⇧ Top

Luggage Handles & Everything There is to Know About Types of Handles

Women walking while rolling a suitcase

Well-made luggage handles are ergonomic, offer a comfortable grip, and stand up to regular wear and tear. That last element is essential, as anyone who has had a suitcase handle fail in transit can tell you. A broken luggage handle turns a suitcase into an unwieldy, heavy crate. To avoid this possibility, choose luggage with handles designed and tested to provide years of worry-free service.

Static vs. Collapsible Handles

Luggage handles fall into two broad categories: static and collapsible handles. A static handle is a traditional handle attached to the top or sides of suitcases. Static handles are “U” shapes and fold flat when not used. The “U” is just wide enough for you to grip the handle with one hand comfortably. Static handles are generally used when you need to pick up luggage and maneuver it into position, such as placing a suitcase on check-in scales. Before the advent of wheeled luggage, static handles were the only way to carry suitcases.

A collapsible handle, also called a telescopic handle, extends and retracts from the back of a wheeled bag. All types of modern luggage collections make the combination of wheels and a collapsible handle much more manageable for moving heavy luggage. The combination of wheels and a collapsible handle makes moving heavy luggage much more manageable.

Earlier rolling luggage had wheels along the bottom and was pulled by a strap. This made the bags unwieldy, as the wheels were attached to the longest side of the suitcase. In 1987, Travelpro founder Robert Plath realized he could create a much more maneuverable suitcase by turning the luggage upright, installing wheels on the base, and adding a collapsible handle to the top. The Rollaboard was an instant hit with flight crews and passengers, and Travelpro was born.

Most luggage that includes telescopic handles also provide static handles, as static handles offer more maneuverability when suitcases must be lifted or carried short distances. Static handles may be made from heavy plastic, vinyl, or leather and are typically attached to luggage by bolts or rivets.

Telescopic Handles

Most modern suitcases come with two or four wheels to make transportation easier. The collapsible handle became popular because while pulling a wheeled suitcase with a static luggage handle is possible, it’s not very comfortable.

A telescopic handle extends out of the back of the suitcase and locks into place for use. Often made from hollow aluminum tubes, collapsible handles can usually extend to at least two different lengths to accommodate your height and minimize back strain. If you’re exceptionally tall, you can buy collapsible handle extensions.

When choosing a suitcase with a telescopic handle, look for handles with ergonomic features, like Travelpro’s patented PowerScope technology. You should also consider handles that also lock in place securely with a single control button. When extended, the handle should not wiggle during use and should allow you to maintain a firm grip. 

Telescopic handle systems may come as internal and external systems. An internal collapsible handle is protected from damage but can reduce packing space. External telescopic handle systems don’t consume packing space but are much more vulnerable to damage.

Luggage Handle Strength Testing

Both static and telescopic handles should be rigorously tested for durability by the manufacturer. At Travelpro, for instance, we use a static handle strength test on both top and side handles that subjects static handles to several thousand cycles with loaded weight. A lifting test with fully-extended handles and fully loaded luggage ensures collapsible handles stand up to wear and tear. Check out our Travelpro luggage tests to see how we ensure our luggage handles perform.

Luggage Handle Wraps and Grip Comfort

A luggage handle should be ergonomically designed to reduce shoulder, wrist, and elbow strain. Check the handle grip and how comfortable your wrist's angle feels when holding the handle. If you’re evaluating the feel of a collapsible handle for a wheeled bag, rotate the luggage to see how easily you can push and pull the bag from different angles. We recommend handles with the Travelpro patented Contour Grip for its comfort and secure grip. You can find the Contour Grip on spinners in our Maxlite, Crew Versapack, Platinum Elite ,and Travel + Leisure collections.

Platinum Elite Hardside Handle with Contour Grip

If your luggage handles do not offer proper grip comfort, you can adapt your existing handle with a luggage handle wrap. A leather luggage handle wrap fits snugly around your existing handle for a softer, more pleasant grip. Many luggage handle wraps are secured with velcro and can be purchased for either telescopic or static handles

Luggage handles are an important consideration when shopping for high-quality luggage. Choose the right combination of static and collapsible handles, and you'll be able to lift, push, and pull your luggage with ease — and with less risk of broken handles.

🧭 Explore Our Guides

Shop Our Full Selection of Luggage