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What are the 6 most important things to look for when buying a suitcase or holdall for travel

Updated on April 15, 2013
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Courtesy of photostock www.freedigitalphotos.net

Hard shell luggage or fabric?

We are all faced with these difficult decisions when we buy new suitcases as there are many different aspects to each case and it depends what we are looking for. Which do you require - the best luggage brands for international travel? Or the best luggage for frequent travelers? Either way, there are 7 major differences that I can see to consider.

1) The material that the case is made from. This ranges from the heavy duty metal (usually aluminum which is also quite light) to plastic, canvas or nylon. The best of the rigid cases tend to be the metallic ones as although they can dent, they won’t split under pressure like hard plastic cases. Additionally, as mentioned later, they are waterproof and dust proof. This is particularly useful if they are kept on the runway during inclement weather. Ballistic nylon seems to be the most hard-wearing of the fabric cases. They are still susceptible to rips and tears but these are less likely than cheaper canvas or plain nylon cases.

2) This leads me on to zippers. Whatever the case is made from, it is only as tough as its zipper. The rigid metal cases don’t usually have zippers and as such are almost totally waterproof. The others however need to have particularly sturdy zippers and pull tabs. These are the bits that pull a zipper up and down and frequently fall off! Even if the case is waterproofed, these bits usually let you down and can still cause your clothes to suffer water damage if it is left in the rain.

3) To wheel or not to wheel? Actually, this sort of answers itself. I personally find it much easier to have a suitcase with wheels. The decision then is whether to opt for 2 or 4 wheels. It seems that although 4 may be ideal if your case is not of huge proportions, if you have a really heavy or oddly shaped case, 2 are much better for handling purposes. There is the danger of these being broken off in transit though, so opt for a case where the wheeling mechanism can be compacted as much as possible so there aren’t any bits sticking out that could be bent or broken.

Courtesy of Sattva www.freedigitalphotos.net
Courtesy of Sattva www.freedigitalphotos.net

4) Which brings me to handles. The telescopic ones fit in with the previous point about compacting mechanisms so that there is less that is likely to be broken off. However, you also have to make sure that this is not impacting the amount of space left inside the case to pack your items. Particularly, as sometimes it means you are left with an odd shape as you have to pack around the handles inside the case.

5) Which shape to choose? As far as baggage handlers are concerned, the flatter and squarer they are, the better, as they have to stack them one on top of the other in the aircraft’s hold. Traditionally, old trunks or proper suitcases are the favorites here. The worst from the baggage handlers’ point of view are the ones which have rigid flat backs but are made of material on the front. These are usually stuffed to their breaking point as people try to fit as much inside as possible. Unfortunately, they don’t stack as well, and with all the moving from one place to another, are liable to split or at the very least have their zippers break. Try not to end up in this situation if you can help it!

Courtesy of Victor Habbick www.freedigitalphotos.net
Courtesy of Victor Habbick www.freedigitalphotos.net

The cost and best quality luggage brands

6) Finally, the all important cost. With all the previous points taken into account, try to buy the best that you can afford. The cheaper versions are OK, and will probably withstand a few journeys, but in the long run, you will find that you are shelling out again for a new suitcase, when a more expensive one may have lasted longer. There are a few companies, notably Rimowa and Briggs and Riley that guarantee their luggage and will repair broken items free of charge for the first few years of ownership. But you can get very good quality for a reasonable cost from many Samsonite or Delsey ranges.

Whichever item you choose, have a great holiday and enjoy your travels.

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