Best Suitcase of 2021
|Price||$715 List||Check Price at Backcountry|
Compare at 2 sellers
|$239.85 at Backcountry||$299.95 at Backcountry||$295 List|
|Pros||Well-made, innovative compression, rolls beautifully, hanging clothes compartment||Smooth ride, sensible features, excellent organization, great style||Ample storage, water-resistant, durable, heavily featured||Large wheels roll well, stable, convenient external organization||Integrated TSA lock, rolls well, smart organization options, stylish|
|Cons||Expensive, questionable durability on the compression tech||Zippers could be smoother||Many features that aren't that useful, bulky design||Not much in the way of interior organization||Heavy, fabric is easier to mark|
|Bottom Line||This bag is expensive but promises a lifetime of organized packing and happy rolling||A durable, stylish, and high-value suitcase suited for all types of travel||A tactical and durable adventure suitcase that excels at packing bulky gear||A rough and tumble option that could work for anything from gear hauls to business trips||This bag is heavy but it looks good, is easy to organize, and can keep up with whatever you have planned|
|Rating Categories||Briggs & Riley Expa...||Timbuk2 Copilot||Eagle Creek ORV Tru...||The North Face Roll...||Away Expandable Large|
|Storage & Organization (25%)|
|Ease Of Transport (25%)|
|Specs||Briggs & Riley Expa...||Timbuk2 Copilot||Eagle Creek ORV Tru...||The North Face Roll...||Away Expandable Large|
|Measured Weight||12.2 lbs||9.4 lbs||9.1 lbs||10.2 lbs||14.5 lbs|
|Volume||104.5L||80L||98L||80L||106 to 114L|
|Liters per pound||8.6||8.5||10.8||7.8||7.3 to 7.9|
|Construction||Zip open, softshell||Clamshell & peek-a-boo access, softshell||Zip open, softshell||Roller-duffel||Zip open, softshell|
|Measured Packed Dimensions||28" x 20" x 11.5"||25" x 14" x 10"||30" x 17" x 15"||28.5" x 15" x 16"||28" x 19" x 12"|
|Number of Wheels||4||2||2||2||4|
|Number of Large Interior Compartments||1||2||1||1||2|
|Interior Storage Features||Tri-fold hanging compartment with mesh toiletries pocket, garment compresssion panels||2 Mesh dividers with organizational pockets.||Three smaller organizational pockets||1 mesh organizational pockets on lid of duffel||1 dirty clothes bag, 2 zippered panels, compression straps|
|Number of Exterior Pockets||2 pockets, 1 large sleeve, 1 small zipper pocket||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 with two smaller ones inside|
|Compression System||CX compression / expansioin system, garmet panels||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 panel and straps|
|Handle Height from Ground||Low: 35"
|Main Exterior Material||Ballistic nylon||Nylon and polyester||Bi-Tech Heather, 1000D Helix Polyester Twill||1,000-denier polyester with TPE laminate/1,680-denier nylon||Water-resistant nylon|
|Unique Features||Compression / Expansion system||Peek-a-boo front pocket, padded front pocket for a 13" laptop.||Gear specific storage||Duffel on wheels||Includes a dirty clothes bag|
Best Four-Wheel Roller Suitcase
Briggs & Riley Expandable Spinner 28"
Rolling smoothly alongside you, pivoting on a dime, tackling gravel and cobblestones with reasonable grace, the Briggs & Riley Expandable Spinner is our favorite roller suitcase. Three handles also make it easy to haul over rougher terrain or grab it from the conveyor belt. What really sets this bag apart, though, is its spot-on organizational features. There's a small external pouch to keep necessities close at hand and a larger one for entertainment or layers. The main flap includes a trifold hanging compartment to minimize wrinkles for important items, and the large main compartment offers compression panels to hold everything in place. An innovative expansion and compression system lets you pack in more than you thought possible without making the bag any bigger.
The biggest downside to this bag is its cost. To us, its superior performance and design go a long way to justifying the investment, but it really all comes down to the bag's durability. Everything we saw during testing indicates that it's built to last. The company also has a pretty solid worry-free lifetime guarantee, promising to fix any functional features that break. If you're okay with paying more up front for gear that will outlast the competition, this could be the right option for you.
