Best Suitcase of 2020
Best Overall Roller Suitcase
The Timbuk2 luggage line includes a variety to aid you in your travels. This case is our favorite two-wheeled suitcase due to its super smooth ride and durable softshell case, great for adventures via plane, train, or automobile. It offers a unique peek-a-boo pocket that lets you access your items without having to unzip the entire bag, which is a huge bonus. Whether you're heading out to wine country for the weekend or planning a big vacation, it's ready to go anywhere with you.
We really couldn't find much wrong with this durable and reliable model, though we were sometimes frustrated by the zipper being sticky and getting held up on corners. It also doesn't feature an option for expansion, though the softer fabric allows you to get more inside than you think. And while there is ample room for clothing and other basic travel items, the size is not conducive to carrying bulkier items. If you need more space than 80 liters, be sure to check out its bigger 108-liter cousin. If you need less, there are also two smaller options.
Read review: Timbuk 2 Copilot
Best Overall Spinner Suitcase
Away Travel Large
The Away Travel Large is a beautiful product that stands out for its stylish functionality. Built with a super durable polycarbonate shell, it can ward off scratches and scuffs to maintain a great look throughout your adventures. Its four-wheel design allows you to easily push or pull it through the airport. Of the hard-case four-wheel options we've tested, it stands out as the most reliable and heartily built. The two rubberized wheels per axle seem exceptionally buff and durable, even after being dragged over dirt and rocks. The storage is ample, and its simplicity makes it perfect for any vacation or extended travel experience.
Unfortunately, like most four-wheeled designs, the flaw in the construction comes when encountering bigger cracks or rocks in the road. It has a lower clearance than most, so it can't surmount obstacles that stick up too high. Aside from that, we appreciate its great look and considerable storage space.
Read review: Away Travel Large
Best Bang for the Buck
AmazonBasics Expandable Softsided 29
The AmazonBasics Expandable Softside 29 is a good affordable option if you're looking to save some bills. Not only is its price low, but the wheels are beefy with quite a bit of clearance to make it over larger obstacles underfoot. Even after numerous durability tests, this bag continued to perform well, offering great travel over hard surfaces and the ability to climb over objects more effortlessly than other spinners. We love its plentiful storage capacity which allows you to pack away all your clothing and the bulky souvenirs you collect on your travels.
This suitcase scores lower than most, and this is due to one major flaw. When it's not packed just right, it tips over. You need to be extra thoughtful when packing so that everything is balanced appropriately before heading out the door. Also, several online reviews report durability issues, and upon inspection, we deem the craftsmanship to be fairly cheap. You get what you pay for. For those traveling only a couple times a year, this will do you just fine, but if you're the frequent flyer, think about investing in a higher quality option.
Read review: AmazonBasics Expandable Softsided 29
Best for Business Travel
Travelpro Platinum Magna 2 26"
We love the look and functionality of the Travelpro Platinum Magna. It stands out for organizational features like a removable suit and dress holder. The oversized wheels are smooth and supply a vibration-less ride over cracked sidewalks or scuzzy side roads. The high-quality construction convinced our testers that it's likely to last a long time. If you like to travel in style, consider this swanky choice.
The only caveat we've identified is that the zippers can be a little sticky around the corners. Aside from that, it's hard to find anything wrong with it! It's well-constructed and a worthy investment for anybody seeking a great checked luggage piece with fantastic storage features.
Read review: Travelpro Platinum Magna 2 26"
Best for Cross-Country Travel
Osprey Sojourn 80L
The Osprey Sojourn 80L is a unique suitcase that can turn into a backpack. This feature is especially helpful if you find yourself moving across rougher terrain that would normally be deemed 'no-suitcase land'. Most people that use roller bags have probably encountered times when rolling isn't possible, and you find yourself dragging it frustratingly behind you through the dirt. This bag will avoid this situation entirely, preventing you from scuffing it up. We also appreciate its organizational features and water-resistant compression system that make it ready for any weather condition.
