on June 7, 2011
Let's be clear, nearly $300 is a lot to pay for a small box with wheels, but then, like the perfect pair of jeans, or perfect jacket, it can be hard to put a price on the perfect suitcase, especially for someone who uses it a lot.
In brief: There are so many things that *are* great about this suitcase, the things that aren't quite perfect really stand out. (see below for Pros & Cons)
What it is:
a medium-small roll-aboard suitcase with heavy duty aluminium frame. It opens like a locker, and includes smaller zipper pouches that can be stacked inside. it has a standard retractable handle and a pair of large-ish fixed wheels, as well as a slightly unique form factor, being longer than it is wide when you drag it. It's construction also allows you to sit on it. (a feature not to be under estimated!). It's different enough from a regular suitcase it can have a bit of a learning curve, but in a good way- like learning to use an ipad when you're used to a laptop.
Why I bought It:
I travel a lot between the U.S. and Japan, and when I'm not moving somewhere permanently, I'm pretty good at travelling compact (if not always light ;-). I've been a long time user of Travel Pro suitcases. their basic model that so many airline personel use was compact, tough as nails, and stylish in a simple enough way. When my last one finally gave out, I was non-plussed with their newer curvier (fatter looking) models. Hard-shell suitcases are all the rage in Japan, but i'd had more than one give up on me. I wanted a trendy, tough new travel-pro alternative, and Zuca was it.
I've had it for about a year now, with several months of active use. It's a beautiful thing to behold, and I often get compliments on it in airports. Upon opening the Zucca, I was disappointed to discover that, even out of its case, my 13" Macbook Pro, would not *quite* fit in flat, and given the shelf system of smaller bags, putting it in vertically wouldn't work. the laptop, in its neoprene case can be tucked in one of the outside pockets of the zuca, which is handy for easy access, and works for moving around, but not secure enough for storing/checking like that. The included cover I use when checking the bag, and offers a bit of weather resistance, but it makes accessing most areas slow, and is a bit bulky to tuck away in the suitcase, if you have it on a trip but decide you don't want to use it.
I like the size (fits easily in most overhead bins, and a miata trunk) and the narrowness is good for going down airplane aisles, but the fact that it's longer than it is wide when being pulled makes it a bit unstable when going over any bumps when power-walking. since it's a bit top heavy, going over say, the edge of a carpet or angled seam in the sidewalk can get it fishtailing out of control if you don't hit the obstacle perfectly perpendicularly. That said, it's *great* for walking with heavy loads. I once had the wheel of another suitcase literally melt when i was huffing across brooklyn one night, but I dragged my zucca for 2+ kilometers in tokyo over a variety of surfaces one night and aside from the occasional fish tail as described above, it was smooth to pull (even for me, at 6'2") and held up perfectly with no signs of wear.
Also i can't overstate the joys of being able to sit on the zuca during what would otherwise be a 2-hour strap-hanging train ride between tokyo and Narita airport. it's ideal for train commuters in this way, or anyone whom has ever wished for a seat where there weren't any in the airport.
It's not the roomiest bag in the world, but if you have a good sense of spacial relations, it can take a lot. even filled with heavy books it has no problem with the weight. I fit a video camera, and all my clothes for 2 months in Japan. All i needed was the clothes on my back, a small shoulder-bag for my laptop, and the zuca for everything else. I could sofa hop between friends apts. no problem, and the shelf system of mini bags helped me from exploding all over the room every time i opened the thing to get a fresh t-shirt (like i've been known to do with traditional suitcases).
When the suitcase is fully loaded (which, given its size, it always will be), the top handle can be hard to grab, as the inner liner of the Zucca presses up agains the metal fram the handle is cut into, denying your fingers any space to get under/ around the handle. having some kind of hard plastic shell underneath the top to reserve a little finger room is one of those little things that for nearly $300 you wish they would have thought to include. Also, while it's not proved to be a problem yet, the feet opposite the wheels are not as sturdy ad i'd have expected, joining the main body of the suitcase with only one tab of aluminium. My last pet peve, besides these and the laptop not fitting is that the shelf system bags are not double zipper, requiring you to fully remove them to open the zipper form the back corner, even if you just wanted to tuck something in/ slip something out (except for the toiletries bag which is double-zip).
the plastic stinky laundry compartment in the door is a nice idea, but doesn't have space for much, and is weirdly on display every time you have to open the bag.
