Top 5 | Best Travel Luggage
Luggage can make or break a trip. But the top 5 finalists in our Best Travel Luggage award step up to the varied challenges that travel entails. Durability, access, ease of transport, and style have all been carefully considered. Each piece shines in its own particular way, from weekend getaways to business trips and beyond. But which one delivers a truly first-class performance that makes travel easier and ultimately more enjoyable? Vote for your favorite below.
Ever since “NikeID” gave sneaker fans the ability to create their very own shoe colorway there’s been a lot of buzz about customization. It’s a great idea, giving people the tools to make things exactly how they want them. The only catch is that it’s a lot easier said than done. There are endless ways in which customization can go wrong, let alone juggling all of the variables. In the face of that difficulty, ROAM have risen to the challenge. To date, their customization platform is both the most comprehensive and user-friendly to hit the market.
From the outside, the ROAM system may seem simple, which is precisely why it’s so good. Their friendly web-based design system lets you color up a virtual with an impressive amount of depth. For those who are a little tentative, there are preset designs you can tweak. Or at the other end of the spectrum, there is the option to dive into specifying everything from the shell color to the zip bumper. All up there are seven possible elements to play with, each with around eight to ten varied and interesting color options. The palette has been cleverly curated, it’s pretty foolproof while still having enough variation in flavor for everyone. If all that wasn’t enough, once you’ve finalized your design ROAM then custom make your luggage to order. It even comes shipped with an intro card signed by the maker, which is a nice touch.
Putting customization to one side, the Jaunt is still in itself a killer piece of luggage. At the core is its 100% polycarbonate shell that’s extruded in the US. Its matte finish and sharp lines are a combination of minimalism and classic ‘60s, designed to improve the strength to weight ratio. Building on those foundations, all the components are top-shelf. From YKK zips to TSA locks and ball-bearing Hinomoto wheels, everything has the smooth feel of good quality. Inside it’s more of the same with a custom printed lining and dual internal compression systems which I personally love. To quote my earlier review on this piece, “Altogether it’s an impressively robust case that does a good job of balancing durability and weight, coming in at just under 3kg (6.6lbs).”
As a carry-on roller at the more premium end of the spectrum, the Jaunt is designed with frequent flyers in mind. The high-level build quality alone makes the Jaunt a great case and when combined with ROAM’s customization innovation it’s an impressive and award-worthy package. So if you’re looking to add to your luggage collection, think about designing your own case. It’s simple, fun, and makes for a travel companion that’s uniquely yours.
Customizable colorways via a user-friendly online platform
Good balance of durability and weight
Dual internal compression systems
High-quality components and build level
The Ibon is a big move for Samsonite. For over 100 years the giant of the travel industry has delivered some of the most significant innovations in the industry, such as their ultra-lightweight Cosmolite collection from 2008. With the Ibon, Samsonite has aimed to create a totally new luggage format, one they say is better suited to the travel habits of today. What are those habits? According to Samsonite, today’s travelers are more dynamic and travel differently and the hardside luggage of yesterday is too restrictive. The Ibon’s big idea is to create a piece of luggage that’s as easy to pack as a duffel, while keeping all the protection of a hardside suitcase. What’s surprising is they might have actually done it.
I’ll be honest, at first glance the center splitting concept of the Ibon seemed like it could all be a gimmick. Expectations were mixed when it first arrived in the studio, but as is often the case things you don’t expect become your favorite. Once you get over the learning curve of how to open the case, the first thing that jumps out is how smart the format is. For comparison, when opening up conventional hardside luggage you need a big space. Plus the wide and shallow cavities aren’t exactly the easiest formats to Tetris all your gear into. What’s more, as luggage gets bigger the footprint gets bigger, making it more awkward to open let alone pack into. By flipping how the case divides, the Ibon goes a long way to solving both of these issues.
Firstly, when you lay the case down and open it up, the footprint doesn’t change. It’s a really neat trick that makes the case completely different to use. For example, at one point I needed to grab some gear out from the trunk of a car. Normally that would be a nightmare but no problem at all for the Ibon. On top of that, when you are packing the Ibon presents you with two invitingly deep drawer-like containers. Each section is about the width of a jumper, and deep enough to stack more than a handful. It might not seem like something to get excited about but it does subtly change how you use the luggage in a really nice way. Especially if you’re stuck in a tight hotel room or trying to get changed on a train carriage.
