Big enough to carry everything, light enough to stick within travel limits, and strong enough to stand up to the rigours of travel... here's how to buy the right luggage
Top tips for finding your ideal style
Soft-sided or hard-sided luggage: If opting for soft-sided luggage, look for a waterproof lining to keep things dry inside. However, leaks still occur if left outside and the fabrics can rip, though are easier to repair.
Hard-sided luggage is extremely strong and made to withstand heavy impact. However this can make them weighty and they are harder to repair if cracked or dented.
Weight: With luggage weight allowances decreasing all the time, always check the unpacked weight of your model first.
Handle: When selecting the right handle for your suitcase ensure it’s easy to take out and just as important – easy to store away and keep secure.
Inside: Some cases are divided into different compartments, which is handy for
staying organised but can add weight. Look for compression straps – useful at holding contents down (and for packing more things in!).
Pockets: Usually found on soft-sided cases, these offer extra space to keep things
organised. But they are not always lockable what you’ll want them
for, before opting for one with multiple pockets.
Extras: Some models will come with added extras. These can be welcome additions,
but all will increase weight, so make sure you need them.
Wheels: The classic style was always two wheels but now, there’s more of a
trend towards four, meaning you can simply wheel it alongside you, trolley-style. The advantage to the former is that once you tilt it back to upright, it stays still and won’t roll away.
Lightway 67 From £115 The Test:
As the cheapest model here, it’s surprising that this is also the lightest – 2.05kg for 66L size. It’s soft-sided, and though the fabric feels fairly robust, it doesn’t appear as thick as others at the more expensive end of the scale. It has a two-pole telescopic handle that’s easy to use and secure, and has four wheels, making it easy to manoeuvre. There’s a handle on the top as well as a more discreet one on the side, which is a nice touch, and its design saves on weight. American Tourister Lightway 67
There’s three zips on the front, though these feel the least chunky and hard-wearing of all those tested. There are two small zippable front pouches (not lockable), then a main zip compartment (lockable). Inside, there’s one big space with compression straps and a zippable mesh lid pouch that’s good for dirty washing or wet gear. The verdict:
A great weight for the price – the fabric and zips are less sturdy than on other models, but it has some nice features. Wanderlust best value buy. In brief Features
Juno M From £129 The Test:
Pay a little more and you can still get a light case (3.4kg, third lightest on test; 70L size), but this time a hard-sided design. Made from moulded plastic, it feels suitably robust and offers a more chunky zip to secure the one and only compartment (there are no pockets, which some may miss). It has four wheels and a double-pole telescopic handle that’s easy to use. There are two handles to pick it up with, including one on the top and one on the side. A handy addition is that the zips clip on to an inbuilt combination lock on the side, which is TSA approved, so suitable for trips to the US, and no padlock is needed. Antler Juno M
Inside, the space is split in two, with zippable fabric panels. The top one is mesh, which is great for dirty or damp clothes, while the bottom one features compression straps to hold everything down. The verdict:
A good price and a reasonable weight for a hard case, with a nifty additional feature (albeit at the cost of extra weight). In brief Features
Tranzshell L From £180 The Test:
If you’re not sure whether you want a soft- or hard-sided case, the Tranzshell is a good compromise. Made from a hybrid shell that’s hard and coated with a tough fabric, it has reinforced plastic covers on its four top corners. It feels like a strong, sturdy choice, but all this adds weight, and at 3.9kg (75L) it was the second-heaviest on test. Eastpak Tranzshell L
There are no outside pockets – which some may like, others may not – but there are two handles on the side and top to help with lifting it off the carousel. There’s a telescopic doublepole handle, which is easy to operate. The zip is chunky and feels robust, and a nice additional touch is the ability to lock both parts of the zip to the luggage (though a padlock is needed). Inside, there are two compartments separated by two fabric panels, with a small pouch on one of them. The verdict:
A nice hybrid design for those who want the benefit of hard- and soft-sided luggage – though it’s a heavier compromise. In brief Features
Toursafe AT25 From £235 The Test:
On initial glance you may wonder why you’re paying more, but this 73L wheelie hides some extra security features. It is soft-sided, but not only is the fabric very durable, it also hides built-in anti-slash stainless steel wire-mesh panels. The zips are also puncture resistant, so they’re difficult to get into. Finally, the zips also clip together and can be locked with a padlock to keep things extra secure. This case is a two-wheel design, featuring two handles – one on the top and one on the side – and a single telescopic pole. Pacsafe Toursafe AT25
Inside the main compartment is a zippable pouch, compression straps and cinched fabric with a drawcord to hold things together. The top lid features a zippable mesh compartment. There is a lockable pocket on the outside suitable for documents and four compression straps to help keep the pack size down. The verdict:
If security is a concern, this pack is perfect, but the price you pay is extra weight – at 3.55kg it’s the third heaviest here. In brief Features
Cosmolite Spinner 69 From £339 The Test:
Add on nearly another £100 and you start to pay for the technology. Here you are getting a hard-shell model at an incredibly light weight (2.35kg; 68L). The four-wheel design is easy to manoeuvre and the single telescopic pole is simple to use and stow away. There are two handles (one on the side, another on the top), and while the zip is less chunky than others, it is coated to try to help protect contents in wet weather. Samsonite Cosmolite Spinner 69
Much like the Antler model, the zips lock onto the case’s inbuilt combination lock (also TSA approved), which is simple to use and negates the need to purchase a separate padlock. Inside, the case is essentially split into two halves: a zippable fabric compartment lines the lid; the other is unlined (to keep weight down) and features compression straps and a long zippable pouch that spans the length of the case. The verdict:
Lightweight, sturdy and stylish, and with a nifty lock – though you do pay for it… Wanderlust best in test. In brief Features
Briggs & Riley
Transcend Medium From £359 The Test:
The price is higher, but there are plenty of extra finishing touches here that make this luggage really stand out. It’s a four-wheel, soft-sided design (with very robust fabric) complete with a two-pole extendable handle that’s sturdy and easy to use. There are two handles – top and side – and three compartments (two locakable). Briggs & Riley Transcend Medium
The zip on the main compartment is sturdy and lockable. Inside, there are also lots of sections to keep things organised. The largest has compression straps with mesh panels – ideal to separate clean and dirty clothes. In the lid there’s one compartment featuring a hook for a hanger and compression straps – perfect for a shirt/dress – and two more zippable sections: one with mesh and one with solid fabric. Finally, the case is also extendable, going from a respectable 73L to a massive 83L with just the swish of a zip. The verdict:
Fantastic, if weighty, extras – at 4.55kg it’s the heaviest by far. In brief Features
www.briggs-riley.com How we did the test…
We asked gear manufacturers to submit traditional luggage suitable for transport in the hold of a plane. These needed to be lightweight, durable and easy to use. From the ten we were sent, our editor, Phoebe Smith, took them out on the road to see which performed best. The six here are all ‘Wanderlust Approved’, with the ‘Value Buy’ and ‘Best Buy’ indicated. All are between 65- and 75-litre capacity. Main Image: Luggage (Shutterstock)