Gear Review: Victorinox Explorer Wheeled Duffel & Spectra 2.0 Carry-On

Victorinox Explorer Wheeled Duffel
••• Victorinox Explorer Wheeled Duffel. Victorinox

Victorinox is probably best known as the company that makes all of those great Swiss Army Knives that are so useful when we hit the road. But did you know that they also make a fantastic line of luggage as well? In fact, many of their bags are specifically designed with adventure travelers in mind, and may even convince you to give up your backpack once and for all.

Here is a look at two of those products, each of which is very different from the other, but both share a high level of quality construction, thoughtful design, and versatility.

Something I think we can all appreciate. 

Victorinox Explorer Wheeled Duffel

If there is one type of suitcase that can replace the always-popular backpack amongst adventure travelers, it is probably a duffel bag. These types of packs tends to offer amble storage space, quick and easy access to their contents, and multiple ways to carry them around. That would be an apt description for the Explorer Wheeled Duffel as well, which is a great option for an extended journey that requires plenty of gear. 

The Explorer offers a spacious interior with 89 liters of capacity. That's enough room to swallow up a ton of clothing, boots, trekking poles, toiletries, jackets, and just about anything else you'll need to take with you on your journey. In fact, on a recent two-week long adventure to Mongolia, the bag easily carried everything that I required for the trip, with plenty of room to spare. Had I used a backpack instead, I would have needed an exceptionally large one to carry all my equipment as efficiently.

And even then, I would have been hard pressed to access each of the items in a quick and easy manner.

As the name implies, this duffel bag comes equipped with two very rugged wheels that can seemingly roll over just about any surface without missing a beat. I've lugged the bag through multiple airports, across parking lots, down sidewalks, in and out of elevators, and even across dirt, sand, and mud without any issues at all.

In fact, the Explorer rolled through every environment I threw at it, barely slowing down for any of them. 

One of the most impressive aspects of this bag is just how well it is built. The Explorer features reinforced construction that makes it durable enough to handle all but the worst abuse. Indeed, this bag has been handled by numerous parties in my travels – including the dreaded bag handlers at the airport – and has always returned in top notch shape. This gives me the confidence that I can carry this bag with me just about anywhere, and know that it will not only survive the journey, but keep its contents fully protected as well. 

Adding to that level of durability is the high-quality zippers and straps that Victorinox used when constructing the bag. Those components are easy to use, feel very durable to the touch, and will be much appreciated by anyone who travels with this pack. The straps also help to cinch the bag down tight when carrying a full load, and feature two nicely placed grab-handles for lifting or carrying the Explorer when using the wheels are not an option. 

In addition to the large interior chamber, the Explorer also features a zippered pocket along the top. I found this to be a handy space to keep important items that I wanted to keep easily accessible at all times, including travel documents, mobile chargers, and a headlamp.

This pocket has a surprising amount of room inside as well, so I'm sure you'll find plenty of ways to utilize it too. 

The outside of the Explorer features Victorinox branding, both in name and logo, prominently displayed on the front and side. At first, I was bit put off by this, but then realized that it made the bag extremely easy to spot in the airport. Because it stood out so easily, I knew which bag was mine in what was otherwise a sea of similar-looking black luggage. After that, I definitely came to appreciate the way it helped it to stand out.

Despite how impressed I am with the design and construction of the Explorer Duffel, I do have a few nits to pick. For instance, in order to reduce weight and make the bag more simple, Victorinox elected to not employ a telescoping metal handle like that found on similar bags.

I actually appreciate this choice and applaud them for this, as they have replaced the traditional handle with a large adjustable one made of cloth that sits on top of the bag. This handle works very well for the most part, but I found it's placement to be a bit odd. It is actually attached to the bag vertically, rather than horizontally, which makes pulling the duffel along on its wheels a bit awkward at times. This is a minor quibble to say the least, but for me personally, I would have liked to have seen the handle turned 90 degrees.

The other thing that potential buyers for the Explorer should be aware of is that this bag weighs 10 pounds (4.5 kg) even before you start putting anything into it. If you're traveling to a destination where weight could be a consideration, this could be a problem. Most of that weight comes from the fact that the duffel is built to be tough and durable, and while that is certainly a major plus for the bag as a whole, it could be seen a detriment for those who like to travel light. 

Priced at $279.99, the Explorer Wheeled Duffel is real bargain my mind. I've seen plenty of other pieces of luggage that cost a lot more, but offer a lot less. If you're in need of a bag that gives you plenty of capacity inside a rugged form-factor, this is certainly a great choice. 

Victorinox Spectra Medium Expandable

While the Explorer Wheeled Duffel caters directly to the needs of the adventure traveler, the new Victorinox Spectra Medium Expandable bag falls into the realm of more traditional luggage. In fact, the Spectra is large enough that it probably won't even be allowed as a carry-on, ruling it out as an option for many. But, it's fantastic design, incredibly high build quality, and great attention to detail make this a piece of luggage you shouldn't dismiss outright, particularly when traveling to more civilized destinations. 

The first thing that struck me about the new Spectra 2.0, as Victorinox calls the line, is just how well the bags are constructed. It features a rigid outer casing made of polycarbonate plastics that are perfect for keeping the contents of the luggage perfectly safe, including fragile items such as a fine bottle of wine. That is dramatically different than the backpacks and duffle bags we're use to carrying, which require us to be extremely careful with just how and what we pack. 

Everything about this bag screams quality, from the zippers to the various grab handles to the eight independent wheels that allow it to effortlessly whisk along at a brisk pace through the airport and beyond. In fact, I'd say that Victorinox has gone above and beyond in creating the Spectra, as this is a high-end piece of luggage that not only makes packing for travel a breeze, but also manages to stand out from the crowd at the baggage carousel. Need further proof that this is a suitcase that is built to last? The Spectra is also backed by a 10-year warranty, which means you can take it with you anywhere without worry whether or not it will survive the journey. 

Have you ever gone on a trip somewhere and managed to acquire quite a few new items along the way? This is a common problem for travelers, who often find themselves bringing home mementos from the various places they've visited. The problem is, we don't always have room in our suitcases to safely and comfortably pack all of the things that we've purchased. Thankfully, the Spectra Expandable has been designed to help with this problem.

As the name implies, this bag has been built to expand in size to help accommodate additional items. Victorinox says it can expand to hold up to 47% more than when the Spectra is in its natural state. This is accomplished thanks to a set of cleverly designed external compression straps that give the user the ability to dial in exactly the capacity they need for a trip. Like to travel light? Simply compress the bag down to is traditional size. Find you need a bit extra space? Release the straps to allow for more room. It really is as simple as that, and it is a handy feature that I wish more suitcases offered. 

If you're looking for a great bag to take with you into the wilds of Africa or on an expedition up the Amazon, the Explorer duffel is a better choice. It is simply better suited for the specific needs of the adventure traveler. On the other hand, if you need a simple, elegant, and extremely well built piece of luggage for all of life's other adventures, the Spectra is a fantastic option. It offers plenty of carrying capacity, with the ability to expand to hold more, and it can keep all of your important valuables safe from damage. On top of that, it is impressively easy to glide it around the on its multi-directional wheels, making it a great choice for those of us who spend too much time in airports and don't want to be slowed down. 

This is an exceptional piece of luggage to be sure. Personally, I believe it is worth every penny of its $429.99 price tag. For frequent travelers, it is everything you could ask for from a suitcase, with a few extras that will come in handy when you need them as well. More suited for those times you're traveling to Paris or London rather than the Outback, this is nevertheless a bag that you'll be happy you have at your disposal when you need it most.