Reviews You Can Rely On

Best Suitcase of 2021

We traveled via plane, train, and automobile with suitcases from Briggs & Riley, Timbuk2, Eagle Creek, and more
Photo: Clark Tate
Friday August 27, 2021
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Our globetrotting experts have tested over 20 of the best suitcases on the market over the last 3 years with the top 11 in this 2021 update. We tested this luggage head-to-head for months, stacking them into all kinds of vehicles and packing them with everything from business casual clothes to backcountry gear. We tested every packing feature, bumped them over steps, traveled over cobbled pathways, and even sprayed each one down with the hose. Whether you're seeking a budget bag, a gear locker, or looking for a forever suitcase, we've discovered a great option for you.

Top 11 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 11
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Awards Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award  
Price $779.00 at AmazonCheck Price at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$379 List$299.95 at Backcountry$295 List
Overall Score Sort Icon
83
76
75
70
68
Star Rating
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Pros Well-made, innovative compression, rolls beautifully, hanging clothes compartmentSmooth ride, sensible features, excellent organization, great styleAmple storage, water-resistant, durable, heavily featuredLarge wheels roll well, stable, convenient external organizationIntegrated TSA lock, rolls well, smart organization options, stylish
Cons Expensive, questionable durability on the compression techZippers could be smootherMany features that aren't that useful, bulky designNot much in the way of interior organizationHeavy, fabric is easier to mark
Bottom Line This bag is expensive but promises a lifetime of organized packing and happy rollingA durable, stylish, and high-value suitcase suited for all types of travelA tactical and durable adventure suitcase that excels at packing bulky gearA rough and tumble option that could work for anything from gear hauls to business tripsThis bag is heavy but it looks good, is easy to organize, and can keep up with whatever you have planned
Rating Categories Briggs & Riley Expa... Timbuk2 Copilot Eagle Creek ORV Tru... The North Face Roll... Away Expandable Large
Storage & Organization (25%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
6.0
7.0
Ease Of Transport (25%)
9.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Reliability (25%)
9.0
8.0
9.0
9.0
7.0
Weight (15%)
5.0
6.0
8.0
5.0
4.0
Style (10%)
8.0
7.0
3.0
7.0
9.0
Specs Briggs & Riley Expa... Timbuk2 Copilot Eagle Creek ORV Tru... The North Face Roll... Away Expandable Large
Measured Weight 12.2 lbs 9.4 lbs 9.1 lbs 10.2 lbs 14.5 lbs
Volume 104.5L 80L 98L 80L 106 to 114L
Liters per pound 8.6 8.5 10.8 7.8 7.3 to 7.9
Construction Zip open, softshell Clamshell & peek-a-boo access, softshell Zip open, softshell Roller-duffel Zip open, softshell
Measured Packed Dimensions 28" x 20" x 11.5" 25" x 14" x 10" 30" x 17" x 15" 28.5" x 15" x 16" 28" x 19" x 12"
Expansion Zippers? Yes No No No Yes
Number of Wheels 4 2 2 2 4
Number of Large Interior Compartments 1 2 1 1 2
Interior Storage Features Tri-fold hanging compartment with mesh toiletries pocket, garment compresssion panels 2 Mesh dividers with organizational pockets. Three smaller organizational pockets 1 mesh organizational pockets on lid of duffel 1 dirty clothes bag, 2 zippered panels, compression straps
Number of Exterior Pockets 2 pockets, 1 large sleeve, 1 small zipper pocket 1 pocket on top, 1 large sleeve 2 large pockets, top and bottom. Several gear loops on the exterior. 3 pockets, top and middle. Several gear loops on the exterior. 1 with two smaller ones inside
Compression System CX compression / expansioin system, garmet panels Internal compression straps Removable gear holder keeps items in place, but not compression. Compression buckles on the outside. Expandable boot pocket on the interior of the backpack. Internal and exterior compression straps Internal compression panel and straps
Handle Height from Ground Low: 35"
Mid: 40"
High: 43"
40.75" 42" 42.5" Low: 37"
High: 41"
Built-In Lock No None None No Yes
Main Exterior Material Ballistic nylon Nylon and polyester Bi-Tech Heather, 1000D Helix Polyester Twill 1,000-denier polyester with TPE laminate/1,680-denier nylon Water-resistant nylon
Unique Features Compression / Expansion system Peek-a-boo front pocket, padded front pocket for a 13" laptop. Gear specific storage Duffel on wheels Includes a dirty clothes bag


