Odds are you’re looking to purchase either a TravelPro or Delsey carry-on bag for your next trip.
While these bags have a lot in common, there are some notable differences you should be aware of before purchasing either.
Instead of just comparing advertised features, measurements, and other reviews, I decided to purchase both the TravelPro Maxlite 4 21” Expandable Spinner and the Delsey Helium Aero 19” International Carry-on.
Yes, I understand they’re two different sizes, so some tests, like packing, won’t be as fair, but you’ll still get a good idea of their capacity. Speaking of measurements, here’s their actual measurements vs. their advertised measurements.
TravelPro Maxlite 4 Measurements:
Advertised Measurements: 9” x 14” x 21”
Actual Measurements: 10” x 14.25” x 22.5”
Delsey Helium Aero Measurements:
Advertised Measurements: 9” x 13.5” x 19”
Actual Measurements: 9.25” x 13.5” x 22.25”
Like most probably will, I went over to Amazon and picked up the Maxlite 4 for about $60 through a warehouse deal (it was brand new!), and the Delsey for about $100. So, through a series of tests I’m going to attempt to answer some of the questions below.
- What are the differences between the TravelPro softsided and the Delsey hardsided model?
- How long should I expect the bag to last?
- Which areas are most prone to breaking?
- In the end, which is better, TravelPro or Delsey?
Rather watch the video review? Click play on my YouTube video!
00:00 – Introduction of Features
2:24 – TravelPro Maxlite 4 Actual Measurements
3:33 – Delsey Helium Aero Actual Measurements
3:00 – What can fit in the TravelPro?
5:05 – What can fit in the Delsey?
6:29 – Testing Overview
6:53 – Drop Test
7:44 – Wheel Drop Test
8:10 – Drag Test
9:00 – Damage Review
15:00 – Summary
Although I would love to travel for the next six months straight and put them through real world conditions to gather data, that isn’t feasible. So, the next logical step to figuring out which bag was better was to run a series of tests on the luggage to see what they could hold up to and which could do it better.
The Packing Test
The purpose of this test is to show how the two bags compare in their capacity. While the Delsey is smaller and meant for international travel, you’d be surprised how much it can actually hold. Coming from a guy’s perspective, I set up about 3-4 days’ worth of clothes and tested to see how well everything fit.
The Drop Test
In this test, I took a 25lb (11.34kg) Olympic plate and dropped it on the top and front of the luggage from a height of roughly 5ft-6ft (152.4cm-182.9cm). Each carry-on took 10 drops on the top and 10 drops on the front.
The Wheel Test
To me, I don’t think luggage wheels break from rolling too much. I could be wrong here, but the wheels on even cheaper pieces of luggage have shown to work just fine for me, even after several years of use. My opinion is that most wheels are broken from being dropped or carelessly thrown during transport.
To test this, I took a 15lb dumbbell and repeatedly dropped it in both wheels on one side of the luggage 15 times each and noted any damages. I did this from about waist height, so roughly a 3ft (91.4cm) height.
There was some variation in this since it was surprisingly difficult to repeatedly hit the same spot. The impact point was somewhat inconsistent because these wheels will spin in all directions.
The Concrete Test
Our luggage gets tossed around, thrown, and otherwise pretty beaten up. One of the worst materials your carry on will encounter is concrete. Concrete is rough, abrasive, and about as cushioning as sandpaper.
To see how well these bags stood up, I tossed each bag across the concrete surface of my patio on each of the four sides without wheels. The back, the front, and both sides all counted as a single set, where I repeated 10 sets total.
The Water Test
Lastly was the water test. I say “was”, because by the time both bags had gone through all of the above tests, the water test wasn’t even close to being accurate. The idea was to dump a 5 gallon bucket of water on the front of the bag while it was lying on its back.
While inaccurate, there was some useful information pulled from the test.
Here are the results!
Here’s a list of everything I included in the packing test.
- 3x T-Shirts
- 2x Polos
- 2x Pairs of Khakis
- 1x Pair of Jeans
- 1x Pair of Dress Shoes
- 5x Pairs of Socks
- 1x Belt
- 2x Workout shorts
- 2x Dress Shirts
- 1x 17” Laptop
- 1x Toiletry Bag
Everything fit into the TravelPro without problem. In fact, there was plenty of room to add underware, a few more shirts, or another pair of pants in the main compartment. I didn’t even use the front compartments with the exception of my laptop, which it did fit, a whole 17 inches.
