Contact

Luggage Review: Rimowa, my Favorite Lightweight Suitcase

best lightweight suitcase“I have no room for souvenirs!”

I can’t tell you how many people have told me that they would love to bring home souvenirs, but they have no room in their luggage. While lack of space might be an acceptable excuse for an around-the-world backpacker, it doesn’t really fly for the regular vacationer toting a full-size suitcase (plus a carry-on!) for a one-week holiday.

In this case, “I have no room for souvenirs” really means:

  • I am a terrible packer and bring all sorts of useless things I don’t need and/or
  • I’m over the checked-bag weight limit because I’m still using my ten-year-old, ballistic nylon suitcase

In future posts, we’ll be tackling the “terrible packer” problem by sharing packing lists and tips, but before we get to that, let’s look at the basics– your suitcase.

 The Lightweight Suitcase– the MVP of travel

Weight, durability, size, material, price– these are all the factors I consider when deciding on a new suitcase. I haven’t tried every brand out there, but I have tried several recommended brands, including Eagle Creek, Samsonite, Victornox and Globetrotter. Each of these bags met an untimely demise– most lost a wheel or two, but the $800 Globetrotter suitcase (handmade in England) suffered a punctured hole courtesy of the “priority treatment” we received while flying business class on Delta (and were never reimbursed for).

After these suitcases failed me, I hit the internet, read every flyertalk thread and online review out there, and plunked down the cash for a new suitcase. Three years (and many flights) later, I can report back that my chosen suitcase is still alive and well, and has been my best luggage investment yet. I present to you:

My review of the Rimowa Salsa Air suitcase

 Weight– the Rimowa Salsa Air comes in at just over 7 pounds.

best lightweight suitcase hardcase travel check bag luggageI googled something like “ultimate lightest possible suitcase ever” and every variation I could think of and finally narrowed my search to this Rimowa suitcase— which comes in at a full five pounds lighter than my last case. Whether I’m dragging my suitcase up the stairs of my brownstone or praying I come in under my baggage allowance, I have been pleasantly surprised at how much a difference a few pounds make

The Best Size for Checked Luggage

lightest suitcase hardcase travel check bag luggageWhile in an ideal world I would have suitcases in every size to match different length trips, I have neither the storage space nor the budget for more than one suitcase. So I opt for for a slightly larger suitcase (I recommend anywhere from 29-32 inches) because it will be large enough for longer trips, and still large enough for shorter trips (you don’t need to fill it for every trip). I’ve seen travelers who opt for smaller size (like 26 inches) just overload their carry-ons instead. I’d rather keep my carry-on (often just a tote bag) light and nimble and just have one main piece of luggage to deal with, so this size works well for me.

Suitcase Wheels– Two or Four?

Rimowa Salsa Air suitcase luggage navy

The Rimowa Salsa Air has 4 spinning wheels and glides like a dream.

After having both, I can’t imagine ever getting a suitcase with less than 4 wheels again. With four wheels, you can guide your suitcase through the airport with a tap of a finger, instead of shouldering a portion of the weight with a two-wheeler. The flat, stable top of the suitcase even lets me place my carry-on on top.

Material, Balance and Durability

Rimowa Salsa Air luggage navy suitcase

You might associate Rimowa with those gleaming, James Bond-esque aluminum suitcases– topping out at over a grand per bag. While those trademark suitcases may look fabulous, they are also very conspicuous and catnip for would-be luggage thieves.

Hard-sided suitcases versus Soft-sided suitcases

In recent years, hard-sided suitcases have become a lot more popular.  I was a slow convert, as years ago my prior hard-sided suitcase (a cheap Samsonite) ended up cracking while on a trip and needed to be heavily duct-taped to make it home. I also rationalized that a soft-sided suitcase could somehow hold more as they were expandable. And more is better, right?

But I’ve since learned that the problem with overstuffing a soft-sided suitcase is that inevitably the case will become heavier on one side than the other and make it more prone to tipping over— not something you want to happen as you’re rushing through a train station or airport. The hard case avoids these problems altogether.

DSC08995

With my prior track record of busted luggage, durability is a huge concern for me. I wasn’t sure whether to believe Rimowa‘s  advertising hype– that their luggage, made from an “indestructible” polycarbonate shell, was not only unbreakable but also flexible, able to return to its original shape even after being stomped on by baggage handlers. While I can’t really compare Rimowa to all other hard case brands, I can say that so far, so good– my case it scratched up (in that good, “I’m a real traveler” kind of way) but not a single ding or crack.

