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Even if you travel very occasionally, unless you want to borrow something from a friend every time you do so, you will have to have at least some sort of luggage – be it a suitcase, a backpack, a duffel bag, or something else.
If you travel regularly, then you might even need more than one type of luggage, depending on the type of travels you tend to do.
In this article, I will help you selecting the best luggage for you.
First, we will look at all the different types of luggage that you can get. Then, we will look at some of the popular luggage brands. Finally, we’ll go over what are the things to consider when choosing an ideal piece of luggage for your needs and what accessories you might consider getting together with your new piece of luggage.
Before continuing, here’s a brief table of contents as the article got quite long:
- Luggage Comes in All Shapes and Forms
- Luggage Brands for All Budgets and Uses
- Ten Things to Consider When Choosing the Best Luggage for You
- Accessories You Might Want to Get in Addition to Luggage
Luggage Types: From Suitcases to Sports Equipment Bags
Depending on your travel style – whether or not you tend to check a bag in, how long and what purpose you travel for, and so on – you might prefer one type of luggage or another.
And, while suitcases and backpacks tend to be some of the most popular luggage styles, there are many more than that.
So, let’s take a look at at all the different types of luggage you should consider.
While some suitcases use a zipper to close, others use locks that hold the two parts of a suitcase together. They are also equipped with handles – and most of the modern suitcases sport an extending handle and either two or four wheels that make lugging them around flat surfaces easy.
Besides varying in their sizes, shapes, and colors, suitcase also come in a variety of different materials. Roughly, though, they are divided into soft-shell suitcases and hard-shell suitcases.
Smaller carry-on suitcases are perfect for short trips, while larger checked suitcases are ideal for trips where you stay at a single accommodation for a prolonged period of time.
While there are large backpacks that can serve as checked luggage on longer trips – and are perfect for situations where rolling a suitcase is not possible (off-road places, buildings with many staircases, etc.) – there are also smaller backpacks that you can use to complement your larger suitcase or as a substitute for a small carry-on suitcase.
Regardless, the main thing that makes backpacka a backpack is the fact that it is designed to be carried on your back – with two shoulder straps (and sometimes waist and chest straps) holding it in place.
Their name comes from Duffel, a Belgian town where the cloth commonly used to make these bags in the past was manufactured.
Most of duffel bags are secured with a zipper. And, they come in both sizes small enough for be used as carry-on, as well as larger sizes. Their biggest advantage is that they are light and can be compacted when not in use.
They are generally made out of fabric or leather, and are large enough to hold documents, a laptop, and so on.
Because of their size, they are suitable as a carry-on bag – especially so as a “personal item” that you can place underneath the seat in front of you and (with most full-service airlines) take onboard with you in addition to a larger carry-on bag or suitcase.
Garment bag, as its name suggests, is a bag that is specifically designed to transport clothes that are easy to get wrinkled like suits and dresses.
They are typically made of fairly thin fabric and – once the clothes are placed inside – fold in half.
While you can carry them onboard, keep in mind that with many airlines they count as the main piece of carry-on luggage rather than a personal item. And, as such, you might not be able to take a small suitcase or similar onboard together with the garment bag.
Laptop bags and backpacks come in all shapes and forms – ranging from messenger bags through larger bags all the way to backpacks small and large. The one thing that they all have in common is that they are equipped with a padded laptop compartment.
While with most laptop bags, you will have to take your laptop out at the airport’s security check, some backpacks are equipped with laptop pockets that can folded out.
That allows them to be laid flat on the X-ray belt and saves you the hassle of having to remove the laptop from the bag.
Similarly to laptop bags, photo bags are made in a wide variety of styles. The two most popular ones are shoulder bags which allow easy access to your photo equipment and backpacks which are more comfortable to carry around.
They also come in many sizes – and so, you will have to look at your equipment including the number of bodies and lenses, as well as other accessories you will be carrying around, and decide about the size that best suits your needs.
If you tend to travel with your photo equipment a lot, you will likely want to have at least one shoulder bag and one backpack as they are both suitable for different types of situations.
