So, you finally decided on your upcoming trip. You bought your flight tickets, booked the best available accomodation, read through a pile of tourist guides, and prepared your masterful itinerary. Now it’s time to put your feet back on the ground, because the hard work is just beginning. Of course, we’re talking about packing your luggage – the painful and stressful duty lying on the shoulders of every wandering soul.

But before you throw the content of your wardrobe on the floor, you will first have to wrap your head around the enormous range of bags, backpacks and suitcases there are to choose from. How to find the best luggage? Read our exhaustive guide and become a luggage-guru!

In the following article, we are about to explore all the different types of luggage with their respective pros and cons. You will learn how important it is to make an informed decision when choosing your luggage. We’ll discuss all the criteria you should keep in mind when buying luggage depending on your destination, means of travel, budget and some other important factors.

And last but not least, we’ll share with you our independent recommendations for each of the luggage categories.

Luggage: How important it really is for a traveler?

Luggage is an essential equipment for every traveler, although it might mean a completely different thing for different types of travelers. While freedom-loving anti-materialistic backpackers pride themselves to be able to pack into a single rucksack for a whole month on the road, some lady-fashionistas can drag around two giant suitcases full of fancy clothes for a weekend – and still claim to have nothing to wear.  But no matter how independent you might consider yourself to be, you definitely will carry at least the most essential belongings along your way.

First of all, in order to really appreciate the meaning of your luggage, you have to start thinking of it as of your home-away-from-home. In fact, that’s what it really is. You carefully select and pack the things you consider the most important or precious and put them inside a little shell to carry with you into the unknown.

Although most of the things you carry in your luggage might be pretty much replaceable (e.g. clothes, cosmetics, books, sporting equipment), there also is an important psychological aspect that makes us hold on to our bags so much. It’s a piece of who we are, a little bit of our private space that is there for us whenever we need it.

Just imagine how confusing and distressing it is, when you don’t find your suitcase on the conveyor belt after landing in your final destination. Once you’ll go through this excruciating experience,  you’ll know exactly how important your luggage is.

So, what makes a perfect luggage? Let’s explore the most important luggage qualities in the following chapter.

How To Find The Best Luggage: The Most Important Qualities

Though every traveler and every situation makes its own rules and preferences, there are some general qualities we all strive to get when choosing our luggage. These essential factors make a difference between the good (suitable) and bad (not suitable) luggage, and can subsequently make a difference between the good and bad travelling experience.

1. Capacity

Not too big, not too small. Our luggage should always perfectly fit the amount of objects we are planning to pack inside. There’s no point in dragging around enormous suitcase if you only need to pack light, right? Also, squeezing half of your wardrobe into a tiny bag is not the best idea, and you might end up destroying the bag easily this way too.

Many producers make this very simple by declaring the backpack / suitcase capacity on the label. But it takes some experience or good advice to accurately estimate how big or small bag do you actually need.

2. Dimensions

There are several factors that determine what dimension should your luggage have. First of all, you should consider the possible restrictions and limitations posed by the means of your travel. Are you going to fly? Read your airline’s baggage terms and conditions carefully, including any possible specifications related to your particular fare type. Though some airlines are known to be rather relaxed about this, others (especially many low-cost airlines) can be very strict and demand high fees for any checked luggage or carry-on exceeding its official recommendations.

Hints:

  • Maximum dimensions allowed for carry-on luggage = 9 x 14 x 22 inches (including handles+wheels). Many airlines have even more strict limitations.
  • The most common maximum for checked luggage is 62” in total (sum of all dimensions).

Traveling by car can be limiting too. Carefully consider how big your trunk really is. Measuring it upfront in order to make sure that your bag / bags will fit in smoothly is not a bad idea. At last but not least, think about your own “dimensions” before buying your luggage – especially if you’re looking for a backpack. You want to carry that backpack, not to be carried by it yourself…

3. Material

There are many different materials of which your luggage can be made. Though many of us often underestimate this factor, you definitely shouldn’t. The most important question is, how durable do you need your luggage to be? Of course, you want the most durable luggage in the universe, the  kind that will endure a world war and an alien attack too! But are you ready to pay the price?