While we fully appreciate this unique design, it unfortunately doesn't do the roller luggage or the backpack very well. Even though the backpack has a full-suspension system with a built-in hip belt, most people will find it uncomfortable to carry for long days, especially if you have a full load. Also, even though it does roll well, it has a history of flipping on curbs if not packed with an even weight distribution. Despite these caveats, it's still our favorite for cross-country travel, and we'll continue using it on longer adventures due to these excellent features.
Read review: Osprey Sojourn 80L
Best for Adventure Travel
Eagle Creek ORV Trunk 30
Built like a beast, the Eagle Creek ORV Trunk 30 has a tactical look with plenty of features. Although it's advertised with roughly 100 liters of storage, we fit even more inside! In addition to abundant storage, it has plenty of external pockets to hold anything you need - cameras, tripods, adventure gear, the works. You can even separate your stinky adventure boots from your nightlife clothes using its internal compartment. If you're looking for a standard piece of luggage to check at the airport, this is not it. It is built for those that need to take a lot with them and appreciate a tactical and outdoor-focused look.
The biggest downfall is its specific niche of applications. While you could certainly use it for any type of vacation, it's quite an investment for simplistic travel or short trips. The huge dimensions and bulkier 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
Why You Should Trust Us
Amber King and members of our testing teams are frequent travelers who make over 40+ trips a year locally and abroad. Amber has traveled to five different continents, exploring remote places everywhere she goes. In these endeavors, she's traveled frequently with both duffel bags and roller luggage. Living in the beautiful, centrally located hub of Ridgway, CO, she spends her weekends traveling to other mountain towns exploring hot springs, breweries, and trails. When she's on the road, you'll find her on unique adventures, such as sailing in remote places like the Faroe Islands with her European friends. She makes her living as a full-time gear tester and has written 20 different categories over the last five years for OutdoorGearLab, ranging from ski socks to hydration bladders. She, along with the other testers on our team, are extensive travelers and explorers who almost always have roller luggage in tow.
Testing roller luggage is far from a drag (sorry for the dad joke). During the testing period, we explored the cobbled streets of Canada and the high mountains of Colorado. Our testing process began with researching over 100+ different candidates before handpicking a small group of the best. Testing went on for three months, and we brought them everywhere we went. We rolled them around on the sidewalk, through the airport, and over cracked sidewalks. We traveled with them in the back of our truck, switching them out while on the road. 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 a light rain. In total, each case saw at least 2000 miles of travel and close to 100 hours of testing.
Related: How We Tested Suitcases
Analysis and Test Results
The roller luggage we tested ranges in style from generic to super stylish. We even included a model that doubles as a backpack. We compared ten suitcases across five key metrics and evaluated them all in the field and in our at-home lab. Our five key metrics were reliability, storage, ease of transport, weight, and style. The cases that won awards either did the best across all these categories or stood out for one particular aspect. Read on to learn more about how each performed in these head-to-head evaluations.
Related: Buying Advice for Suitcases
You might notice that checked luggage costs a pretty penny, and typically, you get what you pay for. Very rarely have we found a super high-quality roller case that is low priced. You also might notice that some super high-end products can cost up to thousands of dollars, while others are just a few hundred. If you want luggage of the highest quality, then be ready to drop some cash. However, most people don't need these super high-quality cases and typically do fine traveling with a lower-priced case.
For example, the AmazonBasics Expandable Softsided is usually available for a low price, and still provides decent performance. While it is generic, not especially stylish, and has some significant flaws, we think it is far more reliable than other low-priced options like the American Tourister Moonlight. When purchasing a piece of luggage, be sure to assess the features and look for signs of good quality construction.
The reliability of your luggage is paramount to performance. Once you drop your luggage off, you have no control over how it will be handled. Therefore, selecting a case that is manufactured with durable materials is the best way to ensure its reliability. After airport travel, you also want to ensure that your luggage can take the brunt of random forces it may come in contact with. This includes being dragged over rough terrain, pulled up and down flights of stairs, and carried from one place to another. Zippers, handles, and wheels are typically where cheaper suitcases break down the quickest. We evaluated the craftsmanship of each, tested them with at least three months of travel, and put them through the worst "stuff" we could.
