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Let’s face it, there’s far too much bad luggage out there. Cheap duffels that fall apart before you leave the airport, suitcases that look good but can’t handle the slightest off-road adventure, backpacks that let in every passing drop of rain. The list of failures is endless.
When your trip takes you beyond the resort swimming pool, you want gear you can rely on–not just for one trip, but for years to come. From crushable, waterproof suitcases to inflatable backpacks, plus more-traditional luggage that’s been designed with lengthy travel in mind, we’ve come up with a shortlist of bags that won’t let you down.
Our Top Picks
When you’re traveling in really extreme conditions, you want your gear to have as much protection as it can get. How about a backpack that’s completely waterproof, inflatable to the point it floats, and keeps your valuables enclosed in a cushion of air?
The Capsula backpack (it’s also available as a laptop or camera bag) first appeared as a Kickstarter project. It can handle submersion for half an hour at one meter (3.3 feet) without allowing any water in, and has an external valve for inflation. With a bit of blowing, you can protect the contents and get the bags to float if they fall into the water.
The backpack has an external pocket for documents and other things you want to keep easily accessible (don’t worry, it’s still waterproof), plus an internal laptop sleeve, and optional six-piece modular storage capsules that stay in place with velcro.
There’s really nothing else like it on the market.
Briggs & Riley BRX Range
A respected name in luggage, Briggs & Riley has been around nearly 25 years. Its BRX “durable active luggage” range of duffels, backpacks, and two and four-wheeled suitcases, brings extra toughness without the weight penalty.
The handle on the suitcases is made from aircraft-grade aluminum, meaning its not going to warp and bend like cheaper models, and the exterior nylon and polyester materials are totally water-resistant.
Other useful features include the internal compression system that maximizes available space, the “Add-A-Bag” buckles for transporting multiple BRX bags as one, and the carry-on “Speedthru” pocket – a place to quickly stow wallet, keys and phone when going through security.
For a stylish piece of luggage that will hold up to the rigors of lengthy travel without using your entire weight allowance by itself, check out whichever BRX bag fits your style.
Eagle Creek Exploration Series
Eagle Creek makes a wide variety of travel gear, from suitcases to packing cubes, luggage tags to backpacks and more. The company’s “EC Exploration Series” is the rugged part of the range, with lightweight yet durable luggage that's backed by a lifetime warranty.
The lightweight suitcases come in two and four-wheel versions, with carry-on and various checked bag sizes, plus smaller versions designed for a weekend away.
With lockable, self-repairing zips, durable materials, and reinforcing at all the critical wear points, these bags last longer than many similarly-priced models.
Interior compression straps stop the contents from flying around when baggage handlers get a little carried away, and multiple grab points make it easier to maneuver the bags into place without putting stress on the retractable handle (or your back).
For a useful piece of luggage that will last for years without breaking the bank, you could do a lot worse than Eagle Creek’s Exploration Series.
Delsey Helium Range
Travel can throw all kinds of challenges at your luggage, but having a car fall on it would definitely be considered out of the ordinary even for the most adventurous traveler.
That's what happened to one of Delsey's Helium suitcases, however, during a destruction test a couple of years ago. After being dropped, attacked with a hammer, and stomped on by a 300+ pound man, it even managed to survive having a car fall on it from an overhead crane. Now that's one tough piece of luggage.
The Helium suitcases come in a range of colors and sizes, in both two and four-wheel varieties. They're tough, look good, and are reasonably-priced for the quality.
Pelican ProGear Elite
Pelican has been making nearly-indestructible luggage for over 40 years. If you need a case that can survive the absolute worst that travel (and baggage handlers) can throw at it, chances are you’ll end up looking at a Pelican at some point.
These suitcases are incredibly rugged, able to handle submersion in 3.3 feet of water for 30 minutes and being crushed with 1500 pounds of force. The latches, handles and TSA-approved lock are recessed to prevent damage, and overall, the cases just ooze strength and quality.
Available in “carry-on”, “weekender” and “vacationer” sizes, there are also “enhanced” versions of each that include a lid organizer, toiletry kit, shoe sack, and both laundry and garment bags.
Of course, protection like this comes at a cost, both to your wallet and your weight allowance. At between 10 and almost 20 pounds depending on size, you may need to rein in those overpacking tendencies to avoid trouble at check-in.