Updated on December 24th, 2022

Rimowa Essential and Essential Lite are made of the same materials and are visually identical. So what is the difference between the two?

Rimowa, originally a German brand, is known for making high-tech, high-end luggage. Its key focus lies in creating quality bags designed with longevity in mind; hence, it spends time and resources researching the latest trends and technologies in the field.

Thinking of the travelers who are pained by the hefty sum they pay in baggage fees annually due to the frequent short trips they take, this German brand revolutionized the industry, with its Essential model being the world’s first polycarbonate suitcases. 

These polycarbonate suitcases are extremely lightweight and compact. They feature a unique patented Flex-Divider system that allows them to fit in more items than other brands of similar size and save you from hefty baggage fees.

Rimowa Essential vs Essential Lite
Rimowa Essential vs Essential Lite

If you are looking for a smart way to carry your essentials around easily, then one of these two might be perfect for you!

In this piece, I give a complete review of Rimowa Essential and Essential Lite, sharing insights into their design, storage capacity, Pros and cons, differences, and more.

Let’s begin!

Main features of the Rimowa Essential

To begin highlighting the differences between the Essential and Essential Lite, I will first focus on the Cabin model, which is built for short business trips.

The Rimowa Essential is a strong, durable, lightweight cabin luggage designed in Germany to provide the best high-tech functionality. 

Below I discuss some of its main features.

Dimensions

The Rimowa Essential Cabin has the following dimensions:

  • Size: 21,7 x 15,8 x 9,1 INCH (55 x 39 x 23 CM)
  • Weight: 7,1 Lbs (3,2 Kg)

Design

Rimowa Essential Cabin
Rimowa Essential Cabin

The Rimowa Essential Cabin is a beautiful luxury suitcase with Rimowa’s signature grooves designed to look sexy, sophisticated, and straightforward. 

There are no extraneous frills; it is the pinnacle of form and function, and the model is built to fit into most airline overhead bins.

The model has the following features: TSA-approved locks, Flex Divider, Multiwheel® System, and Telescopic Handle.

TSA-approved locks

Rimowa Essential TSA locks
Rimowa Essential TSA locks
Position of TSA combination lock on the Essential
Position of TSA combination lock on the Essential

The Rimowa Essential Cabin, like other models, has TSA-approved locks positioned on the side of the suitcase. 

As a Rimowa luggage owner, you can open your bag anytime using your secret combination key. You can lock it too by resetting the numbers. 

However, during security checks, TSA agents do not know the correct keys to open your bag. And if they are to force it, they might damage your bag. Hence, Rimowa designed the TSA- approved lock to solve this challenge. This TSA-Lock can only be opened by approved agents like Customs. Th TSA-Lock enables them to unlock your baggage for checks without causing any damage to the bag.

Multiwheel® System

Rimowa Essential Multiwheel system
Rimowa Essential Multiwheel system

The Essential Cabin features a multi-wheel system that provides users with seamless steering due to ball-bearing mounted wheels with cushioned axles enabling it to roll flexibly.

Telescopic Handle

Rimowa Essential Cabin Telescope handle
Rimowa Essential Cabin Telescope handle

The Rimowa Essential Cabin is easy to maneuver using its telescopic pull handle, which allows stage-free adjustment.

Colors

Rimowa Essential Cabin is available in two looks. 

  • The matte look 
  • The glossy look.

The matte has two color options (matte black and blue), while the glossy look has up to 13 color options. Hence, depending on your preferred look (glossy or matte), you can pick the look and color that suits you.

Flex-Divider System

Rimowa Essential Interior
Rimowa Essential Interior

The interior of the Essential Cabin, just like the Rimowa Original, has two Flex Dividers mechanisms that keep your items organized when traveling. 

However, I prefer something other than the Flex Dividers. They take up unnecessary space, and the edges get in the way when you try to close the suitcase. 

Besides, they weigh about one relatively heavy pound. This is most likely the reason they left out the Flex Dividers on the Essential Lite Cabin.

Materials

The Rimowa Essential Cabin is made from polycarbonate, a robust plastic used in aviation. This model is the world’s first polycarbonate suitcase designed by the German luxury bag maker, and it is available in matte and glossy finishes, as mentioned earlier. 

However, they are all made using the same premium materials.

Let’s take a quick view of the materials used below.

  • Outside: Polycarbonate
  • Inside: Polyester
  • Zippers: Plastic and Metal
  • Handles: Plastic
  • Wheels: Hard plastic
  • Dividers: Polyester

Storage capacity

The Rimowa Essential Cabin is built to fit in most airplane overhead compartments, has a storage capacity of 36 liters, and can cover short trips of up to 2 – 3 days.

Price

The price of a Rimowa Essential Cabin is around $875.

