Last Updated: September 21, 2022

12 Different Types Of Luggage 

Wondering just how many types of luggage exist and what they are? Then you’ve come to the right place because this guide to the different types of luggage explains them all!

What’s the difference between a softshell and a hardshell, what’s a rolling spinner, and what goes in a garment bag are just some of the questions answered in this detailed guide. We tried to cover all the most common types of luggage, what they’re best for, and who they’re best for, so you can easily see which luggage is best suited for you and your travel needs!

Hardside Luggage

Hardside Luggage

Hardside luggage is luggage with a hard outer shell. These are mostly suitcases, but there are other kinds of bags that can be made with hard components – backpacks, carry-on, duffels, etc.

Most hardside luggage is made from hard plastic, while some luxury options are manufactured from lightweight metals like aluminum and titanium. When it comes to plastic luggage, the most common materials used in the manufacturing of hardside luggage are ABS plastic, polycarbonate, and polypropylene.

Out of all these materials, polycarbonate is generally considered the best (and most expensive) option because it is very lightweight but extremely durable. ABS plastic is the cheapest material with decent durability, but it lacks the impact resistance of PC. Polypropylene is somewhere in the middle, both in terms of performance and pricing.

Hardside luggage is available in many shapes and sizes, from compact carry-ons to huge checked luggage. Even most cases designed to transport instruments or similar items can be categorized as hardside luggage.

Standard hardside suitcases usually have two packing compartments. They’re not always the best choice in terms of organizational features, but they are known for excellent durability. That’s why they’re the best option for checked luggage on airplanes, especially for frequent travelers.

Softside Luggage

Softshell Luggage

Softside luggage is luggage with a soft shell, usually manufactured from a fabric like nylon or polyester. These are by far the most common suitcases, and any basic suitcase that’s made from fabric is a piece of softside luggage.

This type of luggage is generally the most affordable option out there, especially the low-quality bags that are manufactured from cheap materials. This is most likely the no-name luggage you see on sale at local supermarkets – you know it’s not excellent quality, but it does the job for very little money.

However, not all softshell luggage is of low quality. There are plenty of premium brands that manufacture excellent softside luggage and that’s evident in their prices.

One of the main advantages softside luggage has over hardside luggage is the number of organizational features. These suitcases usually have one packing compartment with multiple internal and external pockets – features you don’t often get on hardside luggage. That’s why they’re a popular choice for carry-on luggage, especially for travelers who like to stay organized.

Carry On Luggage

Carry-On Luggage

Carry-on luggage can be any luggage that you can take inside an airplane cabin and store in the overhead compartment. The term usually refers to carry-on suitcases, but a carry-on can be anything – a backpack, a small duffel, or even just a very big tote bag.

The main characteristic of carry-on luggage is that it conforms to the carry-on restrictions of most airlines. Usually, this means that the suitcase is up to 21” tall with all the wheels and handles, but it’s worth noting that some airlines will make you go even smaller. In any case, if it fits into the sizing bin at the airport, then it’s a carry-on.

Rolling Spinner Luggage

Rolling Spinner Luggage

Rolling spinner luggage is a suitcase equipped with spinner wheels. These are wheels that are capable of turning 360° degrees so that you’re never again forced to drag a suitcase behind you.

Spinner wheels can be single or double – although double spinner wheels are more durable out of the two, they also tend to be pricier, plus they add extra weight to the luggage. Single-spinner wheels are lighter, but they’re slightly less durable and don’t perform as well on rougher terrain.

Over the years, spinner luggage has become a favorite among frequent travelers. Although there are some disadvantages to this type of luggage, the convenience of being able to just push your suitcase in front of you through the airport crowds is the main reason why these suitcases have become so popular.

Rolling luggage is available in a variety of different sizes, from carry-on to ultra-large checked bags. Also, this luggage can be made from either soft or hard materials.

Duffel Bag/ Weekender

Duffel Bag

Duffel bags are softshell luggage popular for travel. They are available in a variety of shapes and sizes, and they’re generally a popular option for travel by car or train. Duffels aren’t necessarily extremely popular for air travel because they’re rarely small enough to fit in the overhead compartment, but they can be used as checked luggage.

One thing to note about using duffels as checked baggage is that they don’t have the best impact resistance, so this isn’t recommended if you’re transporting fragile items in them. It’s not uncommon to see the contents of a duffel bag splayed all over the conveyor belts, so we wouldn’t recommend them for air travel.

The main advantage of a duffel bag is that its soft construction allows you to fit more items inside than in a suitcase of a similar size. Also, duffels usually have more pockets than suitcases – at least the high-quality duffel bags do.

You can get duffels in many different sizes, ranging from a small sporty duffel to a massive bag that can fit enough things for a month away for two people. How you’re going to carry such a large duffel bag is an entirely different story – they usually have two grab handles and a wide shoulder strap and they’re meant to be carried like crossbody bags.

Some duffels are equipped with backpack straps, which makes it much easier to carry them places. This is especially convenient on large-capacity duffels that quickly get very heavy, so keep that in mind.

Wheeled Duffel Bags

Wheeled Duffel Bag

A wheeled duffel bag is pretty much just a duffel bag with a wheelbase and a handle. Duffels are usually outfitted with in-like skate wheels, so you’ll have to tilt the bag to get the wheels rolling. This also means you need to drag the bag behind you so you will feel its weight.

