A guide to buying luggage

Buying luggage like most things in life seems to have got more complicated. As well as deciding what we want it for, we have to think about hard or soft construction, 2 or 4 wheels, looks and features. Here is our guide to buying luggage.


If you travel by air, suitcases are likely to receive some rough treatment and so need to be sufficiently robust.

Rigid or hard-sided cases are mostly made from either ABS, polycarbonate  or polypropylene, more rarely from aluminium. More expensive versions can have a re-enforcing frame increasing their durability. ABS models are light, strong with attractive finishes but more expensive and slightly less robust then polypropylene types. Hard sided cases have better water resistance and are best for transporting fragile goods. Higher prices deliver better appearance but not necessarily extra strength.

Fabric or soft-sided cases are made from woven fabrics such as nylon and polyester. They cover a broad price range, high priced variants use stronger fabrics more able to withstand rough handling. Being squash-able, they are less suitable for fragile goods but possibly more useful for fitting into car boots. Cheaper models are easily damaged so it’s wise to get them wrapped at the airport if it is necessary for them to travel in the hold.

In both cases it is important to look for strong catches, locks and wheels when buying luggage. Four wheel models are increasingly popular, they are stable and easier to handle. Internal dividers and compartments are useful, external pockets can be susceptible to damage.

Consider adding a distinctive strap so that your bags stand out on the carousel.

Cabin Cases

By travelling light with only cabin luggage, you can save time and stress at the baggage carousel and, depending on what airline you use, save you money. Unfortunately size and weight limits vary widely so it’s important to check carefully before you get to the airport.

The lighter the case, the more weight allowance you will have for your belongings. On busy flights, cabin qualifying baggage may need to go into the hold so it is advisable to avoid really flimsy models. For convenience look for designs with external pockets for tickets and passports. Models with 4 wheels are easier to manoeuvre. Hard sided models look more fashionable but at a higher price.

Business Bags

Dedicated bags for frequent business travellers combine space for papers, pens, a laptop with a separate compartment for a change of clothes and toiletries. As regular, possibly weekly use is likely, it’s worth investing in a quality product from a reputable supplier. Their products will offer the features with a light weight and good after sales service if for example wheels need renewing.


This covers a broad range of products from day sacks holding your lunch and some extra layers through to large rucksacks for worldwide trekkers. Within each category there is a wide choice of products with an equally wide price range. As by nature, they are going to spend time on your back, comfort is of crucial importance. Shoulder straps and waistbands should be well padded and fully adjustable. Look for sturdy frames without a weight penalty. Designs allowing air to pass between the bag and your back, reduce sweating and are advisable particularly in warmer areas. As getting wet is inevitable, it’s advisable to have a waterproof cover. Protective rucksack bags are useful to protect the straps in aircraft holds.

After boots and waterproofs, for a serious walker, the backpack is the most important purchase, don’t rush, do your homework and try several models for comfort. It is probably worth visiting a specialist outlet and paying a bit more for their valued advice.

Children’s bags

This is a booming market, airports at holiday times are full of young children with their Trunkis carrying toys and snacks. Famously rejected by Dragon’s Den, sales of the Trunki ride on or pull along case now exceed two million.


Choose luggage to suit your needs. Leading brands and retailers offer well designed and manufactured products. Materials, locks, fasteners and wheels should meet the needs of the typical traveller. Unbranded and budget products are more likely to fail; wheels, stitching and zips being particularly vulnerable. Paying more for a premium design or colours, can be a fashion choice, it doesn’t guarantee durability. Whenever you are buying luggage, keep the weight in mind, that leather cabin bag may look great, but it’s not much use if it uses up half your weight allowance!

Happy travelling!

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