- Buyer's Guide
Head to head
We pitted the Tumi Tegra-Lite against the Samsonite Cubelite in an international airborne challenge…
When you’re hitting the skies, either for work or play, good luggage makes life much, much easier. Something sturdy, something easy to wheel, and something that’ll protect your stuff when disgruntled luggage handlers are turfing your bag around like a play piece. We’ve found two of the most popular to put through the high flying, airborne Spinner Challenge.
First up, you should check out our thoughts about hard cases and spinners. We used to hate spinners, but recent progress has meant the best of them avoid those old compromises, and are now really quite good.
So what changed? Basically it’s down to better wheels and less weight. Tiny wheels used to catch on things and trip you up, while the extra weight was costing you more in fees each year.
Both of these spinners are using larger wheels, and the spinner format then lets you stack your carry-on on top so you can wheel without effort and within tight confines (like your train ride to the airport).
Spinners are still not right for jungle adventures, but if you’re staying within urban environs you’ll dig them.
It’s fabricated from Tegris® (“a polypropylene thermoplastic composite used in armor, race cars and protective gear for NFL players”).
Dimensions: H x W x D: 32.5″ x 20.5″ x 12.5″
Volume: 118 L
Weight: 4.8 kg
And… in the red corner the Samsonite Cubelite…
It’s also built from a woven polypropylene, just with a different trademark (Curv®). But it’s moulded, rather than stitched together like the Tumi.
Dimensions: H x W x D: 76 x 51 x 32 cm
Volume: 96 L
Weight: 3.6 kg
The Look – Tumi 1, Samsonite 1
I know, it’s bad to start with a draw, but both of these cases look sharp, so this one feels too subjective to call. Both have interesting woven body materials. Both have attractive hardware. And both have rounded edges that look appropriate for a case that will get dropped frequently.
If we were to pick on some areas for potential improvement, the Tumi is fabricated from PP sheets that are then stitched together with moulded covers over most of the stitching. On close inspection, this doesn’t look quite as refined as the Samsonite moulded shells, but it’s a pretty subtle difference. Also, the Tumi has a big brand logo slapped down its back which feels a little crass. But then the Tumi has a stronger brand feel, so even without the large logo they’ve done a better job of making sure you know it’s a Tumi.
Meanwhile the Samsonite looks very urban, so you’ll want to keep it surrounded by marble and granite rather than sand or soil. The Tumi look seems a touch more versatile for moving between work and play. But overall these are small differences that cancel each other out, so we’re calling this a draw.
Mobility – Tumi 0, Samsonite 1
We know that for most of the time spinners are going to be spinning themselves across smooth, polished, airport floor goodness, but what happens when you lug your carry onto a boat, a bus or across rutted cobblestone streets? That’s right, the world’s not all hotel lobbies and airport bars.
The Tumi is functional and can carry a large load, but if you need to tackle anything beyond a perfectly flat surface it’s not awesome – it still has a case of too-small-a-wheels syndrome. Unfortunately these only medium-sized wheels are then let down by casters with head races that pack out, and axles that start to play, leaving the wheels wobbling and feeling less than awesome. We then also started to get play in the Tumi telescoping handle, that meant the hardware was feeling a little cheap for this level of kit.
By comparison, the Samsonite’s wheels are slightly larger and roll better over carpet strips, curbs and stairs. The geometry also tips better for when you want to cover ground quickly with the bag trailing behind, and the hardware has held up really well without any significant slop or play. This was a comfortable win for Samsonite.
There’s still room for improvement because when the Samsonite hits gravels and rough terrain – forget about it! Our recommendation would be slightly softer and higher resilient tyres which would win our full endorsement.
Weight – Tumi 0, Samsonite 1
This is a win for the Samsonite, which feels noticeably lighter. And if weight really matters, Samsonite then have the even lighter Firelite series which is well worth checking out.
Features – Tumi 1, Samsonite 0
Let’s start with the Tumi and drum up some positives. The internals are nicely finished and include a bonus suit bag. We packed and unpacked a suit jacket multiple times and never had a crease.
It also comes with a compression strap that’s really easy to adjust – purposely, we ‘fully packed’ and ‘partially packed’ to test the ability of the compression. In both cases, we arrived at our destination with clothes still securely in place. Nice design.
The side and top handles are damn pretty, with a curved, refined design. The retractable handle feels cushy; however, it’s let down by its thickness, or lack thereof when it started to play.
There’s also the “Tumi tracer” – a security tag that stores your contact info in case the Tumi goes walkabout. This won’t stop a thief, but it may help a kind stranger track it back to you.
Now, let’s talk Samsonite’s telescopic handles: they’re integrated into the base shell, but placed on the outside. This is generally a cheaper way to construct luggage (without having to pass through the case), but often comes with the risk of your tube housing being dented and the handle seizing. Samsonite seem to have got around this with a deep nesting that keeps the housing out of harm’s way, while making for quite an attractive setup – we dig it, nice touch.
But this one goes to the Tumi, just because they threw in the suit bag – well designed extras are always welcome.
Space and Volume – Tumi 0 , Samsonite 1
Rather than judging this on total volume (you can always buy a larger size), we like to split by how usable the volume is. And it’s close.
Both bags have nice and neat organizing without undue weight. But we can’t have two tied categories, so for this round it’s Samsonite, as it deals better with shoes, underwear and small items. That central nested pocket tucked within the handle is neat, and the divided pocket works well for splitting clean and soiled underwear. Sure you could use packing cubes, but sometimes you don’t.
Burliness (Durability) – Tumi 0, Samsonite 1
This is an interesting one, because it surprised us…
We took both through plenty. For instance, the Tumi, over approximately 3 weeks, carried 25-27 kg on 8 flights, up and down countless stairs, along cobblestone roads (tough going with those wheels) and got caught in a Toronto downpour. It even came off one bag carousel with a nasty dent but we simply popped it out and it looked as good as new. It is made out of the stuff that NFL players use to absorb the big hits, so this is no surprise.
The Samsonite was a similar story, although it’s not quite as burly in the main body (it is significantly lighter after all). So how did the Samsonite win?
Wheels and handle. We’ve told you about the Tumi wheels getting their wobble on, but the telescoping handle also managed this trick. After a few airports and hotel lobbies, the handle started to slop about a bit and detract from the experience. Meanwhile the Samsonite stayed solid and controlled, despite similar treatment.
So despite Tumi winning the main body burliness, the Samsonite kept in better shape overall and wins this one as well.
Overall victory – Tumi 2, Samsonite 5
Wow. I think we’ve worked out why Carryology exists…
Both these spinners look great, sell a tonne, and have fans that would swear by them. But when we’ve put them through a solid workout, there is a clear winner.
The Samsonite is lighter, more mobile, and more durable overall, which for us are the big 3 for check-in luggage. While the Tumi looks great in a showroom, and would compare favorably to most other luggage, by the time they’ve been around the block a few times we’d pick the Samsonite every time.
Thanks to Tumi and Samsonite for providing their bags, and thanks to baggage handlers and taxi drivers around the world for helping us test these so thoroughly.