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Lightweight Luggage

By: Kelly Burgess on September 29, 2017

Lightweight luggage is now the standard

When it comes to luggage, manufacturers love to toss around the term "lightweight." Practically every bag now has that word as part of either its name or its product description. There's a good reason for that: most bags really are quite light these days.

At one time, we included a Best Reviewed "lightweight luggage" choice in this report, but we've eliminated that because it's hard to find luggage that's NOT light. The majority of the bags in this report weigh 8.5 pounds or less, depending upon size. For example, our top two carry-on bags, the Travelpro Platinum Magna 2 21-Inch Expandable Spinner Suiter (Est. $260) and the Travelpro Luggage Platinum Magna 22 Inch Expandable Rollaboard Suiter (Est. $220), which we cover in our section on spinner and roller luggage, weigh only 7.9 and 7.7 pounds, respectively.

There are a lot of factors that go into a bag's weight, with construction being the key. Manufacturers are always trying new materials to create bags that hold up to the rigors of travel without contributing to the overall weight. Adding wheels and a handle to a bag makes it extremely convenient to use, but they also add to the size and weight of the bag. However, manufacturers are working to reinvent the wheel, as it were, so those two features are sturdier without making the bag either heavier or larger.

The latest trend in lightweight luggage is super lightweight or ultra-lightweight luggage. We're seeing this category more often, but we're also seeing some problems. Many of these bags get poor reviews for durability -- they rip easily, sag, wobble or the plastic components break. Sometimes the entire suitcase will "explode" after just a few uses. The frames are also reported as too flimsy to cushion your belongings very well -- a concern if you carry items that may need some protection, such as electronics. They can also be tiring to push because of plastic wheels and short, thin handles. In general, these super lightweight lines may be a better choice if you don't ever have to check them as experts say they definitely won't last long under the rough handling of the baggage folks.

The other issue with the words "super" or "ultra" lightweight as a description of luggage is that those are terms that are tossed around fairly loosely. We saw plenty of bags that billed themselves as super- or ultra-lightweight, but weighed the same as bags of the same size that don't use those qualifiers, or that just use the term lightweight -- there is no standard for what is light, super light or ultra-light. A manufacture can call it whatever they want, and they will. Also, be aware that some manufacturers list their bags' weights and measures, but in the fine print note that it's "without wheels" and may not include handles either -- two features that can add a pound or more and an inch or more.

The main factor in the weight of any bag is what you put into it. Buying, say, a 22-inch bag that weighs 8 pounds versus 6 pounds won't make much difference once you pack it full. Then, the wheels of that bag still have to be sturdy enough to support the weight of what it is carrying. The case needs to be able to handle the load without putting undue strain on your shoulders or arms; or dragging, buckling, rocking or tipping. It also needs to be sturdy enough to protect your belongings and help them stay at least dry-ish in bad weather. In the great scheme of things, a pound or two isn't going to make much difference, you're better off with a sturdy, well-built suitcase. Also, if you have to lift it, helper handles on the sides, top and bottom can help immensely in helping to balance the suitcase as you stow it.

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