Would I buy it again?
abso-friggin-lutely. especially if the above grievances were to be addressed. even so, it's a fine bag, that in most ways, outperforms the competition. whether or not it's right for you, and whether it's worth $300 is a call you'll have to make, but for me, it was a great choice.
smooth/ strong wheels
looks great, unique
can sit on it!
nice size for cary-on/ short trip (or long trip with laundry facility)
can fishtail when going over a bump due to top-heaviness
can't easily take a 13" laptop inside
top handle hard to grasp when full
zipper bags for shel system are not double zip
feet opposite wheels seem a bit flimsy (though so far so good)
on December 31, 2010
Not perfect, but a really great bag.
* Tough as hell. I don't care that it gets tossed around a bit, and I love that I can sit on it.
* Great dimensions. Yes, a bit odd, but seems to fit nicely both in overheads and in trunks.
* The giant wheels are awesome. Silently moves over smooth floors.
* The inserts are fine, but really, it ends up not being particularly useful much of the time. I use a couple of the bigger ones, and the liquids bag, but that's about it.
* The handle broke under heavy duress. (Someone, not me, fell on it down an escalator.) Since it's modular, should be easy to repair. Unfortunately, no one at the manufacturer has bothered to reply to the form I filled out on their site. I'll call them, but that sucks.
* A bit heavier and smaller than most of the other rollaboards I've had. it generally works well for how I use it, but my wife isn't sold on it because it doesn't fit as much stuff as others in its class.
* Rolls great, but the top handle is rough on large hands.
That's a lot of negatives, but I am overall very happy with the bag, and it's a worthwhile purchase.
on June 17, 2009
I bought this for my husband for business travel, but we first tested it out on a personal trip and it was wonderful! It's light, easily fits down the plane aisle, pockets for all kinds of convenient access and easy to lift overhead with the extra handles. Obviously, some serious thought went into the design of this. We were away for a wedding and I was able to pack all of the clothing and shoes for my 15 month old daughter and my husband in the one case using the roll packing method - this included his suit and dress shoes. I also bought him the backpack and it was equally well-designed. Especially easy to access compartments to remove a laptop and go through security and organize lots of baby snacks and toys.
on October 30, 2012
I've had my Zuca Pro since 2006 and I travel for business and pleasure pretty frequently -- it's hard to quantify exactly how many trips I've taken my Zuca on, but I travel enough to have elite status on my favorite airline. So far, I have never changed out the original black bag that came with my Zuca. It's showing a TINY BIT of wear on the zippers that attach it to the frame but that's it. The bag is brilliantly designed to fit down an airplane aisle with room to spare and the rollerblade wheels roll smooth as butter.
I also love that it's a perfect seat in a crowded airport where chairs are at a premium (LaGuardia anyone??) and the perfectly flat top makes a great little dining table or laptop desk in a pinch. Lord knows I've used it many times for both those functions.
I also love the stacked packing cube idea and I will agree with the first reviewer who said the cubes should have double zippers so you can just open the door to the Zuca, unzip a cube from the center and tuck something into it without pulling the entire thing out. One other thing I've noticed in the past couple years is that the collapsible handle has gotten a little fussy and wobbly feeling. I use WD-40 on the little "stop buttons" and that seems to help. Not sure about the wobbly nature of the handle itself -- perhaps I need to take the bag out and see if there is something under there I could tighten? I dunno.
I can go two weeks on the road with just my Zuca and my purse (which is where I carry my laptop). Although, this is not so much a function of the Zuca being spacious - I just happen to be a very good packer. :o)
I get comments, compliments and confused looks every single time I travel with my Zuca and I'm constantly evangelizing "Zuca.com!" to people when they ask. I do love my bag!
on January 3, 2014
I bought this bag back in 2008 for a new job I had that required me to travel weekly. Usually averages out to three flights a week.
Since then, it has been used every week, and the bag/frame itself is great. Survived a fall off the back of my pickup, just a few minor scratches on the aluminum frame, and some dirt on the nylon. Wiped it off, and tossed it back in the truck. A cab driver in Amdsterdam dropped it and it bounced off the curb, no real damage. Just a few more scratches. The zippers and zipper pulls haven't given me any issues. I just tossed the black cover they send with it in the closet, didn't see much use for it as a roll aboard, and when I did try it when I first got it, was too complicated to put on and off in a hurry. If I was to use this as a checked bag, would probably use the cover for it.
