• Travelpro Platinum Elite 29” Expandable Spinner

  • Briggs & Riley Sympatico Large Expandable Spinner

  • How We Tested Checked Luggage

  • What You Should Know About Checked Luggage

  • Other Checked Luggage We Tested

  • More Articles You Might Enjoy

Our Favorite Checked Luggage of 2021

  1. Best Overall

    Travelpro Platinum Elite 29” Expandable Spinner

    Pros

    • Excellent maneuverability

    • Easy front-opening access

    • Premium build quality

    Cons

    • Nothing we can think of

    Skip to the full review below
  2. Best Hardshell

    Briggs & Riley Sympatico Large Expandable Spinner

    Pros

    • Offset handle a great design

    • Lots of organizational touches inside

    • Resilient

    Cons

    • Extendable handle quality makes navigating more difficult

    Skip to the full review below
The Best Checked Luggage
Credit: Reviewed / Geoff Morrison

If you need a great piece of checked luggage, the Travelpro Platinum Elite 29 Inch Expandable Spinner is the suitcase to get.

Best Overall
Travelpro Platinum Elite 29” Expandable Spinner

The Travelpro Platinum Elite 29 Inch Expandable Spinner had a decidedly more premium feel than several of the more expensive options we tested for this guide. A top performer in our tests, this 143.5-liter suitcase boasts several well-thought-out features. It’s easily maneuverable, despite its size, and comes with desirable extras such as TSA-approved lock-compatible zippers and a garment bag.

One of the Platinum Elite’s best features is that access to its main compartment is gained by unzipping the front face of the suitcase rather than down the middle of the bag, which is more common. This means that the whole volume of the suitcase’s generous main storage space is available to use as one compartment, rather than being split down the middle into two. Most of the other suitcases in this guide split in half, once unzipped. This limits the number of large or bulky items that can fit into the main compartment, or lead to the suitcase’s contents spilling out, as you open it up. That said, the depth of Platinum Elite's cavernous main compartment could have you digging around to find items located at the bottom of the suitcase. However, by using packing cubes this becomes a non-issue.

The Platinum Elite’s main compartment comes packing multiple built-in organization aids, including a removable toiletry bag, to help you keep track of your belongings. At the end of your trip, should you find that you picked up more mementos of your journey than the suitcase can handle, Travelpro has your back: with the simple pull of a zipper, the Platinum Elite’s width can be expanded by two additional inches.

We were pleased with how maneuverable the Platinum Elite proved to be during testing. High-quality spinner wheels, paired with a sturdy handle, made navigating our obstacle course a breeze. Several of the other suitcases in this guide had poorly designed, wobbly handles that made navigation more difficult than necessary. With a wobbly handle, half of the energy used to push or pull a suitcase is spent shifting the handle into place before the luggage starts to move. Not so with the Platinum Elite, a sports car of a suitcase among lumbering station wagons. Ok, maybe not a sports car. How about a BMW station wagon in a parking lot full of Buicks?

If you need a big suitcase, start here.

Pros

  • Excellent maneuverability

  • Easy front-opening access

  • Premium build quality

Cons

  • Nothing we can think of

The Best Checked Luggage
Credit: Reviewed / Geoff Morrison

The Briggs & Riley Sympatico Large Expandable Spinner is our favorite hard shell suitcase.

Best Hardshell
Briggs & Riley Sympatico Large Expandable Spinner

If you’ve considered the pros and cons of soft versus hardshell luggage (which we talk about at length below) and prefer the latter, the Briggs & Riley Sympatico Large Expandable Spinner is the way to go. It doesn’t maneuver as well as our main pick but, overall, it’s a great piece of luggage.

The Sympatico Large’s hard plastic shell is resistant to scratches and seems strong enough to withstand a few hits from a blunt object like a hammer (I hit it with a hammer is what I’m saying, and it was fine). As with most of the luggage we tested, there’s a built-in zipper lock.

Inside of the Sympatico Large’s 147.5-liter main compartment, there are several zippered pouches and mesh compression panels to help you squeeze your belongings in with. Unfortunately, none of the Sympatico Large’s pouches are waterproof, so you’ll need a toiletry bag.

While its spinner wheels worked fine during testing, the Sympatico Large’s extendable handle was more wobbly than we would have liked. This made navigating our obstacle course harder than it needed to be. While the quality of its carry handles proved to be average in comparison to the other luggage we tested for this guide, the placement of the handles stood head and shoulders above the rest. By mounting the carry handles off-center, Briggs & Riley rewards users of the Sympatico Large with a far more natural carrying position, which allows your arm to hang closer to your body while carrying the bag. All luggage manufacturers should do this. It’s honestly a shock that they don’t.

