Garment Bag Buying Guide
You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so when it comes to business, making a positive first impression is a must. As superficial as it may sound, your appearance says a lot about you. Showing up in a wrinkly suit or dress says, “I don’t care about my appearance,” or “detail is not a priority for me!”
Unfortunately, keeping a clean and tidy appearance after getting right off the plane isn’t easy, especially if you don’t have time to take a minute to clean up and have your clothes pressed at the hotel.
Because of this problem, you’ll find that many business professionals will seek high quality garment bags to protect their suits, dresses, and shirts. Today, I’ll cover some of the most important features to look for and include some recommendations at the end of the article.
If you would like to skip ahead to certain parts, use the quick navigation below.
“What Kind of Garment Bag Do I Need?”
Probably the first question you’re asking yourself and the answer is, “it depends…” It depends mainly on the duration of your trip and what you plan on doing during the entire trip. Most people searching for this type of luggage are going to be business professionals, so we’ll assume the majority of your trip is business related. If that’s not the case, you’ll probably want to opt for something more economically priced.
You’ll have two main options for transporting your business clothes.
One, you can purchase a garment bag that you can place within a larger suitcase. These will almost always cost less than a standalone bag and still allows you to bring your carry-on with personal items.
Two, you can purchase a standalone garment bag. This bag is almost entirely dedicated to making sure your business clothes get where they need to go safely. A garment bag like this will usually act as your carry-on and while there is typically space for your laptop and a few other items, space might be limited here.
Garment Bags Compared (Least Expensive to Most Expensive)
Economic Garment Bags (Est. Cost: $5-$15)
These are the thinner bags that generally act as way to protect your suit or dress from dust, liquids, and other light debris. These are not really meant for heavy travel, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be used for it.
If you’re traveling in your personal vehicle, these will be ideal as they’re inexpensive and will get the job done just fine. Additionally, if you would simply like a way to protect your nice clothes while they’re in your closet, these work great.
You can usually only fit one or two suits in these or two to four dresses (I’m honestly guessing on the dresses, since well, I wear suits). These aren’t meant to hold many outfits and are mainly designed for just one.
If you’re on a budget these might be the way to go, even if you do have some heavy travel ahead of you. While they may not protect the best against wrinkles, you can place your clothes in one of these, maybe add a few clean t-shirts about midway, and then fold it up.
It won’t provide the best protection, but it’ll provide something while you’re getting from point A to point B. Ideally, the t-shirts are there to provide some additional support, so you don’t get heavy wrinkles halfway through your suit or dress. When you get to your destination, you’ll probably need your clothing steamed or pressed for the wrinkles.
Foldable Garment Bags (Est. Cost: $15-$50)
A dedicated bag for your delicate items is the best option in terms of protection. Foldable garment bags are your middle-of-the-road option here since they offer a good degree of wrinkle-protection for a very reasonable price.
These bags will look a lot like a laptop carrying bag and will feature a bifold or trifold design. Similar to the economic garment bags, these have a large zipper in the front and are pretty much the same design with better materials. Apart from more durable materials, these are typically larger and have handles so they’re more easily transported.
Rolling Garment Bags (Est Cost: $100+)
A wheeled garment bag will, more often than not, offer you the most protection and convenience of travel for your suits and dresses. These rolling bags are manufactured specifically for carrying delicate items and offer all the bells and whistles for easily transporting your clothing.
These bags are made of the some of the most durable materials with special coatings to help repel water, stains, and anything else you wouldn’t want getting on your dress clothing. Bags in this price range usually are around $200-$300 for a good model but can get as high as $500-$700 for high end models.
Most people will only need a 20”-22” model, which will hold enough clothes for a four to five-day business trip. Bags this size are carry-on permissible for most airlines but be sure to check before getting to the airport. The only problem you may find is most models can’t be wheeled onto the plane because they’re so wide – most will need to be carried sideways by hand.
Features to Look For
Garment bags usually have two distinct sizes. One size that’s meant to be a carry-on and the other meant for being a checked bag. As you can imagine the carry-on sizes hover around 21” or less and the checked versions are usually 40” or larger. This measurement is referring to their length across, or their longest side.
Larger bags obviously hold larger amounts, so if you plan on traveling for longer than 5 days, the checked version might be your best bet. This will tend to vary based on how much you pack, but it’s better to have more space, not less, when packing delicate clothes – less chance of wrinkles or creases.
If you plan on purchasing a rolling garment bag, the quality of the wheels is incredibly important. After all, do you really want a wheel to break while you’re only halfway to your destination? Here are a few things you will want to look for in wheels when picking a garment bag.
Stick to two-wheeled models that have them built into the bag. This might be a personal preference but having only two wheels that are closer to the frame of the bag are better in my opinion. Rolling garment bags are wider and sometimes narrower than your carry-on, so I think they feel more awkward to roll around on four wheels as opposed to two.
Secondly, you’re probably going to be picking up and maneuvering your garment bag around more frequently than a carry on. Having those wheels built into the frame, like the picture seen above protects them more than wheels that are attached through other means. Garment bags are typically on the heavier side, especially when fully packed, so that’s a lot more force being transferred to the wheels when being picked up or down.
Again, this mainly applies to rolling garment bags. Not only will you want to find a bag with an extendable handle, you’ll want to pay attention to the quality of it. A wobbly or poorly locking handle is about as useful as a winter coat in summer.
Now unless you have a luggage store located nearby, it’s difficult to identify bad ones from good ones. If you plan on purchasing online, I suggest you check out this article to find the ideal bag. I personally go through and determine the best garment bag within each category so you don’t have to worry about trying a dozen a different bags or worrying about returning a bad one.
Always check to make sure your garment bag has some sort of handle! A lot of cheap Chinese manufacturers will skimp on the handle to save on the cost of material. Someone who is rushing to get one quickly may not see a certain bag doesn’t have a handle.
Zippers on the economic bags are likely small and may break easily. So if you plan on using these for awhile or for storage, be sure to open and close them gently.
As for actual travel bags, a bigger zipper is usually better. Pay attention to the quality of the teeth. How smooth is the zipper? Personally, I can’t say I’ve had the opportunity to examine every brand’s zipper, but I do know TravelPro bags usually utilize high quality zippers for their luggage.
You’ll want to pay close attention to how the hangers are secured after your bags have been packed. Some models are locking clasps that lock your clothes into place. These locking clasps are a huge help especially when traveling greater distances. Your clothes can tend to shift around and if they get off the hanger it’s a lot easier for them to become wrinkled.
You may find that some bags offer additional storage for your shoes, ties, or other accessories. These can be a massive help, especially if you’re only traveling with a garment bag. Otherwise, there are some good additional accessories you can buy that are less than $20 and will make organizing small items much easier.
As with most things, you get what you pay for in a garment bag. Since they’re meant to protect your suits, dresses, and other delicate clothes, expensive garment bags are built to protect what’s inside. The biggest things to look out for, in my opinion, are the wheels and handles. If either of these break, you are SOL.
Invest in a bag with high quality components like the a TravelPro. This is the one I have shown in the pictures above. TravelPro garment bags are easily the bags I most commonly see in airports while traveling and for good reason too; they’re durable and built to last.
Related Article: TravelPro vs. Delsey: 4 Tests and Key Differences You Should Know
Related Article: Best Carry-On Bags for International Travel 2018