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Travelpro Maxlite 5 21-inch Softside Expandable Spinner Review

A super lightweight and functional carry-on that doesn’t compromise on useful features or comfort in use
travelpro maxlite 5 21-inch softside expandable spinner carry-on luggage review
Credit: Travelpro
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Price:  $170 List
Manufacturer:   Travelpro
By Myrha Colt ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Sep 26, 2022
76
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 9
  • Ease of Use - 35% 7.2
  • Design - 25% 7.2
  • Packability - 25% 8.0
  • Durability - 15% 8.4

Our Verdict

Although the Travelpro Maxlite 5 didn't win any awards this time around, it was still a top contender when it comes to quality of construction, feature set, and overall performance. Like a slimmed-down and slightly more casual version of its cousin, the Platinum Elite, the Maxlite softshell carry-on comes with a simplified set of organizational features housed within a protective, abrasion-resistant polyester exterior. It also has four single-wheel 360-degree spinners plus a contoured telescoping handle to deliver comfortable handling and maneuverability in transit. And as one of the lightest carry-ons we've tested with a mid-range price point, it may also be the best carry-on luggage for frequent travelers.
REASONS TO BUY
Ultra lightweight
Durable
Good capacity
REASONS TO AVOID
Wobbles occasionally when full
Few extra features

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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Ultra lightweight, durable, good capacityMany useful extras, impressive capacity, accessible priceSmooth and stable, impressive capacity, variety of colors, lightweightSpacious, easy to use, budget-friendly, lots of colorsInexpensive, decent storage, expandable
Cons Wobbles occasionally when full, few extra featuresHeavy, exceeds airline size requirements, frontside bulkDurability concerns, minimal organizational featuresDurability issues, rattly roller handleDurability concerns, rattly roller handle, finicky zippers, heavy
Bottom Line A super lightweight and functional carry-on that doesn’t compromise on useful features or comfort in useAn accessible price point and a slew of useful features make this carry-on a good option for those who want a solid performer without breaking the bankA simple, lightweight yet solid hardshell spinner that outshines other bags at a similar price pointAn affordable roller with enough utility to suit light packers and infrequent travelers and plenty of colors to keep it funA well-priced and reasonably spacious hardshell carry-on with limited organizational features and dubious long-term viability
Rating Categories Travelpro Maxlite 5... SwissGear Sion Soft... Samsonite Omni PC H... Rockland Melbourne 20 Amazon Basics 21-in...
Ease of Use (35%)
7.2
8.2
7.5
5.4
5.6
Design (25%)
7.2
6.1
8.0
6.6
5.1
Packability (25%)
8.0
8.7
7.0
7.1
6.0
Durability (15%)
8.4
7.0
5.2
4.0
4.0
Specs Travelpro Maxlite 5... SwissGear Sion Soft... Samsonite Omni PC H... Rockland Melbourne 20 Amazon Basics 21-in...
Measured Dimensions 23.5" x 14" x 9" 23" x 14.1" x 10" 21.5" x 14" x 9.5" 23" x 14" x 9" 22" x 14.8" x 10"
Handle Height Options (where it locks) 3 (27", 38", 42.5") 3 (28", 34.5", 43") 5 (25", 30.5", 33", 36", 41.5") 3 (26", 33", 41") 2 (33", 41")
Number of Wheels 4 4 4 4 4
Number of Exterior Pockets 2 2 0 0 0
Interior Opening Style Top lid Top lid Half shell Half shell Half shell
Locking? Main compartment zipper has a loop for a lock but does not come with lock No Yes No No
Exterior Material Polyester fabric with Duraguard coating Polyester Micro-diamond polycarbonate ABS hardshell ABS hardshell
Colors 8 - azure blue, black, burgandy, imperial purple, mocha, sapphire blue, slate green, dusty rose 8 - black, blue, burgandy, dark gray, navy lime, pewter, purple, teal 11 - black, carribean blue, red, white, silver, teal, navy, purple, bronze, burnt orange, radiant pink 26 - black, blue, brown, champagne, charcoal, gray, green, lime, magenta, navy, orange, pink, purple, quilt, red, silver, turquoise, two tone blue, two tone green, two tone navy, black wave, gold wave, mint, carbon, two tone magenta (with 3 additional colors available as part of a 2 piece set) 4 - black, navy blue, blue, orange

Our Analysis and Test Results

If you are tired of breaking your back hauling heavyset carry-on cases around the world, the soft-sided Travelpro Maxlite 5 could be exactly the spinner you're looking for. Stripped of all unnecessary bells and whistles to focus explicitly on a solid foundation – core strength, reliable functionality, and high-caliber performance – this is a thoughtfully designed suitcase meant to provide exactly the essentials you need. The paired-down design helps to alleviate the strain of packing and the burdens of day-of travel, without carrying any extra dead weight along for the ride.