Pros

  • Offset handle a great design

  • Lots of organizational touches inside

  • Resilient

Cons

  • Extendable handle quality makes navigating more difficult

Related content

How We Tested Checked Luggage

The Best Checked Luggage
Credit: Reviewed / Geoff Morrison

We subjected each suitcase to conditions and situations they would encounter during travel.

The Tester

My name is Geoffrey Morrison. I’ve been reviewing all types of gear for nearly 20 years. For most of the last seven years, 2020 notwithstanding, I’ve been a digital nomad. I’ve traveled and worked across 57 countries, taking countless planes, trains, and automobiles to do so. I’ve used a variety of different styles and sizes for luggage, and feel that most people don’t need huge luggage, but if your travels require it, go for it.

A previous version of this guide was written by Reviewed’s Updates Editor, Séamus Bellamy. Séamus has spent years living on the road. When not busy unpacking from his last trip, he spends his time traveling North and Central America in an RV with his wife and their dog, Boudica.

The Tests

In late 2018, Séamus tested a ton of carry-on luggage. He examined each bag for its build quality, capacity, features, durability, and maneuverability. When the time came to test checked luggage, Séamus scaled the tests up for use with the carry-on’s beefier checked bag brethren.

For this most recent update, I (Geoff) followed the testing procedures Séamus developed.

To start, I stuffed each of the full-size suitcases in our test group with two weeks' worth of clothes. Aside from underwear, socks, and toiletries, I also included a variety of other garments into the mix, ranging from formal wear for a nice dinner out, to business attire, a windbreaker, and a sweater for chilly evening excursions. I even threw in several pairs of shoes and sneakers. By packing each suitcase full of these clothes, I was able to be certain of whether or not each suitcase in this guide’s main compartment provides all the space a traveler might need for their belongings: an important metric as some suitcase interiors are eaten up by the housing of their expanding handles or the attachment points for their spinner wheels.

Next, I tested each suitcase's maneuverability by wheeling it over a quarter-mile of smooth and not-so-smooth surfaces like concrete and rough asphalt. For every 20 steps taken with each bag, I performed a 360-degree turn to ensure that its wheels were still spinning freely (and to befuddle curious onlookers).

To simulate navigating an airport check-in line or a busy train station, I rolled each suitcase through an obstacle course made from the other bags in the test. After testing one, I’d swap it out with the next to preserve the overall design of the course. And, because a fully loaded suitcase is a lot more difficult to pick up than a typical carry-on bag, I tested how easily each one could be carried.

What You Should Know About Checked Luggage

The Best Checked Luggage
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

Not everyone needs to bring a piece of checked luggage on their travels. However, if you do, it's good to know what to look for when shopping for one.

There are generally two kinds of big checked luggage: hardshell and softshell.

Hardshell luggage, as their name suggests, have hard plastic or metal exteriors. In theory, they’ll take the brunt of any blunt force trauma the suitcase receives as it’s bounced and tossed on its way from your house to your destination.

Softshell luggage isn’t “soft” per se, just softer than hardshell. Softshell suitcases have rigid designs but can compress somewhat to absorb blows and abuse. Their plastic fabric exteriors are usually quite tough.

Both types have their pros and cons.

Hardshell luggage might be better for protecting fragile items in transit. However, their rigid exteriors take a significant amount of abuse, and will likely look scuffed and beaten up after even just one trip. Softshell luggage won’t protect delicate items as well, but will likely survive multiple trips without signs of wear.

What to Look for In A Piece of Checked Luggage

When considering a piece of checked luggage, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind:

  • Toughness and Flexibility: Suitcases with a plastic or aluminum exterior can scuff, dent, or crack when subjected to abuse. Still, they tend to protect their contents from crush damage better than a fabric-sided suitcase can. Fabric-sided suitcases can compress without sustaining any damage, but they aren't ideal for protecting delicate items. Before you purchase, think about what you're likely to bring with you when you travel.
  • Wheels: If you want your luggage to glide through an airport concourse on wheels, remember that four are better than two. Four-wheeled bags are just as maneuverable whether they're being pushed or pulled. Two-wheeled bags can wobble, topple, and drag, making them far less user-friendly on the move.
  • Handles: The best suitcases have retractable handles that slide out smoothly, lock into place, and are strong enough to help you maneuver the luggage around on its wheels. A good piece of checked luggage should also come equipped with wide, padded handles that make the bag's weight feel like less of a burden when you have to lift and carry it. The best of the best have handles on multiple sides, making it easy to grab them off of the baggage claim conveyor belt no matter how they're oriented.
  • Organization: Bags that offer an array of interior and exterior pockets along with a single, large interior space are a smart buy. The big main compartment can be used with packing cubes, a garment bag, or packed with loose clothes, while the interior pockets are great for smaller items like toiletries or socks. Outside pockets can be used to stash on-the-go items.
  • Security: Make sure that any suitcase you buy comes with either a built-in TSA-compliant combination or key lock, or is equipped with zippers that can be used with a TSA-compliant aftermarket lock.

