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8 best suitcases and check in bags for all of your globe-trotting adventures

From lightweight duffels to lockable, hardy cases that’ll keep your stuff safe

Alicia Miller
Tuesday 17 May 2022 10:03
<p>The best travel companions are both light and roomy</p>

The best travel companions are both light and roomy

Travel is well and truly back (hooray!) so if your trip is booked, the sunshine wardrobe is primed and your passport is on standby, all you need before switching on that OOO message is the perfect suitcase to whisk you away to dreamland.

It’s tempting to snap up the first piece of hold luggage you see on sale, but it’s worth doing some research before making the financial plunge. Unlike that new-season bikini or trendy handbag, your luggage is likely to serve you for many years to come.

The best suitcases not only keep your precious possessions safe, but keep your trip chugging along smoothly (we can tell you from experience that a broken suitcase wheel can ruin an otherwise-fabulous city break).

Whether you’re away for a week or for a month, you and your hold luggage will be spending a lot of time together, so make sure the one you choose meets your needs. You should treat it as an investment, and plan to spend as much as you can afford.

We’ve tested many cases over the years, both big brands and small, and at this precise moment we love the suitcases below. They tick our boxes not only in terms of value, but also style. Crucially, in our tests – which included sidewalk wheeling sessions and airplane journeys – we have found them all to be durable.

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How we tested

When choosing the best suitcases, we carefully considered not only how user-friendly each one was. Were zips in the right places? Did it have pockets to store everything we needed to? We also looked at the crucial weight versus volume ratio. Ideally, you want a case that is both light and roomy, but endless space doesn’t mean much if the case weighs half your checked luggage allowance when empty.

We tested both soft and hard cases, four-wheelers and two-wheelers, and even hold-friendly duffels. The buy that’s best for you will depend on the kind of traveller you are, where you’re going and how long you’re planning on living out of a suitcase. Read on to our reviews below to “bag” your best match – then get packing…

The best suitcases for 2022 are:

Eastpak tranverz L

Best: Overall

Rating: 9.5/10

  • Size: 79 cm x 40 cm x 33 cm
  • Capacity: 121l
  • Weight: 3.7kg
  • Material: Polyester
  • Warranty: 30 years

When it comes to mileage-per-buck, you can’t do better than Eastpak. We’ve tested and retested the tranverz L – the brand’s classic long-haul-sized case – many times over the past decade, and we’re impressed each time. We’ve hauled it from cities and rainforests, to deserts and beach resorts, and no matter what we’ve thrown at it, it always weathers the storm. For all the uneven surfaces we’ve zipped it across, we’ve never had a dodgy wheel; for all the overpacking we’ve never had a strained or broken zipper. Even the fabric is durable and relatively unscuffable, masking nicks and spills.

If you want to find a negative (and it’s tricky to), some travellers might be put off by the fact that it’s a soft-shell case – theoretically your valuables inside are slightly less protected from any rough handling. But, remember, in turn that gives you a more flexible packing space, with huge potential for volume. This case holds a remarkable 121l, and yet it only weight 3.7kg when empty. It folds flat when not in use, too.

Antler Stamford large

Best: Super-sized suitcase

Rating: 9/10

  • Size: 81.5cm x 54cm x 34.5cm
  • Capacity: 121l, expanding to 139l
  • Weight: 5.12kg
  • Material: Polycarbonate
  • Warranty: 10 years

Antler has long been one of our favourite luggage brands – in fact, we previously named its Clifton cabin case our favourite piece of carry-on luggage. There’s plenty to love: the cases look beautiful, are smartly designed and don’t cost a fortune, either. Take this large, hardside 81.5cm-tall case as the perfect example. Its khaki hue is cool enough for the runway, it holds up to 139l and it costs less than £300. That’s amazing value for a case that could serve two people on a week-long holiday.

The cool looks are down to the collaboration between Antler’s classic British design and Japanese tech. An expander zip on the case adds 5cm and 18l of space; various pockets keep things organised, and an in-built TSA-approved lock keeps your kit safe. Meanwhile, the 360-degree rotating Hinomoto wheels were developed with Mitsubishi. Translation? We found transporting it to be both silent and super smooth.

