- Traveling doesn’t have to be a hassle. Having a great suitcase can be the difference between an amazing trip and a bad one.
- After much research and testing, we found that the Travelpro Maxlite 4 Expandable Rollaboard is the best piece of checked luggage you can buy for long trips.
I love almost everything about traveling – that includes hanging out in the airport. Yep, you read that correctly. Long lines, hectic check-ins, overstuffed airplanes – they don’t really bother me because I’m usually giddy about getting away. But I do dislike packing.
Mostly that’s because I can’t decide what to bring. But sometimes it’s because of my suitcase. I admit that I’ve been embarrassed once or twice at the baggage carousel by stepping up and pulling off that suitcase. I’ve also cursed out a suitcase several times – once when I was zig-zagging through crowds at Heathrow desperately trying to catch my flight home and one wheel snapped right off.
There are, of course, many other things that can go awry with your luggage. Sometimes the airline misplaces it, or the zipper breaks as you are headed out the door, or you arrive home to find that your carefully-wrapped souvenirs have been smashed to smithereens. And who among us hasn’t, at some point, wondered if your non-locking suitcase was rifled through – did I leave that new scarf in the hotel room or did someone take it?
Buying the right piece of luggage can help eliminate, or at least lessen, the chance that you will encounter many of these problems. There are thousands of different brands and styles of luggage to choose from. No one suitcase is right for everybody. It depends on many factors including how frequently you travel, what you are packing, and your budget.
We’ve done all the research to find the best pieces of checked luggage you can buy for long-haul trips where even the best carry-on bag just doesn’t cut it.
Here are our picks for the best checked luggage you can buy:
- Best luggage overall: Travelpro Maxlite 4 Expandable Rollaboard 26-inch Luggage
- Best hard case luggage: Delsey Helium Aero 25-inch Hard Case Luggage
- Best high-end luggage: Briggs & Riley Baseline Large Expandable Spinner Luggage
- Best duffel with wheels: Eagle Creek Gear Warrior 110L/34″ Wheeled Duffel
- Best versatile luggage: Timbuk2 Quest Rolling Duffel
Updated on 10/14/2019 by Caitlin Petreycik: Updated links, formatting, and prices.
The best luggage overall
The Travelpro Maxlite 4 Expandable Rollaboard 26-inch Luggage is lightweight, affordable, and the top choice for the airline pros.
Travelpro invented rolling luggage when founder and pilot Bob Plath got tired of carrying his bags through busy airports. The company has been well-known for innovation ever since. The Travelpro Maxlite 4 Expandable Rollaboard 26-inch Luggage may not be the snazziest piece of luggage on the baggage carousel, but this durable, easy-to-use polyester piece is lightweight at 5.6 pounds and very affordable compared to similar options.
The two high performance, ball-bearing in-line wheels, with protective crash guards last a long time and help you navigate many surfaces. The expandable handle has two stops: 38-inches and an extra-tall 42.5-inches, so you can roll it along at any height. Unzipping hidden compartments expands the storage space to suit your needs.
The Maxlite 4 has a limited lifetime warranty, so you should be covered if anything happens to your bag. User reviews on Amazon are mostly positive, with many verified purchasers touting the lightweight and simple, yet sturdy suitcase.
“This is a great suitcase,” wrote one reviewer in May 2016. “I am pretty sure this suitcase is at least 5-7lbs lighter than our broken one and when traveling with two kids, those 5-7lbs can make a huge difference.” Adds another consumer in March 2017: “What a great suitcase -travel pro quality for a low cost. I travel internationally at least 6 times per year. This suitcase stands up to the abuse, with excellent zippers, wheels, and hardware. Rolls real smoothly too!”
Pros: Very affordable, lightweight, durable, easy to maneuver
Cons: No interior pockets, only one exterior pocket
The best hard case checked luggage
The Delsey Helium Aero 25-inch Luggage is an affordably-priced, hard-shell standout that’s constructed with high-end materials.
