To be honest, you buy an aluminum suitcase to show off, not to stuff it to the brim on your next trip. Sure, you can — but aluminum suitcases don't expand when you need to fill them up, and the slightest bump against a corner / overhead bin / the ground will show forever. But travelers wear these dents and dings with pride, slapping stickers overtop them or using them as proof they really went on trips. (There's even a brand, called Crash, that sells pre-dented suitcases.)
The battle scars, like holes in vintage jeans, have made aluminum suitcases a cult favorite for frequent travelers. It helps that there's arguably one defining brand, Rimowa — part of the LVMH (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton) luxury group — cementing it as such. The brand's luggage is aspirational, something you buy once and own forever. But how much is too much? $1,500 dollars for the full-size suitcase seems like it might be
On the other hand, Away, the ubiquitous brand behind the suitcases with integrated batteries, sells an aluminum suitcase — called The Large: Aluminum Edition — that's roughly the same size for half the price, coming in at $745. Despite our collective shopping tendencies, where we often mistake expensive for better, Away's is actually the smarter buy. Here's why.
Away The Large: Aluminum Edition
- Price: $745
- Dimensions: 29 x 20.5 x 12.5 inches
- Weight: 16 lbs
- Capacity: 95.1 L
- Warranty: Lifetime coverage of non-cosmetic issues
What's Good About Away's Large Aluminum Suitcase
The Away The Large is super-roomy.
With a capacity of 95.1 liters, this is a big suitcase. I could fit plenty of shirts, a few jackets and at least three pairs of shoes, plus a dopp kit. I tend to overpack, and I get a free bag with my airline rewards card, so I will usually check one — and this is the perfect excuse to continue doing so.
It looks like an aluminum suitcase.
I know, this is an easy benchmark, but owning an aluminum suitcase is, for better or worse, a bit of a status symbol. If you're only in it for the aesthetic, you need to know that it looks the part — and it does. It's sleek and shiny and smooth to the touch. Plus, it's actually made from aluminum, not an imitation silver material.
It's protected by Away's lifetime warranty.
Aluminum suitcases scratch and dent rather easily. The actual likelihood of a crack or puncture wound is low, because aluminum is rather resilient, but repeated strikes to the same spot could cause an issue over time. If you pick a polycarbonate suitcase, for example, that first bounce off the luggage belt into the carousel could cause a crack, exposing what's inside to the elements.
Having this lifetime warranty is well worth the $745 dollars because it covers anything past "cosmetic damage." So, no, a scratch isn't a reason to send you a new suitcase, but they will if the shell cracks, wheels break or fall off, handles no longer open or a the fabric inside rips. Plus, they've eliminated the most likely element to fail: There are zero zippers on the outside of this thing.
It rolls rather easily.
The 360-degree wheels on Away's are on par with pricier suitcases, which means they're smooth, simple-looking and don't stick too far out from the frame. I will admit, though, they catch a lot of dirt and debris. I felt myself wanting to pick at what's stuck on there, but I know it only adds to its "dirty by design" aesthetic.
It comes with two TSA-approved locks.
When you're checking a bag, you want to know what's inside will remain protected long after it's out of your sightline. Away equips their Large Aluminum Suitcase with two TSA-approved locks that keep those who aren't granted access away.
It has a comprehensive internal divider system.
Most suitcases open like a clamshell, offering space on either side for whatever it is you're taking with you. Away's does this, too, but it offers further organizational features like a click-in, compartmentalized zipper pocket panel and an interior compression sheet.
Because aluminum suitcases can't expand, once you've reached the limit, you've really reached the limit. There's no sense in sitting on top of it to try to squeeze even more in. However, the internal compression system helps flatten your clothing so you can fit an extra T-shirt or a towel. Plus, the zipper pockets help items like chargers, documents or travel ephemera in place and flat-packed.
What's Not So Good About Away's Large Aluminum Suitcase
The leather handles feel less luxe than expected.
Sure this isn't the $1,500 suitcase I name-dropped earlier, but it's still $745. The slim handles make sense, because how else would you achieve the sleek silhouette, but a little more padding would help when lifting the suitcase when full. No, you won't be flipping it over your head in a tight airplane aisle — this is a bag you check, not carry on — but you might be lifting it into the back of a car or onto a luggage rack in your hotel room.
I need to break my urge to always add more.
This isn't necessarily Away's fault, because it's more so commentary on aluminum suitcases at large — but if you've packed the same way for a long time, especially using a poly or fabric suitcase, there's an adjustment period. You can't pile your things in and expect to add more up until seconds before departure. There's a true maximum to what you can bring with you. Again, the internal compression system helps, and the suitcase is plenty roomy, but you won't be able to pack it until it bulges.
My Thoughts After 9 Months of Testing
Away The Large: Aluminum Edition Read More
Aluminum suitcases are known for their proclivity for dents, scratch marks and scuffs. The material, while durable, doesn't do a good job of hiding how its been handled, meaning you'll definitely know if an airline attendant tossed your suitcase into the cargo hull (or chucked it onto a truck to transport it to baggage claim). This might sound odd, but that's part of the appeal — that and they're typically more expensive than polycarbonate ones.
I like aluminum because of the looks, sure — the shiny silver is nice — but I also appreciate that it's metal, not plastic, however tough plastic might be. I want a suitcase that'll succumb to dents but won't shatter. And my Away suitcase certainly hasn't shattered, despite its fair share of freefalls.
There's a massive dent on the top of the frame — noticeable, sure, but not doing any harm. There are scuffs all over; the top got scratched by my keys or the rivets on the bottom of a bag; and there's residue from checked luggage stickers aplenty. You can tell I've traveled, and that I trusted several airlines with it. There are no structural issues, but the whole is a tad louder — like things have loosened up a little and it's simply a little rickety.
That said, the wheels roll fine; the locks still shut; and the telescopic handle goes up and down still, just as it did the day I got it. So far, so good — but I've got plenty of trips on the calendar.