Another new suitcase served as my trusty sidekick as I took a bus, metro and plane across the country to celebrate the 4th of July by the beach.
For 4th of July this year I took the bright blue softside SwissGear SA7297. This affordable suitcase line comes in three sizes. My 20-inch carry-on spinner is the smallest available, while there are also 24” and 28” options.
Here’s what I experienced with the suitcase, and what you should consider before buying.
Who Makes It
Ever heard of the Swiss Army Knife? Well, the company that makes it (Wenger) doesn’t just make knives. Instead, it “recently re-committed itself to its roots as an active outdoor brand – with multi-functional equipment possessing a unique pedigree”
This suitcase is specifically made by the SwissGear sub-brand of Wenger, which unsurprisingly hangs its hat on durability. As its website puts it: “SwissGear is the brand that consumers have come to rely on for providing well made products that are intelligently designed, highly functional and remarkably durable.”
Those products include luggage, backpacks, belts, wallets and travel accessories. In the luggage section, this suitcase is one of the brand’s more simple, staple offerings.
Key Features of the Carry-On
- Type: Soft shell spinner
- Size: 20 x 14 x 7.0 (8.5) in
- Weight: 7.5 pounds
- Cost: $85
- Color: Teal, also available in gray, pewter and blue with black accents
- 360-degree wheels
- Lightweight but durable body
- Expandable by 1.5 inches
- Traditional look
- Very deep body compartment
- Lots of pockets, including two on the front panel
- Carry-on approved
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One of my favorite things about the SwissGear SA7297 softside carry-on was the thing I noticed first about it: the color! When I reviewed the TravelPro a couple months ago, I complained that it was a black suitcase because this increased the possibility of being confused for someone else’s bag. The SwissGear’s unique teal color stood out nicely, though — something that Amazon reviewers have also loved.
Unfortunately, the second thing I noticed about the suitcase was that its adjustable rolling handle wasn’t very sturdy. Upon unboxing, the handle already was a bit wobbly and got stuck a few times. It had to be maneuvered carefully to be put away again, and that was before having to actually survive an airport, bus, etc.
When it came time to actually fill the suitcase, I was pleased: The deep bucket interior has plenty of space. More specifically, the SA 7297 has a fully lined interior with tie-down straps, a removable zippered wet bag and a large zippered mesh pocket. I had no trouble fitting all my clothes, books and more into the suitcase while staying organized.
The suitcase also has two exterior front zipper pockets for extra storage. So if you’re a pocket-lover, you’re in luck. For me personally, exterior pockets don’t add much value since I usually carry a purse as well.
When it comes to portability, the handle troubles came into play again. While I love that this suitcase is a four-wheel spinner, it’s not quite that agile when fully loaded, because the handle is so weak.
The suitcase only rolled smoothly when pushed in front of me down the airplane aisle, for example, and there’s no chance you could push it with an additional bag loaded on top, like I did with a similar sized Samsonite.
There are two really nice side handles, though, which made lifting the suitcase a breeze.
What to Consider Before Buying
While I’ve already mentioned some enjoyable aspects of this SwissGear softside, the suitcase’s price is perhaps the best part of all. At just $85, it’s the cheapest carry-on I’ve reviewed yet, and it you wouldn’t know it by just glancing at the bag. (I would say it looks less cheap than the shiny Delsey, for example). Heck, the biggest bag of this style suitcase is cheaper than some other carry-on options!
But as with all things, you get what you pay for. The lack of durability of the handle was a problem before the suitcase was even used… and you can bet it’s only going to get worse with time. The lovely teal exterior also had some wear from just this first trip with it.
The key pros of this piece of luggage are its deep bucket interior, lovely color and great price. The main con is the weak rolling handle and lack of durability.
If you’re not going far, the SwissGear 7297 may be able to hold up. But if you’re expecting the outdoorsy durability that the branding of SwissGear and its parent company suggest, you may be a little disappointed.
At its core, this suitcase is about affordability and looks more than anything else. But hey — at least it got me and my bathing suits to the beach, and out on the water!
Check it out IN PERSON before you buy, and don’t buy from Swissgear website. They will not accept returns if you have used it at all. I did buy my 20″ spinner from the swissgear website and found it would not roll on hotel carpet; the handle is very angular and uncomfortable; the wheels get stuck in sidewalk cracks, and the handle collapses spontaneously. Once used at all Swissgear will not accept returns. I talked to supervisors to no avail. I loved my Swissgear 22″ that I have used for years but this spinner, and Swissgear’s customer-hostile return policy is very disappointing.