Spending more time than ever in baggage claim this Summer, I’ve had the opportunity to observe firsthand several luggage innovation trends. In the midst of a six-flight week, impressively, not once did I observe a bungee-cord attachment or clumsy metal trolley!  Sure, a majority of the older bags are still black and upright in shape, but trending forward, my research tells me the suitcase is in the midst of some serious and necessary transformation.

Sourcing new luggage typically isn’t an easy task. I compare it to shopping for a pair of great jeans — simply look for one that expands for packing, then shrinks to fit! Compressible, collapsible, lighter-weight, greater maneuverability, finger-tip easy-glide capabilities and bolder colors are some of the new bells and whistles in the suitcase world. At the 2012 Travel Goods Expo, The Road Warrior M Series by Trunk & Trolley (US$200-US$600) ranked first in the “Best of the New” category thanks to an interior rip cord that, when pulled, collapses to half the depth. Briggs & Riley and Samsonite both introduced zipper-less systems that expand. And the Briggs & Riley’s Baseline Collection, (US$399-US$549) features CX compression, while Samsonite’s new Compressor model (US$299) has interior ratchets that expand, then compress, after the bag is packed. The Pumpack also maximizes packing via its handle, which also serves as the pump, and after your clothes are placed into vacuum bags, the air is pumped out — increasing storage room by 70%! (This suitcase happens to be the 2011 red dot design concept winner.)

With most airlines charging for bags exceeding 50 pounds (22.7 kilograms), luggage designers are embarking on weight-loss quests. What typically averaged approximately 12 pounds (5.4 kilograms) for a traditional size is now averaging 5 pounds (2.3 kilograms). Dubbed the world’s lightest two-wheel, 20-in (51-cm) carry-on, It Luggage USA’s model isn’t flimsy, especially for a bag weighing only 3.8 pounds (1.7 kilograms). And the “spinner” feature (bags deemed easy to push and pull from any direction) is now as common as the auto-lock system in vehicles. As the salesperson explained ever so seriously, once you’ve driven a spinner, it’s hard to go back!

Another trend borrowed from fashion runways is the sea of bright and bold colors and patterns.

And don’t forget the surprisingly non-practical optic white. While I understand the obvious attraction of glaring bags, especially for easier detection on the carousel, I personally struggle with the upkeep a white suitcase requires. But this didn’t stop Eva Feldkamp from designing the Membrane Series, which promises to carry “everything” thanks to it’s sleek, all-white “stretchability.”

Next on the horizon? How about bags that practically pack themselves? Now that’s something I would wait a lifetime for! Tell me, what is your dream bag? And what are you carrying now?