Despite having a smaller capacity, the Delsey carry-on held the same amount as the TravelPro. There was less space available after everything was packed, but there was still a little bit of room left for another couple of shirts.
My laptop did not end up fitting here, but anything smaller than a 17” probably would have fit just fine. I did test it out later with my Lenovo Carbon X1, which fit just fine.
The Drop Test
From the top, the bag functioned as if nothing had ever been dropped on it. There was some scuffing around the handle, but after 10 drops, it was still basically new.
A drop on the front part of the carry-on was a different story. The aluminum slats which house the extendable handle were bent beyond function. However, to be fair, the bag was completely empty, there’s was nothing that could protect or even cushion those vital pieces from being hit.
On the flip side, I imagine the results would have been the same. The aluminum slats are not protected on the backside and thus are susceptible to being broken.
I would like to say the same for the Delsey, with the exception of one minor problem. Since the polycarbonate shell flexes when any force is put on it, the weight caused the emblem to pop out.
Although a small detail, the emblem is difficult to put back in once it’s popped out.
Luckily I’m able to keep this section short and sweet. After performing the wheel drop on both carry-ons, there wasn’t any noticeable difference in performance.
The only thing I do want to note is on the TravelPro. The base surrounding the wheels seemed to help protect the wheels from the dumbbells. While the wheels were still hit, the base of the bag took the majority of the impact and helped to protect the wheels.
I understand this isn’t the same as rolling them the miles they may encounter over the course of 5 year period, however I believe these wheels are most susceptible to damage at their connection point to the rest of the bag.
Neither of these bags use cheap, breakable plastic for these wheels and their connection to the rest of the bag seems solid. Nothing on either broke or even bent.
This where the results started to get interesting. Even through just a single round trip your bag is susceptible to being tossed and dragged all sorts of different ways. Conveyor belts aren’t any less rough than your typical baggage handler.
And nothing against the baggage handlers, they have a job to do just like everyone else; it just has to be done quickly, not carefully.
Minus the hole, where it looked like the bag caught a rough part of the concrete, I’d argue the TravelPro held up better than the Delsey. Despite it being a softsided model, the majority of the fabric looked better and almost held up better than the hardsided Delsey model did.
On the TravelPro, there are plastic or rubberized corners, which stick out just slightly farther than the fabric itself. Surprisingly, these are just long enough to protect the fabric and keep it from getting scraped up or damaged from the concrete!
This is where the Delsey tends to fall short in comparison to the TravelPro. The polycarbonate is easily scraped and scratched which isn’t a very attractive look after even just a few trips.
Structurally, it’s sound, but its appearance is unsightly. Lastly, the only noticeable area of damage is where the built-in lock sits on the side. This lock is held in by two screws and after this test, one of the screws had wiggled loose.
As I mentioned earlier, this test didn’t really go as planned. The bags were too damaged at this point to get an accurate result, however there were a few points that still proved to be valuable enough to discuss.
After dumping the water on the bag, I noticed the water actually sat on top of it for a little while before it found the holes where the bag had torn on the concrete. The fabric is waterproof, or at least water resistant, enough to hold up to plenty of rain.
I wouldn’t be worried in the slightest having my laptop in the front of the bag during a heavy rain. There was practically a small puddle on the front of the bag when doing this test, even with the holes, suggesting it is fairly water resistant.
If both were in perfect condition, the Delsey would have most likely passed this test with ease. The hard shell is impermeable and as long as you have the zippers closed and the emblem hasn’t fallen off, you won’t run into any problems here .
Both are great carry-ons. I’m actually slightly sad I ended up breaking the TravelPro beyond use, but it was good to find out any weak points on the bags. Neither of these will fit under the seat in front of you on the plane, but both will fit in the overhead compartment with ease.
The Delsey provides a little bit more protection and if you plan on doing any international travel, this is the way to go. I always try to pack lighter anyway, so having a slightly smaller carry-on isn’t a big deal for me.
If you prefer to have a few extra items and are staying within the United States, go with the TravelPro. A little extra space won’t hurt anyone. Additionally, I love the small pocket on the top. When going through security, that little pocket helps me make sure I don’t lose my boarding pass or license, which I have done more times than I’d like to admit.
Want to read more and see more pictures? Read one of my reviews below!
Already made a decision and ready to purchase?
Also published on Medium.