Fabric luggage does have one other advantage over hard shells, though. Thanks to their stretchiness, soft suitcases tend to be a little bit more accommodating to over-packers, while still maintaining the same carry-on size. You’ll find it a little bit easier to actually zip them shut, even when they’re filled to the brim with extra pairs of underwear. Hard shell suitcases offer a lot less give in terms of packing space, which makes them less than ideal if you tend to accumulate endless tokens of your trip while you’re traveling. It might not be big enough problem to be a dealbreaker, but it’s something to consider.
The Best Softside Luggage: TravelPro MaxLite 5 Expandable Spinner
Big on practicality and low on cost, the Travelpro Maxlite 5 offers the best value of any softside bag out there. It’s the brand’s lightest four-wheel spinner suitcase at 5 lbs., maximizing on maneuverability for when you’re sprinting to catch your flight. The cavernous, expandable interior includes tons of weird little zippered sections and mesh pockets for you to cordon off your toiletries, small items, dirty clothes, and shoes from your clothes without busting out the packing cubes. And after you’ve racked up plenty of miles on those wheels, the Platinum Elite comes with a limited lifetime warranty for repairs and replacements.
The only ding against the TravelPro is its humdrum looks, which evoke the dated carpeting of one of the airports it’ll be dragged through. But that hasn’t kept it from becoming a favorite of frequent flyers. If the TravelPro logo looks familiar, it’s probably because you’ve spotted it on the luggage of the flight attendants and pilots that spend most of their lives in the sky.
The Best Hard Shell Luggage: Away Carry-On
There are plenty of good reasons why the Away team has just about upended the luggage industry since it launched. Instagram-ready looks? Check. Durable shell? Check. Smooth Hinomoto spinner wheels, top and side handles, clothes straps, a mesh zip pocket, a laundry bag, sturdy YKK zippers, and—maybe most game-changing of all—a built-in USB charger so you don’t have to screw around with airport outlets? Yeah, check. At just under three hundred bucks and spanning a range of handsome, low-key colorways, Away’s carry-on means you don’t have to choose between getting something cheap and ugly and spending a rent check on something luxe. For an industry that never really did the low-to-mid-tier thing well, that’s a very welcome change of pace. Our testers have taken theirs on planes across the country and halfway across the world, and never run into issues. Provided you do, there’s a limited lifetime warranty that’ll cover any functional damage.
Another Solid Hardside Spinner: Arlo Skye The Zipper Carry-On Max
The Arlo Skye Zipper carry-on is a winner for a couple reasons. The bag’s polycarbonate shell isn’t as hearty as the fabric on the TravelPro or the aluminum of a Rimowa, say, but we found the suitcase a bit more capable of withstanding regular use than many other hard-shelled suitcases we’ve tested. (It’s also much cheaper.) All of Arlo Skye’s carry-on sized suitcases boast internal pockets for organizing your travel gear, including a few zippered areas for separating out dirty clothes and shoes. The company also makes a version with an easy-access front pocket, presumably for a laptop or magazines, but we’d imagine you’d rather store those things in a backpack or tote rather than in the suitcase you’re hauling into an overhead bin. Arlo Skye’s luggage features a removable external charger, but unlike the USB port from Away that can only juice up your phone, it comes with a USB-C connection for keeping your laptop charged up, too. Still, the five-year warranty that Arlo Skye offers doesn’t compare to Away’s limited lifetime warranty, which is why the latter is still our top choice for long-hauler luggage that you’ll want to keep dragging around a decade from now.
For the Budget-Conscious Menswear Bro: Horizn Studios H5 Essential Cabin Case
Listen, we’re all for splurging on some baller luggage when appropriate. (Clearly.) But sometimes you need a suitcase that will securely get you from point A to point B—and look good doing it—but won’t call for you dropping well over a G. Enter this stealthy, blacked-out carry-on. It’s made out of a scarily durable polycarbonate, lined with water-resistant nylon, and comes with 360-degree spinner wheels, a built-in charging station, and a four-stage telescopic handle—all at a price that belies how methodically designed it is. It doesn’t have quite the same curb appeal as the Away spinners, or the carrying capacity of the massive Arlo Skye Max carry-on, but it’s a very solid alternative in the same budget category. Buy this and save your coins for a better AirBnB.
