TUMI Alpha X Double Expansion Travel Satchel Review
The TUMI Alpha X Double Expansion Travel Satchel is large without being cumbersome thanks to its smartly designed wide zipper opening that makes packing easy.
- Main compartment is super easy to pack, even with bulky gear
- Crossbody strap surprisingly comfortable despite the bag’s hefty weight
- Overall design considers both aesthetics and functionality
- Expansion system feels overkill and clunky
- Front pocket zipper prone to jamming
- Quite pricey at around $650 at the time of posting
3.4 lb (1.5 kg)
11.5 in x 18.5 in x 9 in (29.2 x 47 x 22.9 cm)
Polyester, Nylon, YKK Zippers
TUMI makes a lot of travel-optimized gear, albeit at a relatively steep price. In addition to everything else they make, they have the Alpha X lineup. You take options from their regular lineup, dress it in PX6 fabric, add a few more premium accents, and presto! You get something like the Alpha X Double Expansion Travel Satchel. Despite the name (specifically that last part), it’s actually more like a duffle than a satchel, based on its size and layout.
Simply put, this bag has a ton of packable space, with even more hidden in case you want to be super prepared for a week-long trip. The best part is that all that space is really easy to access, thanks to its equally large opening that also expands through wingtips that cleverly thread through its crossbody strap.
That last part might be a bit hard to follow and visualize. Fortunately, we’ve got a review to sort out the details—let’s jump in!
The key distinguishing factor of the Alpha X lineup is the PX6 fabric. According to TUMI, it’s their strongest fabric to date, emphasizing strength and abrasion resistance. From what we can see, it’s a very high-denier nylon fabric (a really thick weave), which aligns with their claims. Furthermore, TUMI did a good job making it feel a touch more premium than their other gear. However, the bag also features a rather large leather front section that we’re not quite sure is as durable as the rest of the bag. It’s kinda like having a teddy bear in front of a truck.
All of that said, based on our experience with TUMI’s gear, durability hasn’t really been an issue. Other bags, such as the Brief Pack and Alpha 3 Electronic Cord Pouch, may not be part of the Alpha X lineup, but they felt tough enough for everyday and travel use. An arguably more compelling reason to get something from the Alpha X lineup is the Meteor Grey colorway. At the time of writing, this seems exclusive to the PX6 fabric. Oh, and if aesthetics is your primary reason, then go for it—just keep in mind that it’ll be pricier than the already-pricey regular TUMI lineup equivalent.
One weird quirk of the PX6 fabric and its Meteor Grey colorway is it produces an optical illusion. We’re not quite sure what it’s called, but if you stare at the fabric for too long, it messes with depth perception (If you’re curious, you can achieve the same effect with a screen door). We think the combination of having a thick weave and this particular shade of gray is causing this illusion. Regardless, it’s not a huge deal, just something to note if you’re sensitive to such optical illusions.
Like a lot of TUMI’s gear, this bag comes with a customizable logo and luggage tag already included and hanging off to one side. The luggage tag isn’t an afterthought, by the way. It has a fairly thick leather material, a cover to hide your details and snap fasteners to hold it all together. There’s even a shiny metal bar at the base that’s sure to catch someone’s attention—that someone, hopefully being a baggage handler or someone who finds this bag if it gets lost.
The zippers are from YKK, a brand whose reputation precedes them. For those not in the know, their zippers are pretty much the golden standard because of how reliable they are, and it’s the same for this bag—for the most part. The front pocket’s zipper occasionally jammed; we’ll explain why in the last section of the review. Moreover, we think that TUMI overdid the chunkiness of the metal pulls. They feel a bit too hefty for their purpose. We get that heft is associated with premium quality, and zipper pulls are something users will interact with often, but we could’ve settled for something lighter.
At the bottom are five plastic feet to keep some of the base off the ground. Though the base has a lot of structure built into it, it’s still relatively flexible, thus the inevitability of that happening. That said, the plastic feet should be enough to keep the bag from sliding if you set it on a wet floor, for example.
The bag comes with rather long handles, which makes sense relative to the bag’s large size. They don’t have any built-in padding, though you can clasp them together using the leather cover. Overall, it’s not the most comfortable way to carry the bag if you have it fully loaded out. It’s more suited for short-distance carrying, like across large halls, between rooms, and from trolley to trunk.
