My relationship with luggage comes with a lot of, er, baggage. I travel quite a lot, probably 50 flights a year. And I am set in my luggage ways. For very short trips, I have a Samsonite backpack – not a good look for an older man, but almost aesthetically acceptable if you adopt the one-strap-over-one-shoulder approach. For trips of a week or less, it’s the backpack plus an 84-litre Samsonite hard-shell case; for long trips, it’s the bigger Samsonite Spinner, with a 144-litre capacity. If you see a Samsonite theme there, you’re not wrong. I’ve never found the need for other brands. Until, possibly, now.
You have to be suspicious of claims to have reinvented anything, but Bugaboo, the Dutch upmarket pushchair maker, says it has spent eight years reinventing luggage, and on the evidence of my test return trip from London to Edinburgh it has succeeded, give or take a couple of caveats.
The Bugaboo Boxer is a hyper‑ingenious system of interlocking, modular cases that clicks together onto a wheeled chassis and is propelled forward, like, well – a pushchair. Ergonomically, this is a wholly superior way of transporting luggage when you need to travel with more than one case.
But it’s not just a 30.5-litre cabin case piggybacking a 64-litre travel case. Stored in the chassis is a separate soft-sided organiser bag that fits easily under the seat in front, but at 38cm x 27cm x 6cm is big enough to take a few small personal items and a water bottle, along with a laptop, tablet and modestly proportioned headphones. It’s perfect for going through security and also serves as a reasonable briefcase during a business trip. Inside the cabin case there’s also a zip-out rucksack-style bag that can be used for on-trip or in-airport purchases and, like the organiser bag, can be attached to the chassis to leave you hands-free.
This attention to detail is down to its creator, Bugaboo’s co-founder and chief design officer Max Barenbrug, who, ironically, hates travelling – but when he has had to, always hankered after a tough, handsome unitary system on which he could even hang his jacket from a built-in hook (yes, there’s one of those too). “The challenge,” he says, “was to make 50kg weigh nothing, and to make wheeling it smooth and safe. With the Boxer, you don’t have to carry anything.”
But he admits you need to be an organised traveller to benefit from it. And he’s right; this is surely the only luggage you have to learn and practise with before it really sings for its supper. There will be online videos, but there’s no denying it’s complicated, and you will still likely be nervous before its first outing.
Even though I tried out the case before my trip, I felt like an astronaut fired into space without sufficient simulator training. I was clumsy on the flight up when clicking and unclicking the modules and getting the wheels to fold and unfold. But on the way back I was more assured.
One of the benefits, apart from having some seriously advanced luggage, is the admiration the Boxer inspires. It’s like travelling with an unusual and appealing dog – several people asked where they could buy it. And if the 94.5-litre capacity of the two biggest elements feels a little restricting – it’s well under that of my Samsonite Spinner – a larger size is promised in the future, and a designated laptop bag.
I could find only a couple of flaws with the Boxer. Firstly, its beautiful, shiny shell scuffs easily; and secondly, using the cabin case alone on the chassis for a short trip is like using a Range Rover to go to the corner shop. The chassis is a complex piece of engineering that, when used with the small case alone, is quite bulky. For me, it only makes sense to use the entire system. And while the cabin case weighs 2kg empty (about a third less than standard wheelies), with the chassis it is a hefty 5.2kg. I didn’t have a problem tossing it in the overhead lockers, but it could be a challenge for someone of slight build.