Whether it’s a city trip, a wellness trip, a long-distance trip or a package holiday, a suitcase is always by your side and contains your belongings during the journey. That’s why it’s all the more important to have a good, safe and lightweight travel suitcase that can withstand a lot of wear and tear and is still stylish.
In our large travel suitcase test 2022 we present various models from different price categories. Depending on your preference, you can choose between soft shell or hard shell suitcases. You should not only look at the design, but also at the capacity, the weight and the number of wheels to find the best suitcase for your needs. With the right suitcase, you will arrive at your destination in style and well packed.
- 1 The most important facts
- 2 The best Suitcase: Our Picks
- 3 Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying a travel suitcase
- 4 Decision: What types of travel suitcases are there and which is the right one for you?
- 5 Buying criteria: These are the factors you can use to compare and evaluate suitcases
The most important facts
- Travel cases allow you to safely transport a large amount of personal belongings, especially your clothes, when travelling.
- Basically, you have the choice between luggage with a soft or hard shell. Both types are available in numerous variants as well as different designs and sizes.
- Soft-shell trolleys usually offer enough protection for travelling by car or train and have the advantage of a lighter empty weight and increased flexibility. Hard shell trolleys are particularly recommended for air travel as they have a far more robust construction.
The best Suitcase: Our Picks
Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying a travel suitcase
What do I need a suitcase for?
In a travel case you can store your luggage neatly and bring it safely and well protected to your destination.
The wheels of the suitcase also save you the hassle of lugging around a large and heavy travel bag.
Since you can buy suitcases in different sizes and designs, there is a perfect suitcase for every occasion.
What material is a suitcase made of?
What material can a soft-sided suitcase be made of?
As a rule, modern textile suitcases are made of the synthetic materials polyester or nylon. These allow for a relatively elastic and flexible shell that provides enough robustness and protection for your packaged goods.
The most common materials used for soft-sided suitcases are:
Polyester is the most widely used synthetic fibre in luggage manufacturing due to its cheap manufacturing process and recyclability. Its light weight and good resistance make it ideal as soft luggage.
The flexible fabric is also tear-resistant and hardly creases. Especially the good weather resistance makes polyester suitcases very popular. You will find polyester in every price range, but mainly in cheaper models.
Nylon or polyamide has similar properties and can hardly be distinguished from polyester by the layman. However, depending on the density of the fabric and the thickness of the yarn, nylon can be extremely hard-wearing.
Compared to polyester, this fabric has a higher cut and abrasion resistance, which is why the service life of a nylon case can usually be significantly longer. This is why nylon is more often used in higher-quality and more expensive suitcase models.
Besides being made of synthetic fibres, suitcases are rarely made of leather today. Leather is durable and water-repellent when well cared for, but it is relatively sensitive and prone to scratches.
That’s why today you only find leather in the form of small and elegant business suitcases or travel bags. We therefore advise against using it for air travel beyond cabin luggage.
What material can a hard shell suitcase be made of?
Hard-shell travel cases now exist in a wide range of materials. Most hard-shell trolleys today are made of plastic. They are produced either by injection moulding (e.g. ABS, polycarbonate, polypropylene) or from fibre composites (e.g. CURV).
ABS is the cheapest material to produce by injection moulding and is therefore often used for trolleys in the lower price segments. This plastic, which is often used in the electrical and automotive industries, stands out above all because of its very light weight and scratch-resistant surface.
ABS is considered less stable overall compared to the other materials. With very cheap models, this can be noticeable through a high risk of breakage.
Polycarbonate is an alternative. This flexible plastic is characterised by its high impact and break resistance, but is heavier than ABS. The manufacturing costs are also considerably higher, which is why pure polycarbonate travel cases are only found in the high price segments.
Therefore, suitcases made of a mixture of polycarbonate and ABS are often found. While these cheaper versions are less stable than those made of pure polycarbonate, they have the advantage of being lighter in weight.
With inexpensive models, you should always fill the case to the brim, otherwise there is a risk of irreversible dents.