Performance Comparison


travelpro maxlite 5 21-inch softside expandable spinner carry-on luggage review - keeping the pace and rolling comfortably underhand, travel is smooth...
Keeping the pace and rolling comfortably underhand, travel is smooth sailing with the Maxlite 5.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Ease of Use


The very first thing you'll notice about the Travelpro Maxlite 5 is just how darn light it is. This ultralight softshell spinner comes in a full pound less than most of the other lightweight bags in our test suite and multiple pounds lighter than each of the other softshell cases in the group. For a bag built of similar dimensions, this means there's a whole lot more room to play with when stashing your stuff, and all without the risk of throwing out your back or tweaking a shoulder once on the move. The Maxlite 5's ultralight status is a real selling point for anyone who prefers to work smarter not harder when tackling travel tasks, and it's a feature that becomes much more noticeable once you start rolling a fully packed bag across long distances or over hills.

travelpro maxlite 5 21-inch softside expandable spinner carry-on luggage review - although generally considered less stable and resilient than...
Although generally considered less stable and resilient than double-wheeled spinners, the single spinners on the Maxlite took all the hits we doled out and still never failed.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

From an organizational perspective, the flip-lid Maxlite 5 has just the right amount of built-in tools – both exterior and interior pockets plus a couple of compression straps and a tapered expansion zipper – to keep you on point without adding any extra weight or clutter. On flat terrain, its single-wheeled spinners glide smoothly even when maxed out at packed capacity. On rougher surfaces, like sidewalk cracks and over gravel, we noticed a bit more chatter and a slightly lower clearance than other bags in the suite.

travelpro maxlite 5 21-inch softside expandable spinner carry-on luggage review - the travelpro maxlite 5 generated a bit of chatter rolling over...
The Travelpro Maxlite 5 generated a bit of chatter rolling over rough surfaces but quieted up once back on flat ground.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

But where previous versions of the Maxlite generated complaints about poor weight distribution and easy tipping, we found no such problem with the Maxlite 5. On occasion, we did notice some shifting inside the bag (side to side) which resulted in a less stable rolling experience overall. But the case never flipped, tipped, or toppled, and rarely hung up on itself so much as to be an inconvenience. Plus, its telescoping handle was notably more comfortable underhand than other contenders in the collection and its two puffy fabric load handles, while not particularly attractive, proved very handy for carrying the case.

travelpro maxlite 5 21-inch softside expandable spinner carry-on luggage review - well-padded carry handles are much appreciated when you have to...
Well-padded carry handles are much appreciated when you have to carry your bag over any distance.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Packability


Two internal mesh organizational pockets (a larger one inside the opening lid and another smaller accessory version along the midline wall) plus compression straps within the main compartment provide valuable space-saving options and flexibility to thoughtfully arrange and lock in your gear. Two more external pockets stacked across the front of the case add another layer of convenience, creating space to stash day-of items for access while on the road. Similarly, a tapered expansion zipper provides up to two inches of additional space in the main compartment, allowing the bulk of any extra weight to settle toward the bottom of the case.

travelpro maxlite 5 21-inch softside expandable spinner carry-on luggage review - the smallest of the front pockets is perfect to store keys or...
The smallest of the front pockets is perfect to store keys or day-of-travel tickets, etc. but you do have to take care not to stuff the secondary pocket too full, or there won't be much space left to work with.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

All items from our 7-day summertime clothing test fit easily within the Maxlite 5 and we found each pocket to be both convenient and useful. The compression straps functioned exactly as intended by eliminating any strain on zippers when we went to reseal the bag. No expansion was needed during this first go-round, although some care was needed to be sure both front-side pockets could be used (as overstuffing one can reduce capacity in the other). During our bulky item test, pretty much all our gear fit into the main compartment without issue. We were able to fit three pairs of shoes in the lid-side interior mesh pocket alone. This was impressive. But when it came time to toss in the helmet, we did need just a bit more leeway to make things work and the expansion zipper was employed.

