Emotional (about) Baggage
July 18, 2022 10:51 AM   Subscribe

Hit me with your luggage recommendations! I'm suspicious of review sites and would rather hear from actual users.

In a couple of weeks, the nkk family will be traveling internationally for the first time in (mumbledymumble) years and I need a largish, lightweight, wheeled suitcase to check.

- Lightweight is KEY
- I do not want Away or anything with an integrated charger
- I'm leaning strongly towards soft-sided
- Amazon is ok, given the time constraint
- Budget is (alas) not infinite

Got a suitcase recently that you love? Tell me about it!
posted by nkknkk to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I've had good luck with the eBags wheeled duffels. They're under $200 normally and there's always a code to make them cheaper. However, they only have two wheels so they're not true rolling luggage.
posted by kingdead at 10:58 AM on July 18, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I've had a great experience with my Travelpro Maxlite 4 bag. It's not fancy or especially stylish but it's not very expensive and, anecdotally, I've heard it's a preferred brand among flight crew for its reliability. I've had mine for five years and it's been consistently great.
posted by derrinyet at 11:06 AM on July 18, 2022 [5 favorites]

I find that hardsided suitcases are all about the same, and retail prices are extremely inflated. I get all my suitcases at Ross/Marshall's/TJ Maxx.
posted by homodachi at 11:12 AM on July 18, 2022 [5 favorites]

I've had great luck with Antler, which is a UK brand but available in some US online stores. They're pricy, but amazingly light and spacious, with great balance and wheels. A soft-sided suitcase finally died after over a decade of fairly regular travel due to abuse in a particular airport not known for its care with handling. I then got a hardsided case from the same brand and it went through two dozen flights to the same airport without issue.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 11:26 AM on July 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

be aware the difference between soft-sided and hard-sided is that hard-sided ones open in the middle. Your stuff is divided in half; there is a zippered cover that keeps the "top" side in place when you open it up.

This has upsides and downsides. The major upside is that it is easier to root through half your stuff at a time than all of it. The downside is that it's an extra step of dealing with the zipper, etc.

Softsided has the opening on one side so you just open it like a box.

I find hardsided ones to be lighter in general. Not sure why this is.

+1 I buy hard side suitcases at Ross/Marshalls/TJMaxx. There are name brands there too. Just try them out on the floor first to make sure you like how the wheels go. I loooove the every-direction wheels on the new hard case suitcases.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:26 AM on July 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

I have a smaller hard-sided suitcase and a larger soft-sided suitcase. I got them both from eBags but I have multiple friends who've made out like bandits at Ross/TJ Maxx as recommended above.

4-way wheels will change your LIFE. I would avoid the rolling duffels, I watched too many people on my last trip STRUGGLE with them flopping over and only having 2-way wheels. They are also really really easy to overload.

Whatever else you do, my recommendation is to choose a garish color. Black suitcases look all the same and are easy for someone else to mistake as theirs, but no one is going to claim my lime-green monster.
posted by Medieval Maven at 11:32 AM on July 18, 2022 [6 favorites]

Away makes suitcases without the integrated charger. I have two and absolutely love them, 10/10, huge fan.
posted by Charity Garfein at 11:53 AM on July 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My Amazon Basics rolling hard-sided has been on a number of international trips, fully loaded, and performed well while being lightweight:


I got the hard-sized because it provided some protection for stuff inside (like bringing wine bottles home), and as fingersandtoes mentions I liked that it split into two halves when open for organization.

I also got luggage straps for it so that I don't have to worry about the zippers popping open:


I use them exactly as pictured - lengthwise and crosswise, through the handles.

I got orange b/c it's easier to see on the luggage carousels, most bags are navy/black/silver.
posted by jpeacock at 11:55 AM on July 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Seconding Away without the charger. I was skeptical but have absolutely loved mine.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:40 PM on July 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

I find hardsided ones to be lighter in general.

I don't think this is true, they are generally heavier though not nearly as much as people expect.

Soft sided cases are fine when travelling by car, but if you intend to check them in at an airport I would always go for hard sided.
posted by Lanark at 12:43 PM on July 18, 2022

Eagle Creek makes fantastic, lightweight luggage that lasts. Had mine for over 10 years and it still looks near new after many, many international trips. If anything does break, their No Matter What Warranty covers repair or replacement for the life of the product. Had a broken wheel replaced on one bag, no questions asked. I'm typically a bargain shopper but I got tired of needing to buy a new suitcase from Ross/Marshall's every year and finally invested in something that will last. Well worth it!
posted by platinum at 12:47 PM on July 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

I have been happy with the Mother Lode from ebags, although the version I have lacks wheels. I love that it doesn't have to be checked, and it easily held enough for a 10 day trip. It's also held up very well. There is a wheeled version in the link. I will be doing my best to never check any luggage again now that I've seen how nice it is without doing so.
posted by crunchy potato at 12:52 PM on July 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

I purchased IFLY from Walmart that I love. Very lightweight; rolls extremely easily; got the smaller one on sale for a ridiculously cheap price (that color was discontinued).

I also bought the eBag Motherlode backpack, not sure if it's the Junior or the regular and it's the bag I grab most often. (I don't get a chance to travel much, so it's just usually weekend trips). It's amazing when I use packing cubes, holds soooo much, is easy to carry on my back. It's my all time favorite.
posted by annieb at 3:43 PM on July 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: YKK zippers are excellent - durable and strong. If you're considering a brand of luggage that isn't Internet-famous, YKK zippers are a good indicator of overall quality.

I prefer 2-wheeled bags as they're more manoeuvrable than 4-wheeled types. Plus each wheel adds weight. But wheels are for urban travels in places with nice floors and footpaths. Any rougher than that and a backpack style (not necessarily youth hostel style backpacking) will be easier to manage. Duffle bags with no wheels which you have to carry on one side of your body are the worst of both worlds.

Hard shells are more resistant to knocks and drops, and can be decorated with stickers to make it easier to tell them apart from similar stuff that belongs to someone else. Soft sides are easier to squash into odd places or over-stuff a bit.
posted by harriet vane at 3:10 AM on July 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: End result: We bought the 2-wheeled TravelPro Maxlite 5 in a couple different sizes and they were perfect for our trip. Not too spendy, very lightweight, spacious, sturdy and easy to manuever. Thanks, all!
posted by nkknkk at 1:34 PM on August 17, 2022

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