Which hardside luggage brands are the most reliable?
Which hardside luggage is most reliable?
A fellow Hubber asked me to write a hub addressing their question. The question was which hardside luggage is the most reliable? First, I would like to provide an understandable definition or distinction in product, so that my response is qualified. I’m not a chemical engineer or a science buff, so the fact of the matter is my descriptions will always be in layman’s terms. Polycarbonate is relatively new to the luggage industry. The most attractive properties of polycarbonate are the lightweight, flexibility, and durability characteristics. However, not all polycarbonate products are the same. The distinction is pure polycarbonate vs. polycarbonate composite. Although, most luggage vendors make a decision to produce one or the other, I know of some vendors that offer both varieties. The polycarbonate composite is far more prevalent, primarily because it is much more affordable. A polycarbonate composite is a layered plastic that generally has a ‘cap sheet’ of polycarbonate plastic on the surface layer. Although, a composite can actually have multiple layers, by definition a composite must have at least one layer other than the polycarbonate.
An amazing demonstration of the polycarbonate strength is to have an average sized adult stand up on top of the suitcase and watch the suitcase flex all the way to the floor. Once the person gets off the suitcase, you will miraculously see the suitcase return to the original shape. The outer surface color of a pure polycarbonate is fully penetrated or immersed into the material. Consequently, if there is a stress crease due to excessive weight or an excessive blow, you will notice the color of the crease is the same as the surface color. By comparison a polycarbonate composite will generally show a white crease or perhaps crack under the same degree of impact. Having said this, even the polycarbonate composites perform amazingly well especially considering their lightweight properties.
I would like to start with Rimowa®, the high quality German manufacturer, who was the first vendor in our luggage industry to offer pure polycarbonate in the year 2000. They have actually had their polycarbonate product tested by the German institute TUV. This institute is renowned for the endurance tests they conduct on vehicles for road safety. The outer material is not where Rimowa® stops, in fact they have a patented Multiwheel® system that is designed to roll in any direction on either two or four wheels. Additionally, the wheels are engineered to withstand the wear and tear you can expect from a substantial amount of weight and impact. Rimowa® offers collections with top-of-the-line zipper closures or with aluminum and magnesium frames. This frame adds a little more weight to the suitcase but offers more rigidity and durability. When you buy a Rolls Royce you expect to pay top dollar, well this is no exception. Rimowa® sets the standards in polycarbonate luggage, but they are also among the most expensive. The good news is that you absolutely get what you pay for, if you are a world-class traveler, I recommend that you pay more when you make your initial investment. Chances are you won’t ever have to replace this suitcase….until they come out with more bells and whistles that make your 2011 model look outdated. This pure polycarbonate ranges in price based on collection and size from $475 for their Salsa Air Cabin Multi Wheel Carry-On to $970 for their most deluxe Limbo 32” oversized Mulitwheel Trolley with aluminum frame.
New for Fall 2011 is the Victorinox Spectra™ Collection. The colors featured in North America are Red, Blue, and Black. What I like best about this collection is the bright iridescent finish that is also iconic on their Victorinox Swiss Army Knife collection. The Victorinox shield is clearly one of the most recognized logos throughout the world, so if you are looking for brand recognition, this should be your first choice! This collection is constructed of pure polycarbonate and not composite, as found on many competing lines. This line is an import product like most other polycarbonate brands, and unlike Rimowa® is not made in North America. Consequently, the prices are quite competitive among luggage brands made of pure polycarbonate. The Carry-On Upright is 299.99 and the collection graduates in price all the way up to the $369.99 for the 32" 8-Wheel Travel Case. The quality to price ratio makes this collection a serious contender! A highlight of the key features include a one-touch dual-trolley telescoping aluminum handle system; 8-Wheel Spinner for ease of maneuverability; Zippered closure with Travel Sentry Approved 3-dial combination lock, allowing U.S. TSA screeners to inspect your contents without breaking lock; Features both top and side mounted handles for quick/
Heys USA has had a meteoric growth in our industry. Here is a vendor who offers collections of Polycarbonate that are pure and other collections that are polycarbonate composite. What makes them so attractive is their high fashion philosophy and wide-range of colors and finishes. In my retail stores, we carry four collections: the zCase Collection, the Velocity Collection, the Britto Collection, and our newest Fazzino Collection. All four are polycarbonate composites with extremely high quality components such as the spinner wheels and telescoping handles. Best of all the prices on these collections are more affordable than the more expensive pure polycarbonates. The polycarbonate composite collections by Heys USA range from $180-$350 based on selected size. The Britto Collection actually has unique pop-art designs by the world renowned artist Romero Britto. Besides being durable and light weight, you can now ‘travel with your art’. New for Holiday 2011 is the collaboration with famed artist Charles Fazzino with the introduction of a very attractive Pop Art Collection named after the artist.
Tumi has a very appealing collection of polycarbonate called Vapor. They describe their product as triple-layered with a combination of polycarbonate and ABS Plastic. What I like best about this collection are the raised bumpers that are integrated into the product design. The bumpers are strategically placed at all the obvious stress points to contribute to the strength and durability of this exquisite looking case. This product has a brushed metallic finish that is something you expect to see on an exotic Italian sports car. The $425 through $595 price range on this collection is right in line for the quality they provide. It’s not pure polycarbonate, but you can expect substantial durability as a result of their quality components, bumper protection, and high quality polycarbonate composite. Exactly as you would expect from any Tumi product, this is an eyecatching collection.
Landor & Hawa also has a wide array of polycarbonate composites. Their prices are razor sharp, and this has to be my top recommendation for affordable polycarbonate suitcases. Although this is a composite, I have never had one returned with any issues related to durability. My favorite collection is the Augusta, which offers a 4-wheel spinner collection, and a textured finish that is quite resistant to scratches. We carry both the Black and the Beige/Silver colors, and we hope they add a few brighter colors to the collection. The nice aspect about L&H is that they are constantly moving forward, and just when you get attached to one collection….they move on with something new and improved. For a price of $110 for the 4-Wheeled Carry-on to $170 for the 4-Wheeled 28”, this is an easy decision.
My final comment regarding polycarbonate suitcases is to give consideration to the 4-Wheel Spinner system especially on the larger sizes. The extra weight for the additional two wheels is marginal, yet the benefit of the added maneuverability is well worth the added feature.