In recent years, baggage fees charged by airlines have soared and all but a few have completely eliminated even the one free checked bag policy. So here at realfoodtraveler.com, we’re always on the lookout for terrific rollaboards. We’ve found one in Eagle Creek’s Tarmac 22 (item # EC-20428 $290.00).
Eagle Creek has long been a favorite bag maker for our editors. For years, Editor Anne Weaver and I both carried Eagle Creek bags that switch easily from rollaboard to backpack style making it easy to travel over bumpy cobblestone streets or gravel or dirt tracks. However, my bag was starting to look a bit shabby so I contacted our friends at Eagle Creek and they suggested the Eagle Creek Tarmac 22.
The new carry-on sized Tarmac has even more durability, weather-resistance, and functionality than ever. I need a rollaboard that’s roomy and still lightweight. The Tarmac 22 fits the bill. It offers a generous 2,450 cu inches of space and 15% more (2,675 cu in) in its expanded state. Still it weighs in at a featherweight 7 lbs 4 ounces and has a slim profile (14 x 22 x 9 in or 14 x 22 x 11 in expanded) that’s easy to fit into ever-shrinking overhead plane compartments.
The first time I used the Tarmac 22 I was amazed how much I could pack into this bag with room to spare. (The manufacturer suggests using their Pack-It™ System, a series of packable bags. However, I was able to pack plenty in the Tarmac without this system.) The bag’s main compartment zips open on the side like a clamshell (something I’m still getting accustomed to). The interior of this space contains a large zipable mesh pocket that runs the length of the bag on one side. Strangely, there are also two zippers on each end of this compartment, but when unzipped them, they simply lead to the space behind the interior liner, not a packable space. The bottom of the interior space, like other rollaboards, has ridges from the rolling mechanism, but this proved no problem in loading this compartment with plenty of stuff. The main compartment also contains a detachable Cargo Net for internal compression that can also be attached to the outside of the bag as a utility net.
The opposing side contains a deep (4+ inch) compartment that’s perfect for socks, underwear, belts, even shoes. And when the bag is closed, this deep lid doesn’t interfere with easily zipping the bag.
This lid is also where there’s a zipper that enables you to expand the bag’s capacity by 15%. I’ve used this feature on return trips when my bag is bulging with trip purchases like bottles of wine and I want to check my bag and it makes a huge difference in space capacity.
Additionally, this section also contains a generous zippered external pocket that’s large enough to carry a couple pair of shoes. This exterior pocket even has a 22” padded section for a laptop (though it’s not someplace I’d likely store electronics). There’s even a small external compartment on the side of the bag, where you could presumably stash a magazine or other flat items.
Beefy Zippers, Coat Keeper™, Multiple Handles
Zippers are the Achilles heel of any travel bag and the many compartments on the Eagle Creek Tarmac 22 have lockable zippers. These are heavy duty, self-repairing zippers with easy-to-grab finger pulls. The zippers of main compartment of any bag take the most abuse and these main zippers on the Tarmac 22 are super heavy duty with extra large finger pulls that make them easy to pull, even when you’ve pack the bag a bit too full. All the zippers have heavy rings that enable travelers to slip a lock through the rings to secure the bag.
One of the features I really appreciate about the Tarmac 22 is the Coat Keeper™. Invariably, I leave for the airport and it’s chilly so I bring along a coat, but I hate schlepping my coat through the airport. Eagle Creek has come up with a cool solution with its Coat Keeper™. Located at the top of the bag within a zippered pocket is an innovative metal rod attached to two bungee-style cords. When you want to attach a coat, you simply place the coat on the top of the bag and hook the rod between the rollaboard handles. It’s easy and secure.
Also in this zippered pocket is a key fob for attaching your car and house keys (later, making it easy to remember where you put them). The key fob contains a Porter Key™ bottle opener, which I found rather silly, but I suppose might come in handy if you ‘re in need of an artisan beer or soda that requires an opener.
The bag offers multiple handles, something that’s really useful when carrying luggage onto airplanes or hoisting a carryon into overhead compartments. The main grab handle on the top of the bag is padded and beefy. There’s also a handle on the side of the bag and on the bottom, making grab-and-go a snap.
Rugged and Guaranteed
One of the things I love about Eagle Creek bags is how rugged they are and the Tarmac 22 is no exception. In fact, the company is so confident about this bag’s durability it comes with their No Matter What™ Warranty. That means the bag carries a lifetime warranty that includes repair or replacement due to damage regardless of cause. How many companies these days really stand behind their products for life. That’s pretty impressive.
The Tarmack 22 contains a number of tough fabrics, including Eagle Creek’s Bi-Tech™, Bi-Tech™ Armor and 1260D Helix™ Ballistic materials built for extreme abrasion and weather-resistance. I was caught recently in some heavy rain at the San Francisco airport and my Tarmac 22 got pretty wet, yet the contents of my bag stayed completely dry.
This handsome bag comes in black, olive, and slate. Mine is the olive (the name is a bit of a misnomer since it’s actually sage, with olive and black accents) with safety reflective strips for dusk and nighttime visibility. While the bag still looks like new after a couple of trips, I did notice one mar on the front that looks like it was caused from metal rubbing on the fabric and no amount of scrubbing can remove it. In the past, I’ve used black bags because they continue to look good despite the dirt and wear and tear. Since I travel extensively, only time will tell if my pretty green Tarmac 22 will continue to look good.
The rugged wheels on the Tarmac roll easily and have sturdy wheel housing, skid plate and bumper protection. After several trips with the bag, there are no marks, dings, or blemishes on the wheels or surrounding protective areas. The handle system works easily and smoothly and has two lengths—one long and one shorter—making pulling easy. And, of course, the distinctive coloring of this bag not only makes it attractive, it’s easy to spot on the baggage carousel.
Real Bottom Line: As a professional traveler, I’m pretty picky about my travel bags. I’ve found Eagle Creek’s Tarmac 22 to be a rugged, roomy, and easy-to-use rollaboard. It packs a lot in a small, lightweight package. The Tarmac 22 is an attractive bag with some well-considered features like the nifty Coat Keeper™, heavy duty zippers and finger pulls, and expandable main compartment for that extra bit of room when you need it. With its No Matter What™ lifetime guarantee, this Eagle Creek Tarmac 22 carryon bag is sure to remain one of my well-used favorites for years to come. – Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor