***Please note: This review is in no way sponsored or affiliated with Solgaard. I am writing this solely to express my opinion of this product***
I am a chronic over-packer. If I am going on a trip for 5 days, I bring a minimum of 8 outfits. I pack every lotion, piece of makeup, and pair of socks I own. I always want to be prepared, so I try to bring everything. It always leads to problems – weight issues, difficulty closing my suitcase, and so on. I’ve broken just about every suitcase I own trying to tighten the compression straps to their limits.
Enter Solgaard – I started seeing their ads all over Facebook, Instagram, and just about everywhere else: “The Carry-On Closet.” I can not tell you how much this appealed to me. We go on short trips to visit my sister-in-law in New York fairly regularly, and taking day trips while in Taiwan was always such a hassle: I always took far too much with me, and in small hotel rooms with nowhere to store my clothes, it quickly turns into a crime scene of clothing scattered across the floor, all over the bed, draped over everything that a shirt can be draped over. Complete chaos.
I knew I wanted one, but the plan was always to wait: Wait until our next Taiwan trip was on the horizon. Wait until the immediate need arose. Wait until there was something I absolutely had to have that was only for a limited time. The latter is the one that got me. The Touch of Rose had been popping up on my Instagram feed all month long, and I eagerly awaited stock. I had to grab one while they were still available.
Who is Solgaard?
Solgaard started with their Lifepack backpack in 2016. It was created after a conversation with creator Adrian Solgaard’s friends after one of them had their bag stolen. What would be the perfect bag? Theft protection? A solar power bank to recharge your devices on the go? A pocket for all those essentials that wind up floating around in your bag?
The company experimented with other travel items over the years, from various bags for other purposes to their Hex Watch. And in 2017, the Carry-On Closet was born. The next year, they began setting up supply chains for the use of ocean-bound plastics and released a backpack made from recycled materials sourced from those headed the ocean. They reworked their Carry-On Closet shortly after to use recycled plastics to create the suitcase’s lining.
The plastic recycling aspect of these bags was a huge draw for me, aside from the obvious usefulness of the design. Recycling and sustainability are often overlooked by American companies and, while that is changing, it is still difficult to find some of those much-needed items that also contribute to environmental reform. The company is committed to cleaning up our oceans, as stated in their mission statement:
“We inspire people to explore everything the world has to offer. Our only mandate is that we give more than we take. For every item sold, we save 6 lbs of ocean-bound plastic from coastal communities.”Solgaard’s Mission Statement
They also feature a progress bar on their mission page which shows just how far their efforts have gone. As of writing this, they are closing in on 1.5 million pounds of plastic waste saved from entering our oceans.
Shipping took about a week, and once my package arrived it had the obligatory dent in its box that comes with American Shipping parties, but otherwise seemed unscathed. The case came in a thin bag to keep it from getting scratched and slid out of the box with relative ease. Of course, I was eager to see what was inside.
The first thing I noticed was how simple the closures were to handle. There is a clasp on either side with the 3-digit TSA lock at the center. To release the clasps after you enter the correct code you just squeeze the two levers on either side of the lock in a pinching motion. They pop out easily, and resealing the case is just as simple: just line the slabs with the holes, and press down. I’ve had and seen plenty of suitcases where these types of mechanisms require a good amount of force, but these are very easy to lock into place.
The case’s flexibility is a huge plus for me. As I said, I tend to overpack. Having a suitcase that has a firm shell to protect my belongings that still has some give for a bit of extra space or to accommodate an awkward shape is great.
The inner lining also feels quite sturdy, with the over strap for the closet aspect having a bit of reinforcement to prevent tearing. Having a sturdy interior is very important, as I have a habit of breaking things. The clasp at the center is one of the simplest designs I have seen for a suitcase – rather than being a traditional side release buckle, you slide one piece below the other and the pieces fall into place pretty easily, if you want to release, you push down and it comes out. It’s actually quite a neat design that I quite like, and I’m sure my cramping hands will enjoy it at the end of a long day.
There are plenty of little pockets to hold things like socks, intimates, and small accessories. They also have a little pouch to hold your Solarbank, if you have one (I have them on my list alongside the Lifepack for my husband and me). There’s a nice little inconspicuous opening near it to run a wire through for on-the-go charging.
The closet portion of the bag also seems to have a lot of stability, with a metal frame reinforcement keeping the shape in place at the top. The large compartments also zip, which helps to keep things maintained.
The wheels on this thing are super quiet and zippy. I find that sometimes wheels on baggage tend to lock up or do their own thing, but these are super reactive to your movement and don’t have any issues following commands. This suitcase will turn on a dime for you, which is great when trying to navigate busy cities.
Solgaard’s designs are clean and sleek, with the Touch of Gold, in particular, having a nice subtle pop of color along the case seam, handle, and clasps against a simple black body. I love the accent coloring used in this design which gives the case an air of elegance.
The branding on the bag is great: it doesn’t overwhelm you with the company name but offers some context as to who they are, what they do, and why you want to buy from them without compromising their design. The lining has the logo printed on it in a tiled pattern, only seen from the inside of the case. There is a small plaque on the front of the case with the name “Solgaard” etched into the rose gold accent. But the thing that stands out to me the most is the little reminders of the good that they do and the contribution you make as one of their consumers.
