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Case Studies: Best Luggage

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Poorly chosen luggage is a case of hell on wheels, bookending any trip to paradise with a plodding haul through perdition. To pack the wrong suitcase is to find a trunk full of Cabernet and busted glass on the bumpy drive home from Napa; the wrong valise, a mess of business papers melted by a London rain. Whatever the weight of one’s cargo, luggage cannot be taken lightly.

We don’t take it lightly ourselves, so we thought it high time to write a comprehensive guidebook. Keeping our departures reader in mind, we have sifted through the finest wares of some 50 brands and rejected others that may be considered too mass—Rockland, Samsonite. Since a tool is true only to its particular trade, and since the trappings are true only to the particular traveler, we have curated collections according to the needs of four distinct types of jet-setters. The high-flying CEO gets the right stuff for his pitch across the pond, as does the brave-hearted adventurer for his burly idyll in the Andes. For each of our four globe-trotters, we have devised a set of what are, in our experience, the four packing essentials: a suitcase for the bulk of it, a carry-on for midflight, a garment bag (or its equivalent) for the finery and a weekend carryall for the dressings of a fleeting getaway.

In the course of our reporting, we have taken all our candidates out for test-drives and weighed the virtues of a material against its vices, noting the value of leather, aluminum, canvas and ballistic nylon. And we have done the same for form as we have for substance, considering the oversized against the compact, the wheeled against the stationary, the flimsy against the firm. We have studied our freight’s maneuverability on the teeming sidewalks of rush-hour Manhattan and documented the tenacity of zippers, handles and seams in moments of ripe overfullness. What follows is the payoff of all our fieldwork.

Pictured: Bottega Veneta Shadow Intrecciojet trolley, $3,150; bottegaveneta.com.

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