The most durable and technologically advanced materials (such as aluminium, polycarbonate or other waterproof and shock-resistant materials) can cost you a fortune, so you might end up deciding on something more adequate for your laid-back package holiday. Following table describes some of the commonly used luggage materials in detail:

Polyester

The most budget-friendly soft material. The thicker it is, the more durable your luggage should be (look for the denier rating indicating the textile’s density)

Cordura nylon

Very durable and lightweight soft material. It’s highly resistant to abrasions, comes in many different colors and looks good for many years.

Ballistic nylon

High-end soft material known for its perfect resistance to wear and tear. It’s super-easy to clean too.

ABS

Relatively durable thermoplastic material used in many different industries. Buyers prefer this hard-shell material for its light weight and low price.

Polycarbonate

Molded thermoplastic material with good flexibility. It absorbs shocks very effectively without suffering any damage.

Polypropylene

Another durable and shock resistant thermoplastic propylene. It’s the lightest one of all plastic hard-shell materials.

Aluminium

Extremely durable and elegant material used for hard-sided luggage in business and luxurious style. It’s main disadvantage is its higher price.

4. Type

You are probably going to need a completely different kind of luggage if you’re about to embark on an All Inclusive package deal than you would need for a hike-and-bike adventure in nature. This is actually the very reason for which most of us, frequent wanderers, end up searching for their perfect luggage repeatedly. One is simply not enough!

Thought there are some relatively versatile choices, most of the available types and models are designed for a particular use and environment. You’ll find our comprehensive guide with all the pros, cons and recommendations below.

5. Price

We all know it very well – travelling is not the most inexpensive leisure activity around. Though some of our trips can be quite budget-friendly, others can make us spend a LOT.  When it comes to some traveling extras such as luggage, it’s only natural that most of us try to save as much as possible.

What you should keep in mind is that while your airfare or accommodation is a one-off investment, a good luggage can accompany you on your travels for many years to come. Opting for the cheapest one around can therefore be a pretty short-sighted thing to do.

Most common types of Luggage: Guide + recommendations

Traveling beginner will probably be truly shocked by the massive range of different types of baggage the market has to offer. After trying hard to understand all of their differences and similarities, most of us might end up deciding solemnly on the grounds of not-so-important factors such as brand, color and available discount. To make an informed decision, you should begin with recognizing the main luggage characteristics and understanding their advantages and disadvantages for you.

What follows is a summary of the most common types of luggage you might come across. Though some of them might look pretty much the same to an untrained eye, we will draw your attention to the details that make the difference.

Spinner

Spinner is exactly what comes into our minds when we hear “luggage”. Decent, slick, elegant, super-convenient suitcase on wheels – a new standard for modern traveling. Standard spinner luggage is equipped with a set of four wheels with 360° rotation (their spinning gave this type of luggage its distinctive name). It has some sort of a handle, usually attached to a telescopic bar for your convenience. Spinners come in all sizes, colours and materials. They are probably your best choice if you can’t decide on the best luggage and don’t feel like having any special needs and preferences.

Pros:

  • Spinners are super-easy to manoeuvre thanks to the unrestricted rotation of their wheels
  • You won’t feel any difference between large and small, heavy or lightweight luggage when  moving it around
  • Convenient especially if you have a lot of things
  • Wheels keep your luggage and its content well above the ground – great feature especially in dirty or wet environment

Cons:

  • Spinners are usually more expensive in comparison with other types of luggage
  • Rotary wheels are sometimes prone to clogging, breaking and damaging
  • Telescopic handles can get stuck and cause a lot of trouble
  • Dimensions on the label often exclude wheels – keep that in mind when dealing with airline restrictions

Who is it good for?

Spinner suitcases are very convenient and elegant pieces of luggage. They are extremely popular with business travellers – especially their hard-case versions because of their ability to keep your clothes in perfect condition. Another group benefitting from spinner luggage consists of a less adventurous holiday makers, who are embarking on a comfortable / luxurious trip without too many twists and turns. Spinners are the best choice for older people, since they take away all of the physical effort from carrying your luggage around. Also pregnant women, ill and disabled people should definitely look no further.

On the other hand, their higher price makes spinners less popular with budget travellers. Adventure seekers and backpackers should also avoid them because of their limited flexibility – even if you opt for soft fabric versions, their wheels and handles can never be “squeezed” as effectively as backpacks. Not to mention how horrible it is to pull your wheels through an unpaved or dented paths somewhere remote.