The wheels are great, and look easy enough to replace if one ever breaks. After bouncing it over the paving stones of Turkey many times, and the frozen side walks of Minnesota, the wheels are dirty and the printed lettering on them has worn off. Not much other wear. No breaks or cracks, even in very cold or very hot weather. They look like they are just roller blade wheels, if you wanted to replace them, doesn't look hard to do. The wheels are also quiet. None of the clacking noise of hard plastic wheels when walking down the sidewalk or through a airport.
I can easily pack enough clothes and a shave kit in the mesh/nylon bags for a 5 day trip. They do take more then they look like they would. Being partly mesh, they don't trap the odors in like a plastic bag would, and dirty clothes don't get so ripe by the end of a trip. Since I carry a brief case for my laptop, paperwork, etc, I don't worry about fitting a laptop in the ZUCA. The brief case fits nicely over the extended handle, and is held nicely by the strap I have on the brief case. One nice thing about the ZUCA, it doesn't tip over with the brief case on it, unlike a lot of other bags I see falling over the minute they aren't held up. I did turn the ZUCA into a camera bag for a vacation once, just put the foam dividers from my camera bags into it, packed the photo gear in and off I went. Worked nicely. One down side, sending all that camera gear through the blue berries (TSA) check point made something of a issue. They tore it apart. With just clothes in it, shave kit pulled out, never had the bag checked.
The mesh bags themselves are nicely made and have held up well. Every so often they get tossed in the wash, no issues. Since they come in several sizes, they work well for organizing things and are easily pulled out singly if you just want a fresh shirt and don't want to empty the whole bag looking for one.
Now for the big down side. The extendable handle. While it is nice and long, it is flimsy and made from some thin aluminum tubing. Don't get in the habit of yanking the whole bag up over curbs and flopping it back down, the extendable handle does not like doing that. Both the tubing of the handle and the plastic part at the end for your hand like to come loose or just break. I got used to squeezing the plastic bag together when I heard it pop every so often. Even sliding it up and down make seem to wear it out. Pretty much from the first month I had issues with the little button on the top to make it go down. Replacing the handle isn't difficult, when you are at home, in your shop. When it decides it has had enough on the road though, which is where it will happen, it is a pain. ZUCA was happy enough to quickly send me a new one, for a fee of course. A bag like this I expect to have a handle like the one on my North Face roller bag. That handle is solid, and well built. Much more comfortable too. If you ever walk past a luggage store and see a North Face roller, just try it out and see what I mean. Not sure why ZUCA cuts corners on the handle on their bag. I was told the reason it is so loose fitting is because of the weight on the other end of the handle. I don't see that as being a good thing, loose usually breaks faster or wears out sooner. Still doesn't explain the thin material it is made from.
It can be a little tippy if you make a turn to fast with it, or hit a bump wrong. The new Flyer model looks like it addressed that issue nicely though.
Over all it is a good bag, probably been on 200 plus planes a year, fits in almost every over head, except those tiny little regional jets. I think you can squeeze a rolled up coat in those, if you try. Just really don't like the handle at all.
on January 4, 2010
I have now used this bag for at least a dozen flights and I am happy with it. The reason why four stars instead of five is that the pulling handle feels a little shaky and should be wider with respect to the frame. If you are moving quickly it will often want to wobble and can easily flip because the handle doesn't spread widely enough to allow you to stabilize the bag. The other problem is that the top of the bag is glued to the aluminum near where the hand hole is cut, so sticking your hand in there to pick up the bag is difficult once the bag is fully packed and after light use the aluminum separates from the cloth bag exposing the glue.
Over-Packers beware the interior space of this bag is small. Its great because your bag can always fit overhead, but for me (size 13) only one pair of shoes gets to come on vacation.
on May 4, 2011
This is a really well made suitcase. The materials and design are quality. Very light weight. Lots of pockets to complement the organizer/packing bags. I'm a big guy with big clothes and was able to pack for a week long Florida vacation with some room to spare. More than ample for short business trips. The handle extends to a very comfortable/ergonomic height for me, I'm 6'3" tall, when I want to pull the suitcase on its wheels. The carry handle is also very comfortable to grip. The seat is sturdy and surprisingly comfortable. The seat also makes a great desk for airport laptop use. I thought it was a little expensive at first, but now that I have used it I think it's worth the price. Zuca delivers a nice product.
on June 15, 2015
Hands down, this is the best carry-on I have known. To put this in perspective, I have been to 48 states, 7 provinces and 36 countries over the past 35 years. I love to travel: by plane, train, bus, bike and automobile. I am a quirky traveler in that I frequently fly with my Xooter kick scooter which I use for transit. I travel light and pack very efficiently. The Zuca Pro fits me.
