A good-looking carry-on. Photo: Tim Wenger

This Roller Bag Provides More Space Than Other Carry-On Hardshells

Technology + Gear
by Tim Wenger Mar 12, 2024

Over two decades of frequent travel both as a musician and more recently as a travel editor, I’ve always abided by one golden rule: Thou shalt not roll. That is to say, I’m a backpack guy. Unless we’re talking guitar amplifiers, I don’t want wheels on my luggage. However, I recently turned 40, and some hidden flip was switched that has me increasingly self-conscious about arriving to press trips and conferences looking like a vagabond college student. Forl months now I’ve been eyeing travelers moving through the airport with hardshell rollaboard suitcases with an emotion that falls somewhere between lust and envy. They walk with such better posture than myself, certainly due to not being weighed down by a week’s worth of living necessities strapped tightly to their shoulders. Are they better dressed? Probably, though that’s the result of my home state of Colorado’s casual flair moreso than my Tortuga backpack.

I recently acquired a check-in hardshell for when I’m traveling with my wife and daughter, and this combined with my growing insecurities over middle age led me to test out a carry-on hardshell for the first time: The Royce & Rocket Castle Carry-On Expandable, $530 with packing cubes included. It seemed only appropriate to test the case in the most extreme manner possible – by hopping on a 13-hour long-haul flight to the other side of the world.

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Packing the Royce & Rocket Castle Carry-On Expandable

So much stuff can go into so little space. Photo: Tim Wenger
The shelves made it easy to access my clothes. Photo: Tim Wenger
The included laundry bag. Photo: Tim Wenger

Royce & Rocket’s founders moved between the UK and US several times and have traveled extensively throughout their lives. I immediately resonated with this ethos. The first thing that stood out to me when Castle Carry-On Expandable arrived was that the brand grasps that underdog startups must innovate to survive. To do so, Royce & Rocket took the existing roller case, identified its weak points, and set out to address them.

This is most noticeable in the Castle Shelves. When the suitcase is unzipped and opened clamshell style, three shelves unfold from the top shell of the case. These are intended to hold the packing cubes that come with the case in a manner that allows you to view, open, and store everything you pack in them without needing to unpack or shuffle around. This serves as the brand’s primary innovation – it has turned the suitcase into a portable closet. The packing cubes fit a week’s worth of t-shirts, underwear, socks, and pants for varying temperatures and climates.

Underneath the shelves, in the lay-flat portion of the case, there’s a zipped compartment perfect for storing an apparel sleeve for clothes that need to remain wrinkle-free. Here I also placed a tech pouch and various small pieces of work gear including a notebook. Once zipped, I packed my toiletry bag and a pair of nice boots. I brought along a daypack to keep my laptop with me, but beyond that, I managed to pack everything for a week-long work trip to Türkiye in the Castle Carry-On Expandable – without having to worry about checking a bag. This was possible due to the suitcase’s “expandable” middle portion, that somewhat resembles the accordion-like section in the middle of large city buses. This provides a couple extra inches of girth around the middle, without which my boots would not have fit.

Traveling with the Royce & Rocket Castle Carry-On Expandable

It's small but mighty. Photo: Tim Wenger
The expandable center reminded my of large city buses. Photo: Tim Wenger
The TSA-approved lock. Photo: Tim Wenger

Upon arriving at my local airport, I immediately tested the suitcase’s telescopic handle and wheels. Both worked flawlessly – and I must admit, rolling a case through the airport allowed me to stand up straighter and made me feel like more of a professional. The wheels handled zigzagging around fellow travelers in a crowded terminal with ease. What’s nice about the carry-on’s size is that it’s compact enough to squeeze in next to my chair at an airport restaurant or lounge. The case easily fit into overhead compartments on the regional flight from Grand Junction to Denver, and then from Denver to San Francisco and then over to Istanbul.

The case zips around three sides and is easy to open and close, even when full, due to the “expandable” center. This is what sets this case apart from other roller cases – the few I’ve tried over the years have all been tough to zip up when packed full. It also comes with a laundry bag that folds nicely into the zipped compartment when not in use.

During the trip we transferred from Istanbul to a ski resort four hours easy via coach. The case stacked nicely into the trunk and, like when in the planes’ overhead compartment, nothing went askew while in transit. My daypack stacked nicely on top of the carry-on case and I found that I could strap it to the telescoping pole to prevent it from falling off when walking through the airport.

I’ll keep this suitcase with me

royce & rocket castle carry-on

A good-looking carry-on. Photo: Tim Wenger

There were, however, two things that I missed about not having a backpack. First, I tend to take the stairs in airports and often in hotels if I’m staying on one of the first few floors, and it’s incredibly tough to do this with a roller case in tow. I found myself in an elevator more often than normal. Second, it’s nearly impossible to “cram” things into a hardshell case like you can with a softshell backpack. Though the pack I usually travel with and this case are roughly the same size, I had to cut several small items from my repertoire this time – nothing crucial, but things like the “Letters to my Baby” book that lives in my pack so I can write memos to my daughter when I’m bored at the airport didn’t make the cut. There’s also no external pocket to keep stuff like napkins, a spork, and a book, as I tend to do with my pack. In terms of actual logistics, however, my first travel experience with the Royce & Rocket Castle Carry-On Expandable was flawless. I’ll certainly have this case with me when I head to the next conference.

Royce & Rocket Castle Carry-on Expandable specs

The Royce & Rocket Castle Carry-On Expandable is a suitcase designed to help you stay organized while traveling. It features two fold-down shelves that can be used to store clothes, shoes, or other belongings. The suitcase also has a TSA-approved lock, a compression system to help you pack more items, and Hinomoto Lisof silent run 360° wheels for easy maneuverability.

Here are the specs of the Royce & Rocket Castle Carry-On Expandable:

  • Dimensions: 21 x 14 x 9 inches (unexpANDED)
  • Weight: 8.5 lbs
  • Volume Unexpanded: 37.85L (2310 in3)
  • Volume Expanded: 46.25L (2822in3)
  • Material: Durable polycarbonate hard shell
  • Wheels: Hinomoto Lisof Silent Run 360° wheels
  • Handle: Multi-stop telescopic extended handle
  • Other features: One hidden pocket, one hanging pocket, compression system, mesh zip and extra pockets

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