The Best Softside Luggage of 2022, Tested by T+L

The sophisticated SwissTech Executive Suitcase was our top pick for softside luggage.

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Briggs & Riley Baseline Spinner

Conor Ralph

Everyone's idea of the perfect luggage is different. While slick and crush-resistant hardside suitcases are having a moment, lots of folks still prefer the softside variety. It's often more affordable, less prone to scuffs and, in many cases, just as durable.

Of course, not all carriers are created equal. So, what makes a high-quality soft-shell model? If you ask us, it's about a spacious capacity, innovative organizational features, a sturdy exterior that stands up to heavy use, and a lightweight, maneuverable design.

Travel + Leisure tried almost 70 pieces of softside luggage, including carry-ons, checked suitcases, and duffles. We packed them with enough stuff to get through a four-day trip, lifted them overhead, whacked them with a baseball bat, and shoved them off a table to see how they'd perform in a real-life setting. (Get more details about our testing process below.)

Our favorite is the reasonably priced SwissTech Executive Suitcase. Backed by a 15-year warranty, this practical, smooth-rolling checked bag has a resilient exterior, a spacious interior, and an expandable capacity.

Here are all our top picks for the best softside luggage we tested:

Best Overall: SwissTech Executive 29-inch Softside Luggage

4.8
SwissTech Executive 29" 8-Wheel Softside Luggage, Black

Walmart

Our Ratings
  • Capacity
    5/5
  • Design
    4.5/5
  • Maneuverability
    5/5
  • Durability
    4.5/5
  • Value
    5/5

Why We Love It: The reasonably priced SwissTech Executive is spacious and expandable, with multifunctional pockets, smooth spinner wheels, an ergonomic handle, and a durable exterior.

What to Consider: There aren't many color options, and it doesn't have smart features.

Our top choice is the SwissTech Executive Upright Suitcase. Measuring 29 x 19 x 10.5 inches, it's on the larger side for checked luggage, and the expander adds another 2 inches to the depth. We were impressed by the spacious capacity and thoughtfully placed storage compartments. "It has some great pockets inside for organizing your items, as well as a small removable pouch," said one tester. We had no problem fitting everything on our list and feel like we could have packed lots more.

The exterior is a 1,680-denier textile. (Generally speaking, the higher the denier, the more durable the material.) Our testers said this suitcase seems sturdy and long-lasting. It held up after being pushed off a table and clobbered with a bat. We noticed only one small superficial mark, and the whole thing seems easy to wipe clean. We found the SwissTech Executive simple to maneuver, too. It has eight spinner wheels (technically four sets of casters) and a locking telescopic handle with an ergonomic grip. Our testers said it rolls smoothly over both hard flooring and carpet and even performed surprisingly well when we pulled it over gravel.

This suitcase is pretty standard-looking, and we wish it came in more colors. However, it did everything we'd want softside checked luggage to do, making it a great option for longer trips and international travel. Plus, the price is more than reasonable, and SwissTech backs it with a generous 15-year warranty.

Weight: 9.1 pounds | Dimensions: 29 x 19 x 10.5 inches | Expandable: Yes | Smart: No

SwissTech Executive 29" 8-Wheel Softside Luggage

Vicky Wasik

Best Carry-On: Travelpro Platinum Elite 21” Expandable Carry-on Spinner

4.8
Travelpro Platinum Elite 21in Expandable Carry-On Spinner

Travelpro

Our Ratings
  • Capacity
    4.5/5
  • Design
    4.8/5
  • Maneuverability
    5/5
  • Durability
    5/5
  • Value
    4.5/5

Why We Love It: This attractive, thoughtfully designed carry-on stood up to our durability tests and is a breeze to maneuver on its four spinner wheels.

What to Consider: You'll need to get your own powerbank for the USB charging port, and it's a little harder to pull on two wheels.

Our favorite softside carry-on is the Travelpro Platinum Elite. This expandable spinner suitcase has a premium fabric exterior with genuine leather piping and chrome hardware. It stood up surprisingly well to several bat swings — no scuffs or tears to speak of. Our testers could fit everything into the dual main compartments and pockets. But they had to use the expander, which adds 2 inches to the depth and could make it too big to qualify as carry-on luggage.