Read review: Briggs and Riley Expandable Spinner
High-Value Two-Wheeled Roller
Thanks to its super-smooth rolling action and durable softshell case, the Timbuk2 Copilot is one of our favorite two-wheeled models, and it sells for a very reasonable price. The compact size and good mobility work well for posh adventures via plane and train, rougher destinations, or road trips. The suitcase offers some of the most robust and well-laid-out organizational features in our lineup, including a mesh panel on either side of its clamshell design and smaller pockets for odds and ends. It even has a unique peek-a-boo pocket to access items without having to unzip the entire bag, which is a huge bonus. We also love the easy access storage pocket up top and the fact that there's a haul handle on all four sides.
We had a hard time finding much wrong with this reliable bag. Sometimes the main zipper gets held up on corners which is a bit frustrating. And, while there's plenty of room to pack what you need for most weeklong trips, this bag isn't great for bulkier items or a lot of gear. If you need more space but like this bag's style, check out its bigger 108-liter cousin. If you want a similar carry-on bag, there are also two smaller options. Whether you're heading out to wine country for the weekend or planning a long vacation, this bag is ready to go anywhere with you.
Read review: Timbuk 2 Copilot
Best Bang for the Buck
AmazonBasics Expandable Softsided 29
The AmazonBasics Expandable Softsided is a utilitarian option. Though it performed well in our tests, its biggest selling point is really its low price tag. The spinning wheels are large with rubber grips, and there are two of them at every corner, making for smooth and stable rolling. The bag has quite a bit of clearance and works well over rougher pavement and cobblestones. The telescoping handle is solid, and there are three other handles to help you haul it around. This bag gives you plenty of storage with a nice array of smaller pockets and compartments to keep everything organized. There is even a small expandable section in the front panel in case you pick up any bulky souvenirs.
Unfortunately, most of the pockets and storage compartments are in the front panel of the bag. And when you pack that panel fully, the bag will often tip over and fall off its wheels. You have to be really careful when packing to keep everything balanced or forgo using many of the front panel pockets. The polyester fabric is also thinner than the other options in our lineup. It has a denier(D), or density, of just 150. Other options range from 400D to 1680D. Several online reviews report durability issues, and we can tell the materials and craftsmanship are subpar. You often do get what you pay for. This will work just fine for those traveling only a couple of times a year. But if you're a frequent flyer, think about investing in a higher-quality option.
Read review: AmazonBasics Expandable Softsided 29
Best for Gear Hauling
Eagle Creek ORV Trunk 30
Built like a beast, the Eagle Creek ORV Trunk has a technical look and offers a wealth of organizational features. Although it's advertised with roughly 100 liters of storage, you can fit so much inside it feels like more. And that's just internal storage. It also features external pockets to hold anything you need — well-padded cameras, tripods, adventure gear, the works. You can even separate your stinky adventure boots from your nightlife clothes using an expandable internal compartment meant for dirty clothes. This bag is built for those hauling lots of gear and who aren't bothered by a tactical and outdoor-focused look.
The ORV is very tailored to the outdoor enthusiast; it's not a generalist. While you could certainly use it for a business trip or beach vacation, it's quite an investment for mellow travel or short trips. The bulky dimensions and technical design are not as easy to maneuver at the airport, and its looks aren't everybody's cup of tea. Adventurers and those seeking a utilitarian suitcase will appreciate it best.
Read review: Eagle Creek ORV Trunk 30
Best Two-Wheeled Duffel Roller
The North Face Rolling Thunder 30"
Boxy four-wheeled rollers are great at the airport and unfold like a dream in a fancy hotel room. But if your bag may end up shoved in a corner or tossed in the dirt by a campsite, the small, simple footprint of a duffel can be the way to go. That's where The North Face Rolling Thunder bag shines. With durable, water-resistant fabric and protective zipper flaps to fend off short bursts of weather, big and reasonably burly plastic wheels, and a solid, molded polycarbonate base, this bag is built for rougher roads. It also has a bomber retractable handle, a big, wide-open main compartment with a few compression straps, a separate compartment in the entrance flap for dirty clothes or organization, and two pockets up top. One is big enough for a pair of shoes, and the other is a great place to stash a wallet. It all works well in that fancy hotel room too.