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 materials. Suitcases can be classified into two main categories of outer materials that are helpful for analysis: hard or soft.
In general, hard-cases are more susceptible to wear and tear than soft-sided options. In our review, all the hard cases tested were made out of different grades of polycarbonate or acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic. Of them, the polycarbonate plastic proved to be more durable — especially if it has a higher grade. For example, the Away Travel and Samsonite Winfield are made from different grades of polycarbonate plastics. The Samsonite has a lighter construction, while the Away is heavier. After pulling each through the dirt and, quite frankly, treating them like trash, the heavier polycarbonate of the Away Travel showed less wear and tear.
ABS plastics are another common material used in the construction of hard-cases. Manufacturers prefer it because it can easily be injection molded and offers a modest level of durability at a low cost. It's not surprising that the American Tourister Moonlight , made of ABS plastic, is not very durable, showing gouges and scratches after just a few uses.
Soft cases are typically more durable than hard-cases, but they can be susceptible to being cut or punctured. All the options we tested, even the soft ones, are decently durable. However, there are some differences in general construction.
Most bags feature either nylon and/or polyester material construction. Both are typically incredibly water-resistant. Those that integrate more nylon with a polyester combination, like the Sojourn and Copilot, offer excellent resistance to water and wear and tear. However, that's not the only thing to look for.
If the information is available, look for the denier rating of the polyester. 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 Stratoliner and the 1000-denier rating of the Eagle Creek ORV typically corresponds with better overall durability. Lower denier ratings like the 150-denier rating found in the AmazonBasics Expandable indicate that the fabric might wear or pill after a few uses, though it will likely remain water-resistant.
When looking at the burliness of the outer material, the Away Travel proved to be the best amongst our hard-case competitors. Meanwhile, the Eagle Creek ORV offered the highest reliability of any of the soft-shelled cases. It features reinforced corners and super bomber fabrics for long-distance travel.Water Resistance
We also tested the water-resistance of each contender by hosing them down on full blast for about three minutes. All the cases were basically impervious to water on the main body, but water 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 Stratoliner also did well, with their recessed construction and awning-like fabrics that wick the water away from the zippers. Overall, none were fully waterproof, but if you need decent resistance, look for those with zippers that are more protected.Wheels
This is one of the most essential reliability factors to consider. A solid set of wheels is what separates convenience from frustration when traveling. You want to make sure that the wheels you have are smooth and won't fall apart after just a few trips. There are two types of construction to consider: four-wheeled (spinner cases) and two-wheeled (roller cases). In general, two-wheeled options use larger, oversized wheels that are a little more durable, whereas four-wheeled models are smaller and can't handle the same stresses with a full load.
The best overall in this category were the skateboard wheels on the Timbuk2 Copilot. They are solid, stable, and easy to change out. The Travelpro Platinum is a close second with a super smooth ride over all sorts of surfaces. Other two-wheeled options that came close include The North Face Stratoliner 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 either the Copilot or Magna 2 simply because they either have grooves or aren't flat. As a result, they vibrate a little more over different surfaces.
Of the spinner cases, we appreciated the well-crafted wheels on the AmazonBasics SoftShell and the Away Travel Large. Both have a double wheel on a single axle, which makes the ride smoother than a single wheel design, and should improve the overall capacity to take on a heavy load. The AmazonBasics SoftShell sits higher above the ground, so it's able to navigate obstacles more easily. The Away wheels, however, have a rubberized layer (instead of the 100% plastic make-up of the AmazonBasics) that makes it far more durable and less prone to nicks or scratches, and therefore we believe they're more reliable wheels overall.
The Samsonite Winfield 2 and American Tourister Moonlight score low in this category because their wheels are laughably small with poor craftsmanship. Neither travel as well as the double-wheels of the bags mentioned above, and design flaws mean that dirt and grime can build up in the cracks when rolling through nasty stuff. In our testing, these started to pull in the wrong direction after their axles got gummed up, making travel difficult.
