Suitcases on airport conveyor belt (Dreamstime)
Review Words : Phoebe Smith | 07 August

Gear review: The best wheelie suitcases for travellers

Cases on wheels are specifically designed to make your travels easier – but only if you choose the right one. Here's our guide to buying the right rolling bag for you...

American Tourister Soundbox – Wanderlust Value Buy

£145

This has a 100L capacity and is made from light, tough plastic yet is still the joint heaviest here at 4.2kg. It has two grab handles, a double telescopic handle and lockable zip but no external pockets. Inside are two compartments with straps, plus a zip pocket and mesh pouch. An expander zip allows for more capacity. Comes with a limited three-year warranty.

The verdict: A sturdy value option.

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Eagle Creek Gear Warrior AWD 26

£250

Small (62L) but feature-packed, this 3.74kg bag is made of water-repellent, ripstop fabric. It has three grab handles and a tough double telescopic handle. There’s a bungy for attaching kit as well as two zipped pouches. The single wheels also have good tread. Inside, the main space has straps and a zipped section on the top. Comes with a lifetime guarantee.

The verdict: Nifty; a bit heavy for its size.

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Antler Juno 2

£169

Largest (123L) but not heaviest (3.9kg), this strong plastic case has two grab handles and a TSA-approved combi lock; there’s a double zip to the main compartment that’s also lockable. Inside are two compartments: the bottom one has compression straps and a zipped pocket; the top has no straps but features a zipped fabric compartment divider. Comes with a limited ten-year warranty.

The verdict: Massive!

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Top tip: When trying a wheelie bag on a smooth shop floor, remember that you may want to use it on rougher ground or cobbles – will it be tough enough for that, too?

Briggs & Riley Explore Expandable Spinner (Medium) – Best in Test

£339

This 4.2kg nylon-polyester water-resistant bag carries 69L – the double handle is external, so no inner capacity is lost. There are many outer pockets as well as two grab handles and a belt for attaching items. The wheels are doubles. Inside, the main space has straps and there are two zipped pockets – one mesh. Comes with a lifetime guarantee.

The verdict: Loads of good features.

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Lipault Original Plume

£205

Second lightest (3kg), this soft-sided, durable nylon bag has a 96.5L capacity. It has two padded grab handles and a double telescopic handle. Wheels are single but move smoothly. The main compartment and zipped, padded pocket are lockable. Inside, the main space has two compression straps; there’s a zipped pocket on the smaller top compartment. Comes with a three-year limited warranty.

The verdict: A good soft-sided option.

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Samsonite Cosmolite

£415

Lightweight (2.6kg for 94L), this is simple but super-tough, made from high-impact-resistant plastic. There are two grab handles and a single tube handle that slides into the mould. Wheels are single. Zips are lockable; there’s a TSA lock, too. There are no external pockets. Inside is a large space with straps and a zip pocket plus a fabric zipped section. Comes with a limited ten-year warranty.

The verdict: Delightfully light and simple.

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How we did the test

We asked gear manufacturers to submit hold bags with four wheels. From the selection we were sent, our editor-at-large, Phoebe Smith, took them out on the road to see which performed best. The ‘Value Buy’ and ‘Best in Test’ are indicated.

Things to consider:

Material

There are two main options: soft-sided and hard-sided luggage. Soft-sided bags have more give, so are good if you intend to cram them to full capacity (or a bit over). Check that there is a waterproof lining on the inside, to keep things dry. Also, bear in mind that even very durable fabrics can rip – though they are often easy to repair with duct tape or similar. Some travel companies insist on soft-sided bags, especially if you’re doing a trek or overland trip where packs are carried by animals or put on top of vehicles. Hard-sided cases are usually strong and made to withstand hard impact. However, they can be heavier unpacked and harder to close if you’re stuffing in extra souvenirs.

Weight

The average hold-luggage limit on long-haul economy flights is 23kg, so the weight of the case itself is key – every kilo the bag weighs unpacked is one less you have for your kit.

Handle

Telescopic handles are the most common type – they fold away when not in use. However, this means that the handle system takes up some bag capacity, so a bigger system means less packing space. Single-pole handles tend to be more sturdy; double-pole handles offer better balance. Check handles are made from strong materials, so they won’t break easily, and that the handle length suits you, so you don’t have to stoop to use it.

Inside

Some cases are divided into multiple compartments, which is handy for staying organised but will add weight. Vented sections are particularly useful for separating clean and dirty clothes. Look for compression straps, which help to pack things in.

Pockets

Usually found on the outside of soft-sided cases, pockets offer extra space, though they are not suitable for valuables as they are not lockable.

Extras

Some models will come with extra features, such as a built-in combo lock that secures zips to the case, or a tracking device. These can be welcome but will increase the weight of the luggage and possibly the cost, so consider whether you really need them.

Wheels

In the past, wheeled luggage typically had two wheels, but now many bags have four. Four wheels gives you the option to push as well as pull your bag in multiple directions with ease; each wheel may be a ‘double’, which gives extra stability. The advantage of the two-wheeled bag is that once you tilt it to upright, it stays still and won’t roll away – not a deal breaker but useful when you’re standing on a slope. Also, two-wheeled bags may fare better over rougher ground. Note: all those on test here are the four-wheeled variety.