Best Hard-Shell Luggage
It’s time for that annual work convention that you dread. You will be traveling for hours with a group of people you don’t want to be with daily, much less for an entire weekend, but since you don’t have any other choice, you might as well try to enjoy it. The only thing that has you motivated is the new clothes you bought, but the bad thing is that your luggage is older than you. After last year’s fiasco of it breaking in the middle of the terminal with all your intimates exposed for the world to see, you should probably consider buying a new set, or at least a new piece or two.
It’s been forever since you went shopping for luggage and you really don’t know where to start, but one thing is certain, you are opting for a hard-shell this time over that old soft-shell you used to carry. Now, you need to figure out where to start but don’t sweat it, that’s where we come in. We have taken the time to do the research, so you don’t have to. Look through the following guide where you will find ten of the best hard-shell luggage on the market.
- Traveler Freedom
- TSA locks
- Retractable handles
- Merax Travelhouse
- Spinner wheels
- Set of 3 pieces
- Victorinox Spectra 2.0
- Laptop bag
10 Best Hardshell Luggage Brands
Traveler’s Choice Freedom
Inside the walls of this hard-shell luggage, you will find an elegant wardrobe lined with polyester. There are plenty of pockets to fit everything from toiletries to shoes. The zippered divider provides a place to keep your clean clothes separated from your dirty clothes, and on the opposite side you can organize your clothes and keep them secure with the cross straps that are attached to the inside wall. These are a perfect size offering a 29 and 25-inch bag to check and the 20-inch will make a great carry-on, so you can keep all the important things with you that you will need on the go. A rare feature, this one provides an extra strap on the top of each one that can be attached together for easier toting. When they are not in use, they will nestle inside each other for convenient storage. Included with this luggage is a set of TSA locks with the keys for your added security.
With the modern design of this luggage, you will have heads turning as you stroll through the airport. They come in three attractive colors with your choice of a bright apple green, pleasant arctic blue, or a soft dusty rose. With these color options, you will spot your luggage quickly as it floats through the sea of other luggage. The retractable handles are designed for an easy comfortable touch to the palm of your hands, and the other handles are positioned just right for versatility and comfort.
Constructed of durable polycarbonate ABS, this luggage will put up a fight against the abuse of the airline baggage process. The handles are sturdy and should hold up without a fight, however, the wheels may not be as resilient and after a couple years they could tire out. Otherwise, this set appears to be sturdy and one of the most durable on the list.
Ease of Use
Using this set of luggage is a breeze. The handles retract at the push of a button and the rest of the handles are easy to grab and carry without discomfort. There are four wheels that spin smoothly on the two larger bags, and the smaller, carry-on bag glides smoothly over inline skate wheels. They turn and roll without getting stuck, but they do have a history of snapping or breaking after a couple years of hard use.
The price of this set leans toward the lower end compared to some of the others on our list. Actually, for a set of three bags, the price is a bargain. The set is sturdy and will last a long time. It’s safe to say this is a great set of luggage at a bargain price.
- A set of three luggage, 20-inch, 25-inch, and 29-inch.
- It comes with straps to hook them together
- It comes with a set of TSA locks and keys
- Retractable handles and spinner wheels for easy maneuverability
- It comes in three color choices
- The wheels have a history of breaking after a couple of years
The hard shell of this luggage keeps all your belonging safe and secure inside the zipper closure. You will open it up to find plenty of space on the inside with a divider to keep things organized and the cross straps will keep all your things secure and in place during travel. There are three sized bags in this set; 28, 24, and 20-inches are perfect for checking and the smallest of the three will make a good carry-on to keep your important things with you. Unfortunately, this luggage doesn’t come with TSA locks, but they do come with combination locks that you can use for your own safety. When you are not traveling, you can keep the luggage packed inside each other allowing more space in your closet for other things.
You will appreciate the ridge design and ten bright color choices this luggage provides. The integrated handles on the sides and the tops make it easy to lift them and stack them. A unique feature to this luggage is the way the retractable handles have their own storage space on the outside so that they don’t take space away from the inside like most of the others do. You will be pleased with the spacious design and modern look from this luggage set.
The impressive quality of this luggage will make you wonder why you waited so long to make this choice. It’s constructed with a durable ABS material and the ridges are designed in the right places to hide any scratches that your luggage might endure, because let’s face it, no matter how durable, the luggage will get scratched in the terminal. The handles are sturdy, and the wheels are quiet and secure.