Protective Hard Cases
While in general, I advise against checking your photo equipment in, if you are a professional going on a large shoot or similar, you might have too much equipment to carry it onboard the aircraft with you.
In those cases, you will want to avoid checking in your standard “soft” photo bag.
Instead, you will want to enclose your equipment in a protective hard case that is padded with foam on the inside.
These cases are also useful for transporting power tools and other expensive – and especially sensitive – equipment.
Sports Equipment Bags
While some smaller items like table tennis paddles and soccer balls will do just fine in your regular luggage, with items like skis, golf clubs, and fishing rods, you will want to get special protective cases.
Some of these cases will be made out of hard plastic while others will be made out of fabric but will be designed to specifically hold the type of equipment you are transporting – whether a pair of ski boots or a snowboard.
Before heading to the airport, though, keep in mind that special rules might apply to transporting these bags depending on the airline you are flying with. To find those out, just search for “[sport] equipment [airline]” on Google.
Luggage Brands: From American Tourister to Victorinox
While Samsonite, Delsey, and American Tourister are some of the best known luggage brands, there are many other lesser-known brands that are still worth looking at.
In case you are deciding between the three brands mentioned earlier, you might also want to check out my article that compares the three in detail.
Otherwise, make sure to take a look at some of the luggage brands worth knowing that I talk about below. They are in alphabetical order.
American Tourister was founded in 1933 by Sol Koffler who went on to build it into one of the world’s biggest luggage makers. In fact, the brand has been acquired by Samsonite – the world’s largest luggage maker in 1993 – and is currently the second largest luggage brand in the world.
While suitcases are the product for this brand, they also manufacture a variety of different luggage types including backpacks, duffel bags, and laptop bags.
To brighten up their product line-up, the brand also partnered with Disney to offer luggage inspired by Mickey Mouse, Star Wars, and other Disney franchises.
Having been founded in Como, Italy, in 1952, the luxury luggage maker has since then grown into one of the best known luxury luggage makers in the world.
It’s line-up includes, among other things, carry-on and checked suitcases, duffel bags, backpacks, and travel accessories. All of these are handcrafted in Italy, and mainly made from high-quality Tuscan leather.
Briggs & Riley
Briggs & Riley is a luxury luggage maker that was founded in 1993 in California and is currently based in New York. The company mainly produces simple but elegant carry-on and checked suitcases. However, it also offers duffel bags, backpacks, toiletry bags and other accessories.
Throughout its history, it commercialized several new ideas including the expandable suitcase and the suitcase with its handle housing mounted outside to provide a flat surface on the inside. That said, what it is likely best known for is its lifetime warranty that even covers damage caused by airlines – and which justifies the higher price of its luggage.
Delsey was founded in 1946 in Paris, France, and since then has been manufacturing suitcases of all kinds. Besides that, it also makes some briefcases and backpacks, as well as a variety of travel accessories ranging from luggage locks all the way to electrical plug adapters and sleeping masks.
The company invests heavily in developing new technologies in the space which has resulted in it being awarded over 50 patents. For the end consumer, the more noticeable signature feature of the brand is its designs’ “French elegance.”
The one thing most of its items – whether its checked wheeled duffel bags or smaller backpacks – is that they are designed with the “adventurous traveler” in mind and have much more of an “outdoor” feel than some other brands offer.
In fact, they even partnered with National Geographic to create a line of luggage inspired by its explorers.
Globe-Trotter is a luggage manufacturer founded in Mayfair, England, in 1897. While nowadays the company manufactures a wide variety of luggage including briefcases, duffel bags, and tote bags, as well as a selection of travel accessories, the main part of its business – and the products its best known for – are very retro-looking suitcases.
The unique thing about them is that most of them are made out of vulcanised fibreboard – bonded layers of paper. Surprisingly, the material is reported to be more water-resistant and resistant to wear-and-tear than leather.
Hartmann traces its origins all the way back to 1877 when it was established in Wisconsin by a Bavarian trunkmaker of the same name. It produces several lines of high quality suitcases, as well as casual luggage and accessories like wallets.