The Delsey Helium Aero 25-inch Luggage is a highly rated suitcase, made by the respected French company Delsey. It is constructed out of 100 percent lightweight polycarbonate with a glossy finish. To be clear: most luggage in this price range is made of a flimsier ABS-polycarbonate blend.
Available in five colors, including black, titanium, and plum; this luggage relies on four twin spinner wheels that roll in all directions and put no weight on your hands. The sturdy, ergonomic comfort grip handle is composed of industrial-grade aluminum and snaps up and down with the push of a button.
The simple interior has two basic compartments: one with straps to secure your clothes, and another with a mesh bag ideal for laundry. A zipper-based expansion system can provide an extra two inches of packing space. Finally, the three-dial combination lock, approved by the TSA, keeps your belongings safe.
Pros: Lightweight, durable, affordable, dent-resistant
Cons: Easily shows dirt/dust, hard-to-read numbers on the wheel locks
The best high-end luggage
- Briggs & Riley
The Briggs & Riley Baseline Large Expandable Spinner Luggage (28 inch) is well crafted, expands to suit your needs, and boasts a lifetime guarantee.
The Briggs & Riley Baseline Large Expandable Spinner Luggage is one of the best checked bags you can have with you on your many trips around the globe. The shell on this sturdy bag has a unique composition of 95 percent nylon, three percent aluminum, and two percent rubber. But it is the ballistic nylon that keeps it moisture and dirt-free.
Four durable double swivel wheels make it easy to navigate the bag anywhere, no matter how much you have packed into it, and you can pack a lot. The huge interior is perfect for long trips. The company’s patented CX expansion-compression technology increases the space inside the luggage up to 26 percent by simply pulling on a lever. One push will compress the suitcase back down to its original size.
Briggs & Riley, a Long Island, New York-based company founded in 1993, is well-known for its “Simple as That” lifetime guarantee. Not only will the company repair your bag free of charge if it is ever broken or damaged, but it will do so even if the problem was caused by an airline. You don’t have to show proof of purchase or even that you are the bag’s original owner.
Around the web professional reviewers, including those from Wirecutter and Outdoor Gear Lab, give the bag high marks. In fact, Wirecutter calls the Baseline Large Expandable Spinner, “The most satisfying packing experience money can buy.”
Pros: Very sturdy, user-friendly and unique features, lifetime warranty
Cons: Expensive, heavy
The best duffel bag luggage
- Eagle Creek
The Eagle Creek Gear Warrior 110L/34″ is a sturdy, lightweight duffel on wheels with lots of storage to ensure that all your gear gets to your next adventure spot in great shape.
The Eagle Creek Gear Warrior 32 was our previous pick, but it’s being phased out. Fortunately, we didn’t have to look far for a replacement, since Eagle Creek has the 34-inch version of the Gear Warrior, which offers the same features but with a slightly larger capacity.
The Eagle Creek Gear Warrior 110L/34″ is an oversized, wheeled duffel bag that uses high-strength, ripstop nylon material that is both water and abrasion resistant, as well as 1000D Cordura and 210D nylon for added robustness. It easily withstands rough weather and rough handling.
The treaded wheels mean you can roll the bag over any type of surface. Multiple handles give you plenty of options for carrying this lightweight bag, while lockable zippers make sure your gear stays safe. The telescoping handle is designed for strength and to resist wobbling.
There are multiple compartments for packing, both inside and out. A tethered zip-away strap on the outside holds gear like helmets.
The Eagle Creek Gear Warrior 110L/34″ is covered by Eagle Creek’s legendary “No Matter What Warranty,” which promises lifetime repair or replacement due to product failure, regardless of the cause.
