Our tests are independently conducted and reflect the test editor's honest and objective opinions. Selection of products and test results are in no way influenced by manufacturers, retailers or other internal or external parties.
Spacious case with many useful pockets, high quality wheels and several openings
Material: Polypropylene Guarantee: 2 year guarantee Sizes: 75 litres (4.1 kg). TSA lock: No, but lockable zip Inside: Lined inside with mesh divider
Thule Subterra are a series of well-designed cases in a range of sizes and formats. They are all similar but there are also significant differences. The large Subterra measures 70 x 40 x 35 cm and holds 75 litres of luggage. It’s really sturdy with plenty of space, so it’s ideal for a longer trip. The case opens either in the middle – in which case the other half is divided off with mesh fabric – or from above. This makes it easy to access even the items you packed first. Although we’d have liked to see straps to hold the clothes in place in the other half.
There’s no shortage of useful storage pockets in the Thule Subterra. This is a case for the well organised, with good pockets for documents, an address label and other useful things. Despite rough treatment by airport baggage handlers, the case looks new and the two wheels roll very well. As well as pulling the case behind you, you can also easily carry it over your shoulder with the sturdy straps. You can pull the handle straight up without having to push in any catches. But to push it down again you have to press in two buttons, and if you have smaller hands you need to use both to do this. External compression straps help you reduce the size of the bag once packed. There’s also a loop where you can attach smaller cases while you’re rushing between airport terminals. Thule have thought of most things when were designing the Subterra Luggage, and it’s a fantastic case for the serious traveller.
Material: Polypropylene Guarantee: 2 year guarantee Sizes: 36 litres (3.2 kg) TSA lock: No, but lockable zip Inside: Lined inside with removable divider
The Thule Subterra Carry-On can be carried as hand luggage and measures 36 x 37 x 55 cm. It’s a cabin bag with two really sturdy wheels that roll well. Many cabin bags today have four rotating wheels, which means that the case can be moved easily even when it’s standing upright. But the Thule Subterra Carry-On is so easy to move that you never feel the need for more wheels. You pull handle straight up to the correct height. To push it back in you have to press two buttons at the same time. If you have small hands you need to use both of them to do this. There are sturdy carrying handles on both the short and long side of the case. The Subterra Carry-On has a textile outer layer but this is also of high quality. After several journeys both as hand baggage and hold baggage, it doesn’t show any scratches – barely even a spot.
On the outside, the Thule Subterra Carry-On has a clever pocket that’s big enough for paperwork and other things you need to access quickly. When you open the case, you immediately recognise it as a Thule product. One size is closed off with a standard zipped mesh divider. The other side has a lid with a hard frame, which Thule call a lockable compression panel. The panel can be removed completely, but can also be attached at different heights depending on how much luggage you need to carry. And the actual lid is made of two layers – mesh fabric on top and a denser material beneath. A perfect space for dirty shoes. As an extra bonus, there’s also the Subterra Carry-On 40 litre. You can carry this softer case as a backpack or with a shoulder strap, but it can also be combined with the cabin bag. You do this using a holder that you can thread over the suitcase handle. Each one separately is the right size to travel as hand baggage. And together they're perfect when two people are travelling together but you want to keep your luggage as convenient as possible. And you’re certain to have a smooth journey with the Thule Subterra Carry-On.
Very good value suitcase with colourful design and durable outer shell
Material: Polypropylene Guarantee: Limited two year global guarantee Sizes: Three different sizes of 31.5 litres (2.5 kg), 57.5 litres (3.4 kg), 91 litres (4.2 kg). TSA lock: Yes, lockable zip Inside: Lined inside with double cross straps and zipped lid on one side
American Tourister is one of the world’s oldest suitcase companies, and is now owned by Samsonite. The Bon Air model is a colourful modern suitcase that gives you a lot of functions for your money. The outer shell is made from polypropylene, which is a light and flexible material that’s also very resistant. Even after careless treatment by airport baggage handlers, the Bon Air still looks good on the outside. The handle is sturdy and can be set at two different heights. The four single wheels can be rotated 360 degrees and roll very quietly. The case also has feet that means it can be set down on one long side. The fact that the outer shell is available in so many cheerful colours means that you’re bound to be able to find one you like. American Tourister have made a great success of the Bon Air’s appealing design.