Finally – and this we especially love – the Stamford collection of suitcases has been cleverly designed as a set, so if you buy the medium and cabin sizes too, they can both nest inside the large. So even though this case is big, it’s ultimately space-saving, too.

Briggs & Riley torq medium hardside spinner

Best: Timeless classic

Rating: 9/10

  • Size: 70 cm x 47 cm x 29 cm
  • Capacity: 83.9l
  • Weight: 4 kg
  • Material: Polycarbonate
  • Warranty: Lifetime

We’ve tested loads of Briggs & Riley bags in the past, and while its bags have always been exceptionally durable and luxuriously roomy, they’ve sometimes been let down by their hefty weight. But this recently launched medium-sized case, made with super-strong Makrolon virgin polycarbonate, is a revelation. It has all of that Briggs & Riley’s trademark, built-for-life quality (literally, there’s a lifetime guaranteed included) but weighs just 4.3kg.

It moves like a dream, too. Even when we packed all 110l full to the brim (loads of clothes, shoes and three bottles of wine), it skimmed over sidewalks and airport floors with ease. Those four wheels at the base are amazingly responsive, switching direction with the gentlest tug of the ergonomic handle. Meanwhile, the silky interior feels premium and has pleasingly solid-feeling zippers.

Unlike some brands that go in for quirky colours or eye-catching patterns, Briggs & Riley channels timeless style. This is an understated black case that will see you elegantly through as many four-day city breaks or week-long resort holidays as you care to take – making it a real investment piece. And thanks to the subtle, optional personalisation with initials on the front of the case, for no matter how many years you use it, you’ll never confuse yours with anyone else’s.

Peak Design 65l duffel

Best: Duffel

Rating: 9/10

  • Size: 34cm x 76cm x 32cm
  • Capacity: 65l
  • Weight: 1.3kg
  • Material: Nylon canvas
  • Warranty: Lifetime

There are situations when a hardside, wheeled suitcase is not the preferred pick. Maybe you’re on a shopping holiday, and want to bring along a second suitcase in your main luggage *just in case* you buy too much. Maybe you don’t have much storage space at home and need a bag that helpfully folds away small. Or maybe you are heading away somewhere especially rugged where a wheeled case simply isn’t an option.

Enter, this stylish green duffel from Peak Design. It has all the classic benefits of a duffel: it’s light, it’s compact and it’s durable. But it’s also stylish, hitting a sweet spot between cool and rugged, with comfy padded straps. It’s waterproof inside and out, with a wipe-clean shell and liner that easily withstood our tester’s leaky shampoo (oops). It’s Fairtrade certified and carbon neutral, too.

Organisation freaks will love the bag’s many handy pockets, both internal (great for toiletries) and external (handy for books or flip flops). Everyone will love the super long zip path, which lets you open the bag up nice and wide to spot what you need fast, without having to unpack all the contents.

Away the medium

Best: For style mavens

Rating: 8.5/10

  • Size: 66 cm x 47 cm x 28 cm
  • Capacity: 68.8l
  • Weight: 4.5 kg
  • Material: Polycarbonate hard shell
  • Warranty: Lifetime

Away is the suitcase for the Instagram generation – you need only take a look at its appealing range of colourways, from cheery lavender to neutral sand, to know that it’s as much a travel accessory as it is a suitcase. We trotted our tester model from city to countryside, and everywhere we were met with the same refrain: “I love your case, where did you get it?”.

Looks aside, Away nails practicality too. At 66cm x 47cm x 28cm, the medium, as this case is dubbed, is the perfect size for a week-long break where you want to bring home a souvenir or two. It has an inbuilt, hidden laundry bag for separating your dirty clothes as you go, a TSA-approved lock and comes with a little special sponge to scrub away any scuffs.

