Tried and tested – G-Ro for the road warrior, a worthy contender

SUMMARY:

In the search for the ultimate carry on, I’m road resting a G-Ro. This is an unusual bag which delivers more than I anticipated. But it ain’t perfect.

g-ro-packed
G-Ro – packed and laid down

As something of a bag nerd and sometimes Kickstarter supporter, I invested in a G-Ro which arrived over the holiday period. Here is a brief field report on said bag.

Background

Along with many other colleagues I spend an insane amount of time traveling, often by air although I am pleased to report that in 2016 I lost my Silver status on BA (lost my Gold status in 2015) and A-List status on Southwest Airlines. Like John Appleby, I am in search of the ‘perfect’ travel bag that can accommodate a few days’ clothes along with compute essentials. Reduced overhead bin space on some aircraft combined with stinging checked bag fees only help accelerate that search.

Enter the G-Ro, currently priced at an eye watering $449 (plus accessories) but which I snagged for the ‘bargain’ price of $279 plus $99 for a power pack and tracker add-on over a year ago when the project was on course to raise $3.3 million from 8,744 backers. Didn’t I do well? Kind of.

The G-Ro was delivered late by four months. That’s highly credible by Kickstarter standards where 6-12 months over estimated shipping is common for manufactured product in my experience.

The wheels

I reckon the reason G-Ro did so well on Kickstarter is because of the insane wheels. These are axeless and HUGE. The idea is that a large wheel diameter overcomes the limitations of traveling over rough surfaces with which those with much much smaller wheels, suffer. I include the increasingly popular four wheel contraptions that, quite frankly, I find almost impossible to use.

I had a color choice so went with diginomica red. As you can see from the photo, they make the bag look distinctive, something that matters when you’re sharing an airport with hundreds of others who have bags that from any distance look much the same.

The question though was whether they would introduce design flaws in the bag itself. The answer is a very surprising ‘no.’ Despite their size, the wheels make almost no impact on the available internal space which is more than adequate for a 5-7 day trip.

The internals

Other than the need to ensure that a bag is going to work on most domestic flights, the measurements that vendors quote are meaningless. What matters is whether you can sensibly pack what’s needed for the given trip without either squashing the contents or having to sit on the bag to close the zippers.

Here the G-Ro scores among the best I’ve ever used. For the test trip, I packed five shirts, spare pants, enough underwear and socks for a week plus four pairs of shorts. Sorry folks but I am on a trip to a warm climate. Everything, including my frugally packed wash bag fitted in easily and logically – for a bag. How?

Plenty of room left, even with pouches stuffed.
Plenty of room left, even with pouches stuffed.

The G-Ro includes a detachable, two sided mesh pouch that allows you to organize clothes whichever way works best for you. You can see how that worked for me in the picture to the left.

The G-Ro also includes a foldable jacket insert. I didn’t try that piece out as I didn’t need to pack a jacket but a quick check with one of my suit jackets confirmed what is usually the case: if you’re big across the shoulders then these enclosures will be too small, even though they offer a handy way to reduce the amount of space needed to include a jacket. Bottom line on this one – you’ll still end up needing to iron your jacket at the other end.

The G-Ro also has an expansion capability so if you are overly ‘stuffed’ then opening this up will give you more room but run the risk of ending up oversize for the overhead bin, or, alternatively, you can start expanded and then zipper down to compress the bag back to its compliant size.

There’s also a handy side pocket inside the main bag compartment which, as advised, I used to stuff pairs of socks.

Power, tracking, connectivity

g-ro-power-packIn common with the latest generation of travel bags, the G-Ro provides power and tracking options but, as noted, these are optional add-ons.

There are many ways to solve for ’embedded’ power and here, G-Ro goes for a large, proprietary battery that is rated at 23,400mAH. Inside the bag, there has a dedicated pocket into which it slots and connects.

G-Ro have created a nifty and unobtrusive cabling system that allows you to power up pretty much any kind of peripheral – they provide a dizzying array of plug adapters – via dual USB outlets that are concealed behind a rubberized flap on top of the bag.

My only gripe is that in the standard configuration, the internal cabling is a tad short on length for connecting the battery pack. It’s a bit of a squeeze to get the wires connected. Also, you have to remove the pack completely to recharge it and although there is an LED power indicator, you can’t see it once the pack is installed.

The tracker arrived dead on arrival and would not charge which means that I wasn’t able to test out the included iPhone (also has Android) phone app that uses GPRS to help keep you from losing your expensive bag. As I write this, I am waiting for G-Ro to get back to me with a response.

I suspect I will be waiting for a while because the tracking units are currently on back order.

