Expert Luggage Buying Guide
Evaluating luggage: Important features
Some suggestions the experts say to keep in mind when purchasing luggage:
- Look for a long warranty. Experts
say this is the simplest way to estimate luggage quality, especially
if the warranty covers accidental damage. However, a higher price tag doesn't
always mean a better warranty. Tumi, one of the most expensive brands discussed
in our sources, offers a five-year warranty for manufacturing defects,
with accidental damage covered during the first year only. By contrast,
the L.L.Bean duffel, one of the least expensive bags in our report, is
backed by an unconditional lifetime guarantee.
- Look for industrial nylon construction. This is especially important for frequent travelers or for big bags
that will always be checked rather than carried on. The two main types
are Cordura, which has more abrasion resistance, and ballistic nylon, which
is slicker and is more resistant to tears. Leather is heavier than nylon
and is prone to mold in humid climates.
- Don't evaluate fabric just by denier. "Denier" measures
the fineness of thread; the lower the number, the finer the thread. However,
at OneBag.com, Doug Dyment notes that some imported 1,680-denier ballistic
cloth is less durable than lighter, but better-made 1,050-denier ballistic
- Consider water resistance. Only a
few bags pass soaking tests. Water resistance is especially important
with bags that will be checked rather than carried on.
- Look for good handles
and zippers, which are potential weak points. Most complaints about
durability involve handles and zippers breaking, bending or sticking. Chain
zippers, which are fused to the fabric, are more durable than coil zippers,
which are sewn on. In either type, look for the YKK brand. Check handles
for comfort, too.
- Look for helper handles to make the
bag easier to lift. Extra handles on the sides and bottom, as well
as the top, make it easier to maneuver bags into and out of luggage bins.
carefully: Wheels or no wheels? One-bag-travel experts tend to recommend
bags without wheels, as they are lighter and have more capacity. If
you do choose a wheeled bag, look for encased wheels set widely apart.
Tests show that wheels set too close together make luggage unstable and
hard to maneuver in tight turns. Also, check your wheeled bags for balance.
One common complaint about rolling bags is that they tend to fall over
instead of standing upright. Larger wheels will maneuver more smoothly
over uneven terrain, and softer wheels will lessen vibration and noise.