There are as many choices for what holds your belongings as there are flights to take. How do you make the right choice? Experienced travelers hold Rimowa in high regard and I wanted to try the brand for myself. Here’s my Rimowa Topas review.
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In 1898, a German luggage designer, Paul Morszeck began designing travel trunks with a focus on light and sturdy equipment. It wasn’t until the 1920s that the brand was seen as a luxury item, and it wasn’t until 1937 that aluminum was used as the perfect composite for its lightweight, sleek looks and sturdy design.
“In the 1920s, the company’s elegant suitcases become the choice of sophisticated globetrotters. Richard Morszeck, the company founder’s son, launches the first aluminium trunk on the market in 1937.” – Rimowa’s website
In the 1950s, parallel grooves were added to the design. The new design seemed to match the German the iconic Junkers JU 52 aircraft and has become the hallmark ever since. In 1976 water-proof cases were introduced to the line. In the early 2000s the line was expanded to include more affordable suitcases (relative to the Topas), the Salsa line among others. Then instead of the tilt wheel (two wheels on one side and two stands on the other) to an omni-directional wheel design.
In October of 2016, most of the brand (80% ownership) was sold to Luxury mega-brand LVMH (Möet, Hennesy, Louis Vuitton, Tag Heuer, etc.) who own it today.
Topas provides the widest range from Rimowa with seemingly every size and style one could need. Most of the line doesn’t fit my needs, but we own three different pieces for three different reasons. Here are the sizes of the line listed in terms of liters they hold (though I will identify the relevant sizes as applicable to airline term)s:
- Beauty Case 11.0L
- Business Multiwheel 26.0L (Briefcase)
- Cabin Multiwheel 32.0L (European-sized rollaboard carry-on)
- Cabin Multiwheel 34.0L (US-sized rollaboard carry-on)
- Multiwheel 45.0L (Checked suitcase)
- Multiwheel Electronic Tag 67.0L (Checked suitcase)
- Multiwheel Electronic Tag 78.0L (Checked suitcase)
- Multiwheel Electronic Tag 82.0L (Checked suitcase)
- Multiwheel Electronic Tag 89.0L (Checked suitcase)
- Multiwheel Electronic Tag 98.0L (Checked suitcase)
- Multiwheel Electronic Tag 100.0L (Checked suitcase)
I picked up (over time) a very large checked suitcase and a pair of smaller cabin carry-ons. The smaller (32.0L) carry-on is useful for flights on regional jets where the larger carry-on is better suited for family flights on mainline jets. The large checked bag is used on long family vacations, usually just a couple of times per year at most.
There are three allures to the products. First, plainly, they are sexy – well, to a frequent flyer/aviation geek anyway. Sleek, smooth to roll, shiny and classic – what’s not to like? If silver isn’t your color there are other metallic options in the Topas line (black – “Stealth“, champagne – “Titanium”) or you could choose from the Salsa line though those are polycarbonate and not metallic.
Those are the reasons I really buy, here are the reasons I tell myself I bought them.
In addition to the rigid body, lightweight frame, omnidirectional wheels, and water-proofing I already covered – there are two other features worth mentioning. First, the combination locks don’t just keep valuables safe, they also pinch the two sides of the case together which creates the waterproof seal. The TSA locks mean they can open it if they need to inspect without breaking the locks to do so. The combination is three digits.
Flex dividers keep contents in each half of the case. They have zippered compartments and help to compress clothes for an easier close.
Secondly, the new line (I don’t have this version) has Electronic Tags. Lufthansa has been pioneering the technology that eliminates the need for a checked bag tag and the checkin line at the airport. I could see that being a help, but not something I would pay extra to have. The good news is that they don’t charge extra for the electronic tag feature and I like that they are innovating without just adding a USB port and calling it a day. Then again, I wouldn’t hate a USB charger on them either.
The Topas cases are reputedly some of the most durable available. This is a concern for us because we have gone through numerous soft side cases over the years that just haven’t held up. Typically, over the Christmas/New Year period my ability to take time off is enhanced. There are lots of built-in holidays, weekends and I can take days off from both calendar years. For that period we take extended trips usually to many destinations and lately, most of them have been to Southeast Asia.