Polypropylene is another common option. Suitcases made of this plastic have relatively thin shells, which are somewhat more rigid than polycarbonate.
In terms of weight and stability, the material can be classified between ABS and polycarbonate.
The relatively new and innovative material Curv combines the respective advantages of polycarbonate and polypropylene. It is similar to polycarbonate in its robustness, scratch resistance and long service life. The weight, however, is similar to that of polypropylene.
However, the production is much more complex and is done by bonding several fabrics of polypropylene continuous fibres by heat and pressure. Up to now, suitcases made of Curv have only been produced by the manufacturer Samsonite and are therefore traded at a high price.
Even today, the classic aluminium travel case is considered indestructible. Years of travel stress caused by knocks and bumps are no problem. Accumulated dents and scratches add to the charm, according to many enthusiasts.
Stability, however, demands a very high empty weight. This is why aluminium travel cases are rarely offered anymore, mainly because of their limited usability on air travel. Only in the premium segment are such cases still to be found today.
Which size is ideal for my needs?
For short weekend or business trips, a small hand luggage suitcase of up to 59 litres may be sufficient.
For trips of one to two weeks or more, you should go for a larger model with up to 69 litres.
For free luggage on air travel, it is at least worth buying a model with up to 89 litres.
For longer trips of two weeks or more, you should invest in enough storage space for sufficient clothing. A suitcase of 90 litres or more is also ideal for stowing numerous souvenirs and souvenirs.
|Travel duration||Suitcase size|
|Shorter than 5 days||20 to 49 litres (S)|
|5 to 7 days||50 to 59 litres (M)|
|1 to 2 weeks||60 to 89 litres (L)|
|2 to 3 weeks||90 to 119 litres (XL)|
|Longer than 3 weeks||120 litres and up (XXL)|
It is also important to check the baggage policy of your airline before you fly. Depending on the airline and booking class, free baggage allowance may not exceed a maximum weight of 23 kg or 32 kg. The dimensions also often state that the sum of length, width and height must not exceed 158 cm.
As cabin baggage is often only allowed to weigh 7 kg or 10 kg, you should choose a particularly light model. A small textile suitcase, for example, is ideal. Furthermore, many airlines stipulate a maximum size of 55 x 40 x 23 cm, which is why suitcases of 69 litres or more are no longer suitable.
Which brands of suitcases are recommended?
Samsonite in particular consistently offers indestructible quality suitcases in combinations of new innovations, such as the Curv material.
Globetrotter also offers various high-quality travel cases.
Manufacturers like Travelite or BEIBYE, on the other hand, cater to the somewhat more frugal and occasional traveller. Especially the young manufacturer Hauptstadtkoffer is popular at the moment and offers inexpensive but high-quality travel suitcases.
Is it worth buying a suitcase set?
With a family of several people, however, the situation is quite different. You can save up to 50 percent on a 3- or 4-piece suitcase set.
In addition to the uniform design, these suitcases can often be stacked inside each other and thus save a lot of space in the house.
What are the alternatives to a travel suitcase?
Probably the best-known alternative is the classic travel bag. It is flexible and can be easily transported with a shoulder strap.
Additional carrying straps or shoulder straps offer a more comfortable carrying option compared to a trolley, especially in rough terrain.
In addition, travel bags that are not too big can also be used as larger handbags in everyday life.
Some travel bags are also available with wheels, which further increases carrying comfort.
A good alternative to a travel suitcase is also a backpack. There are many different models – from small daypacks to travel backpacks and large backpacks.
There are also backpacks with wheels. These are particularly comfortable because they can be carried or pulled depending on the weight of the contents.
Decision: What types of travel suitcases are there and which is the right one for you?
Basically, you come across two different types when looking for a suitable travel case:
- Soft cases and trolleys
- Hard shell suitcases and trolleys
Both types are suitable as luggage in the same way and are available as wheeled suitcases or trolleys. The difference lies mainly in the material and the associated properties of the model.
Depending on your destination, the means of transport you choose or simply your personal taste, one type of suitcase is more suitable for you.