Ease of Use
Using the side and top handles, it’s easy to lift this luggage and put it on the scales. The retractable handle adjusts easily and slides into its storage space with ease. The zippers are smooth and the wheels spin and move with little effort.
This set of hard shell luggage is priced well and should fit into most budgets. The quality is impressive, and the design is modern and attractive. This set of three pieces holds a price tag that can easily be found on one piece alone, now that’s a bargain.
- This 3-piece set comes with a 28, 24, and 20-inch piece
- The retractable handle has its own storage space on the outside of the bag
- The spinner wheels are quiet compared to most
- This set doesn’t come with TSA locks
Victorinox Spectra 2.0
This bag features a hard shell that won’t break, and it will keep your valuables safe, so you can relax and enjoy your trip. In the outer part of the bag, you can keep your laptop safely secured along with all your other important essentials. When you open the bag, you will notice that it is a smaller version of a larger piece of luggage, and it is wider than most carry-on bags. There are a zippered divider and cross straps, so you can carry a change of clothes if you are going for an overnight trip. If you don’t need to carry your laptop with you, you have the option of removing the outer portion of the bag. It makes the perfect piece of luggage to carry on or take with you for a quick weekend trip.
The clean, professional look of this bag will show off your personality as you venture through the airport. One handle is molded to the top for an easy-to-grab option, or you can pull it behind you using the retractable handle. It’s designed with versatility, it offers a spacious compartment for all your needs, and it comes with a travel lock. You have the option of black or red, either color will reflect the same elegance of this piece.
Constructed of polycarbonate materials, this piece of carry-on luggage will tolerate all the abuse handed to it. It’s durable and won’t break, so you can keep your computer and other electronics safe. The zippers are smooth, and the wheels are durable. This is a high-quality piece that is built to last.
Ease of Use
For the simplicity and ease of traveling, this is a perfect bag. The retractable handle easily locks into various positions and the wheels glide smoothly as you pull it with ease. The laptop compartment opens sideways and can be a bit awkward, but it does open and close easily and can be removed without sweat when you’re ready.
The price is the highest on the list, and you could probably get three pieces for the price of this one, but you won’t find one with all this versatility and quality. Think about the convenience of carrying your valuable laptop in the same bag with your clothes, and not having the worry of it getting broken. So, it’s like having two bags for the price of one here; a suitcase and a laptop bag, but all in one piece.
- It is a carry-on with a laptop bag all in one
- It comes with a travel lock
- The outer laptop bag can be removed
- The luggage is wider and more spacious than most
- The laptop compartment opens sideways and can be awkward
- It is on the higher end of the price scale
Rockland 20” Polycarbonate
From the outside, this bag might not look big, but when you open it, you will be surprised when you find the zippered compartments and the cross straps. There is enough room in this one for an overnight or quick weekend trip, and you will find an appreciation of the zipper pouch inside that will keep your toiletries separate or use it for your quick grab items you will need during your travels.
This 20-inch bag offers an artistic, glossy design that is a bit more unique from the others. The fun colors and designs range from animal prints to flowers, hearts, and geometric shapes and you will see that they are pleasantly carried to the inside lining as well. There are even a few plain, more laid-back pieces for you to choose, so you can see that there is something here for everyone. It’s covered with ABS polycarbonate material and the flat handles on the top are designed so you can carry the bag, or you can pull it behind using the retractable handle.
You might find this one to be flimsier than the others, but that is probably because it was designed with all ages in mind. It might be better suited for a young person with lighter articles than a larger person with heavier articles. The materials are durable, and the bag seems to be sturdy when it stands on the reliable wheels. The handles and zippers are all strong, but again, the handle might not perform as you would expect since it is geared toward lighter packing.
Ease of Use
This bag is simple, but functional. It provides an easy to retract handle and the wheels will perform with little effort from you. It’s easy to open and close and all the inside parts are easy to use, so you can be rest assured that your child or elderly parent will have no problem with using this reliable bag.
This is an affordable carry-on that can be used by everyone in any age bracket with any taste. It will fit into any budget, and it will show off your personality, there is a lot to be said of a product with this much quality and functionality.
