The one thing that makes hauling gear all over the world easier? Wheels. If you have a 50-pound load and a train to catch, wheels could be the difference maker. And even if you’re not in a hurry, wheels are the difference between cruising and sweating.
When picking the right piece of luggage for a trip, there are many considerations: what you’ll be packing, if you’ll check your bag, what type of terrain you’ll be wheeling over, what your modes of transportation are, and what type of versatility you need. Here’s how to buy wheeled luggage that’s best for your needs.
Type of Wheeled Luggage
When choosing what type of wheeled luggage you need, think about what type of travel you’ll be doing (camping? hotels?), which activities you’ll be doing (beach? safari?), and what modes of transportation you’ll be taking (small planes, trains, buses, boats?).
This is the classic suitcase on wheels, and is often best for hotel-based travel, or travel in urban areas (though some models have pretty incredible handling on dirt).
World adventurers love these all-purpose bags. They’re lightweight, malleable for stuffing into cargo spaces, and it’s easy to cram them full of gear. But a large, packed duffel can be cumbersome, especially if you have to schlep it over long distances. Wheels make it easier; some wheeled duffels also have backpack straps, which add extra utility.
Get the convenience of a backpack with the mobility of wheels. If you encounter any stairs or unfriendly terrain simply stowe the handle and swing it onto your back. This type works best for those scenarios where you don’t need very much stuff as these bags are usually carry-on sized.
Two Wheels or Four?
Two-wheels are more common in adventure-travel luggage; you can pull the bag behind you or push it in front of you, and this set-up is better at handling rough roads like cobblestone and dirt. But urban travelers might prefer four wheels, since your luggage stays upright and can glide in any direction smoothly, and you can still tilt it for two-wheel functionality. (Just remember, if you leave four-wheeled luggage unattended, it will likely roll away). Two or four, make sure the wheels are high quality and not made of hard plastic, which is likely to break or crack if handled roughly.
Hard-Sided or Soft-Sided?
Before you decide, ask yourself what you’ll be carrying, where you’re going, and where you’ll store your luggage at home when it’s not in use. Hard-sided luggage is durable and more effective at protecting what’s inside. Soft-sided luggage—usually made of nylon fabric—can better squish into tight spaces and overhead bins, is easier to store at home, and is typically lighter weight. Make sure you choose high-denier fabrics as they’re more durable. Either way, make sure your luggage is made with water-resistant materials.