Main features of the Rimowa Essential Lite

The Rimowa Essential Lite is Rimowa’s lightest suitcase ever, designed to offer optimum stability and resilience. However, unlike other Rimowa version, it does not have a side handle which makes the Essential Lite  a bit inconvenient to handle especially when walking up the stairs.

I tend to grab a carry on by the side handle. But in this case, since the Essential Lite Cabin does not have a side handle, if you can’t hold it high of the ground the bottom of the suitcase will bump into the stairs.

With that said, let’s take a quick look at its main features:

Dimensions

The Rimowa Essential Lite has the following dimensions.

  • Size: 21,7 x 15,8 x 9,1 INCH (55 x 37 x 23 CM)
  • Weight: 4,9 Lbs (2,2 Kg)

Design

Rimowa Essential Lite Cabin
Rimowa Essential Lite Cabin

The eye-catching RIMOWA Essential Lite model is an ultra-lightweight carry-on luggage that fits into standard overhead compartments.

The model has the following design features: TSA-approved locks, Mesh Divider, Multiwheel® System, and T-Bar Telescopic Handle.

TSA-approved locks

Position of TSA combination lock on the Essential Lite
Position of TSA combination lock on the Essential Lite

Similar to Rimowa Essential, it has TSA-approved locks, which is designed to keep your items safe. However, unlike the Essential, the TSA-lock is positioned on the top. 

As the owner of your luggage, locking your bag is easy by using your secret combination key. However, the TSA-approved lock is designed to aid TSA-agent in safely opening your bag without causing damage during checks.

Multiwheel® System

Rimowa Essential Multiwheel system
Rimowa Essential Multiwheel system

Similar to the Essential Cabin, the wheels of the Essential Lite guarantee smooth maneuvering using its’ multi-wheel system that provides owners with seamless steering during transit.

T-Bar Telescopic Handle

Rimowa Essential Lite Cabin Telescope handle. T-Bar.
Rimowa Essential Lite Cabin Telescope handle. T-Bar.

The telescopic handle is re-engineered to make this Rimowa luggage more lightweight. The Essential Lite is the only Rimowa model with only one bar instead of two. See the photo below.

Telescope handle on the Essential Lite
Telescope handle on the Essential Lite

In addition, the Essential Lite has one handle instead of the usual two handles found on most Rimowa models. Leaving out one handle helps to decrease the weight of the luggage, and on a smaller cabin suitcase, one can argue if a handle on the side is necessary.

One bar instead of two saves weight as well. However, holding the handle is much more convenient if you would have two bars on the outside instead of one in the middle.

Colors

The Rimowa Essential Lite has fewer color options (black and green) and is available only in a glossy finish.  

Mesh-Divider System

Interior Essential Lite Cabin

Unlike the interior of Rimowa Essential, which has two Flex Dividers that take up space and the edges get in the way when you try to close the suitcase, the interior of Essential Lite has two enclosed compartments (Mesh Dividers) which you can open and close with a zipper. 

The Mesh-Divider System is used to keep items in place inside your  luggage and it works great! The only downside is that you can’t squeeze your belongings as you can with the Flex Divider. But on the bright side, every excess weight is eliminated.

Materials

As aforementioned, the Essential Lite is available in two colors; each is made using the same premium materials.

Let’s take a quick view of the materials below.

  • Outside: Polycarbonate
  • Inside: Polyester
  • Zippers: Plastic and Metal
  • Handles: Plastic
  • Wheels: Hard plastic
  • Dividers: Polyester

Storage capacity

The Rimowa Essential Lite Cabin is built to fit in almost any airplane overhead bin. It has a storage capacity of 37 liters to cover short business trips of up to 2 – 3 days journey.

Price

The price of a Rimowa Essential Cabin is about $700.

Differences between the Rimowa Essential and Essential Lite

Rimowa Essential vs Essential Lite
Differences between Rimowa Essential vs Essential Lite
Rimowa Essential Corner
Rimowa Essential Lite Corner
No handle on the side on the Essential Lite
No handle on the side on the Essential Lite

Rimowa Essential vs. Essential Lite

The Rimowa Essential and the Essential Lite are displayed in the picture above. Both are the same size and color but have a price difference of 175 dollars. Visually they are almost identical so let’s find out what is different besides the price.

