We take a look at the recent history of lightweight luggage.
Lightweight luggage really took off around 15-20 years ago which coincided with the airlines tightening up on weight restrictions. Prior to this and for some time after, it was not uncommon to see a large suitcase weighing up to 10kg. At the time, more important to consumers were features so the suitcases of the day contained all manner of extras such as garment sleeves, coat hangers, toiletry bags, laundry bags, wetpacks, suitcase protectors and more. Of course, all these extras added to the weight so these days suitcases may offer one or 2 of these extras but gone are the days when the brands were trying to out do each other with all the extra stuff they could fit into their latest suitcase.
History of Lightweight Luggage
The reduction in weight from the heavy suitcases of the 90’s to today’s lightweight suitcases wasn’t as dramatic as you might think. Technology and materials had to be improved, particularly with hard suitcases. As recently as the early 2000’s manufacturers could even get away with calling a 6kg large suitcase “lightweight”
The biggest change for soft sided suitcases came in 2007 when Antler released their Size Zero range of suitcases, the large suitcase weighed in at 3.6kg, the lightest ever from a major luggage brand. Samsonite followed soon after with the launch of their B-Lite collection which was of a similar weight.
The weight of soft-sided suitcases has changed little since the advent of the Size Zero and B-Lite collection, however there were still big changes ahead with hard-shell suitcases. Manufacturers were aware that the materials used in hard suitcases needed improvement, traditional ABS and Polypropylene materials were heavy and were falling out of favour with consumers looking for lightweight luggage and the relatively new Polycarbonate materials were unreliable with a large amount of cracks. At first manufacturers concentrated on improving the quality of the polycarbonate material, this lead to a dramatically better product with far fewer cracks during transit leading increased consumer confidence in this new product, brands also used attractive guarantee’s on Polycarbonate suitcases, some offering to replace the suitcase with a new one should it become damaged. These Polycarbonate suitcases brought down the weight of a hard suitcase to around 4.5-5.0kg.
Modern Lightweight Luggage
Another breakthrough in hard suitcase came about in 2008 with the launch of the Samsonite Cosmolite, this used a new material called Curv which was made by using Polypropylene fibres and heating them to a high temperature. By using the Curv material Samsonite created an incredibly strong and light suitcase, cracks are unheard of and the weight for a large suitcase was reduced to just over 3kg. The Cosmolite went on to be Samsonite’s best selling suitcase with one being sold every 1.5mins by 2010. These days Samsonite has added the Firelite and Cubelite to the ranges using the Curv material.
One Thing to remember when purchasing lightweight luggage:
Ignore the hype. Brands will often put stickers or tags on their luggage declaring it “Lightweight”, “Super-Light”, “Ultra-Light”, “Feather-Light” or similar. Just ignore these as they don’t really mean anything.
Find out what the suitcase actually weighs by checking the product specs or by weighing it yourself if you aren’t buying a major brand as some lesser-known manufacturers have been known to put misleading weights on their specs.