While its spinner wheels weren’t quite as responsive as some we tried, they are more than effective. Wheeling this case for 40-minutes on icy uneven city sidewalks was a complete breeze. Still not convinced? Rest assured that you can return the case any time in the first 100 days after purchase if you don’t think it’s up to scratch.

Amazon Basics 28in ABS luggage

Best: Budget luggage

Rating: 8.5/10

  • Size: 46cm x 28.4cm x 68 cm
  • Capacity: 73.5l (expands allowing up to 15 per cent more capacity)
  • Weight: 4.03kg
  • Material: Hard shell ABS
  • Warranty: Not known

Besides its cheery red-orange hue, there’s one thing we really love about this scratch-resistant case from Amazon: the price. At under £60, it’s not a major outlay if you’re on a tight budget, or if you’re someone who’s looking for a suitcase to only use occasionally.

And yet, you’re still getting a lot here. The 78cm case holds significant amounts – 112l to be exact – and it expands 15 per cent to accommodate that extra outfit or pair of shoes you just can’t leave home without (or, more realistically, that extra souvenir you’ve picked up while away). We found that it was easy to move (those four double-spinner wheels are to thank), as well as open and close. As for the interior, while it’s not as luxe as pricier models, it was still well designed with multiple zip-up pockets. A wallet-friendly winner.

Victorinox spectra 3.0 expandable large

Best: For business class travellers

Rating: 8.5/10

  • Size: 75cm x 51cm x 32cm
  • Capacity: 103l, expanding to143l
  • Weight: 6.80kg
  • Material: Sorplas polycarbonate shell
  • Warranty: 1 + 10 year

From the people who make the Swiss Army Knife, this is a case that balances sleek looks with great hidden features. For starters, the shell is made primarily of sorplas, a strong recycled polycarbonate, so it’s both sustainably minded and built to last. Secondly, the interior has a recycled antimicrobial lining that inhibits the growth of yucky microorganisms. And thirdly, the spectra 3.0 expands. Not just a little bit: a full 40 per cent from its original size to hold a total of 103l.

We found this case exceedingly easy to wheel – not only because of its smooth-manoeuvring double-wheels, which were ultra-responsive to changes in direction. The telescopic handles were properly sturdy and easy to work too, so even when the case was full, it moved gracefully.

Finally, of all the cases we tried, this one felt the most luxurious – we wouldn’t hesitate to wheel this into any five-star hotel or glam resort. The only downside, apart from the price? It’s on the heavier side at 6.8kg. So it’s probably best suited for regular business class travellers with a generous luggage allowance.

American Tourister soundbox

Best: For holiday fun

Rating: 8/10

  • Size: 77cm x 51.5cm x 29.5 cm
  • Capacity: 97l, expanding to 110l
  • Weight: 4.2kg
  • Material: Polypropylene
  • Warranty: 3 years

Want a case that will stand out on the luggage carousel? Sold in hues of sunshine yellow, zingy green lime and neon orange, American Tourister soundbox is a case that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Its juicy hues and swirly exterior design gets you in the fun holiday mood before you even get to the airport.

For a case that costs under £200, it performs amazingly well too. That unique finish makes marks and scratches tricky to spot, while its lightweight nature (just 4.2kg for a full 110l of capacity) means you can bring along everything you might need for a two-week trip. The side handle makes it easy to lug up stairs or to lift into the boot of hire cars, while the four wheels (as opposed to two) makes it easy to drag alongside you to the check in desk. Finally, we loved its ability to expand a few centimetres – a rare feature at this relatively thrifty price point.

The verdict: Suitcases

When it comes to pound-for-pound value, Eastpak’s tranverz L is hard to beat – spend £150 on this case now, and it’ll serve you reliably for a decade or more.

If you’ve got a bit more cash to burn, and are looking for abundant space in a hard case, the Antler Stamford balances style and smart features in one tidy, great-value package.

Finally, for the splash-out travellers out there, Briggs & Riley’s torq is a classically styled, hard-wearing and lightweight case that will last you a lifetime.

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Need a carry on companion too? Read our best cabin bags round-up, from suitcases to backpacks

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