The inside of the Bon Air is fabric lined. The bottom only has cross straps, while the lid also has a divider with two zipped mesh pockets. The cross straps are made from flexible rubber material and leave the vast majority of the suitcase open. We’d have liked it to be possible to tighten the straps as they’re too loose to keep the luggage in place when you close the suitcase quickly. We’d also like to see rain protection on the zip. So the suitcase does have a few weaknesses. However, on the whole the American Tourister Bon Air is a very good value suitcase that’s a self-evident winner in our budget class.
High quality suitcase with enormous luggage space and extremely low weight
Material: Flowlite polypropylene mix Guarantee: Limited five year global guarantee Sizes: Four different sizes of 34 litres (2.9 kg), 79 litres (4.1 kg), 102 litres (4.7 kg), 138 litres (5.0 kg) TSA lock: Yes, lockable clasps Inside: The DLX has high quality fittings with fabric and a lid that’s height adjustable.
In a time when soft, flexible suitcases are taking increasing market share, Samsonite have put a bit more effort into developing hard suitcases. And with their new S'Cure model, Samsonite have set a new standard for the category. The suitcase exudes quality in every aspect, particularly the more expensive DLX version, which has more high quality fittings, including a height adjustable divider. This makes it easier to organise the fittings if you’re packing clothes for several people. The DLX case also has a garment/washing bag and a removable pouch for liquids. The models without DLX in the name have simpler fittings but are still good quality and functional.
The outer shell on the S'Cure is made of the patented hard material Flowlite, which makes the suitcase very impact resistant. On the corners and sides the shell is reinforced and has a girder type construction that spreads impacts over a wider area. You close the case using three sturdy, lockable clasps, and along the opening is a rubberised strip that makes it pretty much watertight. The carrying handle on the larger models has no give, but is comfortable to hold and there’s an extra grip on the underside. The handle can be adjusted to five different positions. The back wheels are slightly larger than the front ones. All of them are double and rotate freely, as is common on premium suitcases. The hard shell makes the Samsonite S'Cure a bit heavier but very resistant and consequently good alternative for the regular long-distance traveller.
Robust bag for a good price, manufactured from environmentally friendly material
Material: PE laminated ballistic nylon fabric Sizes: Five different sizes: XSmall 25 litres (1 kg), Small 42 litres (1.24 kg), Medium 70 litres (1.6 kg), Large 90 litres (1.9 kg), XLarge 140 litres (2.2 kg) TSA lock: No Inside: One large pocket with mesh pocket inside lid
This classic is probably the world’s best selling expedition bag. The bag is manufactured from TPE laminated ballistic nylon fabric and is completely PVC-free for environmental reasons. The material is lightweight, durable and watertight. The bag has a weatherproof zip, four compression straps to help reduce the volume of your packing, and can be used as a backpack. The shoulder straps are adjustable and comfortable but slightly fiddly to remove when you don’t need them. The bag is available in five sizes and almost endless colour combinations. A very good value duffel bag that’s comfortable both to carry and wear as a backpack.
Easy to roll and sturdy case with high quality wheels and handle
Material: Polycarbonate Guarantee: Five year worldwide guarantee for material and manufacturing faults Sizes: Three different sizes of 40 litres (2.7 kg), 82 litres (3.9 kg), 105 litres (4.7 kg). TSA lock: Yes, lockable zip Inside: Lined inside with adjustable cross straps on one side, zipped storage pocket in the centre and zipped mesh lid on the other side
The Delsey Segur it is a sturdy case in hard polycarbonate which is available in a range of different colours and sizes – from small enough to travel as hand luggage to a substantial case that can hold all your packing for a long trip. Regardless of size, the Delsey Segur has four free-moving wheels, which makes it easy to roll the case along beside you in queues for check-in, passport control and so on. It also makes it very convenient to pull behind you when you’re walking longer distances, and the wheels cope easily with uneven surfaces. The pull-out handle is comfortable to hold, can be raised to several different positions and pushed back in again easily. The outside is sturdy and even though the case has undergone hard impacts and careless handling by baggage handlers, only a few faint marks are visible on the Segur.
