Best in the air: travel in style with this premium checked luggage

Modern, functional and ready to withstand whatever your travels throw at them, these are some of the best checked bags around.

By Chris Ashton, May 5 2023
Best in the air: travel in style with this premium checked luggage

Travelling light with carry-on only can be a freeing experience, allowing you to focus on what’s actually necessary for the trip. But, when you're jetting off on extended travels or overseas, greater storage and flexibility are almost always needed.

Rather than wheeling out the same trusty checked luggage you’ve had for a decade, it’s worth considering an upgrade. Why? Because needs change, materials are continually fine tuned, and a well-designed case can save you both time and money.

With this in mind, the Executive Traveller team road-tested eight premium checked luggage options – rolling, packing and spinning in a real-life setting – to see which cases are up to the demands of rigorous travel.

 

Antler Clifton Large

Antler has a long-standing reputation for durability. For nearly 120 years, the brand’s kept up with the latest innovations, wheeling out cases which are stylish, easy to move and capable of withstanding any bumps or scrapes that come their way.

The architecturally-inspired design is sure to stand out at the carousel.
The architecturally-inspired design is sure to stand out at the carousel.

The sharply-priced Antler Clifton Large does all of the above, with a solid 121L capacity (this can be expanded out to 132L), twist-grip handle, and colour-fast design, meaning any inevitable scratches will remain the same colour as the outside shell.

Although lacking the bells and whistles (read: wash bags and compression boards) of its pricier rivals, naturally, the quality is still very good for its price bracket.

The Clifton range is available in nine colours.
The Clifton range is available in nine colours.

Having used Clifton for some time now, it’s a great case that does all you expect of it, and the low-friction wheels maintain their glide even when fully packed. The multiple zippered compartments also allow you to keep your belongings neat and tidy.

Weight: 5 kilograms
$399 from Antler.

Delsey St Tropez

There’s a good chance you’ve spotted a Delsey or two wheeling through airports or trains across Europe. The Parisian brand’s vintage-inspired cases are rather hard to miss, especially when they bring a welcome splash of colour amid the typical sea of black.

Pastel hues abound with the St Tropez range.
Pastel hues abound with the St Tropez range.

Stylish without being ‘look at me’ shouty and available in five colours, Desley’s expandable St Tropez gives you plenty of scope to fill its 110L capacity to the brim and still have confidence it’ll roll smoothly through airport terminals and hotel hallways.

The St Tropez has a featured exterior finish - not unlike pressed tin.
The St Tropez has a featured exterior finish - not unlike pressed tin.

Inside the sculpted scratch-resistant clamshell, Desley keeps it simple with a zippered mesh pocket and two small shoe pouches, a cavernous main recess with two straps to hold everything in place, and washable lining for a quick between-trips freshen up.

Weight: 4.8 kilograms
$1,050 from Delsey.

Paravel Aviator Grand

Sustainability is increasingly front of mind these days. US luggage brand Paravel gets this, which is why its chic cases are not only made from recycled materials but have their carbon footprint – from manufacturing through to shipping – offset as well.

Since 2016, Paravel’s turned over 5.5 million plastic bottles into canvas and nylon-look fabrics, as well as planted more than 300,000 trees, with a goal for a net zero impact on the planet in the near future.

You may have spotted the Aviator Grand featured on US TV series 'Succession'.
You may have spotted the Aviator Grand featured on US TV series 'Succession'.

Available in five colours (safari green is the most sought-after), the Aviator Grand is its flagship. It boasts a 77L capacity fitting enough clothes for a week or more, along with smooth spinner wheels, a brushed metal-like finish, and chic vegan leather trims.

Putting the Grand through its paces, features we appreciate most are its light weight, zippered pockets and compression board (squeezing clothes down to fit more in), plus the sturdy dual handle, which makes airport-weaving a breeze.

The case also comes with a matching laundry bag.
The case also comes with a matching laundry bag.

With a couple of short getaways now under its belt, it’s still looking good as new, though it will be interesting to see how the exterior holds up after a few extended trips.

Weight: 5.3 kilograms
$915 from Paravel.

Rimowa Essential Check-In Large

Cologne-based Rimowa is best known for its ‘Original’ collection of wheeled aluminium cases. They’re stylish, functional and built to last. The ‘Essentials’ range follows the same vibe, but swaps metal for lightweight polycarbonate shells. The result is a bag that’s more agile, yet super stable.

The grooved exterior is instantly recognisable as a Rimowa.
The grooved exterior is instantly recognisable as a Rimowa.

Available in nine gloss and matte finishes, it sports flexible dividers to keep your belongings in check, in addition to large wheels for easy rolling. It also has the sturdiest handle among the bags we’ve tested. The telescopic retraction is smooth as butter.

The interior is fairly simply, yet provides ample room for your belongings.
The interior is fairly simply, yet provides ample room for your belongings.

Add in a lifetime manufacturer’s guarantee covering all functional aspects of the case for the lifetime of the product and you have a case that not only ticks all the boxes but is bound to be a frequent companion at your side for many years to come.

Weight: 4.8 kilograms
$1,540 from Rimowa.

Samsonite Proxis

When you think of the best checked luggage, Samsonite is a brand name that almost always comes to mind. Its durable, clam shell Cosmolite range has long been a go-to for serious travellers, but there’s another model worth considering too: Proxis.

The Proxis' design is a cross between a supercar and Lost in Space.
The Proxis' design is a cross between a supercar and Lost in Space.

Composed of a multi-layered material dubbed ‘Roxkin’, the exterior shell bounces back into shape no matter what you (or the baggage handlers) might do to it. And it’s remarkably light, belying its 81cm size with a weight of just 3.5 kilograms.

