Correctly selecting the best luggage sets the foundation for your trip, whether you’re traveling for work, jetting off on an annual getaway or taking a longer sabbatical. Not only does high-quality luggage help you to pack and unpack efficiently, but it also helps you to get from A to B without any unnecessary bumps in the road, like damage or difficulty maneuvering.
Mattis Oppermann, a Swedish designer and the co-founder of the Carl Friedrik luggage brand, notes that the key to choosing the best luggage is finding luggage that is convenient to use and fits in with your personal sense of style.
“It’s important to choose the best luggage to prevent damage, and to make packing as seamless as possible. Luggage that is too small is going to prevent you from packing what you need, and luggage without compartments is going to make any packing harder to do,” Mattis Oppermann, Designer and Co-Founder of luggage brand Carl Friedrik.
“In the airport, luggage protects valuables from being impacted by knocks, throws, and other objects falling onto it. Outside of transit, it protects goods from rain, or even a passing taxi splashing gutter water against you,” said Oppermann.
There are many different factors to consider. Should you opt for a hard shell or soft shell? Do you need a lightweight duffel bag or a suitcase with spinner wheels?
As a rule of thumb, we’d recommend a duffel bag for those taking shorter trips, as lighter, compact loads are suitable to carry on your shoulders. For longer trips, a suitcase with four 360-degree spinner wheels is superior to a suitcase with two wheels or a suitcase with one-directional wheels, because they’re far easier to maneuver. Similarly, a hard shell suitcase may be heavier than a soft shell suitcase, but the extra padding and protection is a valuable trade-off.
We’ve selected the top luggage models that you can depend upon, no matter your needs or style.
The best luggage
1. American Tourister Airconic: The best luggage overall
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There’s no doubt that the American Tourister Airconic is an all-rounded piece of luggage that will last for years. Weighing 131.2 oz, it’s not the lightest piece of luggage around. However, it’s pretty impressive for a 22-inch suitcase with a durable polypropylene hard shell. Pair this tough-to-crack exterior with four easy-to-maneuver single spinner wheels and you have a lasting piece of luggage that glides in all directions at the touch of a hand.
There’s nothing more irksome than a suitcase that picks up scratches and black marks on the road, so it’s convenient that the American Tourister Airconic is scratch-resistant too. Those who care about their personal style don’t need to compromise either, as there are stylish but subtle contoured lines across the body of the suitcase.
When it comes to storage, the American Tourister Airconic falters slightly. Inside the main compartment, there are thoughtful storage features such as a mesh divider and cross-straps to keep your belongings in place and sorted into easy-to-reach compartments. However, the front pocket on the outside of the suitcase is on the slim side. Realistically, you shouldn’t expect the pocket to be able to fit anything more than a magazine or a tablet, so those with a laptop will need to store their device separately in the main compartment or another bag.
On the plus side, there’s a TSA-compliant combination lock and a 10-year limited warranty, so your belongings and your new luggage should be in safe hands for the long term.
2. Samsonite Elevation Plus Large Spinner: The best luggage for longer trips
At over 29.5 inches in height, The Samsonite Elevation Plus Large Spinner is best suited to those who aren’t packing light. It’s definitely built for longer trips and those planning to check in their air baggage. As a direct result, plenty of attention has been paid to designing a suitcase with plenty of clever packing features. There are two packing compartments in the main part of the suitcase for easy organization and dual zippered pockets for any little knick knacks.
Fresh clothes can be deposited into the designated clothing compartment and valuables can go into the waterproof pocket. Those who travel with a laptop will be pleased to find an easy-to-access laptop sleeve at the front of the suitcase too.
The Samsonite Elevation Plus Large Spinner is clearly a dream for organisation, but it also wins brownie points for its keyless TSA-approved lock. With a combination lock, you’ll have access to your goods even if you misplace the key. There’s a RightHeight ergonomic handle that can be tweaked by an inch at a time, making sure that you stay comfortable when you’re pushing the suitcase to and from your destination. On top of all of that, the inner lining is made 100% from recycled plastic bottles and you get a 10-year warranty with your purchase.