Durability is important because we might check a bag for the trip four, five, maybe six times during the same journey as we bounce from place to place. That wears on our checked luggage which is filled with 40-60 lbs (not liters) of souvenirs, clothing and shoes.
Regardless of how durable Rimowa might claim their product to be, if a brand won’t guarantee their craftsmanship then they don’t really have to stand behind it. Rimowa does. The Topas comes with a five-year warranty with proof of purchase (keep your receipt). More than that, they have Rimowa service centers around the world (often in hotels) where repairs can be made while you are in town if your case is faulty while on a trip. But a guarantee you never use is hard to evaluate.
So we used it.
We were traveling through Asia last winter, when we noticed that the bag was not closing properly, affecting the waterproof seal. We needed the hinges to be adjusted so that it would close properly and called up the Conrad hotel Hong Kong during a long one night stay (36 hours). We emptied it when we arrived, called the concierge who had already arranged for transportation of the case to Kowloon.
The next morning it was returned well in advance of our return to the US with a brochure inside, and a statement of repairs showing what was done.
Let’s be honest on this point. I thoroughly enjoy strolling walking commanding walking through the concourses of my favorite airports. It’s rock star. While I am happy on two feet walking next to my Rimowa, Lucy prefers to ride it instead.
However, there is a problem. The wheels I have found to be easily damaged. American Airlines has twice fixed the 34.0L multiwheel they damaged. The first occasion when I intended to check it in, another time after a simple gate check (aka “fate check”). In both cases, American Airlines picked up the case from my house (once I was able to empty the contents) and returned it fixed at no cost to me. I also have numerous protections courtesy of my credit cards in the case that my airline is not as generous as I switch from American to United (thanks to my Status Match to 1K).
Additionally, some rivets were loose when the 82.0L went in for repair in Hong Kong and came back “fixed”. Unfortunately, they missed one rivet that is now gone, and another is loose. While I am sure I can get it repaired, and maybe I will, I don’t have a repair center in my city and don’t really want to hassle with it. The seal repair is also suspect.
My confidence in the brand would be higher if they were as durable as I had hoped. That being said, just look at the beating they have taken.
Tumi is a popular brand that I just have not really tried. I know a lot of travelers swear by them and they seem to make a great product with a great warranty as well. It seems to be the choice of many consultants I find in the priority lane, each with their initials embroidered on the outside. I wish that Rimowa would offer the same customization options for their products especially given the premium they command.
I have reviewed the less expensive but great Raden A28 smart bag. As I mentioned, we have used this over our Rimowa a couple of times because it seems like it can take a better beating without leaving the same patina that Rimowa advertises as an advantage.
I have also covered the Away carry-on. This is a smart suitcase like the Raden, but it has a few advantages over the Raden and over the Rimowa. The Away carry-on has some of the same smart features (two USB, one for tablets, one for phones, a built-in scale, and tracking) which make it more useful in a carry-on. I couldn’t really find a use for the Raden USB ports as it was a checked bag. Smart carry-ons make more sense, allowing travelers to take advantage of charging capabilities throughout their journey.
These things are PRICEY. They all run within a hundred dollars of each other and the 82.0L checked bag retails at $1,130 before tax. I had an opportunity to buy each of these at a 40% discount and will take the source of my discount to the grave – unlike Tumi, Rimowas never go on sale.
I would separate out the value of the purchase into two categories. For the smaller bags, I really think the value is there. The quality has been excellent and we get a lot of use out of them, however, the larger case not as much. It’s only used sparingly and when it is we load it heavy and it gets dragged, dropped and seemingly karate chopped along the way. For use once a year, the value just isn’t there and on my most recent trip to Vietnam where I needed to bring back a lot, I actually opted for a Raden A28 instead.
Some readers might think that the price is insane, and trust me – it’s high even with the discount I was able to score. But travel is my hobby, it’s what I love to do, what my family loves to do. For those that think the purchase is unimaginable – maybe you have a nice watch, or drive a Mercedes – I drive a Ford. And I drive a Ford so that I can spend money on travel purchases others might find frivolous.