The real star of the show (if carrying styles was a show) is the included crossbody strap. There’s a fair amount of features going on despite its basic function. At the ends are some beefy-looking clips, which are spring-loaded for easy attachment and detachment. Their metal anchors have a neat pass-through function relating to the main compartment’s opening, but let’s table that discussion for the last section.
The most interesting part of the crossbody strap is the padding. It doesn’t look particularly wide or thick. However, the padding does a surprisingly good job of cushioning the bag’s heft—and this isn’t a small bag. The padding itself is a neoprene-like material, which we think is the main factor in comfort.
Lastly, there’s a luggage pass-through at the back of the bag. The Alpha X Double Expansion Travel Satchel is already pretty huge (as you’d imagine with that kind of name), but it’s nice to know that you can pair this up with roller luggage if you need extra space.
As we’ve said, comfort is surprisingly good despite the crossbody strap’s unassuming looks. You’ll have to temper expectations since this is still a pretty big bag. Ergonomics-wise, though, it doesn’t feel all that bulky. The shape rests easily on your side, and the strap is easy to adjust, with two points where you can make length adjustments.
The handles play a more minor but pretty handy role, too. You can use them to support the bag when you want to reposition the crossbody strap to your other shoulder. Alternatively, the handles are long enough to hang them over your shoulder, too, tote bag-style. It’s not the most comfortable way to carry the bag, but it’s a useful trick in a pinch.
Inside The Satchel
The secondary pocket we most often use is the magnetically closed one just below the customizable logo. Though there’s really nothing special (apart from the magnetic part) about it, it’s quite useful for quickly storing items you have on hand all the time. If you’re going through an airport, this could be your boarding passes, passports, information slips—those sorts of things.
Just adjacent to the magnetic slip pocket is a zippered compartment. This is the erring zipper we mentioned in the earlier section. We’re not exactly sure what’s causing the jam, whether it’s a manufacturing defect of the zipper itself or the nearby fabric feeding into the track. Regardless, dealing with it is annoying since this compartment organizes a fair amount of everyday carry items.
The front compartment opens fully in a C-shape, only stopped partly by gussets at the sides. That said, the leather front is still quite floppy, so it still bows out in spite of those gussets. In terms of organization, there is a smartphone-sized slip pocket at the front and a zippered pocket at the back. You have some space in the middle for more items, but it’s really only suited for flat gear— unless you’re okay with bulky ones making an imprint on the outside.
Additionally, there’s a key leash and a small patch with a unique serial number, the bag’s TUMI Tracer. Register this bag with your contact information; ideally, people can use the serial number to track you down in case it gets lost. It’s a more techy way of identification if you don’t feel like utilizing the luggage tag already hanging outside.
The main compartment’s opening goes across the length of the bag. Moreover, it extends further out once the sides are unbuckled. The tips feed through the metal anchors of the crossbody strap and buckle directly to the side for a more streamlined profile. It is one of the more unique features of this bag that considers both functionality and style. Also included is a three-digit combination lock that can secure the main compartment’s zippers.
Regardless of whether you expand the opening, there’s plenty of space to maneuver even the chunkiest packing cubes into the wide-open cavity. TUMI doesn’t specify the bag’s capacity but, suffice it to say, it’s much bigger than what you’d think passes for a satchel. In fact, this bag is closer to a duffle than anything else.
So, how does this bag expand, and how does it do this double-y? At the side where those buckled tips are is a pair of zippers that can zip parallel to each other, running around the base of the bag and towards the other side. They unlock hidden fabric that allows the entire bag to expand horizontally. You lose a ton of the bag’s structure this way, making it a lot floppier, but you get even more space. TUMI says it’s 13 inches worth of space, which is weird considering that’s a linear measurement, but we sort of get what they mean.
Take note that you can undo just one of the zippers if you only want a single and not double the expansion. Either way, the process can feel a bit clunky since the zipper has to go through a stiff section at the base of the bag, so be prepared to feed it through that area.
In practical terms, we could fit an entire week’s worth of clothing without expanding the bag. That includes a bunch of thicker pieces like denim pants, a jacket, and a buff, alongside other clothing in packing cubes. Once expanded, you can comfortably fit even something as bulky as a pair of shoes in a shoe pouch if you really want to.
- Materials feel super durable
- Zipper pulls seem a bit heavy
- Interested to see if the strap can support the weight
- Digging the expansion option, though it feels pretty roomy even without
- Super easy to see all your gear inside
- Very comfortable to wear even when full