Best Four-Wheel Roller Suitcase


Briggs & Riley Expandable Spinner 28"


83
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Storage & Organization 9
  • Ease of Transport 9
  • Reliability 9
  • Weight 5
  • Style 8
Weight: 12.2 lbs | Storage Capacity: ~104.5 liters
Rolls beautifully
Innovative compression system
Smart storage features
Reputation for durability
Very expensive

Rolling smoothly alongside you, pivoting on a dime, tackling gravel and cobblestones with reasonable grace, the Briggs & Riley Expandable Spinner is our favorite roller suitcase. Three handles also make it easy to haul over rougher terrain or grab it from the conveyor belt. What really sets this bag apart, though, is its spot-on organizational features. There's a small external pouch to keep necessities close at hand and a larger one for entertainment or layers. The main flap includes a trifold hanging compartment to minimize wrinkles for important items, and the large main compartment offers compression panels to hold everything in place. An innovative expansion and compression system lets you pack in more than you thought possible without making the bag any bigger.

The biggest downside to this bag is its cost. To us, its superior performance and design go a long way to justifying the investment, but it really all comes down to the bag's durability. Everything we saw during testing indicates that it's built to last. The company also has a pretty solid worry-free lifetime guarantee, promising to fix any functional features that break. If you're okay with paying more up front for gear that will outlast the competition, this could be the right option for you.

Read review: Briggs and Riley Expandable Spinner

High-Value Two-Wheeled Roller


Timbuk2 Copilot


76
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Storage & Organization 9
  • Ease of Transport 7
  • Reliability 8
  • Weight 6
  • Style 7
Weight: 9.4 lbs | Storage Capacity: ~80 liters
Reliable construction
Smooth-rolling wheels
Great storage
Thoughtful features
Zipper action is sticky
Just over carry-on restrictions

Thanks to its super-smooth rolling action and durable softshell case, the Timbuk2 Copilot is one of our favorite two-wheeled models, and it sells for a very reasonable price. The compact size and good mobility work well for posh adventures via plane and train, rougher destinations, or road trips. The suitcase offers some of the most robust and well-laid-out organizational features in our lineup, including a mesh panel on either side of its clamshell design and smaller pockets for odds and ends. It even has a unique peek-a-boo pocket to access items without having to unzip the entire bag, which is a huge bonus. We also love the easy access storage pocket up top and the fact that there's a haul handle on all four sides.

We had a hard time finding much wrong with this reliable bag. Sometimes the main zipper gets held up on corners which is a bit frustrating. And, while there's plenty of room to pack what you need for most weeklong trips, this bag isn't great for bulkier items or a lot of gear. If you need more space but like this bag's style, check out its bigger 108-liter cousin. If you want a similar carry-on bag, there are also two smaller options. Whether you're heading out to wine country for the weekend or planning a long vacation, this bag is ready to go anywhere with you.

Read review: Timbuk 2 Copilot

Best Bang for the Buck


AmazonBasics Expandable Softsided 29


55
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Storage & Organization 6
  • Ease of Transport 6
  • Reliability 4
  • Weight 7
  • Style 4
Weight: 9.9 lbs | Storage Capacity: ~105 liters
Lightweight and simple
Zippers and wheels seem solid
Super affordable
Durable and water-resistant fabric exterior
Tips over when fully loaded
Lack-luster craftsmanship

The AmazonBasics Expandable Softsided is a utilitarian option. Though it performed well in our tests, its biggest selling point is really its low price tag. The spinning wheels are large with rubber grips, and there are two of them at every corner, making for smooth and stable rolling. The bag has quite a bit of clearance and works well over rougher pavement and cobblestones. The telescoping handle is solid, and there are three other handles to help you haul it around. This bag gives you plenty of storage with a nice array of smaller pockets and compartments to keep everything organized. There is even a small expandable section in the front panel in case you pick up any bulky souvenirs.

