Thule Subterra Carry-On 22"

As you can read here, Jim, my Millican holdall is a great bag, we’ve been together for a round 4 or 5 years now and have visited many 5 star hotels, crappy B&B’s, a few different countries and weekly visits to the gym, and in all this time he’s been faultless.  However, the more I travel for vehicle launches, the more I’ve found myself wanting something better suited and a bit more practical, to be more specific, a ‘carry-on’ case of some sort.

Sitting down with a mug of coffee and a custard cream, I came to the conclusion that my next case should have the following:

  • Enough space inside for a maximum stay of 2 nights.
  • Big and sturdy enough to fit my DLSR Pentax K3-II, flash and the odd lens with clothes.
  • Space for a Mac Book Pro with associated gubbins.
  • Wheels
  • Small enough for the crappiest of flight operators.
  • Waterproof
  • Sturdy - did I mention sturdy?

Wandering around places such as TK Max, I ummed are arred at various designs, but nothing really spoke to me, that was until I visited Thule's stand at last years Outdoor Trade Show where they had their yet to be released Subterra range of luggage on view. 

As they were prototypes, I had to wait until they became official, and when they did I opted for their smallest 22” version.  With dimensions of 20 x 35 x 55cm and weighing in at 3.18kg and a 36ltr capacity, it would suit me down to the ground.

When it arrived the first thing that struck me was how secure the felt, this is something that Thule worked on by giving their full range of carry-on's V-Tubing telescoping handles.  Also, by fitting them to the exoskeleton and moulded polycarbonate back panel means that you don’t loose a lot of space inside.

Inside it’s pretty much standard, on the inside of the front part there’s a meshed zipped compartment that they say keeps clean-from-dirty, wet-from-dry, and work-from-play clothes separate. I don’t know if it’s intentional, but it also fits the 13" Subterra MacBook Attaché snuggly, which is quite handy.

However, it’s the main compartment that has the party trick.  On all other carry-ons and cases, you normally get a couple of straps that keep your clothes in place, but with the Subterra, Thule give you an internal compression board.  At the end of this write-up I’ve attached a link to the Subterra’s web page in which you can watch the video, but essentially there’s 2 short straps that work like a zip-ties onto which you feed the board.  Pushing down on the compression board you then compress your clothes, not only does it keep your gear in place, but you can fit more in.  The compression board also has a zippered mesh pocket for additional and storage.

When you’re ready to remove the compression board simply tug on each individual strap and it unclicks smoothly.  The compression board is totally removable, so if you don’t want to use it you don’t have to.

On the outside there’s 2 oversized wheels that are designed to work on all surfaces. I’ve already mentioned the very sturdy V-Tubing telescoping handles,  but what I didn’t say is that it’s very easy to use and has a button built into both sides of the non-slip grip and slides up and down into the locked fixed position smoothly. 

You also have 3 sturdy grab handles that make it very easy to man-handle, whether it’s in overhead bins on a plane, or in the boot of a car.

There’s also a zipped pocket on the front which opens to a space big enough for your phone, keys, passport, sunglasses and other odds and ends.  There’s also another zipped mesh pocket inside this for extra security.  Oh, and on the side there’s a built in ID card slot, I’ve slipped a business card inside it just in case I lose it somewhere!

So, the Subterra sounds like it’s an ideal travel case, but what’s it actually like to travel with?  Well, umm, I haven’t used it yet.  But fear not, I’ve around 6 overnight stays planned for April which include numerous posh hotels, flights and a trip to Italy with Kia, so I’ll update this review then and let you know what it’s like to lug around car parks and airport lounges.

Where to buy:  Thule, Amazon & various retailers

Price: RRP £215