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Real-world Review: ORCA Carry-On Wheeled Suitcase

I’m a sucker for camera bags.  I don’t think of them as fashion statements, but you wouldn’t know by looking at my gear room. I’ve got a wide range of bags for all sorts of purposes, flying, studio work, street photography, backpacking, and more. The folks at Orca sent me.a new bag to review, which I’m always game for… so let’s jump in. Let’s take a real-world look at the the ORCA OR-11 Rolling Suitcase for DSLR Cameras.

Is it Sturdy?

What I like about this bag is it seems well-built.  Let’s go from the bottom up.

  • Durable wheels. The wheels are very good.  They’re similar to a skateboard wheel, but with a bit more give.  They roll quietly and don’t seem prone to getting banged up.
    wheel
  • Honeycomb frame. The structure of the bag is quite solid.  It doesn’t bend or give, but still keeps a reasonable weight of 11 pounds.
    c73a3408-580x576
  • Strong nylon. The bag handles weather well and seems resistant to tears or stress.
  • Rugged handle.  I’ve had many bags get wobbly handles or jam.  While I haven’t dragged this one for hundreds of miles yet… it seems well-built and comfortable.
    handles
  • Solid zippers. This is often the weakest link on camera bags.  These seem durable and are very easy to find and operate with integrated zipper pullls.
    zipper
  • Metal reinforcement. A few pieces of metal piping appear to keep the bag rigid where it needs to.c73a3401-580x580

How’s it Pack?

The bag seems well laid out for the most part.  The compartments are easy to move and configure.  I found that I could easily fit a Sony A7R plus several lenses.  I also tossed in a Platypod Pro and Max, a small tripod, and a GoPro Hero5 kit.

c73a3409-580x576

What felt a bit strange to me is that the dividers didn’t really reach out to the lid of the suitcase.  This seems to be because of the laptop pouch section.  There’s quite a bit of room here, enough to easily fit a 17” laptop and even a tablet.  Once loaded, this fills in the top space and keeps the gear held down.  You’ll need to load some sort of gear here, or items can move a little too much inside.  The laptop compartment is recessed, and even when full there was no exterior bulging or tell-tale signs saying open me and steal a laptop.

laptoppouch

What I felt was missing was a series of small zippered pouches along the sides or in the flap.  While the bag did have a large zippered pouch that could be accessed from either the inside or outside (a nice feature).  I felt it needed more.  I usually use a series of small pouches and cases to hold cables, accessories, and batteries, so this isn’t a big deal.  But other manufacturers often have more small storage areas inside.

pouch2

They did include a useful gear pouch as well as a lens wrap.  These can help protect gear.  The velcro straps were also good at holding in gear, though I wish the bag came with a few more.

interior2

The bright blue liner of the bag is nice.  It makes it quite easy to see your gear when fumbling in lower light.  I’ve always been a fan of colored interiors since it seems most of my camera gear is black or dark gray.

Can It Fly?

I fly… a lot.  And most of the time I try to keep my gear with me on the plane.  I’m not very likely to check a bag with $15,000 worth of gear and then let it out of my sight. This back is well-over the size requirements for international flights.  For domestic flights it’s close.

For example, United Airlines states that the maximum dimensions for a carry-on bag are 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches including handles and wheels.

The Orca Carry-On Wheeled Suitcase checks in at 10.24 inches by 14.96 X 22 inches.

This means that you can probably sneak the bag on, but you’re risking it.  If a gate agent decides to measure it’s a no-go.  The extra 1.24 inches tall (when put into an overhead bin) should fit, but could get tight on a smaller plane.  The length and width are fine.

I’m a bit baffled why Orca advertises this as a Carry-On bag when its over the allowed size.  Its close and it will probably not be an issue (often) but this discrepancy is a bit concerning.

The Bottom Line

c73a3411-580x5761-580x576I really like this bag and have taken it on a few car trips and remote gigs.  I’d have no problem checking it (it seems sturdy) but it makes me nervous as a carry-on.  Orca should really work to get this bag inline with the specs.  For comparison, my Tenba Roadie II Large case complies at 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches.

I think if you need a solid back for jobs around town or on the road, this is a good back. The bag sells for $356 at B&H and  comes with a 2-year warranty.  The price is inline with other bags in its class.  The warranty however good be better, for example that Tenba Roadie comes with a 5-year coverage plan at the same price point.

All in all, I like this bag a lot…. I just wish I could carry it on a plane with confidence.

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