The Zuca Pro has been a game changer for me. This is a very well designed bag.
My Zuca experience started years ago when I bought a Sport bag for my son. He was in all honors classes at Middle School but as a result he was struggling to get back and forth with his book load. I was horrified when I found his backpack weighed nearly 30 lbs! After doing some research, I discovered the Sport. It has a double set of wheels on the back which allow it to climb stairs, it has light-up wheels for safety (and fun) and it is designed for use by kids, in particular, although many others use it as well (skaters, dancers, artists, makeup artists, etc). We have used it in airports but found it had some downsides. It's a bit clunky and awkward to put over your head, and the double wheels stick out far enough to be a problem in the overhead compartments. Worse, it doesn't always fit, especially on smaller jump jets; we've had to check it due to this. But that seat option? SO WORTH IT in a busy airport or on public transit! We later bought one for my middle daughter when she went to Middle School. The Sports are great for train or bus travel, for school use, and for conventions. We use them quite frequently at conventions, especially when I need to give a presentation. They are great for hauling paperwork, electronics, lunch, water bottles, etc.
I wanted a Zuca for myself, but needed something professional looking. I travel a lot by plane, often for 3-5 days, sometimes a week. I can't take a chance with having my carry-on get checked in baggage on a tight schedule. Imagine my excitement when Zuca launched the Pro.
I have been extremely pleased with this bag. It is really well designed with a lightweight yet solid aluminum frame, hard, quiet wheels and a good quality, durable nylon fabric (which is better quality than on the Sport models). The shape is a bit unique as it is tall and narrow. The benefit to this is that it rolls right down even the narrowest of airplane aisles. The downside is that it makes the bag a smidge tippy when you are walking fast in the real world. I have found that if you pack carefully with heavier items toward the bottom (as you should with any bag), you can minimize this. You also need to be conscious to hit curbs perpendicular with the bag or it might tip. The wheels are smooth and virtually silent--even on cobblestones. And unlike the Sport, they are recessed so they fit in overheads on planes easily.
The handle has a bit of play to it, but it doesn't seem to affect performance at all, despite having been used for years now. It is nice and long--something that my family loves (hubby and son are 6'4", I'm 5'10" in barefeet). It telescopes up to provide plenty of length for long legs and powerwalking. It also slides in *completely*. It is wide enough to add stability when pulling it. I have never been uncomfortable when pulling--even for 3 miles (long story).
There are some hand grips located in various spots on the bag. These are of tremendous help when schlepping the bag onto public transit or into an overhead compartment on a plane as you have multiple spots to grab. The one negative? When the bag is "stuffed-full" packed, it can be hard to get your fingers in to comfortably use the grip on top--which is used the most. It is this grip, in particular, that is ergonomically designed to be comfortable for carrying (it's shaped and texturized)... A nice feature for those times you need to actually carry the bag.
The flat, deep pockets on the sides are great for holding magazines, a newspaper, your kindle or iPad, an umbrella, etc. I wouldn't use them for storage when I check the bag through, as there is no padding to protect anything. Since I use this almost exclusively as a carry-on, the pockets work perfectly. There is also a small pocket, handy for business cards, on both sides.
There is a built-in (covered) luggage tag on the back, located between the handle bars.
I like using the included travel cover as I have been grateful for the extra rain protection on more than one occasion. I've also checked it a few times, where I've been glad for the extra protection that it provides. However, it is awkward to put on and you can't get into the bag easily once it is. It would be great if future versions included a door zipper, like on the actual bag, for access. I'd also love to see pockets on the cover. I noticed that the new Flyer version Zuca (not this model) has zippered access in the cover (perhaps in response to this need?). And speaking of the Flyer... be aware that it might not meet the new requirements of the FAA/TSA. The Flyer also is wide, which I think might be hard getting down narrow plane aisles.
