I Tested Solgaard’s Best-Selling Luggage – Here’s What to Know Before You Buy

Considering buying a new piece of luggage? This suitcase keeps you organized throughout your travels with a removable shelving unit that allows you to pack and unpack in seconds.

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June 28, 2024

Tested by Colleen Sullivan

Years ago, my husband and I ordered five matching blue duffel bags with wheels and telescopic handles from L.L. Bean before embarking on a European vacation with our three children. In doing so, we figured everyone could be responsible for their own luggage. For years, these blue bags defined our family trips and frightened our dog - every time we pulled them out of storage their appearance confirmed we were headed out on vacation. Recently, I was invited on a press trip and reached for my dependable blue duffel. My daughter reprimanded me saying, “Mom, you can’t take that on a press trip with other editors. They’ll laugh at you.” The truth was, I knew it was time for some more stylish and efficient luggage, especially as my husband and I were planning a trip to Italy.

An editor friend suggested I take a look at Solgaard, a luggage brand known for compressing clothing to create more space in their suitcases. Other luggage systems promise to do the same thing, but this one does so with a twist. Inside the suitcase, you’ll find a removable shelving system made out of mesh that features five shelves (the company refers to it as the “closet”) that, once filled with your clothes, will shrink in size if you pull on the two straps on each side of the unit. When you reach your destination, you simply pull the unit out of the suitcase, unclip the straps so that the shelves expand, and hang the unit on a closet rod, hook or from the suitcase's telescoping handle — no unpacking necessary. The truth is you’ll never have to use a hotel dresser drawer again, and considering they’re not on most hotel housekeepers' to-clean lists, that may not be a bad thing.

The brand is the brainchild of Founder and CEO Adrian Solgaard, who after three years of living on the road as a film and TV editor, admired the way camera gear was organized for travel and work. Solgaard says, “I thought, ‘Why doesn’t this exist for clothing and personal items?’” His innovation has caught the attention of consumers, evidenced by winning a 2023 Condé Nast Traveler Readers' Choice Award for The Best Luggage in the World.

Ahead is everything you’ll need to know about this clever suitcase if you’re in the market to buy luggage.

What to Know About Solgaard Luggage

It Comes in Multiple Sizes and Colors

The size you select depends on your taste and packing needs. Solgaard features a total of eight luggage models across two collections: in their Original collection, they offer both carry-on and check-in models in medium and large sizes and their Lite collection includes the same four offerings. The Lite models (which a brand representative says are 20% lighter than the same-sized Original models) differ from the Original in that they contain four, not five, wider shelves and these shelves can be filled up to 75%, as opposed to 70% with the Original models. They also feature a zipper closure, while the Original models come with two one-pinch latches.

Because I always overpack for trips (meaning I almost always check my luggage) and prefer a snap closure over dragging open a zipper, I selected the Original Check-in Closet in large (28.3’ x 17.3’ x 14.5”) for me and the Original Check-In Closet in medium (24.8” x 14.5” x 11.8”) for my husband. There are nine colors in the Original collection and six in the Lite (outside of limited-edition seasonal color drops). They’re named after vacation spots like Baltic Black, Venetian Red and Provence Purple. I chose the Balearic Blue shade because it has a unisex look and can be easily identified on an airport baggage carousel.

At 12.3’ and 10.7’ pounds respectively, both pieces of luggage weigh more than my L.L. Bean bag at 8.8 pounds, but thanks to the 360-degree wheels, this luggage glides effortlessly along (no more lugging my bag from behind!) making it feel lighter than my old duffel.

It's Made of Durable and Planet-Friendly Materials

Like many hard case luggage pieces, my Solgaard model is constructed of lightweight polycarbonate and features ribbing on the exterior to help hide scratches and dings, along with four metal bumpers to protect the edges. It comes with three handles — one on the side of the luggage and two on top, including a textured, ergonomically friendly telescope handle with two height settings (the tubing connecting to the telescope handle to the luggage is made of an aerospace-grade aluminum magnesium alloy, known for its ability to resist damage). The interior Shore-Tex® fabric is created out of 100% recycled materials — with every item sold, Solgaard funds the cleanup of six pounds of ocean-bound plastic from coastal areas around the world.

What We Liked

It's Easy to Pack

On my model, the top shelf is the shortest at 3”, with the remaining four shelves measuring in at 6” each. The third and fourth shelves include zippers and the fifth shelf has dividers to organize smaller items. I decided to do a test run prior to my trip to Italy and placed socks, underwear and bras on the top shelf, four pairs of pants on the second shelf, five tops and two t-shirts on the third shelf and three long dresses on the fourth shelf. I thought the dividers on the fifth shelf would be annoying and take up space but found quite the opposite to be true — I was pleasantly surprised at how much this shelf held. I rolled and stored my pajamas, bathing suit and two pairs of shorts and placed them in the holders. (I typically roll my clothing to maximize space, but I decided to fold my items on the second, third and fourth shelves to make them easier to identify. The brand representative notes there’s no right or wrong way to place your items in the shelving, and that a lot depends on the size of the items you’re packing.)

After I loaded up the shelves, I began compression by cinching the closet’s side straps as far as they would go (I started on the left side, moved to the right and then repeated pulling on both sides). To see the compression in action and witness how much space I was saving was impressive.