Who Should Invest In Checked Luggage?

While a large suitcase may seem like the obvious choice for your next trip, they’re often a lot larger than most people need.

Both Séamus and I have traveled for months at a time with a roughly carry-on sized travel backpack. I’ve met men and women who travel for weeks with nothing more than a backpack that could fit under the seat in front of them on an airplane. Traveling with lighter luggage is easier on the body, ensures that you avoid paying to check a bag or worse, be forced to pay for weight overage fees. This makes travel more pleasurable in most circumstances.

That said, there’ll be instances where taking a large suitcase with you on a trip makes a lot of sense.

If you’re traveling to a cold climate, or your trip requires additional bulky gear (masks, fins, ski boots, etc), taking a piece of checked luggage with you makes sense. A large suitcase, like the ones in this guide, are a win if you’re traveling for work and need multiple outfits, or if you’re packing for a week-long getaway for several members of your family.


Other Checked Luggage We Tested

Tumi Alpha 3 Extended Trip Expandable 4 Wheeled Packing Case

Luxury brand Tumi’s Alpha 3 Extended Trip Expandable 4 Wheeled Packing Case is a beautifully made piece of luggage.

During testing, the 126-liter Alpha 3’s spinner wheels performed well. The suitcase boasts a decent retractable handle, a rugged exterior, and, subjectively, an attractive design.

Inside the Alpha 3’s main compartment, you’ll find a garment bag, mesh pockets, and compression flaps. There are two exterior pockets for quick access, one of which is lockable, just like the main compartment. The main compartment opens in a roughly 20/80 split between the lid with its mesh compartment and the suitcase’s main second, large compartment. It’s not as easy to pack large items or root through as the cavernous single compartment of our Best Overall pick is, but it’s better than the 50/50 compartment design of most of the competition.

Unfortunately, during testing, we discovered that while the Alpha 3 is well-made, it wasn’t able to match the ease with which our Best Overall pick can be packed or its maneuverability.

Pros

  • Attractive

  • Feels well put together

Cons

  • Not as maneuverable as we'd like

Briggs & Riley Baseline Large Rolling Upright Duffel Bag

The 120L Briggs & Riley Large Rolling Upright Duffel Bag is a great choice for anyone that wants a high-quality piece of luggage that can be compressed and stored in a small space, when not in use. It easily accommodated the allotment of clothing we chose to use as part of the testing for this guide, with room to spare. With its bespoke build quality, this bag will support years of extensive travel or, a lifetime, for those who only pack their bags once or twice a year.

Unlike most duffles, which zip down the middle, access to the Upright Duffel’s main compartment is by working the bag’s U-shaped zipper. Once open, the Upright Duffle’s large main compartment can be packed from the top of the bag, on down. There’s a mesh compartment built into the main compartment’s lid. However, we would have liked to see at least a few additional mesh pockets inside of the bag.

While the Upright Duffel’s extendable handle was solid enough, we found that It didn’t navigate our obstacle course as well as our Best Overall or Best Hardshell luggage picks. This was due, in part, to the fact that this duffle rolls around on two wheels instead of four. Additionally, its exterior suffered more scratches from our fork test than some other checked bags in this guide.

Pros

  • Large capacity

  • U-shaped main compartment zipper

Cons

  • Lackluster manueverability

Away Expandable Large

Available in several colors, the Away Expandable Large suitcase is a polycarbonate hardshell checked bag, It features a built-in TSA-approved lock, leather luggage tag, and a leather luggage tag integrated into the suitcase’s exterior.

The Expandable Large’s 91-liter interior storage is split into two halves. The first half features a zippered mesh interior designed to keep its contents from spilling out when the suitcase is opened. The bottom half of the suitcase comes equipped with a pair of compression straps and a laundry bag to help keep your dirty clothes or a pair of shoes away from the garments you’ve yet to wear.

We found that the Expandable Large was easy to maneuver on its four spinner wheels when pulled or pushed along by its extendable handle during testing. That said, we were unimpressed with the middling quality and comfort offered by its carry handles.

