On the hunt for the best suitcase in 2020? In just 3 years, we've bought and tested 23 different options with 11 in this current review. We looked at over 100 to determine our testing pool, considering many different design options and layouts. Once narrowed down, we traveled and trekked for several months, pushing each bag to its limit. From Las Vegas to Canada, every suitcase was packed to capacity and pulled through as many obstacles as we could find. 200+ hours and many adventures later, we offer you this review full of detailed information and photos. Read on to find your next ideal piece of luggage.
The Best Suitcases of 2020
Best Overall Roller Suitcase
The Timbuk2 luggage line offers a variety of options to aid you in your travels. This case is our favorite two-wheeled suitcase for 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 allows you to 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'll go anywhere with you.
We really couldn't find much wrong with this durable and reliable product, 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 of it is not conducive to bulkier items. If you need more space than 80 liters, be sure to check out the Copilot's 108 liter bigger brother. If you need less, there are also two smaller options.
Read review: Timbuk 2 Copilot
Best Overall Spinner Suitcase
Away Travel Large
This beautiful suitcase stands out as one of the most stylish, offering functionality for all formal and informal affairs. Built with a super durable polycarbonate shell, this hard case staves off scratches and scuffs to ensure a great look throughout your adventures. Its four-wheel design allows you to easily push or pull it along through the airport and when surfaces get a little rough. 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 are exceptionally buff and durable, even after being dragged over dirt and grim for three months. Its ample amount of storage and simple features make it perfect for any vacation or extended travel experience.
Unfortunately, like most four-wheeled designs, the crux of the construction comes when encountering bigger cracks or rocks in the road. It has a lower clearance than most, so it can't navigate obstacles that stick up too high.
Read review: Away Travel Large
Best Bang for the Buck
AmazonBasics Expandable Softsided 29
This super-affordable option is simple and straightforward. We chose it for one of our Best Buy awards because of the beefy wheel design and crazy low price. Even after numerous durability tests, this bag continued to perform well, offering great travel over hard surfaces with the ability to move over objects more effortlessly than other spinners. We love its thoughtful storage with a large enough capacity to allow you to pack everything from bulky gifts to clothing.
However, there's something to be said for getting what you pay for. You may have noticed that 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. The overall craftsmanship is also mediocre, as you might expect for anything cheap and generic.
Read review: AmazonBasics Expandable Softsided 29
Best for Business Travel
Travelpro Platinum Magna 2 26"
With amazing organizational features and a great look, this savvy case is perfect for the frequent flyer or business traveler. It's sleek, stylish, and retains its shape even when empty. The oversized wheels are smooth, offering a vibrationless ride over cracked sidewalks and scuzzy side roads. And, it features a removable suit and dress holder that detaches when you don't need it! While it has the best organization features for business travelers and flight attendants, its functionality also extends to those who appreciate unique storage features.
As one of our top scorers, there's not much negative to be said about this case. Aside from the fact that the zippers can be a little sticky around the corners, we've got no qualms with this contender. 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
If you're somebody who likes to switch between wearing your luggage and rolling it, depending on the terrain, this bag is for you. The back has a hidden full-suspension backpack system so you can hoist everything up when you simply can't roll anymore. Most people that use roller bags for their travel have probably encountered times when rolling isn't possible, and you find yourself dragging your bag instead. This option negates that entire situation. We also appreciate its ample storage options and water-resistant compression system that make it great for traveling in all sorts of weather.
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. Also, while it does roll quite well, it has a history of flipping on curbs and other surfaces when not packed appropriately. The aluminum frame construction is questionable, but in our experience, it held up for over three months of travel. Given its decent performance and unique capacity to go anywhere, it deserves our Top Pick for Cross-Country Travel. You can truly take this roller-luggage anywhere, just understand that it has some limitations.
