Taking the Alpha Out of Beta

Testing the Tumi Alpha 2, Concourse-Style

Style : Accessories By Photo by Henry Phillips

Can a piece of luggage have a successor? Tumi, the venerable brand practically synonymous with domestic airports, believes it can with the release of the Alpha 2 ($595). The carry-on/check-in sequel incorporates a slew of improvements — ranging from overdue to practically invisible — in the gangbusters popular flagship line. Across its 30 improvements, the Alpha 2 boasts an impressive 14 patents.


To test the Alpha 2 International Carry-On’s travel mettle we subjected it to a series of long-haul roundtrip road tests (JFK-CDG-MRS and EWR-DTW-SFO-LAX and JFK-LAX). The immediate improvements to design are executed subtly — a better use of materials like signature ballistic nylon and sleeker design cues result in a drastically improved silhouette — but even more impressive are the invisible improvements.

Two immediately noticeable upgrades target the pitfalls of the Alpha 2’s predecessor: rolling stock and retractable handle. Thanks to a quadruplet of inset 360-degree skate wheels, the Alpha 2 rolls as if it were on tracks, even over thicker-pile carpet where wheeled luggage tends to feel cumbersome. (Don’t get us started on why any airport would still tolerate carpet in its main arteries.) The handle is now three-stage for more flexibility, constructed from aircraft-grade aluminum, and has a new, flatter design that all but rids sheering torque and saves the wrists much fatigue. Other noteworthy upgrades include expandable sections for 25 percent more storage in a pinch, damage-proof X-Brace lie-flat grab handles and a completely redesigned interior for better stowage management. It can feel like a hefty investment at nearly $600, but if you’re the type of traveler who packs light and travels fast the Alpha 2 might just be the best sequel yet.