Another bag we considered is the TLS Mother Lode 29″ Wheeled Duffel from eBags. Having tried other Mother Lode bags, we like the quality and the customer service eBags offers. The two-compartment design lets you sort your gear accordingly, and separate openings allow you to access only what you need. We also like the movable dividers for sorting clothes. The compression-molded bottom keeps the bag rugged, and it can stand upright on its own, but we ultimately stuck with the Eagle Creek for its more durable nylon construction that’s weather-resistant.
Pros: Lightweight, highly durable, spacious, many packing features
Cons: Plastic buckles are somewhat flimsy
The best versatile checked bag
The Timbuk2 Quest Rolling Duffel can be a backpack, a rolling suitcase, or a duffel bag to suit your needs.
If you’re the kind of traveler who looks for versatility in a checked bag, look no further than the Timbuk2 Quest Rolling Duffel. It looks like a normal roller bag at first glance, but with its many handles, you can carry it as a duffel bag or wear it as a backpack, too.
The bag’s versatility is perfect for those moments when you have to carry your bag upstairs instead of wheeling it around or you feel like it’s a pain to navigate through a crowded airport with it rolling along behind you.
Conversely, if the Quest starts getting too heavy to carry as a backpack or duffel, it’s super easy to unzip the special pocket that hides the telescoping handle. At first, it may be a bit hard to get the handle to extend all the way. I had some trouble with it initially, but it loosened up after a while. The two wheels are great – they spin like rollerblade wheels and they won’t break easily.
Since it has a duffel bag shape, the Quest is very spacious inside. You can fit enough clothes and gear for a long trip and still have space for an extra pair of shoes. The bag is very well made and the material on the outside is super strong. You won’t rip this bag easily.
Timbuk2 also has a lifetime warranty on its products, so if something should go awry, you’re covered. However, given how sturdy this bag is, I doubt it will.
Pros: Good size, versatile design, sturdy wheels, lots of compartments
Cons: Telescoping pole sticks sometimes
What to look for in a good piece of luggage
According to a recent study by Consumer Reports, most people think these two factors are, by far, the most important when buying a suitcase: wheel-ability and durability. With that in mind, here are some of the most important things to consider before purchasing a new piece of luggage:
- Two wheels or four wheels? Many travelers assume that luggage with four wheels that can turn 360-degrees is clearly the best option. After all, you can push and pull your suitcase in virtually any direction. So, what’s the downside? There are a few. First, the luggage can more easily roll away if you find yourself on even a minor incline. In addition, the wheels on four-wheelers are usually externally attached, meaning that they are more liable to break off than their two-wheel counterparts.
- Hard or Soft? Hard luggage has many benefits. First, it clearly protects fragile items better. Hard luggage is also sturdier and more theft-proof because it can’t easily rip or be slashed open with a knife or other tool. It’s often rain-proof, too. ABS (acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene) is the lightest and cheapest kind of plastic used for the outside of hard suitcases, while polycarbonate is a little more expensive, but much more durable. Aluminum is the most durable shell material, but it is also the heaviest. One downside of hard-shelled suitcases is the fact that they get scuffed up fairly quickly. They’re also unforgiving if you need to squeeze them into a compartment on a plane (or store them in a small apartment, for that matter).
- Materials and durability: If you want to opt for a soft-sided piece of luggage, there are still many materials to choose from. Polyester is the cheapest choice. Ballistic nylon is durable and easy to clean. Cordura nylon is both softer and lighter than ballistic nylon. It also takes dye better, so if you’re looking for a brightly-colored bag this is the ideal choice. If durability is your main concern, make sure to check the denier rating which indicates the fiber thickness of the fabric. The higher the number, the thicker the fabric. Most experts suggest that you buy something in the 500-2,000 denier range for checked luggage that will be used fairly frequently.
- Weight and size: Weight is also a concern when buying a new suitcase. Not only are many travelers concerned about having to wheel a heavy suitcase around the airport, as well as city streets, but most domestic and international airlines have imposed a weight limit of 50 pounds for checked bags.
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