Our Top Spinner Luggage Recommendations

American Tourister Stratum XLT

This affordable range of hard-case spinner luggage is a great choice thanks to its durability, fresh design and reliability provided by its well-known producer. It’s rugged shell is made from high-quality ABS and comes in attractive palette of colors for all genders and ages. With multiple inner compartments and elastic bands to keep all your stuff in its place, this luggage is a highly versatile and convenient selection. Featuring ergonomic handle and durable double zipper, it should serve you well for many years to come. Sizes are ranging from  20” to 28”.

Samsonite Advena Expandable Spinner

Samsonite is probably the most renowned brand on the market. But don’t let this intimidate you – they often run attractive promotions that will let you get your hands on a top-shelf stuff for very reasonable prices. Samsonite Advena is a soft-shell spinner that will fully adapt to your needs thanks to its expandability feature. Dedicated zippers let you smoothly add those much needed inches when you bought more souvenirs than anticipated.

There are also several convenient mesh pockets, pouches and other details that will keep you happy with your purchase for a long long time. Samsonite is known to use the best materials only. Their aluminium handlebars are famous for their durability and Advena will allow you to test it for yourself. Sizes vary from 19” do 29” and include an original under-seater too.

Check more Samsonite Reviews and Comparisons:

TravelPro Crew Versapack Spinner Suiter

This is a very special luggage for particularly picky travellers. Although you might mistake it for a regular soft-shell spinner on the first sight, it is actually designed especially for traveling businessmen and other professionals carrying their finest set of suits, shirts and shoes. Smartly layered compartments will allow you to maintain all your clothes and belongings in the best condition. Everything is neatly organized, clearly assorted and ready to use immediately after touchdown if needed.  Due to its apparent exclusivity, this is not very budget-friendly luggage. But hey, maybe you could convince your boss to donate? Comes in sizes 25” – 29”.

More Travelpro Reviews and Comparisons:

Two-wheeler

Although you probably never really distinguished between the first and the second category in our list, not all suitcases on wheels are the same. What makes the biggest difference is that two-wheeled suitcase has – well, two wheels apparently. However, it’s not all about the maths only. These two wheels are designed to move front and back only, which is why these kinds of luggage are sometimes being referred to as “skateboards”, “inlines”, or “rollers” too.

Although the limited movement of this type of baggage makes moving it around a bit less comfortable (e.g. it’s hard to push it in front of you leaving you with the only option to pull it behind you), it has some bright sides of its own. For example, the wheels are not sticking out of the luggage. Instead, they are rather recessed into the suitcase, which saves additional inches and gives you a good idea of the bag’s actual dimensions.

Pros:

  • Two-wheelers save you a lot of effort with carrying your stuff around – just like the spinners
  • The wheels are integrated into the shape of your suitcase. This makes them less prone to damage and it also saves some crucial inches when dimensions matter
  • Two-wheelers are usually less expensive than spinners
  • Its relatively thin profile without excessive wheels makes it easy to squeeze it in overhead compartments, trunks and other limited spaces

Cons:

  • Maneuvering them is not as easy as with spinners – especially in tight spaces and sharp bends
  • Upright luggage on two wheels is less stable. Especially on uneven ground, it can easily topple and possibly cause some damage to your belongings inside
  • Telescopic handles and wheels can get stuck or destroyed
  • Not all items like to be in vertical position. Gravity can sometimes mess up things which are not completely flat and/or jam-packed inside

  Who is it good for?

Just like the aforementioned spinners, these two-wheeled suitcases are very popular with business travelers and comfort-seeking vacationers. They allow you to organize your belongings neatly inside and keep them in relatively good condition even if the travels get rough. Since their wheels do most of the hard work, they are also good for older people or travellers with some sort of health condition. However, movement of their wheels is limited, which can cause some difficulties and discomfort. If you have problems with your wrists, arm joints, or if you suffer from back pain, treat yourself with some spinner luggage instead.

Thanks to their lower price, two-wheelers represent a good choice for budget-conscious travelers who want to get most of the spinners’ benefits, but can compromise a bit when it means saving some dollars aside. Again, inline luggage is not the best choice if you plan to move around rough terrains or hop from one place to another by some less comfortable means. Remember that you have to dedicate one of your hands to the luggage all the time, so make sure to choose a big enough one avoiding the necessity to carry additional bags along.