What distinguishes soft-sided suitcases and what are the advantages and disadvantages?
The lightweight construction made of textile material makes the soft-sided suitcase a flexible travel companion when travelling by car, bus or train.
Especially if you have control over your luggage during the entire trip and can guarantee careful handling, a travel trolley with a soft outer shell is perfectly adequate.
Thanks to the light and stretchable material, textile suitcases offer additional flexibility compared to hard-shell wheeled suitcases. Especially on car and train journeys, they are easier to accommodate if there is a lack of space.
Soft-sided suitcases can also be worthwhile as hand luggage for air travel, as they are easier to stow in the narrow luggage compartment or under the seat.
Furthermore, the material’s stretchiness allows more room to move if you’ve packed too much. Most suitcases with soft shells can also be expanded by opening a zipper.
If available, practical outside pockets also offer additional and quickly accessible storage space.
Some compromises have to be made when it comes to protecting your belongings. External impacts such as pressure and shocks have an almost direct effect on the contents of the travel case, and complete protection against moisture is not always guaranteed.
In addition, soft-shell wheeled suitcases are usually only equipped with zips, which is why the storage of valuable items is less recommendable.
Fabrics such as nylon or polyester are also more vulnerable than the solid material used in hard-shell cases. This is the main reason why the lifetime of a soft-shell suitcase as checked luggage can be drastically reduced when travelling by air.
The advantage of stretchability is also lost after constant full loading, when the material permanently bulges over time.
What are the characteristics of hard-shell suitcases and what are the advantages and disadvantages?
Trolleys made of hard shell are primarily suitable as check-in luggage when travelling by plane. Due to the hard outer shell, even more fragile items can survive the rough treatment by airport staff.
Hard-shell trolleys can be made of aluminium or plastic and offer better protection for your personal belongings from external forces.
In addition to zippered versions, there are also hard-shell cases with buckle closures that provide better protection against moisture and dust ingress.
In combination with a built-in lock, breaking open by unauthorised persons is made even more difficult. Sensitive items such as expensive clothes and documents can thus be stored more securely than in a textile suitcase.
Another plus point is the smooth surface of the outer shell, which is very easy to clean due to its water- and dirt-repellent character.
However, the robust outer shell also has some disadvantages. The empty weight of a hard shell suitcase is usually higher than that of a textile suitcase. Since the shell is not stretchable, packing your items is less flexible than with a soft case.
Only a few zippered models offer the special feature of expandable volume. Especially with cheaper models, there is also the risk of irreversible breakages and dents if the suitcase is not packed full enough.
Buying criteria: These are the factors you can use to compare and evaluate suitcases
In the following, we would like to show you which factors you can use to compare and evaluate suitcases. This will make it easier for you to decide whether a particular suitcase is suitable for you or not.
In summary, these are:
- Type and material of suitcase
- Size of the suitcase
- Number and quality of wheels
- Telescopic bar and handle
- Closure system and locks
- Design and colour
- Extra equipment
Type and material of the suitcase
The type of suitcase, i.e. hard or soft shell, has already been discussed in detail above. We also differentiated between the materials commonly used in production.
Nevertheless, we would like to point out once again that the type and material are the first decision-making criteria when buying a suitcase, as they depend most on your needs.
So think about your travel plans first. Are you only travelling by car, bus or train? Then a wheeled suitcase with a soft shell will suffice.
Are you travelling by plane and need a sturdy suitcase that will survive transport as checked baggage as undamaged as possible? It’s better to invest in a good hard-shell case.
Furthermore, you should consider early enough whether the items you are bringing with you need much protection at all. If you’re mainly taking inexpensive and insensitive items of clothing, a trolley with a soft shell will suffice for a flight.
Size of the suitcase
The size of the suitcase is an equally important factor. Here, too, you should choose the right suitcase depending on the intended use.
If you only need the suitcase for smaller trips or a wellness weekend, then a suitcase in a small format is sufficient.
The longer you plan to travel with your suitcase, the larger it should be. For a month-long trip, you will need a larger model.
