You can’t go much further than Briggs & Riley and Tumi if you want a top-notch suitcase.
They both know how to make quality suitcases, find the best materials and fit their cases with some of the most innovative features around.
However, there are some big differences between their suitcases, and in this detailed review, I will show you exactly what those are, why they might matter, and how you can decide which is for you.
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When you are comparing these two suitcase manufacturers, you have to look at a few things in detail:
Each brand has three main sizes that usually suit most people’s needs:
If you are looking to invest in something for a big trip, you will want a carry-on and a large case. If you just want options, you can grab the mid and large cases (which is what I did – week trips, and long trips).
I use a backpack for carry-on in any case, but it depends on what you are planning when you arrive. Backpacks don’t work so well for business trips :> Or so my boss tells me!
Although all of the manufacturers claim their cases are “lightweight” be sure to check out our comparison table above to see if that is really true. In general, the soft cases are often heavier, as they have more material to protect you (outer material and frame).
Hardcases are very strong and durable, but soft cases are quite flexible/compressible so can actually handle travel a lot better, in the long run. Especially if it is a quality case. Just remember, that with a soft case you don’t have the protection around whatever you pack, so you have to remember to leave your Mom’s best china crockery or vases at home!
In terms of materials on soft cases, Ballistic Nylon is a better, more durable material.
Both these companies put a lot of money and research into all their materials, so no matter which way you go, you will have a top-notch product.
The devil is in the details though, with things like extra corner protection, recessed wheels (Tumi), and zippers designed to be replaced (Briggs & Riley).
Most suitcases have the same basic feature set, so it’s rarely a problem to pack and put your stuff on a plane. You will get:
Where things differ a little is in the following:
There are some price differences between the models, so be sure to shop around.
Just be aware that both these manufacturers are at the top end of the suitcase market, so no matter which model you choose, you are not going to find a bargain. That being said, the last model in this review, is way cheaper than some of the others. But it’s a hard case, so might not be for everyone.
Briggs and Riley are synonymous with high-end, great-quality luggage. And once you take a closer look at the features they offer, you will start to see why they have such a good name.
One of their most popular luggage lines is the Baseline.
It comes in two flavors, the Upright, and the Spinner. Both of which share many of the same impressive features (external telescopic handle for flat packing, internal variable expander, quality materials) but they also differ on a few things.
The Upright comes with just two wheels, whereas the Spinner has 4 dual-spinner wheels. The other difference is that the Upright has a trifold suiter built-in, so is great for business travelers or those who carry creasable clothes. For the rest of us, the Spinner is a better lighter choice.
The rest of the features are in both models of the Baseline, and they include:
All in all, the Briggs and Riley Baseline is a well-thought-out, quality luggage line for people who appreciate products that will last a very long time.
The flat bottom packing is something rarely seen (most have the handle come into the case – which is a pain) and the butterfly compression straps, which really help with packing and avoiding wrinkles, are also only on a few top-of-the-line pieces of luggage.
You also have the choice between the two-wheeler/suiter (Upright) or the Spinner (4-dual wheels) which probably suits more people.
The Transcend is another of Briggs and Riley’s popular cases, although perhaps not as well-beloved as the Baseline above.
Both these cases actually share most of their features, so in many ways, you can’t go wrong. The difference is mostly in the details and small features, with the Transcend actually having a couple the Baseline does not:
The rest of the features are in both the Baseline and Transcend:
The Transcend and the Baseline are very similar, but the Transcend comes with a suiter and spinner wheels. A combination of business travelers will love. Along with the speed thru orange pocket and other great B & R features (flat packing, variable expander), it is a suitcase you will enjoy for years to come.
Another high-end luggage manufacturer that is definitely worth checking out is Tumi.
And perhaps their most popular luggage line is the Alpha soft case. So, let’s take a look in detail, how it stacks up against the Briggs and Riley Baseline and Transcend.
The Tumi Alpha is a hybrid soft/hard case that has a whole bunch of features that makes this case stand out from the competition.
For example, it is a clamshell design, which makes for easy packing with two equal halves, instead of one deep section. Not everyone likes this, but for some, it is one of the key benefits of hard cases over soft. You can choose to pack more sensitive items like shirts on one side, or simply separate your more difficult (or dirty) items like shoes. And with the zippered upper compartment, it’s easy to secure it all for closing.
The Alpha is also extremely robust, with some of the best-protected corners I have seen, even more so than the Briggs and Riley, who does a great job too. They have also put feet on the side, in case you rest it there, saving the material from being ruined.
