Is Carl Friedrik’s Luxury Hard-Shell Suitcase Worth the Splurge? We Tested It to Find Out
Curious if the Carl Friedrik luggage lives up to the hype? So were we, which is why we put it through two months of testing and traveling.
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Although I sadly wasn’t born with generational wealth (sigh), I do still like luxurious things. Luxurious things just seem to work better. And luggage is no exception. It’s probably due to the higher-quality materials, thoughtful details and features and improved craftsmanship, but I digress.
When shopping for luxurious luggage, one of the luggage brands that continued to pop up throughout my search was Carl Friedrik. Founded in 2013, this company isn’t exactly long-standing, but it certainly has made a splash in the luggage, leather and travel industries due to its understated yet luxe pieces. Consider me intrigued.
Since I’ve already gotten my paws on the Monos Carry-On for shorter stints, I was poised and ready to test the Carl Friedrik Check-in Suitcase for longer travels. Wondering what I think after two jam-packed months of testing? Come along with me as I take the Carl Friedrik luggage from Nashville to Napa to see how it fared.
What is the Carl Friedrik Check-in Suitcase?
The Carl Friedrik Check-in Suitcase is exactly what it sounds like—a larger piece of luggage to check in at an airport (versus stowed in an overhead bin as a carry-on). Clocking in at 17.5 inches wide by 25.6 inches tall, this check-in suitcase is considered a medium size.
I chose the gray/cognac color option, but you can also shop the suitcase in gray/chocolate or gray/black. Although I like sophisticated colors, I find myself missing more vibrant hues and patterns (but that might just be my preference).
Besides the Check-in Suitcase, Carl Friedrik also makes other luggage pieces, including a Large Check-in, a Carry-on and the Carry-on Pro. If you’re looking for more than just a suitcase, the brand also makes fine leather goods, including tote bags, backpacks, briefcases and duffle bags.
We Tried It
Carl Friedrik Check-In Suitcase
A robust but elegant travel case made to hold everything you could need and a bit more.
Carl Friedrik Check-in Suitcase features
This suitcase features a variety of appealing components, but my favorite has to be the attention to detail with the materials. Carl Friedrik started with quality from the bottom up, and it shows by the luggage wheels’ premium manufacturer: Hinomoto. Considered the gold standard within its category, Hinomoto produces extremely quiet wheels that move 360 degrees to keep up as you sprint through the airport or grab a cup of coffee in terminal E (might I suggest a cup holder?).
I was also particularly impressed with the combination locks. They snap into place quite easily to keep your bag closed. You’re then able to set your own unique code for added security.
If you know anything about zippers, you’d know that YKK makes the best ones, and pricey brands tend to use them on their products. They glide better, stay firmly in place and are traditionally more durable than non-branded zippers. Carl Friedrik luggage only uses YKK zippers, which is a sign of quality. Take that, Louis Vuitton.
This suitcase also includes Italian-made “vegetable-tanned Vachetta leather” on the side and top handles, as well as the band around the crown of the suitcase. It feels very luxe, and I enjoyed the look until the glue started to come loose around the top band (peep the picture). I’m sure that I can solve that myself with some trusty super glue, but it is frustrating for that to happen to such an expensive luggage set within two months of use.
Additionally, the outside of the Check-in Suitcase is polycarbonate, which makes the suitcase lightweight (just 9.9 pounds!). It feels durable, and the suitcase came tumbling out in baggage claim sans dents or real damage multiple times. However, it is natural that the outer shell gets scratched up over time, especially if you’re a frequent traveler. You can’t expect that dings won’t happen, but you can rest easy knowing the contents inside will remain scratch-free with this bag.
How we tested it
Naturally, it was my civic duty to take this Carl Friedrik Check-in Suitcase on a variety of trips to really give it thorough testing for readers. I know, I know, it’s really tough work, but you can hold the applause.
My first stop was a four-day stint to Nashville, Tennessee (yeehaw!) to see Tyler Childers and my brother (but mostly Tyler Childers). I dutifully packed my bag chock full of clothing, shoes, makeup and anything else I could think of for my trip.
Since I overstuffed my bag as usual, the compression pad and dual straps helped me squish my belongings enough to close the suitcase. It’s worth noting that the compression pad doesn’t come standard with the suitcase (it’s an extra $45). But if you’re already willing to pony up for an almost $600 suitcase, $45 is but a tiny add-on. I recommend purchasing it because it’s genuinely helpful for overpackers.
Next, the Carl Friedrik luggage hit the road for a week of work travel for my partner, Beau, who is a medical device salesman. And let me just say: He is not easy on his luggage. The man loves to fling his suitcases willy-nilly in the trunk, and even he was impressed with the outer construction. It kept his important things safe and secure.
My suitcase ended its multi-month escapade with a press trip to Napa. Once there, I was shocked by the amount of compliments I received on this piece of luggage. Apparently, it screams quiet luxury. I felt so cool and on-trend (even though I am neither of those things). Regardless, if you’re looking for people to stare at your suitcase and go, “Wow, that looks expensive,” without being flashy, this is the piece of luggage for you.
- Luxurious looking check-in bag
- Made with quality materials
- Lightweight at 9.9 pounds
- Wheels move smoothly 360 degrees
- Very quiet
- Dual combination locks keep suitcase secure
- Comes with a 100-day trial
- Excellent storage capacity
- Leather band around the top comes loose with use
- Scratches over time
- Shipping isn’t free
Where are Carl Friedrik bags made?
Different components are made in different places. According to the Carl Friedrik website, the Check-in is made in Japan (wheels and zippers), China (lining) and Italy (leather).
Is it better to fly with hard or soft luggage?
If you’re concerned about space, a cloth suitcase may be best since you can stretch the outer lining to accommodate your things. However, if durability and security are top-of-mind for you, a hard shell suitcase is the way to go.
What other reviewers had to say
Curious what other reviewers had to say? Check out these customers’ thoughts below:
“I was able to fit a significant amount of clothes and articles in a perfect manner,” says five-star reviewer, Dickson T. “At the beginning, I was a little bit worried about the sleek design and beautiful colors assuming that it would be too fragile, but it is quite sturdy and resistant. I traveled over several airports and trains for over a month and only showed minor scratches. I am quite happy with the quality of the materials used.”
Another reviewer, O’Dell, explains why they love this suitcase, saying, “I absolutely love this luggage. It is excellently constructed. Fashionable, smooth operations. Just an elegant piece of equipment that I use every chance I get. After purchasing this luggage, I purchased the Palissy Double and planned to purchase the Palissy Weekend.”
Long story short? I’m a big fan of the Carl Friedrik Check-in Suitcase. It is the epitome of understated luxury, and all of the features and materials just ooze class. If you don’t mind paying a little extra for quality, this is a must-buy.
Where to buy the Carl Friedrik Check-in Suitcase
We Tried It
Carl Friedrik Check-in Suitcase
This hard shell suitcase is made with lightweight polycarbonate, an aluminum lock frame and fine leather detailing.