Unfortunately, most of the pockets and storage compartments are in the front panel of the bag. And when you pack that panel fully, the bag will often tip over and fall off its wheels. You have to be really careful when packing to keep everything balanced or forgo using many of the front panel pockets. The polyester fabric is also thinner than the other options in our lineup. It has a denier(D), or density, of just 150. Other options range from 400D to 1680D. Several online reviews report durability issues, and we can tell the materials and craftsmanship are subpar. You often do get what you pay for. This will work just fine for those traveling only a couple of times a year. But if you're a frequent flyer, think about investing in a higher-quality option.

Read review: AmazonBasics Expandable Softsided 29

Best for Gear Hauling


Eagle Creek ORV Trunk 30


75
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Storage & Organization 8
  • Ease of Transport 7
  • Reliability 9
  • Weight 8
  • Style 3
Weight: 9.1 lbs | Storage Capacity: ~100 liters
Extremely durable with great water resistance
Many storage and organizational features
Huge storage capacity for bulky items
Rolls and packs well
Some features don't seem sensible
Bulky and large

Built like a beast, the Eagle Creek ORV Trunk has a technical look and offers a wealth of organizational features. Although it's advertised with roughly 100 liters of storage, you can fit so much inside it feels like more. And that's just internal storage. It also features external pockets to hold anything you need — well-padded cameras, tripods, adventure gear, the works. You can even separate your stinky adventure boots from your nightlife clothes using an expandable internal compartment meant for dirty clothes. This bag is built for those hauling lots of gear and who aren't bothered by a tactical and outdoor-focused look.

The ORV is very tailored to the outdoor enthusiast; it's not a generalist. While you could certainly use it for a business trip or beach vacation, it's quite an investment for mellow travel or short trips. The bulky dimensions and technical design are not as easy to maneuver at the airport, and its looks aren't everybody's cup of tea. Adventurers and those seeking a utilitarian suitcase will appreciate it best.

Read review: Eagle Creek ORV Trunk 30

Best Two-Wheeled Duffel Roller


The North Face Rolling Thunder 30"


70
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Storage & Organization 6
  • Ease of Transport 7
  • Reliability 9
  • Weight 5
  • Style 7
Weight: 10.2 lbs | Storage Capacity: ~80 liters
Extra-sturdy construction
Rolls well even over rough surfaces
Balances simplicity with storage
Very minimal organizational features
Heavy for its size

Boxy four-wheeled rollers are great at the airport and unfold like a dream in a fancy hotel room. But if your bag may end up shoved in a corner or tossed in the dirt by a campsite, the small, simple footprint of a duffel can be the way to go. That's where The North Face Rolling Thunder bag shines. With durable, water-resistant fabric and protective zipper flaps to fend off short bursts of weather, big and reasonably burly plastic wheels, and a solid, molded polycarbonate base, this bag is built for rougher roads. It also has a bomber retractable handle, a big, wide-open main compartment with a few compression straps, a separate compartment in the entrance flap for dirty clothes or organization, and two pockets up top. One is big enough for a pair of shoes, and the other is a great place to stash a wallet. It all works well in that fancy hotel room too.

We even think this bag looks pretty snazzy in an outdoorsy way. What we don't love is that it has one of the worst volume-to-weight ratios in the test. It weighs over 10 pounds and only holds around 80 liters. That means you can pack less in and that it's easier to accidentally push past the 50-pound weight limit for most checked luggage. However, that weight is probably closely related to this bag's durability, which we think is top-notch. So just make sure you're okay with the trade-off. And while we like the minimal pockets and straps, you may prefer more. Overall, this is a great option if you like to keep things simple and need a protective bag for your clothes and gear when the going gets tough.

Read review: The North Face Rolling Thunder 30"

Best for Cross-Country Travel


Osprey Sojourn 80L


67
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Storage & Organization 5
  • Ease of Transport 8
  • Reliability 7
  • Weight 7
  • Style 6
Weight: 9.1 lbs | Storage Capacity: ~80 liters
Backpack/roller bag hybrid
Super transportable
Lots of organizational features
Water-resistant
Backpack feature takes time to figure out
Backpack straps are narrow
Lower storage capacity than advertised

The Osprey Sojourn is a unique suitcase that can morph into a backpack. This feature is greatly appreciated if you find yourself hoofing it across rougher terrain than the average roller bag is designed for. And the system works surprisingly well — it's much more comfortable than we would have guessed. The wheels work well too, with an arched chassis that provides tons of clearance. This bag is definitely built for rough terrain. We also appreciate the clever organizational features — internal and external compression straps, a separate compartment up top, and a handful of internal pockets for smaller items. The water-resistant fabric and compression wings also help fend off wet weather.

