I’ve dragged around the same black, two-wheeled Briggs and Riley carry-on bag for at least 10 years, and it’s still going strong. But when I’m at the airport and see travellers toting four-wheeled “spinners” or shiny polycarbonates in a rainbow of colours, I get luggage envy.

To help me decide if it’s time to bag my old bag and try something new, I asked the experts for some advice on what to look for.

New materials
“Ballistic nylon is still number one, but polycarbonate hard side luggage is the hot new thing,” said John Mori, president of the Mori Luggage and Gifts chain in the US. “Polycarbonate offers the benefit of being very lightweight and durable, but frequent travellers should make sure they choose from top quality brands like Rimowa, Tumi or Victorinox. Other brands may not be as durable for the long-haul.” Also note that most of those sleek and smooth polycarbonate bags don’t have exterior pockets, which means you have to open the entire bag to insert or remove smaller items you might need along the way.

New sizes
Carry-on bags are getting shorter and wider. Georgene Rada, vice president of design for Briggs and Riley said its new 20cm by 40cm by 50cm “wide body” bag is now the company’s bestselling carry-on. “The wider but shorter profile allows for the same packing capacity as the more narrow and taller case. The advantage to this new dimension is that it fits more easily in the overhead compartments,” she said.

Lighter weights
Luggage manufacturers are using composite materials to help lighten the load on travellers and avoid overweight baggage fees. When choosing new luggage, it’s a good idea to lift two different bags simultaneously to compare their “tare weight” (the weight of the empty bag). However, while a light bag is easier on your back, frequent travellers should also consider function and durability — look for features like heavy duty stitching and zippers, sturdy wheels placed far apart to avoid tipping, and well-padded, reinforced handles.

More wheels
Nearly all manufacturers are now rolling out new lines of bags with four wheels, which are rapidly replacing older two-wheeled versions. “The four-wheel spinner system allows the bag to be rolled easily in an upright instead of tilted position,” Mori said. In addition, the wider four-wheeled bags can be turned sideways to easily pass down airplane aisles. Despite their rapid rise in popularity, “spinners” have a couple of drawbacks. Firstly, they don’t move as fast as the two-wheeled variety. Also, wheels are often the first thing to break on a bag, so with four of them you are doubling your chances of malfunction. Make sure the bag you choose has a good warranty — for example, my good old black bag is still covered under Briggs and Riley’s famous, no-questions-or-exceptions lifetime guarantee, which covers normal wear and tear or airline damage.

New colours
“Black is still our number one seller, but we are seeing a lot more interest in newer, brighter colours,” Mori said. “Also, art is a new trend we are watching closely. For example, Heys USA recently launched a new line of polycarbonate cases that feature pop art designs by artists Romero Britto and Charles Fazzino.

Does your carry-on bag have two wheels, four wheels or no wheels? Do you prefer a black bag or one with a wild colour? Please leave your comments on our Facebook page.

Chris McGinnis is the business travel columnist for BBC Travel