Travel has become a regular part of many of our lives and to make the experience as smooth and enjoyable as possible we prefer luggage that is comfortable to carry, easy to manoeuvre, weather-resistant and hard-wearing.
This month's issue of Chalard Sue (Smart Buyer) magazine carries a report on the results of laboratory tests conducted on a wide array of suitcase brands by International Consumer Research & Testing, the international consumer organisation.
Two categories of luggage were put under the spotlight: soft-sided suitcases made from polyester; and hardshell models made from polypropylene (PP), polycarbonate (PC) and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS).
The study revealed that higher price tags do not necessarily guarantee a better quality product.
Furthermore, bigger isn't always better. Many large suitcases, both soft- and hard-sided, were found to have been fitted with regular-sized handles, trolley grips or wheels which do not cope well with heavy loads when travellers give in to the temptation _ as they often do _ to make full use of all the available space.
Each piece of luggage was tested on machines in the lab and also put through its paces in a variety of practical situations. The tests were designed to measure the durability of materials used, the structural strength of the suitcase and its handle, trolley grip and wheels.
To examine durability, each sample was compressed under a 100kg weight and then put on a conveyor belt to cover the equivalent of a 15km journey.
The exteriors of the soft-sided cases were scratched to test for hardness and both types were exposed to rainfall, in both vertical and horizontal positions, for 10 minutes to check how waterproof they were. In addition, the handles and trolley grips of the hardshell cases were tested for the presence of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), a family of substances which are potent atmospheric pollutants.
To analyse the practicality of both categories, testers packed each piece of luggage to its full capacity, dragged it over both level and uneven floor surfaces and carried it up and down staircases for a total distance of 3km.
The findings for both categories were as follows:
Only 14 out of the 20 samples tested received more than 60 points _ out of a possible 100.
Both two- and four-wheelers were tried out, with capacities ranging from 48.5 to 109 litres. The retail price of these products, based on currency-conversion rates at time of going to press, ranged from 1,460 to 10,900 baht.
Scores were based on performance in three categories: durability; practicality; and product quality. The better known and more expensive luggage brands received high scores in all categories, while cheaper suitcases tended to earn low scores for durability or product quality, or both.
The best soft-sided bag tested was the Delsey Xpert Lite 65cm which has a capacity of 57 litres. It received an overall score of 81 points; and five, 3.5 and four stars out of five for durability, practicality and product quality respectively. It costs in the region of 8,700 baht.
The second-best candidate was the Samsonite B-Lite (capacity: 67.5 litres). It scored 80 overall; getting 4.5, 3.5 and four stars in the individual categories. It is priced at 7,250 baht. Coming in third was the Samsonite Cordoba Duo (61.5 litres). It received an overall score of 78; and four stars in each category.
The remaining candidates with overall scores above 60 netted only average results in the individual categories; most receiving two or three stars for durability, with three or four stars awarded for practicality and product quality. The ranking was: Stratic Apollo II (67 points); TravelPro Trolley (66); Valigeria Roncato SPA Gate and Tchibo Trolley (both 65); Gladiator Source Mod 34 (64); Valigeria Roncato SPA RV Runner, Eminent Trolley Minsk, and Delsey Xpert Lite (63 each); Top Move, Visa/Delsey New PinUp, and Caminatta Birdie (61 each).
Interestingly, the Delsey Xpert Lite, which looks very similar to the top-scoring Delsey Xpert Lite 65cm, came in with an overall score of only 63 simply because it was judged to be poorly designed. It has a storage volume of 96 litres, but the testers reckoned that its wheels, handle and trolley grip would not be able to cope with the load if it was packed to its full capacity. Candidates that received an overall score of less than 60 were: the K-Classic Trolley; Titan GmbH L 7.0; Lancel Partance; Travelite Flair; Carrefour Valise Charriot Classique; Polo Pierre Riche; and Migros Eva Trolley Active. Star totals for these in the individual categories were not published by the magazine.
All 15 products tested were four-wheelers and they all received an overall score of more than 65 points. But the results for only 10 of these were published. These suitcases were generally stronger than the first group because of the materials used.
They were judged in four categories; durability; practicality; product quality; and environmental safety (PAH content in handles and trolley grips).
Almost all the candidates received five stars for being PAH-free, except for the Delsey Lite Gloss and the Samsonite Cubelite, which were given only three stars each, and the TravelOne Palma which netted a lone star in this category.
All hardshell cases tested had a capacity of between 47 and 68 litres, with prices ranging from 2,200 to 15,700 baht.
Best in this group was the Samsonite Aeris Comfort, with an overall score of 86 and five stars in all categories, except for practicality for which it only earned four stars. This model has a capacity of 54 litres and retails for 8,500 baht.
The Rimova Salsa Air came in second, with 81 points. It was given five stars for being environmentally friendly, and four stars in the other three categories. This suitcase can carry more stuff (60.5 litres), but costs more, too: 15,200 baht.
The Delsey Lite Gross and the Samsonite Cubelite tied for third place with an overall score of 78 points. The former (57-litre capacity; 7,500 baht) received five stars for durability, four for product quality, and three in the other two categories. The latter (65.5 litres; 15,700 baht) also netted only three stars in the chemical-free-handle stakes, but earned four in all the other categories.
Some of the other products tested and their overall scores were: the Epic Jetstream and Jump Dot-Drops Customized (both 77 points); TravelOne Palma (73); Samsonite Cosmolite (72); Manor Maddison (70); and the Beverly Hills Polo Club (68).
About the author
- Writer: Sirinya Wattanasukchai