The Platinum Elite glides smoothly and turns effortlessly on four wheels, though pulling it on two wheels requires a little more gusto. This smart suitcase has a built-in USB port, allowing you to charge your devices anywhere using a portable powerbank (sold separately). It's not the most affordable option for this size, but considering the lifetime warranty, we think it's worth the investment.

Weight: 8.3 pounds | Dimensions: 23.5 x 14.5 x 9 inches | Expandable: Yes | Smart: Yes

Travelpro Platinum Elite Expandable Spinner

Conor Ralph

Best Checked: Travelpro Platinum Elite 29-inch Expandable Spinner

4.6
Travelpro Platinum Elite 29-inch Expandable Spinner

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Capacity
    5/5
  • Design
    4/5
  • Maneuverability
    4/5
  • Durability
    5/5
  • Value
    5/5

Why We Love It: This roomy, functional checked suitcase has a tip-resistant expander, a TSA-compliant lock, and reliable spinner wheels that work on various terrains.

What to Consider: It doesn't have any smart features and weighs 12 pounds when empty.

For checked baggage, we recommend the larger suitcase from Travelpro's Platinum Elite line. Describing it as "massive," our testers loved the spacious design, explaining that it has a generous capacity and "just the right amount of pockets." This sizable suitcase also has a tip-resistant expander function that adds another 2 inches of wiggle room, plus a TSA-compliant lock. Made of high-density nylon with a thermoplastic coating, it's designed to resist scratches and stains. Sure enough, it survived multiple bat beatings and shoves off a table with no scuffs or dents in sight.

The handle feels sturdy, and the spinner wheels roll well on hard flooring, carpet, and even gravel. But since it's so large and weighs 12 pounds when empty, it can be a little cumbersome. Though this suitcase is a bit of an investment, we think the price is fair — and it's backed by a lifetime warranty. It's a great option for overpackers, long trips, or college students heading home for breaks.

Weight: 12 pounds | Dimensions: 32.5 x 21 x 13.5 inches | Expandable: Yes | Smart: No

Travelpro Platinum Expandable Spinner

Vicky Wasik

Best Splurge: Tumi Alpha 3 Short Trip Expandable Packing Case

4.6
Tumi Alpha 3 Short Trip Expandable Packing Case

Tumi

Our Ratings
  • Capacity
    5/5
  • Design
    5/5
  • Maneuverability
    4.5/5
  • Durability
    5/5
  • Value
    3.5/5

Why We Love It: Made of ballistic nylon, this sturdy suitcase has an expandable main compartment, lots of pockets, a garment sleeve, a security zipper, and a TSA lock.

What to Consider: The price might be hard to justify, and it weighs 15.5 pounds when empty.

If you want the crème de la crème of softside luggage and don't mind paying the big bucks, consider the Tumi Short Trip Packing Case. It has plenty of space to pack for a long trip, and the expander adds another 2.5 inches. Our testers liked the many pockets, smooth zippers, and removable garment sleeve. There's also a user-friendly security zipper and a TSA lock for an added layer of protection.

This suitcase boasts protective bumper rails and a ballistic nylon exterior with a special coating for enhanced durability. Our testers noticed just a few scuffs from our bat tests — but no dents or scratches, and nothing that wouldn't wipe clean. One thing to note is that it's quite heavy (15.5 pounds when empty). The spinner wheels work as expected, but let's just say you'll be glad to have your hands free after dropping it at the checked luggage counter. Still, we think this is an excellent choice for frequent fliers and travelers who like to stay organized.

Weight: 15.5 pounds | Dimensions: 26 x 19 x 13 inches | Expandable: Yes | Smart: Yes

Tumi Alpha Short Trip Packing Case

Vicky Wasik

Best Lightweight: Lipault Plume Cabin Spinner

4.2
Lipault Plume Cabin Spinner

Lipault

Our Ratings
  • Capacity
    3.8/5
  • Design
    4/5
  • Maneuverability
    4/5
  • Durability
    5/5
  • Value
    4/5

Why We Love It: This wheeled duffle weighs just 5 pounds, rolls smoothly, and resists scuffs and scratches.

What to Consider: It doesn't expand, and the handle felt a little wobbly during our tests.

The Plume Cabin Spinner was a hit in the lab. This lightweight suitcase-duffle hybrid weighs only 5 pounds. Although it doesn't expand, we were able to fit all items on our packing list, except one of the two toiletry bags. It has a couple of flat exterior pockets, but you won't be able to put much in them other than a boarding pass or passport.