A good handle shouldn't pull out or break after just a few trips; it should remain intact and retain its strength, even under considerable weight. In our testing, the handles for all the cases proved to be impressively resilient. Among the burliest was The North Face Stratoliner. Handles that provide only one level of height and are thicker in construction didn't seem to wobble or jiggle at all. Other models with telescoping abilities, like the Travelpro Magna, jiggled and flexed under pressure, though the varying heights they provide can be useful.
Traveling Up Stairs
One of the most damaging actions these bags are exposed to is being dragged up stairs, which can bang the backside of the case. If you're strong enough, it's better to just carry your luggage up the stairs, but if you prefer to drag it, look for cases with protective plastic bumpers that run from the wheel up the length of the case.
Cases like The North Face Stratoliner possess this feature to protect both the stair and the back of the bag. Others, like the Copilot, have this feature, but it's made of a metal material that gets scratched up quickly. Some other models include this bumper, but it doesn't extend down to the wheels or across the entire back, leaving key areas exposed. Cases with oversized wheels also travel better up the stairs than those without.
Although we evaluated all aspects of reliability separately, we found the best bag overall in this category to be the Eagle Creek ORV. It has super burly outer materials with handles and wheels that are durable and easy to change out. If durable and reliable are what you seek, this is our favorite. Other well-built options include the Timbuk 2 Copilot, Away Large, The North Face Stratoliner, and Patagonia Black Hole. All sport larger wheels that provide reliable travel and excellent water-resistance properties.
Storage & Organization
To consider storage and organization, we looked at the volume and organizational capacity of each model. To do this, we went on a lot of different trips! Each time, we would assess all our options, choose a suitcase, and then note why we chose that particular one. We packed each with low-bulk items like clothing, dresses, and suits, as well as bulkier things like ski boots, snow pants, and camping and climbing gear, to see how each fared. Bags that offered either thoughtful organization or ample storage capacity scored higher in this category.
One of our favorites is the Travelpro Magna 2. It has just under 90-liters of storage and unique features such as a removable suit and dress holder. This is an excellent option for the frequent flyer who likes to easily see what's in their luggage.
The Eagle Creek ORV 30 is a great choice for adventure travel because of its many pockets and practical organizational features. It features a huge amount of storage in its soft-sided case that is perfect for packing bulky items. This is a great option to consider 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, a feature we personally found less useful.
A simpler bag that also scored high in this category is the Timbuk 2 Copilot. It offers a clam-style design where you can load your gear into both sides of the case evenly. Several other products offer this same layout, such as the Away Large and the The North Face Stratoliner. All these bags are simple in design without a huge number of pockets, and they offer just a few compartments for organization. We think this strategic simplicity is perfect for the average vacationer.
Other hardcase options like the Samsonite Winfield and American Tourister Spinner offer ample storage that is effective for stowing away bulky or non-bulky items. These suitcases, like many in our review, feature an expansion zipper located at the bottom of the bag to ensure it stays balanced when in action.
In general, most cases we tested offer suitable storage for trips that might last anywhere from a week to months. When you're considering storage and organization, consider if you prefer a simple bag that you can throw everything into, like the Black Hole wheeled duffel, or if you'd prefer more built-in organization, such as a special area to keep your suit wrinkle-free.
Ease of Transport
Any wheeled checked luggage should be able to navigate the polished floors of an airport. But, as we all know, your luggage is rarely limited to use only on pristine, obstacle-free floors. Luggage always seems to come in contact with a cracked sidewalk, steep curbs, and gravel-laden pavement. If you're traveling abroad in remote countries, it's quite possible that you'll also encounter a dirt road or cobblestone path. When testing this metric, we rolled each case over all types of terrain to see how they performed, taking note of which provided the smoothest ride. The contenders that fared the best in this category can go anywhere, even over the gnarliest of surfaces.
Let's face it. When the going gets tough on rougher terrain, you're bound to find yourself carrying your luggage. While many manufacturers like to advertise their wheeled bags with "oversized wheels that can go anywhere", we often discovered significant limitations in reality. Sure, you could drag any suitcase through anything if you're strong enough, but probably not without causing damage. The best performers, therefore, were those that wheel well on most surfaces but can also easily be carried. For the most part, these are two-wheeled options as their wheels are much larger and more adaptable. They also don't tip over as easily if packed in an unbalanced fashion.
