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Soft-sided bags are still the lightest of the light

If you're looking for lightweight, spacious luggage, it's hard to beat the best soft-sided suitcases. Consider our top pick, the Osprey Shuttle 32 (Est. $299) , which some would term a duffel. Because it lacks the characteristic top-grab handle of a duffel bag -- it comes with two suitcase-style, oversize polyurethane wheels and a telescoping handle instead -- we consider it a soft-side suitcase with exceptional space and organization.

In return for a weight of just 8 pounds and 13 ounces you get 6,713 cubic inches of storage space, most of which are in the main and secondary compartments, separated by a bellows divider. Internal and external compression straps, front and side mesh organizers inside the main compartment, zip-close side compartments and a top slash compartment all help you keep your belongings organized, but still within easy reach. Closed-cell foam padding gives the Shuttle 32 some shape and also helps protect your belongings.

The only real downside to this bag is that it's so large, it can easily hold more than the standard domestic weight limit of 50 pounds. Keep yourself in check with a slightly smaller, 28-inch version (Est. $259) or a 22-inch carry-on (Est. $229), or just pack carefully. The large wheels on all three versions help them maneuver smoothly, even over gravel and grass. All versions of the Shuttle are backed by Osprey's lifetime warranty "for any reason," excluding normal wear and tear.

If you'd like a little more protection for your belongings, the Tumi Tegra-Lite Medium Trip Packing Case's (Est. $795) polypropylene composite body is made of the same material you'll find in NASCAR body panels. It offers 5,353 cubic inches of wheeled packing space at a weight of just 9 pounds; reviewers with Wired said it showed no signs of abuse at all after a taxing international trip. Most users concur, like an eBags.com reviewer who writes that "even after very rough handling, this suitcase may get scratched a little on the outside but does not crack." Protective bumpers on every corner offer additional protection. That said, the Tegra-Lite paneling's ability to resist dents -- flexing, then popping right back into shape -- can put fragile items at some risk, making this more of a hybrid hard/soft bag than a true hard-side case.

Tumi's five-year warranty is also some cause for concern. Although customers have good things to say about the Tegra-Lite's durability, the company only guarantees its product against airline damage for the first year. The remainder of the warranty covers defects only -- disappointing in a bag that costs nearly $800. The Tumi Tegra-Lite is also available as continental and slightly smaller international carry-ons (Est. $595 each), in a large 30-inch size (Est. $845) or as an extra-large, extended trip case (Est. $895).

In terms of internal organization, the Tumi Tegra-Lite is as different from the Osprey Shuttle as can be. The Tegra-Lite has a removable garment sleeve that reviewers praise and a large, lateral-zip pocket that draws some puzzlement and is dubbed "not tremendously functional." That lack of internal organizers makes the Tegra-Lite a great choice if you use packing cubes -- but if you can't pony up the $795 to buy it, are worried about the limited five-year warranty or just want more internal organization options, we still place the Osprey Shuttle 32 on top. (And just for the record, it has plenty of interior room for stashing packing cubes, too.)

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Osprey Shuttle 32-Inch/110 L Wheeled Luggage
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $299.00   
Average Customer Review:  
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Tumi Luggage Tegra-Lite Medium Trip Packing Case, T-Graphite, Medium
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $745.00   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  

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