The 21-inch Freeform carry-on is a deservedly popular hardside suitcase from Samsonite. It has every major modern feature we look for in a suitcase while weighing a paltry 6.5 lbs.
- Unique modern design with a dozen color options.
- Well-known brand with a good, long warranty.
- Includes an integrated TSA combination lock.
- Expandable and lightweight for an excellent weight to packing volume ratio.
- Matte-colored polypropylene exterior is prone to scuffs.
- Sparse interior sorting options.
- Above-average rate of reported wheel failures.
The Samsonite Freeform 21-inch carry-on has every must-have feature and nothing more. This facilitates the bag’s low weight and low price. You won’t find USB charging, a plethora of pockets, laundry bags, and sub-dividers on this suitcase and we think that’s great. Those omissions keep the weight below 7lbs which is impressive for a carry-on.
The Freeform has modern styling and a long list of unique color options. Unfortunately, they are all somewhat scuff prone, beyond what we would consider ‘the norm’. While that may be a dealbreaker for the larger checked bags in the freeform line, this is less of a problem with the 21-inch carry-on. However, it is something to be mindful of when you are moving it to and from the overhead bin.
If you want a lightweight expandable carry on this is one worth considering as it has the 4 pillars of modern luggage; hardside, spinner wheels, long telescopic handle, and a TSA Lock.
Dimensions & Weight
The Samsonite Freeform 21-inch carry on comes in at an ideal size for packrats 21.25″ X 15.25″ X 10.0″ for a total linear size of 46.5″. This nearly maxes out most airlines’ carry on limits without pushing your luck.
The important number here is the usable interior space which can often be disproportionate in a lot of hard side luggage but the freeform has plenty usable space, exactly: 19.5″ × 14.5″ × 10″. Samsonite did well to maximize the interior volume, in part, thanks to the flat design of the telescopic handle.
Best of all the bag weighs 6.5lbs, which is a figure only a handful of hardshell carry-ons can beat. If you fly often your back will appreciate this.
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Materials & Water-Resistance
As we just referenced the Freeform is a hardshell suitcase made from polypropylene which is injection molded. It allows for great impact protection for everything you are carrying although we can’t say the same for its protection against scratches. We think most people would take a scuffed bag over a broken laptop or camera.
You can expect great water resistance from this bag, as with all hardshell luggage. Unlike all hardshell luggage, this bag comes with a separate expansion zipper for all those among you who pack more than you need. Great for the heavy packer that is trying to transition to a life without checked luggage but wants the peace of mind that comes with the option of stuffing your bag to the gills.
Durability is always a tough thing to quantify with hands-on experience alone. The handle and wheels feel solid, if not particularly premium. The zippers are somewhat of a standout on this bag, they feel and look super resilient and I particularly like the flared hoop design on the zipper loops.
The best way to gauge durability is by looking at the swaths of hands-on experience online, we have a new method for helping comb through the noise and the user reports for this bag are good but not great. The wheels are a point of failure on this bag while everything else appears to perform above expectations. With travel, wheels break, and pockets rip but samsonite lengthy warranty should cover you in the event of most issues. But do keep in mind this is a suitcase that will scuff and scratch if you do not baby it. If you are particular about keeping your bags pristine you may be better served with another option.
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Spinner wheels are the way to go, you can’t go wrong with four multidirectional wheels. The set of dual-spinner wheels on the Samsonite Freeform spinner are no different, they roll smoothly almost anywhere you take it.
Rollaboard wheels should be reserved for those among us who are walking dirt roads to remote island hostels. Anyone staying in a hotel or Airbnb just a cab ride away should pick a spinner suitcase, and you won’t be disappointed with this one.
This bag has the core features we love to see and none of what we consider second-tier luxury or convenience features that we like to see. You have spinner wheels, a nice push-button handle, an expansion zipper, divider, and TSA locks.
The TSA lock on this bag is a bit finicky but a great addition to any piece of luggage. Of course, an integrated lock won’t keep you protected from a very determined thief but like a security camera, they are a solid deterrence that will keep you exponentially safer than those who travel without them.
The inside zipper pockets leave a bit to be desired, the large main pocket located on the divider is not particularly roomy but ideal for documents and anything long and flat. The secondary pouch pocket should allow you to fit most of your thicker gubbins.
The divider should keep everything in the top half of the clamshell perfectly secure and the included cloth cross straps help keep your clothes in the bottom half in place.
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We are fans of the carapace-like design of the Freeform’s exterior. It looks modern and distinct without becoming gauche. Even better this suitcase comes in a dozen colors most of which are distinct and about half of which could be considered unisex.
For a bag in this price range, the Samsonite Freeform comes with some very premium accents which won’t go unnoticed. From the recessed metal samsonite nameplate front and center on the bag, down to the nicely molded metal labels on the zippers. The bag looks good and should be easy to find in the rush to stand up and wait in the isles before you disembark.
The 21-inch Samsonite Freeform is backed with Samsonites reasonably solid 10 Year Limited Warranty. It’s important to keep in mind this warranty does not cover accidental damage or normal wear and tear. Their warranty is also not user transferable, it applies only to the original purchaser or gift recipient and specifically covers a replacement or repair in the event of, “manufacturing defects in material and workmanship”.
To make a warranty claim Samsonite requires that you provide your receipt and you will be responsible for the cost of shipping to their repair center, Samsonite will cover the return shipping. It’s not the most comprehensive coverage in the business and we have seen an increase in reports in recent years of denied warranty claims but we don’t think most people need a particularly generous warranty for a carry-on. It’s the checked luggage that will see the most abuse.
Regardless, Samsonite maintains high consumer report scores for customer satisfaction for a reason. When evaluating company warranties it’s important to look at more than what is strictly covered on paper. A comprehensive warranty that you have to jump through hoops and chase down support to exercise is not a great warranty.
Customer support is an integral part of any warranty and that requires support agents with fair judgment and the leeway needed to solve issues within reason. Samsonite has solid support and even when your issue falls outside the purview of their stated warranty coverage their customer service is worth getting in touch with.
This is what we would consider a great value bag, it has everything you need and nothing you don’t. You can find bags with better warranties, more interior packing pockets, and other bells and whistles but you will have to pay for that.
Lightweight thanks to well-balanced features and material choices and priced appropriately this is a solid no-fuss bag for any discerning traveler.
The Samsonite Freeform is a well-liked piece of luggage for a reason. It has been on the market since 2016 and has been put through its paces with years of travel. The higher-than-average reports of wheel failures shouldn’t be ignored but also should not be over-emphasized.
The average written review for the 21-inch carry-on version of this bag, across the retailers we track, is an 83. That number gets obscured when you look at user scores that are averaged across an entire product line.
Wheel concerns and average user reviews aside, you would be hard-pressed to find a hardshell piece of luggage from a recognized brand in this price range that hits all the major features as Freeform does. And it does so while weighing in at a svelte 6.5 lbs.