I scoured the racks and tested out many makes and models. Height, weight, maneuverability, and durability were the most important criteria, but I also examined features like zippers, handles, and compartments. My final list of medium-sized beauties boasts super-smooth wheels and ergonomically designed handles alongside new features like built-in overweight indicators and global bag-tracking systems. Read on to find out which suitcase should find a forever home in your closet.
The forever suitcase: defined as the one bag that will last a lifetime, be your constant companion on trips of all kinds, and meet your particular travel needs, all without disintegrating into a pile of cheap materials before you even make it home. This is no carry-on bag, folks. This is a suitcase that has it all and fits it all.
Note: Prices quoted are manufacturers' list prices. Most suitcases are on sale for lower prices online.
Delsey Helium Ultimate Expandable Spinner Suiter
Perfect For: The Overpacker
The built-in overweight indicator in Delsey's Helium Ultimate 25" Expandable Spinner Suiter Trolley is a godsend for the traveler who tends to pack everything but the kitchen sink. While the scale won't exactly help break your habit, it will at least prevent you from throwing in that one last item (or seventh pair of shoes) that would otherwise have taken your bag from pleasantly plump to totally overweight. The 25" Helium Ultimate comes pre-programmed to indicate when it's overstuffed and weighing in at more than 50 lb.
In addition to this much-appreciated cost-saving measure, Delsey has thoughtfully included a number of useful interior and exterior pockets so you can keep organized all the extras you just had to pack. The ergonomics of the bag could use a bit of work, as the handle was a bit difficult for me to pop up and the spinner wheels were a bit tippy.
List Price: $350
Briggs & Riley BRX Explore Upright
Perfect For: The Adventure Traveler
Whoever thought the grown-up version of a backpack would be this much fun? With myriad pockets, bright-orange interior detailing, and a super-lightweight design, Briggs & Riley's BRX Explore 25" Upright is the perfect bag for adventurous types. It has extra handles in convenient places, an external buckle system that allows you to connect it to another bag in the BRX line, and details like moisture-wicking mesh lining. This rugged suitcase wouldn't look out of place on the hiking trail—but all zipped up, it would fit right in at a fancy hotel, too.
And this bag has pockets galore. Add Briggs & Riley's lifetime warranty, and this innovative bag adds up to a great deal.
List Price: $335
Travelpro Platinum 7 Expandable Rollaboard Suiter
Perfect For: The Frequent Flyer
The year was 1987, and Northwest Airlines pilot Bob Plath was fed up with the two luggage options currently on the market: a heavy suitcase carried by a top handle or a horizontal model with four wheels pulled by a strap. So he designed a small suitcase, standing it upright, attaching just two wheels, and creating a long, extendable handle for the top. And thus was born the Travelpro Rollaboard.
You know you can trust a luggage company that was founded by a pilot. Travelpro's Platinum 7 26" Expandable Rollaboard Suiter has a timeless look, with ballistic-nylon fabric, nickel accents, and herringbone trim. Like the exterior of the bag, the interior is classic and offers no superfluous components: simply a compartmentalized lid (including a detachable garment bag) and a hidden mesh bottom pocket.
List Price: $560
Tumi Vapor Medium Trip Packing Case
Perfect For: The Fashionista
Tumi's eye-catching Vapor Medium Trip Packing Case is bold, beautiful, and filled with surprises. The Vapor line is focused on innovation, from the smartly designed interiors to the molded bumpers that protect the outside from damage. Patented zipper technology even ensures that, if caught on something, the zipper's pull—and not the entire zipper—will break away, so you'll be left with a still-functioning zipper and only have to replace the pull. Plus, the triple-layered polycarbonate shell looks and feels like it could withstand even the most careless airline baggage handler. And in the unlucky event that your bag goes missing, the Tumi Tracer hotline will work to find it for you.
If there is a fault in this suitcase, it's the warranty that comes with it. Lasting for only five years—four of which feature coverage in only a limited capacity—Tumi's protection is less than ideal.
List Price: $595