The Last Carry-On You’ll Ever Buy: Moncler Genius x Rimowa Reflection Silver Suitcase
Rimowa, the storied German luggage company founded in the late 1800s, has been on something of a collaborative spree. Few have yielded better results than the suitcase the brand cooked up with the Italian skiwear gods at Moncler, which sees Rimowa’s iconic aluminum suitcase polished to a mirror-like sheen. The futuristic spinner the duo released through Moncler’s “Genius” program comes packed with the sort of details that made Rimowa a powerhouse in the luggage space for over a century: A single-stage telescoping handle, a hinged double latch lock by the main compartment, elastic compression straps with magnetic pull-release fastenings, the works. It’s definitely an investment, but if you’ve ever been stuck traveling with a lackluster piece of luggage and thought, Man, I wish my suitcase could do that, chances are Rimowa’s can, and masterfully.
The Ultimate Travel Flex: Louis Vuitton Horizon 50 4-Wheel Carry-On
Before Louis Vuitton became the biggest name in luxury fashion, it was a humble trunk maker servicing well-heeled Parisians in need of superlative travel furnishings. In the years since, the company has expanded its purview to include all the hallmarks of a contemporary lifestyle brand, but luggage remains the house specialty. The Horizon is the maison’s sleekest carry-on, introduced with the help of the legendary industrial designer Marc Newsom and engineered to withstand the rough and tumble nature of TSA check-in. Lightweight, airtight, and done up in that instantly recognizable damier pattern, it’s a downright ritzy spinner worth the splurge.
The Streamlined Duffle For Short and Long Trips: Porter Yoshida & Co. Tanker Two-Way Luggage
Calling the team at Porter-Yoshida & Co luggage experts is a bit of an understatement; they’re bona fide obsessives. Since the ’60s, the Japanese brand has painstakingly crafted military-inspired bags designed to last. This one, done up in a sleek, three-layer navy nylon fabric and lined in hi-vis orange, takes its cues from the US Air Force’s legendary MA-1 jacket, but will help you travel like you’re a megawatt celebrity in 1996. This isn’t really an all-terrain bag you can pair with your Gore-Tex, but we guarantee you won’t find a better-looking duffel out there.
The Convertible Travel Bag: Patagonia Black Hole Duffel Bag
Remember that hapless kid in fifth grade the whole class mocked for showing up with a rolling backpack the first day of school? (People don’t forget!) Well, if you still holding onto some secondhand trauma from the incident, Patagonia’s streamlined duffel might be good enough to risk straining your back to carry. The body fabric, lining, and webbing are all made out of water-resistant recycled materials designed to keep your valuables dry, while two padded straps make for an easy switch if you’d rather sling it over your shoulders like a carry-on backpack. Jokes aside, the bag’s handles are also specially reinforced to make for comfortable hand-carrying so your lower vertebrae will hold up fine no matter how far your terminal is from the gate. With all due respect to your childhood classmate (who you definitely owe an apology), sometimes carrying your bag just looks cooler than wheeling it around.
15 More High-Quality Spinners, Rollers, Backpacks, and Duffels to Consider
We’ve also assembled a number of other worthy alternatives that’ll help you jet off in style, even if you’re on a Frontier budget. These may be slightly less accessible or less well-rounded than our top picks—and some of these we haven’t had the luxury of testing ourselves—but they boast many of the same features you’d hope for in a well-traveled suitcase, from easy-gripping telescoping handles to a roomy, organized interior.
Perhaps no other suitcase brand on the planet has the same name recognition as a Tumi, the workhorse luggage of choice for the business class, and plenty of celebrities, since it first came on the scene in the ‘70s. Beyond the absolute basics—trustworthy zippers, a bevy of pockets and dividers, and locks for keeping everyone else out except the TSA—this shellacked spinner has style in spades. Add to that a Lever Lock system that fully enables your overpacking tendencies, and Tumi’s tracing system (in case you ever lose sight of your bag), and you have hardly any reasons not to scoop one.
The makers of James Bond’s briefcase crafted a sleek carry-on that looks as polished as an Aston Martin, with all the gadgetry to make a special agent proud—including two cushion-cut locks to keep interlopers out, plus a magnetized ID tag. This one’s sized for international travel, with a shock-absorbing design, plus slick, ball-bearing wheels that’ll help close the gap between gates as you rush to catch your connecting flight.
Goruck bills itself as the “hell and back” travel bag, and this blessedly unbranded Huckberry exclusive pulls out all the stops for true gearheads. This 40-liter trekker can fit a bunch of equipment, or a couple days’ worth of clothes in its innards if you’re enjoying a weekend in the wilderness. The exterior is water-resistant, padded for comfort, and includes top-of-the-line YKK zippers (designed to self-lubricate the more you use ‘em) so you can keep it in rotation for many backpacking trips to come.