Available in five metallic colours (silver, grey, blue, black or gold), the Proxis features a dual handle, smooth double wheels and two internal divider pads, with a solid 125L capacity.

Less is more with the Samsonite Proxis.
Less is more with the Samsonite Proxis.

As with almost all Samsonites, the lightweight design is a star feature, meaning you can pack more with less concern about breaching weight restrictions. Zippered pockets are limited, but the supplied divider pad does a good job of keeping belongings organised.

Weight: 3.5 kilograms
$699 from Samsonite.

Thule Chasm Wheeled Duffel Bag

A left field (but no less worthwhile) option is a wheeled duffel bag, like the Thule Chasm. Made with weather-resistant tarpaulin fabric and fitted with a hard-shell back panel, it’s a rugged, durable case that’s as right at home in the wilderness or urban jungle.

Thule Chasm is available in two colours: black and olivine.
Thule Chasm is available in two colours: black and olivine.

Sporting a roomy 110L capacity, the Chasm opens from the front and contains a deep main pocket, plus two small zipped internal pockets on the front flap. These are ideal for storing laundry or items you want close at hand.

When tightened, external compression straps help keep everything in place. Fragile items such as cameras would be better kept in a separate backpack, lest you open it up to find your shiny new toy has encountered some mid-travel knocks.

Mesh internal pockets help keep your belongings separate.
Mesh internal pockets help keep your belongings separate.

At 4.6 kilograms and featuring three grab handles, we found it to be light enough for regular handling. The oversize wheels can handle a bit of rough treatment too. While the two-wheel design may not be for everyone’s taste, those who don’t mind pulling a case behind them will be more than satisfied. 

Weight: 4.6 kilograms
$699.95 from Thule.

Tumi Alpha Bravo Extended Trip Expandable Case

Tumi is known for its distinctive collection of premium luggage. The sleek, rippled silhouette of the ‘19 Degree Aluminum’ range, for instance, never fails to turn heads. A downside of this particular case though is its weight: a hefty 7.6 kilograms for the checked version.

However, there are some excellent softside cases within its stable too, each made with the same level of quality and finesse as the 19 Degree but with a considerably lighter weight. Among them is the exceptional Alpha Bravo.

Made of recycled ballistic nylon, a material invented to protect WWII pilots from shrapnel, it’s incredibly tough. It’s also rather unusual for having split case entry: a duffel-style front lid and a central zipper, much like a regular hardside.

A 121L capacity means you can fit just about everything and the kitchen sink inside.
A 121L capacity means you can fit just about everything and the kitchen sink inside.

Inside is a suprisingly simple affair with a single divider and zippered pouch on the front flap, but if you want a case that’s durable and boasts great expandability, this is an excellent option.

Weight: 6.1 kilograms
$1,800 from Tumi.

Victorinox Crosslight Large

The Crosslight Large from Victorinox – makers of the Swiss Army Knife – is a particularly smart softside case. Not only does it look great, but it functions well too, with a roomy 106L capacity and several pockets to keep your belongings in check.

The expandability is limited, but adequate for a thick jacket or book.
The expandability is limited, but adequate for a thick jacket or book.

Aesthetically, it’s very sharp. The grey, red and black interior lining gives it a contemporary feel, while the subtle, striped decorative feature on the exterior front pocket is a nice touch.

On a recent trip, we found the Crosslight to be agile, sturdy and well made. Smooth-running wheels (also found on the fantastic Spectra 3.0 range) and a dual telescopic handle make it easy to manoeuvre, even when it’s fully packed.

The suitcase gives new life to over 45 recycled PET bottles.
The suitcase gives new life to over 45 recycled PET bottles.

The zippered expansion option doesn’t provide a huge amount of additional space, at just 3cms. But, it does allow you to fit just that little bit extra into the front pouch if required, like a thick jacket when you’re jetting off to a chilly destination.

Weight: 5.1kg
$839 from Victorinox.

Looking to update your trusty carry-on bag? Take a look at our road test of cabin luggage here.  

Pricing accurate at time of publishing.

American Airlines - AAdvantage

13 Jul 2015

Total posts 271

Personally i'm loving the bags from July

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Oct 2016

Total posts 156

My wife got the international size carry on with the built in power pack and I am pretty impressed

We were going to southern Italy, so ostentatious her LV roller would be asking for trouble

30 May 2014

Total posts 7

I'm surprised July is not in this list.

Australian made an incredibly popular, cabin crew swear by them

sid
sid

07 Jan 2011

Total posts 55

They are not Australian made. 

American Airlines - AAdvantage

13 Jul 2015

Total posts 271

Not sure why you deleted my original 'July bag' comment but you are right on the above:

Where is July luggage made? July cases are assembled in China. The assembled parts come from China, Germany, Japan, and Korea. Luggage and bags ship from Melbourne, Australia, and Los Angeles, USA.

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 668

I wont ever go back to zippered luggage. A full frame, lightweight hard side is my go to now.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

31 Jan 2016

Total posts 92

Firstly, I only use carry-on luggage, even for longer trips of 3-4 weeks.  Yes, you can manage, you just need to plan, but walking through Singapore with a heavy 'double' jacket in Nov-Jan does raise a few eyebrows.

My 'go-to' bag is a Samsonite hard case and has worn out several QF tags over the last 12 years and is starting to look like it has done some hard travel.  It was supplied after Qantas somehow trashed an 'unbreakable' hard case provided as a corporate gift from a supplier which really did live a tough life before it's departure....

My other well traveled bag is an RM Williams leather 'over nighter' which gets thrown into the back of the car or into the overhead bins on planes, still going strong after maybe 25 years.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Feb 2011

Total posts 13

I am surprised Briggs & Riley with their Lifetime guarantee and Compression system didn't make your list.


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