Cabin luggage (Dreamstime)
Review Words : Phoebe Smith | 16 February 2019

Cabin-approved! The best wheelie hand luggage for travellers

When Wanderlust began, our founder travelled around South America with just a single piece of hand luggage – choose the right one these days and you too can go cabin-approved only…

Decent hand luggage is pretty much essential for any traveller, even if you're not regularly flying. It's important to have a well-sized (ideally wheelie) suitcase to get you from A to B.

So, Wanderlust's gear expert Phoebe Smith tests our pick of the best hand luggage, wheelie suitcases and cabin bags currently on the market - to discover which is the very best of the bunch. Her test considers many factors: size, weight, design, how versatile it is, price and value for money, among them.

Here are the best hand luggage and cabin bags for 2019....

Craghoppers Commuter Cabin Luggage – Value buy

£80 (40L)

At the budget end of the scale is this easy to pack soft-sided wheelie. With a versatile look that works for both more rough-and-ready travel as well as business meetings, its fabric may not feel as hardy as some here, but it certainly does the job.

There’s four wheels for good stability, two grab handles to pick it up easily, and a zip-away double telescopic pole handle. At the back is a pouch that takes a laptop and documents, and at the front there is a zipped (though not lockable) front pocket.

Inside the main compartment (which does feature lockable zips), is a single space with compression straps and two vented zipped pockets. Unpacked it comes in at 2.25kg for a capacity of 40L making it third lightest on test.

The verdict: A paired down offering that’s not too heavy or expensive but has all you need for a short break.

Find out more: craghoppers.com

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American Tourister Soundbox Spinner Expandable

£115 (41L)

Another simple offering is this budget hard-sided case, which features a grab handle for easy lifting, and four double wheels to keep things on track when trying to manoeuvre it around.

There’s a double telescopic handle as well as an inbuilt combination lock which is TSA approved for use within the USA. It is handily expandable via a zip, to increase the available capacity from 35.5L to 40L which may be useful.

Inside there are compression straps to keep things in place, and two compartments, one of which is zipped. There’s also a vented zipped sleeve on the top. Weight wise it hits the scales at 2.55kg unpacked, making it the fourth lightest here.

The verdict: A good price for a hard-sided option, though this means there’s less organisational features than others.

Find out more: americantourister.co.uk

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Antler Global DLX

£155

For another hard-sided option, you can look to Antler who deliver a pretty standard case, but with some well-thought out extra features and finishing touches.

For a start the double telescopic handle has a nifty rocking/twisting motion so that you can easily tip it, enabling you to move it on all or just two of the four double wheels without much effort. There’s a grab handle externally plus an inbuilt combination TSA approved lock (good for USA travel).

Internally there’s a couple of zipped pockets on one side – with a see-thru zipped section that’s good for documents and a vented option as the other. Compression straps are present to keep things together.

Sadly the double pole takes up a fair portion of the room inside the pack leaving room down to 36 litres. At 2.75kg unpacked it’s the sixth lightest on test.

The verdict: A nice handle feature helps with manoeuvring around the airport – just a shame the poles take up a lot of room.

Find out more: antler.co.uk

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Lowe Alpine Adventure Travel Roll On

£140 (40L)

Don’t be fooled by the lower price tag, this luggage still offers a fair whack for a relatively small outlay. First off there’s two all-terrain wheels – perfect for rougher ground. There’s two grab handles which make hauling it about a breeze.

The main zips are not only lockable, but tamperproof too, and there are even external compression straps for keeping things packed right down in the 40L inside space.

The handle is wide (the same width as the case itself), but makes moving it around a breeze. Inside the main compartment are two compression straps, a vented zipped pocket, as well as a front pouch, which is zipped and can be locked, plus a sleeve for a tablet or small laptop – not to mention a key fob and vented zipped pockets.

In the versatility stakes it also does well – it comes with two straps, which you can use to convert it to a backpack. At 2.60kg unpacked it’s middle of the road weight-wise, coming in as fifth lightest here.

The verdict: A good price, a good weight and a good handle, though there are other options here that are even more versatile.

Find out more: lowealpine.com

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Lipault Originale Plume

£179 (41.5L)

This soft-sided case is unfussy and easy to use with a decent capacity of 41.5L.

Comprising four double wheels, a lockable and slightly padded front pocket, two grab handles and a double telescopic handle that nicely zips away into the fabric, not to mention a durable and wipe clean outer material, it’s a good choice for those who like to keep things simple with no laptop sleeves or specially organised compartments.

Inside the main section there’s compression straps to keep everything in place, and two zipped pockets which go some way to help with organising things – though venting would be nice. It also comes with a matching luggage tag and a pretty decent weight – at 2.20kg unpacked it’s the second lightest here.