Supplied tracker - DoA
Supplied tracker – DoA

If you don’t want to pony up the $165 to acquire the tracker and power pack, you can always use your own favorite power pack, I have a spare Anker Astro E7 that’s rated at 26,800 mAH which I also slotted into the power pack pocket. I replaced the G-Ro tracker with one of my collection of TrackR devices which is tiny in comparison, is a fraction of the G-Ro tracker price and works perfectly well.

The compute compartment

G-Ro have a very nice setup for those carrying up to a 15 inch laptop. This fits into a flap that also house the battery pack and tracker. The compartment has a compression strap to secure your laptop but very little padding between that section and where the battery pack fits.

I don’t believe this makes much of a difference and I can understand why it was designed this way. I just didn’t feel quite as confident as I do with other bags that include all around padding.

There’s plenty of room for a tablet of up to 7 inches which can go in the separate mesh pocket. Whether that configuration works for you or whether you’d prefer to use, say, a 12 inch iPad plus keyboard for the laptop compartment plus a smaller tablet is a matter of personal preference.

There’s plenty of space for power packs and cables which can slide into the outer zipped compartment.

Other bits and pieces

The G-Ro has a zipper compartment at the back of the bag which sits between the handle arms. This can be used for odds and ends, passport, tickets and so on but experience teaches me that these never quite live up to their billing. I am also paranoid about losing documents having lost my Passport (including visa) back in 2015.

Clever TSA arrangement
Clever TSA arrangement

I do however like the spring loaded ID holder which, in normal use, is hidden out of view.

I also like the inclusion of a handle at the side of the bag which helps with hefting the G-Ro into an overhead compartment or throwing it into the trunk of a taxi/car service.

G-Ro have included a very neat TSA arrangement that locks both main compartments at the same time. Check out the image to the right to get a sense of what I mean.

In use

When empty, the G-Ro has a habit of mysteriously falling over. That is because when upright, it stands at an angle and is not fully upright through 90 degrees. I’ve no idea why other than, I assume some engineering criteria but it is a tad annoying. Fully loaded and it becomes stable.

G-Ro make much of the engineered handle which they claim can be used as a back stand for a tablet or laptop. I’m not brave enough to try that out but I certainly appreciate the much longer than usual and very sturdy feel of the handle. It makes maneuvering the bag extremely easy but then the giant size wheels are in the mix.

At first, the wheels are a tad ‘stiff’ and G-Ro recommend running them in. I have no idea why this is the case but it didn’t present me with any special problems.

Even fully loaded, the bag didn’t ‘feel’ particularly heavy which was something of a weird but strangely pleasurable experience.

Lifting the bag in and out of overhead bins worked well enough for me, even with its 22 inch length, which may be too big for your preferred airline and especially so if the plane is packed, as seems to be the case more often than not these days.

Clothes arrive no more wrinkled than for any other bag I’ve tried  but then I could not include my Eagle Creek shirter which doe fit my other main bag – the Briggs & Riley Baseline international carry on – which I can sneak onto most US and European domestic flights.

My take

g-ro-standing
G-Ro standing proud, ready to go

This review covers an early delivered unit and while G-Ro kept mostly to the original design I saw in 2015, they have made a few improvements. I expect they will iterate the model but there are a few things where I can see immediate improvement.

Overall, I like this bag much more than I anticipated. Anything that looks quirky is often riddled with compromises and yes, the G-Ro does look different. But it packs (sic) a punch where it matters and I have no hesitation using it for short, workday week long trips. The extent to which it handles weekly use is another matter. I don’t know but will report back once it has been battle tested.

There is plenty of room for pretty much anything your average road warrior will need for a week long trip. I could have easily packed spare shoes and more clothes of I had wished but like Appleby, I have learned the hard way to pack very lean.

There are a few niggles.

The internal linings of the compute compartment and other smaller zipped compartments should be a contrasting color and not the drab grey they chose. This would make finding ‘stuff’ much easier.

A bit of padding in the compute compartment would make me feel a little less edgy even though my laptop has a protective shell.

The tracker needs work – obviously – and the internal cabling, while is just about adjustable needs a bit of lengthening to accommodate the battery pack and alternatives.

The zippers are not quite as smooth as they are on other bags I’ve had. Only time will tell whether this is because of newness or down the zipper quality.

This IS an expensive bag and many will baulk at the cost, given that carry on luggage is currently a highly competitive market. But, I am a believer in investing for quality and overall the G-Ro delivers on my picky criteria.

Is it perfect? Not quite, but it’s certainly up there with other bags I’ve used over the years.

Endnote: Over the last couple of years, I’ve invested in a bunch of new gadgets and tools. This is the first in a series of ‘tried and tested’ reviews that I will publish during 2017.

Image credit - via the author

    1. Wheels look great for rolling around NYC. Since many airlines now charge to check bags, I’m thinking about buying a new smallest bag allowed on typical airlines. Isn’t 22 inches a tad over-sized on European domestic (MAN to AMS on KML) flights.Reference

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