Wheeled luggage is usually more convenient than luggage without wheels simply because it’s easier to move around with it. If you’re considering getting a large-capacity duffel, look for something with wheels if you’re worried about transporting a 50lb+ bag on your shoulder.

Wheeled duffels are usually heavier than standard duffel bags – all the components that are necessary to get the duffel rolling will add some weight to the bag, and that’s the main difference. Most wheeled duffel bags can be carried in multiple different ways, and the best rolling duffels will also have backpack straps and covers that are supposed to provide a barrier between the dirty duffel wheels and your jacket.

Another feature that wheeled duffels have often and regular duffels not so much are external compression straps. These allow you to cinch in the body of the bag so that everything inside stays put in transit. It’s convenient for transporting a half-empty bag, especially if you don’t want all the things inside to get jumbled when you straighten up that bag.

Garment Bags

Garment Bag

A garment bag is a type of suitcase that’s specifically made to transport delicate clothes. This luggage is a popular option if you have to transport a lot of clothes that can’t get wrinkled in transit, so dresses, suits, shirts, etc.

Garment bags are designed with sections and dividers that allow you to separate the items inside. They usually feature a wrinkle-free folding mechanism that ensures your clothes arrive at the destination in pristine condition. They’re commonly used by business travelers, and just in general people who travel with a lot of delicate clothing.

Travel Totes

Travel Tote

Travel totes are smaller bags for travel that can be your personal item on an airplane. They’re usually small enough to fit under airplane seats and the best travel totes will feature a variety of internal pockets for easy organization of all your travel necessities.

Some brands will even include a travel tote in their luggage collection, but a travel tote can be any tote bag that you think will work for you. It’s recommended to stick with totes that have zippered closure for travel, just because an open tote’s contents might spill all over the floor if you’re forced to store it under a seat.

Crossbody/Messenger Bag

Messenger Bag

Crossbody bags are often called courier bags or messenger bags, and they’re a popular option for a personal item on a plane. The main advantage of these bags is their wide design, which can easily fit laptops of any size, as well as files and folders.

If you need a bag that can hold your electronics and lots of papers, files, or magazines, this might just be the type of luggage you want. These bags usually have multiple compartments inside, as well as a variety of smaller pockets that allow you to keep all your necessities neatly organized. They make for good carry-on bags, but they’re not going to be a replacement for a suitcase or a backpack.

That’s because the design of a messenger bag is such that it’s really difficult to fit any clothes inside, so you can’t really use them to pack for a trip. But if you’re looking for great laptop bags that can also fit all your other in-flight necessities, these are certainly worth considering.

Wheeled Backpacks

Wheeled Backpack

Wheeled backpacks are a popular luggage option for people who prefer the organizational features of a backpack but the convenience of rolling luggage. A wheeled backpack normally features a back system so you can carry it like a normal backpack, but it also has wheels and a wheel handle.

Most wheeled backpacks have hideaway straps that you can store in a designated pocket so they don’t get caught under the wheels while you’re wheeling the backpack. The other features are generally what you would expect in a regular backpack – perhaps the key difference is that wheeled backpacks are a bit heavier and bulkier in general.

Most wheeled backpacks will have multiple compartments for easy organization while traveling and lots of smaller pockets. Some may open like a suitcase, while others will feature a standard backpack opening.

Backpack

Travel Backpack

Backpacks are extremely popular and have many different uses. Backpacks being used as luggage is nothing new, but it’s worth noting that nowadays you can find backpacks that were specifically designed for travel. Some have TSA-friendly laptop compartments so you can quickly pass through security checkpoints, while others open up like a suitcase to expose two separate packing compartments.

There are many different kinds of backpacks for travel, from small foldable packs that will fit in your pocket to massive, 80-liter bags for month-long backpacking adventures. The ideal backpacks for air travel are the ones that are carry-on-sized so that you can easily fit them in an airplane’s overhead compartment.

Travel backpacks usually have a capacity of 30-40 liters, which is about the same as you get from a carry-on suitcase. They will usually feature thick padded shoulder straps, a comfortable back system, and a grab handle at the top. The best backpacks for travel have multiple compartments with lots of smaller pockets everywhere so that you can organize all your in-flight necessities and keep them easily accessible.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that the best backpacks are usually available in gender-specific fits. Backpacks for women feature a smaller harness than backpacks for men, which fits the contours of a female body better for a more comfortable carrying experience.

Underseat Bag

Underseat Bag

An underseat bag is a small piece of luggage designed to fit under an airplane seat and it’s great for short trips. They can be made from soft or hard materials, and they may or may not feature wheels and handles. Underseat bags without wheels and handles have a bigger packing compartment than their wheeled counterparts, but they’re a bit trickier to carry.

Wheeled underseat bags are very popular because of their carrying convenience. You can usually just attach these to a larger suitcase so that you can easily move around with multiple pieces of luggage.

Most underseat bags have one roomy compartment and several smaller pockets. They’re good luggage options for modern professionals who are used to traveling for meetings and don’t stay long at any one destination. If you need to be somewhere and back home on the same day and you need something to hold your laptop, files, and a change of clothes, an underseat bag is a great option.

About the Author Anna Timbrook

Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.