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The Best Hard Shell Luggage to Keep Your Belongings Safe While Traveling

Whether you need a carry-on or a checked bag, these hard shell luggage picks make flying a breeze.

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The Best Hard Shell LuggageVIA MERCHANT (3)

Is hard shell luggage better than soft?

Much in the same way that some people prefer a window seat while some won’t fly unless they’re in the aisle, the question of hard shell luggage vs. squishier versions is a very personal choice. Timm Fenton, designer of iconic luggage brand Ricardo Beverly Hills, says, “While soft construction allows some flex for additional packing space, hard side cases provide impact resistance and molded shells tend to glide easier over uneven surfaces during handling.” Here’s a bit more to help you decide what works best for you.

Soft shell luggage usually has some sort of fabric exterior, which sometimes makes it lighter to carry around. For those who shop while traveling, it might mean that you can add a bit more clothing or souvenirs on the way home from your trip. Another reason some people prefer soft shell luggage is that it seems to be easier to store in overhead bins since it’s less rigid than hard shell luggage.

Hardside luggage generally has a less malleable exterior, so while you might not as easily be able to overstuff your suitcase, it’s also less likely to get torn while you’re en route to your destination. Hard shell luggage tends to be more durable overall and lasts longer. Another perk: Most of the hard shell luggage we’ve seen often has a hidden zipper section that allows you to expand the size of the bag.

Take a look at our picks for the best hardside bags on the market below, in addition to the best luggage brands, best underseat luggage, best luggage sets and top toiletry bags.

The best hard shell luggage

1 / 5

Royce and Rocket The Castlevia merchant

Best overall hard shell luggage

Royce and Rocket The Castle

If you hate unpacking your suitcase on trips, this good-looking Royce and Rocket roller has the solution. The standout element of this smart bag includes patent-pending built-in shelving that lets you live out of your luggage. The signature design element—the Castle Shelves—feature two fold-down, lightweight, weight-bearing shelves built into the lid side of the bag.

It may take a little bit of getting used to, but when you’re ready to pack up again, simply unsnap the two straps, and the shelves stow flat for maximum organization. This hard shell luggage is made of a durable polycarbonate material, and also includes a TSA-approved lock, 360-degree spinner wheels, a multi-stop telescopic handle and a compression system that lets you pack more.

Pros

  • Built-in shelves means better organization and quicker packing
  • Three external color and two internal shade options
  • Plenty of extra storage features including a hidden pocket, hanging pocket and mesh-zip compartment
  • Free shipping, free returns and a 10-year warranty

Cons

  • High quality features come with a high price tag
  • On the heavier side (15.5 pounds)

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2 / 5

Beis The 26-inch Check-In Rollervia merchant

Best checked hard shell luggage

Béis The 26-inch Check-In Roller

Serious about taking a longer trip in the next few months? Then you’ll want serious luggage to keep up with you. Béis is one of the best new luggage brands on the market. This fashionable and function checked bag has a stain-resistant polycarbonate exterior with a stylish gradient 3D stripe design. It’s packed with features every world traveler will appreciate, such as 360-degree wheels and TSA-approved locks, as well as some very special capabilities.

You’ll never have to worry about getting charged for overweight baggage with this Béis bag: A built-in weight limit indicator lets you know when your bag needs to loose some LBs. An optional expansion section makes the bag bigger, holding up to 99 pounds. Just be sure to check airline regulations to avoid extra charges and luggage problems at TSA.

Pros

  • Built-in weight limit indicator lets you know if your bag is too heavy
  • Comes in five colors
  • Lots of organizational pockets including a built-in “dirt bag” for laundry
  • Limited lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Some say the waterproof pouches are actually more water-resistant

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3 / 5

Samsonite Winfield 2 Hardside Luggagevia merchant

Best carry-on hard case luggage

Samsonite Winfield 2 Hardside Luggage

There’s a reason that many people equate Samsonite with luggage. The brand is a reliable and reasonably-priced option for quality cases that last. The Winfield 2 hard shell luggage meets the majority of domestic airline’s carry-on restrictions. It also comes with cool updates like the TSA-friendly locks on the side of the suitcase, so they’re easily accessible to you or a TSA agent, but less so to potential thieves. Most impressively, the case has been redesigned and re-engineered to make it more lightweight and easier to lift and stow in overhead bins. Thousands of five-star Amazon reviews confirm that this is one of the best carry-on bags to buy.

Pros

  • Lightweight and easy to maneuver
  • Interior dividers help you stay organized
  • Fun, bold colors like orange or ice blue (ten total options)
  • An excellent value for the price

Cons

  • Reviewers report that this bag can scratch easily

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4 / 5

Roam The Large Carry-Onvia merchant

Best splurge hardside luggage

Roam The Large Carry-On

If you feel limited by the sometimes meager color choices available in most luggage, you really need to check out Roam. From the front and back shell to the smallest details like the zipper and binding, you can choose the colors that suit you best. But wait, there’s more! Want an expandable suitcase? Just tick that box and it’s yours. In a world full of black suitcases, your bag can be as one-of-a-kind as you are.

Ball-bearing spinner wheels make the Roam bag smooth to navigate anywhere, even through the busiest airports in the world. TSA-approved locks and the lightweight and durable American-made polycarbonate shell round out the features that make this our favorite splurge-worthy hard shell luggage option.

Pros

  • Lifetime warranty makes it a quality investment
  • Personalize the suitcase with custom color selections down to the fine details
  • 100-day free trial and free shipping
  • Built-in compression system lets you pack more

Cons

  • Complete customization and durability make this bag expensive

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5 / 5

Rockland Melbourne Hardside Expandable Spinnervia merchant

Best affordable hard side luggage

Rockland Melbourne Hardside Expandable Spinner

You don’t have to spend a fortune to get great quality: This 20-inch Rockland spinner is sized to be a carry-on, lightweight (so you won’t pay for overweight luggage fees if you do check it), extremely durable and has multi-directional spinner wheels for the easiest level of maneuverability. And even with a very small footprint, reviewers report that this compact piece of hardside luggage has room for loads of clothing and accessories. While you’re at it, check out more of the best cheap luggage options to buy.

Pros

  • Superb value for an affordable price
  • There are 32 available colors
  • Made from a lightweight, durable ABS material
  • Multi-directional spinner wheels

Cons

  • The warranty can be tricky to understand (it covers the replacement of the handle, but not the wheels)
  • No locks on this luggage

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Source: Timm Fenton, designer of luggage brand Ricardo Beverly Hills

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Rachel Weingarten
Rachel Weingarten is an award-winning freelance writer specializing in beauty, fashion, lifestyle, career/business and tech. She's the author of 3 award-winning books, and co-founder of a national non-profit, the RWR Network.