The packing system is BRILLIANT. I routinely pack for 5 days when I need to wear professional attire (suit jackets, dress shoes), but I can pack for longer if going casual or to a warm climate. Seriously, this system is fantastic. The bags are color coded by size, making it easy to find your underwear or shirts, etc. When fully packed, you can remove a bag almost like it's a file folder, then replace it easily. The pouches fit well in the case, yet still allow extra room for items like a curling iron (which I store vertically, in the very back of the bag). One negative: the zipper is only one-way. Two-way zippers would really be a performance enhancement as they would allow you to add something to a pouch without having to remove it from a fully loaded bag.
There is a small mesh, elastic-edged pocket on the inside (roof area) of the Pro. I keep a spare pair of prescription glasses in this cubby, but it could be handy for prescription medications or what have you. On the door, there are two clear and several mesh pockets. One of these can be used for wet items, such as a swimsuit, which is a super handy feature to have on a small suitcase! I stash a small tube container of Tylenol, a travel size sewing kit and lint brush, a Stain-stick, a couple of travel packets of Woolite, and my electronic chargers there. The bag is soft-sided enough that it can handle a remarkable amount of extra squishing and stuffing, considering it's compact size.
I recommend buying the matching, foldable, stuff sack from Zuca if it is available. I use this routinely. It stores easily in an outside pocket, but it's very handy for last minute purchases (lunch, reading material, travel pillow, slippers, etc). It is designed to slip onto the handle of the Pro, allowing it to sit on the top platform with some stability. Consider bringing along a short bungie cord as well, as you can attach shopping bags, poster tubes, etc. in a pinch. The flat platform is great for supporting any add-ons. I have bought the Zuca backpack and the Cool Zuca (foldable cooler bag) as upgrades. While I don't use the cooler that often, I am very glad I did buy it. Another well designed product, it can fit on top of the Zuca bags or inside. It includes a 'porthole' window on top (allowing you to reach in a remove just one can or item, and folds up when not in use. I traveled from Berkeley recently with a well stocked "pantry" of artisanal cheeses; everything transited beautifully in the cooler and there was no smell. The back pack is thoughtfully designed with places to store files, magazines, a laptop/tablet, and utensil. It also slips onto the Zuca handle when not on your back, giving it a terrific versatility. The more you can roll and not need to carry, the better in my book!
Now, you've read this far. What's the best thing about a Zuca? THE SEAT! If nothing else floats your boat about this bag, this should. I cannot tell you how many times I've been grateful for it. Waiting in a long line at the airport or for a taxi? No standing room on the train? Flight delayed... again? Are your heels killing you? Have a crabby kid? Need a table? Or a footrest? Your Zuca awaits your pleasure.
I highly recommend this bag if you can afford it and you prefer to not check bags. For me, this is a lifetime investment that I regularly use. I've worn out bags in the past and I have had bags break on me *while I was on a trip*--something I wish to never experience again. The Zuca allows me to skip the baggage claim. It gives me a bit of extra comfort when traveling. I have complete confidence in my Pro.
on July 9, 2012
I was sold on the sit-ability of the Zuca. Standing around and waiting in lines is hard on my back. Knowing I can sit down at any time on the Zuca was comforting. And it holds my 210 lbs easily.
The Zuca fit easily into the overhead bin of Delta's 737-800 and b737 aircraft. I was concerned because Delta lists the maximum dimension of carry-on baggage as 9 inches (24" x 14" x 9"), while the Zuca's smallest dimension is 10 inches. But the Zuca slid easily into the overhead bin, wheels first.
The Zuca also held a week's worth of vacation clothes ... for a man. My son and I used Zuca's (one for each of us) for the week; but there is no way it would have worked for my wife for that long. Zuca's method of rolling clothes and putting them into the removable, flexible cubes was interesting, but it worked. It was also convenient to simply remove the cubes from the Zuca and through them in the drawers at the hotel.
The Zuca handled well and was quite.
The bag or liner portion of the Zuca removes and reinstalls easily enough with just zipper and Velcro attachments. I bought a black bag in black frame, and a red bag in a silver frame, but swapped them out because I felt it looked better. I note that the black bag was made completely from the same, rugged looking material; but the red bag had ends or tabs formed of another material, like a vinyl or plastic looking material.
Finally, I just really like the modern look of the Zuca. I particularly like the visible exoskeleton. The Zuca got lots of looks at the airport.
on May 15, 2014
This is a really clever design. When it arrived the suitcase looked smaller than I had imagined and my first thought was that it would not hold the clothes I needed to pack for a short holiday. By following the guidelines nd using all of the space wisely you can pack enough clothes for a four or five day holiday. I am delighted with this product.