The case has a practical TSA lock where you can choose the code yourself and which can also be opened by security personnel at the airport using a key. The lining can be removed and washed. One side has a zipped mesh lid. There’s also a smaller storage pocket with a zip which is useful for small items you want to keep separate from the rest of your packing. The other part of the Delsey Segur has an elastic cross strap to keep your clothes in place. Unlike the cross straps on many other cases, this one can be tightened very easily, so the clothes stay where they should even if the case isn’t full. The Delsey Segur is a classic suitcase that’s tough but also slightly heavier than average. It doesn’t have loads of functions, but those it does are very high quality and it’s easy to understand why the Delsey Segur is a firm favourite with many regular travellers.
Well made bag with comfortable shoulder straps and clever storage pockets
100% nylon tarpaulin material makes this duffel bag both robust and durable. The top opening is U-shaped, which makes the bag easy to pack and give you an overview of the contents. The bag has four compression straps, and ID pocket, two internal pockets and one external pocket for storing the shoulder straps when you don’t need them. The zip is sturdy, but has no additional storm cover, so it can cope with a quick shower but leaks if the rain is heavier. The shoulder straps are padded and the bag is comfortable on your back if you use it as a backpack.
We have updated our tests of suitcases with several new models, all of which have great quality and win top places in our ranking. Our choice for best in test is the EPIC Phantom model, which is a stylish and good value trolley case with good functions and well-designed fittings. The best budget choice is the American Tourister case, which with its colourful design, low weight and very competitive prices recommended for those with a limited budget. The best cabin bag remains the Samsonite Uplite, and we’ve also chosen a winner for the category of best hard suitcase, where Samsonite dominates with its model S’Cure DLX that has a smart and secure lock plus a very tough shell. The test winning cases all have a high build quality, well chosen materials and most of them are light too – which makes it possible to carry more of your possessions. A suitcase should cope with rough handling from airport personnel, so the quality needs to be high. If you buy a cheap case during the sales, it’s a poor investment in the long term as quality and durability cost money. If a case made by a major brand breaks, the manufacturers often have very good insurance and can provide you with spare parts. So we’ve only included well-known brands in this test.
Cases are available in all shapes and sizes. Ultimately, it’s the length and purpose of the journey that should decide the size and shape of the suitcase. A cabin bag or trolley bag for business travellers fulfils different needs than suitcases for holidaymakers, while an expedition bag with a shoulder strap is most suited where you can’t use wheeled cases. So to simplify your trip, you should use different sorts of case for different sorts of travel.
Soft cases are made from nylon and polyester. This is a very flexible, light and hard wearing material but doesn’t tolerate hard impacts. Fabric bags often have pockets on the outside to hold a laptop or documents. So soft bags are best as cabin bags or travel bags for items that aren’t fragile.
There are two types of hard suitcases. They are manufactured either from thin, flexible polycarbonate plastic or very hard polypropylene plastic. Polycarbonate is used amongst other things in impact resistant glass, whilst polypropylene is common in chemical containers. In just a few years, cases made from flexible polycarbonate have pretty much taken over the entire market. This is because they weigh less than hard plastic cases without losing their impact resistance. Hard plastic also becomes porous at low temperatures, and on some flights the cargo hold temperature is below zero.
A high quality bag should be manufactured from durable and watertight material – for example treated nylon fabric or tarpaulin material. Shoulder straps mean that the case can be used as a backpack. The flexibility of a bag means that it can be suitable for active travel, such as skiing, diving or boat trips on Thailand’s rivers. A wheeled case is often much heavier than those that only have shoulder straps.
In our test of travel bags, we took into account a number of important properties. These are listed below, with an explanation of how and why they are important.
