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Luggage buying guide: The 5 bags that will cover you for every trip

How do you choose the best luggage? Seasoned travellers will tell you that travel bags should be light but spacious, be stylish but also protect their contents, and be agile while also secure. Most bags offer a balance between these criteria.

Deciding which luggage to take on your trip is an important decision. The best bag for you depends on the length of your trip, what you plan to bring back from your destination, and how much you will move about with your bag, for example, on buses and trains.

Here are the 5 types of bags to get you through every trip imaginable.

Check-in bags and cabin bags

With so many different types and designs of luggage, how do you begin to choose one? With check-in luggage and cabin bags, the main difference is construction material.

Material – hard luggage or soft luggage

Hard shell (ABS or polycarbonate)

Hard shell luggage has become the most popular type of both check-in and cabin bags. The main advantage of a hard shell is obvious – a rigid case offers the best protection for its contents.

Another advantage is that the smooth surfaces of hard luggage make it easier to manoeuvre – they slide on and off luggage racks easily. Their fixed, box-like shape makes them easier to stack, too.

Travellers who check in expensive camera equipment, laptops or similar items should opt for hard case luggage. It is also the best option if you are planning to buy souvenirs, especially fragile decorative pieces or artwork.

Besides protecting from impact, a hard suitcase is the best defence against water and heat, too.

Our recommendation:

American Tourister Upland Spinner 79/29 TSA [Online exclusive] From S$119

Luggage - American Tourister Upland Spinner
Luggage - American Tourister Upland Spinner

This online exclusive at this incredibly low price is a steal from American Tourister, even for their entry-level Upland Series.

  • MaterialHS Polypropylene

  • Size79.0 x 54.0 x 34.0cm

  • Weight3.9kg

  • WarrantyLimited 3 years international warranty

You get a security zipper, TSA lock and a scratch resistant dual texture finish. They have also added a new feature: a hidden pocket under the hinged fabric.

Soft case (Nylon and/or polyester)

Despite the massive surge in popularity of hard case luggage, soft case luggage is proving itself a reliable alternative. Perhaps the biggest advantage is that it is the lighter alternative. That feature can be especially helpful if you are trying to avoid excess baggage fees.

It is easier to store and stow softer luggage, too. This can be helpful when you are trying to fit all your bags in a car boot or putting them away at home. With its less rigid structure, soft case luggage won’t get ugly dents in transit. These dents eventually become cracks, compromising the entire bag.

Many travellers love that soft case luggage is more affordable than its harder alternative.

Our recommendation:

Hush Puppies Double Wheel Expandable Soft-Case Spinner From S$121

Luggage - Hush Puppies Double Wheel Expandable Soft Case Spinner
Luggage - Hush Puppies Double Wheel Expandable Soft Case Spinner

This expandable trolley bag from Swiss Army is available in 19″, 24″ and 28″ versions. With 4 sets of double wheels, it cushions contents from impact and also negotiates minor bumps and uneven surfaces with ease.

  • Material: Polyester

  • Size: 55.0 x 38.0 x 20.0cm

  • Weight: 2.4kg

The smallest version weighs just 2.4kg so you can make the most of your baggage allowance. All 3 also have 2 zippered compartments on the outside to conveniently store and retrieve objects.

Other things to consider

  • Appearance – Hard case luggage looks more modern and stylish. However, it attracts scratches and dents, which can be very obvious.

  • Security – All other things being equal, a hard case bag is almost always more secure than a fabric bag.

  • Care – Fabric makes for a lighter bag but also attracts more dirt and is harder to wash and dry than a hard-case bag.

Other bags

There are 3 other main types of bags – backpacks, overnighters and duffel bags.

Backpack

The ubiquitous backpack is the most common type of personal luggage, particularly among men. Made for mobility, they are designed for carrying your essentials – particularly electronics – into the cabin.

A good backpack should have these features:

  • Size – The right size for your laptop or tablet

  • Expandable – Small size but can expand to fit more when needed

  • Compartments – Separate compartments for different accessories/types of accessories

  • Padding – Both for the straps for comfort and all around to protect the contents

  • Security – Hidden zippers or compartments that can only be accessed after the bag is taken off

  • Weather resistance – Waterproof backpacks or those with effective rain covers are useful

  • Cable slots – These allow you to charge your device from a powerbank inside the bag

  • Straps – Chest straps and hip belts prevent the bag from moving about too much

Our recommendation:

KAKA 50L Waterproof Travel Backpack From S$36.50

Luggage - KAKA 50L Waterproof Travel Backpack
Luggage - KAKA 50L Waterproof Travel Backpack

Made of waterproof polyester, this large backpack is ideal for protecting electronic equipment, including laptops as large as 17.3″. Just turn it to one side and use the convenient handles to carry it as a suitcase instead. Attach a sling and it becomes a handbag.