- It is a 20-inch carry-on
- It can be used by all ages
- It will stand out in the crowd, so you can spot it quickly
- It’s available in various colors and designs
- The retractable handle and wheels make it easy to pull behind
- It is a bit flimsier than most
- The handle might not seem as durable as the others
Delsey Helium Aero 29
This high-quality, classy 29-inch bag makes travel stress free. The inside provides more room than you would expect at first glance. There is a zipper divider to keep your clothes and shoes separate, an additional zipper pocket will keep your small items organized and all your clothes will stay remain neatly folded and secure beneath the hooked cross straps. There is a TSA lock that has been molded into the side and the bag will close securely with the heavy zipper.
You will love the glossy look of this bag, and the colors will blow you away, not to mention the eight different attractive colors you have to choose from. Everything about this bag screams class. The wheels are designed better than some with a set of four, dual-wheels that make gliding across the floor much easier. There is a durable grab handle on the top and the retractable handle holds the same classy look as the rest of the bag.
You will never have the worry of this bag being too flimsy, in fact, it tends to get a bit heavy when it’s full. The heavy polycarbonate covering will prevent permanent dents, and the classy ridges will hide the scratches. The handle is strong, and the wheels are exceptionally durable compared to some. The inner lining is made of quality and so are the zippers. This bag is made to be indestructible.
Ease of Use
This bag is probably one of the easiest when it comes to gliding and the zippers are simple to open and close. You might need a little practice with the TSA lock, but that is probably true with all the locks. Overall, this bag glides smoothly and is simple to use. Just be aware, that it will get a little heavy when it’s full, but that’s where the top grab handle comes in handy.
This bag is a great size and made of exceptional quality. The price is right where it should be for a bag of this degree. It’s roomy, classy, and well worth every dime spent.
- It is a 29-inch bag
- There are four, dual-wheels on the bottom
- It provides a lot of space
- It has a TSA lock molded into the side
- It can be quite heavy when it’s full
World Traveler 2
Not only is this bag appealing on the outside, but you will be amazed when you open it. The inside is lined and provides zipper pockets and cross straps. It is more spacious than it looks. The retractable handle on the 21-inch bag allows room for the smaller, 12-inch bag to strap onto it so you can easily pull them both together through the airport. The smaller bag doesn’t provide a shoulder strap, but it does provide an integrated handle so even your child can carry it. The luggage is complete with a built-in, TSA lock for added security.
When you see this pretty butterfly bag rolling through the terminal you will be sure to smile. The glossy look makes it stand out, and if you check this bag, you will find it quickly while the other passengers are fishing through the baggage claim for theirs. Its clever design allows for both to be hooked together and the dual-wheels make it simple to pull. The molded handles along with the retractable handle on the larger one will give you different options for carrying it, and the smaller one provides a molded handle for easy carrying when it’s not attached to the larger one. They close tightly with a strong and secure zipper.
The outer shell of the bags is constructed of polycarbonate which makes it tough enough to protect your contents, but this one might not be a tough as some, so if you check this bag, don’t be surprised if it comes out with a few dents. This is normal for this type of bag though, and most of the time the dents can be pushed out. The wheels are dual to make the bag sturdy, the zippers are durable, and the handles are secure. The biggest complaint is that the paint does have a history of peeling on this bag. That is cosmetic though and doesn’t affect it’s durability.
Ease of Use
With the dual wheels, you will find this bag is easy to steer and your children shouldn’t have a problem controlling it. The zippers are easy for opening and closing. The hardest part to operating this bag will be the lock, but once you get used to it, it’s a piece of cake.
This set is like getting two bags for the price of one. It’s a durable set and perfect for any age. The versatility allows you to carry on one or both of the bags, and the ability to hook them together builds up the value.
- This set offers two carry-on bags
- It comes with a 21-inch and 12-inch bag
- It comes with a TSA lock
- This one might dent easier than others
- The outer shell has a history of peeling
Kenneth Cole Reaction
You will be pleased with the spacious room inside this 20-inch carry on. Just like a larger piece of luggage, this one offers a zippered wall to keep the dirty clothes separate from the clean ones, and the other side provides a cross strap, so you can keep all your belongings safe and secure. There is an additional zipper pocket just big enough to keep your toiletries organized, and it’s complete with three different handles for your carrying needs.