When you extend the handle, there’s a small bit of print on the side of the handle “Exploring for Good.” We all want to feel like we are making a contribution, and this little hidden gem serves as a reminder that you are using an item that supports a worthy cause.
When you first open your case, you’ll find your closet stored in a draw-string bag branded “Solgaard: Gear for Global Citizens” with a reminder that their materials are sourced ethically and sustainably. But what caught my eye the most was directly at the center of the case. On the lining, you’ll find a patch that reads “This suitcase removed 229 plastic bottles from our ocean.” This is part of Solgaard’s mission, and to be reminded every time I open up my suitcase of the good that they are doing as a company is fantastic. I love the care that they put into spreading their message and making their company known as a part of the movement for ecological change.
I may have mentioned I’m clumsy, but I’ll say it again because it is part of my struggle: I. Am. Clumsy. So naturally while playing around with my new toy, I had the top of the case leaning against my wall and it slid across the floor, leaving little lines of paint along the sides of my brand new Solgaard suitcase. I was not sure how easy this would to be get out, so I started with a simple disinfecting wipe just to see if that would do the trick. Sure enough, a quick scrub with moderate pressure took the marks right off, good as new!
If you see any of my content and notice a ball of fluff in the background, you should know it is from the two shed monsters that live in my house. My Border Collie and my Siamese mix both seem to create a new animal every day with how much they shed, which is unfortunate as it gets on everything. Including my new suitcase. While the design makes it very easy to wipe the hairs away when they attach, it does seem to act as a magnet for them. I can’t keep those little hairs off the poor thing!
Here’s where I make myself look bad. I was so excited to test drive my new purchase, I failed to actually check how the mechanisms worked. I pulled out the closet, packed it full, shoved it inside to make sure it fits, all the good stuff.
I put shoes in the bottom section – I don’t recommend that. Keep your shoes in the body, on the other side of the suitcase where they aren’t around your clothes. Also, unless you have smaller feet which I do not have, your shoes will stick out from the closet and make fitting everything quite awkward. Mistake number 1.
I also just kind of accordioned the closet in on itself to get it back in the casing. When putting it in, I questioned why they had these weird straps on the side of the closet. Was I supposed to carry this thing around on my back? What’s the point? The point is actually to pull these straps to help compress the closet so it fits in the bag with ease. I didn’t read, and common sense was apparently left at the door that day, so this took me a good thirty minutes to figure out.
At the top of the closet is a triangle-shaped strap that you can attach to the handle of your case or hang in a closet. Simple enough, I could figure that much out. What I did forget about was gravity and physics, so I strapped this baby in with the suitcase wide open only to have it try toppling over on me as soon as I let go. Buyer’s remorse began to set in, and I wondered if I had built this thing up in my mind to be this innovative bout of genius when in reality it was just a janky, half-assed design that couldn’t even stand on its own. No, no it wasn’t.
To avoid others making a fool of themselves with absolutely no one else watching as I did, I’ll let you in on a little secret – ninety-degree angles are your friend. Keep the top of the case at this angle, creating an L-shape with the body of the case so the weight is counteracted and your closet doesn’t topple over.
I went over this whole fiasco with my husband later, he was not impressed.
Now that I am getting used to exactly how to pack with this, I feel like it really does have a ton of space to help keep you organized on your trips. I pack way too much, and I’m arguably a bit too good at it sometimes. For me, I might actually be able to fit a little less in this suitcase than I can in a regular bag. But I don’t see that as a bad thing. Instead, it gives me a reason to think about what I’m packing. Do I really need ten shirts for a five-day trip? How many sweaters do I REALLY need for three days in New York?
The fact is that when I overpack, a majority of what I bring never leaves my suitcase. It is never worn and only takes up space in my bag. I’m weighed down by my inability to pack pragmatically. Most have said that this suitcase actually gave them more room than they are used to having, which really just tells me that I have a problem I have been enabling with my uncanny ability to get my entire wardrobe into a 22” suitcase.
That was something that drew me to this in the first place: Rather than packing my bags to the brim only to have them explode in an atom bomb of shirts and jeans, I can pack what I need and stay organized from within my suitcase. I’m hoping Solgaard can help me do just that.
Solgaard’s pricing is on the lower end of a high-end suitcase. Lower-budget luggage often costs between $50-150 USD. Higher-end luggage usually starts at about $200 up to $7-800, and designer or luxury brands can be in the thousands. I purchased the Carry-On Closet Large, which currently retails for $295. Because I ordered the Touch of Rose, a limited-stock item, it was a bit more expensive at $325. Is this a lot to spend on a carry-on? Sure. But it isn’t the most expensive piece of luggage out there by any means, and for what you get I think it is well worth the price tag.
The Lifepack, next on my list in the Solgaard family, has the option to purchase it with the Juicepack included for a discounted rate. With there being a pocket designed for the Juicepack to slide into, I do wish they offered this same option for the Carry-On Closets.
I had a rough start when introducing myself to my newest travel companion, at no fault of its own. Now that I am learning how to use this bag without seeming like a caveperson seeing fire for the first time, I am having trouble finding things to dislike about this suitcase. I have not gotten the chance to test it out in the field, by my next trip to Taiwan is just around the corner and I am hoping for a bit of island-hopping this trip, so I should get at least a few opportunities to test it out.
If you make a lot of short-term trips and need something lightweight, portable, and convenient, Solgaard really does seem to be the best thing on the market.