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. The only other case that came close to this functionality was the Black Hole. Unlike the Sojourn, it's not designed for this function, but because it's engineered as a duffel, you can use the handles like a backpack. It's not quite as comfortable, but it works.
If you're seeking a gentle ride that won't vibrate your arm off when navigating cobbled streets, look for smooth wheel construction. For example, the Copilot uses skateboard wheels — they feature a broad, stable base and offer a very smooth ride. The Magna 2 also provides a super smooth ride, but the base on these wheels isn't as wide as the Copilot. Both move easily in and out of crowds, however, and transition nicely from linoleum floors to uneven sidewalks.
All the luggage options we tested really do perform well over most terrain. However, those with a lower clearance from the bottom of the bag to the floor, like the Away Large, can get held up by large rocks, either stopping movement or causing them to lurch forward. Others with a higher clearance like the Osprey Sojourn and AmazonBasics Expandable pass over these obstacles much more easily.
Of the four-wheeled options out there, the Away Travel and AmazonBasics Expandable offer the best ride, whether on four wheels or two. The AmazonBasics does a little better simply because it has a higher clearance, as mentioned above. The other spinners in our review are fitted with super small wheels that do great on hard, perfect surfaces but stick and waver when the going gets tougher.
Overall, if you want a checked luggage item that travels well over all surfaces, look for these things: large, smooth and oversized wheels, two-wheel construction, and high clearance between the floor and the bottom of the case. Keep in mind that spinners can travel over all sorts of terrain, but they are more prone to wear and tear under a full load.
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 lbs, which includes the bag itself. Every pound that a bag weighs is thus another pound of gear you'll have to leave behind — it's either lighten your load or lighten your wallet with hefty overweight baggage fees. We found that the sweet spot for most bags is right around the 10 lbs mark. Any lighter, and you're seeing 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. The lighter the bag, the higher the score.
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 the most storage capacity. Even though there are a couple of pounds of difference between each luggage article in this review, all options feel relatively lightweight. Those that can store more, like the 110-liter Away Large, also weigh a little bit more, which isn't surprising.
Looks heavily influence product perception. In general, folks float towards the most appealing first, hoping and praying that performance can match the allure. Because of the subjective nature of this category, it isn't very heavily weighted in the overall scores. To test style, we evaluated features, asked our friends what they preferred, and compared that to what's fashionable online today.
When you approach the luggage claim at the local airport, you've probably noticed the large number of generic-looking bags on the conveyor belt. While there are a few of those in our review, such as the black AmazonBasics Expandable, there are many others that stand out for features that we appreciate.
Hard cases seem to be a favorite among the fashion-forward. Both the Samsonite Winfield 2 and American Tourister Moonlight spinner offer great patterns and colors that should appeal to the tastes of any tourist ready to go and explore. While these lack performance, they earn high points in this category, garnering accolades from friends and fellow testers that tried them out.
Of both the hard and soft cases in this review, the Away Large stands out as one of the most stylish options, appealing to everybody that tested it. Its matte finish and fantastic color options should allow you to express yourself fully. It has a broadly appealing look that seems equally appropriate for casual or business use.
The Travelpro Platinum Magna works well for business travel, in part due to its thoughtful and classy finishes, including leather handles and unique zipper pulls. Given these features, it's a perfect piece to take directly from the plane into a boardroom or your vacation condo in Fiji.
Other contenders in this review offered a more outdoorsy or casual look, such as The North Face Stratoliner. 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.
In the travel world, it's easy to see different luggage options everywhere you look. In this review, we take a critical look at these useful companions. First, determine if a roller bag is best for your travel purposes. Then, to help you navigate this massive marketplace, determine your budget, and think about if there are any "must-have" features you need. Keep an open mind and, with our help, we're sure you'll be able to find a suitcase that is worth its weight in gold.
— Amber King