If I had the chance to do it all over again, I would definitely buy the smaller Topas models (even though the price is not proportionally less) assuming the same discount. At full price, I just don’t think I could do it again and probably would not purchase the large checked piece. Maybe I would consider the Salsa line instead.
What luggage do you swear by? Have you had similar issues with your luggage but can’t give it up?
Nope. As mentioned in the post, I bought mine at a discount and don’t even recommend the largest one. I also talk about the competitors available for substantially less money.
We don’t really do sponsored posts here (maybe two posts in six years) – but if and when we do, it will be clearly marked at the top.
I wouldn’t say Tumi’s warranty is “great.” I’ve had several experiences where they refused to acknowledge what was pretty clearly a defect, or said they couldn’t repair something because it was old (even though it was within the five-year warranty), and offered a modest credit toward another purchase instead. My warranty experiences with Rimowa have been better, but I wonder if their quality has dropped off – have seen several defects recently that, while repaired under warranty, made me question their quality. My best experience has been with Briggs & Riley – even though I’ve probably put the most abuse on my B&R bags, I’ve never had to make a single warranty claim, and from what I read their warranty is the best in the business (it’s certainly the longest – lifetime).
I know Gary Leff is a huge fan of Briggs & Riley. Their Sympatico Onyx collection is the closest thing I can find that is comparable to Rimowa but still doesn’t seem to have that premium feel. That being said, the reviews are good. Maybe I’ll give it a try.
I started traveling once a month from the States to Australia. It was only after my 3rd trip when I realized these bags are not nice for ladies that love their shoes. I ended up buying a Topas trunk to transport my shoes. It’s perfect. It’s NEVER under 23kgs/50lbs because I am able to maximize my packing so I only have to deal with one bag. I also have a Limbo that was damaged twice when checked in. I much prefer my Topas
Sorry to hear about the damage to your cases, the Topas does give a feeling of quality finish but the service for repairs has not been as strong as the case itself appears.
Rimowa is more for style. I owned 4 Rimowas and the quality couldn’t compare to Tumi. The wheels are easily to be broken off. After awhile, the luggage will have a big gap. Rimowa service center stated that they couldn’t do anything. That is normal after few use. The inside straps are not strong enough to hold things steady when you flip one side to close the luggage.
This troubles me Leon. I really wish Rimowa had made a stronger commitment to quality.
I have a Salsa Deluxe which I love. One thing that would pain me if I owned a Topas would be the inevitable dings and dents (although perhaps that adds to the charm). You are correct that these are *great* looking trolleys. Another advantage of the plastic lines — the bag zips shut and drops or other impact would not affect the “alignment” of the bag closing.
The first dent I found on my Topas broke my heart. Now I more or less embrace them and cover them up with stickers on the checked luggage. It’s the punctures and the easy-break-wheels that make me sour on the brand a little.
This isn’t helpful to everyone, but I bought a Limbo at the store in Beverly Hills (the thick carry on one) and a big Topas Silver (26″?) at KaDeWe in Berlin, and after getting some of the tax back I ended up paying slightly less for the big one. When it comes time to replace either, I’ll just make up a mini vacation and head back to Germany.
I have seen that with the currency exchange rates (and tax refunds) this method of acquisition can still be of benefit.
If you buy in Europe, where Rimowa is considerably cheaper, you get made in Germany. If you buy in the US (paying more) you get made in Canada.
Between the weight of your luggage, its contents and your kid sitting on it, you’ve probably exceeded the weight the wheels were designed to bear. That might’ve affected the longevity of your wheels.
Perhaps David, but my kid weighed about 22 lbs at that point in time and I’ve seen purses and backpacks resting on top of such cases that weight that much and more. I don’t think the point you have made is completely invalid, but when a product like the Raden holds up better under the same conditions for 75% less money, I have to wonder what you’re getting for your money at $1000+/case.
It’s not as fancy as Tumi and Rimowa, but Briggs & Riley luggage is my choice. Lifetime warranty.