While we appreciate this bag's unique design, like most gear that tries to do two things, it excels at neither. Even though the backpack has a full-suspension system with a built-in hip belt, we found it uncomfortable to carry for long days, especially if you have a full load. And, even though this bag does roll well, it often flips on and off curbs if you don't pack it with perfectly even weight distribution. Despite these caveats, this is still our favorite bag in the test for cross-country travel. We kept reaching for it when our next adventure featured an even mix of smooth rolling and rowdy roads.

Read review: Osprey Sojourn 80L

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price Our Take
83
$715
Editors' Choice Award
You get what you pay for with this expensive and innovative suitcase
76
$299
Best Buy Award
One of our favorite compact roller suitcases from a reputable company
75
$379
Top Pick Award
A reliable, tactical trunk with lots of storage that's ideal for bulky gear
70
$300
Top Pick Award
Durable and easy to pack and roll, this water-resistant option makes life easy
68
$295
On the heavy side, the bag earns respect for smart organizational features
67
$340
Top Pick Award
A backpack and roller suitcase hybrid ready to go with you anywhere
64
$329
A simple and well-build wheeled duffel bag
62
$400
This well-organized bag works admirably and has good organization features, but it's huge
61
$400
If you like the looks of this bag, and don't travel that often, it works well enough to keep you rolling
55
$85
Best Buy Award
Great travel and storage at a price that can't be beat
48
$170
Wobbly wheels detract from an otherwise acceptable choice

We&#039;ve packed a bag or two in our day. We&#039;ve broken them and they&#039;ve...
We've packed a bag or two in our day. We've broken them and they've broken us. We're here to share our hard-won knowledge.
Photo: Clark Tate

Why You Should Trust Us


Amber King and Clark Tate are frequent travelers. Amber typically takes over 40 trips a year in the U.S. and abroad, spending her weekends traveling to mountain towns, exploring hot springs, breweries, and trails. Clark takes a handful of long trips each year and spends months at a time living out of her van. Amber and Clark have both traveled to five continents, exploring big cities, small towns, and backcountry destinations. They test gear for a living and know a thing or two about packing their bags, and what makes a good one.

To test these bags, we explored the cobbled streets of Canada, the high mountains of Colorado, and the small coastal villages of Downeast Maine. We started by researching over 100 candidates before handpicking the best. Testing went on for three months, and we brought these bags everywhere we went. We rolled them along sidewalks, through the airport, and over cobblestones. We traveled with them in the back of trucks and tucked into vans. At home, we set up obstacle courses, rolling them over and around different objects. We even hosed them down with water to see which could repel light rain. In total, these bags saw at least 2000 miles of travel and close to 100 hours of testing.

Related: How We Tested Suitcases

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Analysis and Test Results


We compared our tested suitcases across five key metrics and evaluated them side-by-side in the field and at home. We packed the same set of clothes and gear in each to compare their storage and organizational capacity. We rolled them around them trip after trip to see how easy they are to transport and even used them to move a few times. We pushed them hard to see how reliable they are, weighed them, and took stock of their style. The winners have the highest overall scores or stand out in a given metric. Read on to learn more about how each performed.

Related: Buying Advice for Suitcases

Value


Often, you get what you pay for, and we've rarely come across a high-quality, low-cost roller case. If you want well-made luggage that's likely to last, it will likely be expensive. That said, some of these bags are well-made and reasonably priced. These are the high-value options and we like that about them.


The Timbuk2 Copilot isn't the most or least expensive of the four-wheeled rollers we tested, but it scored very well in our tests and has a middle-of-the-road price. It's still an investment, but we think it's a good one. The North Face Rolling Thunder is about the same price and also offers excellent performance and rugged durability. It's our favorite two-wheeled roller in the test and costs less than the rest.

We also really like the Away Expandable Large. Its price tag seems fair, and it performed admirably in most of our tests. It is heavy enough to keep us from recommending it more highly, though. The AmazonBasics Expandable bag is the least expensive in our lineup and still performed quite well in many of our tests. While its fabric is less durable than many of the other options, and it's harder to keep the case balanced, it still works pretty darn well, especially if you'll only be traveling occasionally.