We even think this bag looks pretty snazzy in an outdoorsy way. What we don't love is that it has one of the worst volume-to-weight ratios in the test. It weighs over 10 pounds and only holds around 80 liters. That means you can pack less in and that it's easier to accidentally push past the 50-pound weight limit for most checked luggage. However, that weight is probably closely related to this bag's durability, which we think is top-notch. So just make sure you're okay with the trade-off. And while we like the minimal pockets and straps, you may prefer more. Overall, this is a great option if you like to keep things simple and need a protective bag for your clothes and gear when the going gets tough.
Read review: The North Face Rolling Thunder 30"
Best for Cross-Country Travel
Osprey Sojourn 80L
The Osprey Sojourn is a unique suitcase that can morph into a backpack. This feature is greatly appreciated if you find yourself hoofing it across rougher terrain than the average roller bag is designed for. And the system works surprisingly well — it's much more comfortable than we would have guessed. The wheels work well too, with an arched chassis that provides tons of clearance. This bag is definitely built for rough terrain. We also appreciate the clever organizational features — internal and external compression straps, a separate compartment up top, and a handful of internal pockets for smaller items. The water-resistant fabric and compression wings also help fend off wet weather.
While we appreciate this bag's unique design, like most gear that tries to do two things, it excels at neither. Even though the backpack has a full-suspension system with a built-in hip belt, we found it uncomfortable to carry for long days, especially if you have a full load. And, even though this bag does roll well, it often flips on and off curbs if you don't pack it with perfectly even weight distribution. Despite these caveats, this is still our favorite bag in the test for cross-country travel. We kept reaching for it when our next adventure featured an even mix of smooth rolling and rowdy roads.
Read review: Osprey Sojourn 80L
Why You Should Trust Us
Amber King and Clark Tate are frequent travelers. Amber typically takes over 40 trips a year in the U.S. and abroad, spending her weekends traveling to mountain towns, exploring hot springs, breweries, and trails. Clark takes a handful of long trips each year and spends months at a time living out of her van. Amber and Clark have both traveled to five continents, exploring big cities, small towns, and backcountry destinations. They test gear for a living and know a thing or two about packing their bags, and what makes a good one.
To test these bags, we explored the cobbled streets of Canada, the high mountains of Colorado, and the small coastal villages of Downeast Maine. We started by researching over 100 candidates before handpicking the best. Testing went on for three months, and we brought these bags everywhere we went. We rolled them along sidewalks, through the airport, and over cobblestones. We traveled with them in the back of trucks and tucked into vans. At home, we set up obstacle courses, rolling them over and around different objects. We even hosed them down with water to see which could repel light rain. In total, these bags saw at least 2000 miles of travel and close to 100 hours of testing.
Related: How We Tested Suitcases
Analysis and Test Results
We compared our tested suitcases across five key metrics and evaluated them side-by-side in the field and at home. We packed the same set of clothes and gear in each to compare their storage and organizational capacity. We rolled them around them trip after trip to see how easy they are to transport and even used them to move a few times. We pushed them hard to see how reliable they are, weighed them, and took stock of their style. The winners have the highest overall scores or stand out in a given metric. Read on to learn more about how each performed.
Related: Buying Advice for Suitcases
Often, you get what you pay for, and we've rarely come across a high-quality, low-cost roller case. If you want well-made luggage that's likely to last, it will likely be expensive. That said, some of these bags are well-made and reasonably priced. These are the high-value options and we like that about them.
The Timbuk2 Copilot isn't the most or least expensive of the four-wheeled rollers we tested, but it scored very well in our tests and has a middle-of-the-road price. It's still an investment, but we think it's a good one. The North Face Rolling Thunder is about the same price and also offers excellent performance and rugged durability. It's our favorite two-wheeled roller in the test and costs less than the rest.
