Product Review: Rimowa Topas Cabin Multiwheel
MAY 23 2017
Fire burns down luggage factory.
All wood and leather previously used is now gone. Only thing left is aluminum. Make aluminum luggage.
This is the tl;dr summary of the beginnings of the Rimowa Topas luggage collection. Whether this is a factual, inspirational “when life gives you lemons” story, or it's as fake as The Truth, this move to aluminum in the 1930s would eventually change the travel world forever. Lightweight construction was married with robust stability, and the luggage maker quickly garnered popularity.
Rimowa’s trademark “luggage with the grooves” motif began production in the 1950s, taking design inspiration from all-metal aircraft from those pioneer aviation days, such as the Junkers F.13. With some advancements (waterproofing, temperature resistance, the Multiwheel system, and TSA locks), the Topas line of luggages has stood the test of time and remains a favorite with frequent flyers.
This is the Mies van der Rohe Barcelona Chair of the luggage world: a timeless, clean-lined product that is as much functional piece as it is an art installation.
By far my favorite feature of the Topas (and every Rimowa line, for that matter) is the Multiwheel system. Too often in the past would I get frustrated with wonky wheels and the uneven clanking of budget suitcases. One misstep here or a rogue pebble there and you’re caught looking like GP. But not with this. This thing straight floats. Airport pandemonium becomes that much less annoying when you’re effortlessly gliding through crowds.
The locks are appropriately hefty and give a satisfying and ensuring click when secured.
The Add-A-Bag feature is fun and unobtrusive to the overall design flow, but I haven’t found it incredibly useful just yet (single-bag travelers stand up!).
The fully telescoping stageless handle is smooth throughout.
I’m a huge fan of their Flex-Divider system, which keeps everything nice and tidy. The orderly compactness afforded by the system also makes unpacking a breeze. No more messy garment-vomit spillage when you first crack open your suitcase.
Somewhat disappointing is the 5 Year Warranty. A travel investment piece this pricey really should be Lifetime. FWIW, there are anecdotes of Rimowa loyalists who’ve brought in their cases looking like the T1000 way after their warranty ended, and they were still taken care of by the flagships.
As the name suggests, the Cabin Multiwheel is meant to be an appropriately sized carry-on. Keep in mind, though, that there are two size variations under the same name: 32 and 34 L. This is the 34. My main concern was that certain airline carriers would have stingy overhead compartment sizes and this carry-on wouldn’t fit. After flying with most major domestic carriers (Alaska, American, Delta, jetBlue, Southwest, United, Virgin) with this in tow, this worry was quickly dispelled.
You may, however, have trouble fitting this 34 L case on smaller regional planes, domestic and overseas, so be prepared for a check-in situation in these instances.
For one who rarely travels, this luggage is not the most sensible. You can easily get by on far more economical means. Shoutout to Amazon and Costco. The retail price is most definitely hard to swallow (tip: buy in Europe to save hundreds). But for the globetrotters who take pride in their wanderings, the combination of function, form, sentimentalism, and own-for-life peace of mind makes it a worthwhile investment.
Also, if you’re the type to sweat bullets over a single dent or scratch on a shiny new toy, or support the Make The Statue of Liberty Brown Again campaign, DO NOT invest in a Topas. It WILL NOT keep its Day 1 look. But if you embrace the chaos and unpredictability of life and see the aged, unique patina it gains as a beautiful badge of honor that is yours and only yours, it may be for you. (And just like that, an article about luggage elicited some cathartic epiphany for a reader out there, word to Natalie Portman).
This is more than a suitcase. It’s a damn work of art:
At some point it quickly transcends being a rolling container that holds your clothes. Its massive appeal and fandom in the travel world is attributed to a clash of seemingly opposite design languages: think industrial-minimal-clean-line-modernist-factory meets vintage-quirky-lux-boho-chic.
This ain't a shameless plug for Rimowa. There’s just an incredible (and borderline obsessive) appreciation I have for the truly timeless. With enough time and globe-trotting, what was once just a piece of luggage can morph into an ever-evolving scrapbook of travel memories. Every dent, every nick, every scrape, and every half-torn sticker add up, and what you eventually get is the lovechild of an OCD Silicon Valley engineer who just read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up with a hippie vagrant who spent a little too much time with Snoop and Wiz after roaming the Rose Bowl flea market.
Travel should be fun. Travel should be very personal.
The Topas is the perfect canvas to paint your story on.