  • Material: Polyester

  • Size: 60.0 x 35.0 x 22.0cm

  • Weight: 2.1kg

Anti-theft features such as the compartment hidden in the waist belt make this a convenient and practical option, no matter where you are travelling.

Overnighter

Appearance-wise, overnighters may be described as backpacks on wheels or as half-sized cabin bags. Their name describes them perfectly – they are ideal for short trips.

In a way, overnighters are status symbol bags. Despite their smaller size, overnighters (sometimes called wheeled laptop bags or compact briefs) usually cost as much as or more than the biggest luggage bags from the same brand and collection.

In choosing the best overnighter bag, you should look for the same features as you would in a backpack and cabin bag. Also, consider these:

  • Resizable compartments – Create sub-sections, usually with the help of Velcro partitions

  • Internal straps – Keep contents in order, especially when the bag is not full

  • Large wheels – Allow you to conquer small obstacles and even steps with ease

Our recommendation:

Hanke 18 Inch Spinner H80002 From S$220

Luggage - Hanke 18 Inch Spinner H80002
Luggage - Hanke 18 Inch Spinner H80002

Chic enough for a lady and rugged enough for the gentleman, this stylish overnighter is the perfect companion for a short business trip. The shell is 1.3mm thick, almost double that of ordinary bags. Inside, stay organised with separate laptop and notes compartments, as well as dividers.

  • Material: Polycarbonate

  • Size: 46.0 x 38.5 x 22.3cm

  • Weight: 3.6kg

  • Warranty: 3 years International Manufacturer Warranty

Integrated into the wheel structure are telescopic struts that cushion the bumps and humps from the airport to the hotel and beyond. Not only does this make for a smooth journey but a silent one, too.

Duffel bag

Most of us know duffel bags from NS time, either our own or a family member’s. Those simple but tough olive green kit bags could take a lot of punishment! They are very convenient for packing all your clothes at the end of a trip as they are spacious but do not offer much impact protection.

The modern travel duffel bag retains the roughly cylindrical or boxlike shape but adds some basic features to make it more user-friendly:

  • Material – Tough fabrics such as ripstop nylon offer good security

  • Sling – A padded sling makes it easy and comfortable to carry about

  • Wheels – A new addition to spare you carrying a heavy duffel about

  • Convertible – Backpack-like straps so you can free your hands

  • Pockets – Zipped pockets on the outside or inside to organise small objects

Choose a duffel bag if you want a lightweight but tough, no-frills travel buddy that can fit almost anything. Some also include water resistance for added functionality.

Our recommendation:

Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler Wheeled Duffel 130L From S$379 (as low as S$279 on offer)

Luggage - Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler Wheeled Duffel 130L horizontal
Luggage - Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler Wheeled Duffel 130L horizontal

Water repellent and reinforced, this is the all-weather duffel bag you always wanted. There are side grab handles, padded top handles and removable backpack straps for versatility. 6 lash points allow you to strap this tough cookie to your vehicle.

  • Material: TPU 600D Poly & 1000D Helix Poly Twill

  • Size: 84.0 x 38.0 x 35.0cm

  • Weight: 2.0kg

A U-shaped zipper opening opens to the main compartment and the zippers are designed for easy opening, even for gloved hands. reflective strips help keep you visible at night. It conveniently folds into a carry case for easy storage.

Other things to consider

  • Cost – Don’t just go for the best luggage brand you can afford or choose the cheapest option to be economical. Brand names are generally indicative of quality but they can sometimes lack practical features found in cheaper bags.

Features

  • Free-swivelling wheels – Wheels with well-lubricated bearings that turn at the gentlest touch minimise the effort required to move your bag.

  • Double coil zip – This is a security feature that tells you immediately if your zip has been pried apart because it cannot be resealed.

  • Rigid handles – Especially with telescopic handles, rigidity gives you good control of your bag when you wheel it.

  • Zip position – Most bags have the zip halfway between the top and bottom (when the bag is resting on its side). Others have it near the top edge so the bag opens like a regular box.

 

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