We also really like the Away Expandable Large. Its price tag seems fair, and it performed admirably in most of our tests. It is heavy enough to keep us from recommending it more highly, though. The AmazonBasics Expandable bag is the least expensive in our lineup and still performed quite well in many of our tests. While its fabric is less durable than many of the other options, and it's harder to keep the case balanced, it still works pretty darn well, especially if you'll only be traveling occasionally.
Storage & Organization
We compared the volume, compartments, pockets, compression, and organization straps of each model. To do so, we packed, unpacked, and traveled a lot. We rotated through the selection and assessed which bag would work best for that particular trip, noting how and why. We also ran through packing tests at home, filling each with a standard adventure wardrobe, from low-bulk items like camp clothes, dresses, and suits to bulkier items like ski boots, snow pants, camping gear, and climbing racks. Bags that offered either thoughtful organization or ample storage capacity scored higher in this category.
One of our favorites in this category is the Briggs & Riley Expandable Spinner. It has just over 104-liters of storage and a unique expansion and compression system that lets you expand the main compartment, pack it full, and then compress the entire bag. It works surprisingly well. There's also a trifold hanging compartment, nicely placed external pockets for day-of organization, and an attachable strap to help you carry a second bag. This is an excellent option for the frequent flyer who likes to easily see what's in their luggage.
A simpler bag that also scored highly in this category is the Timbuk2 Copilot. It has a clam-style design, unzipping down the middle so you can load gear evenly on both sides. Unlike most similar suitcases, this one has both sides covered with a zippered mesh panel, so nothing spills as you open it. You can also access your things from the outside, which we love.
The Travelpro Platinum Elite 29" bag has a very similar setup to the Briggs & Riley, but instead of expanding and compressing, it just has one small zip that expands the front of the bag a bit, which isn't the best place to carry weight. However, its pockets are quite well-organized, and an internal hanging compartment will help keep your nice clothes less wrinkly.
The Eagle Creek ORV Trunk is a great choice for adventure travel, thanks to its many pockets and practical organizational features. This soft-sided case offers a lot of storage, an expandable dirty close compartment, and is perfect for bulky items. This is a great option if you need to bring big boots or camera gear on a long travel mission. It even has a bungee cord to attach a helmet to the top of the bag if you run out of space inside. The North Face Rolling Thunder is another rugged option that holds gear well, but it is much more simple, with only three pockets and two straps.
The Away Expandable, Delsey Paris Titanium Hardside, and American Tourister Stratum also feature clamshell designs. Of these, we like the Away bag the best. All three of these cases can expand by a little over an inch by unzipping an extra strip of fabric, but the Away's version seems sturdier than the other two. It also has a zippered flap on one side and a removable compression panel on the other. The front panel unzips into a large pocket for items you need to access easily.
All of these bags offer enough storage to pack for anywhere from a week to months on end. When you're considering storage and organization, make sure you know if you prefer a simple bag that you can throw everything into, like the Patagonia Black Hole 70L Wheeled duffel, or if you'd prefer more built-in organization, like a trifold to keep your suit wrinkle-free.
Ease of Transport
Any wheeled luggage should be able to navigate the polished floors of an airport. But, as we all know, your luggage will also come across cracked sidewalks, steep curbs, and gravel-laden pavement. If you're traveling abroad in remote countries, it's quite possible that you'll also encounter dirt roads and cobblestone paths. To see how our tested products hold up, we rolled each case over all types of terrain, taking note of which provided the smoothest ride.
In general, four-wheeled spinner options are ideal for smooth, hard services since they can pivot and spin around any obstacle. Most of them actually have eight wheels, two at every corner connected by an axle. These include the Briggs & Riley, Away, Travelpro, Delsey, and AmazonBasics bags. They also have grippy rubber on their tires, and all roll very well. The Briggs & Riley is our favorite since it remains compact and well-balanced no matter how much you pack. The AmazonBasics tips easily if you put too much in its front pocket.
The rest work reliably well on smooth ground and, when you tilt them up on two wheels, they tackle cobblestones, and even short gravel stretches just fine. If you're going to be on rougher surfaces a lot, you should consider the two-wheeled roller bags. They aren't as nimble as the spinners at the airport since they require wider turns, but they tend to have bigger wheels that fair better in rowdy terrain.