I then placed the shelving system into the suitcase and buckled the two wings to secure everything in place (there is a zippered compartment on both wings for small item storage like jewelry). I found I had extra room at the top of the compressed shelving for my jacket. I also discovered space on the sides, perfect for my umbrella and a few hats. I placed four pairs of shoes (two in the shoe pockets provided) and items like a flat iron, book and my toiletry kit on the opposite side of the shell before closing the suitcase.

It's Easy to Unpack

Being able to empty your bag in seconds is the company’s key selling point. Once unstrapped and removed from the interior of the luggage, you can hang the shelving unit on a hook, on the rod in your hotel closet or you can attach it to the buckle on the telescope handle and live out of the suitcase.

It Comes With a TSA-Approved Security Lock

The 3-digit theft-prevention lock conforms to the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) approved lock system where a universal master key allows TSA agents to open and relock the luggage, if necessary. To set the lock that comes preset at 0-0-0, simply flip the tab to position ‘B’, change the 0-0-0 to your desired code, then flip the tab back to position ‘A’. Be sure to memorize and store the code somewhere.

It’s Reasonably Priced

Solgaard’s pricing lines up and often beats the competition with its least expensive model (the Carry-On Closet Lite in medium) selling for $245 and its most expensive model (the Check-In Closet Original in large), at $395. By comparison, Away’s luggage starts at $275 for their Carry-On and tops out at $745 for The Large in the Aluminum Edition) and Royce & Rocket models start at $425 for the Carry-On and can go as high as $1,000 for the Super Set.

What We Didn't Like

There are some negatives about the suitcases worth noting: If the shelves are overfilled, the compression bulge can encroach on the other side of the shell, taking up valuable storage space. Also, depending on the weight of your shelving unit and how much you've packed, the luggage may tend to fall over when the shelf unit is attached to the telescoping handle, which is why I prefer to hang it on a rod or hook. Finally, although I would keep most of my packed items on the shelf once at my destination, I would pull anything out that wrinkles easily, like a linen dress, and hang it in a traditional closet.

The Competition

My son introduced me to another luggage brand that also incorporates a shelving system. Royce & Rocket enables travelers to lay out their items on two fold-down shelves built right into the suitcase. It uses packing cubes (sets of 4, 6 and 8 are sold separately) to maximize storage and comes in three models: a 21” carry-on, a 28” midsize and the 31” classic, with the first two models being expandable to allow travelers to increase storage capacity. It has all the bells and whistles of the Solgaard line including 360-degree wheels, a multi-stop telescopic extended handle and a TSA-approved lock, yet has a more luxurious look and feel to it.

I’m also a big fan of the popular brand Away, after testing my daughter’s suitcase on a recent trip. The smooth-gliding wheels were enough to make me wonder why it took so long to upgrade my luggage, as I rolled the suitcase across the marble floors in Washington D.C.’s Union Station with zero effort. (An easy-grip trolley handle provides amazing maneuverability, while two underside grab handles make it easy to pull the luggage off a baggage claim carousel.) I was also pleasantly surprised at how much I could fit into this hard-shelled luggage using its compression pad (included) and packing cubes (not included). Away currently offers thirteen suitcase models across five different sizes and three collections, two with polycarbonate hard shells (the Classic and the Flex) and one with an aluminum shell (the Aluminum Edition). The ten great-looking colors make it hard to choose, especially when the company features a gorgeous special edition shade, like their recent collaboration with the fashion brand La Ligne.

The Bottom Line

The number of luggage companies with compression and extension solutions is exploding, including ones mentioned in this article along with companies like Antier, Paravel, Delsey, Lojel and Tumi. In many cases, the exteriors are similar - most are made of a hard-shell polycarbonate – it’s their interiors that set them apart. If you tend to overstuff your luggage and are looking for a way to compress your essentials, and if you don’t like to unpack once you’ve reached your destination, the Solgaard line is a good choice for you. Bonus: It comes with a lifetime warranty that covers manufacturing defects including the wheels, handles, locking mechanism, closure clasps, outer shell, zippers, rivets or screws.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do the Solgaard suitcases come with a charging station?

You’ll find a USB and USB-C charging port under the telescoping handle on all Carry-On Closet models, but you’ll need to supply your own power bank. The brand recommends their Solgaard Juicepack, a compact 2-in-1 solar-powered unit that integrates with their luggage.

Do the suitcases nest together?

The Carry-On Closet (in medium or large), or the Check-In Closet (in medium) are sized to nest inside the Check-In Closet (in large) across either collection to save space while storing.

What’s the best way to clean a polycarbonate suitcase?

You can polish any polycarbonate suitcase by mixing together a small amount of dish soap and warm water and wiping down the exterior with a sponge, making sure to rinse and wipe any residue before drying with a soft cloth. If you’ve got staining and scuffing, “Simply make a paste of equal parts baking soda and water and allow it to sit on the mark for a few minutes before gently scrubbing with a soft cloth,” says Royce & Rocket co-founder Rana Leibowitz. “A magic eraser can also be effective but use it gently to avoid dulling the finish.” As for cleaning the interior, Leibowitz recommends using a handheld vacuum to remove any debris and then spot cleaning with the same mild soap and water solution as the exterior, making sure the area is dry before closing to prevent mold growth.


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