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Buying Tips :: Rolling Luggage

Buying Tips :: Rolling Luggage

by , March 3, 2014

Most rolling luggage works great on smooth floors and for airlines without baggage weight restrictions. Unfortunately, that combination exists only in fairy tales.

The two biggest differences in rolling luggage are hard vs soft cases, and spinners vs barrow wheel arrangements. As a general rule, we recommend hard cases for spinners, and soft cases for barrows.

3 things to look for:

Weight. Weight. Weight:

Unless you’re flying by private jet, weight has become the single biggest issue in rolling luggage. Many airlines now won’t take a bag over 50 lbs/22 kg. And if they do, they’ll probably charge you LOTS extra for it. If your wheeled luggage weighs 1/3rd of that, you really don’t have much allowance left for winter boots or holiday reading. Too many cases still weigh over 10 lbs. Some great luggage is now down to 3.4 kg/7.5 lbs. That’s our current benchmark.

Spinner vs barrow wheel arrangements:

Spinner cases are multi-directional, so they work better in tight spaces like trains. They also don’t require you to ‘hold them up’, so they require less energy and let you stack other bags on top. Their downside is that the wheels are normally too small, so they snag. Barrow luggage (think wheelbarrow) typically has bigger wheels (better for rougher surfaces), and needs less structure, so you can make soft cases that grow and shrink better with your needs.

Hard vs soft cases:

Hard cases tend to last better over the long term. They resist abrasion better, and provide enough structure to run spinner arrangements. However, they take up space in storage, don’t grow and shrink for the length of trip you have, and can fail pretty catastrophically. Soft cases were lighter until the last few years, but their biggest strength is that you can semi-collapse them to better fit your size needs.

3 things to avoid:

Small and/or hard wheels:

The bigger and softer the wheels, the easier your bag will roll. If you go with a spinner that has tiny wheels, prepare to snag on every crack or pebble you come across. Hard wheels also make more noise, are more prone to scratching floors (by catching on small pebbles and dragging them), and transfer more vibrations through your bag.

Security that doesn’t work:

A locked suitcase zipper can be opened in a second with nothing more than a pen. If you really want to lock your bags you’ll need hard case luggage, with covered zippers and fixed locking points for your zip heads. Anything less than this is just pretend security.

Corners and hardware break first:

When choosing luggage, spend most of your time looking at the wheels, zips, telescoping handles, and corners. These are the parts that receive the most abuse, and are typically the first to fail. If at all in doubt, go with a long warranty from a reputable brand.


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