Needed: hard-sided, zipperless luggage
June 24, 2019 2:48 PM   Subscribe

Help me choose a sturdy piece of zipperless checked luggage for international travel.

- Hard-sided with no exterior storage
- Zipperless
- Check-in sized (I don't need it to be enormous, but I have to check a bag anyway to carry pocket knives and scissors, so I might as well get something a bit roomier than a carry-on)
- Lockable with either a padlock or integral locks

I am open to either 2- or 4-wheeled luggage.

Aesthetically, I plan on putting a few stickers on my luggage so it's easily recognizable. Shiny space-age aluminum-style polycarbonate luggage looks good to me, but so do heavy-duty wheeled plastic boxes in safety orange.

Please suggest anything that fits these requirements! I'm going to list luggage I'm considering and not considering, but I'm very much open to other models that I haven't heard of yet.

Currently considering:

Rimowa Hybrid or Original. I've heard great things about Rimowa. But is it worth the hefty price tag?

Arlo Skye Polycarbonate Check-In Cheaper than the Rimowa, but it's a newer brand so it's unclear to me how well it holds up over time.

Pelican Air 1525 or 1615 (wheeled cases) On the pros side, it's extremely sturdy. Cons are that even the "Air" model is heavy (which eats up baggage weight allowance), and the brand is generally associated with expensive contents so might be a theft target. Major con: no internal suitcase compartments for organizing my stuff. I'm not sure that I'm seriously considering a Pelican (or a Nanuk or Seahorse case) but I'm open to being convinced.

Not considering:

Pelican Elite Vacationer or Weekender. I was really excited when I saw this bag, since it's basically exactly what I'm looking for. Unfortunately I've read several reviews of it being easily breakable and not up to Pelican's usual standards.

Away Medium. I wanted to like this as well, and they sound great AND affordable. But I really need a zipperless bag and unfortunately all their bags have zippers.

A bit more about my trip and luggage scheme:

I am planning to bring a waterproof backpack as my carry-on bag and a small camera bag as my under-seat personal item. This is an extended (multi-month) trip. I will generally be staying in one spot for long periods, rather than traveling regularly from town to town.
posted by cnidaria to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I love my Pelican cases, BUT:
They are HEAVY.
They are harder to overstuff than something with a zipper.
They can attract undue attention from thieves and customs.

Other than that, they're great.
posted by TheCoug at 3:55 PM on June 24, 2019

The aluminum Away suitcases use latches instead of zippers. They’re significantly more expensive than the other Away stuff but less expensive than, say, Rimowa’s aluminum luggage. I’ve had one for a couple years and it’s held up great but I don’t travel a ton. It definitely gets dings and dents but I don’t mind them.
posted by hapticactionnetwork at 5:18 PM on June 24, 2019

I'm also looking at the Samsonite Tru-Frame 25" Spinner, which is on sale at the moment -- does anyone have experience with that suitcase?
posted by cnidaria at 5:35 PM on June 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have both a nice samsonite and a rimowa case, although not the specific models you are looking at. Out of the two I prefer the rimowa for sheer ease of manoeuvrability - something about the comparatively wide wheels makes it so incredibly stable and smooth to push.
posted by koahiatamadl at 7:26 PM on June 24, 2019

I’ve used a rimowa and they’re extremely sturdy but also quite basic but mostly they’re extremely expensive and i’m not sure any piece of luggage is worth that price. I would try and find some sort of clone because with rimowa you’re clearly paying more for the brand name, also they stick out making them a prime target for theft (when the luggage alone is worth a thousand bucks who cares what you packed in it).
posted by SageLeVoid at 3:30 AM on June 25, 2019

We bought two of these Seahorse cases three years ago because we needed something waterproof to put on top of our car. We like them a lot. Our stuff stayed dry on that trip and we use them for all of our travel ever since. They are a little heavy but they're sturdy as hell. They do have holes for little luggage padlocks, though we haven't ever used those. (They have rotating tabs to prevent them from being opened but they're not secure for someone who wants to get into your luggage, just to keep them from popping open unintentionally.) And they come in fun colors! Edited to add: both of us have stickered ours, both so we can tell them apart and it's just a fun place to put stickers. So I can confirm they take stickers well.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 6:41 AM on June 25, 2019

I refuse to check zippered luggage, and after exhaustive research, I bought the 25” Samsonite you mentioned. It has latches with numerical locks (you can use different numbers for the two latches), and it has the TSA access lock. I am accustomed to an underseat carryon, and the 25” suitcase has HUGE capacity. For structural integrity, it is recommended you pack it full, not leave it half empty, and I commonly toss in my full-length terrycloth bathrobe and/or my king-sized bed pillow.

It has four wheels, but I usually tow it slanted on two wheels, and it maneuvers fine. I am eyeing their 20” , for the option of carrying on or checking.
posted by Dogged Persistence at 6:45 AM on June 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

I often travel with Pelican cases for work reasons, and fairly often we'll toss them inside a crappy old duffel or softsided suitcase just so that you don't have something that screams "REALLY EXPENSIVE STUFF INSIDE" sitting on the luggage carousel. The outer duffels don't last very long, but worth it to protect the contents. Some of the duffels are more duct tape than anything else by weight, which only helps the optics. Nobody's going to bother to filch something that looks like it belongs to a hobo on holiday.

I suppose this defeats the purpose of seeking out zipper-less luggage, though.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:39 AM on June 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have had nothing but luck with a Samsonite Oyster, which they don't make anymore but which is similar to the Flite Upright. Cheap and about as bombproof as you'd like; I live in the Balkans and travel a lot, and it gets lots of marks where it's been bashed, but to date it's stayed fully functional and nothing inside has been killed.
posted by BReed at 10:33 AM on June 25, 2019

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