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CALPAK vs. Samsonite: Which is Best in 2024?


It would be hard for two luggage brands to be more different than CALPAK and Samsonite. They have very different designs and approaches to building luggage, so to choose between them, you need to decide what your priorities are.

CALPAK is known for its striking designs and clean aesthetic. These suitcases aren’t just about carrying your stuff, they’re meant to make a statement.

On the other hand, Samsonite luggage may not be as trendy as CALPAK, but it’s reliable (and you can find it everywhere). Samsonite has been around for over a century, and they’re the most well-known brand in the business. They sell a massive range of luggage, especially compared to CALPAK’s limited offering.

Our team has tested over 150 suitcases over the past 15 years, and I’ve put both CALPAK and Samsonite to the test on my own travels. It’s easy to read product pages and marketing info, but much harder to evaluate how a suitcase works in the real world.

I’ll delve into the CALPAK vs. Samsonite debate, covering everything from the quality of materials to key design features. I’ll share insights from using luggage from both brands on trips around the globe. I aim to help you make an informed decision that suits your travel style and needs.

CALPAK Luggage Overview

CALPAK Brand Overview

Founded in 1989 by Edward and Judy Kwon, CALPAK began as a modest enterprise offering handbags and wallets. Over the years CALPAK grew into a popular luggage brand known for its style and practicality.

I’ve always been drawn to CALPAK for its vibrant, Instagram-worthy designs that really stand out. If you like luggage from on-trend brands like Away, Monos, July, or Beis, you’ll also like CALPAK. It’s clear they’re catering to a younger, trendier crowd.

The brand blends sleek design with streamlined functionality, perfect if you’re an adventurous traveler who likes to look good while you’re on the go. Yes, CALPAK is stylish and trendy, but their suitcases are also well-designed and well-built.

CALPAK Materials & Quality

CALPAK uses 100% polycarbonate for their hardshell suitcases—just like pricier brands like Monos and Away. If you’ve been eyeing these uber-trendy suitcases, but can’t quite justify the spend, CALPAK may be a great option for you.

Despite its more accessible price point, CALPAK doesn’t skimp on durability. You won’t get quite the same longevity as top-tier brands, but these suitcases really do stand up to the kind of wear and tear that frequent travel brings.

The resilience of polycarbonate is impressive; it absorbs impacts and bounces back to shape, which has saved my luggage from a few potential disasters. It’s also incredibly lightweight.

The CALPAK Ambeur has a slight metallic sheen added to the polycarbonate shell. This finish is beautiful and really stands out in a crowd (plus, it looks great on camera for those Instagram shots).

That said, while I love the look of my CALPAK suitcase, it’s true that the stylish finish can pick up scratches and scuffs along the way. I was a little disappointed when my CALPAK suitcase came back from its first trip all scratched up, but I was able to use some tips on how to clean luggage to get the worst of the scuffs out.

The odds are very low that a good polycarbonate hardshell will ever crack or break, but zippers and wheels are another story.

Fortunately, CALPAK uses durable double-spinner wheels with rubber tires and steel ball bearings. This makes them very smooth and easy to maneuver, but it also means that they’re less likely to break or wear down over time.

CALPAK also uses YKK zippers, which gives me a lot of confidence that I’ll be able to use this luggage for a long time without the zippers wearing out or jamming.

Though their suitcases might not be as resistant to cosmetic damage as some of Samsonite’s options, CALPAK offers an excellent balance of quality, durability, and style at a price that doesn’t break the bank. For those of us who value both a good deal and a good look, CALPAK is a standout choice, offering dependable luggage that competes closely with luxury brands in endurance, albeit with its own unique flair.

CALPAK Design & Features

All CALPAK luggage is designed to be stylish and eye-catching, and you get some great choices for different aesthetics, from the minimal Hue to the vintage-style TRNK. Each piece has some personality built in, whether you prefer flashy or understated. Plus, they’re all available in a wide range of fun colors.

Even though there are several different styles, they all share the same trendy, modern, chic vibe. You won’t find the techy, unique patterns of something like the Samsonite Voltage DLX or the more businesslike style of the Armage II.

Compared to Samsonite’s vast lineup, CALPACK’s product line is pretty limited. If you don’t like the first few CALPAK suitcases you see, you probably won’t like any of them.

Functionally, every CALPAK style is almost identical. They all have the same double spinner wheels, adjustable handle, TSA lock, nearly identical pocket layout, and even the exact same pricing.

Inside most CALPAK suitcases, you’ll find a zippered divider on one side with two built-in zippered pockets. On the other side, there is a set of compression straps and a small zippered pocket on the top.

This setup is simple and straightforward, but I found that it worked well to keep my stuff organized without having so many pockets that I forgot where I put things. If you prefer more pockets and organization, you’ll be happier with Samsonite’s Outline Pro than with a CALPAK bag.

The place where you can get more functionality from CALPAK is with their front pocket carry-ons (available for the Hue or Ambeur styles). These carry-ons include an external zippered pocket that’s perfect for a laptop or tablet and has a few smaller pockets inside for things like a passport, phone, boarding pass, and notebook.

I love that this design makes it easy to get at important items quickly without opening the main compartment of my suitcase.

CALPAK luggage is sleek and stylish, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t functional. These suitcases work well during real-world travel. Still, if style isn’t the most important thing, and you want more advanced features, Samsonite has more to offer.

CALPAK Luggage: Pros and Cons

For style-savvy travelers, CALPAK offers luggage that makes a statement from the airport check-in to the baggage claim. But if you’re someone who values a wide array of features or needs luggage suited for rugged use, CALPAK’s focus on fashion over function might leave you wanting more.

