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After two years of travel restrictions, some people are starting to feel more at ease. And whether you’re going on a road trip or on your first international flight in a long time a reliable carry-on suitcase is a must-have.
We’ve evaluated hard-shell carry-ons before, but since we know there are a lot of soft-shell suitcase fans out there, we spent over two months evaluating 12 of the most popular soft-shell carry-on bags. To find out which bags are the best, we packed and unpacked each one, scraped them against the pavement, and even flung them down a flight of stairs. Only three bags stood out as the finest soft-shell carry-on luggage of 2022 after all of our testing.
The best soft-shell carry-on suitcase in general
The Delsey Paris Hyperglide came out as the finest overall suitcase, because to its good, consistent performance in practically all of our testing. It has exceptional durability, a smooth roll, and helpful organization. It’s a dependable bag that will accompany you on several flights and travels.
Soft-shell carry-on suitcase runner-up
If you need a TSA-approved lock for your soft-shell carry-on luggage, the Samsonite NuRoad performed similarly to the Delsey Paris Hyperglide with just a few flaws. It has a more adjustable handle, however, and is one of the most maneuverable bags we examined.
The best soft-shell carry-on bag for the money
The Goodhope Overnight Carry-On is the luggage for you if you want a less expensive bag that is lightweight and can contain everything you need. It isn’t the most robust bag, but at around $50, you won’t find a better option.
The Delsey Paris Hyperglide is the bag for you if you need a dependable soft-shell luggage that can accommodate everything you need and will endure for years. The Hyperglide consistently ranked as one of the finest luggage we tested, whether we were cramming it full of clothing, rolling it over Brooklyn streets, or rubbing it on pavement.
To begin with, the Delsey Paris Hyperglide was remarkably long-lasting. Only a few scratches remained from our drop test, which included kicking it down a flight of stairs. And, unlike a few other luggage we tried, when we scraped it on the pavement, it came out with just little discoloration – no tears or rips.
The Hyperglide was a joy to roll about on top of its sturdiness. Its wheels were large enough to roll over all but the worst cracks and spun smoothly. Because of its compact size, it’s simple to turn, so you won’t have any problem weaving through a packed airport. When it’s fully loaded, though, it has a propensity to topple over.
A simple X-shaped strap, a huge mesh zipped pocket, a toiletry bag on the inside, and two zippered large pockets on the outside round out the Hyperglide’s internal and exterior organizing features. It also only weighs 6.8 pounds, and it fit the full regular pack save for two pairs of shoes when we packed it with our test set of clothing and shoes. (Only two of the luggage we examined were large enough to contain everything.)
The handle on the Hyperglide wasn’t anything spectacular, but it didn’t seem flimsy or rattly like some others, and it wasn’t difficult to pull out or in even when the bag was completely full. It simply has two height options, but we found that they were enough whether we pushed it by our side or pulled it behind us. We appreciated the Hyperglide’s traditional and timeless appearance, despite the fact that it comes in just two colors: black and teal.
In every way, the Delsey Paris Hyperglide was an amazing carry-on luggage. It fulfills all of your bag’s requirements while also being durable enough to endure for years. The Hyperglide’s main flaw is its absence of a TSA-approved lock, but considering that it’ll be by your side the most of the time, we don’t believe it’s a major drawback. If a TSA-approved lock is a necessary for you, the Samsonite NuRoad, our runner-up, could be the best option.
The Samsonite NuRoad is a terrific soft-shell backpack to consider if you want a bag with comparable performance to the Delsey Paris Hyperglide plus the peace of mind that comes with a TSA-approved lock.
Throughout our testing, the Samsonite NuRoad was a strong candidate. It boasts a smooth roll, a comfortable handle with eight adjustable height settings — the most of any bag we tested — and, to top it off, it’s one of only three bags we examined that has a TSA-approved lock. (The Away Expandable Carry-On, which has been discontinued since we began testing, and the Tumi Alpha 3 Carry-On, which costs $850, are the other two.)
The Samsonite is practically on level with our overall winner in several aspects, except from the security of its cable lock. It was one of the nimblest bags we tested as we wheeled it around the block, and its wheels felt buttery smooth while only getting caught on large gaps.
It is 1 pound heavier than the Hyperglide, weighing 7.8 pounds, and regrettably, that additional pound does not equate to increased packing capacity. We had to leave away one pair of shoes, our toiletries bag, a towel, one flannel, and a winter jacket since the NuRoad struggled to fit everything in our usual pack.
