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Rimowa Essential Check-In L Review

It may be worth a king's ransom, but you'll certainly get what you pay for with this 'spensive spinner
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Rimowa Essential Check-In L Review
Credit: Jason Wanlass
Price:  $1,150 List
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Manufacturer:   Rimowa
By Jason Wanlass ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 14, 2023
84
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 17
  • Capacity - 35% 7.5
  • Ease of Transport - 25% 9.0
  • Construction Quality - 20% 9.0
  • Design and Functionality - 20% 8.7

Our Verdict

Thoughtful engineering, sophistication, performance, and function are the key attributes that convinced us that the Rimowa Essential Check-In L is our favorite premium hardshell suitcase. Backed by more than 100 years of manufacturing and innovation, it's safe to say Rimowa knows what it's doing when it comes to luggage. The Essential Check-In is constructed with the finest materials and is ideal for extensive business or leisure travel. It rolls smoothly for miles, holds clothing and essentials securely, and easily stands out in a crowd. However, its iconic polished exterior scratches somewhat easily, which can be a little taxing on the psyche after considering this bougie bag's enormous price tag. To see how the Rimowa ranks next to competing models, see our best luggage review.
REASONS TO BUY
Superior construction
Relatively lightweight
Water-resistant
Very smooth ride
Excellent compression system
REASONS TO AVOID
Extremely costly
Prone to scratch
Shell is completely exposed to contact

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award 
Price $1,150 List$470 List
$450.49 at Amazon
$260 List
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$139.99 at Amazon
$142 List
$115.96 at Amazon
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Bottom Line It oozes style and quality, but this high-dollar harshell will cost you a pretty pennyThis well-organized bag works admirably and has good organization features, but it's hugeOne big bag (probably too big for most) of quality build, limited organizational features, and high transport performance over smooth urban terrainA solid enough bag with a reputable namesake, ample space, a few convenient accessories, and an appealing price tagLarge in size and great in value for short-term needs
Rating Categories Rimowa Essential Ch... Travelpro Platinum... Samsonite Omni PC H... SwissGear Sion Soft... Amazon Basics 30" H...
Capacity (35%)
7.5
8.8
9.0
7.0
6.7
Ease of Transport (25%)
9.0
9.0
5.9
6.0
6.2
Construction Quality (20%)
9.0
9.0
6.0
6.5
5.0
Design and Functionality (20%)
8.7
9.5
6.0
6.8
5.0
Specs Rimowa Essential Ch... Travelpro Platinum... Samsonite Omni PC H... SwissGear Sion Soft... Amazon Basics 30" H...
Weight (Measured) 10.6 lb 12.2 lb 10.3 lb 11.1 lb 11.6 lb
Exterior Dimensions 30.6" x 20.5" x 11.1" 29.5" x 20.0." x 12.75" 30.5" x 20.5" x 13.0" 28.5" x 17.25" x 12.5" 30.75" x 21.0" x 12.0
Main Compartment Volume (Measured) 90 L 117 L 108 L 87 L 84 L
Exterior Material Polycarbonate High-density nylon fabric with DuraGuard Polycarbonate Polyester Extra-thick ABS, hard shell
Number of Wheels 4 4 4 4 4
Pull Handle Heights 10+ (3o" - 45") 1 (42") 2 36", 41") 2 (37", 41") 3 (32", 36", 40")
Opening Style Half shell Top lid Half shell Top lid Half shell
Locking System Combination/TSA lock Combination/TSA lock Combination/TSA lock Zipper loop None
Number of Exterior Pockets None 2 None 2 None

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Rimowa Essential Check-In L is our favorite premium hardshell suitcase because it perfectly blends the finest construction materials in the luggage industry.

Performance Comparison


rimowa essential check-in l - running in style.
Running in style.
Credit: Jason Wanlass


Capacity


Based on our measurements, the Essential Check-In L offers 90 liters of packing volume.


This certainly isn't the largest amount of available real estate; however, what this bag lacks in space, it makes up for with an ability to maximize its volume by way of compression.