The main con when purchasing the Samsonite Elevation Plus Large Spinner is that it's pretty heavy, at 164.8 oz. This goes hand-in-hand with the spacious design, so those who only take short trips should skip this piece of luggage.
3. Horizn Studios H5: The best sustainable luggage
If you’re looking for stylish and smart luggage with sustainable and vegan credentials, The H5 Check-In Luggage (65 L) fits the bill. Weighing just 131 oz, it’s fairly lightweight for a hard shell suitcase. While it looks fairly compact, it’s also surprisingly spacious, with 65.5 liters worth of space inside. As a premium suitcase, you can expect to spend a little bit. However, you’ll be safe in the knowledge that it’s equipped with high-quality, 360-degree Japanese wheels, the gold standard of spinners, and it’s also completely vegan.
The H5 Check-In Luggage (65 L) has a full set of sustainable credentials. The shell is partially recycled and the polyester lining is completely recycled too. Nevertheless, no compromises have been made on comfort. The suitcase has a four-stage telescopic handle, which has an ergonomic build designed to go easy on your hands. There are also storage features such as a compression pad to keep your shirts pressed and a laundry bag with water-repellent nylon to keep clothes clean and dry.
With its high price tag also comes smart features. The H5 Check-In Luggage (65 L) has a cabin-approved smart charger with 10,000 mAh worth of power and two USB charging points so that you can keep your smartphone battery topped up while you’re on the go.
The biggest downside, aside from the price, is that users have commented that the partially-recycled polycarbonate hard shell is prone to scratches, especially on lighter-colored models. So, while the material is aerospace-grade and lined with a water-resistant coating, it may show signs of wear over time.
4. The North Face Base Camp Duffel Bag: The best traditional duffel bag
The North Face Base Camp Duffel Bag doesn’t disappoint when it comes to a classic duffel bag design. Made from recycled body and boot fabrics, the duffel bag is also sustainable. It may not have wheels, but when your hands or shoulders get tired with the classic handles, there are also backpack straps so you can carry it on your back.
The main thing to note with the North Face Base Camp Duffel Bag is that there’s a whopping 71 liters of space inside, which beats many of the suitcases in our round-up. The thing is, the bag can get heavy when it’s packed to the brim with gear and there are no wheels to fall back on. There’s also no lock, which might be a deal breaker if you’re leaving your duffel bag unattended in any overhead cabins.
When it comes to organization, the North Face Base Camp Duffel Bag has a handy D-zip design. There’s a protective mesh layer to ward off dirt or debris, as well as a mesh sleeve pocket for stowing any smaller valuables.
With two padded side handles, an adjustable ergonomic shoulder strap and a water-resistant inner compartment which should kick in if the outer polyester and PVC coating gives out, this is definitely a wise choice for those wanting a traditional duffel bag. There’s double stitching and additional bartacks, which all suggest that your duffel bag is made to last too.
5. Monos Carry-On Plus: The best lightweight luggage
If you’re looking for lightweight luggage, the Monos Carry-On Plus is an excellent premium option. For starters, the suitcase has an aerospace grade polycarbonate shell, which can withstand heavy knocks and blows. There’s also a telescopic handle, which is just as sturdy, and a TSA-approved combination lock to keep your belongings safe when they’re out of sight in an overhead container. Despite all this, the premium suitcase weighs just 112 ounces, so it's the lightest hard shell suitcase in our round-up. The lifetime warranty is a huge added bonus.
The lightweight design doesn’t necessarily mean that the Monos Carry-On Plus is lacking in features. Some of the premium features you’ll have to play with include a laundry bag, which has anti-microbial technology to prevent your clothes picking up so many germs on your travels. Any travelers who are a stickler for keeping their clothes wrinkle-free even while on the road will also appreciate the built-in compression pad.
