You walk into a luggage department and look at a sea of luggage in front of you.

Flipping over a couple of tags you notice one piece is $70 and another of exactly the same size is $700 or more.

What’s the difference? You know there has to be something that justifies that extreme, but what exactly that may be puzzles you.

Here then are the basics that should be helpful for you when purchasing luggage.

With new fabrics being invented and introduced specifically for individual manufactures, there can be some shades of variance in the following explanation. Nevertheless, by following these guidelines, you will end up with the bags best suited for your kind of travel, and at the best value.



  1. Fabric

There are all kinds of new fabric blends coming out these days that can confuse experts, but for the most part they are still based to some degree on what I term the original three.

Cloth is the first fabric that some luggage is made from. Anyone who travels with public transportation will not want to even look at the cloth selection, if it actually exists in the luggage store you visit.



Some very expensive ‘movie star luggage’ will often be a woven cloth fabric. It looks exceptionally good, and can wear well enough if you have a valet to handle it carefully, but for the air traveller it is not a good choice.

Polyester and Polyester blends are perhaps the most common options found in luggage department sets.

Regardless of the material, for many years luggage manufacturers used the word Denier, to highlight the density of weave of the fabrics in their luggage lines.

This density, or denier, was always displayed on the sale tags.

You can still find that measurement on many of the bags but the manufacturers have chosen to not highlight that information since the demand for light luggage grew and material quality was depreciated.

The higher the Denier the better the luggage, and unfortunately the heavier the luggage will be as well.

Finding the right denier has been the challenge for manufacturers, who often use low Deniers for lead in pricing on luggage. These bags cannot be expected to last as long a time, but for the infrequent traveller it may suffice. Most people though stay away from the cheapest versions for good reason.


For me 600, 900, or even 1200 Denier will not hold up for the long run. The tipping point may be at 1200 if you are an infrequent traveller. It will hold up well, but be reasonable about life expectations.

Selecting 1500 or 1800 Denier will last you longer, and still be light enough for today’s limited weight restrictions. But when you lift them you will know the difference from the super light models.

Below I highlighted some of the polyester series worth considering. Click on the image for pricing and descriptions

The next most common fabric, and far away the best, is Ballistic Nylon.

This is a durable material which, when introduced, was demonstrated on television by shooting a bullet through it. Who knows, maybe that is how they came up with the term Ballistic?

A 1500 Denier Ballistic Nylon will be much better than a 1500 Polyester fabric, and not much heavier.

While almost always more expensive, look first at the Ballistic Nylon if you can afford it.

High density Ballistic Nylon, while much less dense than in the old days, is still the choice for the daily and weekly road warrior types, for whom weight is not as much as issue.

New lightweight ‘hardsides’ have come into vogue over the past number of years.

They are very good pieces of luggage, but the challenge is they really are not hard sides, and while light, they often have expansion restrictions.


Materials can be quite soft and pliable, and in fact breakable, not at all like the hard sides of previous eras.

Each manufacturer seems to be introducing lines where quality varies dramatically from manufacturer to manufacturer but they now have expansion options in hard side luggage as well.

Below I have highlighted some of the ballistic nylon fabric series that are worth looking at if you are in the buying mode at this time.

Click on image for price and product specifications.

  1. Construction

As important is the selection of fabric is the level of construction on a bag.

Today’s luggage makers are trying to keep a semblance of quality while reducing the weight that construction quality brings to the bag.

Many have removed almost everything from the frame, simply leaving a strong outer wire frame to hold the material.

Some of these wire frames are reasonably effective, while some are just garbage.

Even in the best of them, and there are some, we tell travellers to pack the bag near full all the time.

Ten bags and ten trips on top of a half full wire frame piece of luggage will eventually cause it to bow.

The best is a full honeycomb frame, as a complete three sided plasticized frame is called.

These frames at one time were the Primary reason luggage was sturdy and heavy.

Clever manufacturers like TravelPro, with their Max Lite series, have combined good construction with nylon to make a really excellent light weight durable product.

Here are some luggage series with good construction.

  1. Features

Usually the better quality the luggage, the more features that will be included ‘free’.

It can mean more pockets, suiters, or packing cubes, each one a welcome feature but still requiring manufacturing costs which need to be recovered one way or the other.

This is the short form overview of luggage. Check out some of the options and order the style that will suit your kind of travel the best.

Since hard sided luggage has become so popular here are some of this style I recommend. Again click on image to find price and descriptions.