While it has fairly “standard” looking products in its line-up, it also offers some unique designs including suitcases made out of tweed.
Lowepro came to existence as a spin-off of Lowe Alpine Systems, an outdoor equipment maker founded by Lowe brothers in 1967. Since then, the company has grown into world’s leading camera bag manufacturer.
The company also expanded its line of products from traditional camera bags and backpacks to bags designed for other gadgets such as drones. Besides that, it nowadays also makes a wide variety of laptop bags and backpacks.
While Yoshida & Co., the company which owns the Porter brand, was founded in Tokyo in 1935, it wasn’t until decades later that the Porter brand of luggage was launched. In fact, the brand wasn’t introduced until 1962.
Since that time, it’s been producing handcrafting bags made in Japan ranging from small shoulder bags all the way to backpacks and camera bags.
Rimowa is a luxury luggage maker founded in 1898 in Cologne where it is based to this date. So luxurious, in fact, that LVMH – the owner of Louis Vuitton among other brands – decided to acquire 80% of the company in 2016.
While the company produces a variety of travel accessories as well as polycarbonate suitcases, it is by far best known for its suitcases made of aluminum with its signature grooved structure – something that the company was able to trademark.
Besides expanding its own line of luggage – ranging from suitcases and duffel bags all the way to briefcases and tote bags – it also acquired several other brands including American Tourister, Hartmann, Tumi, and eBags. The majority of its luggage is manufactured in India and Hungary.
Fun fact: Between 1961 and 1972, Samsonite manufactured and distributed Lego blocks in the North American market.
Travelpro was founded by Bob Plath – a former Northwest Airlines 747 pilot who got tired of lugging around his luggage, and so came up with his own solution to it. The solution is something that we know very well today – a carry-on suitcase with a pair of wheels and a handle.
At that time, though, it was a revolutionary idea, and it was initially only sold to crew members. The Travelpro company was founded to commercialize the product, and since then has grown to offer all sorts of luggage – both carry-on and checked.
Originally started in 1975 by Charlie Clifford and named after a Peruvian ceremonial knife, Tumi is now a publicly traded subsidiary of Samsonite. The high-end luggage manufacturer is best known for its black business bags made out of ballistic nylon. Other than that, it also manufactures backpacks, suitcases, as well as travel accessories.
One thing worth noting about Tumi is that it offers a complimentary tracking program where customers can register their suitcases’ unique registration numbers into a database which can then be used to trace lost luggage to its owners.
While Victorinox, a company founded more than 130 years ago, is best known for its iconic Swiss Army Knife, it is also involved in manufacturing of other products such as watches, cutlery, and travel gear.
In terms of luggage, Victorinox offers a wide variety of hardside as well as softside suitcases, duffel bags, backpacks and messenger bags, as well as smaller accessories like toiletry bags and wallets.
Ten Things to Consider When Choosing the Best Luggage for You
With every new piece of luggage you decide to get, there will be the same ten things you will need to consider in order to make the best possible decision.
Here they are.
The very first thing you will need to consider when choosing the right piece of luggage is, of course, how you are planning to use it as that will determine what you will be looking for in the rest of the criteria mentioned below.
You will have to decide whether you will be only using the bag as a checked in bag, or whether you also plan to use it as a carry-on.
Similarly, you will also have to think about the length of trips you will use the bag one, whether you will be changing accommodation on those trips a lot, and whether you will be spending more time in airports and other places with a lot of flat surfaces or rather be in nature or walk on cobblestone streets, and so on.
Finally, this goes without saying, but you should also keep in mind what kind of things you will be storing in your new luggage – especially so if you are planning to travel with a laptop, a larger camera with multiple lenses, skis, and so on.
With the above in mind, you can more or less decide about the style of luggage that will suit your needs the best. I talk about a variety of different styles further down in this article, but let’s take a look at a couple of examples.
In some regards – you will be limited – for example, you wouldn’t want a suitcase if you are going hiking. And, you wouldn’t want to use a thin fabric bag without any padding for your expensive photo equipment.