There are four 360-degree Hinomoto Lisof Silent Run wheels, which are known for being especially quiet. It’s not a case where you don’t want to draw attention to the design, though, as the suitcase has stylish microfibre vegan leather details. Just bear in mind that some users have reported that the material is easy to scratch and the ‘eraser’ provided does little to obscure the marks, so if you’re prone to bumps and knocks, you might have to put up with a few marks here and there.
6. Delsey Paris Helium Areo: The best extendable hard shell luggage
The Delsey Paris Helium Areo Checked is formidable in size and stature, making it a wise pick for those who are taking a longer holiday or pushing how much they can pack. In turn, that means that the suitcase is heavier than many of the other options in our round-up. Still, this is partly down to the polycarbonate hard shell exterior, which should protect your belongings against bumps and other damage.
The only thing is, many users of the Delsey Paris Helium Areo Checked talk about the shell being prone to cracks during heavy usage, which is something you’ll want to bear in mind if you’ll be chucking the case around plenty. Despite the heavier build, the luggage should be easy enough to keep by your side, as there are four double spinner wheels so you can direct the suitcase in all directions.
When it comes to organization, there’s a fair amount of features, although it isn’t as heavy on organization as some of the other best luggage. There are, however, two big compartments, each with a handful of pockets, a zip divider and straps to harness in your garments. There are two different ladders on the handle, so you’ll have two options as to where to set the height, which could leave you uncomfortable if you’re particularly short or tall. Helpfully, there’s an easy-to-use one button system, so that you can switch the height while you’re on the move too.
7. Amazon Basics 30-inch Hardside Spinner: The best budget luggage
Weighing just over 195 ounces, the Amazon Basics 21-Inch Hardside Spinner, 30-inch, is the heaviest luggage we’ve covered so far. However, it’s such a budget-friendly piece of luggage, that we couldn’t just overlook it. While you may need to use a little extra elbow grease to shift the suitcase around, it’s going to be much kinder on your wallet.
The hard shell suitcase has four double spinner wheels, which move in any direction and make navigating the larger and heavier suitcase slightly easier. There’s a telescoping handle, as well as a smaller fixed handle in case you need to pick up the suitcase at any time too.
The hard shell is constructed from acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) rather than the polycarbonate or polypropylene used by most of the other suitcases in our line-up. Unfortunately, ABS comes second place to the other materials. It just doesn’t match the same level of durability and impact resistance. Therefore, we’d recommend that more frequent travelers and flyers invest in a more durable polypropylene or polycarbonate suitcase. The Amazon Basics 21-Inch Hardside Spinner, 30-inch, is best suited to those who travel every now and then and have a stricter budget.
The suitcase also lacks a lock, which may be a dealbreaker for those who want the added security. However, what it does have is a great set of simple organization features, including three zippered pockets and a divider to keep your clothes organized. If you have any extra stuff that needs accommodating, the shell can expand to create up to 15% more space.
What to look out for in a piece of luggage?
Knowing what to look out for in a piece of luggage is key to long-term satisfaction. A piece of luggage is worthless if you keep having to replace it year after year, so you should have confidence that your luggage is durable, practical and stylish all in one.
Choosing luggage is very different to other purchasing decisions, according to Opperman, a luxury baggage designer. “It’s something you’re buying knowing it is going to get thrown and tested in the elements. Not many products we buy have that same real-world usage,” said Oppermann.
“For those on a budget, soft luggage will be the best option. However, you should be aware of any wet weather conditions, and keep valuables well-protected or elsewhere. Soft cases often only have two wheels, making them a little more challenging to move, and if one wheel breaks, you won’t have any backups,” said Opperman.
Other desirable features highlighted by Opperman include durable wheels; Japanese wheels by Hinomoto are the gold standard. Warranty availability and length should also come into play, along with the build quality of TSA locks, zips and other appendages. For more premium options, technologies such as phone chargers are an added convenience. An aluminum frame is also a sturdy design feature.