Read review: Osprey Sojourn 80L
Best for Adventure Travel
Eagle Creek ORV Trunk 30
Built like a beast, this tactical option is filled with tons of features. While it advertises roughly 100 liters of storage, we fit even more inside. With its super durable outer fabrics and sturdy architecture, this is a bag for those that need to transport bulky items like outdoor or tactical gear, camera equipment, or everything you require for months of travel. It features thoughtful storage that allows you to keep your stinky and dirty stuff separate from your clean items. It has many external webbing loops for attachment, so this case can be lashed easily to the top of a car or even a donkey! If you're looking for a standard piece of luggage to check at the airport, this is not it. This is built for those that need to take a lot with them and appreciate a tactical and outdoor-focused look.
The biggest downfall of this suitcase 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 is not as easy to navigate at the airport, and it is far from stylish.
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 central 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. Making a living as a full-time gear tester, she 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, almost always with roller luggage in tow.
Testing roller luggage is far from being a drag (sorry for the dad joke). During our testing, we explored the cobbled streets of Canada and the high mountains of Colorado. In our testing process, we looked at over 100+ different candidates before handpicking a small group of the best. Testing for three months, 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 handle a light rain, and which couldn't. In total, each case has seen at least 2000 miles of travel and close to 100 hours of objective 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 have an option that comes with a built-in backpack! We compared 11 suitcases across five key metrics and evaluated both in the field and in our at-home lab. Our five key metrics include; 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 suitcase performed in these head-to-head evaluations.
Related: Buying Advice for Suitcases
You might notice that checked luggage costs a pretty penny. Typically, you get what you pay for. Very rarely have we found a super high-quality roller case that is low priced. You may notice that some super high-end suitcases can be thousands of dollars, while others are just a few hundred. If you want luggage of quality, be ready to spend at least a couple hundred dollars.
We do provide some suggestions for those on a budget that won't cost an arm and a leg. For example, the AmazonBasics Expandable Softsided is our Best Buy Award winner because it offers the lowest price while still maintaining decent performance. While it is generic, not particularly stylish, and has some significant flaws, 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's handled. Therefore, buying a case that is manufactured with the most 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. To test this, we evaluate the craftsmanship of each, test them with at least three months of travel, and put them through the worst "stuff" we can.
General Wear and Tear
If you're going to drop hundreds of dollars on a super bomber product, you need to start by looking at the outer materials. There are two main groups of suitcases that we like to compare. Hard and soft shell options.
In general, hard-cases are more susceptible to wear and tear than soft-sided options. In our review, all the hard cases tested are made out of different grades of polycarbonate or Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) plastic. Of them, the polycarbonate plastic proves 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, and the Away is heavier. After pulling each through the dirt and, quite frankly, treating them like trash, the more heavily-graded polycarbonate of the Away Travel offered more durability.
ABS plastics are another common material used in the construction of hard-cases. Manufacturers prefer it because it can easily be injected and offers some level at 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 can be susceptible to being cut or punctured. All the suitcases 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 both excellent water resistance and incredible 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. 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 correlates to 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 still be water-resistant.
When looking at the burliness of the outer material, the Away Travel proves to be the best amongst our hard-case competitors while the Eagle Creek ORV offers the best 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 water resistance with 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, did best in this test.
The Eagle Creek ORV and North Face Stratoliner also did well in this test, with their recessed construction and awning-like fabrics that wick the water away from the zippers. Overall, none are waterproof, but if you need this feature, 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 are the skateboard wheels on the Editors Choice-winning 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, REI Tourwinder, and Eagle Creek ORV. All 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 appreciate the well-crafted wheels on both the AmazonBasics (our Best Buy Award winner) and the Away Travel Large (our other Editors' Choice winner). Both have a double wheel on a single axle, which makes the ride smoother than a single wheel design, with a better overall capacity to take on a heavy load. The AmazonBasics suitcase sits higher above the ground, though, so it's able to navigate obstacles more easily. However, the Away wheels have a rubberized layer (instead of a 100% plastic make-up of the AmazonBasics), making it far more durable and less prone to knicks and scratches. A more reliable wheel 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-wheeled construction 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 the axle 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 offer great resilience. Those that seemed to be the burliest include the REI Tourwinder and North Face Stratoliner. Handles that provide only one level of height and are thicker in construction don't wobble or jiggle at all, which is a good thing. Other models with telescoping abilities, like the Travelpro Magna, jiggle more and flex out under pressure, though sometimes the varying heights can be useful.