Our Top Two-wheeled Luggage Recommendations

Eagle Creek Gear Warrior Wheeled Duffel

This is a bit of a hybrid – a little bit of convenience and style borrowed from traditional wheelers combined with a soul for adventure. This high-quality luggage will allow you to step out of your comfort zone and probably even live out of your suitcase. It features many smart details such as attached bottle opener, jacket / equipment holder and other useful stuff. Eagle Creek also boasts using sustainable materials, which are extremely durable too (the producer gives a “no-matter-what” warranty on this equipment), completely waterproof and lovely designed. This versatile two-wheeler is a bit on the posh side, but definitely worth it.  Choose from wide range of sizes – from 22” carry-ons to huge 34” version.

Amazon Basics Premium Upright Expandable

If you’re looking for a two-wheeled roller luggage to stay on a budget, you should definitely check out this super-affordable range of traveling equipment from Amazon. It looks very elegant, comes in six pretty colours and promises the best value for money for savvy travelers. You can easily expand this bag by unzipping dedicated zippers. It has several protective features such as molded corners, reinforced wheels housing and anti-skid system. Amazon has also equipped this range of inline wheelers with TSA padlock. And did we mention the fantastic price? Comes in sizes 19” to 26”.

High Sierra OTC Hardside Roller Luggage

Polycarbonate back shell, water resistant main body, tactical design for maximum style and uniqueness. This original range of travel gear comes in fact from a dedicated branch of Samsonite. It provides huge capacity with many special compartments for shoes, dirty clothes, electronics and others. These rollers are designed for extreme conditions and you’ll find them convenient in every situation. Thanks to having handles on every side, you can even grab the bag and run without looking at it.  Again, this might not be the most budget friendly choice around, but it surely is a smart move given its durability and useful features. Select your preferred size from 22” – 30”.

Backpack

Now this is something for real wanderers! This type of luggage is so distinct and popular it even gave name to a whole branch of traveling – the backpacking. Some would argue that backpacking is not really a type of traveling, but rather a whole life style. Backpack gives you a lot of freedom by leaving both of your hands empty. It’s priceless if you’re embarking on adventure into the wild, remote, or less organized parts of the world. It’s also extremely versatile – you can often adjust its size and shape by pulling some straps and zipping some zippers. You will always find some free space for that new souvenir or even reserve pair of shoes in it.

On the other hand, carrying a large backpack isn’t always just fun. First of all, you gotta be fit enough to feel comfortable having all your belongings on your back. And this isn’t always easy to tell upfront. Although you might feel great carrying your backpack at home, you never know what surprises might come your way on your travels. Just imagine having to cope with 30-35 lbs on your back while suffering from some exotic diarrhea…aww.

Pros:

  • Backpack leaves your hands empty and available
  • You can adjust its size and shape as you wish – if you pack light, you might even be able to get away with bringing your large backpack on board as a carry-on
  • You can usually pack much more inside of it in comparison with a fancy hardshell spinner/roller
  • It’s much harder for thieves to rip a backpack from your shoulders than to grab your suitcase and run away with it

Cons:

  • Backpacking is not for everyone. You have to be in generally good condition
  • It’s not always comfortable to wear a backpack – especially in hot and humid environments
  • Your clothes can get all rumpled inside
  • Aside from having a waterproof coating, backpacks don’t provide much physical protection to your belongings

  Who is it good for?

As we’ve already mentioned above, backpacks are for backpackers. However, there are different types of backpacks for different types of backpackers. Hiking type is your best choice if you plan to go camping and exploring outdoors, since most of your gear and equipment will fit in smoothly and you don’t have to buy a separate luggage for traveling and hiking. Travel backpacks are more sophisticated and often resemble suitcases a lot, except for the convenient shoulder straps that allow you to carry them on your back. This type of backpack can be recommended to almost anyone. It’s suitable for city trips, short stays and even some less formal business travels.

Of course, you should definitely be fit and experienced in carrying heavy weights, if you plan to pack in your backpack for more extensive trips. In order to live out of your backpack, you should also be well organized and learn the best packing strategies. Once you put something inside a backpack, it’s not that easy to fish it out.

