A guide to buying luggage — and 8 picks to fit all your needs

What to consider before choosing your next suitcase or weekender.

What to consider before choosing your next suitcase or weekender

In theory, buying luggage seems pretty straightforward. You want a purchase that's practical, that can hold up against rough handling, and that can last you a long time. The reality gets more complicated when you realize just how many options are out there and all the factors you need to take into consideration. For example, do you want a hard shell or soft shell? A four-wheel spinner or two wheels? The best way to start is to brush up on the basics of luggage and then make a checklist of what you actually want. This will prevent you from having buyer's remorse and falling for any fancy frills you don't actually need.

Before you shell out on your next suitcase, here's what you should take into consideration.

Exterior motives

The exterior of your luggage really depends on personal preference. You can choose between soft shell — usually made out of fabric like nylon or canvas — or hard shell, which can be made from plastic, aluminum or polycarbonate (the latter is the most popular of the bunch for being lightweight and impact resistant). There are pros and cons to both. Soft shell can easily rip or stain and isn't weather-proof, but it's much lighter than its hard shell counterpart and can fit into tighter spaces like overhead bins. Meanwhile, hard shell luggage protects your belongings better, but it also tends to dent easily and increase the overall weight of your packed suitcase.

Wheels down

You can either opt for luggage with two wheels or four. Four-wheel spinners turn 360-degrees and can roll in any direction. They're your best bet if you want to make sure your luggage can stand upright without aid and won't tip over easily. Four-wheels are also easy to maneuver in an airport. Two wheels, on the other hand, won't roll away from you on an incline and they're better suited for uneven terrain (like cobblestones).

Size matters

The size of your luggage depends on your traveling style. Do you travel light and prefer the convenience of carry-ons or are you a serial overpacker who finds satisfaction in a roomier, checked luggage? Do you primarily fly short-haul domestic or international long-haul? If you're all about that carry-on life, make sure to check with the airline with which you're traveling because there's no standard carry-on allowance.

Ready to make a decision? Here are a few options for all your traveling needs.

Carry-on luggage

Founders Jen Rubio and Steph Korey used crowdsourcing to create the ultimate carry-on that checked off all the boxes for traveling well and in style. The Instagram-favourite features a TSA-approved ejectable battery that lasts through five full charges. It also comes with a compression pad to make additional space for your items when you vastly underestimated how much shopping you were going to do, and a waterproof laundry bag to discreetly stow away dirty clothes. Bonus: you can add another stylish flourish to your carry-on by getting it monogrammed.

The Carry-On Luggage, $325, Away

Brought to you by the former alums of Tumi and Louis Vuitton, this brand positions itself as luggage for the design-obsessed. You won't find a zipper on the outside — instead, there are two TSA-approved combination locks to keep your items secure. The polycarbonate luggage is lightweight with a sleek aluminum trim for additional durability. The thoughtful design extends right down to what the company calls its "whisper-quiet" wheels. It also boasts a removable battery so you can stay plugged in while you're on the move.

The Polycarbonate Carry-On, approx. $598, Arlo Skye

Weekender bags

Made with premium neoprene, this sophisticated weekender looks stylish on the outside and is surprisingly spacious inside. Features include a padded laptop sleeve, an air mesh pouch, stretch key leash, and shoe duster. There are also discreet pockets on the outside so you can quickly stash items while you're on the go. You can even get more mileage out of it by letting it do double-duty as a chic gym bag.

Landon Carryall, $185, Dagne Dover

Long beloved for its iconic canvas bags, the extra-large Boxford is roomy enough to accommodate any last-minute, haphazard packing (the kind where you stuff things to the brim). The canvas material makes it easy to clean, while small design details like the leather trims make it elegant and sophisticated. The bag also has a removable strap, making it easy to throw over your shoulder.

Boxford Travel Bag XL, $410, Longchamp

Outdoor adventure-ready

With the help of customer feedback, the latest iteration of MEC's duffle bag was tested to survive rough handling. Made with high-tenacity polyester and a water-resistant polyurethane coating, this bag holds up in the toughest of elements. You can wear it as a backpack or sport the detachable shoulder strap. The duffle can also be neatly folded into its own mesh pocket until needed.

Duffle Bag, $44.95 - $89.95, MEC

Burton may be best known as a snowboarding specialist, but the company also happens to make excellent luggage that's a favourite for its durability. The versatile Multipath Travel Path can be carried on a plane or on a camping trip. Thoughtful features include a removable waist belt and vented airmesh straps. There are also multiple external pockets for stowing away travel essentials like your passport, sunglasses and water bottle.

Multipath 27L Travel Pack, $189.99, Burton

Checked luggage

Combining function and a chic design, this scratch-resistant hard shell features a customized mesh texture for additional protection. Navigate easily through airports with its push-button locking handle and multi-directional wheels. The luggage also maximizes packing capacity and comes with an integrated TSA-lock to safeguard your belongings.

Samsonite Ziplite 4.0 Expandable 28-Inch Spinner, $525 ($210 on sale), Hudson's Bay

For two-wheel luggage purists, this suitcase is equipped with in-line skate wheels for easy maneuverability. Meanwhile, the soft shell fabric is both stain-resistant and water-repellant, thanks to a special coating. Another useful feature is its ability to expand up to 2" while still retaining its shape and remaining sturdy so there are no accidental thuds or tipping.

Travelpro Maxlite 5 Expandable Rollaboard Luggage 26-Inch, $158.99, Amazon

Mishal Cazmi is a Toronto-based beauty and fashion writer and founder of 100 ML. Follow her at @mishalcazmi.


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