Compressing clothing and accessories into secure bundles is what the Essential Check-In does best. This reduces wrinkles and adds protection, but it also condenses payloads, creating more space. During our packing tests, we found this feature very effective, and it often allowed us to pack just as much clothing into our Essential as larger hardshells on our list. Since this bag doesn't offer an expansion feature, the ability to compress its payload is one of its most desirable and differentiating trademarks.

Testing out this bag's compression system. We packed out Rimowa with several different payloads, and feel these compression panels are the best.
Credit: Jason Wanlass

Weighing 10.6 pounds, the Essential isn't the lightest suitcase on our list, but it certainly isn't the heaviest either. In fact, when compared directly against other hardshells on our cabin crew, it bests most of them on weight.


Additionally, the Essential is shallower than most of the bags in our lineup, aiding in its compression. All said, this high-end spinner can do without the added size or volume because it packs smarter, not harder.

rimowa essential check-in l - measuring the exterior depth of our rimowa. it's smaller than other...
Measuring the exterior depth of our Rimowa. It's smaller than other harshells on our list but we believe it can be because it packs clothing more efficiently.
Credit: Jason Wanlass

Ease of Transport


The Essential's landing gear is simply one of the best in the biz. Its four double-wheeled, polycarbonate spinners are practically a work of art. But this metric isn't only about wheels. It also considers handles and trolleys, as well as lifting, loading, curb jumping, stair climbing, and all things movement. And, as expected, the Essential knocked it out of the park.


We had the most fun rolling our Essential Check-In L through airport terminals and baggage claim areas. It effortlessly glides over commercial flooring at any speed. We even ran with our Essential, and it kept perfect pace with us without rattling or vibrating (many lower-end spinners roll like a bad shopping cart at higher speeds).

Cruising the terminal with our Rimowa. These wheels are so smooth they barely make a sound.
Credit: Jason Wanlass

We also pushed our swanky spinner outside of its posh comfort zone, rolling it over grass, gravel, and dirt. Its 2.25-inch wheels aren't the tallest on our list, but they were tall enough, strong enough, and responsive enough to handle nearly any terrain we pulled it through.

Way out of its element. We subjected this upscale bag to dirt, gravel, and grass. It rolled through all of our wheel tests very well. On normal flooring, the Rimowa's spinner mechanism allows it to change direction quickly, but on dirt it acts more like a shock shock absorber.
Credit: Jason Wanlass

Lugging a piece of checked luggage up a few flights of stairs isn't an ideal part of any travel plans, but it is occasionally required. Likewise, loading a heavy suitcase into a car or taxi, onto a shuttle bus or train, and onto the check-in counter scales is simply part of the travel experience. In this metric, we examined the quality and placement of grab handles and how well each suitcase balances in mid-air when being suspended. The Essential moves well in all of these situations. Its top and side grab handles are comfortable, well-placed, and easy to grip. Our only disappointment is the lack of a bottom handle or finger grab. This is a simple addition that would allow the bag to be pulled from nearly any angle.

Testing out the Rimowa's grab handles on the airport's stair-stepper...
Testing out the Rimowa's grab handles on the airport's stair-stepper machine - no gym membership required.
Using the Rimowa's side handle to snag it from baggage claim.
Using the Rimowa's side handle to snag it from baggage claim.
Easy to grab and easy to carry. Excellent handles make all the difference.

Staying the course is another key attribute we looked for in our spinner suitcases. A bag's ability to stay by your side while making your way through an airport or down a busy sidewalk is key. During most of our walking tests, the Essential was very easy to maneuver and to keep in line. However, when we tested this bag in a more controlled environment, it showed its true colors: it likes to twirl. We feel this need to spin is due to its exceptionally reactive spinners, and it did not pose a problem when it was at our side.

The Rimowa tows the line very well, and has an extremely smooth roll, but it loves to twirl.
Credit: Jason Wanlass

Stairs and curbs are no problem for the Essential. Its top-tier trolley handle is sturdy enough to bear the weight of the bag as it is pulled over most roadblocks common to city, hotel, or airport life. Our concerns in this area are not housed in strength or durability but rather in aesthetics. In short, the Essential's beautifully polished polycarbonate shell is super strong but is void of protection, be it a kick plate, bumper rails, or other. When hoisting the Essential upward, the bag's exterior shell makes direct contact with stairs and curbs. And although it's certainly up to the task, we couldn't help but cringe to hear it scrape against unwanted surfaces, especially when we considered its price tag.