At the same time, much of it will come down to your preferences.
Also, if you need more than one style of luggage (or more than one size of the same style of luggage), you should consider getting a luggage set which oftentimes offers better value than buying the pieces individually.
Chances are that if you go to a local discount store, you will find suitcases and other pieces of luggage there for very cheap. And, I would not necessarily stay away from those products – especially so if you only travel every now and then or if you need a specific type of luggage just for a single specific trip.
At the same time, though, generally, the more you spend on a luggage, the better it is. And, that will oftentimes not be apparent at first.
You might look at a backpack for $30 and then at one for $150, and say to yourself they both look exactly the same. But, once you walk for hours with either of them on your back, you might realize the subtle differences that make the $150 one a very clear winner worth the extra price.
Similarly – and this happened to me a couple times – the wheels and handles on more expensive suitcases are generally way better than those on the cheap ones. Which – again – might not make a difference if you just throw the suitcase in the back of your car, but makes a lot of difference if you have to drag your suitcase over long distances.
In either case, if you plan to use a piece of luggage repeatedly over years, I suggest investing in a higher end product that will likely be more comfortable and last longer.
Most of luggage is made either out of fabric or plastic. You will also commonly encounter leather luggage. Some of the less common materials include aluminum and vulcanized fibreboard.
When choosing luggage, I wouldn’t necessarily focus on exactly what kind of material is used to produce the one you will be getting (unless, of course, you are keen on Italian leather or things like that).
Instead, the main thing to consider should be whether you want a hard-shell or soft-shell piece of luggage.
While the former is made of materials that are fairly flexible like fabric and leather, the latter is made out of less flexible materials including plastic and aluminum. Keep in mind that even hard-shell luggage is oftentimes quite “soft.” And so, if you want maximum durability, go for true hard cases that are made out of rigid plastic.
Size and Weight
The main thing to think about when deciding what size of luggage to get is whether you will be checking it in or also plan to carry it onboard an aircraft. If you plan to carry it on, you also have to think whether you want a bag that will fit under the seat in front of you or whether you want to store it in the overhead compartment.
As for weight, I wouldn’t worry about it too much in case you plan to be checking the bag in. However, if you plan to use it as a carry-on, then you might want to consider it.
After all, while having a bag that weighs 2 kilos instead of 1 kilo when empty is not a problem when you are using your 23 kilos of checked luggage allowance, but makes quite a difference when using it as your carry-on with a 7-kilo allowance.
Mobility and Comfort
This is not something to worry about too much if you just need to take your bag from your car to the check-in counter, and then to another car. However, if you plan to use the bag as a carry-on, use public transportation a lot, hike with the bag, and so on, then the bag’s mobility and comfort should be one of the top things to consider.
Some things to consider here are whether you would prefer a suitcase with wheels (and if so whether you would prefer two large ones which are good for rougher surfacer or four smaller ones which are better for smooth surfaces as they offer better handling) or a backpack.
In general, for anything even remotely heavy that you plan to carry around for a long time, I would suggest you to stay away from duffel bags and similar styles of luggage where you have to either carry them in your hand or hang them over just one shoulder.
If you are getting a suitcase, you will have to choose from either one that closes with latches or zippers. While the former has, generally, a lock built in, the latter sometimes does not.
For checked luggage, I recommend choosing a suitcase with latches. For carry-on, either will work. However, if you go for a suitcase with zippers, preferably pick one with a built-in lock since securing zippers with a padlock doesn’t really secure the contents the bag as can be seen in this video.
When picking a piece of luggage with a built in lock, look for one that is “TSA-approved.” That means – at least in the United States – that the security staff will be, if necessary, able to open your suitcase without destroying the lock (and in process the suitcase).
Once you decide what style of luggage you want to get, you should also consider if there are any features that you want the bag to have. While the built-in lock mentioned above is one of such features, here are some more examples.
When picking a suitcase, you might want to look for one that has some external pockets that are easy to access (especially so if you are getting a carry-on one) or how the interior is designed – whether there are any pockets, partitions, and so on to help you organize your belongings.
