Roam
Roam
Roam
CNN —  

There are plenty of luggage brands looking to pique your wanderlust these days, but one company wants to help you leave the sea of boring black wheelies behind.

Roam is the first color customizable, direct-to-consumer luggage brand that lets you match your suitcase to your personal style. With the ability to customize everything from the shell to the zipper tabs and more than a million potential color combos, your bag definitely won’t look like anyone else’s at the airport.

Roam is the brainchild of Tumi founder Charlie Clifford and Tumi’s former executive vice president Larry Lein, meaning that it backs up its looks with deep knowledge of the luggage industry. That know-how is reflected in Roam’s sharp design and top-notch materials, which include a 100% virgin polycarbonate outer shell, ball bearing Hinomoto wheels and a washable interior lining. All suitcases are made in the US to boot.

Ready to create the suitcase of your dreams? We got our hands on the Jaunt ($495; roamluggage.com), Roam’s standard-size carry-on, to put the bag to the test.

How Roam works

Roam
Roam
Roam

Roam’s design tool is a breeze to use and works on both desktop and mobile browsers. The first step is to select which case you want from four size options: the aforementioned Jaunt ($495; roamluggage.com), a carry-on designed to fit all major US airlines; the Jaunt XL ($525; roamluggage.com), a slightly wider carry-on; the Journey ($550; roamluggage.com), a midsize checked bag; or the Expedition ($595; roamluggage.com), a large checked bag.

Next, just follow the prompts to create your masterpiece. If you’re overwhelmed with options, Roam also offers a selection of predesigned bags that you can buy or use for inspiration.

Cases are then made to order in Roam’s San Diego, California, workshop, and ship free within five business days. All Roam luggage comes with a 100-day trial period and a lifetime warranty.

First impressions

My first thought upon taking off the dust bag was that this thing’s a beaut. That’s not (just) a nod to my own taste; you can tell that this is a quality case from the moment you lay eyes on it. The colors are rich and smooth, and they look exactly like they did online. The case itself has a sophisticated sheen to it — think: a bit shinier than the matte finish of the popular Away Standard Carry-On, but decidedly not glossy. While I personally love the look, it’d be cool if there were an option to choose the finish on the case as well (i.e., adding a high gloss or going fully matte).

How Roam holds up

Customization won’t mean much if your suitcase falls apart on its first date with a baggage handler. But Roam’s cases are as sturdy as they are good-looking, thanks to 100%, US virgin polycarbonate exteriors (the gold standard for hardside luggage), aircraft-grade aluminum telescopic handles and ultra-smooth Hinomoto spinner wheels.

Roam’s shell is strong, lightweight and flexible. It held up beautifully against my attempts to destroy it by tossing it down the stairs, smacking it with a hammer and jumping on it. Minor scuffing is inevitable with hardshell cases, but most of the marks that appeared on my case were easily buffed away with a soft cloth and some soap and water. (Roam’s user manual suggests using a Magic Eraser as well.)

The telescopic handle glided seamlessly through its four height settings with no snags and only the slightest of wobbles. The top and side carry handles felt soft to the touch, and I also love the fact that it actually has a side handle — a feature that some luggage brands weirdly overlook in designing carry-ons, despite it being super helpful when dealing with overhead bins.

When it comes to rolling, Roam again excelled. The case moved easily around my carpet, bare floors and Brooklyn neighborhood (which was the farthest I could drag it due to Covid-19, but given the amount of cracks in my sidewalk, I’m sure it would handle airports just fine). That’s again thanks to those Hinomoto spinners, which are as sturdy and as quiet as wheels get.

Did we mention how unbelievably light this thing is? It holds enough stuff for about a four-day journey but weighs only 6.6 pounds (for comparison, Away’s standard carry-on is 7.1 pounds, and 8.1 pounds with its battery).

Packing with Roam

Roam
Roam
Roam

Despite being the smallest Roam model, the Jaunt’s 40-liter capacity feels seriously roomy. It features two open compartments divided by compression boards, which you strap in and squish down to remove excess air and keep your clothes in place.

While the compression boards were easy to use and did indeed free up more packing space, I’d ultimately prefer to have one fully zipped, “chuck-it” side — basically, a deep pocket to secure loose items or anything that needs to hold its shape. Whether or not you smoosh down the compression board on either side, it won’t totally prevent loose items from spilling out when you open the bag. Maybe other travelers don’t find themselves having to reach into their suitcase at the airport as much as I do (hey, sometimes you accidentally wrap your headphones in your socks and forget about them until boarding), but I do think this would be a smart upgrade.

Other flaws, but not deal breakers

The Jaunt is a great bag, but it’s not perfect. In addition to the lack of a fully zipped interior compartment, there’s no option to customize the color of the telescopic handle, luggage lock or wheel frames — all of which come only in black. This is a minor gripe given the amount of customization that’s offered, but I didn’t love the way the dark accents popped against some of the brighter case colors.

More annoying is the bag’s stiff zipper, which Roam says is actually by design: the zipper creates a waterproof seal when closed so your stuff will stay dry should your bag get left on the tarmac in the rain. Placed under my shower head for five minutes, the zipper did indeed prevent any water from seeping inside the bag. But that waterproofing comes at the cost of zipper smoothness, and it was minorly annoying to open and close the case. This wouldn’t be a major issue for travelers heading to one place and sticking around for a while, but for anyone bouncing between multiple destinations on a trip, the zipper might start to get a little frustrating with frequent repacking.

The bottom line

Still, I found myself really loving my Roam bag given that it’s so roomy, lightweight and, dare I say, expertly designed. Overall, the Roam Jaunt is a fantastic piece of carry-on luggage and one that I’ll be reaching for regularly once the world opens back up. It’s a high-quality bag that’s a joy to use in addition to being a joy to look at.