We all want the best bag in the test, but usually we buy the one...
We all want the best bag in the test, but usually we buy the one within our budget.
Photo: Clark Tate

It's a good idea to check out the manufacturer's warranty to see if you'll have any options for repair or replacement if your bag breaks.

Storage & Organization


We compared the volume, compartments, pockets, compression, and organization straps of each model. To do so, we packed, unpacked, and traveled a lot. We rotated through the selection and assessed which bag would work best for that particular trip, noting how and why. We also ran through packing tests at home, filling each with a standard adventure wardrobe, from low-bulk items like camp clothes, dresses, and suits to bulkier items like ski boots, snow pants, camping gear, and climbing racks. Bags that offered either thoughtful organization or ample storage capacity scored higher in this category.


One of our favorites in this category is the Briggs & Riley Expandable Spinner. It has just over 104-liters of storage and a unique expansion and compression system that lets you expand the main compartment, pack it full, and then compress the entire bag. It works surprisingly well. There's also a trifold hanging compartment, nicely placed external pockets for day-of organization, and an attachable strap to help you carry a second bag. This is an excellent option for the frequent flyer who likes to easily see what's in their luggage.

The Briggs &amp;amp; Riley bag nails the perfect organizational features...
The Briggs & Riley bag nails the perfect organizational features for business or casual travel.
Photo: Clark Tate

A simpler bag that also scored highly in this category is the Timbuk2 Copilot. It has a clam-style design, unzipping down the middle so you can load gear evenly on both sides. Unlike most similar suitcases, this one has both sides covered with a zippered mesh panel, so nothing spills as you open it. You can also access your things from the outside, which we love.

The peek-a-boo external pocket of the Copilot allows you to access...
The peek-a-boo external pocket of the Copilot allows you to access any items that you might want without having to unzip the entire suitcase. A feature that we love, especially for road trips.
Photo: Amber King

The Travelpro Platinum Elite 29" bag has a very similar setup to the Briggs & Riley, but instead of expanding and compressing, it just has one small zip that expands the front of the bag a bit, which isn't the best place to carry weight. However, its pockets are quite well-organized, and an internal hanging compartment will help keep your nice clothes less wrinkly.

The TravelPro Platinum has a lot of the same storage features as the...
The TravelPro Platinum has a lot of the same storage features as the Briggs & Riley bag at a lower price, including a trifold hanging compartment on the left there.
Photo: Clark Tate

The Eagle Creek ORV Trunk is a great choice for adventure travel, thanks to its many pockets and practical organizational features. This soft-sided case offers a lot of storage, an expandable dirty close compartment, and is perfect for bulky items. This is a great option if you need to bring big boots or camera gear on a long travel mission. It even has a bungee cord to attach a helmet to the top of the bag if you run out of space inside. The North Face Rolling Thunder is another rugged option that holds gear well, but it is much more simple, with only three pockets and two straps.

The Eagle Creek ORV is built like a durable beast. It offers some of...
The Eagle Creek ORV is built like a durable beast. It offers some of the best reliability overall and great organizational features.
Photo: Amber King

The Away Expandable, Delsey Paris Titanium Hardside, and American Tourister Stratum also feature clamshell designs. Of these, we like the Away bag the best. All three of these cases can expand by a little over an inch by unzipping an extra strip of fabric, but the Away's version seems sturdier than the other two. It also has a zippered flap on one side and a removable compression panel on the other. The front panel unzips into a large pocket for items you need to access easily.

We really appreciated when a bag gave us stash pockets that were...
We really appreciated when a bag gave us stash pockets that were easy to access on the day of travel.
Photo: Clark Tate

All of these bags offer enough storage to pack for anywhere from a week to months on end. When you're considering storage and organization, make sure you know if you prefer a simple bag that you can throw everything into, like the Patagonia Black Hole 70L Wheeled duffel, or if you'd prefer more built-in organization, like a trifold to keep your suit wrinkle-free.

Ease of Transport


Any wheeled luggage should be able to navigate the polished floors of an airport. But, as we all know, your luggage will also come across cracked sidewalks, steep curbs, and gravel-laden pavement. If you're traveling abroad in remote countries, it's quite possible that you'll also encounter dirt roads and cobblestone paths. To see how our tested products hold up, we rolled each case over all types of terrain, taking note of which provided the smoothest ride.


