We rely on our carry-on bags every time we go on a cruise. I pack all of my expensive camera gear, my French Press and coffee, other electronics and, of course, some clothing items into my carry-on. For the past two years, Rickee and I have both been using Protege rolling carry-on bags that we bought at J.C. Penny. On our 10-night Princess Panama Canal cruise, I had the opportunity to test the new Aerial Spinner from Genius Pack.
The Aerial zipper opens to reveal a roomy interior with a few unique features. On the right side, the compression straps are elastic, so they do not require any cinching to hold items in place. Typically, the right side of the bag would be used for folded clothes. However, my usage is anything but typical.
As you can see in the photo above, I have my camera/video gear on the bottom (right side) protected by foam padding. My French Press, coffee and other items are on top. On the left side, what Genius Pack refers to as the "laundry compartment," is where I have my socks, underwear, pajamas and a few other items. This is basically how I have been packing my carry-on for years.
As you can see in the photo above, our Protege carry-ons appear larger than the Aerial. Even though it is difficult to see in the photo above, the Aerial Spinner is a little wider than the Protege. The shell material of the Aerial is more flexible than the Protege. Both bags have four wheels that rotate 360 degrees. Both have center line zippers for opening the bags. However, the Protege has a built-in TSA-approved 3-digit combination lock for the zipper pulls. The Aerial has a place to put an external TSA lock.
Both bags have handles mounted on the side and on top, as well as extendable handles with two stops. The handle on the Aerial feels more secure and solid than the one on the Protege. Both bags roll easily, however, the Aerial seems to pull better on two wheels than the Protege. And, the Aerial is about .5 lb lighter than the Protege.
The interior of the Aerial is a black material, whereas the Protege is gray and more likely to show stains. The compression straps on the Protege require you to cinch them up tight against clothing or other items whereas the Aerial's are elastic. I am split on which system I like better. The left-side compartment cover of the Aerial is unique in that it has separate zipper compartments where you can stow socks, underwear, dirty clothes, or other items. I also used these areas for small electronic items such as battery chargers, cables, etc.
All of the zippers and pulls on the Aerial appear to be very high quality. There is a packing checklist on one of the compartments, which seems a bit gimmicky. I suppose for those who do not travel often, it could be a good reminder of what you need to pack. However, it mentions things like shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer, which will not be allowed in a carry-on at the airport (requires the use of the 3-1-1 bag).
So, what is the bottom line? Both bags are functional and well made. We have been using the Protege bags for over two years and they have held up well. However, they were roughly the same price as the Aerial Spinner and their dimensions actually exceed what some international airlines will allow. The Aerial Spinner's dimensions are a better choice for international travel, plus, the compact size is easier to manage. For me, personally, I would select the Aerial Spinner over the Protege because of its compactness, better pull handle, and additional zipper compartments for small stuff.
You can learn more about the Aerial Hardside Spinner by clicking here.