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Is it a bag? Is it a jacket? No. It’s ‘wearable luggage’


It’s not easy to outwit Michael O’Leary. The famously combative head of Ryanair delights in reducing the travel experience to a gruelling gauntlet of hidden charges and not-so-optional extras.

He almost always succeeds. But there is a way past his draconian bag charges that have become standard across the cheap-flight industry. And cheating the system is a pure sweet pleasure.

One can, of course, play the O’Leary game by paying a fortune to pack a bag in the hold. Hand luggage only is far more economic but getting down to the 10kg that is the Ryanair limit can be impossible.

Wearable luggage is the best solution. A Bagket is a bag that can quickly be converted into a rather cumbersome waistcoat – with a lot of pockets – and then turned back into a bag once you’re safely on the plane.

The Bagket arrived just as I was packing my bag on the kitchen table – and losing the battle to stay within the weight limit. My cabin case alone weighed in at more than 2kg, my camera another 3kg and the laptop nearly as much again. Add in a few chargers and a couple of changes of clothes and it was hopelessly overweight.

So I needed the Bagket and I needed it now. It arrived neatly folded, like a waistcoat, with a shoulder-strap running across the middle. The first pockets I came to were large zipped pouches on the outside when in bag mode, that would, in waistcoat mode, be safely on my back. One was just made for a laptop, easy to access to remove for security and when in waistcoat mode safely protected in the small of my back, and another that naturally lent itself to a scatter of valuables, passports and documents. Then I flipped the waistcoat over and found any number of pockets on what would be the front of the waistcoat when worn, but would be folded in the middle when turned back into a bag. There were plenty of small pockets for chargers, batteries and adapters and larger ones for books, clothes or, in my case, a wash bag. Some had zips, other Velcro pads, others flaps. Then I opened the waistcoat up and found even more pouches. By now I’d started packing luxuries. A towel went in one pouch and spare trousers in another. I’d finished packing and was still finding pockets: there were 22 in all.

I weighed my bags. My travel case was still nudging 10kg. I weighed the Bagket: according to the instructions it could take 7kg but mine clocked in at 12.7kg. As a bag it was clearly the larger of the two and would also fail on the scales, so I unfolded it to transform into a waistcoat. I put it on, nervously. It looked vast – and it looked stuffed. The pockets bulged out on either side. I looked like a hamster with dropped pouches, or, if I zipped up the front, like a late-stage mother kangaroo. As if it wasn’t already obvious enough that I was trying to smuggle a bagload of luggage onboard the manufacturers had, somewhat unhelpfully, embossed ‘Bagket’ in big letters on the red belt (that acted as the carry strap in bag mode) and on matching red epaulettes. Surely this wouldn’t fool anyone. There must be a clause somewhere in the booking small print to ban this sort of workaround and surely the airline staff would find it.

Approaching the airport my nerves started to fray and before I even entered the building I converted the Bagket from bag to jacket, and put it on. I worried briefly about check in then realised I had, of course, checked in online, so that hurdle vanished. I converted the Bagket back to a bag for security and easily flipped out my laptop to satisfy the authorities. In the departure lounge I started to feel a little confident. I even found some spare pockets. The flight was to Morocco – in Ramadan – so I drifted into duty free and bought a bottle of whiskey – and put it in the Bagket.

The final challenge came at the departure gate. Ryanair staff wearily went through the sado-masochistic ritual of weighing carry-on bags and trailed around with their bag-sizing cage. I watched as another passenger was charged £80 for being four kilos over the weight limit, but nerves saved me from feeling remotely smug. My usual bag fitted in the container – there was hardly anything in it – and was comfortably underweight. They didn’t look twice at the waistcoat that made me look like a badly-made snowman with twigs for arms and that, with the added weight of a litre of liquor, would probably weigh in at 14kg.

Once on the plane I folded the Bagket and stowed it in the overhead locker and settled in for the four-hour flight. I glowed with the satisfaction of someone who’d just cheated Michael O’Leary out of a checked-bag fee. This would have cost at least £45 booked in advance but more like £120 at the airport. And as I waved aside the trolley selling wine at a fiver a glass I remembered that thanks to the extra pocket on the Bagket I could, should the mood take me, fix my own drink on the plane.

Take that, Ryanair!

Factbox

From a range of travel jackets designed for low-cost airlines the Bagket is probably the best. It costs £69.99 and can be bought through www.bagket.com or by calling 0800 008 6121. Alternatives include the Stuffa Jacket (also £69.99, www.stuffa.co.uk, 07922 425 769) which is more stylish but carries less; the simpler and cheaper Rufus Roo (£29.99, www.rufusroo.com); and the capacious Jaktogo (£65, www.jaktogo.com) which carries the most but at the expense of style and usability.

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