We think of it as the weekend wedding kit, what the modern pal needs to see him through a chum's rehearsal dinner, a brunch or two and the Big Event: Make it two pairs of slacks, jeans, two dress shirts and a casual one, sport coat, running and dress shoes and the attendant underwear, socks, ties and toiletries. Problem is, wedding kits -- and similar weekend loads -- aren't enough for a full-size garment bag (which, groan, must be checked), but they're too wrinkle-prone to jam into a regular carry-on. Now a new generation of compact carry-on garment bags purport to fill this weekender niche. Staff writer Steve Hendrix test-packed the above items into four different models to show us how they rate.
* THE BAG: The Victorinox Mobilizer NXT Paratrooper (888-658-0717, www.swissarmy.com; suggested retail $365, but available in the $250 range at www.ebags.com and other discounters).
HOW IT LOOKS: Who better to engineer a sleek, nifty (and, of course, very red) folding device then the people who make Swiss Army knives. This one has the cool utilitarian look of a paramedic kit.
HOW IT WORKS: Like most of this breed, the Paratrooper is like a standard hanging bag, complete with flaps that open like a closet door. But it folds not once but twice, and ends up no bigger than a beefy briefcase that can fit below an airplane seat. With two expandable outside pockets and a narrow liner pocket, it took the wedding load well enough; the white button-down came out with a few creases, but nothing beyond the reach of a hotel iron.
COOLEST FEATURE: The drop-down interior shoe pocket.
BIGGEST DRAWBACK: No second door hook to support the liner flap when the bag is open.
* THE BAG: The SkyRoll (703-849-1492, www.skyroll.com; $99 at Men's Wearhouse or Bethesda's Luggage & Leather).
HOW IT LOOKS: This ultra-compact bag is by far the most innovative design we examined. When fully assembled, it's as condensed as a 21st-century bedroll.
HOW IT WORKS: The SkyRoll is a two-part contraption. Enclose your hang-up items in the small garment bag, which you in turn wrap around a small cylinder-shape shoulder bag that holds shoes and other bulky items. It claims to hold enough for a three-day trip, but our wedding kit test load had the thing bulging and zipper teeth gapping. (The manufacturer recommends leaving the hangers off to conserve space, but we can't live without our hangers.)
COOLEST FEATURE: The design itself. It's a unique concept that actually works -- but only with a minimalist load. (The company makes a larger model that wraps the hanging bag around a wheeled carry-on instead of a shoulder bag.)
BIGGEST DRAWBACK: Cumbersome. This is not a bag you want to break open in a security line to fish out a forgotten passport.
* THE BAG: The Briggs & Riley Tri-Fold Garment Bag (888-462-2247, www.briggs-riley.com; $239, see Web site for retailers).
HOW IT LOOKS: A swank CEO-class bag of olive nylon trimmed with suede and matte "pewter" fixtures.
HOW IT WORKS: This was the roomiest and most lavishly equipped and well-organized of our specimens, with pockets and compartments worked into every available inch, the kind of padded garment straps you see on much bigger luggage and some clever detachable shoe bags. It held the wedding kit with ease and had room left for a sweater.
COOLEST FEATURE: A keen detachable toilet kit.
BIGGEST DRAWBACK: A coat hanger security clasp that gave way in use.
* THE BAG: The Tumi Benson Trifold Garment Bag (800-322-TUMI, www.tumi.com; $215 at Tumi, Tyson's Galleria).
HOW IT LOOKS: Tumi's signature space-age styling with leather trim, techno-rubber zipper pulls and a plush foam lining.
HOW IT WORKS: The best value of the bags we tested, this is the smallest and least expensive of Tumi's sizable line of garment bags (including several bigger, fancier carry-on models). It handled the wedding load but with no room to spare. The outside is light on pockets, but several on the inner lining help make up for it. Comes with a combination lock and Tumi's worldwide "If-Found" registration service.
COOLEST FEATURE: The ergonomically correct shoulder strap.
BIGGEST DRAWBACK: Not much room for shoes.