Suitcase buying tips
Buying the right suitcase can be tricky with the amount of options on the market today. Casepoint only stocks the cases which are getting the best feedback and are from dependable manufacturers which will hopefully narrow the search, making the right choice easier. However, choosing the right one really depends on what sort of travelling you normally do. This quick guide will highlight some key areas and we will give our opinion on each based on our extensive experience.
We hope that by speaking to one of Casepoint’s luggage experts our customers will be provided with the very best advice to match their individual travel requirements whatever their budget.
A common question we get asked is which material is the best for a case, hard shell or soft sided? Well, again it all depends on how you are using the case. It is a common misconception that hard shell cases are more durable than soft. In most cases the opposite is true, it all depends on what grade either the hard or soft material is made to – benefits and details of each material are given below:
- For most of us a good quality soft case will be less expensive, lighter, more versatile, will look newer for longer and will be more durable than a comparable hard shell
- Soft cases usually have a PVC backing to keep them water resistant
- Most also have the benefit of being able to expand with the use of a zip around the side of the case which when opened creates a gusset to make the case deeper
- They also can have external pockets – especially useful for cabin luggage
- There are some soft sided cases which do not have a full frame (or skeleton) – these cases can squeeze into tighter spaces more effectively and great for storage when empty, they are also usually very lightweight
- Some are of course incredibly resilient
- They will not compress like a soft case
- They will be more water resistant
- There are still some which don’t have zips - not better from a durability point of view but will be tougher to break in to (although not impossible but such incidents are rare)
- Hard shell cases are split 50/50 so there are 2 shallower halves as opposed to a soft case which has more of a lid and one deep compartment
- They also commonly come in striking colours and patterns, textured or smooth finishes
Soft sided: Usually made from polyester or nylon or a mixture of both. The density of the material is measured in denier (D). The higher the denier the denser the material is, which means the material of the case is heavier (normally meaning the case itself is heavier and stronger but not necessarily). Nylon is slightly stronger than polyester. There are also specific types of nylon, most common of which are:
Dobby Nylon: uses a textured weave in manufacturing giving it better abrasion resistance while remaining very light.
Cordura Nylon: A name owned by the company Invista. To use the Cordura name the fabric has to be approved by Invista. Normally an extra tough 1000D.
Ballistic Nylon: Extra tough, heavy duty, high denier nylon made with a ‘ballistic weave’, typically a 2x2 or 2x3 basketweave. This being the strongest but heaviest of nylons used in luggage.
Ripstop: Nylon or polyester uses a special reinforcing technique that makes them resistant to tears. Reinforced threads are interwoven at regular intervals in a crosshatch pattern during production. This gives lighter materials a lot of strength and is popular with adventure/outdoor brands as it can be made highly water resistant.
Hard shell: There are 3 main materials used in hard shell cases – ABS, Polypropylene and Polycarbonate. The strength of each depends on the grade of the plastic used. For example 2 ABS cases may not be equal in strength. It can be quite difficult to find out the standard of a particular hard shell case, therefore brand, reputation and feedback should be considered before purchasing.
ABS(Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene): The most common of the hard shell materials. It can be dyed and textured in a huge variety of ways which can give cases an attractive look. It is more flexible and lighter than polypropylene but is often not as durable.Polypropylene: When used in cases gives a much more solid, rigid feel. It is extremely hard wearing, however, with the amount(mass) of plastic needed they tend to be heavier than the other materials mentioned. Polypropylene cases normally have a lockable clasp to keep the case closed rather than a zip and this can be a specific preference for some customers (as described in benefits above).
Polycarbonate: Relatively new in suitcase manufacturing and can vary in quality from case to case. When made to a high standard it is regarded as the toughest, lightest and, often, most expensive of the hard shell materials. It has a similar look to ABS so aesthetics can differ hugely. Look out for cases which state they are made from A+ grade polycarbonate.
2 Vs 4 Wheels
Suitcases with 4 wheels have risen in popularity recently, but 2 wheeled cases still have their uses, again it depends on the type of travel you are likely to do most often. Here are some advantages for both:
- 4 wheel cases (or ‘Spinner’ cases) are incredibly easy to manoeuvre over smooth surfaces, like airport flooring. The wheels glide smoothly and can take the weight out of wheeling your case
- If you are on a train, bus or other tight spaces, 4 wheel cases can be pushed out in front of you with the narrow side going forward
- 2 wheel cases (often referred to as ‘upright’ cases) have 2 bigger wheels and are recessed into the case in a plastic housing. These will travel over rougher services, such as roads, more smoothly, often with less vibration through the case trolley handle
Airlines are getting more and more strict on the size of the case you are allowed to take on to the aeroplane as hand luggage. When selecting a specific cabin case from our website you will be able to see which airlines will accept it as hand luggage. If you would like to check a particular airline and their dimensions for hand luggage, please refer to our cabin size list
There are a few variants of different luggage locks other than traditional padlocks. More and more cases are coming with fixed combination locks. These locks are attached to the side of the case and offer slightly increased security over traditional padlocks. Either padlocks or fixed combination locks can be ‘TSA’ approved. This means that when travelling to the United States, American security personnel can open the case with a skeleton key if they want to inspect it, meaning they do not damage your case or lock in the process and can relock your case after inspection.
If you would like to ask us about anything raised on this guide, or if you would like advice on any other suitcase related topic, please get in touch via telephone, email or in person at our shop.