Cringing as we test our Rimowa over stairs. We hated seeing this expensive bag slam into each step.
Credit: Jason Wanlass

A simple yet often overlooked feature on most suitcases is trolley handle settings. Although it appears to be a standard pull, its advanced engineering sets it apart from any bag we've studied. To be concise, it locks into place wherever you release the adjustment button. Say goodbye to fumbling with pin-based trolley settings. The Essential offers elevations from 30 inches to 45 inches and a zillion settings in between.

Push the button. Pull the trolley. Let go of the button. Wherever you stop, it locks firmly into place.
Credit: Jason Wanlass

Construction Quality


The question of quality is pretty cut and dry: you get what you pay for when you shell out the bucks for an Essential Check-In L. As with any Rimowa luggage piece, corners were not cut, nor were pennies pinched. Everything about this bag is top-grade; however, we shaved off a few points because its polished exterior is prone to scratch.


The Essential's shell is constructed of sturdy polycarbonate material, but it is pleasingly more pliable than the other hardshells in our lineup. In fact, it almost has a rubbery feel to it. This allows the shell to more easily bounce back from blunt force trauma instead of denting or cracking.

Somehow the Rimowa's polycarbonate shell is softer and more pliable than other hardshells on our list. This allows it to absorb direct contact better.
Credit: Jason Wanlass

We weren't very nice to our big-budget travel trunk. We subjected it to the same amount of turbulence as less-expensive bags on our list. During our drop and tumble tests, our Essential experienced no serious damage. However, it tends to flip end over end when careening down stairwells. This isn't ideal. We would rather see it slide or ski down because it is less violent and less likely to damage the case or its contents. Additionally, the Essential's shiny shell does tend to collect scrapes and scuffs. A lot of the markings are simply dust, but a fair amount of them are permanent.

The Rimowa's durable shell can certainly handle getting roughed up. And, it certainly scratches.
Credit: Jason Wanlass

We were pleased to discover that the Essential repels water. Its sturdy shell and thick zipper system do an excellent job serving as an effective first line of defense against rain or spills.

rimowa essential check-in l - the polycarbonate shell is virtually waterproof.
The polycarbonate shell is virtually waterproof.
Credit: Jason Wanlass

During our water tests, we drenched our Essential Check-In L for several minutes with hose water and then checked its interior for signs of leakage. We used a strip of blue paper towel as an indicator of any moisture, and we were pleased to find it, as well as the bag's interior, almost completely dry.

Checking our Rimowa's interior for signs of moisture. It's zipper system did a great job of keeping water out.
Credit: Jason Wanlass

Design and Functionality


Layout, longevity, and looks were key factors that influenced how the Essential ranked in this metric. Everything about this bag's appearance and purposeful packing system makes sense.


We feel the Velcro stays, which hold the Essential's compression panel straps in place, are a little weak. They really should have a more aggressive seal. Additionally, we held back on giving this premium hardshell our highest marks for this metric because its high price tag is unrealistic for most people. That said, we couldn't help but be drawn to the Essential for its quality, style, function, and elite status.

rimowa essential check-in l - looking good, and knowing you're looking good are two different...
Looking good, and knowing you're looking good are two different things. The Rimowa does both.
Credit: Jason Wanlass

Should You Buy the Rimowa Essential Check-In L?


This bag is built for extensive business or leisure travel, but its amenities will cost you much more than the average hardshell. It certainly is an option if you desire premium style and function and don't mind paying a premium to get it. However, many other checked bags on our list perform just as well at a fraction of the cost.

We loved playing around with our Rimowa. Its smooth twirls give a whole new meaning to the term spinner.
Credit: Jason Wanlass

What Other Suitcase Should You Consider?


If you want the best but lean more toward softshell bags, we think the Briggs & Riley Baseline Large Expandable Spinner is worth taking a look at. However, if you want a quality hardshell but need something a little more budget-friendly, we highly suggest checking out the Away The Large. It offers a lot of the same amenities as the Essential, but for a third of the price. If bargain bin shopping is more your vibe, you can't go wrong with the Amazon Basics 30" Hardside Spinner.

Jason Wanlass