Hard-shell carry-on luggage on eight spinner wheels are all the rage, but there’s a problem. What about tech? Whether you’re planning to take a short business trip, remote work from somewhere exotic or you simply like to travel light but with a laptop or tablet, a hard-shell suitcase just doesn’t cut it.
Cue the Clifton Cabin with Pocket (£161.10), from British luggage brand Antler, which integrates a spacious front padded pocket that puts a laptop, tablet, smartphone and passport within easy reach. It’s not just a stuck-on afterthought, but part of the case’s core design.
Is this the most practical carry-on yet? Let's find out…
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Antler Clifton Cabin Pocket review: size and capacity
Designed to be taken on board an aircraft, this carry-on measures 56x35x23cm, which includes the slightly protruding front pocket. That puts it right on the cusp of what airlines accept, so do check with your airline before you fly (but it’s fine for British Airways).
That pocket can take a 15.6-inch laptop, a 10-inch tablet and, in the lid, a large smartphone and a passport. The main section is the classic game of two halves, with a large empty compartment topped by a smaller lid that has a zippered-off section behind that front pocket. In total, you can get 38 litres of stuff inside and roughly another seven litres in the exterior pocket.
Antler Clifton Cabin Pocket review: weight and materials
Weighing 3.3kg when empty, this carry-on is made from a hard-shell of polycarbonate. That’s going to prevent any damage to the contents if it’s packed tightly, but unusually that’s not all there is to the exterior. Sitting slightly proud of the front, that exterior pocket is made from a slightly more flexible material. It’s still pretty hard and easily protects any electronics inside, but as well as being a tad less rigid than the rest of the case it’s also covered in a softer, more tactile fabric. Inside the pocket are padded areas for a laptop, while all this case's interior zones are covered in fawn-coloured nylon.
Antler Clifton Cabin Pocket review: style
Only available in black, this carry-on looks the business. Despite an all-around tough, no-nonsense look, the front pocket adds a slightly softer character, as do its curved corners. As well as being covered in a softer material that doesn’t catch the light as the solid polycarbonate body can, that front pocket is ribbed with a small Antler logo panel midway up.
Antler Clifton Cabin Pocket review: safety and security
The Clifton Cabin with Pocket has a double TSA-combination lock that can be opened only by airport security staff. It’s situated on the top of the case for easy access. While most bags have only a single TSA lock to secure the main compartment, this case adds a second one to make the contents of the front pocket safe. Given that you could have a myriad of expensive items in there, that’s wise. Inside the main compartment is a credit card-sized silicon rubber pocket containing a small card for your name, address and phone number.
Antler Clifton Cabin Pocket review: exterior pocket
Unlike most hard-shell luggage this one has that exterior pocket. It’s arguably the reason for purchasing this product, so let’s dwell on exactly what it adds. Seeming like it’s been hewn from the hard-shell, this section contains two large pockets – one ideal for a smartphone and the other for a passport and/or airline tickets – above a zipped webbed pocket that might be useful for other travel documents. There’s also a handy elastic pen holder on the edge for filling in the endless forms at immigration and customs.
Jutting into the case itself is a padded laptop pocket fit for a 15.6-incher while in front of it is a similarly padded 10-inch tablet-sized zone. Both items can be secured in place by a high-quality Velcro and silicon rubber catch, but what we really like is how both devices sit back in the pocket so they’re physically in the belly of the main compartment. Overall it's an impressive, integrated design with plenty of room for cables, chargers and portable batteries.
Antler Clifton Cabin Pocket review: interior layout
There’s nothing unexpected on the inside of the Clifton Cabin with Pocket, but it does have a couple of practical features. Within the typical design of a main compartment with compression straps, a 30cm-long zipped pocket is attached to one of the sides. It’s ideal for storing bits and pieces, but it would be great to see similar zipped pockets on the other three sides. Inside the lid is a closed, zipped-off area for storing an ironed shirt or two, with two flat pockets comprising a zipped webbed pocket and a zipped wet pocket. The latter is so useful for doubling as a toiletry bag. It can even take a swimming costume if you fancy a dip before leaving your hotel.
Antler Clifton Cabin Pocket review: wheels
There are four sets of two wheels on this case, each one able to spin through 360º, which makes it really easy to push this case through an airport. Although they’re at their best on flat surfaces, they performed well on rough ground and the dragged, too. If we’re being fussy it would be great to have retractable wheels, which would not only prevent them from being knocked off by baggage handlers (it happens!) but also prevent nasty dirt stains when you ultimately fling your luggage on the clean white sheets of the bed in your hotel.
Antler Clifton Cabin Pocket review: handles
Like most wheeled luggage the Clifton Cabin with Pocket has a pop-up telescopic handle. It can be locked in place at both 43cm or 53cm above the case, though in our test it felt a little flimsy. We successfully used it to drag luggage without problem (when we couldn’t use the spinner wheels), but it does have a slight rattle to it and isn’t as solid as it might be. What it does have is a twist-grip handle, which makes it pleasant to use. The Clifton Cabin with Pocket also has tough yet low profile grab handles on both the top and the side.
Antler Clifton Cabin Pocket review: verdict
Overall the Antler Clifton Cabin with Pocket is an interesting and very well built hybrid that marries the practicality of a hard-shell spinner with the laptop-centric designs of typically much softer carry-on luggage. Is a new genre born?