We've been testing suitcases throughout North America and beyond for a long time. Before our testing process started, we took the time to select key products that are both popular and that have high reviews. Our experts also have their finger on the pulse of new options that are both high quality and well-performing. Once making our selection, we put each of the cases we selected through the paces to see what they can do. We tested based on the following metrics: reliability, storage and organization, ease of transport, weight, and style. Each metric was weighted based on its relative importance. Below we go into how we did this.
To test the reliability of our suitcases, we used them for everything we could think of! We took them on all our vacations, flying from the USA to Canada, road-tripping, and even bringing them on our climbing vacations.
We looked at the craftsmanship of all the parts. Specifically, we focused on the outer material, wheel craftsmanship, handles, and zippers. These are the parts most likely to fail when on a trip.
Finally, we subjected each to multiple water tests to see their water-resistance properties. We sprayed each lightly to simulate a light rain from above. We then sprayed water hard onto the fabric, into the handle, and on the zippers. Based on these results, we were able to determine which could handle a little water, and which couldn't.
Storage & Organization
For this metric, we packed each of the bags with both bulky and non-bulky items. We also filled each one with a 6-gallon water jug to look at relative volume.
We noted smart vs. inaccessible storage features, providing you with an overview of what each case has to offer. We also note any elements that might stand out like an attached lock or compression system.
Ease of Transport
With an assessment of the wheels and handles, we note what type of terrain each can handle. In this metric, we rolled each case over rocks, gravel, sand, clay, dirt, and cobbled broken sidewalk. We noted which offered the smoothest ride and which vibrate to the point of annoyance. We also look at potential easy-carry features. For example, the beefiness of each handle, how easy it is to hoist up and manipulate, and whether you can turn it into a backpack.
We weighed each contender by hanging it from a spring scale when empty. This allows us to see which offer more packing space and which have very little.
As a subjective metric, for this category, we simply looked at the features of every case, asked our friends their thoughts, and then assessed the best-use cases based on how each model looks when both packed and unpacked.