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Luggage Buying Guide

The right luggage helps make travelling easier and more enjoyable. Learning about luggage is the first step towards a trip you won’t forget.

 

Luggage has changed so much recently that deciding on which pieces are best for your needs can be slightly tricky. This guide will clarify questions about luggage technology and terminology and provide you with ideas on what to look for when buying new baggage and travel accessories. From ‘hard-sided’ to ‘spinners’ to ‘denier’ this guide explains all that you want to know about modern baggage.

Types of Luggage

Construction Types

Hard-sided

Hard-sided luggage provides superb protection for baggage contents. Even with other bags stacked on top, their rigid hard-sided exterior will often not bend, decompress or puncture. This is especially important when there are fragile or valuable items inside. If hard-sided luggage does flex under extreme weight or stress, it will pop back to its original shape. Although made from a variety of solid materials, such as aluminum, carbon fibre, polycarbonate, plastic ABS and polypropylene, hard-sided pieces are relatively lightweight and easy to manoeuvre.

Soft-sided

Lighter than hard-sided pieces, these cases are shaped by the way they are cut and sewn, and usually have some stiffeners or partial framework to help hold their shape. Closed with zippers, they are lightweight and are the most expandable type of luggage, but offer less protection from crushing or impact than cases with a more solid construction. Softer and thus more pliable construction enables this luggage to conform to its contents and adjust to the shape of overhead storage compartments.

When researching soft-sided luggage, consider the “denier” of its fabric. Denier refers to the strength of a fabric’s weave. In many cases, the higher the denier the more durable the fabric. A denier of 400 or higher is preferable. Keep in mind that Ballistic and Cordura nylon materials are superior to polyester fabrics, so although luggage made with polyester might have a higher denier than a piece made from ballistic nylon, it will not be as strong or as durable as the nylon fabric.

Hybrid

A combination of materials allows hybrid luggage to have the strength and support of a hard-sided luggage with the convenience and functionality of soft-sided luggage.

Design Types

18-20” Upright

These sizes fall within carry-on standards for most international flights. Best for 1-2 day trips, they have packing space for a few outfits, a pair of shoes and toiletries (or a few accessories). Carry-on luggage is available in hard-sided, soft-sided or hybrid varieties. Some pieces within this size range are well suited for children and come in cute, kid-friendly designs and prints.

20-22” Upright

Lightweight and easily towed, these are very popular sizes of carry-on luggage for domestic flights within Canada and the Unites States. Ideal for business travellers and weekend leisure trips, most pieces within this range have a foldout or removable garment sleeve that can hold clothing such as a suit or a dress. Most of these uprights have an expansion feature, allowing up to an additional 4 inches of capacity (in some cases uprights in this size class exceed carry-on measurement allowances when expanded and must be checked as baggage).

23-27” Upright

These uprights are often used by those who travel more frequently. They are perfect for trips ranging from 3 to 7 days. These pieces are too large to carry onto a plane so must be checked as baggage. They have a moderate-to-large capacity for multiple outfits, shoes, toiletries and accessories. Many pieces have a “suiter” – a fold out or removable garment sleeve that can hold several dresses or a couple of thicker suits. If loaded with weight these cases can get difficult – but not back-breakingly challenging – to lift.

28-32” Upright

These are the largest uprights available and are perhaps most used by families and those who enjoy occasional travel. They have a very large storage capacity, often feature specialty pockets and can accommodate clothing hangers. Due to their large size, when fully packed they can be difficult to lift and manoeuvre and may exceed weight limits, so it’s a good idea to avoid packing heavier items in these pieces.

Duffel

A perfect option for weekend travellers, duffels are large, roomy and soft-sided bags. They have double handles on top, as well as adjustable shoulder straps. They are great for winter trips when you might want to pack warm coats, clothes, boots and accessories, and also work well for hauling sports equipment – both for travel and to your local rink. Duffels often feature special loops that attach to the handles of upright cases so that they may be easily carried with an upright as it rolls.

Rolling duffle bags feature the same carrying options of an ordinary duffle bag, but with the added convenience of a set of wheels and a telescoping (retractable) handle for easy mobility. They are useful for easy manoeuvering through crowded airports and lines. Duffels that feature a shoulder strap in addition to handles increase your carrying options and are useful for times when you'll need your hands free. Look for duffels with convenient strap placement and heavy duty grips if possible. Shoulder straps for duffels should be made with wide webbing and ideally should be padded for comfort.

Tote

Like duffels, totes usually feature handles and shoulder straps, but their smaller size often enables them to meet carry-on size restrictions. Totes often loop onto the handles of upright cases so that they may be easily carried on top of your upright as it rolls. Most wheeled totes will fit under an airliner seat, and are small enough to lift in and out of overhead storage. Totes can hold a change of clothes, books, magazines and any other odds and ends you carry while travelling.

Garment Bags & Carriers

Favoured by business travellers and anyone wishing to keep their clothes crease-free, garment bags are portable mini-closets that can hold several garments while on their hangers. Available as both rolling and non-rolling units they can range from 40" to 60" in length and often fold to the size of a suitcase to prevent clothes from wrinkling. Some garment bags have wheels for ease of transport and feature shoulder straps. Shoulder straps should be made with wide webbing, and ideally should be padded for comfort. Look for models that have straps over the clothing to help keep it secure and wrinkle-free.

Spinner Luggage

Spinner luggage features four wheels mounted on castors that allow you to move it effortlessly in any direction, with the weight of its contents transferred evenly to the ground as opposed to the tipped half of conventional two-wheel luggage. Frequent travellers enjoy spinners, as their easy navigation and smart sliding through various aisles does not slow their travel and allows them to move with the speed of a moving line. Many also find that spinner wheels allow the luggage to glide next to them, giving it even better mobility. A handle with a crossbar is recommended, as it lessens the possibility of it cracking. Spinners sometimes weigh more than other similar-sized pieces more due to their extra hardware.

Designer Luggage

Gone are the days where the only luggage available were pieces with solid, muted colours and conventional designs. Nowadays, those who are fashion-minded enjoy travelling with luggage that reflects their unique sense of style. Luggage and travel accessories are increasingly found with stylized prints, artwork and materials incorporated into their design. Not sacrificing on functionality, designer pieces have all the durability and protective features of traditional luggage – but with some embellishments for added appeal. Like any other type of baggage, prices for designer and fashionable luggage can range from inexpensive to costly.

Eco-friendly Luggage

Shoppers have become increasingly concerned about the environmental, health and social impacts that their luggage has before, during and after it is manufactured. As a result there are a growing number of companies that manufacture luggage with low toxic, low chemical and greener fabrics that are both durable and stylish. Some manufacturers use fabrics made from low toxic, low chemical polyester and nylon, as well as recycled blended PET and sustainable cotton and rayon from bamboo. Others offer luggage made with 100% recycled material, which helps to reduce demand for new materials and resources.