Carry-on luggage is the only option for many airline passengers because of the ever-increasing prices and the increased congestion at airports. However, more oversized checked luggage is required for extended trips or family vacations. We spent weeks putting eight of the most renowned checked luggage through their paces, comparing their performance across a wide range of criteria such as durability, capacity, ease of use, and more to help narrow your search.
To determine which suitcases are worth bringing on your next extended trip, we loaded and unloaded each one with our regular luggage, rolled them through the streets of New York City, and even dumped them down a set of stairs to mimic the treatment they may receive from baggage handlers.
Our testing methodology
We put eight suitcases that qualify as “check-in” size through their paces for several weeks, tracking how much we could fit inside, how sturdy they were, how easy they were to move around, and more.
All the suitcases we tested, like the best carry-on bags, had four 360-degree wheels and a hardshell construction for easy mobility. Whenever feasible, we evaluated the medium-sized bags around 25 inches tall. This is because it is simple to overpack and exceed an airline’s weight limit when using larger sizes, typically around 29 inches tall.
Only the Paravel Aviator Grand and the Samsonite Maxsum Eco, both measuring 28 and 29 inches, passed our size criteria. You can choose from the many other luggage we evaluated, several of which come in more significant sizes should you require them.
This is a rundown of every test we conducted:
Quality of construction and design
- We noted the duration and scope of each suitcase’s warranty.
- We tallied the number of available hues and patterns on the official sites of the various brands. We made a mental note of the brands whose suitcases were available in more spacious configurations.
- We used a scale to measure the empty weight of each bag.
- We looked at each bag closely and decided on the most attractive one.
We stuffed all we could into our suitcases and pushed them down many stories. Then, we counted the number of nicks and scrapes and checked for dings.
- To test their ease of movement, we rolled each fully-packed suitcase across our apartment complex and the surrounding neighborhood. We purposefully tested the stability of each suitcase by rolling it over cracks and uneven ground. We also tried switching directions by weaving the bag around.
- To determine the Away Medium’s carrying capacity, we filled it to its maximum capacity and used that number as our baseline. Afterward, we packed each suitcase to check how well it accommodated the predetermined quantity, making mental notes on whether or not everything fit, if the bag was difficult to close, or whether or not there was extra space.
- We paid specific attention to the handle, noting its durability, how it felt in our hands, how many height positions it offered, and how simple it was to adjust, mainly when the luggage was packed.
- We made a mental note of how each luggage piece was structured inside.
- To test the ease with which we could carry each baggage, we lugged each one up and down many flights of stairs with its contents inside.
- We tested the reliability of the zippers by zipping and unzipping each bag multiple times. We also noted the ease with which each zipper operated.
- We checked to verify whether the suitcases’ locks worked and if the Transportation Security Administration approved them.
- We rolled each luggage around, paying close attention to whether or not the wheels rattled or felt stiff, and we took special note of whether or not the wheels became stuck on any cracks while outside.
- We examined the outside of each bag for any distinguishing characteristics. Externally, if the bag had extendable zippers so you could bring more stuff.
The Away Medium suitcase was the best all-around option we could find, scoring higher than the competition on many of our most critical metrics. It’s robust, showing only minor scratches from its tumble down the stairs; it has a fantastic compression system inside; it’s lightweight and easy to move around, and it’s comfy to handle when you have to move it from the floor to the trunk.
The Away suitcase’s superb internal organization and compression mechanism significantly influenced our decision to rank it first. Although most of the luggage we examined featured the standard X-shaped belts to keep your garments in place, the Away featured a panel that could be cinched down to lay its contents flat.
This panel compacts your belongings more uniformly than straps, making it simpler to zip up the two halves. Another benefit of this panel is that your belongings will not fall out of your luggage if you unzip it and open it with this side on top, as they would if you used conventional straps.
The Away Medium’s spacious main compartment and straightforward zippered mesh netting allowed us to pack quite a few outfits. We brought eight collared shirts (including several heavy flannel shirts), six knit tops (hoodies and sweaters), two swimsuits, one towel, a down jacket, five pairs of pants, a toiletry bag, and three pairs of shoes. One of our favorite parts of the luggage was a zipped pouch inside, which we used to store our footwear during the trip but collapsed back into the case when we weren’t using it.
Even though some other bags had more space than the Away because of expanding zippers or a more extensive interior, we found that the Away was the most convenient to pack because of its superior organization. Away offers a more extensive, 29-inch-tall suitcase, the Large, and a smaller, 25-inch-tall Medium option. It’s easy to go overboard with a suitcase of that size, so be mindful of the airline’s 50-pound weight limit.
