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Cars & travel.

Updated: 30 Jun 2021

Luggage features to look out for

In this guide we explain some of the key features of hand luggage to look out for so you can buy with confidence.
Which?Editorial team
Choosing the best hand luggage 440359

If you haven’t bought hand luggage for a while then you may be surprised by the number of features current models have and the impact these can have on your suitcase's performance.

Need help in choosing the best suitcase? Our full hand luggage reviews - featuring big brands such as Samsonite, Antler and Tripp - reveal all.

Bumpers or skirt

Some suitcases have a protective bumper or ‘skirt’ at the rear base of the suitcase to protect it from damage when going up and down kerbs.

Expandable hand luggage

Expandable luggage allows you to unzip an additional compartment to increase the capacity of your luggage.

If you are flying to your destination, make sure that any expansion doesn’t exceed the airlines baggage allowances for size and weight.

Hand luggage handles

Adjustable trolley handles, located on the top of the luggage, are used to pull the suitcase along. Most hand luggage also has a top carry handle and some suitcases also have a side carry handle. Having both a top and side handle is preferable as it gives you options for lifting the case in different situations, such as up and down stairs, onto the airport baggage scales, or off the X-ray machine at airport security.

Luggage handles can vary in material and some may be padded for additional comfort.

To help you choose the best hand luggage, we assess the comfort of all suitcases handles. We also test to see how easy it is to carry the suitcase up and down stairs using the handles.

Internal fastenings

Internal fastenings inside the main compartment of your hand luggage are designed to secure the items of your suitcase and reduce clothes wrinkling. Fastenings are often elasticated and can vary by design.


Hand luggage can sometimes come with a padlock included. These padlocks can vary in quality so you may choose to upgrade yours if it’s not suitable.

If you are visiting the USA then you will need a TSA-approved padlock. These padlocks can only be opened using a universal master key by airport security staff reducing the potential risk of your padlock being cut open to access the suitcase.

Pockets and compartments

Some suitcases have extra pockets and compartments - handy for keeping some items of your luggage separate. Soft-sided suitcases often have an external pocket that can be useful for accessing items quickly.

Some external pockets can be prone to letting in rain, so before you put any important documents in these pockets, see the results of our water-resistance tests in our full hand luggage reviews.


Manufacturers make suitcases with two or four wheels. Four-wheeled cases are often referred to as spinner suitcases and tend to have small wheels.

Two-wheeled cases are often referred to as upright suitcases and tend to have larger wheels. The size of the suitcase wheels can vary by manufacturer and from suitcase to suitcase.

Rubber wheels tend to be quieter to pull than plastic ones. Our noise test will give you an idea of how loud or quiet the suitcase you are considering may be.


Our tests review each suitcase to see how easy the zips are to grip and how smoothly they operate.

Our durability tests make sure the suitcase zips won’t burst open, leaving your possessions sprawled across the floor or luggage carousel.