Lightweight is a popular word with luggage manufacturers these days, and with good reason. Airline checked bag fees are steep, so consumers are demanding lighter bags to ensure they don’t get charged.
The truth is, luggage is getting lighter these days. New plastic and nylon yarns are on average 35% lighter than materials used not even 4 years ago. And the use of molded polycarbonate plastic in both soft-shell bags ( as the frame) and hardside luggage (as the whole body) has been nothing short of revolutionary for lightening up luggage.
But, with almost every bag marketed as lightweight (or even ultra-lightweight), how are you supposed to know if the bag you’re considering is really on the lighter end of the scale?
If buying the lightest luggage is crucial for you:
- Rule of thumb for lightweight carry-on (22” or under): 10 lbs or less is the prevailing wisdom. My own opinion is that for a carry-on to be truly considered lightweight, it should weigh between 6-9 lbs. There are a growing number of fantastic options in that weight range today.
- Checking bags? Your luggage should weigh between 9-13 lbs. max. No need for a heavier bag, and because airlines usually start charging fees after 50 lbs, the lighter your empty bag, the more you can pack.
Other tips for buying lightweight luggage:
- Lightweight materials are what make the difference; look for frames made of polycarbonate plastic, and soft-sided luggage made with nylon (strongest, especially weaves like Cordura) or polyester.
- Hardside vs Soft Shell? As a rule, pretty much a dead-heat when it comes to weight. Once again, it’s the materials that make the difference with weight.
- Watch the bells & whistles – too many added features (lots of added interior pockets, additional zippers, 2-wheel vs 4-wheel, extra exterior handles, etc) will add up on the scale.
The bottom line is that you need to be clear about what is truly important to you. Weight is a big deal these days because of the restrictions and fees.
But so is a maneuvering through the airport with ease, enjoying the ease of organization that extra pockets can bring, and so on. It’s a trade-off that’s different for us all.
Just know that bags are getting lighter, and will thankfully, most likely continue to do so.