesthetics over function.

          Reply
  5. Neil Davies

    Great review. I came close to buying a 78cm yesterday but thought i’d checkout some reviews first. Im taking a long trip to the IUSA in March and wanted something of great quality to protect some very expensive scuba diving gear i am talking. After reading this i will have to keep looking.

    Reply
  6. Philip Darbyshire

    I think for my next ‘hard shell, I’d be really tempted by Samsonite Cosmopolite. Seems to have all advantages of ‘hardshell’ but with a flexibility that should stop ‘cracks’ and fractures caused by impacts that rigid hard-shells couldn’t. And, light as a feather!! As I mentioned, my wife’s cabin size one is a beauty.

    Reply
  7. Joe

    Hi, I have had 55cm cabin and 68cm luggage.

    Both of them cracked. I have called the crumpler in PERTH.

    they said they will replace on the phone… I am yet to go will see soon.

    but lady on the phone seems very nice. and it can be replaced.

    Reply
    • Philip Darbyshire

      Thanks Joe. Yes Crumpler do seem to be good at relaxing when damaged. I just wish they were as good at designing to minimise the chance of damage in the first place. Good luck.

      Reply
  8. Kirsty

    I’ve had my vis a vis 78 cm for maybe two years and 6 OS trips. After first flight on current trip my partner pointed out a split in one corner and I have just noticed a second one in the pop corner. I’m not particularly observant so I’m not sure how long the cracks/splits have been there. Such a pity as on every other level I love it. I also got the matching lap top bag but in all honesty, once it’s full with laptops, chords and a change of clothes it’s too heavy to carry for any distance ( really needs wheels) so I have only used once. As per other commenters I’ll contact crumpled for a replacement.

    Reply
  9. Kirsty

    I’ve had my vis a vis 78 cm for maybe two years and 6 OS trips. After first flight on current trip my partner pointed out a split in one corner and I have just noticed a second one in the pop corner. I’m not particularly observant so I’m not sure how long the cracks/splits have been there. Such a pity as on every other level I love it. I also got the matching lap top bag but in all honesty, once it’s full with laptops, chords and a change of clothes it’s too heavy to carry for any distance ( really needs wheels) so I have only used once. As per other commenters I’ll contact crumpled for a replacement.

    Reply
    • Philip Darbyshire

      Hi Kirsty, No so good is it. I agree too re the cabin/laptop size vis a vis Looks beautiful but now in 2016, is looking heavy and bulky. When mine is full of a weekend’s clothes and laptop it is very heavy, especially compared to my wife’s Samsonite Cosmolite which is fantastic. Hers even fits into the cabin space of some of the smaller planes than my vis a vis won’t. That one is definitely my next cabin case.

      Reply
  10. Rosie

    I purchased a Numinous London 68cm with fingerprint technology. It is a hard case and very smart looking. It arrived yesterday and it was already damaged with what looks like a protective clear coat peeling off and some scratches. I expect that the company I purchased it from will refund or replace. I was looking at the Crumpler Vis a Vis but after all the comments about the outer shell cracking I wont go there. I looked at the Samsonite Cosmolite which you seem to be pushing and it gets terrible reviews, mainly wheels falling off. I definitely wont buy that suitcase. Any other recommendations?

    Reply
    • Philip Darbyshire

      Hi Rosie, thanks for the comments. First, I NEVER ‘push’ anything or any brand. It really is horses for courses out there in ‘case world’ :-) I did, as I say, initially rave about the Crumpler vis-a-vis range but have fallen out of love with it. I still use the cabin size one for short trips but it is now, in comparison, big, heavy and bulky and frankly awful to get anything in or out of. My only experience of the Samsomite Cosmolite has been travelling with, and watching my wife use her cabin-sized one. She absolutely loves it and so far we have had no wheel issues. I know that’s a sample of n=1 but it’s all I have. I’m currently wearing out a Big Red soft-side case by Crumpler, but when that goes, I’d be very tempted by a larger sized Cosmolite. Especially now that v3 is out apparently Not sure what differences are over v2 but wheels COULD be one of them. Good luck on the case hunt Rosie, cheers, Philip

      Reply
      • Rosie

        Thanks Philip. The soft sided Crumpler is on my list of possibilities.

        Reply
  11. elizabeth

    Thanks for this thread, Philip. I, too have the 68cm. I was so excited by it. Sleek, cool, fairly light. Every trip I have taken in the past two years has resulted in another crack. It is now at the point of no return. Literally have had to stick it together w gaffer tape from my last OS trip. I have tried to contact CRUMPLER. But, so far, no answer. I do feel better after reading of your positive experience. Hopefully my outcome is similar. I don’t really fancy spending another $500+ in such a short time. I would not want another VIS A VIS. But a soft case would be great.

    Thanks again.

    Reply
  12. Philip Darbyshire

    Not good at all Elizabeth :-( These are NOT cheap cases and from the correspondence I’ve received, there really does seem to be a major design flaw in either materials or construction. We really do expect better from Crumpler. Good luck with getting your refund.

    Reply
  13. Julie-Anne Reid

    I’ve just seen the red Crumpler case & have “fallen in love” too. My current case is a limited edition Samsonite Gold Cosmolite. I’m looking for something new, as I’ve had the Samsonite for quite a while & the wear n tear is kicking in. I’m a long haul flight attendant, so as you can imagine my suitcase does a LOT of miles! The Samsonite has been great. It’s not my 1st & I’ve always been happy with them & Delsey has also been a favourite.
    It’s such a shame to hear that the Crumpler isn’t really a solid enough case. I love the red & it’s a good price for a suitcase like this(compared to Samsonite etc).
    Thanks for the feedback.

    Reply

Leave a Reply