Pros

  • Comes with a laundry bag

  • Maneuverable

Cons

  • Middling carry handle comfort

Travelpro Platinum Elite Large Check-In Expandable Hardside Spinner

You’d think the Travelpro Platinum Elite Large Check-In Expandable Hardside Spinner would just be a hardshell version of our Best Overall pick. This was not the case.

While its polycarbonate exterior held up well to both our hammer strike and scratch test,
we found that the Hardsided Spinner’s carry handles were far less comfortable to hold than the ones the Travelpro Platinum Elite 29 comes equipped with. Its extendable handle couldn’t match the one baked into our Best Overall pick, either: it was more wobbly, when extended, making it more difficult to maneuver.

Finally, with its 108-liter capacity, the Hardsided Spinner is one of the smaller suitcases we tested. While all our clothes and shoes fit, there wasn’t a lot of room for packing extras.

Pros

  • Rugged, for a polycarbonate case

  • Good quality spinner wheels

Cons

  • Low storage capacity compared to others in its class

Samsonite Voltage DLX Large Spinner

While available in subdued white and grey colorway options, you can also pick a Samsonite Voltage DLX Large Spinner up in teal and bright pink—hues that will stand out on a luggage carousel full of baggage. We liked its TSA-approved zipper-lock panel and appreciated the mesh panel and compression straps in the main compartment.

Unfortunately, this checked suitcase was something of a disappointment in the build quality department. Its carry handles were so uncomfortable to hold, I wouldn’t want to carry this suitcase farther than the trunk of a car to the curb outside of an airport or train terminal. I was also unimpressed with its poorly put-together extendable handle, which made wheeling the Voltage spinner around difficult. Finally, when scraped with a metal fork, the Voltage DLX scratched, with the barest of pressure.

Pros

  • Stylish design

  • TSA-approved zipper lock panel

Cons

  • Plastic exterior scratches easily

Away Large: Aluminum Edition

The Away Large Aluminum is arguably the best-looking piece of checked luggage we’ve ever tested. Its shiny metal shell should make it very easy to spot on a luggage carousel. However, lay it down on any coarse surface and it won’t stay shiny for too long. We found the Large Aluminum Edition to be very easy to scratch. That said, it didn’t sustain any dents during our hammer tests. However, it did come away from the test with—you guessed it—more scratches.

We were also unimpressed with this suitcase’s 91-liter capacity. Instead, if you’re traveling with a companion, the two of you could each bring a 45-liter carry-on bag with them, carry pretty much the same amount of stuff, and avoid checked baggage fees.

Pros

  • Attractive design

  • Impact-resistant

Cons

  • Scratches too easily

  • Low capacity for a checked suitcase

Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler 130L

When empty, the Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler 130L Rolling Duffle was able to compress down to the smallest of any suitcase in our test—great news for any travelers with a minimal amount of storage space in their home. This large capacity rolling duffle’s storability comes at a cost.

Navigation with our obstacle course with the Cargo Hauler 130L was a chore due to the fixed position of its two wheels. Steering the bag was a frustrating experience because, in order to move this duffel along on its wheels, I was forced to tug it along using a ballistic nylon strap instead of an extendable handle like the other checked luggage in this guide. When pulled, the Cargo Hauler 130L wobbled, rolled, and refused to stay upright. That said, the duffel can be converted into a backpack, which makes hauling it along, much easier.

Pros

  • Compacts for storage

  • Built-in backpack straps

Cons

  • Frustrating to wheel around

American Tourister Sonic 28" Spinner

When the American Tourister Sonic 28" Spinner was tested by Séamus for a previous version of this guide, he felt confident stating that this bag was capable of surviving a few round-trip flights—but that’s not saying much. The sample he tested was not well made, as the seams were finished with loose stitching. The sides of the suitcase could easily be moved around with minimal force, offering next to no protection for the items inside of it. Most frustrating of all, the zippers for the main compartment refused to zip or unzip smoothly.

If you can afford a better suitcase, we recommend giving the American Tourister Sonic 28" Spinner a pass.

Pros

  • None we can think of

Cons

  • Zippers difficult to open and close

  • Poor build quality

  • Wheels misalign when being pulled

Meet the testers

Geoffrey Morrison

Geoffrey Morrison

Contributor

@techwritergeoff

Geoffrey Morrison is a freelance tech and travel writer.

See all of Geoffrey Morrison's reviews
Séamus Bellamy

Séamus Bellamy

Updates Editor

@SeamusBellamy

Séamus Bellamy is Reviewed's resident expert on travel-related technology.

See all of Séamus Bellamy's reviews

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We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.

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