In general, four-wheeled spinner options are ideal for smooth, hard services since they can pivot and spin around any obstacle. Most of them actually have eight wheels, two at every corner connected by an axle. These include the Briggs & Riley, Away, Travelpro, Delsey, and AmazonBasics bags. They also have grippy rubber on their tires, and all roll very well. The Briggs & Riley is our favorite since it remains compact and well-balanced no matter how much you pack. The AmazonBasics tips easily if you put too much in its front pocket.

Okay, so no bag is easy to haul up the stairs, but the Briggs &amp;amp;...
Okay, so no bag is easy to haul up the stairs, but the Briggs & Riley bag did it as well as any of them, and it's excellent on surfaces that are reasonable for four-wheeled spinner bags. It's even okay on gravel.
Photo: Clark Tate

The rest work reliably well on smooth ground and, when you tilt them up on two wheels, they tackle cobblestones, and even short gravel stretches just fine. If you're going to be on rougher surfaces a lot, you should consider the two-wheeled roller bags. They aren't as nimble as the spinners at the airport since they require wider turns, but they tend to have bigger wheels that fair better in rowdy terrain.

Bags like the Away have two wheels on each corner, adding stability...
Bags like the Away have two wheels on each corner, adding stability and maneuverability.
Photo: Clark Tate

Shining in functionality, the Osprey Sojourn is a cross between a backpack and roller luggage. When you simply can't roll it anymore, unzip the back and strap it on like a backpack. You can also haul The North Face Rolling Thunder and Patagonia Black Hole duffels around by their handles, but it is considerably harder to do so. Luckily, all of their wheels work well on reasonable terrain.

The Osprey Sojourn offers great travel options. As a backpack-roller...
The Osprey Sojourn offers great travel options. As a backpack-roller suitcase, you can choose whether you roll it or carry it. On this trip, we felt especially strong, simply putting it on our back while heading towards check-in.
Photo: Amber King

If you're seeking a gentle ride that won't vibrate your arm off when navigating cobbled streets, check out the Timbuk2 Copilot. This bag uses skateboard wheels that feature a broad, stable base and offer a very smooth ride. Also, look for a bag with higher clearance. The Osprey Sojourn is untouchable in this regard, with an arching chassis that keeps it off the ground. The AmazonBasics Expandable and Delsey Paris Titanium have the most impressive clearance of the spinner bags.

The large skateboard wheels of the Timbuk2 Copilot offer great...
The large skateboard wheels of the Timbuk2 Copilot offer great travel, even over more technical terrain. Here we test it while crossing a pine-laden field riddled with rocks and dirt.
Photo: Amber King

Let's face it. There is some terrain that you won't be able to roll any of these bags over. So we also paid attention to how hard they are to carry. We appreciated the spinner bags with at least three haul handles, one on the top, another on the bottom, and one on the side. Only the Delsey and American Tourister bags don't meet this requirement. And we don't love hauling the bulky Travelpro or AmazonBasics around. The two-wheeled roller bags really nail this, all of them have a handle on each of four sides, and some feature more on the front — except for the Osprey, which is also a backpack.

Reliability


You need reliable luggage. Once you drop it off at the airport, you have no control over how well it's handled. Then you're going to drag it over rough terrain, pull it up and down flights of stairs, and toss it in and out of cars. Zippers, handles, and wheels are typically where cheaper suitcases break down. We evaluated the craftsmanship of each suitcase in our lineup and tested them with at least three months of travel.


General Wear and Tear

If you're considering dropping hundreds of dollars on a top-of-the-line model, you should start by looking at the outer material. In general, suitcases are divided into two categories, hard or soft.

After you check your luggage into the baggage handlers, you&#039;ve got...
After you check your luggage into the baggage handlers, you've got to bet it'll be tossed around without much regard. A reliable suitcase constructed of durable materials is of chief importance when considering this big investment.
Photo: Amber King

Generally, hard cases are more susceptible to wear and tear than soft-sided options. The two hard cases in this review are the Delsey and the American Tourister. The first is made of 100% polycarbonate, a fairly durable plastic. The second is made of less durable acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). Though both suitcases stretched a bit during testing, the Delsey felt more rigid and, ultimately, more durable throughout.