Designed with bright colors for the vivacious personality, or choose one that is a little more modest, either way, there is one here that will suit everyone. There are handles on the side and the top for easy grabbing, and if you want to wheel this one behind you, just pop out the retractable handle and you will be on your way. While there is no lock with this one, it does secure tightly with a heavy zipper to keep your things tight inside.
The outside is constructed of a flexible, yet durable ABS material that will resist all the abuse it will go through at the airport. The inside is just as durable and made of the same quality as the outside. The wheels are single as opposed to the dual wheels that some of the others have, but that doesn’t make them any less durable. The handles are securely attached, and although the zippers might not be as sturdy as some, they do seem to open and close like you would expect.
Ease of Use
This bag glides smoothly across the floor and the handle retracts with ease. The zippers are easy to operate, and the interior is simple to pack without complications. The choice of handles makes it easy to lift, carry, and move this bag around.
This is a high-quality piece of luggage that’s easy to maneuver and it comes with the lowest price tag of all the others on this list. It has so much to offer, it’s loaded with quality, and so for the price, it makes this an all-around great bag.
- It is a 20-inch carry-on
- It is larger than the average carry-on
- It is available in a variety of colors
- It is the most affordable
- The zippers might not be as durable as you would expect
- It has single wheels and not dual
Samsonite Winfield 2
The inside and out of this fine luggage shows quality and great workmanship. This set provides enough luggage for everyone in the family. The largest is 28- inches, the middle one is 24-inches, and the smallest is 20-inches, just the right size to be used as a carry-on. The two larger bags come with molded handles on the sides and tops, and all three have a retractable handle on the top. They all have four wheels on the bottom and integrated TSA locks on the sides. On the inside, you will find plenty of room between the zipper divider and in the mesh pockets. The opposite side of the inside comes with a cross strap that can be clipped together to keep all your clothes in place during travel. The bags all close securely with heavy zippers.
The modern design of these bags come in a choice of attractive colors and designs that show-off a semi-glossy clean look, and some might even appear to be cloth from a distance. No matter which design you choose, you won’t go unnoticed as you walk through the airport terminal. The handles are designed for easy grabbing and the wheels are made to rotate so the bag won’t tip.
Constructed of polycarbonate, these bags are built to last. Although the wheels are single and not dual, they are strong and sturdy. The inside is durable, and the cross straps are strong. There are plenty of zippers, but they might not be as durable as you would expect, and they might break given time. The handles seem to be strong and secure. Overall, this is the same quality you would get from any bag with the Samsonite seal.
Ease of Use
This bag is extremely easy to carry and maneuver. The zippers open and close with ease, and the wheels spin and rotate with little effort from you. Once the locks are set, they are easy to use, and the retractable handles adjust without a problem.
With a product from Samsonite, you can always see the quality and feel the durability. This set of luggage is priced in the mid-range but is still considered to be affordable considering you will be getting three pieces instead of one.
- This set comes with a 28, a 24, and a 20-inch piece
- The smaller piece can be used as a carry-on
- They come with TSA locks
- The zippers are not as durable as you would expect, and they might break after heavy use
This fully functional 21-inch carry-on provides as much radiance on the inside as it does on the outside. When you open the bag, you will see that there is plenty of space to carry all the things you will need for a weekend trip. Each bag has its own style, so the compartments and zippers will vary, but each one provides a divider for separating your shoes or dirty garments, and they each provide extra storage pockets for toiletries and other belongings. Each one comes with a convenient cross strap, so you can keep your clothes neatly organized. The bags all close with a zipper and none of them offer a lock.
Just like the features, each bag has its own design. They are all covered with a polycarbonate shell, but the colors and styles of each one varies. No matter which bag you choose, you will have use of a convenient top and side carry handle, and they all have a retractable handle for easy pulling. Some of the designs feature dual wheels and some have single ones.
All of the bags are made of the same quality materials and they are all equally durable. The wheels are all sturdy no matter which ones you have, and the handles, cross straps, and zippers are all hefty and secure. Overall, this is a solid bag and a delight to carry on a light trip.
Ease of Use
Each design offers the same simple ease of use. They all open the same way with a zipper that glides smoothly, and the wheels are easy to spin no matter which ones you choose. The handles are easy to operate, and the bag is lightweight to carry even when it’s full.
Nautica is known for their high-quality products and this piece of carry-on luggage is no exception. It offers plenty of functionality, it’s easy to look at, and the price is exceptional. All-in-all, this bag is filled with value with a bargain price.
