How to use a spinner suitcase

Since the early 1980’s the rollerboard (2 wheel) suitcase has been the industry standard. However, in recent years more and more suitcases have switched to a spinner (4 wheel) design. Some brands, such as Samsonite and Delsey,  are now almost exclusively spinners while others, such as Travelpro and Briggs & Riley, continue to offer both.

Spinner wheels have become popular for one main reason; the ease of maneuverability. Rather than pulling the case, spinners are designed to be rolled alongside you. When properly used, a spinner case will take the weight off your back and shoulders. However, I often see people with the retractable handle at the wrong height or pulling the case. This defeats the purpose of a spinner and can cause your wheels to wear out faster and unevenly.

If you are new to spinner cases, take the time to practice walking with your new bag. Stand next to the case by your dominant arm (either right or left) and put the handle at waist height and walk with it, making sure all 4 wheels are on the ground. It should feel like walking a pet. Putting the handle too high puts stress on your shoulder so make sure the handle height feels comfortable.

Spinner cases have been a lifesaver for people with physical issues. However, they do have their drawbacks. They work very well on flat surfaces but when it comes to uneven terrain they do get harder to maneuver. You might have to pull it when walking on sidewalks and streets. In addition, with a carry-on size you do tend to lose an inch of packing space because the airlines account for the wheels in their carry on measurements. Also, if your case has an add-a-bag strap and you hang a heavy bag on it, the case could tip over. Lastly, because of the design of the bag, the wheels are more exposed and they could be knocked off by the airlines (doesn’t happen often but it does happen).

With the carry-on size, I still prefer a rollerboard design. I like having the maximum interior space, and because it is smaller, I don’t find the 2 wheels hard to maneuver. When it comes to larger check-in sizes I am more neutral. When full they do get heavy and hard to move, and walking distances (like clearing customs) after a long trip you will be happy to have a spinner. My best advice is to come to a store and try one out for a “test drive” then take one home and do a practice pack and walk around your house with your case. Only then will you know for sure if a spinner is right for you.

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