Make suit­case shop­ping an open-and-shut case

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - BUSINESS -

While shop­ping for a new suit­case, you can quickly find your­self foggy about the things that mat­ter most. Con­sumer Re­ports re­searched the fea­tures that go into mak­ing a re­li­able and easy-to-use suit­case.

Choose a side

Though bags come in count­less shapes and sizes, lug­gage can gen­er­ally be di­vided into two ba­sic cat­e­gories: hard-sided and soft-sided. Con­sumer Re­ports notes that each has its ad­van­tages.

Some ad­van­tages of soft-sided bags: They are lighter and can also flex and com­press to more eas­ily fit into the snug spa­ces of the over­head bin in an air­plane.

To keep frag­ile items from be­ing crushed or your clothes from be­ing creased, noth­ing beats hard-sided, or hard-shell, suit­cases. They’re mak­ing a come-

back, thanks to new ma­te­ri­als that are rigid and light­weight. Another ad­van­tage is that you can’t over­stuff it to bulging. And, so as long as you buy the right size, it’ll fit in the lug­gage siz­ers at the gate.

De­ter­mine dura­bil­ity

How do you judge a bag’s

dura­bil­ity?

Zero in on zip­pers. Bernard Ma­jeau, di­rec­tor of prod­uct de­vel­op­ment at eBags, an on­line lug­gage re­tailer, says that most pieces of lug­gage come with a coil zip­per, which is usu­ally made of polyester and dif­fers from the metal tooth zip­per found on, say, a pair of jeans. The larger the zip­per, the stronger it is likely to be.

Hoist the han­dle. Han­dles take a lot of abuse

as bags are pulled up and down curbs and yanked mer­ci­lessly by bell­hops and air­line bag­gage work­ers. Make sure your han­dle is built to last: It should feel solid and sturdy, and not wig­gle or rat­tle as you pull.

Wade into the war­ranty. A life­time war­ranty for re­pair or re­place­ment is, of course, the best op­tion and a good in­di­ca­tion that the man­u­fac­turer stands behind a bag’s dura­bil­ity. But make sure to check for ex­clu­sions

and to read the fine print. Cer­tain man­u­fac­tur­ers will cover dam­age caused by an air­line, for in­stance; oth­ers won’t. And most won’t cover nor­mal wear and tear.

Deal with the wheels

When it comes to wheels, the first de­ci­sion you’ll need to make is whether you want two or four.

Four-wheeled suit­cases, also called spin­ner suit­cases, are more ver­sa­tile

and er­gonomic. You can eas­ily wheel a spin­ner at your side or in front of you, or pull it behind you with­out put­ting much stress on your back or shoul­ders. Spin­ners are a cinch to nav­i­gate down nar­row air­plane aisles and through other tight spa­ces. But Con­sumer Re­ports warns that you need to keep an eye on them: Be­cause a spin­ner doesn’t have sta­tion­ary legs, it can roll away when it’s placed on an in­cline.

A two-wheeler, on the other hand, rolls only for­ward and back­ward. It’s less er­gonomic be­cause you have to drag it behind you, which could ir­ri­tate your shoul­der, wrist or back. But a two-wheeler will stay put on an in­cline and might be eas­ier to fit into the over­head com­part­ment be­cause its wheels are slightly re­cessed.

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