Choosing the best lightweight luggage seldom means choosing the most expensive piece or the most expensive set. What you are going be carrying is one factor. If you are taking short trips and bringing with you mostly clothing, toiletries, and perhaps some reading material, you don’t need a large, hard-sided suitcase. A backpack or duffel bag may suffice.
If you travel a great deal by air, you will probably want at least one piece of carry-on luggage, both for your own convenience and to avoid baggage check fees. If your travels take you to air terminals where the distances between the entrance and the gates seem longer than they need to be, a wheeled piece of carry-on might be your best choice.
Use the table below to find that perfect lightweight luggage that meets your travel needs.
Are looks important? They may or may not be. If you are checking into a five-star hotel you might feel uncomfortable walking into the lobby carrying cardboard luggage secured with rope. On the other hand, you might care less.
If you’re a frequent traveler, you are apt to accumulate several pieces of luggage over time, and the luggage you choose to take along will usually depend on where you are going, what you plan to be doing there, and how long you’ll be away.
In any event, it is always convenient to have at least one-piece of lightweight luggage at your disposal; if every item in your collection fits that description, so much the better.
If you are in the market for an ultralight piece or set of luggage, you can expect to pay more. You might be tempted to think that saving of a few ounces to a pound or two would not be worth the extra cost, but if those few ounces or pounds help you avoid paying an overweight luggage fee on a flight, it may have paid for itself.
Hard sides, soft sides, or semi-soft sides?
Once upon a time, a piece of luggage with hard sides was relatively heavy. A large suitcase could easily weight between 15 and 20 pounds. Today, a reasonably large suitcase featuring hard sides will weight half that much, under 10 pounds at the most, and it will provide just as much protection to fragile items as did the behemoths of yesteryear.
If you’re not bringing along a collection of champagne glasses, you will find luggage with soft or semi-soft sides to be much more convenient. Semi-soft sides provide more protection than you might think and soft-sided pieces are much easier to store under an airplane seat, and they can double as armrests or footrests while you are waiting at the gate. If you opt for a softer piece, you have the option of a suitcase, a backpack, or duffel. Soft-sided luggage is usually a better choice when space is tight and is especially suitable for rail travel.
What special features are important?
Special features include items such as wheels, handles, carrying straps, extra compartments and the way the interior of a suitcase or pack is organized. There are many affordable pieces of luggage on the market that have all of the features just mentioned. A piece of wheeled, carry-on usually has a conventional handle in addition to the pull-along handle. The same piece can have a detachable shoulder strap, or if you open the zipper on the semi-soft back you’ll find a pair of straps that allow it you to carry it like a backpack. It’s a rare soft-sided or semi-soft sided piece of luggage that doesn’t have a few extra zippered compartments, both interior and exterior.
You can find backpacks, especially larger-sized ones that feature a set of wheels and a telescoping handle. Just be aware that larger backpacks can sometimes be too large to qualify as a carry-on or may require paying a fee, but since most backpacks feature soft sides you may be able to avoid paying a fee if you don’t stuff it completely full.
A nice combination to take with you is a wheeled carry-on suitcase together with a smaller, duffel-type bag for carrying your personal items, which could include a laptop or tablet. Most airlines allow you to take both with you on board instead of paying to have them checked. The larger item goes in the bin above your seat and you can keep the smaller one under your seat where it’s easy to access.
Items of Special Note
Several things are worth checking into before you make your purchase. If you’ve found a lightweight piece of luggage that’s the size you want and the style you want, or you’ve found a two- or three-piece set, you should take a closer look at which features are present, with these things in mind:
- External pockets on carry on bags and backpacks can be extremely convenient. If you are purchasing luggage that you will likely check in at the airport, it would be best to select pieces without external pockets unless you have some means of securing the zippers. Theft is one possibility, and another is having a zipper latch catch on something during baggage handling, which could result in a pocket opening.
- Look for retractable handles on luggage you plan to check in, as they are much less likely to be damaged during baggage handling. This would apply mainly to hard-sided pieces.
- Check to see what interior compartments are available. Most compartments are constructed of a mesh material that does not take up any room. Some luggage comes with packing systems that enable you to organize the contents to your heart’s content.
- If you intend to put a security lock on a piece of luggage, make certain it is a TSA-approved lock. If airport security decides to open luggage having locks that are not TSA approved, damage to the lock or to the suitcase could result (or you could be paged, and possibly miss your flight).
- An increasingly popular piece of lightweight luggage is the expandable bag. Expansion is normally accomplished by opening an extra zipper that runs along the length and width of the bag.
The number of features a piece of lightweight luggage can exhibit, and still be classified as being lightweight or even ultra-lightweight, can be surprising. The toughness and durability you will find in many of these products can be surprising as well. Lightweight should not be confused with flimsiness. A quality soft-sided suitcase can serve you well for many years, even if you’re a frequent flier. What you choose is up you. Your needs are not necessarily the same as the next person’s. Fortunately, the options are many when it comes to choosing lightweight luggage and with only a little expenditure in time and effort, you should be able to find exactly what you want at a price you can afford.