The verdict: Simple and easy to use plus lightweight, though lacks some features that many may miss.

Find out more: lipault.co.uk

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Eagle Creek Morphus International Carry On – Best buy

£300

I’m not going to lie to you – this bag is expensive, but then you’re not really getting one bag, but actually two. As the name hints at, it actually morphs from a single two-wheeled rolling piece of luggage into a two-wheeled rolling piece of hand luggage (32L capacity) AND a holdall (also 32L capacity which you can also wear as a rucksack).

If that isn’t impressive enough it also comes with four grab handles, lockable zips, compression straps inside with a vented zip compartment, a zipped external pocket that can be locked, very rugged single wheels, a sturdy, telescopic double poled handle, a 15 inch laptop/tablet sleeve and a kitchen sink!

The last one wasn’t true, but with all the rest it does come with all at an unpacked weight of 2.90kg is pretty impressive – it’s the second heaviest here, but is actually 1.3kg lighter than the heaviest.

The verdict: Proof that you get what you pay for – tonnes of features, two bags with multiple carrying options for maximum adventures.

Find out more: eaglecreek.eu

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Samsonite Cosmolite Spinner

£319 (36L)

The first thing you notice about this case – aside from the higher price tag - is the weight – it is so super lightweight unpacked with a 36L capacity. The scales confirm this with it hitting them at just 1.70kg – the lightest here by a way (half a kilogram to be exact).

Light it may be but that, of course, means there are fewer features compared to others. It’s hard sided with no external pockets or similar, though it does have an inbuilt TSA approved combination lock. There are two grab handles and four wheels (though they are single to keep weight down).

Grams have also been cut by the single telescopic handle, which is still relatively sturdy. Inside there are two compartments – one sees things held down by compression straps and offers a zipped pocket, the other has two zipped sections – though no venting.

The verdict: Simple, lightweight and easy to use, though pricey and some features such as double wheels have been removed.

Find out more: samsonite.co.uk

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Briggs & Riley International Carry-On Expandable Wide-Body Spinner

£429 (58.5L)

This bag hides a smart new function. Rather than simply a zipped out bit of excess fabric that allows the capacity to be increased from 44.6L to a not-to-be-scoffed-at 58.5L, it actually has an easy-to-use plastic button operated internal expanding device, which does dramatically increase what you can fit inside.

Compared to others here, this is more short and wide than tall. Externally, as well as the rugged but soft-sided fabric it has four double wheels, two grab handles, two front zip pockets (one large enough for documents, the other a little bigger), and a zipped pouch on the back for easy to reach items. Internally there’s one main compartment but there is, on one side, a folding section perfect for keeping items, which you don’t want to crease – such as shirts.

The organiser pouch sits on the compression straps, which you can use to hold things in place effectively. Sadly these features – though impressive – add a lot of weight – this comes in at 4.20kg unpacked (that’s over half your economy allowance on some airlines), making it 1.3kg heavier than the next heaviest.

The verdict: Great features, well-thought through, but just that bit too heavy – especially if travelling in economy class!

Find out more: briggs-riley.com

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Watch Wanderlust review the best wheelie hand luggage...

6 more things to consider before buying hand luggage...

1. Size

With airlines decreasing and increasing luggage allowances all the time, it’s difficult to keep track (not that we’re referring to any particular Irish budget airline). But do check the dimensions it – pardon the pun – with most airlines so you’re allowed to it them into the overhead locker or under the seat in front of you.

2. Unpacked weight

Vital to consider. With most allowances hitting the scales at 7kg to 10kg, every gram your bag weighs pre-packing is one less for your vital equipment.

3. Organisation

Some will come with organiser pockets, specially padded sleeves for laptops and tablets and vented sections to keep wet/dry or clean/dirty clothes apart. Weigh up if these things are important to you, as having them can often increase cost and grams on the scales.

4. Extras

Brands vie for your love with added-value additions ranging from combi locks built into cases, to rugged wheels and the ability to expand or contract the inner capacity. But before you are persuaded to part with your hard-earned cash, do consider if you really need them all.

5. Handles

All cases tested here feature a single or double telescopic handle, which allows you to tip and wheel your luggage. Single ones take up less room but can make the case harder to manoeuvre; doubles eat up internal space but make moving it around easier. Also look for multiple grab handles: these make the bag easier to pick up or lift up into lockers on planes.

6. Wheels

Two wheels mean you have to tip to roll; four means you can simply push or pull. More wheels means more weight but greater stability – it’s always a compromise.

 

More of the best travel gear:

Our pick of the top travel products for 2019

The best sleeping bags on the market

We review the best big suitcases 

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