Nothing shatters the zen-like calm that comes in the wake of an amazing vacation or productive business trip faster than unexpected baggage fees. Your luggage might have been light enough to avoid getting fleeced on your outgoing flight, but that bottle of duty-free scotch and the souvenirs you snagged for your nephew were heavy enough to get agents at the check-in counter salivating on the way back.
The best defense against overage fees is to invest in a portable luggage scale, like our favorite Dr. Meter Digital Luggage Scale(available at Amazon). To help you find the best scale for your personal needs, I considered dozens of different models and then called in some of the best for some intensive testing.
The recommendations in this guide are based on thorough product and market research by our team of expert product reviewers. The picks are based on examining user reviews, product specifications, and, in some limited cases, our experience with the specific products named.
Dr. Meter Digital Luggage Scale
The Dr. Meter Digital Luggage Scale is our pick for the best luggage scale, and it wins on a number of fronts. Most importantly, it was able to accurately measure all of the weights I threw at it to within a few decimal places, and it can do so in either pounds or kilograms. It comes with a bright and easy-to-read backlit LCD display, its buttons are well placed, and its high-quality plastic and aluminum body feels tough enough to provide years of service. Since it only weighs 3.25 ounces, you’ll never even notice that you have it with you until it comes time to put it to use.
To use it, you simply turn it on, attach it to the handle of your luggage, and lift. Easy. Once it obtains a solid reading, the measurement shows up solidly on the display.
Of the analog luggage scales I tested, this one was the most accurate. With its rounded sides, collapsible handle, and 5.78-ounce weight, it’s the lightest and most compact, too. Like the other mechanical scales I tested, the Samsonite Manual Luggage scale comes with a built-in tape measure that makes staying on the right side of airline size restrictions a cinch.
I wasn't thrilled with the Samsonite's build quality; its shell is made from brittle feeling plastic, and I'm not sure it would survive a drop on a hard surface. For the price, though, I don’t think you’ll find a better analog option.
This digital display luggage scale looks identical to the Dr. Meter digital scale I recommend—so much so, that I’m willing to bet they were built by the same original manufacturer. Still, there are a couple of significant differences between the pair that make the Etekcity model a lesser choice.
First, the Etekcity scale is usually priced higher than the Dr. Meter scale despite its near-identical feature set and accuracy. Second, this scale doesn’t come with a backlit display, making it more difficult to use in some lighting conditions. End result? It’s not a terrible product, but it’s not that great, either.
I’ve generally been a fan of AmazonBasics products in the past, but I think your better choice is our Best Overall pick. While it's solidly built, it costs slightly more and doesn’t offer a backlit display.
The Travelon Stop and Lock worked about as well as you can expect for an analog scale, but I still can't recommend it. Beyond the inaccuracy inherent in any mechanical luggage scale, the Stop and Lock suffers from weak build quality and a bulky design. It’s on the heavy side at 6.24 ounces, and its rest knob also sticks out far enough to get snagged on clothing in your suitcase—something that drives me more than a little nuts.
It does have a built-in tape measure, though. So, there’s that.
I’m Seamus Bellamy. I’ve been working as a tech and travel journalist for close to a decade. As a full-time digital nomad, I travel constantly across North and Central America, and also take frequent trips to Europe and Asia. I like to travel light when I take to the skies, but I’ve been hit with ugly baggage fees just like any other frequent traveler. In other words, I'm extremely motivated to find the best luggage scale possible.
The most important requirement for a great travel scale is accuracy. After all, if it can't provide a reliable reading of your bags' weight, you'll be on the hook for fees at the airport.
To make sure your scale doesn't leave you high and dry, I started with three different types of luggage—a hockey bag, a soft-sided suitcase, and a hard-sided suitcase—and used a household digital scale to determine their empty weight. I then weighed each bag again, using the 10 scales I called in for testing.
Next, I prepared test weights. The first group of weights consisted of 25-, 50-, and 75-pound increments made up of solid stuff like flats of canned goods and car batteries that wouldn’t shift while being weighed. The second group used the same increments, this time composed of items you might actually travel with—clothing, booze, a laptop, backpacking gear, and SCUBA equipment—to simulate the more unbalanced bags found in the real world.
Finally, I placed the test weights inside our three pieces of luggage and obtained baseline weights for each combo, then measured them again using each luggage scale. Most of the digital scales produced readings within a few decimal points of the baseline. However, I was able to eliminate one model right away due to inaccurate readings. Mechanical scales are considered to be inherently less accurate, and our testing certainly bore that out. However, for some shoppers a few pounds of variance might be a worthwhile trade-off for near-instant measurement. After all, not everyone is able to dead-lift and hold a 75-pound bag long enough to get a reading from a digital scale.
But accuracy isn't the only requirement for luggage scales: they should do their job in a timely manner, too. With this in mind, I gave each scale a time limit of five seconds to return a solid reading. This rule immediately knocked out two more contenders.
With my list of seven finalists in hand, I then examined build quality, extra features, ergonomics, and the weight of the scales themselves to determine the best of the best.
Why Not Use a Bathroom Scale, Instead?
If you already have a bathroom scale at home, it might be tempting to use it to weigh your luggage before heading off to the airport. I don't recommend it, for a number of reasons. First, What your luggage might weigh at home and what it weighs on your return flight, once you've packed it full of soviengers, binders and other business meeting spoils or new clothes bought along the way. While a few additional items in your bag might seem like a big deal, a little bit of additional weight can lead to you being forced to ditch some of your belongings before returning home or face outlandish overweight fees for topping out what your airline feels is acceptable. Second, and perhaps more importantly, its difficult to get a trustworthy weight out of a bathroom scale when weighing luggage: if your bag is poorly balanced on the scale, you might be treated to an inaccurate reading that shows the bag as being well under the airline's maximum weight guidelines, or too heavy, forcing you to leave something at home that could make your travels a little more enjoyable.
If using a bathroom scale is the only option at your disposal, here's the best way to use it to weigh your bags:
Step on the scale and weigh yourself, take note of the number.
Step on the scale again, holding your bag as close to your chest as you can manage. Doing so will help to keep the bag balanced, making for a more accurate reading. Take note of the weight that your bathroom scale provides to you.
Subtract your weight from the total weight of you holding your luggage. While it won't be as accurate as using a luggage scale, the measurement will be slightly more reliable than placing the luggage on the scale by itself.
Séamus Bellamy is a senior editor on Reviewed's Electronics Team. When he's not busy ensuring his team's The Best Right Now roundups are up-to-date, he spends his time reviewing, smartwatches, tablets, fringe tech, and writing how-to guides.
Our team is here for one purpose: to help you buy the best stuff and love what you own. Our writers, editors, and lab technicians obsess over the products we cover to make sure you're confident and satisfied. Have a different opinion about something we recommend? Email us and we'll compare notes.