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Get a Grip

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry thought "he who would travel happily must travel light." Please. May we suggest that he who travels happily travels with the right luggage.

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Weekend getaways, while intended to be carefree escapes, can pose packing dilemmas: How much do you really need for an overnight stay? And what size bag can accommodate the essentials and maybe one or two "just in case" items? Holland & Holland's large weekender is roomy enough for both yet isn't obtrusively oversized (no need to make anyone think you're moving in). Crafted of waterproof waxed canvas, it's machine-washable, and two nifty cargo-style buckled pockets are perfect for stowing tickets, maps, and iPods ($1,850; 212-752-7755;

Beretta's Stagecoach bag, as the name might imply, is made for the weekend road trip. Designed in rugged alpine leather with deep side-zip pockets, it neatly stows everything you need and is sturdy enough to be tossed in a trunk without a care. For another kind of road warrior, Hogan's Biker Weekend bag, of chocolate-brown hand-distressed leather, is reminiscent of Brando's perfectly seasoned bomber. Chunky, heavy-duty hardware and tailored external pockets complete the tough-guy look. (Stagecoach bag, $1,095; 212-319-3235; Biker Weekend bag, $1,850; 888-604-6426.)


These modern steamer trunks are not meant for roughing it: no baggage carousels, no heavy-handed security guards, no curbside check-in. Take, for example, Louis Vuitton's Malle-Secretaire Stokowski, originally created in 1936 for conductor Leopold Stokowski, who required a traveling desk to go over musical scores on tour. On the outside it's the classic Vuitton-logo steamer trunk, but inside it's a work-ready desk complete with three drawers, file holders, an ink blotter, and a compartment for a typewriter—or maybe a laptop. (By special order; from $30,500; 866-884-8866.)

Goyard, founded in 1853, has designed travel companions for John D. Rockefeller, Pablo Picasso, Gary Cooper, and yes, even, of course, Madonna. Alain Ducasse had them customize a kitchen trunk, complete with spice racks and saucepans, so he could jet from his New York to his Monte Carlo restaurant without stopping for supplies. But the ultimate indulgence may be the Polo Trunk. Built like a tackle box, it has shelving for brushes and bits, soap, and a compartment for bridle and reins. Custom drawers for blankets, boots, and riding hats can also be added. (By special order; price upon request; available at Barneys New York, 212-826-8900.)

Of course you can always elect to leave these pieces at home, where they'll be safe and effective as elegant side tables—Marlene Dietrich used her Vuitton steamer trunk to store shoes under a grand piano in her Paris apartment.


Bottega Veneta's chocolate-colored crocodile "two-seater" duffel bag is surprisingly functional: There's just one simple zippered top closure, and a compartment-free interior provides extra room. But at $12,000, abandoning it to the baggage check may inspire separation anxiety. This one's for carry-on only. (At Bottega Veneta boutiques; 877-362-1715;

For the ultimate in durability—and checkability—Swiss Army's Triax collection sports "the toughest travel fabric ever created"—a blend of Teflon and the ballistic nylon used in bulletproof vests—and is practically indestructible. The Triax Upright wheeler comes in three sizes and three colors, and includes a removable garment bag, a one-button expansion system that increases depth by three inches, and the SwissTracker Global Bag Tracking and Protection Program, which registers your luggage in case you lose it. (In black, red, and silver; 22-inch, $500; 24-inch, $600; 27-inch, $680; 888-658-0717;

Kate Spade, genius behind so many things bag-related, offers a no-nonsense luggage collection in her signature preppy-chic textiles. Her black-on-black Noel Weave tri-fold garment bag looks sort of like a yoga mat when rolled up, and the Luggage Stripe collection, including a 26-inch suitcase, carry-on wheeler, and garment bag, comes in bright, easy-to-spot-on-the-baggage-carousel colors. (Black garment bag, $450. Luggage Stripe: suitcase, $525; wheeler, $625; tri-fold garment bag, $425; 800-519-3778;

Indeed, practical elegance has become so sought after, Hermès has entered the domain. The new Herline collection combines all you'd expect in an Hermès bag—a subtly elegant palette of gray and black or caramel and chocolate-brown and the trademark gold hardware—but in waterproof nylon and a canvas shell. Pieces range from vanity bags to a carry-on size garment bag to wheeled suitcases. (Vanity, $840; garment, $2,150; suitcase, $2,675; 800-441-4488;


Sometimes it's not about brightly colored canvas; sometimes you just want luggage that can take slamming, shoving, dragging, and the general mayhem of the baggage carousel and cargo space. Not surprisingly, the tried-and-true luggage legends—Samsonite and Zero Halliburton—are your best bets here. Samsonite's hard-sided cherry-red polypropylene F'lite roller suitcase has two side key locks, and self-lubricating wheels for easy mobility. ($220; 800-262-8282;