- It is a 21-inch carry-on
- It is offered in a variety of colors and designs
- It makes the perfect bag for traveling light
- It doesn’t come with a lock
Samsonite Cruisair DLX
You will appreciate the spacious room this 21-inch bag offers. The inside provides a divider, but unlike the others, it is firmer and clips together instead of using a zipper. On the front side of the divider, you will find a mesh zipper bag that is perfect for undergarments or toiletries. In the opposite side, you will notice the cross straps that are in place for keeping your clothes organized and neat. Another small zipper compartment lays in between the two sides and can be used for your chargers or other small electronic devices. For added security, a TSA lock has been molded into the side.
The bright colors are attractive and easy to spot from a distance. The spring handles are in place on the top and the side for easy grabbing or pull open the retractable handle to pull the bag behind you. The bag stands on top of four, dual spinner wheels and will turn a 360 without a problem. This one is designed to seal with an aluminum frame instead of a zipper.
Made of durable polycarbonate, this piece of luggage will withstand any abuse it might encounter. The durable handles will not disappoint, and the retractable handle is sturdy and strong. Since the wheels are dual, that makes them sturdier than others with single wheels.
Ease of Use
This one is easier to open than most because there are no zippers involved; just pop open the latches and you have access to the inside. The dual wheels make it easier to steer, and the snaps and few zippers on the inside are easy to handle.
This is another great product from Samsonite that is well-built and spacious. You don’t have to hassle with many zippers and it has a built-in lock, this carry-on is great and for an affordable price too.
- It is a twenty-one- inch carry-on
- It doesn’t have as many zippers to hassle with
- It has dual wheels
- It has a built-in TSA lock
- It doesn’t come in a set
- It only has a few color choices
Criteria USed For The Evaluation
Each piece of luggage offers its own unique features, but one thing that is standard in any bag is storage compartments. Most offer a wall to separate clean clothes from dirty or to use as a place to hide your shoes. Most have extra storage compartments for toiletries and other things, and something standard in just about all of them is a cross strap to keep things in place. All this is important to consider, no matter how many days you plan to travel. Each bag has a different size, and this is important too as there are regulations on sizes when you are flying. If you plan to carry your laptop or other electronic devices you will want to check the features to accommodate for that as well. Handles, wheel sizes, and locks are other features you will want to consider when making your decision.
Hard-shell luggage is designed to keep your things protected, and although the shell can become dented or scratched, it is usually durable enough to keep your things protected no matter how much abuse it takes. The designs and colors not only make a difference when it comes to personal preference, but it can also be important for standing out in the sea of a thousand other pieces of luggage; imagine how fast you will be able to spot yours as it comes around the bend.
As mentioned before, a hard-shell piece might still dent or scratch, but most are made of polycarbonate, and that material is extremely resilient to abuse. You want to make sure the wheels are strong enough to keep your bag steady, and be sure the handles will stay in place, so they won’t snap off in the middle of the busy airport.
Ease of Use
One important thing to consider in terms of this is the wheels. Most of the luggage will come with spinner wheels, meaning there will be four wheels on the bottom. Sometimes they are single and sometimes they are dual, but in either case, the easier they glide the better your experience. You will also want to be sure the bag has easy accessibility, and if there is a lock, make sure you understand how to use it before closing the bag.
Obviously the more you get for a buck, the better the value, that’s why you might save more money buying the luggage in a set rather than by the piece. Naturally, you want to make sure it will provide you with the size you need and all the features you want. The more you can get for the money, the better.
Q: What are TSA locks?
This is a special lock that only you and a TSA officer has access to, (they have special keys for these locks). They often check bags randomly, and if yours is next in line they have the right to open it. If you have a standard lock on your bag, they will break it to get inside. For these reasons, it’s best to purchase a bag that comes with a built-in TSA lock.
Q: Won’t the suitcase shell simply crack if a whole bunch of other luggage is thrown on top by the airline baggage handlers?
This is where you need to pay close attention to how the luggage is made, as well as the materials used. There are plenty of products out there that try to pass as higher quality, and not knowing the difference between cheaply made plastic and other more durable material could get you into trouble.
Look at what the actual material is that is used in the suitcase shell. This usually means you’ll be spending a little more, but think of it as more of an investment.