The key to picking the perfect checked luggage is to pick the right piece for your belongings that fits your travel style and needs. It can be daunting to pick from suitcases to gear bags that range from $300-$2000 per piece. Comparing price points versus features is challenging because manufacturers don’t seem very enthusiastic about submitting their products to side-by-side tests. We decided to perform a comparison test of four very different pieces of luggage in the checked luggage category to see how they pack, roll, lock, exit the car and hold your belongings when you check a bag. Bags were selected after viewing and discussions with retailers, Internet ratings and talking to travelers. With each bag, we packed them, zipped and closed them, jostled them, repeatedly lifted them in and out of the car, rolled them around the airport, went straight, made turns, parked them. Basically, everything luggage has to do on a trip. Here is a summary of each one and our comments after the test.

If you are going for a week or less, the Eaglecreek Tarmac 25 AWD is the optimal size conventional bag that is durable, extremely easy to grab, roll and navigate. Despite the 25-inch size, it holds a good deal more as it expands 15% when more stuff needs to go in. The polycarbonate shell is combined with their Bi-tech fabrics, so it’s a marriage of firmer side with soft side. Added features like a coat keeper and a piggy bag clip for securing another bag make this like a mid-sized SUV, tough on the outside, lots of comfort on the inside.

EC Tarmac AWD 25 with cargo net olive

Eaglecreek Tarmac AWD 25 with cargo net – olive

If you have to stuff it in and go, then a duffel bag sounds like the answer, but most don’t offer any protection or roll well. For recreational and compressible gear for your active vacation, the Pivotal Soft Case Gear Bag is the answer. The rigid frame and bottom protect more delicate items while clothes and other soft goods can be placed just about anywhere using the internal divider support system.  A bevy of straps and handles make this easy to get in and out of the vehicle. The award-winning Pivotal handle in combination with the longer length makes rolling the bag extremely easy. While there are only two wheels in the bag, there is a bumper system that enables the bag to sit easily upright.

Pivotal Soft Gear Bag - Charcoal/Orange

Pivotal Soft Gear Bag – Charcoal/Orange

Lojel has made a name in the lightweight, hard-sided market in Asia and Europe, and is gaining market share in the U.S. For the week or longer trip, the Lojel 29 inch Kozmos Magnesium, hard-sided spinner ensures nothing gets left behind with maximum protection. The construction sports an effective combination of advanced aluminum, mesh, and polycarbonate. The interior divider system separates items, a nice feature, as many hard sided pieces on the inside are one big cavern. The ingenious built-in lock & latch system simplifies security and is TSA approved. Match your personal style with aluminum, gold or black finish.

Kosmos 29 Angle

Lojel Kozmos 29 Angle Magnesium

Carrying work or heavy recreational items require a little extra protection. If you carry photography, fishing, snowshoe or other bigger gear, then the Pivotal Transport Case is like the Mac Truck of checked luggage. In 41 and 44-inch lengths, this is probably going to be a little extra coin for checking an oversize item, yet if your gear is worth it, you are probably paying this fee already. Besides the hard shell case, the extra tie-down nylon straps help secure the items outside, while the nifty moveable compartment dividers adjust to just about any configuration. The case comes with extra large rear wheels, which in combination with the Pivotal handle make navigation extremely easy for something this size.

Pivotal Transport Case

Pivotal Transport Case