Having an idea like the Ibon is one thing, but actually producing it does rely on a bunch of new engineering and innovation. For example, the front opening mechanism, the hinge that rotates around the trolley handle, and the internal ratchet compression system that keeps your gear in place while opening and closing. All of which have been executed to the level you’d expect of the luggage juggernaut. As a result, the Ibon is a sharp-looking piece of luggage that changes how and when you might travel with a hardside spinner, which is no mean feat.
Retains convenient footprint when open for use in tight spaces
Usefully deep interior space for packing ease
Quality construction for long-lasting durability
For anyone living outside of Scandinavia, Norrøna might be a new name but the Norwegian outdoor gear brand is anything but new. For over 90 years they’ve been a staple in their home country, making everything from pro-level expedition gear to everyday items infused with outdoor functionality. With a strong emphasis on ski and snow, as you’d expect from a brand based at such a high latitude. Their 120L Trolley Bag is an all-purpose gear hauler with a clean, low-key exterior that hides an impressive amount of functionality and versatility.
Like a lot of good packs, the 120L Trolley Bag is quite simple. It’s essentially a rolling duffel, one giant compartment to stash all your gear with a smaller front pocket for quick-grab items. Both are vertically oriented like a giant backpack, meaning you can easily pack the bag while it’s standing. Between the two compartments, there’s a good mix of large and small zones to organize your gear. Then there are three carry options. With plenty of grab handles and a narrow base, the pack is easy to haul by hand. Or you can take out the shoulder straps and throw it on your back. Unlike a lot of rolling backpacks, here the wheels and base of the bag aren’t pressed against your back, which is a much cleaner option. Lastly, you can roll it on some decently sized 75mm wheels that will take most offroad tracks smoothly. And while the bag is by far the biggest of the contenders, its lack of a metal trolley system means it comes in at only 2.4kg. Super lightweight for such a big roller. All built from super durable, water-resistant fabrics.
All the above is fairly straightforward, but it’s how Norrøna has packaged up these features that sets the bag apart. The smooth seam lines, tapered shape and monochrome color palettes all create a sense of performance and style. Casual enough to blend into urban settings while still at home on the slopes or at the campsite. This hybrid styling is carried out across all the detailing on the bag, from the angled and welded grab handles to the toggle zip pullers. All of which gives the bag a charming “Scandi” feel as well as making it super versatile.
Underlying all of the above is Norrøna’s philosophy of sustainability, which is the icing on the cake. Much like Patagonia, the brand is built on a strong environmental ethos that carries through to both the product and the product support. For example, both body fabrics use Econyl recycled yarns and have bluesign® certification. Then there is the 100% repair guarantee; according to the brand they regularly repair 20-year-old gear through their in-store workshops. On top of that the brand is also incredibly transparent (one of the first in the world to implement the Higg product scorecard) and even gives 1% of all profits to support environmentally-friendly initiatives. By far the Norrøna 120L Trolley Bag is the most environmentally-friendly of all the travel contenders and perfect for anyone with a love of the outdoors.
Understated aesthetics adapt to both urban and outdoor environments
Multiple carry options
Perennial award finalists Bedouin are back for another year, this time with the third evolution of their weekend bag, the Mamluke. Since 2009 the English brand has been busy handmaking durable and practical carry pieces from beautiful heirloom-quality fabrics. It’s this mix of quality and practicality that has set them apart over the years and the new Mamluke continues the winning formula. At its core the bag is your fundamental duffel. It’s the luxurious fabrics and attention to detail that make it both award worthy and a very welcome companion on any short break.
