When I first set my eyes on the Aerial by Genius Pack, I was instantly intrigued. Not only does it look like a Stormtrooper on the outside, but its interior scratches my organizational itch — it has six separate compartments for storing everything you need. Added bonus: It's sturdy, comfortable to carry, and fits in most overhead compartments.
A pocket for every little thing
I'm a sucker for organization in my carrying cases. I love bags that have separate pockets for every little thing you bring with you: My tech bag is a Handbag of Holding because 15 pockets. Do I need 15 pockets? Probably not, but I like having the option to separate every single item I want to bring along with me.
That love for organization is what sparked my interest on the Aerial. It has a center flap with has two 12.5 x 5.5 inch pouches and two 5.5 x 6 inch pouches; It also features a large section for storing all your clean clothes, and — get this — a dirty laundry section that supposedly "expels unwanted air through an integrated air valve." I couldn't find anything in the laundry pouch that looked like an air valve, so I'm not sure how this works, but it's effective marketing if nothing else.
On the outside of one of the pouches, the Aerial also offers you a packing checklist with suggestions to help you remember everything. I usually use PackPoint to help me get organized when preparing for a trip, but I love having the packing checklist right in my suitcase. It helps me remember things I may have decided to wait until the last minute to pack. "Did I remember my iPhone charger? My toothbrush? My passport?"
It glides like new roller skates on a polyurethane floor
I was most excited about the compartments in the Aerial, but when I actually used it, I was pleasantly surprised at just how smooth the wheels roll. Genius Pack calls them "Spinners" because they have 360-degree rotation; you wouldn't think that a smooth glide matters that much when it comes to a suitcase, but the wheels on the Aerial are so smooth, it actually improved my travel experience.
The suitcase's four rubber wheels swivel individually — not entirely unlike a grocery shopping cart — but don't lock up in the same way; they are sturdy and well designed. It's like driving an Oldsmobile.
That Stormtrooper look
A bag's visual aesthetic can be a make or break decision for many people. Some want a rugged leather look; others want casual canvas. I, personally, don't really care what my suitcase looks like, as long as it does the job. That said: I do love me some Star Wars, and am always looking for reasons to decorate my accessories with designs from far, far away.
The Aerial is a bright white hardshell case with a polycarbonate coating; all of the accents are black. As soon as I took it out of the box, I named it TK-421 (why aren't you at your post?!). It has an excellent Imperial look straight out of the box — but don't think I'm not already planning on adding a few Stormtrooper graphics to the exterior.
I should note that I haven't used my white Aerial enough to know for sure whether dirt and scuffs completely muck up that look. Stormtroopers have this problem, too; but like Imperial armor, the Aerial has a easily-cleanable polycarbonate coating if it gets too dirty. Scratches and scuffs are another thing, but hey — it gives a suitcase (and armor) character.
The Aerial also comes in jet black (shipping April 14), but have you ever used a black bag for traveling? Everyone has a black bag; it's nearly impossible to distinguish one from the other.
Of course, the black Aerial does have a distinct Vader look to it... Maybe if I added a few red and blue rectangled highlights, it wouldn't be so bad.
Yes, but how well does it pack?
Okay, enough about aesthetics: The most important aspect of a suitcase is whether it fits everything you need. The Aerial is 21.5 x 14 x 9 inches — the largest size suitcase you can carry on when traveling domestic or internationally on most commercial flights.
As a carry-on case, it fits everything you need for a weekend trip and possibly everything you need for a week-long trip, depending on how well you pack.
It is a hard case, though: You won't get the flexibility that comes from using a soft case. If you're trying to shove those vacation trinkets you bought at the last minute into an already-full suitcase, you're probably going to end up needing an extra bag.
The pouches in the middle section are perfect for packing things like toiletries, chargers, your smartphone, and other small items. They are labeled "chargers, socks, and undergarments," but the sock section is probably too small to actually store all your socks (if you're like me and always bring along twice the number you'll need). I was able to fit my Nintendo Switch into the top pouch, all of my chargers in the charger section, my iPhone 7 Plus, my iPhone SE, and my AirPods into the sock pouch, and my unmentionables into the undergarments pouch.
I do wish the small pouches were removable. I have a smaller carry-on from IKEA that has snap-on pouches that you can take out when you get to your destination. It's great when you want easy access to your toiletries, but want to keep them in a bag.
There is no hanging clothing bag, probably because it's a little too small for that kind of feature. I would have appreciated some kind of hook at the top to support my hanging clothes, though.
There is, however, cross straps that keep your clothing in place. If you fill the bag full enough, the straps definitely keep your stuff from falling to the bottom of the case. They aren't adjustable, so a light pack won't benefit from the cross straps.
Because the Aerial is a hard case, you're not going to be able to overstuff it. The useful pouches are not removable, so you still have to take all of your goodies out of the bag in order to use them regularly. There is no hook for hanging items and the cross straps aren't adjustable, so they only really benefit you if you pack a full case.
All that being said, I love the Aerial by Genius Pack. It's as big as a carry-on can get, with lots of compartments; it's sturdy and protects my tech. It's also reasonably priced at $179 for such a well-made suitcase; those wheels are as smooth as a luxury car's.
My favorite feature (besides the six compartments) is the dirty laundry section. I used to bring along a plastic bag to store my laundry. With the Aerial I can store my dirty undies away from my clean stuff without needing to waste a plastic bag.
If you're looking for a new carry-on bag and you need the largest size available, you should definitely look into the Aerial. Even if you don't need all of those compartments, it's a very sturdy case for travel. WWDC, here I come!