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Counterintuitively, soft cases stand up better to abuse since they can flex with impact. They are more prone to break-ins, though, since they are relatively easy to cut or puncture. The soft-sided bags in our test are made of nylon or polyester, or both. To figure out how durable the polyester bags might be, look for the denier, or D, rating

The Eagle Creek ORV integrates many materials to make it super...
The Eagle Creek ORV integrates many materials to make it super durable. 1000-denier polyester construction with reinforced plastic bumpers on all corners of the case adds reinforcement for high abrasion areas.
Photo: Amber King

Denier is a measurement of the linear density of the material fibers. A higher denier rating, like the 1680-denier rating of The North Face Rolling Thunder and the 1000-denier rating of the Eagle Creek ORV, indicates high durability. Lower denier ratings like the 150-denier rating of the AmazonBasics Expandable are less encouraging, though the fabric has held up during our tests.

The Rolling Thunder has a bomb-proof construction that includes a...
The Rolling Thunder has a bomb-proof construction that includes a single piece of molded polycarbonate on the backside and 1680 denier nylon with a durable water-repellant finish on the front.
Photo: Clark Tate

The Briggs & Riley bag and parts of the Osprey Sojourn feature ballistic nylon, which was developed during World War II to make flax jackets for airmen. So, that's pretty tough. We know less about the construction of the Timbk2 Copilot, but it's withstood years of use with very little wear. We think the Osprey, North Face, Timbuk2, and Briggs & Riley bags are all built to last.

Here we see the nylon and polyester combination on the Timbuk2...
Here we see the nylon and polyester combination on the Timbuk2 Copilot that offers good water resistance and overall durability.
Photo: Amber King

Water Resistance

We hosed each contender down on full blast for about three minutes. All the cases were largely impervious to water, but moisture still found its way in at the handle joints and through the zippers. Those that kept water out of these areas, like the Osprey Sojourn, scored the best in this test.

During our water tests we exposed each case to three minutes of...
During our water tests we exposed each case to three minutes of watering to simulate a real downpour. While each suitcase has waterproof fabrics, the water always seeps in through the holes in the handle and the zippers. The Osprey Sojourn has many features that keep water away from the zippers, which provides great water resistance.
Photo: Amber King

The Eagle Creek ORV and The North Face Rolling Thunder also did well, with their recessed construction and awning-like fabrics that wick water away from the zippers. Overall, none were fully waterproof, but if you need decent resistance, look for those with more protected zippers.

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Wheels

In general, two-wheeled options use larger wheels that are simpler and often more durable. Four-wheeled models often have smaller wheels with more complex construction. There's just more to break.

Our favorite wheels in the test are the skateboard rollers on the Timbuk2 Copilot. If they can stand up to skateboarding, you best believe they can roll your clothes around. They're solid, stable, and easy to change out.

The wheels on the Copilot are like skateboard wheels - very durable...
The wheels on the Copilot are like skateboard wheels - very durable and maneuverable.
Photo: Amber King

Other two-wheeled options that came close include The North Face Rolling Thunder and Eagle Creek ORV. Both are sturdy, oversized, and move easily up and down obstacles. They don't, however, offer as smooth a ride as the Copilot because they aren't flat. As a result, they vibrate more.

The North Face Rolling Thunder wheels are large and self cleaning.
The North Face Rolling Thunder wheels are large and self cleaning.
Photo: Clark Tate

Of the spinner cases, we appreciate the well-crafted wheels on the Briggs & Riley, Away, Delsey, AmazonBasics, and Travelpro Platinum, more or less in that order. All have double wheels on a single axle at each corner and a rubber layer that cushions them from the ground. This helps make them more durable with a better grip.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Handles

A good handle should retain its strength and shape even under considerable weight. In our testing, the handles for all the cases proved to be impressively resilient. Among the burliest are The North Face Rolling Thunder, Osprey Sojourn, and Eagle Creek ORV. The rest of the handles jiggled and flexed under pressure, particularly when fully extended.

A good handle that is comfortable and won&#039;t blow out under a heavy...
A good handle that is comfortable and won't blow out under a heavy load is very important to ensure the reliability of your suitcase.
Photo: Amber King

Traveling Up Stairs

One of the worst things you can do to your luggage, and your stairs, is to drag your case up, banging the backside of the case on each step. It's better to just carry your luggage up the stairs if you can. If you can't, look for cases with protective plastic bumpers that run from the wheel up the length of the case. These also help protect it from general wear and tear. Cases like The North Face Rolling Thunder have this feature. The Copilot does as well, but it's made of a metal material that is quickly scratched. Cases with oversized wheels also travel better up the stairs than those without.

