With bags costing anywhere from $30 to $3,000, luggage can be a substantial investment. No matter how much you spend, you'll need your luggage to keep up with you—and your work schedule. There's no such thing as luggage for life, so buy to what your needs are and avoid paying for unnecessary frills.
There are four things you'll want to consider when shopping for a new piece of rolling luggage for business travel:
Every piece of rolling luggage has them, but how they are configured can vary widely. Generally, you’ll find luggage with one of the following wheel systems:
- Spinners - Luggage dubbed a spinner (or something similar), has a 4-wheel system of wheels that can rotate 360 degrees, making it easy to push, pull and otherwise navigate your luggage.
- Oversized Wheels - Luggage with this system usually has two oversized wheels, which can make getting up and over curbs easier. However, the extra weight can be a detriment, and the larger wheels may take away some packing capacity, depending on how they are attached to the case.
- Inline Skate Wheels - Made with small, smooth-rolling wheels, this type of system is pretty standard on most rolling luggage. Check for softer wheels, which will make for a quieter, smoother ride. Also, make sure the wheels are recessed, otherwise they can get knocked off when checking luggage.
They may not seem like something to pay attention to, but as handles (along with wheels) take the most abuse from travelers, the differences in handles are worth your consideration.
- Dual-Tubed or Single-Tubed Handles - On luggage, the handle is attached to either one or two posts from the luggage. This seems a small point, but if you like to rest or attach a laptop or briefcase to your rolling luggage, a dual-tubed system is what you need.
- Look for adjustable-height handles, which will make rolling (and pushing) your bag significantly easier.
- To test a piece of luggage, extend the handle and try to jiggle it left and right—the less wobbling the better, in terms of sturdiness and, therefore, longevity.
- Also consider some of the new ergonomic handles, or those with a soft grip, particularly if you are a serious road warrior.
The business traveler has a wide variety of materials to choose from when buying new luggage, but you will most likely choose from one of the following:
- Hardside - Offering the best protection for valuables, look for lighter-weight polycarbonate (usually clearly labeled as such), as this material takes much of the weight out of hardsides. Frameless, zippered hardsides offer sturdy, yet lightweight, protection. In general, hardsides tend to be more money and less versatile for the business traveler. With no give to them, there's no squeezing extra belongings into your case, and the interiors generally have few compartments as well as no exterior pockets.
- Ballistic Nylon - Much of the higher-end luggage is made in this material, which is a little heavier, but very durable. You'll notice the rugged weave, and that this material is less shiny than nylon (but still with a sheen). Having luggage made from the same material as what encases bulletproof vests is a bit of overkill for the average business traveler. However, if you check your bag frequently or are a very serious traveler, these bags may be worth the higher price.
- Nylon - Though not as durable as ballistic nylon, these bags are more than capable of handling your business travel. They tend to be very shiny which may be unappealing to some. Still not cheap, this type of bag looks good in bright, fashion colors (if that's your thing).
- Polyester - A large portion of luggage will fall into this category, which means there is a large quality range. To determine a bag's strength, look at the denier (similar to thread count) of the polyester, usually labeled on the luggage hang tag. Though you'll find bags with denier ranging from 600 denier all the way up to 3000 denier, the highest denier tends to be overkill (much like sheet thread counts). Nine times out of 10, the fabric will outlast the wheels and handles, making polyester bags a reliable, affordable choice.
Some additional features that will make business travel easier include:
- Suiter Systems - Tri-fold systems tend to take up more space than they are worth (and your clothes tend to wrinkle anyway), so look for a hanging suiter system (hanger clip) within the suitcase instead.
- Organization - Look for inside pockets to help separate your belongings, but beware of overkill—some organization merely takes away from packing space.
- Wetpacks - Look for clear plastic inserts for housing liquids, and make sure they are true wetpacks, which are plastic on both sides, for maximum protection of your belongings. Additionally, it's a bonus if your luggage includes a removable quart-sized wetpack in an accessible location to make getting through security easy.
This article was edited by David A. Kelly