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American Tourister Stratum XLT 28" Review

This simple hard-sided suitcase doesn't roll well enough for us to recommend it over the other options in our lineup
American Tourister Stratum XLT 28"
Photo: American Tourister
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Price:  $170 List | $161.02 at Amazon
Pros:  Colorful design, expandable
Cons:  Less stable wheels, fewer organizational features, no lock
Manufacturer:   American Tourister
By Clark Tate ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 27, 2021
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48
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#11 of 11
  • Storage & Organization - 25% 5
  • Ease of Transport - 25% 4
  • Reliability - 25% 4
  • Weight - 15% 7
  • Style - 10% 5

Our Verdict

With its streamlined design, dash of style, and expandable capacity, the American Tourister Stratum XLT was a promising option. There is a mesh compartment on one side, two webbing straps to hold things loosely together, and a thin pouch for smaller items. Unfortunately, the wheels are wobbly, and the suitcase doesn't track well, sometimes crashing when you take it over curbs. It also only has two external haul handles, making it one of the hardest bags in our review to move around. Overall, we don't find this suitcase to be a very good value or one that we would recommend.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Best Buy Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award 
Price $161.02 at AmazonCheck Price at REI
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$379 List$299.95 at Backcountry$85.00 at Amazon
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Pros Colorful design, expandableSmooth ride, sensible features, excellent organization, great styleAmple storage, water-resistant, durable, heavily featuredLarge wheels roll well, stable, convenient external organizationInexpensive, smooth travel, great storage
Cons Less stable wheels, fewer organizational features, no lockZippers could be smootherMany features that aren't that useful, bulky designNot much in the way of interior organizationTips over, lacks durable materials
Bottom Line This simple hard-sided suitcase doesn't roll well enough for us to recommend it over the other options in our lineupA durable, stylish, and high-value suitcase suited for all types of travelA tactical and durable adventure suitcase that excels at packing bulky gearA rough and tumble option that could work for anything from gear hauls to business tripsA very low priced suitcase with great storage capacity but a propensity to be tippy
Rating Categories American Tourister... Timbuk2 Copilot Eagle Creek ORV Tru... The North Face Roll... AmazonBasics Expand...
Storage & Organization (25%)
5.0
9.0
8.0
6.0
6.0
Ease Of Transport (25%)
4.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
Reliability (25%)
4.0
8.0
9.0
9.0
4.0
Weight (15%)
7.0
6.0
8.0
5.0
7.0
Style (10%)
5.0
7.0
3.0
7.0
4.0
Specs American Tourister... Timbuk2 Copilot Eagle Creek ORV Tru... The North Face Roll... AmazonBasics Expand...
Measured Weight 9.9 lbs 9.4 lbs 9.1 lbs 10.2 lbs 9.9 lbs
Volume 103L 80L 98L 80L 105L
Liters per pound 10.4 8.5 10.8 7.8 10.6
Construction Clamshell, hard-sided Clamshell & peek-a-boo access, softshell Zip open, softshell Roller-duffel Clamshell, softshell
Measured Packed Dimensions 29.5" x 11.5" x 18.5" 25" x 14" x 10" 30" x 17" x 15" 28.5" x 15" x 16" 20" x 11" x 29"
Expansion Zippers? Yes No No No Yes
Number of Wheels 4 2 2 2 4
Number of Large Interior Compartments 2 2 1 1 1
Interior Storage Features 1 mesh panel, 1 small pocket, constraint straps 2 Mesh dividers with organizational pockets. Three smaller organizational pockets 1 mesh organizational pockets on lid of duffel Smaller organizational compartment with mesh organizer
Number of Exterior Pockets None 1 pocket on top, 1 large sleeve 2 large pockets, top and bottom. Several gear loops on the exterior. 3 pockets, top and middle. Several gear loops on the exterior. 1 large pocket
Compression System None Internal compression straps Removable gear holder keeps items in place, but not compression. Compression buckles on the outside. Expandable boot pocket on the interior of the backpack. Internal and exterior compression straps Internal compression straps
Handle Height from Ground Low: 36"
High: 45"
40.75" 42" 42.5" Low: 38"
High: 42"
Built-In Lock No None None No Yes
Main Exterior Material ABS Plastic Nylon and polyester Bi-Tech Heather, 1000D Helix Polyester Twill 1,000-denier polyester with TPE laminate/1,680-denier nylon 150D-polyester
Unique Features Hard sided bag Peek-a-boo front pocket, padded front pocket for a 13" laptop. Gear specific storage Duffel on wheels None

Our Analysis and Test Results

While the Stratum XLT is expandable, attractive, and won't break the bank, it's among our least favorite options.

