“ Brand: Antler / Type: Standard Case - Soft / Trolley - 2 Wheels „
After comprehensively slagging off the Antler Monza II Double Decker bag, I hope to be able to redeem the reputation of Antler by introducing you to my new second-best holiday companion - the Antler Salento. (My husband obviously gets first place!) It's a bag chock full of all the redeeming features that were missing in its stable-mate.
I have bought two Salento bags - I ordered one on-line for my sister and her girlfriend in advance of our trip to India. I knew they didn't have a good bag and suspected that if they went with a rubbish one we'd all end up with most of their stuff in our bags. Whilst waiting for the online order to arrive, I made one of my not infrequent trips to the Antler shop at Cheshire Oaks in Ellesmere Port and - not realising it was exactly the same model - I bought a second Salento in the same size for us. From memory I think I paid £40 online and ten pounds less in the store when the lovely manager knocked an extra tenner off for me - probably in reflection of my serious suitcase-buying addiction. Luckily the two bags are in slightly different colours so we didn't have any mix-ups but we did find that hotel porters always assumed that the two went together.
I've also written previously about the Antler Texas bag which is the bag I use for my weekly commute to work. I recognised many of the great features of the Texas being repeated and possibly even improved upon in the Salento so I bought with a sense of real confidence that the Salento would deliver against my rather picky travel needs and that's exactly what it did.
~ Size Counts~
I would characterise the Salento as an ideal soft wheelie bag for a trip of around 10 days to 2 weeks based on average packing needs. So if you are the type who can go a month on three pairs of knickers and a titchy hand baggage allowance this will be too big and if you are the type who needs 12 pairs of shoes, hairdryer/hair straightener/mp3 speakers and half the contents of Comet, then it might be too small. The dimensions are 72 x 44 x 30 cm (please don't ask me what that is in old money) although the 30 depth is only achievable by really stuffing it to bursting point. In reality it doesn't need to be that fat and will run comfortably at around 2/3 that thickness. The empty weight of the bag is just 3 kg which really is quite remarkable for a bag of this size and strength - my small cabin bag is only a few hundred grams lighter. The nominal capacity is 68 litres.
We don't take a lot of clothes on holiday but do tend to take a lot of first aid kit, sheet sleeping bags, travel towels, squishy pillows, and rather a lot of books. One great thing about the Salento is that if you don't over-pack to start with, there's a massive amount of extra volume that you can squeeze in as you go along, especially in the enormous front pockets. Our bag stayed pretty much the same size until the very end of the trip when a shopping spree meant it had to let its belt out a bit whereas my sister's started a similar size to ours but looked about 7 months pregnant by the end of the trip. Whether packed gently or stuffed to the gills, the bags still performed really well on stability, manoeuvrability and drag ability due to being flatter and wider than many such wheelie holdalls which can suffer from having their wheels too close together so they flop about at anything more than a gentle strolling pace. The shape also meant that they did well when we found ourselves crammed into the New Delhi Metro at rush hour where their lack of too many external pockets meant we didn't have to worry about pick-pockets.
Our Salento is the black and grey model - a darker grey than in the photo so it's a bit more practical and less prone to getting dirty. My sister's is navy blue. The fabric is a 1680 denier fabric that's very hard wearing and - after two weeks of being thrown around India, on trains, planes and automobiles, there's not a single mark to show it's ever been out of the wardrobe. I confidently expect to get many years service from the Salento.
Lying flat on the ground its roughly oblong in shape with the corners rounded off a the end where the handle is. Standing up, the base and back are stiffened and the base is highly reinforced with protective 'feet' to keep the main fabric of the bag off the floor. The wheels are heavy duty rubber and set as far apart as possible which gives the bag good stability and prevents the pull-wobble that you get with a lot of cheaper wheelie bags. The handle pulls out from a zip-able flap which protects it when the handle's not in use. There's a strong fabric handle on the top of the bag that you can use to lift or pull it when the main retractable handle is zipped away. If you want to carry the bag like a conventional suitcase or holdall, then there is a very strong handle on the side that's reinforced with a comfortable rubber grip. This is where most check-in staff will put your baggage tag. Talking of tags, if you are the type who likes to put your address (tip - better to just put your postcode and surname to keep the burglars away from your home) on the bag, there's a neat pull out tag on the back of the bag which slides tidily out of the way.
Down both sides of the bag you will find compression straps to enable you to alter the volume of the bag. So if you've not filled your bag and don't want everything flopping around, tug the straps down to size. Conversely if you were backpacking around Europe on a train and needed somewhere to attach your sleeping bag or sleep mat, you could use these straps to help keep everything in place. I do worry about these straps though as they look as if they'd be very tempting to lazy baggage handlers who might get their evil hooks into the straps and rip them off but so far that fear has proven unfounded on both these bags and the Texas which also shares this feature.
~ Structure - or pocket layout ~
Starting from the outside, you'll find three pockets in the front flap - one right down near the bottom of the bag, one full length pocket on the flap and then another full length one inside the flap which has a handy net pocket running down one side. The last of these is lockable, but the first two aren't so leave those for your non-valuable items like books, magazines, and things you might need easy access to on your journey. I tend to use the biggest of the outside pockets for my laundry - woe betide any thief who wants to make off with my used socks.
Inside the main bag things are very simple. There's one big compartment, a long zipped pocket on the inside of the 'lid' of the bag and two small side pockets inside the bag. These are handy for the things you know you'll be looking for in a rush - like your alarm clock, maybe some toiletries, your phone charger or whatever you personally find most frustrating if it's tucked away elsewhere. I'm a very disciplined packer and all my gear is generally separated by type into a series of different sized Eagle Creek packing 'cubes' and stuff sacks so I pretty much know where to find everything but if you are of the 'stuff it all in and run' approach to packing, the little side pockets will be really helpful). Some people like lots of pockets - personally I make my own pockets with my packing system and I want the bulk of my gear in one big space so I don't have to keep hunting through multiple sections where things might be hidden.
~ Want one?~
The Antler website lists the Salento range in three sizes - cabin size (32 litre), medium (45 litre) and large (68 litre) and the weights range from 2.3 kg for the little one up to 3 kg for the large. Recommended prices are £65, £75 and £85 but the whole range is currently on offer at half price. If you shop around you could quite possibly get all three for around the £100 mark. The colours for 2011 seem to be rather unimaginative - light grey or dark grey - although after the tangerine and lime they had in the Texas range this year, I can understand why they're keeping it a bit calmer now. For shorter holidays, I'd recommend the mid size, and for a fortnight or more, I'm more than happy with my large Salento and I'm probably going to buy my mother one as I think she's getting itchy feet again.