Clamshell opening versus top opening. The Rimowa Salsa Air opens like a book– this is both good and bad. Bad: I can’t put it on a luggage rack (though I could probably stretch it out over two). Good: it keeps my packing much easier and neater. I’ve come to prefer the clamshell opening, but this is a matter of personal preference.

Price– Somewhat Spendy but Worth it

Depending on the size, a Rimowa Salsa Air can run from $550-$600. More than a Samsonite for sure, but cheaper than other luxury luggage– including other Rimowas (the Salsa Air is the least expensive Rimowa line and IMO the best value). Rimowa is made in Germany and comes with a five-year warranty.

Want your own Rimowa suitcase? Please consider buying any of the Rimowa suitcases (or your preferred lightweight brand) via my Zappos link, and you’ll be supporting more souvenir posts! When I researched my own bag, I found that Rimowa is never discounted, so the best deal is to take advantage of Zappos’ free free shipping both ways.
Click here to browse Rimowa Luggage on Zappos
or check out the Rimowa Salsa Air – 29 Multiwheel (Navy) Pullman Luggage

Do you have a Rimowa suitcase? Or another suitcase you love that we should know about? Let us know in the comments below!

As always, I pay for my own stuff– including my Rimowa bag, so you can be assured that all opinions are my own. If you enjoyed my review, please consider using my links which are no cost to you but help with the maintenance of running this website. Thank you!

best womens boots comfortable travel tall riding

Want some tips on the best women’s travel shoes for navigating those cobblestones (tried and tested!)? Check out my other posts, Best Women’s Travel Shoes Winter Edition and Best Women’s Travel Shoes for Summer.

 

 

11 Responses to Luggage Review: Rimowa, my Favorite Lightweight Suitcase

  1. sueslaght 05/20/2014 at 10:23 pm #

    I really like the clam shell type myself. Although I own a different brand it is very similar to your specifications Kristin. 80% of the time we do carry on only, including our cycling trips to Europe but that is a discussion for another day. 🙂

    • Kristin Francis 05/21/2014 at 12:23 am #

      My mom is the same way– insists on a carry on mostly, even when luggage rules allow a checked bag. I find it baffling! How else am I going to load up on 12 pounds of grocery store souvenirs (yep I weighed them lol). I would love to read how you guys pack your bags for those cycling trips!

  2. Sharon 06/03/2014 at 6:52 pm #

    That looks great. We really need a new suitcase as we have been buying cheap crap that really isn’t up for the job especially as we tend to have them packed full (with baby stuff unfortunately, not souvenirs!).

    • Kristin Francis 06/04/2014 at 8:42 am #

      Thanks for stopping by! I waited a long time to splurge on it, but the trail of broken suitcases convinced me!

  3. SJ @ Chasing the Donkey 07/23/2014 at 5:46 pm #

    Perfect! I need a new suitcase after the wheels of my current one busted (due to overpacking I am sure) Thanks for the tip!!

  4. James 05/03/2015 at 3:00 am #

    I wish I could find a review of a Rimowa I saw last night that looks very attractive to my needs. It resembles an old fashioned steamer trunk (though smaller) in that the end-on dimension is square. I’m looking for a case that is proportioned to fit a full-face motorcycle helmet into it, along with all the riding gear, with enough room for padding/ protecting the helmet from aggressive baggage handlers, and this one looks perfect. Now if I can just get past that very steep price…

    • Kristin Francis 05/03/2015 at 9:56 am #

      James, I am intrigued- that sounds like an interesting shape. I waited quite a while because it seemed insane to pay that much for a suitcase when I was used to paying less– but I have no regrets on mine, still going strong!

    • Anonymous 07/27/2015 at 2:45 am #

      The longer “steamer trunk” style may have been the Sports Trunk available in the RIMOWA Salsa line as well as the Aluminum Topas Silver collection

  5. SJ 01/27/2016 at 9:27 am #

    Globetrotter Luggage. Good suitcases but terrible locks. They break after every trip and cost £80 and six weeks to repair. I spend half my life taking the suitcases back to the store. A terrible and recurring nightmare.

    • Kristin Francis 02/18/2016 at 9:16 pm #

      seriously overhyped!

    • mosaferint 10/11/2016 at 4:06 am #

      Sorry to hear your experience SJ. There are so many innovative luggage in the industry now, so maybe it’s about time to get one but make sure to read reviews first to avoid stress and frustration in the future. Your feedback for Globestrotter luggage is helpful for others.

Leave a Reply