Features Rimowa Essential CabinRimowa Essential Lite Cabin
GroovesThe grooves on the shelves are identical. However, the Essential tries to replicate the exterior of the Rimowa Original.The grooves on the Essential Lite are smooth without any embellishments.
TSA LocksThe TSA combination lock on the Essential Cabin is on the sides of the suitcase.The lock of the Essential Lite is positioned on top of the suitcase.
HandleThe Essential has handles on the top and the side.The Essential Lite has only a handle on the top.
Telescopic HandleThe Essential Cabin, just like other Rimowa models, has two barsThe Essential Lite collection is the only Rimowa model which only has one bar
DividersThe Essential Cabin has two Flex DividersThe Essential Lite Cabin does not have Flex Dividers. Instead, it has MeshDividers
ColorsIt is available both in glossy and matte looks and has a total of 13 colors.It is available in a glossy look only and has a total of three colors.
Measurements21,7 x 15,8 x 9,1 INCH (55 x 39 x 23 CM)21,7 x 15,8 x 9,1 INCH (55 x 37 x 23 CM)
Weight3,2 Kg/7,1 Lbs2,2 Kg/4,9 Lbs
Volume36 L/9,8 Gal 37 L/10,1 Gal
StorageProvides the traveler with room for up to 2-3 days of travel.Provides enough space for up to 2-3 days of travel.
Colors MatteMatte colors Rimowa Essential
Colors GlossColors gloss Rimowa Essential Cabin
Colors gloss Rimowa Essential Cabin
Colors gloss Rimowa Essential Cabin
Colors gloss Rimowa Essential Lite Cabin
Price$875$700

Pros and cons of Rimowa Essential

Here are the Pros and cons of Rimowa Essential Cabin cases:

Pros

  • It is made of polycarbonate, which is flexible, making it easier to push more items into the bag without affecting the closure of the luggage.
  • Multidirectional wheel system features enable easy maneuvering during transit.
  • The Flex Dividers allow you to squeeze in more items and keep them in place.
  • Straightforward locks and suitcase close easily
  • These models of Rimowa suitcases are sturdy, durable, and lightweight.
  • It has more color options than Essential Lite Cabin.

Cons

  • It gets scratched easily.
  • Even though it’s an entry model, the Essential Cabin still comes at a hefty $875.

Pros and cons of Rimowa Essential Lite

Remember that Rimowa Essential Cabin and Essential Lite Cabin are almost similar in looks, size, and make. With that said, here are the Pros and cons of Rimowa Essential Lite Cabin cases:

Pros

  • Like the Essential Cabin, It is made of polycarbonate, which makes it easy to pack a bit extra without affecting the capacity to close the bag efficiently, unlike the aluminum suitcases.
  • It has a multi-wheel system that makes maneuvering easy, even on rough surfaces.
  • The Mesh Dividers keep items organized and intact.
  • It locks easily.
  • It is sleek and elegant thanks to its glossy look.
  • Extremely lightweight

Cons

  • Like Essential Cabin, it gets scratched easily
  • It has limited color options than Essential Cabin
  • Even though it’s an entry model, the Essential Lite Cabin still comes at a hefty 700 dollar
  • You can’t squeeze your belongings as much as you can with the Flex Divider
  • The Telescope handle is annoying to hold
  • No side handle

Which suitcase is best for long trips?

They are both non suited for long trips, given that both suitcases are designed for a short weekend or business trip of 2-3 days only.

However, the Essential and Essential Lite also offer check-in luggage which is built for longer trips of up to ten days.

Which one is a better investment?

Now you have a complete comparison between these two super lightweight Essential models. The question is, which one is a better investment for you?

The answer is not straightforward. It depends on your preference.

If you take a lot of short getaway trips and desire to save a lot on baggage fees, Rimowa Essential Lite might be your best option because it weighs 30% less than the Rimowa Essential suitcases.

But the Essential Cabin might be best for you if you are more particular about functionality, as it is similar to Rimowa Original with a handle on the side and the top.

I use the handle on the side regularly when I travel. I use it when I walk the stairs, lifting it with the handle on the side. If I used the upper handle, I would have to lift it much higher; otherwise, I would hit the stairs. 

Another instance when I use the side handle is when I stow it in the overhead compartment on the plane or when I take it out of the overhead compartment.

Furthermore, if you are particular about looks, the Essential Cabin is available In glossy and matte in contrast, the Essential Lite Cabin is available only in glossy finishes.

Typically both versions are light weight, sturdy, durable, and almost identical except for a slight difference in size. Hence, your investment decision will be based on whether you want more functionality or less weight.

Takeaway

There’s no getting around the fact that both Rimowa Essential and Essential Lite are beautiful, sleek carry-on suitcases. 

As described in this piece, they are both extremely lightweight, saving you much in baggage fees, especially Rimowa Essential Lite, which comes under five pounds in weight. 

They are available in matte and glossy finishes. However, Rimowa Essential Cabin has more color options than the Lite version, which is only available in glossy finishes.

Both are much more affordable than the Rimowa models, made with high-end aluminum, and are perfect for short trips of up to 2 – 3 days. 

If you frequently take short trips, consider investing in one of these two pieces of exquisite luggage, considering the key points I mentioned (refer back to the differences and pros and cons of each).

I hope that with this, you can make an informed purchasing decision. Thank you for reading!