Shining in functionality, the Osprey Sojourn is a cross between a backpack and roller luggage. When you simply can't roll it anymore, unzip the back and strap it on like a backpack. You can also haul The North Face Rolling Thunder and Patagonia Black Hole duffels around by their handles, but it is considerably harder to do so. Luckily, all of their wheels work well on reasonable terrain.
If you're seeking a gentle ride that won't vibrate your arm off when navigating cobbled streets, check out the Timbuk2 Copilot. This bag uses skateboard wheels that feature a broad, stable base and offer a very smooth ride. Also, look for a bag with higher clearance. The Osprey Sojourn is untouchable in this regard, with an arching chassis that keeps it off the ground. The AmazonBasics Expandable and Delsey Paris Titanium have the most impressive clearance of the spinner bags.
Let's face it. There is some terrain that you won't be able to roll any of these bags over. So we also paid attention to how hard they are to carry. We appreciated the spinner bags with at least three haul handles, one on the top, another on the bottom, and one on the side. Only the Delsey and American Tourister bags don't meet this requirement. And we don't love hauling the bulky Travelpro or AmazonBasics around. The two-wheeled roller bags really nail this, all of them have a handle on each of four sides, and some feature more on the front — except for the Osprey, which is also a backpack.
You need reliable luggage. Once you drop it off at the airport, you have no control over how well it's handled. Then you're going to drag it over rough terrain, pull it up and down flights of stairs, and toss it in and out of cars. Zippers, handles, and wheels are typically where cheaper suitcases break down. We evaluated the craftsmanship of each suitcase in our lineup and tested them with at least three months of travel.
General Wear and Tear
If you're considering dropping hundreds of dollars on a top-of-the-line model, you should start by looking at the outer material. In general, suitcases are divided into two categories, hard or soft.
Generally, hard cases are more susceptible to wear and tear than soft-sided options. The two hard cases in this review are the Delsey and the American Tourister. The first is made of 100% polycarbonate, a fairly durable plastic. The second is made of less durable acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). Though both suitcases stretched a bit during testing, the Delsey felt more rigid and, ultimately, more durable throughout.
Counterintuitively, soft cases stand up better to abuse since they can flex with impact. They are more prone to break-ins, though, since they are relatively easy to cut or puncture. The soft-sided bags in our test are made of nylon or polyester, or both. To figure out how durable the polyester bags might be, look for the denier, or D, rating
Denier is a measurement of the linear density of the material fibers. A higher denier rating, like the 1680-denier rating of The North Face Rolling Thunder and the 1000-denier rating of the Eagle Creek ORV, indicates high durability. Lower denier ratings like the 150-denier rating of the AmazonBasics Expandable are less encouraging, though the fabric has held up during our tests.
The Briggs & Riley bag and parts of the Osprey Sojourn feature ballistic nylon, which was developed during World War II to make flax jackets for airmen. So, that's pretty tough. We know less about the construction of the Timbk2 Copilot, but it's withstood years of use with very little wear. We think the Osprey, North Face, Timbuk2, and Briggs & Riley bags are all built to last.
We hosed each contender down on full blast for about three minutes. All the cases were largely impervious to water, but moisture still found its way in at the handle joints and through the zippers. Those that kept water out of these areas, like the Osprey Sojourn, scored the best in this test.
The Eagle Creek ORV and The North Face Rolling Thunder also did well, with their recessed construction and awning-like fabrics that wick water away from the zippers. Overall, none were fully waterproof, but if you need decent resistance, look for those with more protected zippers.
In general, two-wheeled options use larger wheels that are simpler and often more durable. Four-wheeled models often have smaller wheels with more complex construction. There's just more to break.
Our favorite wheels in the test are the skateboard rollers on the Timbuk2 Copilot. If they can stand up to skateboarding, you best believe they can roll your clothes around. They're solid, stable, and easy to change out.
Other two-wheeled options that came close include The North Face Rolling Thunder and Eagle Creek ORV. Both are sturdy, oversized, and move easily up and down obstacles. They don't, however, offer as smooth a ride as the Copilot because they aren't flat. As a result, they vibrate more.