The Away excelled in its internal evaluations and all of our tests. We knocked it down some stairs, and it was scratched up. Still, the included scuff eraser did a fantastic job restoring its original appearance. It fared better than most of the other bags we examined by surviving the fall with only a few noticeable scrapes.
While it wasn’t the most maneuverable option we tried, it was in the upper tier of what we tried. Even when rolling it over large cracks in the pavement and street near our Brooklyn apartment, the Away Medium stayed upright thanks to its excellent balance, smooth wheels, and low center of gravity.
We had better luck maneuvering the Rimowa Essential Check-In M and the Paravel Aviator Grand, but the Away was still manageable. While the bag was fully loaded, the handle felt a bit sticky when pulled up, and we had an issue with a wheel rattling around once or twice while testing.
The Away suitcase is not only functionally advanced but also aesthetically pleasing. It has a simple, modern design and comes in six different colors, earning it a second-place spot in the aesthetics category (behind the Paravel once again).
The Away Medium Suitcase is the best option if you want a durable checked suitcase that is easy to pack, rolls smoothly, and can withstand the punishment of any airline.
In our tests, the Samsonite Freeform Medium Spinner fared exceptionally well, especially considering that comparable bags cost closer to $300. The Freeform has more space than our top pick, the Away suitcase, and rolls more smoothly than the Away’s wheels do. It also weighs roughly a pound less and has an extensible zipper on the outside.
The Freeform lacks the Away’s compression panel but makes up for it with the familiar X-shaped straps on one side, a zipped pouch on the other, and an extra slim pocket for stowing away miscellaneous items.
This Samsonite roller’s spacious interior makes up for its less-than-ideal compression and organization than the Away brand. Suppose you extend the bag by unzipping the exterior zippers. In that case, you can fit more than our top selection, and the interior room seems slightly larger than the Away.
Weighing in at precisely 9 pounds (the company’s site quotes it at 8.48 pounds), the Freeform is lighter than the Away despite its larger capacity. At 9.8 ounces, the Freeform is 0.8 ounces lighter than the Away, making it easier to lug up and down the stairs. However, unlike the Away, its handles aren’t thick and padded, making them less comfortable to carry.
The Freeform was one of the easier bags to carry inside and outside our building, but its telescopic handle was a pain. It’s not as sturdy as some of the others we tried, so it gives a lot when you switch directions, even while it’s full. There were a fair number of scuffs and scratches after the drop test but no significant physical damage like dents or breaks.
You can have more packing space in the Samsonite Freeform Medium Spinner without compromising portability for much less money than the Away Medium. You should get the Samsonite Freeform if you want a light suitcase that is easy to move about but doesn’t need to be the most durable option available.
This attractive luggage is a strong contender for our affordable pick because of its comfy handles and reasonably easy roll. However, it is more expensive than the Samsonite Freeform, and the Calpak website has run out of stock since we did our tests. When it returns to stock, it will be an excellent third choice, alongside the Freeform and the Delsey Paris Helium Aero, for those needing an inexpensive suitcase that doesn’t skimp on quality.
In our drop testing, this luggage fared well, sustaining only minor damage, such as a few scratches. However, it lacked mobility due to poor wheel design. The wheels on this suitcase were the smallest we tried, and they got trapped in cracks more frequently than on any others. We can’t recommend this luggage with its average results across the board.
The Delsey was another top contender; it rolled along smoothly enough and had the most comfortable handlebars we tested. Its performance was extremely close to that of the Samsonite Freeform, making the Delsey (when on sale) an excellent alternative for those who are excited about that bag but want a different style or color.
The Paravel Aviator Grand is an excellent piece of luggage that came close to winning our top pick. It’s the most spacious bag we tried, rolls effortlessly, is the most eco-friendly option, and has the most pleasing aesthetics. It weighed the heaviest and was the second largest bag we tested. Compared to Away and the Freeform, it was noticeably heavier by more than 2 pounds and 3 pounds, respectively (12 vs. 11.8 pounds; the company’s site puts it at 11.8 pounds).
Every ounce counts when trying to keep your suitcase under the airport’s 50-pound limit. The Paravel Aviator Grand is still a fantastic option if you’re a strategic packer who values style, portability, and durability in a suitcase.
The Hue’s minimalistic design is similar to that of the Away, and it shares an extensible zipper, soft grips, and rollable wheels with that suitcase. Nonetheless, it suffered the worst damage of any tested luggage when it fell down a flight of stairs, denting heavily in two corners.
Yet another reliable luggage, this Samsonite model fared well in most of our evaluations. It managed the best in our drop testing compared to the other bags we evaluated. Despite its height of 29 inches, it barely weighs 9.4 pounds. A zipper would have made opening and closing the suitcase much more manageable than its locking system.
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