Aside from packing capacity, the NuRoad falls short of our overall winner in terms of durability. While the Hyperglide only had minimal discolouration from rubbing it against the sidewalk, the NuRoad had fairly noticeable scrape marks at the end of the test. It didn’t shred any fabric and survived the drop test with little to no damage, but the NuRoad’s face material isn’t as durable as the Hyperglide’s.
The NuRoad comes in two basic colors (black and dark blue), has plenty of inside organization and outside pockets, and has a practical style that we like. The Samsonite NuRoad could be the bag for you if you’re looking for a soft-shell luggage with a TSA-approved lock but don’t mind sacrificing some toughness and packing capacity.
The Goodhope Overnight Carry-On is the bag you need if you don’t want to spend a lot of money on a suitcase and want something light and roomy. It won’t be an heirloom luggage that you hand down to your children, but it will get the job done and even folds flat for simple storage.
The Overnight Carry-On has just two wheels, which limits its agility, but it compensates with a large interior capacity. It was one of only two bags that fit our basic pack during our testing and fit the maximum quantity of clothing (the other being the American Tourister Sonic Spinner). Basic compression straps with a huge mesh zipped pocket on the inside, and two simple pockets on the exterior, make up the interior organization.
The handle on the Overnight Carry-On was a little shaky and uncomfortable to grasp, and the wheels were tiny and got trapped on more cracks than many of the other bags we tried. The entire sensation of rolling it about, on the other hand, was not awful enough to offset its other advantages.
While the Overnight Carry-On offers a surprising amount of advantages, its most significant flaw is its lack of durability. The cloth surrounding the zippers was ripped up very badly when we brushed it against the pavement. We don’t expect this bag to survive very long, but for $50, you can’t really ask for much more.
Our favorite feature of the Overnight Carry-On was its folding capability, despite the fact that it’s lightweight and holds a surprising number of items. Suitcases might be difficult to store, but this bag unzips and folds flat, allowing you to conveniently fit it below your bed or into your closet.
However, there was one major limitation with this suitcase: when we purchased it for testing, it didn’t come with a box. The shipping label was slapped onto one of the outside tags, and it came without any protection, making it vulnerable to damage during transit. Ours had a few minor bends and creases in the cloth, but nothing major. Even so, this, along with the absence of a guarantee (a two-year plan is available on Overstock), may be a turn-off for some.
If you’re searching for a low-cost luggage, the Goodhope Overnight Carry-On is the best we’ve seen. It has its drawbacks, but if you just need a carry-on for the odd vacation, you’ll be more than satisfied with this basic bag owing to its big, lightweight construction and folding capabilities.
Over the course of two months, we examined 12 suitcases to identify the finest soft-shell carry-on luggage available. To accomplish so, we put each suitcase through a series of tests that focused on its capacity for packing, durability, and rolling performance, among other things.
Durability, usability, and design and construction quality were the three areas in which we divided our testing. We performed several tests and investigated every feature of each luggage, from wheel size to guarantee, within each category.
The following is a list of all the tests we ran:
- We pushed each bag down a flight of stairs and examined for any scuffs, scratches, dents, or other damage to the wheels or shell, as well as any scuffs, scratches, dents, or other damage.
- Abrasion test: We rubbed each luggage five times facedown on the pavement outside our building. We looked for signs of wear and tear, such as discolouration, scratches, and tears, and noted any damage.
- Stain test: We poured black soda on each suitcase and observed whether it flowed off the material, soaked through, or left a stain.
- Handle durability: We shook each suitcase’s handle to evaluate how solid and stable it was. We looked to see whether it was difficult to get in or out, particularly when the vehicle was fully loaded.
- We used a tape measure to measure the inside space of each luggage.
- Unloaded weight: We used the same scale to weigh each unpacked bag.
- Capacity test: As a typical pack, we produced a set of clothing and accessories. We next filled each bag with that pack to see how much fit, noting what couldn’t fit and how tight it was.
- We wheeled each luggage around our building to see how simple it was to navigate, weave, and change directions. We also looked to see whether the bag was prone to tipping over or if it could stand on its own.
- We measured the size of the suitcase’s wheels and rolled it over various sized cracks and bumps to determine which ones the wheels would get caught on.
- Carrying experience: To test how comfortable each luggage was, we carried it up and down three flights of stairs using all accessible handles.
- Handle: We measured how many height adjustments each suitcase had and whether or not the adjustments were pleasant to pull.