Christene, I know that Gary really likes Briggs & Riley (I might have linked to that in the post). For me, I prefer a little bit of style for a little bit more money – but make no mistake, warranty is key.
Rimowa is great – just go with the Salsa, or other polycarbonite models, rather than the aluminium. Unless your Rimowa is a carry-on only model, it will suffer from dents, broken wheels and gaps. The polycarbonite models don’t have these problems.
Will probably move to those in the future.
i own a salsa air which i had to replace twice already – airline paid. but i still love it for its light weight mostly. i just bought a topas titanium at…. marshall’s!! for 800 CAD (vs 1546 CAD from the rimowa store). no idea how a rimowa case made it to marshall’s. looking forward to travelling with this beast, e-tag and all. it is certainly beautiful to look at, although heavier than my salsa air. thanks! (from ottawa, canada!!)
An e-tag at Marshall’s? WOW! That’s amazing, I might have to take a peek there for Rimowa more often.
Great article Kyle, recently got a Topas 32L carry-on in Osaka, Japan. For the last couple months, was deciding between the Zero Haliburton Geo Aluminum 3.0 4 wheel carry-on and the Topas but decided to get the Topas due to the availability of global service centers. Just wondering how long the wheels will last before they need to be replaced and the price to replace them if they are not covered by warranty. In addition, how do you take care of the aluminum? I only used water and a clean towel to wipe mine. Also thinking about getting the 97L Salsa or ZRL lightweight luggage down the line. Do you have any experience with Zero Haliburton suitcases? I read somewhere that they have 10 yrs limited warranty.
I don’t have any experience with those cases (Zero) but I can say that the wheels seem to only be damaged by staff once checked in. I have had no issues whatsoever if I am just using the case normally, it’s only when it goes under the plane that they get damaged.
Hi, would be interesting to compare the Rimowa aluminum suitcase with this one. Pricetag is way cheaper, would be interesting if it is as durable: http://www.elproducente.com/travel/xiaomi-metal-aluminum-suitcase-review/
Do not buy Rimowa products. Worst customer service, no warranty, horrible products. Not worth there money. Have owned 2 and will never buy one again
You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts. They do have a rather extensive five-year warranty and here is an FAQ on the matter: http://bit.ly/2MMmvcX
Full disclosure, I have not personally tried these yet, but when I recently began looking at new luggage it occurred to me that the folks who travel the most and are the hardest users of luggage would seem to be pilots and flight crew.
When you observe what luggage they carry, frequently it is this brand: https://luggageworks.com.
There is a back story here about the fellow who originated this line of luggage under the brand name Purdy Neat Things. The story is self-explanatory. https://airlineguys.com/2013/07/23/thats-a-purdy-neat-story/
These are both USA companies, so I do not know about availability outside the US, or ongoing warranty support, and for those in other countries that may well make it impractical.
There is a 3 year warranty on defects in material or workmanship, but they do say they are not responsible for damage from poor handling and so forth. Also, the cost of getting the luggage sent to them for repair is not covered.
I am in the US, and am planning on buying a couple pieces of LW (Formerly PNT) before my next flight.
What about Hartmann? My father used them his whole career.
Are you familiar with the Rimowa Trunk sizes?
Would you recommend the RIMOWA TRUNK PLUS at 80cm & 27.3 gallons or too large ? Can I use the Trunk Plus on European carriers or would the standard size be more practical? The standard RIMOWA TRUNK is 73cm & 24.3 gallons.
I tried clicking on the link of 82.0l and it brought me here
Is this the bag you are using or is it this
The first link is correct, the second link is a smaller option from the Amazon Canada website.
Hi, I have to express my disappointment about Rimowa quality to those who might be considering to buy one. I have a Topas which is just terrible. The plastic handle is way too loose and the whole damn thing makes a really annoying squeaky sound when rolling it. Also in practical use the design is full of stupid small things eg straps inside (stuff falls out for the edge areas), when opening wheels get stuck to each other…). Also the material quality of the internal parts is just unbelievably bad – similar to a 50eur suitcase. I will never ever buy a rimowa again.