It’s almost the holidays. You’re probably looking in your wardrobe at home, wondering what you’re going to take on your trip away, and, how on earth you’re going to take it. Good travel luggage is worth its weight in gold-plated baggage fees, if you have an option that helps you take what you need, where you need it, with maximum ease and minimal fuss. But, what actually makes a good travel bag? Here we break down some things to think about when deciding how to choose the best travel bag these holidays.
Capacity, durability, maneuverability, usability and security are the five main areas. However, first you need to ask yourself: ‘where are you going?’, ‘for how long?’ and, ‘how are you getting there?’ To help with that, we discuss different scenarios in each section.
Read on, to discover how to choose the best travel bag this coming holiday season.
How big a bag is determines how much it can hold. This in turn affects weight. While that may seem painfully obvious, it’s a major consideration when tossing up whether to check-in your luggage on a flight or use carry on. Knowing carry-on requirements for different airlines can be fairly light-on, the right bag could be the difference between taking that extra pair of going out pumps, or deciding on a one-shoe-fits-all-scenarios set. For many, there’s no such thing.
Generally speaking, if you want a carry-on compliant bag, it’s going to be under 45 litres. That is fine if you’re heading away for a few nights, or can pack for a week in the tropics without the need for jumpers and jackets. However, if you’re wanting to take a bit more, then you have check-in options out there that are 80 litres, 100 litres and even bigger again. Always bear in mind that the heavier your bag is, the more you might get stung in overweight fees. Also, no single bag is allowed to be over 32kg (70lb) because of health and safety requirements.
Here is a size guide for the best travel bag, depending on how much you’re taking.
Carry On – 45 Liters or less
Light packers – A week away if dressing for the cold. Over a week if hot climates only.
Normal packers – A weekend away if dressing for the cold. A week if hot climate only.
Heavy packers – probably not your best option.
Check-In – 45-80 Liters
Light packers – Two weeks away if dressing for the cold. Up to a month in hot climate only.
Normal packers – A week away if dressing for the cold. Two weeks if hot climate only.
Heavy packers – A weekend away if dressing for the cold. A week if hot climate only.
Check-In – 80-100 Liters
Light packers – Over a month in any climate.
Normal packers – Two weeks away if dressing for the cold. A month if hot climate only.
Heavy Packers – A week away if dressing for the cold. Two weeks if hot climate only.
Check-In – 100+ Liters
Light Packers – You probably don’t need something this big, unless you’re going to Mars.
Normal packers – A month away in most climates.
Heavy Packers – Two weeks away if dressing for the cold. A month if hot climate only.
Hard shell or soft shell? This is a key question when talking about luggage and tacos alike. How well your bag will protect your gear and, in some case, how long your bag will last, greatly depends on the answer to this question. In terms of protecting your gear, if you travel with camera gear or electronics that you’re checking onto a plane (rather than carrying on), then hard shell luggage is likely the way to go. However, if you’re like most of us and normally take clothes, shoes and some toiletries, then a soft bag is probably better. They’re easier to stuff into the backs of cars, overhead compartments and more. They’re much easier to store at home, compressing down into a smaller spaces when empty. And, pound-for-pound are normally better value. Robust nylon material also often lasts a lot longer than cheaper plastic hard shell luggage that cracks and breaks easily.
In saying that, if you’re willing to pay more, then lightweight, metal luggage of high quality can last a long, long, long time and protect your gear at the same time. If you’re a super frequent traveler that takes fragile items often, then high-end hard shell is your best bet and will probably save you money in the long run. If you’re only traveling a few times a year and take mostly clothes, then go the softer version for greater flexibility at better pricing.
How easy a bag is to get around is a super key factor when choosing the right travel luggage. Wheels, handles and carry straps all help in this area (not to mention size). If you’re getting a bigger bag, then wheels are incredible to take the load off your back. If you’re going carry-on only, then a backpack is probably better in terms of being agile. Always look out for quality when it comes to wheels and telescopic handles, if going the former option. Because they have moving parts, cheaper luggage will often break here first. Another consideration is looking for nice chunky wheels that help glide over airport carpets, up gutters and bounce down stairs.
If you mostly travel in a car, it’s worth thinking about ditching wheels altogether and going the humble duffle bag. They fit into trunks better, can be thrown around easier and don’t add the weight that wheels can. If you’re just slinging that thing on your shoulder to go from the parking lot to your hotel room or cabin, it’s definitely worth that extra flexibility.
Extra pockets to sort items you want to get to quickly. Compartments that help you split clean from soiled clothes on the road. Compression straps that help you fit more into your bag. These are just a few extra features you’ll find in good luggage that makes your travels go that much smoother. Heck, even a smooth opening and closing zipper will take the edge off when trying to stuff that extra purchase from the market bazaar into your bag. Always look at the extra features of a bag before buying, since it might tip you over the edge between two different options.
The final (or maybe the first) thing to think about when choosing the best travel bag for you is whether there is any built-in security to protect your valuables. We’ve already mentioned durability against knocks for camera gear or tech, but there’s also opportunistic thieves. At the very least, it’s worth having zip pullers that easily lock together to deter theft. Even better are puncture-proof zippers that make it hard for people to open the bag with just a pen or knife. Plus, things like slash-proof material, or straps that can anchor the luggage to an immovable object, are also considerations. Think about where you’re going, what you’re taking, and how much security you’ll need to cover those valuables and you’ve got a good starting point.
If you’re wanting to pack a bit of extra peace of mind in your gear, then Pacsafe has anti-theft technology built into every bag. Head here to look at those anti-theft luggage options.
As always, Safe Travels and Happy Holidays.