Best luggage reviewed: 8 suitcases tested to destruction
We review eight suitcases in our punishing 'tough test' to separate the genuine hard shells from the softies.
We've put popular suitcases (hold luggage) through the ultimate ‘Suitcase Must Die: Tough Test’. From the Sledgehammer Attack, to having a whole car dropped on them, watch our videos below to find out which ones suffered from split zips and shattered promises, and which were 'hard' suitcases in every sense of the word.
If you’re after carry-on suitcase reviews – read our article on the best hand luggage bags on the market.
Suitcase Must Die: The Skyscanner Tough Test
We created a four phase ‘tough test’ to see how much punishment each piece of luggage could handle before cracking. We thought that having a car dropped onto them would finish even the hardest suitcase off, but to our surprise, three of the eight cases survived even that! Here are the four tests we conducted:
Test 1: Sparta Kick
To simulate a fall (or a baggage handler's throw!) from an aircraft luggage-hold onto tarmac, we kicked each suitcase from a height of about 1.5 metres onto the ground.
Test 2: Hammer Attack
Suitcases can take a battering during transit, so we got Skyscanner’s very own ‘Polish Viking’ to go to work on each one with a 10-pound sledgehammer.
Test 3: The Stomp
In their travelling lives, suitcases take a lot of rough treatment, like getting kicked and trodden on, so we got our Polish Viking, (who, at 150 kilograms, weighs the same as a juvenile polar bear), to take a walk over a carpet of cases.
Test 4: The Car Drop
OK – so the chances of a car just falling out of the sky on to your suitcase during your everyday travels are slim (hopefully!) but we couldn’t resist the chance for a bit of case carnage. Despite being hard shell suitcases, none of us thought any of them would survive this, but we were wrong! There truly are some tough pieces of luggage out there.
So how did the suitcases survive?
We selected eight different hard cases, ranging from a cheap and cheerful £23, right up to premium Samsonsite luggage costing £335.
Eminent Move Air
£99.99 from Amazon* Taiwanese luggage manufacturer Eminent claims their suitcase ‘was designed for the most demanding user, and is recognised worldwide for long lasting durability’.
Capacity: 66 litres Dimensions: 68 x 43 x 24 cm Weight: 3.1 kg
Functionality 4/5 The Eminent suitcase has a five-year guarantee, four sturdy double-spinner wheels, a combination TSA lock, a plastic telescopic handle and handles on both top and side. Inside it's lined and has a zipped internal pocket and restraining straps.
Tough Test 5/5 This is one tough Taiwanese cookie! Made from the new Makrolon® polycarbonate and according to Eminent, ‘extremely break resistant’, this case was one of just three to survive having a car dropped on them! In fact, after pushing out the dents, the case was in such surprisingly good condition, that we used it to carry our film gear back to base. Redefining ‘made in Taiwan’, we definitely rate the robustness of this case.
Value for Money 4/5 A light, functional and very tough case, the Move Air was built to last and is a great choice for the frequent flyer.
Karabar K-Bar-310 Medium
£29.95 from Amazon* UK manufacturer Karabar offers this low-priced suitcase described as ‘smart, durable and innovative.’
Capacity: 69 litres Dimensions: 67 x 44 x 27 cm Weight: 3.3 kg
Functionality 4/5 It has four single spinner wheels, a combination TSA lock, a telescopic handle and handles on top and side. Plus it comes with a three-year guarantee.
Tough Test 3/5 The makers state it is manufactured from the highest specification materials and are subject to strict quality controls. It did make it past our Sparta Kick Test (being booted off of a 1.5m high platform onto the ground) but the case cracked during our Stomp Test.
Value for Money 5/5 It’s not the toughest kid on the block but for the price (the second cheapest case in our test) this Karabar suitcase is excellent value, offering a good, functional piece of luggage, at a very affordable price.
From £180 on Amazon* French luggage manufacturer Delsey promises that their sky-blue Helium suitcase is ‘the most secure ZIP ever’ and the ‘perfect equation between lightness and resistance’.
Capacity: 101 litres Dimensions: 69 x 47 x 31 cm Weight: 3.2 kg
Functionality 5/5 The Helium comes with a 10-year guarantee, 4 single spinner wheels, a combination TSA lock, a telescopic handle and handles on top and side. Inside it is lined and has a zipped compartment, a zip pocket, and elasticated restrainer straps.
Tough Test 5/5 Delsey claim the Helium possesses ‘extreme resistance’ and they are right. It was apt that this case had a sticker depicting its hammer-proof properties, as it did indeed withstand the full force of a sledgehammer blow from our Polish Viking. In fact, the suitcase is harder than a French Legionnaire, being one of only three cases that survived our climatic ‘Car Drop’ test. And if it can survive that, then a bit of rough treatment by over-zealous baggage handlers will be no problem.
Value for Money 4/5 It’s not the cheapest suitcase out there, but you are paying for quality, style and some great functionality. And it’s one tough mother.
Luggage X 77
£79.99 from Amazon* Luggage X's main selling point is that this case is ‘virtually indestructible’. It is certainly quite sturdy, the shell feels tough and at 127 litres, was the largest suitcase in our test.
Capacity: 127 litres Dimensions: 77 x 56 x 36 cm Weight: 4.9 kg
Functionality 4/5 It has a one-year guarantee, four multidirectional wheels that can spin 360 degrees for optimum manoeuvrability, a retracting towing handle with three different locking positions, two spring-back carry handles, and a zip closure with a TSA Combination Lock. The suitcase's inside is fully lined with satin and has two main compartments with a zipped dividing wall, and also an additional zipped inner bag for toiletries.
