One of the most important decisions that you may make as a traveler is the luggage that you will use on your travels. There are a wealth of options available to you, and often, it can be overwhelming. You must choose among different features, brand names, and price points. While you may feel comfortable about one piece of luggage at the beginning, your mind may quickly change. Or you may face analysis paralysis, where you have two options in mind but have trouble making a final decision.
Whatever the case may be, we are here to help. Below you will find our guide on how to select the best luggage. By using the guide below, we hope that you will be much more confident when purchasing your new luggage.
The guide is broken up into four parts. First, we are going to discuss some of the materials in luggage today. Then we will proceed to luggage handles. Next up will be a debate between two or four wheels for your luggage. And finally, we will discuss the different types of locks that are available for your luggage.
To start this guide, we are going to speak about common materials that you will find in luggage today. Naturally, this leads to the debate over whether hard or soft luggage is better.
Obviously, much of this will depend on your personal preference. But generally speaking, hard shell suitcases are better suitcases in terms of protection. In other words, they are more durable and can take more wear and tear. They are impact resistant and also water resistant. For instance, if you are outside, and it starts pouring, hard shell suitcases will still offer you protection.
Having said that, you may have one question in mind: what is the best material for hard shell luggage? Hardshell luggage can be made of ABS, PC+ABS, PC, aluminum, and carbon fiber. These materials are slightly different and will impact your overall experience owning hard luggage.
- ABS: In the luggage industry, ABS is the cheapest hard material used. Part of the reason is that it is very light. Most cheap luggage you buy at the supermarket, for instance, is made of ABS. However, you get what you pay for. ABS tends to be brittle when the temperature drops, which means it is easier for ABS material to crack. Therefore, ABS is not a great choice if you frequently travel to cold places. Also, keep in mind that when ABS gets crushed, there will be marks after you re-pop it.
- PC (polycarbonate): PC is an upgraded version of ABS. It is heat resistant, cold resistant, and impact resistant. It is so strong that PC is used to make bulletproof glass and astronaut helmets. Overall, PC is 40 percent stronger than ABS. What this means is that less PC material is required to achieve the same strength as ABS, even though PC’s density is slightly higher than ABS. Also, PC luggage is lighter than ABS luggage. Finally, while ABS luggage may have folding marks or may even crack when experiencing a strong impact, PC luggage is resilient. It can recover without marks and is less likely to break. Finally, the working temperature of PC luggage is -40C to 130C while ABS is about -25C to 60C.
- ABS+PC: This is a hybrid of ABS and PC. Most luggage makers use ABS combined with PC to make luggage. In effect, you can get the best of both worlds. ABS+PC has higher quality than ABS, and it is cheaper than a PC suitcase.
- Aluminum: Aluminum suitcases are stronger than PC. This is because most aluminum suitcases are made of aluminum-magnesium alloy, which is stronger and more durable than polycarbonate. These suitcases are also aesthetically pleasing. However, aluminum suitcases are heavier than plastic suitcases and are susceptible to scratches and dents.
- Carbon Fiber: Overall, we believe that carbon fiber luggage is the best hard shell luggage. This material is extremely strong and durable. Carbon fiber offers stiffness and strength at low density. It is lighter than aluminum and steel, and this lightness provides many practical benefits. Weight for weight, carbon fiber offers two to five times more rigidity (depending on the fiber used) than aluminum and steel. You also can’t forget that carbon fiber material provides a luxury vibe to the suitcase. Having said this, as you would expect, the price is quite steep.
In this discussion of whether hard or soft luggage is better, we also have to look at the pros and cons of soft luggage. Softcase suitcases, compared to hard luggage, are expandable. Because of this, they can fit more items. That said, they are less durable and offer less protection. They aren’t as protected from wear and tear compared to hard luggage.
Here are several different materials that are the basis for soft luggage:
- Leather suitcases: Leather suitcases are old, but classic styles of suitcases. Ultimately, they are less common nowadays because they are heavy and not durable.
- Fabric Suitcases: Fabric suitcases are usually made of ballistic nylon, cordura or polyester.
- Ballistic nylon is a thick synthetic nylon fabric. It is very durable and easy to clean. Its ability to resist abrasion and tearing makes ballistic nylon a popular material for luggage that must withstand a considerable beating. On the downside, ballistic nylon is hard to dye, so there are fewer color choices. Ballistic nylon luggage usually comes in black or similarly dark colors.
- Cordura nylon is another great soft luggage fabric. Cordura is best known for its durability and resistance to abrasions, tears and scuffs. It weighs slightly less than ballistic nylon and takes dye easily, meaning you have more color choices. Cordura is also more abrasion resistant, but ballistic nylon offers higher tear strength.
- Polyester is the cheapest of the soft material options. Most luggage in the lowest price ranges is made with polyester fabric. The quality of polyester bags can vary, but they can be excellent value for your money.
Next, let’s move on to handles for your luggage. You have two choices here. You can choose between are multi-stage and all-stage handles.
Multi-stage handles have limited settings of height (usually three settings) while all-stage handles allow you to stop at any height. However, the user experience of the multi-stage handle is smoother. You can feel and hear the friction of gear teeth when using some all-stage handles. We improved the all-stage handles that we use on our carbon fiber series. Through our improvements, the handles can be used smoothly like multi-stage handles and can stop at any height.
One Bar & Two Bar Telescoping Handles
There is also the distinction between one bar and two bar telescoping handles. Two bar handles are easier to maneuver while one bar handles provide you with a little more space. Also one bar handles are lighter than two bar handles. However, we believe the difference is trivial.
Next, you will need to consider the differences in wheels among suitcases. The main difference is between four wheel and two wheel luggage.
Four Wheel Versus Two Wheel Luggage
Some luggage has four wheels while other pieces of luggage have two wheels. In general, we prefer four wheels over two wheels because four wheel luggage allows you to pull or push the luggage however you want. This is especially helpful when your luggage is heavy. In the meantime, two wheel luggage can only be pulled. However, two wheel luggage does break less often because there are fewer number of wheels to break.
In addition to the above, the wheels of some four wheel luggage are actually made of two wheels in order to provide better stability and silent gliding. When selecting your luggage, ensure that the wheels are covered with PU (rubber) which reduces noise.
You may also want to consider wheels with brake functionality. The advantages are that they can be helpful when commuting via public transportation. Essentially, you do not need to hold onto your luggage in order to prevent it from sliding away from you. One disadvantage, however, is that you may forget to unlock your luggage and pull or push it with force, which may cause your wheels to malfunction.
The last factor that you should consider is whether your desired luggage contains locks. TSA-approved locks, for instance, allow the TSA to inspect your luggage without cutting open your lock. The TSA has a universal key to open TSA approved locks.
As for the particular kinds of locks, you may want to think about closure. A zipperless closure aluminum frame is stronger than a zipper. Also, the aluminum frame reinforces the construction of suitcases, so keep this in mind when you are making your purchase.
Ultimately, these are some of the most important factors that you should consider when purchasing a new piece of luggage. By accounting for our tips and advice above, you will be in a much better position when you are shopping online or in a store. We wish you the best of luck!