For James Bond flair—and endurance—look no further than Zero Halliburton. Since the 1930s, their hard-sided aluminum luggage collection has proved to be both classic and long-lasting. There are full-sized Zeroller suitcases, camera cases, even cosmetic bags. Since the late 1970s, photographer Kim Steele has been entrusting these "beasts" to transport and protect the tools of his livelihood. "If you're carrying photo gear, or expensive makeup, or anything delicate," says Steele, "this is what you use." (Suitcase, $615-$1,145; camera cases, $240-$570; cosmetic bags, $525-$620; 888-909-9376;


Don't travel like a drone. Being on the business-traveler track doesn't mean you have to carry your laptop slung over your shoulder in a sloppy nylon velcroed bag. Nor does it condemn you to boring black wheeled suitcases and garment bags. The smart royal-blue canvas T. Anthony two-suiter wheeler holds two garments neatly on an interior hanger, while two large exterior pockets provide extra storage space. The stain-resistant canvas keeps this wheeler looking stylish for many meetings to come. You can also choose the candy-apple-red suitcases famously created by T. Anthony for Marilyn Monroe, known the world over for her business travel. ($725; 800-722-2406;

Lambertson Truex's new luggage collection is here to rescue the garment bag: "People are willing to forgive the way luggage looks because it's supposed to be strictly utilitarian," says designer Richard Lambertson, "but we wanted ours to be both functional and attractive." Their version of the business staple is black canvas with black-leather trim and white stitching. Simple, chic, and it keeps your suits pressed. ($1,165;

Tumi's Executive Overnighter is strictly that, but its padded computer case and hanging garment sleeve are both removable, and there are separate outside pockets for a cell phone, a PDA, a plane ticket, and pens. All in the name of all-in-one efficiency. ($650; 800-322-8864;


For hard-core adventure travel—trekking the Cordillera Blanca, climbing Kilimanjaro—less is more. "The more bells and whistles there are, the more things there are to break," says Mike Maciascek of Mountain Travel Sobek. Maciascek explains that for most treks the luggage requirements are the same: "You need a big heavy-duty duffel bag and you need a day pack." For day packs, he swears by Black Diamond's Stone Pack or Speed 28 Pack, both of which are lightweight, durable and equipped with loops for things like ice-axe holders and ski tails. The duffel bag he uses, whether he is guiding intrepid travelers through Patagonia or across the Tatshenshini River, is the Base Camp duffel from The North Face. With approximately 25 gallons of packing space, there's plenty of room for anything you might need, from a bivouac to a first-aid kit. (Black Diamond: Stone Pack, $115; Speed 28 Pack, $68; 801-278-5533; North Face duffel, $100; 800-362-4963;

Also on the list for serious adventure is the National Geographic Anchorage duffel. Weighing in at two pounds, this water-resistant nylon bag comes in an attractive bright-yellow-and-black combination, and bears the seal of approval of National Geographic photographers and explorers who field-tested it on assignment. ($95; 800-437-5521;

If you're more interested in style than survival, arm yourself with Helmut Lang's military-surplus-inspired olive-green nylon duffel, reminiscent of a soldier's parachute pack. Or the Prada Sport mountaineer backpack, complete with all the bells and whistles—like dual exterior flap pockets for easy cell phone access—that you'll ever need to conquer the urban jungle. (Helmut Lang duffel, $500; 212-334-1014. Prada Sport mountaineer backpack, $1,150; 888-977-1900.)


A leather-bound, hard-sided valise is one of those things that just gets better with age—especially if it lasts for generations. And who better to provide instant heirloom status than Ralph Lauren? His hard-sided old-fashioned luggage is covered in cognac or black leather and lined in ecru linen. There are steamer trunks, suitcases, and hatboxes, all finished with gold or silver accents. (By special order; price upon request; 888-475-7674.)


No matter how many garment bags or wheeled suitcases you have, nothing says well-heeled traveler quite like a pink English bridle leather vanity case. VEII by Jeffrey Sperber lines theirs with aqua goatskin and outfits the bottom compartment with a mirror and straps so bottles and jars remain upright. Handsewn corners and a brass lock and key complete the nostalgia trip. ($4,900; 212-391-0050. Allow eight to ten weeks.)

But the season's quirkiest and most practical accessory might just be Prada's Professor bag, a black textured leather tote that comes with its very own exterior umbrella holder. Reminiscent of Savile Row and the nattiest of dandies, it is best finished off with one of Prada's own patterned travel umbrellas. (Professor bag, $1,315; umbrella, $246; 888-977-1900.)


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