None of these bags take the stairs well. We recommend just lifting...
None of these bags take the stairs well. We recommend just lifting them from step to step.
Photo: Clark Tate

Overall, we expect the Eagle Creek ORV and The North Face Rolling Thunder to stand up the best over time. They have super burly outer materials with handles and wheels that are durable and easy to change out. We also expect the Briggs & Riley Spinner to last. If durable and reliable are what you seek, these are our favorites. Other well-built options include the Timbuk2 Copilot, Away Expandable, Osprey Sojourn, and Patagonia Black Hole. All sport larger wheels that provide reliable travel and excellent water-resistance properties.

Weight


Weight is an important consideration for just about any product we review, but it's particularly critical when it comes to air travel. Airline rules often restrict checked bags to a maximum of 50 pounds, which includes the bag itself. Every pound that a bag weighs is thus another pound of gear you'll have to leave behind or pay for. We found that the sweet spot for most bags is right around the 10-pound mark. Any lighter, and you see a real loss of durability and storage capacity. Any heavier, and you're losing valuable payload capacity. To test this metric, we weighed each contender on our own scale. Then we looked at the bag's volume to weight ratio.


The bag with the most volume per weight that is also durable and well-organized is the Eagle Creek ORV Trunk. The Travelpro Platinum Elite and AmazonBasics bags do well here as well. Rolling Thunder option does not. It's burly, but you pay for that durability in pounds.

The Eagle Creek bag has one of the best volume to weight ratios in...
The Eagle Creek bag has one of the best volume to weight ratios in the test.
Photo: Clark Tate

The lightest piece of luggage in our review, the Patagonia Black Hole, is a roller duffel that offers bare-bone features and a simplistic traveling experience. It's a great option for those who can't decide between a duffel bag and a roller bag. Coming in second was the Osprey Sojourn. Of these, the Sojourn offers more storage capacity.

Style


Because of the subjective nature of this category, it isn't as heavily weighted in the overall scores. Since luggage is such an investment, we mostly gave points for looks we thought would last.


When you approach the luggage claim at the local airport, you usually spy a sea of black roller bags that look a lot like the AmazonBasics Expandable. This is obviously a popular design. There are others that we think look better, though, and will certainly be easier to pick out at the airport.

Simple and far from stylish, this generic suitcase might be hard to...
Simple and far from stylish, this generic suitcase might be hard to find in a crowd.
Photo: Eddie Kemper

The Away bag stands out as one of the most stylish options, appealing to everyone that tested it. Its matte finish and fantastic color options allow you to express yourself. The Timbuk2 bag is a lot less flashy, but its compact shape and pulled-together style always made us feel polished. The Briggs & Riley bag has a classic but boring look. We don't love its aesthetic, but you can tell it's a quality case, and that goes a long way in the fashion world.

We think the Away bag looks fun and modern while the Briggs &amp;amp;...
We think the Away bag looks fun and modern while the Briggs & Riley bag feels classic.
Photo: Clark Tate

Hard cases seem to be a favorite among the fashion-forward. Both the Delsey and American Tourister spinner bags offer striking patterns and colors.

The bright and shiny Delsey has a fun style.
The bright and shiny Delsey has a fun style.
Photo: Clark Tate

Other contenders in this review offered a more outdoorsy or casual look, such as the Rolling Thunder. The most technical and tactical-looking bag in this review is the Eagle Creek ORV. This soft-sided option isn't fashionable in an urban city sense, looking instead like the bag you'll take on your next big expedition. Whatever your style, be sure to look at the features you want and make sure the performance won't let you down.

A good suitcase pulls all the important elements together so you can...
A good suitcase pulls all the important elements together so you can forget about them.
Photo: Clark Tate

Conclusion


There is no end to the suitcase options available to you today. In this review, we take a critical look at some of the best available options. Remember to start by deciding if a roller or a spinner bag will be best for your travel purposes. Then figure out your budget and think about if there are any "must-have" features you need. We hope this review helps you with the rest.

Amber King and Clark Tate