You shouldn’t underestimate the importance of weight when it comes to choosing a case, because flying with an overweight bag is now quite expensive. For example, every excess kilo costs upwards of €10 with Ryanair, and the maximum weight for cabin baggage is just 10 kg. If your cabin bag is heavier than this, it must be checked into the hold of the plane, which will cost you €40. A modern cabin bag weighing 2 kg (like the Samsonite B-Lite Fresh) can hold almost twice as much weight in clothes as an older, heavier cabin bag. Low price airlines are very strict on weight, but even companies such as KLM, SAS and Lufthansa have drastically reduced their weight limits for checked in baggage.
The size of the bag determines whether or not it can be used as cabin baggage. The standard dimensions within the EU for cabin bag height × width × depth are generally 56 cm × 45 cm × 25 cm. But many airline companies have introduced further limitations, such as SAS at 55 cm × 40 cm × 23 cm and Ryanair at 40 cm × 25 cm × 20 cm.
It’s not good to travel with too large a case. Partly because it makes it heavier, but it’s also more difficult to pack if you don’t fill your bag completely. The contents of a half full bag will tumble around and the case will also be more sensitive to impacts as the contents of a completely full bag also act as shock absorbers.
Cases that hold about 30 litres are usually enough for a trip of a few days. If you’re going to be away for a week, you should use a case that can hold 45 to 75 litres. And if you’re planning to be away for more than a week, you should use a case that can hold at least 75 litres.
It’s becoming increasingly common to have four wheels on suitcases. The extra pair of wheels provides much better control than two wheels. This is particularly noticeable in narrow passages, in queues or at airport terminals with lots of people on the move.
Large wheels roll better than small ones on an uneven surface. Four wheeled suitcases often have smaller wheels than two wheeled suitcases, which means that they don’t roll so well on ice or gravel. In other words, the size of the wheels is important, but when it comes to ease of rolling the quality of the components in the bearings, wheels and wheel housings is even more important.
There are two different types of wheels on suitcases. Single wheels (like the EPIC GTO Hexacore and Samsonite B-Lite Fresh in this test) and the more expensive double wheels (like the Titan Xenon in this test). Double wheels have the advantage that gravel can’t get stuck in the wheel housing. If you buy a suitcase with single wheels, you should make sure that there’s a gap between the wheel housing and the wheel so that gravel can easily fall out.
Telescopic handles should be stable and ergonomic. Many low-budget cases have wobbly telescopic handles which makes them hard to use. The telescopic handle should also be long enough that you don’t kick the suitcase with your heels when you’re walking in front of it. So the length of the telescopic handle should be about 105 cm measured from the ground.
It’s important that the carrying handle on the top of the case is positioned so that the case is balanced vertically when you lift it. If the handle is incorrectly positioned, the case will hang on an angle and strike your legs when you lift it up staircases. Larger cases have carrying handles on the sides too, which makes it easier for shorter people to carry them. Here too it’s important that the handle makes the case well-balanced for lifting.
Customs officers may use force to open cases. Most quality cases today have a TSA lock. Customs officers have a master key to these locks which allows them to open cases without damaging them. TSA locks are always combination locks and are usually integrated into the case – they can also take the form of padlocks on cases with zips.
Good fittings make the case easy to pack. So it’s important that there are dividers, pockets and internal straps. The fittings also prevent garments and other objects from tumbling around in the case, protecting both the case and the contents.
There’s often a big difference in quality between the fittings in cases of different price classes. The fittings in more expensive cases often have more advanced features, such as removable section dividers, garment hangers for shirts and blouses, laundry bags or laptop sleeves. Some budget cases have no dividers or straps, which makes it difficult to pack them.
From the aeroplane window, you can often see bags being thrown around by the baggage handlers before being packed into the cargo hold. So it’s important that the suitcase is high quality and can cope with rough treatment. But even the most durable case can fall off a baggage trolley onto the asphalt. And then it’s important to have a good guarantee.
Samsonite offer the best guarantee with their Cubelite suitcase. It has a 10 year worldwide manufacturer’s guarantee, which means that you can have the suitcase repaired at any service workshop, anywhere.