- Zippers: We zipped and unzipped the bag many times, both when it was empty and when it was packed full, noting any snags or difficulty, as well as how it felt overall.
- Additional inner features: We tallied how many pockets, compression straps, and clothing bags there were on the inside.
- Additional outside organizing features: We tallied the number of compartments, expansion zippers, and TSA-approved locks on the outside of the bag.
- Locking capability: We looked for a lock on the bag and double-checked that it was TSA-approved.
Quality of design and construction
- Color and design options: For each luggage, we tallied the number of possible colors and designs.
- We graded each bag on its appearance and rated them from best to worst.
- Warranty: We looked at each suitcase’s warranty and graded them from best to worst.
Take The Expandable Carry-On With You (no longer available)
The soft-shell carry-on from Away was one of the finest we tested, and it was a strong contender for our top slot. It had a terrific compression mechanism, good maneuverability, and a surprising amount of durability. Unfortunately, the bag had been discontinued during our testing. If you’re still searching for an Away bag, the Away Carry-On hard-shell suitcase is our recommendation for both the best hard-shell carry-on and the best hard-shell checked luggage.
The Travelpro Maxlite 5 Expandable Carry-On Spinner ($137.22, originally $159.99; amazon.com) is a 21-inch expandable carry-on spinner by Travelpro.
If we had to choose another suitcase to suggest, the Travelpro Maxlite 5 would be at the top of our list. It lives up to its moniker, weighing just 5.4 pounds (the second-lightest bag we tested), and boasting super-comfortable side handles for carrying, as well as enough mobility and durability. However, it fell short of our other winners, owing to the telescoping handle being stuck when the bag was fully loaded and the lesser packing capacity. This bag might be the one for you if none of our other winners appeal to you.
Briggs & Riley International Carry-On Expandable Spinner ($459; briggsandriley.com)
We had a great time testing this luggage, and if we were to choose a luxury suitcase, it would be our choice. It isn’t outrageously priced, is really sturdy, and is one of the most maneuverable bags we tested. The telescoping handle, which is constructed on the exterior of the luggage, was its major flaw, making it one of the most wobbly we tested. Apart from that, we can’t think of many drawbacks to this bag. It’s fashionable, convenient to transport, holds a substantial number of clothing, and comes with a lifetime warranty.
This bag was a strong candidate, but its hefty price tag knocked it out in the end. It was one of the most costly bags we tested, at $450, and although it was great, we didn’t believe it was good enough to surpass the Delsey Paris Hyperglide and the Samsonite NuRoad for value. The Victorinox bag was quite robust, had a lot of interior organization, and fit almost everything into our regular pack. Although it only has two wheels, which limits its agility, if you’re searching for a more full-featured bag and have the additional cash, this bag won’t let you down.
The Travelpro Platinum Elite 21-Inch Expandable Carry-On Spinner ($263.96, originally $329.99; amazon.com) is a 21-inch expandable carry-on spinner by Travelpro.
This suitcase had a lot of potential, but the handle kept getting caught and was difficult to pull in and out when it was fully loaded. That was a deal breaker for a suitcase this pricey, especially when compared to the other bags we evaluated. Apart from that, the Travelpro Platinum Elite was very maneuverable and robust. It offers a lot of inside and exterior organizing choices, but it doesn’t fit as much as many of the other bags we examined.
This is one of the few alternatives we looked at that had a TSA-approved lock, and it was also the smoothest rolling bag we tested. It has excellent interior organization in addition to its flexibility; yet, it is so pricey that we cannot suggest it. If you’re considering purchasing this Tumi luggage, keep in mind that we were generally happy with it, but it did exhibit some damage from our abrasion test, and it was by far the heaviest one we tested, coming in at 11.6 pounds.
In our opinion, the Samsonite Bartlett is a poor choice for a suitcase. When we dropped it down the stairs, it acquired a minor ding in the frame, the Coke we spilt on it left a stain, and the handle was painfully fragile. If you’re searching for an inexpensive suitcase, we believe our budget selection would meet your needs.
This American Tourister luggage has small wheels that got trapped in almost every gap we attempted to move it over. Aside from its poor mobility, the beverage we spilt on it left a mark, and the handle was the loosest of all the luggage we tested.
In practically every area, the Overnight Carry-On surpassed this luggage, and it featured a telescoping handle that often became stuck. It also couldn’t stand up on its own when fully loaded, so if you’re looking for a low-cost option, we prefer our budget selection.
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