Factors to consider
There are so many points to consider when choosing a suitcase. To help make the difficult decision a little easier check out our buying guide below:
- Wheels - 2 or 4
- Size – especially important for carry-on luggage
- Airline restrictions - budget airlines beware
- Expandability - extra space for free
- Interior compartments
- Soft or hard case
- Colour – don’t most black suitcases look the same!
- Smart suitcases or traditional - do you need that USB?
- TSA locks - make travel to the US easy!
- and finally - Price!
Hard or Soft - what is tougher?
Soft shell suitcases are more common. They are can take a bash and a squeeze with no real long term damage done to the case itself.
Soft cases don’t necessarily mean lighter in weight though. Hard shell suitcases are becoming more technically advanced, offering the same amount of protection at a lower weight point.
Soft cases are sometime also expandable. Allowing you to often increase the volume of the bag by approximately 30%.
Hard suitcases will protect the suitcases contents better than a soft shell. They also have the ability of mostly being wipe clean. This also means they are mostly waterproof.
However, this is an area where quality really comes into play.
- Hard shell suitcases made of cheap plastics can break easily if thrown, or put under the heavy weight of other cases.
- While soft shell suitcases are vulnerable to rips – not to say hard shell cases cannot also be scratched.
- Polycarbonate luggage is scratch resistant and lighter than plastic or aluminum cases, and can be even lighter than some soft luggage.
Most soft shell cases are made from made from polyester or nylon – both man made materials.
Check out our soft-shell picks here.
Most hard shell cases are made from some kind of plastic, or sometimes aluminum in premium models.
Polycarbonate – lighter than the other plastics but very durable and often impact resistant -
Polypropylene - light and durable and cost efficient.
or ABS - weighs less than Polypropylene, but is not as strong. Often found at the cheaper end.
Have a look at our hard-shell luggage picks here.
Your packing efficiency can be greatly improved by the layout of the interior of a suitcase. However, you can always check out the links on this site for the best packing tips.
Some cases have a single deep section with straps to hold everything. Others come in 2 sections, split either side of a zip dividing the case in the middle.
Additional interior straps and sections with zips also help you organize your packing.
Hard case luggage usually allows you to pack it from both sides, and probably offers the most effective way to pack your luggage. They usually include pockets and straps to keep the sides as one
Some suitcases also come with a clip on the outside near the handle. This allows you to attach a smaller bag to the large one and can often be useful.
Number of wheels – 2 or 4?
Four wheels is quickly becoming the standard.
Four wheels on a suitcase offers greater flexibility as you can push the suitcase while upright, while also giving you the option of pulling it behind you.
As the wheels can turn the full 360 degrees, you have much better control over the suitcase compared to the two wheel variety.
As with more most things suitcase related, the more you have the heavier the suitcase will become - and if it is carry-on, this is the negative of having 4 wheels.
Depending on where you are taking the case, more wheels means the greater the risk of those wheels getting jammed in the surface.
Some cases with 2 wheels only, have slightly smaller dimensions then those with 4 wheels – again a positive when it comes to the carry-on category.
Whatever option, you will need good quality wheels with reinforced wheel supports.
Other points to consider
Good cases will have multiple strong grab handles, a high quality extendable handle at the top and strong zips.
Smart Luggage- do you need that extra USB??
A new problem for us to all consider.
Do you really need your suitcase to be able to charge your battery? Or to have solar charging panels integrated into it?
More features means more weight as we now know – a big issue when if come to carry-on luggage.
But for many these new features offer a degree to usability they couldn’t be without.
If you want to reduce confusion on the luggage belt you may want to avoid black.
But black is the most common colour for suitcases for a good reason – they are the best at hiding dirt!
If you have ever seen behind the scenes at an airport you know why so many soft shell cases are sold in black!
Hard shells are mostly wipe clean, so naturally more variety of colours are available.