When looking for a laptop bag, you might look at whether it is designed so that the laptop compartment folds out – thus saving you the hassle of having to take the laptop out during security check.
And, when looking for a camera bag, you might want to consider whether it has, besides the main lid, a quick access lid which can help you get to your camera more easily to snap a photo you might otherwise miss. Or, whether it has straps for attaching a tripod to it.
The last two things to consider are more “cosmetic” than the others. And, so, while I wouldn’t stress over them too much, it’s still worth keeping them in mind.
The first of those is the design of the luggage you want to choose.
Part of that is, of course, functional.
To maximize the space for your belongings, you will want to pick a regular rectangular suitcase, and not a “cool” triangular one, for example. And, if you want to be able to quickly identify your bag at the airport luggage belt, a bright green bag will certainly stand out more than a classic black one that everyone has.
Other than that, though, it really is up to your preferences. And, considering the number of colors, shapes, and forms that every single style of luggage comes in, you will have a lot to choose from.
That is, unless you are like me, and just go with the simplest black piece of luggage.
The last thing that you will have to consider is brand. Or, first of all, whether you care about it or not.
Personally, I tend not to care about the brand too much – as long as I can get a decent piece of luggage for an appropriate price. Given that I prefer, as mentioned above, simple designs that almost any brand makes, brand is not really a dealbreaker for me.
However, if you like luggage with unique design or are a fan of a certain brand, then this criteria is certainly an important one to consider.
Luggage-Related Accessories to Consider Getting
Now that you know all that you need to know to pick the right luggage for you, let’s also take a look at what luggage-related accessories there are.
If you don’t mind simply “throwing” all your things into a suitcase, then you won’t need them.
But, if you prefer to have your shirts, pants, and so on nicely separated, then you might want to get a set.
In fact, regardless of how organized you are, you likely want at least a couple to store your underwear in.
If that’s the case – and especially if you plan to be checking that piece of luggage in – you should consider getting an external luggage lock. They are very affordable, and are usually sold in sets of two or three which should be enough to secure all the zippers on a single bag.
The one thing you will have to decide about when choosing one is whether you prefer it to be secured with a numerical code or with a traditional key.
It’s basically a piece of fabric with a latch that you can wrap around the suitcase tightly to prevent it from accidentally opening. While sometimes it is equipped with a lock, I wouldn’t worry about that too much.
While the strap makes it harder for anyone with bad intentions to get into your bag, it is mainly there to prevent the contents of your suitcase from spilling in case the zipper fails or similar.
They are very affordable, and very compact. And so, you can not only make sure that your bag is within the limits when you leave your home, but also when you depart your destination.
Which, in many cases, is when the luggage oftentimes tends to be heavier with all the souvenirs and so on.
If you travel regularly, then the above four items are almost must-haves. Luggage carts are a bit different, and you will only need them in very specific cases. In fact, chances are that you will not need to get one.
However, if you travel with cardboard boxes (that obviously have no handles or wheels) or with multiple pieces of luggage, then you might want to consider getting one.
Just remember that while they will make carrying your luggage around easier in those situations, you will also have to carry the extra weight of the luggage cart, and that you will have to store the luggage cart somewhere when checking in the luggage.
Regardless of how often you travel, chances are you will need to have at least one piece of luggage. If you tend to travel in a variety of different ways (business trips, backpacking, family visits, etc.), then you will likely need at least a couple of different pieces of luggage of different styles.
The most universal ones are suitcases and backpacks. While the first of those are perfect for shorter trips where you travel with just a carry-on and for longer trips where you stay at the same accommodation (family visits, etc.) for a longer period of time, backpacks are more comfortable to travel with on trips into the nature or for trips where you have to do a lot of walking (especially on unpaved roads, etc.).
Besides getting the luggage you need, you should also consider getting some of the luggage-related accessories mentioned above. If you are not sure where to start, I would recommend picking up a couple of packing cubes, a luggage strap if you are using a suitcase, and a lock if your luggage doesn’t have a built-in one.