For about $400 more, this scaled-up version of Away’s original Carry-On boasts many of the same selling points (gliding wheels, reinforced zippers, the two-port built-in charger, and an unbeatable lifetime warranty), but with an even tougher construction and a super cool shine. Who wouldn’t want to pack their goods in a silver bullion with wheels?
The posh luggage experts at Britain’s Globe Trotter specialize in handsome, old-school suitcases that are practically begging for you to stuff them with exotic curios (read: tourist-trap tchotchkes) on your next trip. The trunk-style cases are beloved by actual royalty, which is a better endorsement than any for well-heeled normies who want to buy their own. All the small details, from the flashy gold hardware to the leather exterior, feel like a little slice of luxury.
Samsonite’s bags aren’t exactly flashy first-class choices, but we’d prefer to think of them as trend-resistant stalwarts. The shiny, textured Winfield 2 is one of the brand’s most solid trekkers for racking up miles—durable, with a ding-resistant polycarbonate body to withstand years of rough and tumble travel. Plus, if your luggage needs some tuneups somewhere down the line, you can fall back on your 10-year warranty to fix that wonky zipper.
Tough-as-nails is always the objective of a hard-shell spinner, but FPM Milano’s extremely metal aluminum number takes that to heart. The Italian luggage specialists cooked up a virtually impenetrable long-hauler with plenty of locks (padlocks and combination), plus interior belts instead of compression straps to secure all of your valuables.
Dings are inevitable during travel, so you may as well get ahead of them. Crash Baggage makes artfully pre-dented—and deceptively durable—suitcases you don’t have to worry about getting destroyed in the overhead compartment. They’re also remarkably lightweight for hoisting overhead, and this one keeps things interesting with an interior that can only be described as Minion yellow.
Longchamp’s Le Pliage bag is a masterclass in French elegance, dating back to 1975 but still enduringly stylish today. It’s the rare triangular bag that’s roomy but not clunky, and trades the brand’s signature nylon fabric with soft leather—which is ideal for flexing on red-eye business travel.
Help your carry-on stand out in a sea of black nylon by copping a polycarbonate spinner in robin’s egg blue. Floyd’s retro suitcases are inspired by ‘70s skating culture (peep the wheels!), with a breezy, laid-back sensibility that’ll help ease you into the vacation mindset. The glaringly orange, well-apportioned storage section inside only amplifies the brand’s ethos of good vibes and great design.
Bric’s name might not carry the same cachet as those of its splashier Italian relatives, but the heritage label turns out premium luggage with the best of them. Founded in 1952 by Mario Briccola, its handsome duffels—handcrafted from specially-treated embossed PVC—take their cues from designs the brand first introduced in the early ‘50s, but they don’t feel overly retro.
Roam was founded by two former executives at Tumi with a pretty simple proposition: Your luggage should be more colorful! So if you’ve ever thought, I love this bag, but wish it came in an aggressive shade of blue, you can probably make that happen. The company offers cute, robot-like suitcases with completely customizable color patterns, down to the zippers on the sides. It’s certainly one way to ensure that your luggage never looks like anyone else’s in the overhead bin.
Upgrading from the $30 Carhartt duffel you’ve had since college? North Face’s base camp bag is the next logical progression, with a similar rugged style for outdoorsy folks, plus a water-resistant, recycled exterior that can handle a little dirt and distressing. It’s extremely generous with space at a 50 liter capacity, and the price point at under $150 is just right.
July’s carry-ons, all in pastels and aesthetically-pleasing italics, look like something dreamed up by a millennial focus group—so it might be just the right thing for flying out to your rental casa in CDMX. The Australian-made spinners fall in the same price bucket as the Away and Arlo Skye bags, with many of the same perks (from a built-in battery that’ll keep your phone and computer juiced up on long layovers, to silent wheels and stretchy compression straps), if you want something a little less everywhere. Plus, the lifetime warranty makes it very solid competition for the unimpeachable value of the Away bags.
Everyone loves a duffel bag until it actually comes to sprinting your 30-pound deadweight to your boarding gate. It’s great for the roomy inner cavity, and less ideal for your poor shoulders. Rains’ trolley bag, essentially a duffel on wheels, is a neat solution to that problem. Like any of Rains’ slickers, it comes in minimal waterproof materials, but also packs in a telescoping handle for easily wheeling around the terminal, plus two buckles on the side that keep everything strapped in for takeoff.