Of the spinner cases, we appreciate the well-crafted wheels on the Briggs & Riley, Away, Delsey, AmazonBasics, and Travelpro Platinum, more or less in that order. All have double wheels on a single axle at each corner and a rubber layer that cushions them from the ground. This helps make them more durable with a better grip.
A good handle should retain its strength and shape even under considerable weight. In our testing, the handles for all the cases proved to be impressively resilient. Among the burliest are The North Face Rolling Thunder, Osprey Sojourn, and Eagle Creek ORV. The rest of the handles jiggled and flexed under pressure, particularly when fully extended.
Traveling Up Stairs
One of the worst things you can do to your luggage, and your stairs, is to drag your case up, banging the backside of the case on each step. It's better to just carry your luggage up the stairs if you can. If you can't, look for cases with protective plastic bumpers that run from the wheel up the length of the case. These also help protect it from general wear and tear. Cases like The North Face Rolling Thunder have this feature. The Copilot does as well, but it's made of a metal material that is quickly scratched. Cases with oversized wheels also travel better up the stairs than those without.
Overall, we expect the Eagle Creek ORV and The North Face Rolling Thunder to stand up the best over time. They have super burly outer materials with handles and wheels that are durable and easy to change out. We also expect the Briggs & Riley Spinner to last. If durable and reliable are what you seek, these are our favorites. Other well-built options include the Timbuk2 Copilot, Away Expandable, Osprey Sojourn, and Patagonia Black Hole. All sport larger wheels that provide reliable travel and excellent water-resistance properties.
Weight is an important consideration for just about any product we review, but it's particularly critical when it comes to air travel. Airline rules often restrict checked bags to a maximum of 50 pounds, which includes the bag itself. Every pound that a bag weighs is thus another pound of gear you'll have to leave behind or pay for. We found that the sweet spot for most bags is right around the 10-pound mark. Any lighter, and you see a real loss of durability and storage capacity. Any heavier, and you're losing valuable payload capacity. To test this metric, we weighed each contender on our own scale. Then we looked at the bag's volume to weight ratio.
The bag with the most volume per weight that is also durable and well-organized is the Eagle Creek ORV Trunk. The Travelpro Platinum Elite and AmazonBasics bags do well here as well. Rolling Thunder option does not. It's burly, but you pay for that durability in pounds.
The lightest piece of luggage in our review, the Patagonia Black Hole, is a roller duffel that offers bare-bone features and a simplistic traveling experience. It's a great option for those who can't decide between a duffel bag and a roller bag. Coming in second was the Osprey Sojourn. Of these, the Sojourn offers more storage capacity.
Because of the subjective nature of this category, it isn't as heavily weighted in the overall scores. Since luggage is such an investment, we mostly gave points for looks we thought would last.
When you approach the luggage claim at the local airport, you usually spy a sea of black roller bags that look a lot like the AmazonBasics Expandable. This is obviously a popular design. There are others that we think look better, though, and will certainly be easier to pick out at the airport.
The Away bag stands out as one of the most stylish options, appealing to everyone that tested it. Its matte finish and fantastic color options allow you to express yourself. The Timbuk2 bag is a lot less flashy, but its compact shape and pulled-together style always made us feel polished. The Briggs & Riley bag has a classic but boring look. We don't love its aesthetic, but you can tell it's a quality case, and that goes a long way in the fashion world.
Hard cases seem to be a favorite among the fashion-forward. Both the Delsey and American Tourister spinner bags offer striking patterns and colors.
Other contenders in this review offered a more outdoorsy or casual look, such as the Rolling Thunder. The most technical and tactical-looking bag in this review is the Eagle Creek ORV. This soft-sided option isn't fashionable in an urban city sense, looking instead like the bag you'll take on your next big expedition. Whatever your style, be sure to look at the features you want and make sure the performance won't let you down.
There is no end to the suitcase options available to you today. In this review, we take a critical look at some of the best available options. Remember to start by deciding if a roller or a spinner bag will be best for your travel purposes. Then figure out your budget and think about if there are any "must-have" features you need. We hope this review helps you with the rest.
— Amber King and Clark Tate