Tough Test 5/5 When we saw Luggage X’s claim of being ‘virtually indestructible’ we thought – we’ll see about that! But the case was true to its claim. Made with ultra-lightweight Polypropylene, a ‘high impact resistant material’, we put this case through our punishing Tough Test, and it was one of just three to make it back to the Skyscanner office – bruised, but not broken. Any suitcase that can survive having a car dropped on it gets our respect.
Value for Money 5/5 For the price, this case is a real winner. It’s tough, functional and great value. We hadn’t heard of Luggage X before, but this case has proved itself against a set of better known suitcase brands.
(Note: the Talara was not available to buy at the moment we published this originally, but we have left this review here for comparison. The closest equivalent we could find is the Saturn Medium, slightly smaller at 68 x 47 x 25 (cm) and 61 litres. See the Antler website for their latest range.)
The Antler suitcase is probably the most stylish in our test. With Great British design, it claims to be ‘light and durable to withstand rough treatment’ and it comes with a 10 year warranty.
Capacity: 63 litres Dimensions: 69 x 45 x 28 cm Weight: 3.6kg
Functionality 5/5 Its four easy-glide wheels spin 360 degrees, it has two tough handles on top and side of the case, central locking trolley system and telescopic handle that seems quite resistant and is supplied with a TSA padlock for better security. The beautiful interior is fully lined and includes a very practical inside mesh pocket.
Tough Test 3/5 Made of PC/ABS emboss structure ‘to give strength and durability’, it survived Stage 3 (The Stomp Test), although it was starting to show signs of stress, but our car drop test left it cracked and crumpled.
Value for Money 4/5 This is a stylish, functional case which is very well priced. As long as you’re not planning to drop a car on it, this case should serve you well and stand up to normal travel wear and tear just fine.
£335 from Amazon* US brand Samsonsite are renowned for their quality cases and the Cosmolite claims to be their ‘strongest and lightest case ever’ due to their ‘revolutionary Curv technology’, and comes with a 10-year warranty.
Capacity: 88 litres Dimensions: 51.5 x 31 x 74 cm Weight: 3.4 kg
Functionality 5/5 This Samsonsite suitcase comes with four multi-directional spinner wheels, a lightweight but sturdy monotube pull-handle with push buttons, a top carry handle and a side carry handle, a TSA combination lock and protected zippers. Inside, it has an interior divider pad made of zipped mesh and functional elastic cross ribbons to secure packed items and reduce wrinkling.
Tough Test 4/5 Samsonite claims that Curv® is ‘one of the strongest, lightest and most scratch-resistant materials available’, and indeed the company are known for producing high quality luggage. In our tough test, the Cosmolite did well, making it to the final test unscathed, but it didn’t fully survive the car drop test, and was left with a small hole in the side.
Value for Money 3/5 It was the most expensive in our test, (by some margin) which is perhaps to be expected from such a well-known suitcase brand. There’s no doubting this is a tough, quality piece of kit, but you’ll have to pay a premium for it. However, fans of Samsonite’s trademark sleek silver designs are often happy to do just that.
£75.79 from Amazon* Italian luggage manufacturer Roncato delivers a cool, classy suitcase in the Flexi. This is a weighty piece of luggage with two very sturdy wheels and a guarantee of 10 years.
Capacity: 85 litres Dimensions: 68 x 30 x 50 cm Weight: 5.5 kg
Functionality 5/5 It has a combination lock (not TSA) on the side and the top and below security clasps can be locked with a key. The telescopic handle feels very resistant and is made of metal and it also has tough handles on top and side. Inside it features elastic straps and a mesh dividing compartment with a pocket for toiletries, as well as another detachable pouch.
Tough Test 3/5 This suitcase is made from hard Polypropylene. Of all our cases this material seemed the toughest, as it was rigid and heavy, but that rigidity and weight was also its weakness. In our very first test (the Sparta Kick) it broke open at the zip. Without the flex that other cases had, the ironically named ‘Flexi’ didn’t flex much, and in fact our car drop test almost completely obliterated it, shattering the case into several pieces.
Value for Money 4/5 This is a well-priced and functional case. It was the most rigid, (but heaviest), which is a potential weakness, but it comes with plenty of Italian style.
Borderline Trolley Case
£23* from Amazon This was the cheapest case in our test, and we could tell. Compared to the other cases, it feels weak and the spinner wheels are not very stable. However, it is only £23!
Capacity: 62 litres Dimensions: 61 x 45 x 23cm Weight: 2.8kg
Functionality 3/5 The interior of this trolley suitcase is fully lined with luggage straps and a zipped divider with several compartments. It is closed with a zip that comes with a built-in locking mechanism and a padlock.
Tough Test 2/5 According to the manufacturer this suitcase is made from ‘durable lightweight ABS hard plastic’. However, its four spinner wheels don’t seem particularly durable, nor does its retractable handle. In our Tough Test, it took a hammering at stage 2 (Sledgehammer Test), cracked in the Stomp Test, and by the end of the Car Drop Test, the casing was completely split, rendering it useless.
Value for Money 4/5 This piece of luggage is no tough guy, but for little over £20, we wouldn't expect it to be. If you’re after a small, light suitcase for a quick weekend getaway, then this cheap and cheerful spinner will do the trick. If you’re a global jetsetter looking for luggage to last you a lifetime, this isn’t the case for you.
Bonus: See another suitcase killed by a car in this teaser video:
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*Prices and availability accurate at time of writing, and subject to change.