Lightweight luggage review

We had a strict 8 kg. European carry-on and 23 kg. checked bag limit for our recent cruise. My roll-on bag was 10 lbs. (4.5 kg) empty and a touch oversized for Europe. My 26″ Delsey “super lightweight” checked suitcase was 10.8 lbs. empty.

After doing about two hours of research online (articles in Forbes, for example, and reviews at Amazon), I made the following decisions…

Soft-sided expandable bags rather than hard-shell. If limited to the rolling bag as the single carry-on, it would be awkward to have to crack open the entire hard-shell bag somewhere on the plane to get to a small needed-in-flight item. Also, an expandable soft-sided bag with international dimensions (55 x 40 x 23 cm; a couple of inches smaller than the typical American road warrior roll-on bag) could be expanded for use domestically.

Two wheels rather than the four-wheel “spinner” designs. The two-wheel designs seem to have 10-15 percent more space than a bag with the same exterior dimensions and four wheels. Two wheels will work better over imperfect surfaces, but they will likely be more tiring through the airport. On the other hand, the 23 kg. bag won’t be going far and the 8 kg. bag won’t be very heavy.

After reading everything that seemed relevant, what popped out were the latest Maxlite 5 suitcases from Travelpro, the company that invented the modern suitcase (Condé Nast Traveler). These aren’t the most stylish bags, but why would it be better to have a bag that screams “steal me”? Travelpro makes some bags with superior organizational capabilities, but all of them are heavier than the Maxlite series. Durability for bags that are so light? Travelpro says “We are proud to introduce our new Built For A Lifetime Limited Warranty starting with the Maxlite® 5 collection which covers defects on major components such as wheels, zippers, extension handles and carry handles.” Maybe a heavier bag would be more durable, but why wear out one’s body lugging around a heavier bag rather than buying a new one every 5-10 years?

Specific choices:

These weigh 5.4 and 7.1 lbs., thus leaving 8.3 lbs. of additional capacity compared to my previous bags. Travelpro says that these are lighter than the previous generation Maxlite 4, e.g., about 0.5 lbs. for the carry-on. The cost of both bags together was $237.

How did they work during five flights, two hotels, etc.? Fantastic! It would be nice if they were a bit more compartmentalized, but the high payload to vehicle weight was awesome. They seem to be at least reasonably durable.

[Of course, after all of this work, when we finally did show up for the charter flights there was no verification of the dimensions, weight, or even quantity of bags. Quite a few passengers completely ignored the directives and checked two large bags (for a three-week cruise).]

5 thoughts on “Lightweight luggage review

  1. As a road warrior for decades, I’ve had good luck with TravelPro. Yes, you need to replace them after 100 trips, but they aren’t super expensive.

  2. The wheels on any price level of luggage break; usually the rubber “tire” part sheds. They are installed with riveted axles, usually. Every time I do the YouTube check on how to replace them, with in-line slate wheels, and every time I decide, “Drill out rivet? Nah. I’ll buy a new suitcase.” It’s best to consider them disposable. Buy something cheap at Target or Walmart. Nobody will steal it.

  3. as others noted, travel pro makes a good bag. you will gets many tens to small hundred(s) of trips and then it’s best to replace rather than repair. Several family members and friends have been very happy with their bags. I abandoned mine many years ago… I minimized my load which fit into a carry on size soft side backpack which is much easier to transport over cobblestones, stairs and dirt road. Some notes on minimalist travel in web link

  4. TravelPro check bag plus backpack carry-on for the win. Just the backpack for a couple of days on the road with a laptop.

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