Our testers said the handle felt slightly wobbly, but the four double casters rolled smoothly on multiple surfaces. The Plume Cabin Spinner is made of coated nylon. Its smooth matte exterior seems like it'll be easy to wipe clean and showed no signs of damage after being hit with a baseball bat. All things considered, we think this wheeled upright duffle is a good choice for short getaways and frequent fliers.

Weight: 5 pounds | Dimensions: 21.5 x 14 x 8 inches | Expandable: No | Smart: No

Lipault Plume Cabin Spinner

Tamara Staples

Best Expandable: Briggs & Riley Baseline Medium Expandable Spinner

4.4
Briggs & Riley Baseline Medium Expandable Spinner

Briggs & Riley

Why We Love It: The Baseline Spinner has a clever expander function, lots of organizational features, an impact-resistant exterior, and a sophisticated appeal.

What to Consider: The price is steep, and it's over 13 pounds when empty.

If you need something that expands, the Briggs & Riley Baseline Spinner might be your best bet. Measuring 26 x 18 x 12 inches, one tester described this mid-size checked suitcase as "really roomy but not overly bulky." Thanks to strategically placed compartments and pockets, everything on our packing list fit comfortably with room to spare. There's even a garment sleeve that fits up to two suits. The clever expander adds substantially more depth with the press of two buttons, then compresses when you zip it closed.

The impact-resistant exterior withstood several bat hits and shoves off a table. We wouldn't worry about it getting dragged through a puddle or rained on either. Despite the "short and stocky" design, we found this softside suitcase easy to push, pull, and lift. The steep price might be hard to justify, but if you can swing it, the sophisticated Baseline Spinner is perfect for business trips, long weekends, extended hotel stays, and anyone who likes well-made luxury luggage with intuitive features.

Weight: 13.3 pounds | Dimensions: 26 x 18 x 12 inches | Expandable: Yes | Smart: No

Briggs & Riley Baseline Spinner

Tamara Staples

Best for Staying Organized: Samsonite Eco Advance Large Spinner

4.4
Samsonite Eco Advance Large Spinner

Samsonite

Why We Love It: The Eco Advance Spinner has many interior and exterior pockets, plus an expander that adds 3 inches to the depth.

What to Consider: This suitcase isn't the most modern-looking, and the exterior zippers can be finicky.

The Samsonite Eco Advance Spinner easily fit all items on our packing list. And if you go shopping while you're away, the expander will provide the extra room you need. Our testers raved about the organizational features, which include zippered sections, easy-access pockets, and compression straps to hold everything in place. The exterior zippers were a bit finicky, but otherwise, we loved the design.

This suitcase is sourced from recycled bottles, which are melted, spun into yarn, then woven into a durable textile. After throwing it off a counter and banging on it with a bat, it showed no signs of damage. It moved around without a fuss on multiple surfaces, even carpet and gravel, and the telescoping handle locks in place. It's not the most modern-looking option we tested and comes in limited colors. Still, we think this "near-perfect suitcase" is a great choice for type A travelers who like to stay organized.

Weight: 10.5 pounds | Dimensions: 30 x 19 x 13 inches | Expandable: Yes | Smart: No

Samsonite Eco Advance Large Spinner

Vicky Wasik

Best Wheeled Duffle: Briggs & Riley ZDX Upright Rolling Duffel Bag

4.7
Briggs & Riley ZDX Upright Rolling Duffel Bag

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Capacity
    5/5
  • Design
    4/5
  • Maneuverability
    5/5
  • Durability
    5/5
  • Value
    4.5/5

Why We Love It: This rugged yet refined carrier is exceptionally durable, with a spacious interior, gusseted pockets, and smooth-rolling wheels.

What to Consider: It only comes in a couple of colors and is expensive for a duffle.

Interested in a wheeled duffle? We're big fans of this rugged yet refined model from Briggs & Riley. The 800-denier ballistic nylon exterior promises to resist scratches, moisture damage, and premature wear and tear. Describing the fabric as "soft but super-strong," our testers said it took bat hits and table drops like a champ.