Traveling Up Stairs
One of the most damaging actions these bags are exposed to is being dragged up stairs, which bangs the backside of the case. If you're strong enough, it's ideal 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 REI Tourwinder and The North Face Stratoliner exhibit this feature, protecting 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 super scratched up. Still others have 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.
While we evaluated all parts 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, North Face Stratoliner, Patagonia Black Hole, and REI Tourwinder. All have larger wheels that provide reliable travel and excellent water-resistant properties.
Storage & Organization
When considering storage and organization, we looked at the volume and organizational capacity of each option. 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 both non-bulky items like regular 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 offer either thoughtful organization or ample storage capacity scored higher in this category.
One of our favorites in this category is the Travelpro Magna 2, our Top Pick for Business Travel. 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 our Top Pick 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 long travel missions. 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-shape design where you can load your gear into both sides of the case evenly. Many other products offer this same layout, such as the Away Large and the The North Face Stratoliner. All of these bags are simple in design without a huge number of pockets and offering just a few compartments for organization. This smart and strategic simplicity is perfect for the average vacationer.
Other hardcase options like the Samsonite Winfield and American Tourister Spinner offer ample storage that is great for packing away both bulky and 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 of the suitcases we tested offer suitable storage for missions that can last anywhere from a week to months. When you're considering storage and organization, consider if you prefer a bag that you can throw everything into, like the Black Hole wheeled duffel, or if you'd prefer more built-in organization like a special area to keep your suit wrinkle-free.
Ease of Transport
Any wheeled checked luggage can navigate the polished floors of an airport. But, as we all know, your luggage rarely gets to stay on pristine obstacle-free floors. Luggage will always 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 fared, 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 technical terrain, you're bound to find yourself carrying your luggage. While some manufacturers advertise their wheeled bags to have "oversized wheels that can go anywhere" it simply isn't true. Sure, you can drag it along behind you, but not without some durability liabilities. The best performers are those that wheel well on most surfaces and 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 a front-heavy fashion.
Earning a Top Pick for its 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 load it up like a backpack. The only other case that came close to this functionality is 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 just like a backpack. It's not as comfortable, but it works.
If you're seeking a smooth 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 have 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. However, both move easily in and out of crowds, transitioning nicely from linoleum floors to uneven sidewalks.
All of 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 REI Tourwinder and Away Large, can get held up on large rocks, either stopping movement or lurching forward. Others with a higher clearance like the Osprey Sojourn and AmazonBasics Expandable can move 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 have super small wheels that do great on hard, perfect surfaces but stick and waver when the going gets tough.
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 from the floor to 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 a factor in just about any product we review, but it's particularly critical when it comes to air travel. Limited by the airlines, a checked-bag is often restricted to a maximum of 50 lbs, including the bag itself. For every pound a bag weighs, that's another pound of gear you're leaving behind, so you're left lightening your load — or your wallet with hefty overweight baggage fees. We found that the sweet spot for most bags is right around the 10 lb mark. Any lighter, and you're seeing the degradation of durability and/or 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 is the Osprey Sojourn and REI Tourwinder. Of these three, the Sojourn offers the most storage capacity, while the Tourwinder has the most storage features. 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 will match the allure. Because of the subjective nature of this category, it isn't very heavily weighted in our overall score. To test this, 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 amongst the fashion-forward. Both the Samsonite Winfield 2 and American Tourister Moonlight spinner offer great patterns and colors that appeal to the tastes of any tourist ready to go and explore. While these lack performance, they earn high points in this category, getting many 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 will allow you to express yourself fully. It has a broadly-appealing look that can be used casually or for business.
The Travelpro Platinum Magna won our Top Pick for Business Travel award for, in part, 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 board room or your vacation condo in Fiji.
Other contenders in this review offer a more outdoorsy or casual look like the North Face Stratoliner and the REI Tourwinder. The most technical and tactical looking bag in this review is the Eagle Creek ORV. This soft-sided option isn't fashionable in any 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, you'll see different luggage options everywhere you look. In this review, we take a critical look at these worldly 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 what your "must-have" features are. 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