Our Top Travel Backpacks Recommendations

Mammut Trion Spine 75

Mammut is one of the biggest outdoor brands in the world. You can rest assured that if their backpacks are good enough for professional mountaineers, alpinists and climbers, they will be good enough for your wanders too. This particular backpack is designed for hiking and it’s suitable for winter conditions too. It has perfectly ergonomic support for your back, so you should feel comfortable even when its fully loaded. You can also use secured strap around your waist for added comfort and security. It also has a bottle holder, a ski holder, large front opening for easier access and some other perks. It comes in 75L size.

Tortuga Outbreaker Travel Backpack

This is a perfect choice for those who don’t want to go entirely down the outdoor way, but still want to enjoy all of the backpacking advantages. It’s very ergonomic and highly portable, and it somehow manages to look quite elegant too. Thanks to its smartly designed compartments (and there really are tons of them!), you can organize your stuff easily and keep everything in perfect order wherever you are and whatever you do. Unlike many other backpacks, this beautiful piece is absolutely suitable for your fragile electronics too – it has dedicated compartment for a laptop, secret pockets for your documents and other useful traits. You will surely appreciate this backpack’s height adjustable system too – no matter how short or tall you are, it will fit you flawlessly. Capacity = 35L – 45L

Granite Gear Blaze Women’s Fit

Yes, there really are gender-specific backpacks on the market – and you should check them out, because they truly can make carrying your backpack more comfortable and enjoyable. What makes backpacks for women special? It’s obviously all about the different proportions and ergonomy. Women have a slightly different high-abrasion areas and center of gravity. Their shoulders are shaped differently and their waists too. Although most experienced female backpackers feel pretty comfortable carrying universal backpacks too, beginners will surely appreciate the adapted features of backpacks for girls. This model from Granite Gear can be fully strapped for higher comfort and security, and it comes in very nice color combinations too. You can pack 60L inside.

Some other types of Luggage

  • Carry-on: Basically, any type of luggage can be used as a carry-on or cabin bag. It’s the dimensions that matters. Follow the instructions of your airline closely – if your carry-on exceeds required proportions, you might be forced to put it in hold and pay additional fees.
  • Wheeled tote bag: Totes on wheels are popular especially with ladies as a convenient and fashionable kind of carry on. It usually has a zipper on top, which makes it easy to access its content.
  • Underseat luggage: Though most of our carry-ons end up in the overhead compartment, we are allowed to leave smaller bags beneath our seats for convenience. Underseat bags are designed to fit there smoothly. You should use them especially for storing your medicine and other items of high importance.
  • Duffel bags: Although originally designed for carrying sporting equipment to / from gym, duffel bags can be good for traveling too. Look out for the wheeled versions that will spare your hands from carrying.

How to find the Best Luggage: FAQ

Read through everything above and still have some questions? These are some of the most commonly asked questions from travelers about finding the best luggage:

How much does a good luggage cost?

That’s really hard to tell. It all depends on the size, material, brand and amount of special features. While decent soft luggage can cost you as little as $60, you would rarely find a quality hard-shell piece below $120. The most luxurious and prestigious travel bags cost up to $1,000.

Is there any point in buying more than one piece of luggage?

Of course, if you plan to travel frequently, you will surely find out that different destinations and types of trips need different types and sizes of luggage. If it’s just about the size, you can buy some value set of three or four pieces and save some bucks.

How can I prevent my luggage from being broken?

First of all, select a high-quality material which is durable, tear and wear resistant and shock-proof. Aluminium luggage is almost impossible to break. On the other hand, you cannot really control what happens with your bag when you send it down the conveyor belt. Keep in mind that any damage caused by the airport staff should be reported immediately to increase your chances of refund.

Do airlines really measure luggage?

Not all of them and not all the time. But risking it can come pretty costly – just imagine having to pay $50 per one leg of your trip just for two exceeding inches on your carry-on. You could get yourself a decent new (and fitting!) luggage for that money, huh?

Conclusion

There is no universal recipe for finding a perfect piece of luggage. First of all, you should understand your own traveling routine, your needs and limitations, preferences and pleasures. Understanding yourself as a traveler is really the best key. Though high-quality luggage is a pretty reasonable investment, don’t get frustrated if you can’t afford top-shelf products right away. If you take good care of them, most of the budget-friendly suitcases and backpacks will serve you perfectly well too. In the end, your luggage is only one small (although surely important) part of your incredible travel journey.

If you like this article, make sure to check our other guides and recommendations too!

Further read:

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