I am a reformed overpacker. My natural inclination toward procrastination, coupled with general forgetfulness, also ensures that I always pack at the last minute, which inevitably leads to my forgetting something (always minor but inevitably causes anxiety). But if adulthood has taught me anything about travel, it’s that nothing is indispensable aside from ID-money-phone-charger-glasses-jacket-and-comfortable shoes.
When traveling for leisure, I cram (somewhat ungracefully) everything into either a backpack or my trusty weekender, both of which will fit under airplane seats (albeit tightly; in the event that there’s no overhead compartment space) and no flight attendant has ever forced me to check them. Needlessly waiting around is the bane of my existence and I avoid it whenever possible. And the wait at baggage claim, surrounded by overtired (so understandably grouchy) travelers, is an experience I dread. So my only criteria for choosing a carry-on: it must be flexible and small enough to stow under the seat in front of me.
I have been curious about the Longchamp Le Pliage Expandable Travel Duffel for about a year now. The expandable aspect is appealing to me because the volume of my load changes considerably over the course of my trips, showing a downward trend as I demolish perishables and exhaust toiletries. The bag then gets refilled with snacks for the return trip, though I often wish for extra room so I can shop more freely.
QUALITY I, the owner of several Le Pliage Totes (reviewed here), know just how reliable Longchamp’s quality is. I never worry that I would have to contend with broken zippers, no matter how much force I exert when trying to close an overpacked bag.
The water-resistant nylon is highly durable, though I always warn new users that Le Pliage bags wear heavily in the corners.
DETAIL The bag is designed with double handles (4″ drop) and a removable adjustable canvas shoulder strap (16″-25″ drop; pictured here on the shortest setting), to allow for some flexibility in how the bag can be carried.
PRICE The bag retails for $255, which is far from inexpensive but is relatively reasonable compared to like items. Seasonless Longchamp colors for the Le Pliage (“folding bag”) style are almost never discounted, though seasonal colors often go on moderate sales. If you are after one of the seasonless colors (e.g., black, navy, red, bilberry, gunmetal, tan), you can consider waiting for one of Neiman Marcus’s $50 off $200 events, which comes around every month or so (usually mid-month) and lasts between 2-3 days.
CAPACITY I knew this bag would become my new favorite travel bag when recently, as I was running out the door and already 20 minutes behind schedule, I decided I must pack my trusty blowdryer into the already full bag, a quick unzipping of the duffel made it possible without making any adjustments. This bag obviated what is normally an agonizing process of making mental cost/benefit analyses of forgoing some other item to accommodate my hair dryer.
The bag has three states: (1) pouched, (2) zipped, and (3) unzipped. (1) The bag can be folded into a small pouch when completely empty, which makes it easy to store and also painless to bring as an incidental item. (2) The bag measures 17.75″W, 14″T, and 9″D in a zipped state but (3) expands to 20″T when unzipped. In the zipped state, it has the capacity of a standard duffel bag (very slightly roomier than the Madewell Transport Weekender). Unzipped, the bag has about 1.5 times as much volume as a regular duffel bag.
My strategy for using this bag (and I am sure I’ll have other revelations as I get better acquainted with it) is to pack as though it only exists in the zipped state and to reserve the space in the unzipped state for unintended or forgotten items. But a packing strategy is only as good as the person who came up with it, so I won’t belabor my approach.
I’m not saying this bag is perfect, because it isn’t. The expandable aspect is undeniably useful but it’s so easy to overload the bag when it’s fully expanded. The bag weighs about 1.5 pounds empty but at capacity can easily weigh 20 times that. I am not a weak person but it is not easy (or pleasant) to haul a 30-pound bag around.
Additionally, aside from a small interior wall pocket, there is no other division built into the bag so it can be difficult to locate an item after you’ve packed it. It may be worthwhile to invest in luggage organizers.