Despite what targeted advertising might have you believe, there’s more to the luggage-verse these days than baby-pink hard-shells. And as it seems a good time to replace pre-pandemic suitcases, we sought a broader view — sussing out the most durable trunks (like photographer Henry Leutwyler’s much-loved vintage Zero Halliburton travel cases seen here; similar models start at $1,295) and the roomiest, overhead-compartment-compliant carry-ons.
The Ultratough Duffel That Is an Editors’ Favorite
Multiple Strategist editors rely on Patagonia’s cult waterproof, lifetime-guaranteed Black Hole luggage series for their travels. Maxine Builder swears by the 55L carry-on size that can be carried via shoulder straps or duffel handles, has an outer zip pocket for quick access to essentials, and can be folded up entirely when empty. It’s available in other colors and sizes, too.
The Set With Over 30,000 Five-Star Amazon Reviews
Online reviewers don’t seem quite as distracted by the current desire among many for hard-shell luggage. Over 30,000 of them, rather, give five stars to this soft, affordable set. One, who took it on an 11-day Euro-trip, says it went “through many airports, into trunks, out of trunks, into overhead bins, then out of overhead bins. Up and down escalators, through Customs. On and off of trains and buses. It survived!”
A Group-Chat-Sourced Hybrid
We texted eight friends who travel a whole lot about their favorite luggage and got the most enthusiastic response from our data-journalist pal Linley Sanders, who bought this backpack-suitcase hybrid for a multicountry trip in 2018. She calls it sturdy and roomy, with a surplus of padded pockets.
Travel Editors’ Picks
The Points Guy’s Carry-on
Brian Kelly (or the Points Guy) likes the extra-long handle on Rimowa’s Cabin Plus, which he says is “awesome for tall people.” The bag ever so slightly exceeds carry-on requirements — a boon, as travelers are rarely asked to measure their bags.
A Condé Nast Traveler Editor’s $220 Go-to
“They’re the Goldilocks of luggage,” says Betsy Blumenthal of her Samsonite suitcases. “Sleek but straightforward, hefty but not industrial, and reasonably priced.” She is still using the pair her dad bought her in 2013.
A Travel Writer’s Extra-Light Rimowa
Rimowa’s Essential is a bit cheaper because it’s made with polycarbonate, which is lighter than aluminum and quite durable. Hillary Eaton flies 80 times a year with it and says it has protected many dozens of bottles of wine.
Amal Clooney’s Italian Set
The human-rights lawyer has been photographed in Charles de Gaulle, Heathrow, and various other airports dragging her Bric’s luggage. Specifically: the 70-year-old Italian luggage brand’s Bellagio carry-on, which has four spinner wheels and an ergonomic handle.
The Suitcase Prince Harry Fled to Canada With
A month after Prince Harry announced he’d be taking a step back from the British royal family, he was photographed getting off a flight from the U.S. to Canada toting an Away carry-on. The suitcase maintains a solid fan base: Travel writer Nneya Richards likes that it fits in “island-hopper overheads or inter-European airlines like EasyJet.”
Logan Roy’s Tough Shell
Succession’s latest season began mostly on private planes, and eagle-eyed viewers quickly identified patriarch Logan Roy’s suitcase of choice: a polycarbonate carry-on hard-shell (with leather trim) designed by British brand Carl Friedrik. Afterward, the company confirmed that it expected to see its other pieces — like an all-leather weekender — popping up in later episodes.
The Trunk Tyler, the Creator Brought to the 2021 BET Hip-Hop Awards
Tyler, the Creator pulled up with a suitcase on at least three different red carpets this year, and while it looked like a prop, it was often fully packed. (At the BET Hip-Hop Awards, he told reporters he would be “literally jetting right out of here” after the show.) According to publicist Nick Dierl, the suitcase is a collaboration between Globe-Trotter, an English luggage brand founded in 1897, and Tyler, the Creator’s own clothing, fragrance, nail-polish, and accessory line, Golf le Fleur.
The Luggage in Which Joan Didion Packed Her Leotards, Cigarettes, and Bourbon
In The White Album, Joan Didion wrote of the packing list she kept taped to her closet door; it included staples like a nightgown, bourbon, and cigarettes. While there was no mention of what she packed everything into, she was once photographed at the airport with a set of handheld suitcases. This ballistic-nylon suitcase from Tumi, available on eBay, has a similar soft pocket on the outside for extra storage.
A Celebrity Nail Artist’s Travel Kit
Zuca’s ready-to-fly bags are ideal for those who travel with a lot of specific equipment. Says nail artist Lila Robles, “I prefer this over a traditional suitcase because I’m able to open the zipper of the Zuca while it’s standing upright, so I have access to my products.”
[Editor’s note: This bag is currently sold out, but you can sign up on the product page to get notified when its’ back in stock.]
An Under-$100 Duffel
Briona Lamback (founder of the Buoyant community for Black travelers) swears by a Fjällräven Kånken laptop backpack while traveling. It has a padded laptop sleeve, large inside pocket, comfortable straps, and a water-resistant body. This duffel has a lot of the same specs but with enough room for an entire weekend trip. The base is padded, so your electronics will still be safe.
The Case Mickey Drexler Bought in Bulk for J.Crew
Mickey Drexler, the onetime leader of Gap and J.Crew and current CEO of Alex Mill, first discovered Globe-Trotter in London after walking by the brand’s shop. “I walked in and fell in love in a second with its colorful luggage,” he says. He promptly decided to buy its cases to carry at J.Crew — and still uses his to this day. (His favorite color combo is black with a gray monogram, but he also has one in yellow.) “Whenever I check in to a hotel, the bellmen always say, ‘I love your luggage,’ ” he says.
The Bag With Compartments for Sketchbooks
One downside to hard-shell luggage is the lack of compartments. Muji has found a work-around to that problem: The mesh in the middle of the suitcase has three zippered compartments. “It’s so practical and neat, especially when you have little bits and pieces that need to be packed in,” says illustrator Fei Wang. “I put my sketchbooks and pencils there to keep them intact.”
Editor’s note: While you can learn more about this suitcase on its product page, Muji currently requires customers to visit one of the brand’s physical stores to purchase it.
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