And lastly, the telescopic handle and spinners are protected too. The spinners are especially noteworthy as they are recessed about 50%, helping protect the most easily broken part of your case from luggage handling accidents.
Another notable feature of the Alpha is the integrated Tumi Tracer system. It’s a simple barcode on the bottom of the case which you can register online with your contact details. Then, if your case gets lots there is always a built-in tag and way to track you down, even if the airline tags or name tags have come off. With so many cases getting delayed, separated, or lost these days, it’s nice to have this reassurance from Tumi.
Aside from all these high-end features, Tumi also gives you:
This is perhaps one of Tumi’s best and simplest designs which will last you a long time and avoids all the frills of other suitcases, which give you tonnes of features you don’t need. The depth of thought into the design and robustness of the cases is also impressive, along with the built-in tracking, which is rare to find. Most people just have to buy a luggage tracker themselves.
There are a couple of things I find the Alpha is lacking. For example, it is not expandable, but there is an expandable version of the Alpha 2 which does. The wheels and handle intrude into the packing space, which is actually a common problem in most cases. But Briggs and Riley don’t have this issue, so if that is what you prefer, I would try them.
Dubbed Tumi’s lightest hardside luggage collection, the Vapor lite is one of Tumi’s cheaper luggage options, packed full of their favorite features.
Very similar to the Alpha above, this suitcase range has top-quality dual-spinner wheels, aircraft grade Aluminium 3-stop telescopic handle and a built-in TSA lock.
The interior is the classic hard case clamshell style, with two sides to help you separate your packing easily. The bottom has an elastic compression strap, while the top zippered compartment where you can store your more crease-able or delicate items.
More notable features include:
As with the Alpha model, the spinners are nicely recessed to help protect them from the fun they have inside the airport when NOT in your hands. Another great idea for making your case last longer.
The built-in tag and Tumi tracking system is always a plus, as is the TSA compatible lock to save you having to find yours and lose it when the TSA takes their cutters to it (after not being able to open it during inspection :>).
For me, this is one of the best value suitcases amongst the Tumi and Briggs and Riley options. Unless you absolutely have to have a softcase, this suitcase is a great buy. All the Tumi quality with lots of valuable features, without breaking the bank.
And it comes in a bunch of sizes too:
Tumi and Briggs & Riley make top-notch suitcases, so no matter which you choose, you can’t really go wrong.
However, there are some features you may (or may not) want in your suitcase, and that, along with price might just be the deciding factor.
To start with, the Tumi Vapor Lite is probably the simplest and lightest option, while still giving you enough of those Tumi features you will appreciate (Tumi recessed spinner wheels, Tracer System for tracking, TSA built-in lock, quality materials). It is also probably the cheapest of all those reviewed in this article.
Here are a few easy choices based on specific criteria:
Tumi does not feature the internal expander that the Briggs and Riley’s have, which to be honest is one of the best and easiest to use I have seen. Most cases just have a zipper (so either expanded or not).
Although Tumi do have a suiter option built into most of their cases, Briggs and Riley have this really well covered. The tri-fold suiter in the Transcend or the Baseline Upright is one of the best on the market. Especially given it is built-in to the case and can be adjusted (to a bi-fold) too.
Soft cases usually cope with the difficult life of a suitcase as it gets thrown around airports by baggage handlers. Because they tend to give a little, it makes all the difference. Hardcases can protect your more sensitive items better, but will not last as long. And with the rugged corner protection of the Tumi Alpha 2, with the Ballistic Nylon and sturdy frame, you know you will have a case that will last you at least a decade. The Briggs and Riley’s are also well protected, with great materials like the Ballistic Nylon on the Baseline series, but for me, Tumi seems to have a better product in this area. They also hide their wheels and telescopic handle better, but the trade-off in that area is the internal space in the case is lost.
Both the Briggs & Riley’s have nice zipper loops, but Tumi has the built-in TSA lock on the hardcase (a common feature on most modern hardcases) and the free TSA lock on the Alpha. They also have their own Tracer Tag system, which although it does not replace a GPS tracker, will give you peace of mind.
In the end, it all depends on what features are important to you when you travel, and how much money you want to spend on the case.
So, my advice: read over the features lists. Check the prices. Read the reviews of the one or two models you like the best. Then – pull the trigger.
There is no perfect case, but all 4 in this comparison are great top-end luggage choices.