eBags EXO Hardside 24" Spinner
eBags EXO Hardside 24" Spinner

Best rolling luggage

Not only does the eBags EXO Hardside 24" Spinner suitcase turn on a dime, it also sports protective hard-side polycarbonate construction, an adjustable interior divider and components that are designed for easy replacement if repairs are needed. Better yet, it's backed by cheerful customer service and a lifetime warranty that includes coverage for airline damage. Read the full review

Osprey Shuttle 32
Osprey Shuttle 32

Best lightweight luggage

The Osprey Shuttle 32 offers a whopping 6,713 cubic inches of wheeled packing space, weighing only 8 pounds, 13 ounces. It's durable, thanks to foam padding in its soft-sided construction; stable, thanks to oversize polyurethane wheels; and is chock-full of organizing options. It's also covered by a lifetime warranty "for any reason," excluding normal wear and tear. Read the full review

Patagonia MLC
Patagonia MLC

Best carry-on luggage

The sporty, casual-looking, convertible Patagonia MLC carry-on might not have wheels, but it's full of thoughtful features like stow-away backpack straps, a compression pouch and a floating divider for organizing your belongings. Bombproof, recycled polyester construction and a proprietary DWR (durable water repellent) coating round out its notable features. Read the full review

eBags EXO Hardside Spinner 2pc Set
eBags EXO Hardside Spinner 2pc Set

Best luggage set

The EXO Hardside Spinner 2pc Set combines an overhead-compartment-ready carry-on with a 27.5-inch checked bag. Both are made of durable, semi-flexible polycarbonate panels and roll easily over all obstacles. They remain well-balanced, even when overloaded, and are backed by a lifetime warranty that includes damage caused by airlines. Read the full review

L.L.Bean Rolling Adventure Duffle
L.L.Bean Rolling Adventure Duffle

Best duffel

The L.L.Bean Rolling Adventure Duffle epitomizes the ideal of a lightweight, capacious and durable duffel -- on wheels. Reviewers say its fabric is durable enough to withstand being dropped, dragged and left out on the tarmac in the rain. It's backed by an unconditional lifetime warranty and has an internal toboggan-bottom frame to keep it from dragging when loaded. Read the full review

Est. $35 to $110 Estimated Price
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Best Luggage Reviews: Runners Up

Red Oxx Sky Train Est. $255

2 picks including: OneBag.com, Fodors.com…

Briggs & Riley Transcend 200 24 Est. $379

2 picks including: Amazon.com, Good Housekeeping…

Tumi Tegra-Lite Medium Trip Packing Case Est. $795

2 picks including: EBags.com, Fodors.com…

Traveler's Choice TC5000 Tasmania Est. $300

2 picks including: Amazon.com, EBags.com…

The North Face Base Camp Duffel Est. $120 to $170

2 picks including: Amazon.com, Backpacker Magazine…

Choosing the right luggage: Form and function are the ultimate match

As airlines place more and more restrictions -- and fees -- on checked luggage, packing lightly has gone from lifestyle choice to necessity. Luggage manufacturers are responding with versatile new bags that weigh significantly less than older models, meaning you can pack more and still avoid weight surcharges. Meanwhile, we're seeing a trend toward more and more one-bag travelers getting by with nothing but a single carry-on, sometimes for a week or more at a time.

With the rising popularity of one-bag travel, it's little surprise that our report is chock-full of carry-on bags. What might be more surprising is how many of those carry-ons don't have wheels. Although upright (two-wheeled) and spinner (four-wheeled) carry-ons are still quite popular, more and more travelers prefer to give up the extra space and weight taken up by wheels, frame and telescoping handle in favor of carrying more of their own belongings. Still, eschewing wheels does force you to carry the bag in your hand, over your shoulder or (in a few cases) as a backpack -- so we don't expect wheeled carry-ons to ever truly disappear.

The best checked bag is one that fits your travel needs. Soft-side bags flex to accommodate your belongings and gracefully handle being overstuffed (as long as their zippers are up to the job). Soft-side luggage is usually less expensive and also weighs less, allowing you to squeeze a few extra pounds in before incurring extra fees. On the downside, those soft sides are vulnerable to slashes or tears and just don't offer as much protection as a hard-sided case.

Hard-side cases come in two types: rigid metal cases and semi-flexible polypropylene cases. The latter flex just enough to absorb impacts, then pop back into shape; they offer better protection for your belongings than a soft-side case but don't quite live up to the armored standard of a rigid metal case.

Rolling luggage is still a top choice for many travelers. Not everyone can lug a bag through an airport, especially if you have other things to carry. Wheeled luggage makes it a breeze to transport your bag from point A to point B -- just be sure the wheels and handle are sturdy and well-made or you may find yourself with a broken-down bag halfway through your trip.

Almost all large luggage -- including some duffel bags -- have built-in wheels nowadays; the real question is how many wheels you want. Generic upright or rolling luggage usually has two wheels with two stoppers on the other side that let the bag balance upright when you're not using it. Spinner luggage has four swiveling wheels, allowing it to pivot neatly in place -- or start rolling on its own if the bag doesn't have a wheel brake and you happen to be standing on a slope. In both cases, a telescoping handle helps you keep control of the bag. The best handles should adjust to a range of heights and be firm and solid, with no extra play, even when fully extended.

Some luggage manufacturers seem to apply the term "wheeled duffel" to almost any soft-sided case. Although we use the manufacturer names for each given piece of luggage evaluated in this report, we restrict entry into the "duffel" category to only those models that have duffel-style handles -- short loops that come together to form a single handle over the center of the bag. Also, you'll see this type of bag spelled variously as duffel and duffle. We use "duffel" generically, and "duffle" if it's how the manufacturer spells it.

ConsumerSearch has analyzed expert and customer reviews to evaluate the features, durability and style of dozens of types of luggage. The result is our picks for the best luggage in five categories: Best rolling luggage, best lightweight luggage, best carry-on luggage, best luggage set, and best duffel. One of these is sure to make your travel just a bit more hassle-free.

Elsewhere in this report:

Best Rolling Luggage: What is the best rolling luggage? Editors say eBags, Briggs & Riley and Gregory make the best rolling luggage on the market.

Best Lightweight Luggage: What is the best lightweight luggage? Editors say Osprey and Tumi have the top models of lightweight luggage. Read analysis of expert and user reviews.

Best Carry-On Luggage: Which brands are the best choices for your carry-on luggage? Editors say Patagonia, Red Oxx, Tom Bihn and Mother Lode are the best carry-ons.

Best Luggage Sets: Which set of luggage is best? Editors do the research to discover who makes the best luggage sets. Traveler's Choice and eBags come out on top.

Best Duffels: Which duffel bag is the best? Editors say the very best duffel bags are lightweight and capacious -- some even have wheels. L.L.Bean makes the best duffel.

Buying Guide: How do you choose the best luggage? Editors say these are the most important characteristics to look for in all luggage types and price ranges.

Our Sources: Links to the expert and user reviews we used to select the top luggage, along with our assessment of each reviewer's expertise, credibility and helpfulness.

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