May 152013
An easy way to check your bag's weight prior to heading to the airport.

An easy way to check your bag’s weight prior to heading to the airport.

News reports this week disclose that the merged American Airlines  is projected to take in over a billion dollars a year in luggage fees.  That’s assuming no further increases in luggage fees, and we both know that there’s every chance that all airlines will continue to push the envelope of luggage fees as aggressively as they can.

These days you can be up for $100 or more if your suitcase is even a single pound over its weight limit, and with the weight limit being a mere 50 lbs, it doesn’t take a lot of stuff to push you perilously close to that magic number.  Some airlines are now starting to weigh carry-on items too, and to restrict those to sometimes impossibly low limits.  Knowing the weight of everything we travel with is becoming increasingly essential.

Being one of the world’s worst over-packers, a luggage scale has been a life-saver – well, yes, that’s an exaggeration, but definitely a penalty fee saver.

Originally I used to use the bathroom scales, but I didn’t consider them to be sufficiently accurate.  I want to be able to pack up to about 49lbs – that way I’ve got a pound or so margin for ‘what say my scale is wrong, or what say the airline scale is wrong’, and with the bathroom scale always seeming to show my own weight as much higher than I’m sure it is (hmmm….) I felt I needed a more accurate device so as to be able to safely pack up closer to the 50lb limit (which is really only little more than 35lbs of actual stuff once you subtract out the weight of the suitcase itself.

The last gadget for weighing my suitcases stopped working immediately prior to my last trip, leaving me in a panic of ‘oh no, how heavy is this’ and no way to clearly answer the question.

I was tempted to get a mechanical scale, because the last electronic unit not only failed, but also had a voracious appetite for batteries.  But as best I could ascertain from some testing and careful reading of reviews, most of the mechanical scales seem to be of limited accuracy, and accuracy was the prime goal for me.

I’ve also alternated as to if I want a device that I’d take with me, or just get a device that I keep at home and use ‘dead reckoning’ to calculate the changes in total suitcase weight during the course of a journey.  In the past, with heavier devices weighing more than half a pound, I’ve preferred to use the ‘dead reckoning’ approach to things.

I’ll weigh the suitcase before I put items in it I know I’ll leave behind, so I can start with a net weight that tells me how much additional stuff I can buy to take back with me.  That has usually worked reasonably well, but I realized I was ending up leaving myself more ‘safety margin’ in my calculations (ie a pound or two or three) than the weight of a more modern lightweight portable scale (ie less than half a pound), plus it was a hassle to try and keep a running total of things during the course of a journey (exactly how much does a bottle of whisky weigh, anyway?).

So I decided I wanted something light-weight and small that I could take with me.

The field was narrowing down.  And happily, units these days are both lighter and less expensive than they formerly were.

There was one other must have feature I wanted.  The unit needed to have an ‘auto-lock and beep’ feature so you could simply lift up a bag then wait until it beeped, then put the bag down and see the weight frozen on the display.  Without that, you end up needing to contort yourself to both lift your suitcase off the ground with the scale and look at the weight display on it.  Not easy.

A ‘would be nice but not vital’ feature was a unit with a strap rather than a hook – some of the hook shapes didn’t fit well around some of the objects I would weigh, a strap seemed more fully versatile.

So, mix that all up, and what comes out?  For my money (ie $19.95 on Amazon) it seems the EatSmart Precision Voyager Digital Luggage Scale is the best choice.  It has all the features I want, is extremely well reviewed, and weighs up to 110lbs in 0.1lb increments (that’s not the same as promising 0.1lb accuracy, but at least it is a start in that direction).

In using the item, which weighs a mere 5.5 ounces, I really liked its backlit display (my last unit had no light), and I also liked its auto power-off feature.  Perhaps the lack of an auto-off feature was one of the reasons why my last unit would go through batteries so quickly?  🙂

Talking about batteries, a small downside is that the unit takes a button type battery rather than a regular AA or AAA battery.  It is a very common CR2032 type battery, but I don’t usually keep a supply of them at home. That will be a hassle when it needs to be replaced, which I fully expect to be at the least convenient time, but fortunately the unit has a low battery warning, and I’ve resolved to simply get a spare CR2032 battery next time I’m at a supermarket to have for whenever it needs replacing.  The batteries can cost as little as 10c each in bulk on Amazon, so it isn’t a huge cost item.

The unit will weigh up to 110 lbs.  I can’t think of a time when I might need that amount of capacity – usually I’m struggling with a 50lb limit and sometimes a 70 lb limit, so one should definitely seek a unit that will go over 70 lbs.  It can also be set to kilograms, and unlike some units, it doesn’t default automatically to kg and require you to switch it over to pounds each time you use it.

Oh – and in case this unit should also fail, it comes with a generous two-year warranty.


The EatSmart Luggage Scale is a great device, enabling you to confidently pack right up to your weight limit before flying somewhere.  It only weighs 5.5 ounces, so you can take it with you and use it to weigh your bag prior to your return, too – almost as valuable a function as knowing the bag weight at the start of your journey.

Saving you from a single overweight surcharge will repay the cost of this $19.95 device many times over.  And saving you from anxious uncertainty as you approach the weighing machine at the airport is a great comfort, too.

Recommended – great for you, and also as a ‘stocking stuffer’ for friends and family.

  2 Responses to “Weighing Your Luggage Before the Airline Does”

  1. Excellent advice as almost all except the ‘litest’ of light packers have baggage weight horror stories.
    Very important to have your weighing device handy, perhaps in carry on bag, in order to challenge airline scales, which invariably are at least one critical pound in their favor. Another big issue is actual weight of the luggage. As mentioned, some airlines such as Air New Zealand (and others) limit the weight of carry on bags to 7 kg, approximately 15 pounds. Many older or very sturdy roller bags reach half (or more) of that weight restriction when empty. A weighing device is very useful when shopping for new luggage at discount or big box stores which often do not have the item weight on any tags readily seen. More and more online retailers are making available the exact weight of luggage pieces, but sometimes necessary to look further under a ‘description’ or ‘product details’ tab.

  2. We are not business travelers. Take about 10 domestic trips and 2 intl trips a year. We only travel with carry on – even on a 3 week intl. trip like we took to China last month. Often, when retturning from overseas need to buy a cheap case to hold items that we bought. Intl flites still have a free checked bag allowance. (Even before airlines charged for checked luggage we just used carry-ons.

    SUGGESTION FOR SURVEY. “Do you check luggage on some of your trips? None of your trips? etc/

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