“I love waiting for my suitcase to (hopefully) come out at the baggage carousel,” said no person ever. We get it: Checking luggage is cumbersome, potentially expensive and adds stress to a trip, but a checked bag can mean doing fewer laundry and dry cleaning runs on the road during an extra-long vacation or having space to bring a suit to an important business meeting.
With an exorbitant retail price of $949, the hellaciously expensive Briggs & Riley Extra Large Expandable Spinner suitcase costs nearly as much as an entry-level MacBook. After traveling with the suitcase on three flights, here’s what you need to know about the pricey suitcase so you can decide if it’s worth the splurge. (Note that TPG received a complimentary suitcase for test purposes.)
What you should look for in a checked suitcase
Earlier this year, I traveled for about a month in Singapore, London, New York and Washington, D.C. While I practically never willingly check a bag, this trip’s length and different climates put me in the market for a large suitcase. At the time, my criteria were simple: the largest reputable bag with the lowest price and weight.
I paid around $250 for the 32.75-inch Samsonite Theorym Large Spinner. My Samsonite bag has been reliable; most importantly, I could pack everything I wanted. However, I didn’t realize what features I was missing out on until I reviewed the Briggs & Riley suitcase, which is roughly four times the price of the Samsonite bag — but more on that later.
Here’s what to look for when purchasing a checked bag.
If you’re checking a bag, it better be worth it. That’s why I suggest looking for a bag with the most storage you can find. Start by filtering your searches for a bag that measures at least 30 inches in height. That immediately takes bags from manufacturers like Away off the table.
You should also shoot for a bag that’s at least 21 inches long. Many luggage manufacturers offer narrow duffle bags, which, while more convenient to carry, won’t offer the same expansive volume as a checked suitcase.
Lightweight yet durable
Big suitcases are heavy, even when they’re empty. When I checked my Samsonite and Briggs & Riley suitcases, they were routinely more than 50 pounds, the threshold of an overweight bag. That meant I needed to pay a $75 overweight checked bag fee on Southwest Airlines — ouch.
United Airlines is a bit more liberal with its overweight bags, as Premier members have a 70-pound (instead of the general 50-pound) checked bag weight limit. For example, Premier Silver members can check one bag that weighs up to 70 pounds for free, while Premier Gold members can check up to two bags weighing no more than 70 pounds for free.
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When comparing suitcases, check their empty weights. A light bag is important, but you shouldn’t have to sacrifice wheels with bumper protection and corner guards on the sides of your suitcase to bring the overall weight down.
Handles all around
Though it’s a feature on most checked bags, it’s not one to overlook. Those who are able will likely be using both hands to move their bags, especially for retrieval from the luggage carousel or fishing it out of an Uber’s trunk. That’s why you’ll want to get a grip on two handles, so having luggage handles on at least three sides of your bag is important.
A lifetime warranty
Given the high price of checked bags, you’ll want your purchase to be protected. I recommend buying a bag with a lifetime warranty when possible. But remember, almost all luggage requires online registration for the warranty to be activated.
Briggs & Riley features
I’ve grown to appreciate some of the features of the Briggs & Riley Extra Large Expandable Spinner suitcase.
Measuring 31 inches by 22 inches by 13.8 inches, this bag offers ample storage space.
Unlike any other suitcase I’ve seen, the retractable telescoping handle is located on the back of the suitcase, so it doesn’t collapse into the bag’s interior. That means the main storage compartment of the Briggs & Riley suitcase is completely flat, so you don’t have to navigate around the indentations where the handle would normally rest.
Additionally, the patent-pending CX expansion feature adds depth to the bag. With a simple click of a button on the top and bottom, the suitcase grows a few inches to help you pack in your garments. Once you close your suitcase, you can press inward to let it snap back into place; alternatively, the suitcase can remain extended.
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Unfortunately, all of these nifty storage features add weight. The bag weighs 15.6 pounds when empty, so it doesn’t take many clothes for the bag to exceed weight limits for non-overweight checked baggage (generally above 50 pounds).
The bag has two exterior compartments: One is a small pocket perfect for an Apple AirTag or extra face masks, while the other is a larger pocket ideal for storing bigger items. In my case, since I traveled with the suitcase to a warmer destination, I used the larger pocket for my jacket once I arrived and retrieved my bag.
Inside the main compartment, there’s a mesh garment strap to help stabilize your clothes. Given the size of the interior, if you don’t fill the suitcase, you’ll want to use this to prevent your clothes from moving around too much.
I also tried the tri-fold garment folder. This features a foam roll bar, which kept my pressed button-down shirt unwrinkled.
YKK self-repairing zippers
Despite never needing to test the YKK self-repairing zippers, I traveled with peace of mind knowing they were there.
Zippers can become misaligned if too much pressure from the interior or fabric blocks the tracks. (You’ve probably seen a broken zipper with an opening on both sides before.) To get around this issue, Briggs & Riley added special YKK zippers that can fix themselves should they ever deviate from their tracks. Simply pull the zipper over the protrusion to place it back on the track.
It’s built to perform
The four 360-degree double-spinner wheels felt right at home going through airports. There was a smooth, refined feel gliding the suitcase over floors, but when I had to roll the suitcase across some gravel, the wheels didn’t do a great job of cushioning the ride (think: your wrist shaking from side to side). Each wheel also offers a splash guard, which helps protect everything you have stored inside.
I also appreciated the sturdy top, bottom and left-side grab handles. They made maneuvering this behemoth of a bag easier.
The Briggs & Riley Extra Large Expandable Spinner suitcase is the creme de la creme of checked luggage. Still, I can’t get over the idea of spending almost $1,000 for one piece of luggage, even though it comes with a lifetime warranty.
The Samsonite Theorym Large Spinner is a great go-to checked suitcase for most people at a quarter of the price. It offers similar storage, though not quite as much as the Briggs & Riley option. However, it does fall short when it comes to providing high-tech features. You won’t find details like the CX click-style expansion system, self-repairing zippers or a tri-garment folder with this more affordable alternative.
If you have the money, frequently travel with clothes that need to stay pressed and treasure the Briggs & Riley badge (plus the upgraded features the brand provides), this bag could be worth adding to your holiday wishlist. You’ll find it sold on both Amazon and Nordstrom, among other websites.
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