Performance Comparison


The Stratum is pleasantly light and gives you plenty of room and...
The Stratum is pleasantly light and gives you plenty of room and just enough organizational features.
Photo: Clark Tate

Storage & Organization


The of the Stratum storage capacity and organization layout are fine. They are the most bare-bones version of what you need, with roomy storage spaces and restraints to keep your things in place long enough to unzip the bag. It also includes a small side stash for your toiletries. However, this suitcase doesn't hold as much as our favorite options, even when we expanded the extra fabric band. It will still hold plenty for your average weeklong vacation, though.

The mesh panel on the left does a great job of keeping your clothes...
The mesh panel on the left does a great job of keeping your clothes in place as you open the suitcase.
Photo: Clark Tate

A full mesh flap zips up on one side to hold your items in place. That's handy since you're likely to lay the bag down on the handle of the suitcase, meaning the left side will be the one that you open. On the right side, two webbing straps meet in the middle to form an X, holding bulky or well-organized items in place. And that's about it. This is plenty if you just need the basics; it doesn't include any outer pockets for items you'll need on the day of travel, but it won't matter if you have a personal item for those things.

The bag gives you a nice amount of organizational features.
The bag gives you a nice amount of organizational features.
Photo: Clark Tate

Ease of Transport


On airport floors or carpets, this bag rolls well enough. It will make it over gravel and rougher pavement or cobblestones as well, but it jumps around more than any other bag in our test. The wheels are smaller and shimmy more than we like, making the Stratum less stable in general, even tipping over when coming off curbs.

The smaller wheels wiggle more than the other options we tested...
The smaller wheels wiggle more than the other options we tested, making this bag one of the hardest to move around.
Photo: Clark Tate

The Stratum also only offers two haul handles, one on the top and one on the side. The top handle telescopes to two different heights at the touch of a central button. It's easy to use and comfortable to hold. The handles are also easy to grab and give a bit when you haul on them, making them comfortable to use. Smooth rubber keeps them streamlined and out of the way when you don't need them. But we do wish there was one more handle on the bottom of the bag. Without one, this sleek shell is hard to grip, and when you're pulling bags in and out of vehicles all day, it's easy to forget to leave a handle exposed.

The telescoping handle wiggles a little more than we'd like but it...
The telescoping handle wiggles a little more than we'd like but it offers two pleasant height options.
Photo: Clark Tate

Reliability


The smooth exterior of the Stratum sustained a few scuffs during our test period. It seems likely to accumulate quite a few on the leading bottom edge since there are no stiff rubber guards to fend off curbs or stairs. Despite this, it still looked fine at the end of our testing period.

However, we worry that the abrupt shift from a hard outer shell to the softer fabric of the zipper is a harsh transition that may wear the zipper out faster than is ideal. This is particularly concerning when you unzip the extra strip of fabric to expand the main compartment. Unless you stuff the suitcase well, creating rigidity with your belongings, the bag twists around the zippers, adding extra strain. Nothing gave way or even gave us real cause for concern during testing, but we still weren't impressed by this.

When the expandable fabric is unfurled, if the bag isn't packed...
When the expandable fabric is unfurled, if the bag isn't packed completely, there is a lot of wobble in the middle.
Photo: Clark Tate

The telescoping handle feels less substantial than others and has some wiggle — but this is true of almost all suitcases. The Stratum is one of the few box-style suitcases we tested that doesn't include a TSA-approved lock. We miss the security but appreciate that the zippers don't have the awkward metal loop that the integrated locks seem to require.

This bag doesn't include an integrated lock, but that means the...
This bag doesn't include an integrated lock, but that means the zipper pulls can stay nice and comfortable.
Photo: Clark Tate

Weight


The Stratum is one of the lighter options we tested, which we really appreciate. It's just under 10 pounds, which means you can pack in a lot more and still make the weight cut off for carry-on luggage. That's a huge benefit if you plan on flying with this bag.

This bag is one of the lighter options in the test.
This bag is one of the lighter options in the test.
Photo: Clark Tate

Style


There seemed to be a stark divide amongst our testers regarding hard-sided bags, and it generally stems from their function. Several of our testers have had bad experiences with similar bags ripping at the zipper due to the increased strain that rigidity can introduce and overall do not like the look. The rest of us think they look nice, with interesting detailing and nice colorways. The wheels on the Stratum look less than inspiring, though, and we don't like how it looks or feels with the stretchy expander fabric deployed.

Hard-sided bags have a look. Some of us like it. Some of us don't.
Hard-sided bags have a look. Some of us like it. Some of us don't.
Photo: Clark Tate

Value


This bag is among the lower-priced options in our review, but it's also one of our least favorite suitcases. There are options we like better and feel are a better overall value.

Conclusion


We appreciate how light, simple, and nice-looking the American Tourister Stratum XLT is. However, so many options roll better that we have a hard time recommending this one.

The geometric pattern may not be for everyone, but we kinda like it.
The geometric pattern may not be for everyone, but we kinda like it.
Photo: Clark Tate

Clark Tate