Pros:

  • Trendy suitcase designs and a huge range of colors
  • Lightweight polycarbonate construction for easy handling
  • Reasonable price point compared to luxury brands
  • Telescopic handle and 360-degree wheels for smooth movement
Cons:

  • Limited range of features compared to Samsonite
  • Not the best option for harsh travel conditions
  • Fewer budget-friendly options than Samsonite

Samsonite Luggage Overview

Samsonite Brand Overview

Samsonite is the most well-known brand in the luggage market, and they’ve been at it for over a century. Unlike CALPAK, which zeroes in on stylish, mid-range luggage, Samsonite spans the spectrum from budget-friendly pieces to high-end luxury cases. They’ve got something for just about everyone.

Samsonite luggage is well-built and durable overall, especially if you go for their higher-end suitcases (which aren’t even that expensive compared to many modern brands).

But if you’re after something that shows off your sense of style, Samsonite’s traditional vibe might seem a bit plain next to the snazzy, modern look of brands like CALPAK. It’s perfect for those who prefer classic over flashy, but might not catch the eye of trend hunters.

Samsonite really shines with its versatility and the wide variety of smart features it offers, something for everyone. However, this broad approach sometimes means it doesn’t focus as much on niche, innovative features that smaller brands might emphasize to differentiate themselves.

If you value a tried and true brand with a solid track record, Samsonite is a great pick. It may not always turn heads in the airport, but it’ll definitely get you and your gear where you need to go without a fuss.

Samsonite Luggage Materials & Quality

Just because Samsonite has been building luggage for a really long time doesn’t mean the brand doesn’t innovate. Samsonite’s patent-pending Roxkin material is a unique type of multi-layer thermoplastic that’s used in some of their high-end luggage collections (like the Proxis). It’s exceptionally strong and lightweight, and it can absorb big impacts without cracking or denting.

Besides the high-tech stuff, Samsonite also offers hard-sided options in polycarbonate. Samsonite’s polycarbonate suitcases are around the same price as CALPAK’s hardside luggage, and they offer similar quality and durability.

Polypropylene is the most common material in Samsonite hardside luggage, and unfortunately, it falls short of polycarbonate’s durability in higher-end Samsonite bags (or any CALPAK case).

If you appreciate a bit more flexibility, their softside luggage comes in handy. Made from materials like ballistic nylon and polyester, these bags offer expandable zippers for those times when you need just a little extra room.

While Samsonite luggage is durable and well-built overall, you get a wide range of quality. Samsonite budget suitcases feel cheaply made and use cheaper, weaker materials like polypropylene and ABS. On the other hand, the mid-to-high-range cases are definitely more robust and reliable than CALPAK.

Samsonite Luggage Design & Features

While CALPAK has a fairly standard feature set across all their suitcases, Samsonite offers much more variety and choice. If you like simplicity, the Freeform Spinner only has a few zippered pockets and a single divider.

The Outline Pro is on the other end of the spectrum, with multiple pockets of different sizes and a folding compression pad to keep everything secure. For the same price as a CALPAK suitcase, you can get a much more organized and functional design.

Depending on what specific suitcase you pick, you can get vastly different designs and features. That means it’s easy to find exactly what you need.

The Just Right Carry-On comes with two customized and easily removable packing cubes. The Framelock Max has an aluminum frame with a hinge and a TSA-approved latch, which is much more theft-proof than standard zipper luggage. The Silhouette Spinner has a laptop sleeve, a removable toiletry bag, and an impressive array of pockets for chargers, cables, headphones, pens, and other small items.

Basically, if you want a certain feature, Samsonite probably has it.

Style-wise, Samsonite has a lot more variety than CALPAK. You’ll find very traditional soft-sided suitcases as well as ultramodern hardshells with crazy organic patterns. Overall, though, CALPAK is doing a much better job at delivering on-trend styles that stand out without being overly flashy.

Samsonite Luggage: Pros and Cons

Samsonite has a huge range of suitcases, which means they offer very different designs and construction. Variety is the main advantage of Samsonite, but it also means that the quality isn’t consistent. The key takeaway if your shopping for Samsonite luggage is this: not every Samsonite bag is created equal.

Pros:

  • Durable materials like polycarbonate and ballistic nylon
  • Wide range of luggage types, including soft and hardside bags
  • Great features and functionality
  • Reliability and durability
  • Comprehensive global warranty for peace of mind
Cons:

  • Some models are heavy
  • Designs can be more functional than stylish
  • You won’t be unique with a Samsonite bag

Samsonite vs CALPAK: Best Luggage Option For You

When choosing the best luggage brands for your travels, both CALPAK and Samsonite have a lot to offer. The right choice hinges on what matters most to you in a suitcase.

If turning heads with your travel gear is your thing, then CALPAK is the way to go, no doubt. This brand caters to you if you value aesthetics and individuality in your travel gear. With CALPAK, your luggage isn’t just a place to stash your clothes—it’s part of your travel look, making a statement wherever you go.

On the flip side, Samsonite offers a vast array of options that are available in more stores globally. The accessibility and robust warranty make it a solid pick if you prioritize practicality and support. Nothing wrong with having sturdy and reliable luggage that just gets the job done.

Deciding between CALPAK and Samsonite comes down to what’s more important in a bag for your travels—whether it’s the eco-chic appeal and customization of CALPAK or the enduring quality and classic functionality of Samsonite. Both brands offer compelling reasons to choose them, depending on your personal style, travel frequency, and what you pack inside.

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