Number and quality of wheels
Depending on the nature of the routes to be taken and the mobility features required, either 2 or 4 wheels are better suited to your needs. You should also not underestimate the quality of the wheels.
Suitcases with 2 wheels are also called upright trolleys. These are also suitable for longer journeys on uneven roads. Compared to travel suitcases with 4 wheels, some of them have higher quality wheels.
These can resemble those of inline skates, which makes navigation over kerbs and stairs much easier.
Trolleys with 4 wheels are also called spinners. These are advantageous for long distances with level ground, such as in airports or train stations. Even particularly large and heavy luggage can be manoeuvred comfortably and easily with a spinner.
Pushing alongside and avoiding obstacles in narrow corridors is no problem. If necessary, for example when climbing stairs, a suitcase with 4 wheels can also be used as a two-wheeler for a short time.
The wheels are one of the typical weak points of a suitcase and should therefore be given special attention. Hard plastic wheels should be avoided.
Soft rubber wheels with an aluminium core and ball bearings are preferable. Another advantage is that the wheels can be replaced.
Telescopic pole and handle
A telescopic bar with handle is an indispensable element of a trolley to enable comfortable pulling. Nevertheless, its importance is often underestimated when buying a trolley.
Especially tall people should pay attention to an appropriate length of the telescopic bar.
A pole that is too short will cause the case to constantly hit your heels. In terms of material, aluminium poles are more stable than plastic ones.
In addition, a comfortable handle is advantageous on longer journeys. Also be careful with the material of the handle. Exposure to harmful substances such as PAHs and plasticisers is a serious risk.
Locking system and locks
To avoid unpleasant surprises, especially when collecting your checked-in luggage at your destination airport, your suitcase should remain firmly locked throughout your journey.
A high-quality closure system with buckles or zips is advantageous for this. You will usually have a choice of zip or three-point buckle systems. Three-point buckles are only available for hard cases and are usually more difficult to break open. However, a zip system on some models allows you to expand the volume of the suitcase. In the meantime, there are also expandable hard-shell cases with zips, which is why it can also make sense to prefer these three-point closures in some cases. Ultimately, however, the choice depends on personal taste and your trust in the airport staff.
If you want to be extra safe, you should also equip your luggage with a lock. Fortunately, most suitcases are already equipped with them. Combination locks are preferable to locks with keys. As an alternative to the usual luggage lock, you can also use a lockable luggage strap.
In North America or Asia, the situation is much better. The higher figure in Europe is mainly due to many transfers at the hubs and partly outdated luggage systems.
When travelling to the USA, you should make sure to use a so-called TSA lock. This can be easily opened by the flight security there with a universal key if your luggage needs to be searched. Other locks would simply be broken open without further ado.
Design and colour
The eye is also decisive, which is why design can often be another important factor when choosing a suitcase. Accordingly, suitcases are nowadays offered in a rich variation of elegant designs and bright colours.
Suitcases have long since served more than just their purpose of transporting objects. For some people, suitcases are also considered a fashion accessory or status symbol. The choice of colour is of course up to one’s own taste, but the choice of colour can also offer an advantage.
Among the common black cuboids, for example, a bright yellow suitcase stands out even in the far distance.
Especially at baggage claim, this can save you some nerves if you can calmly identify your luggage from the back rows. There is only a rare risk of confusion.
There are many great motif suitcases, especially for children. The most popular children’s prints are: Paw Patrol, Disney Frozen and Disney Cars.
Furthermore, some trolleys are not limited to the main features already mentioned. Some also offer practical extra features that make handling the luggage even easier.
Good cross straps or packing straps on the inside ensure that even if your suitcase is not completely full, your clothes remain firmly in place and wrinkle-free.
Room dividers or divider pads offer even more organisation options for the order freaks among us.
Business travellers will be happy about an extra shoe compartment, as well as compartments for laptops or documents. In case of confusion or lost luggage, an integrated name tag is also practical.
Meanwhile, there are also travel cases that have an integrated power bank. This allows you to conveniently charge your electronic devices at the suitcase.
Image source: pixabay.com / Skitterphot