Design


This is a simple bag with a slightly more casual appearance than others in our test collection, sold in a small variety of bright yet unobtrusive colorways that will easily suit most travelers' needs. It also facilitates simple storage and accessibility without a bunch of added components that get in the way nor make it particularly memorable.

travelpro maxlite 5 21-inch softside expandable spinner carry-on luggage review - ultra lightweight with cushy carry handles on two sides, we were...
Ultra lightweight with cushy carry handles on two sides, we were impressed with how easy the Travelpro Maxlite is to grab and go.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

The one spec that WILL grab your attention however is its weight, as this is where the Travelpro Maxlite 5 shines. Anyone who travels often by plane knows you'll spend a good chunk of any travel day lifting or carrying your case in and out of vehicles, trains, planes, shelving, trunks, or up and down stairs. The burden of a heavy case can be a point of frustration (especially when a significant portion of a bag's weight comes from its structural components alone). But with the ultralight Maxlite, this is no longer a concern. This large capacity soft-shell carry-on weighs in at several pounds less than most of the other bags in our test group, yet it sacrifices little in the way of core functionality or durability.

Built of a protective polyester treated with water and stain-resistant Duraguard® and four sturdy single-spinner wheels, the Maxlite has a solid foundation. Three lightweight yet hearty handles (one telescoping and two cushy fabric carry grips) plus a set of strong zippers keep the case functioning smoothly and easy to master when jet-setting about the world. And the combination of multiple interior and exterior pockets plus a set of interior compression straps make for easy packing before you go.

travelpro maxlite 5 21-inch softside expandable spinner carry-on luggage review - compression straps make a huge difference when trying to squeeze in...
Compression straps make a huge difference when trying to squeeze in a full packing list, or even if just trying to keep order in a loose bag.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

If you need more flexibility on the way home, an expansion zipper - revealing up to two inches of extra tapered space - should suffice. And while no lock has been provided, it's easy to top things off with a bit of extra security by just popping on a TSA-approved padlock. Notably, although this case is advertised to comply with domestic airline rules, in reality, it proves to be 1-1.5 inches too long to meet those caps. But as we've seen with so many others, there appears to be little complaint about repercussions on the ground with airline staff, and we had no trouble squeezing the Maxlite 5 into any overhead bins ourselves (when not fully expanded, of course).

travelpro maxlite 5 21-inch softside expandable spinner carry-on luggage review - measurements are important, but oddly we just haven't been seeing...
Measurements are important, but oddly we just haven't been seeing airlines tracking compliance with care and many people seem to have no problem carrying a bag that's just slightly too large.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Durability


Even after enduring intensive road testing and the substantial force of our in-house drop tests (which involved hucking each bag onto concrete from three and six-foot heights), the Travelpro Maxlite 5 performed admirably. Only faint scratches appeared along the plastic wheel housings, with no notable reduction in functionality in the spinners themselves or any other structural feature of the bag. We found no issue with how the case rolled or handled either, nor any other detectable defect in its construction (inside or out) once testing was complete.

Should You Buy the Travelpro Maxlite 5 Carry-On?


With its large capacity, versatile contour-grip roller handle, and smooth-rolling 360-degree spinner wheels, this is a mid-range-priced ultralight carry-on with a simple yet effective design. If you are looking to significantly cut your starting weight but still want a well-constructed bag that incorporates basic key organizational and mobility components to facilitate easy travel days, the Travelpro Maxlite 5 is worth your consideration. It's an easy recommendation for anyone who has past back, arm, or shoulder problems and knows there are long walks ahead or that they may have to lift or haul their bag throughout their travel days.

travelpro maxlite 5 21-inch softside expandable spinner carry-on luggage review - ultralight and ultra useful, the streamlined travelpro maxlite 5 is...
Ultralight and ultra useful, the streamlined Travelpro Maxlite 5 is an excellent choice to reduce strain on your arms and back while still carving out plenty of space for all the essentials.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

What Other Carry-On Should You Consider?


With simple strength and functionality without any unnecessary bells and whistles, the Travelpro Maxlite 5 21-inch Softside Expandable Spinner is a carefully conceived flip-open softshell case that saves on weight. Taking a streamlined, minimalist approach to both its structural configuration and core materials, the Maxlite 5 may be ultralight but it remains durable, useful, and responsive to the rigors of travel, all at a price point accessible to the average traveler. If strong and lightweight are what you're going for but a hardshell is a better fit for your needs, the Samsonite Omni PC Hardside Expandable Spinner 20 is a great alternative to consider. Or, if you like what you see here but might appreciate even more organizational extras, take a look at the SwissGear Sion Softside Expandable 21.

Myrha Colt
 
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