As with all Bedouin products, the materials are both the foundation and the hero. For the Mamluke the team have developed a new bonded fabric for the main body that’s no exception. The three-layer lamination combines an outer cotton twill, an inside layer of Bedouin’s signature handprinted cotton drill lining and sandwiched between is a layer of natural rubber that creates a waterproof membrane. All of which they laminate locally in the North West of England, following in the footsteps of the original bonded canvas developed by Charles Macintosh in the late 1700s (the first-ever fully waterproof fabric). All combined the fabric is just the right blend of toughness, structure, and hand feel for this type of bag.
Because Bedouin have kept the rest of the bag super simple there are really only two other materials used. The base is an expanse of thick, Italian vegetable-tanned bridle leather that wraps cleverly around the base corners. And to cap things off, the main opening is via a super-smooth Swiss-made Riri zip. When combined with the tall, narrow form and the classic mix of colors the design has an elegance to it. It’s a subtle shift for the brand. There is still the essence of the tough Bedouin backpacks and messengers but it’s a subtle move toward timelessness.
While the Mamluke is definitely one of the most expensive contenders it’s by no means an extravagance. Given the level of the materials and the craftsmanship, I would definitely call the price fair, especially compared with what other brands charge for similar caliber materials. What’s important though is that they put the materials to good use. For one, this is a bag that will last for an age and across that time it will always be useful. The size and shape is perfect for all kinds of journeys, and no matter the load it naturally compresses and expands to feel always comfortable. Combined with the casual but refined style there’s nowhere it can’t go. It’s the embodiment of the brand mantra “buy quality and buy it once”.
Luxurious look and feel with premium materials and craftsmanship
Long zipper and structured build enable easy packing and access
Timeless aesthetics suit a wide range of travel settings
It’s hard to write about Zero Halliburton without geeking out a little over the brand’s history. Their iconic and industry-defining aluminum briefcase has popped up everywhere over the past 90 years. It’s carried moon rocks for NASA and nuclear launch codes for the US government. Not to mention the endless list of classic spy movies it’s appeared in. Despite these deep roots the brand recently made the decision it needed to revitalize. Since then they’ve been on a mission to refresh with a modern look, new designs, and even collaborations with some big names (Lexus and Sophnet). The Edge Lightweight collection is the brand’s flagship hardside collection, designed as part of this new era. As the name suggests it’s the lighter polycarbonate sibling of the also refurbished Pursuit Aluminum Collection. Both of which are modern reimaginings of their classic aluminum designs.
Much like “Second Album Syndrome”, redesigning an icon can be a nightmare. To help tackle the challenge Zero Halliburton brought in help from New York-based design firm Pensa and looking over the case you quickly get a feel for the degree of detail they’ve gone into. The level of precision with which the case and each of its components neatly fit together is at another level. On top of just being impressive, the result is a piece of luggage that just feels strong. It’s the same feeling you get hopping into a really nice car. There are custom mouldings and unique parts hidden everywhere and even the touchpoints have a car-like feel to them. The telescoping handle has almost no rake or wobble and the polymer grab handles have a soft leathery touch. Even the badge looks a little like it could be mounted on a bonnet.
It’s not just the build quality that’s levelled up; visually the redesign is a big step in the right direction. Whereas the old-school cases had a utilitarian feel that sometimes bordered on clunky, the update is definitely sleek. There’s a nice mix of colors available in either matte or “brilliant” gloss. The standout is the concave channels that are sculpted into the edges. Not only are they cool, according to Pensa they “mitigate the potential for severe damage more effectively than typical convex-based travel cases.” I also like the branded dual-wheel hub design they’ve dubbed the “ZH Chassis”. It’s a clean design that also provides a low clearance for the bag and hides a neat base handle that’s very useful. It’s a smart design that also carries a subtle front branding emboss, a design that marries nicely into their soft goods.
It’s clear to see the amount of work that’s gone into the case and from the time I’ve spent testing it’s safe to say the effort has paid off. Like most good luggage this is a bit of an investment, but it’s a case that should be in the mix for any avid traveler, especially those who understand the value of a good set of luggage. Through their thoughtful design and attention to detail Zero Halliburton have not only designed a great case, but they’ve successfully revived an icon.
High-quality precision build
Iconic aesthetics with a modern twist
Lightweight but durable with concave edges for added impact resistance
VOTING CLOSES FEB 21ST