We loved the gusseted pockets, spacious interior, cross straps, internal divider, and smooth zippers. "I think it would fit at least 40 pounds, depending on what stuff you travel with," said one tester. This duffle moves like a dream, too, rolling effortlessly on hard floors, carpet, and gravel. Not only that, but the extendable handle, straps, and grab handles make pushing, pulling, and lifting a breeze. It's pricey for its category and only comes in a couple of colors, but the stuffable design is ideal for outdoor excursions, overseas trips, and anyone traveling with bulky or odd-shaped items.

Weight: 8.6 pounds | Dimensions: 27 x 15 x 15 inches | Expandable: Yes | Smart: No

Briggs & Riley ZDX Upright Duffle

Vicky Wasik

Other Softside Luggage We Liked

These bags did well on our tests but didn’t quite make our very top tier of recommendations.

Tumi Continental Dual Access 4 Wheeled Carry-On: This is a high-quality bag that rolls extremely well, but paying four figures for a carry-on is not the best option for most travelers.

Briggs & Riley ZDX 22” Domestic Carry-On Expandable Spinner: This softside is sturdy and spacious, but it felt just a little heavy and is on the pricier side.

Travelpro Maxlite 5 Softside Expandable Luggage, 29”: It’s spacious and durable, but we’d appreciate some more interior organizational features.

Samsonite Eco Advance Spinner

Vicky Wasik

Our Testing Process

The T+L team tried dozens of softside luggage options first-hand, performing various tests to evaluate the durability, maneuverability, capacity, and design. We filled them with enough clothes and personal hygiene products to get through a four-day trip (or longer for checked baggage) in moderate-to-cold weather. Our packing list included multiple pairs of pants, several shirts, underwear, socks, two pairs of shoes, two coats, and two toiletry bags.

Besides making sure everything fit, we wanted to see how well the luggage safeguarded the cargo. Our testers hit them with a baseball bat, then pushed them off a table. After assessing potential damage, we pushed and pulled them on different types of flooring and even hoisted them into a makeshift overhead bin. With weight, size, price, and organizational features taken into consideration, the softside models with the highest scores in all testing categories were chosen for this roundup.

Travelpro Maxlite 5

Jhett Thompson

Tips for Buying Softside Luggage

Look for organizational features

Even if you prefer a soft exterior, don't overlook the inside of your luggage. Beyond a spacious capacity, organizational features can make packing and accessing your belongings much easier. This may include dual main compartments, zippered mesh sections, dividers, a compression pad, cross straps, a shoe separator, a garment sleeve for formal wear, a padded laptop sleeve, various pockets, or a removable laundry bag.

Know what size you need

It's good to know what size you need when browsing softside luggage. Carry-ons are usually around 23 x 13 x 9 inches, whereas checked suitcases are more like 26 x 19 x 13 inches. Of course, there are smaller and larger options, and many have expanders that add another 2 or 3 inches to the depth. Be sure to check each airline’s specific requirements before travel. 

Don't overlook weight and maneuverability

A lightweight design is ideal. This will make it easier to lift into the overhead bin when carrying on, and if you check your bag, it'll help you stay within the weight limit. Additionally, suitcases with four wheels tend to be the easiest to maneuver. An extendable locking handle will also help when pushing and pulling a jam-packed spinner. Lastly, you'll be glad to have grab handles when hoisting your luggage overhead or lifting it into a car.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Is softside luggage as durable as hardside luggage?

    Softside luggage is the gold standard for many frequent fliers. And believe it or not, it can be just as resilient as its hardside counterpart. After testing almost 120 models of both materials in the lab, we can tell you a rigid shell doesn't always mean enhanced durability.


    A textile exterior can be trickier to clean, but it usually won't scuff as easily as thermoplastic. Also, many softside suitcases feature a protective coating that makes them easy to wipe down while resisting scratches and premature wear. In the end, the choice is really a matter of personal preference.

  • How do you clean softside luggage?

    Softside luggage can usually be cleaned with a mixture of mild soap and warm water. Dip a clean cloth into the solution and gently scrub the exterior. Then go over it with a clean, damp cloth and allow it to air-dry thoroughly.


    Some suitcases have removable, machine-washable linings. If not, you can wipe down the interior with the same soapy solution you used on the outside. A pre-moistened disinfectant wipe can work as well.

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

For this article, commerce writer Theresa Holland combed through our in-house testing insights, then pored over product manuals to craft a comprehensive list of today's best softside luggage.

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