The 11 Best Hardshell Carry-On Roller Luggage to Buy in 2018

Keep your belongings safe and secure when traveling

When traveling by plane, carry-on suitcases come in two basic types: hard shell with a durable exterior or soft shell suitcases made of fabric. Hard shell suitcases provide added protection for valuables, but are less malleable than soft side (fabric) cases. Travelers who prefer the hard shell for their carry-on bag have a variety options that come with TSA approved locks, unique designs and spacious interiors. Our list of the eight best hard shell carry-on suitcases will help find the right one for you.

  • 01 of 11

    Made of 100 percent polycarbonate, the "Delsey Luggage Helium Aero International Carry-On" has a durable build and a sleek compact look with a glossy metallic finish. One of the best features on this case is the roomy front compartment that has a built-in padded sleeve for up to 15.6 inch laptops (which is easily accessible when going through security), as well as two zippered mesh pockets for toiletries, phone chargers and other small items. The interior of the suitcase is lined with fabric and has two compartments, as well as elastic straps and a buckle for making sure clothes stay in place. Keeping all your valuables safe are self-repairing zippers and a three dial TSA-approved combination lock, while the double spinner wheels make navigating the airport easy. Colors come in black, brick red, brushed charcoal, cobalt blue, midnight blue, platinum and titanium.

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    For a quality carry-on that looks great, has plenty of space, ample organizational features and a reasonable price, the “Kenneth Cole Reaction” is an excellent purchase. While the main compartments of most luggage have standard crisscrossed straps to secure items, the Kenneth Cole Reaction has the added benefit of two winged pouches attached to the sides of the straps, so smaller items can rest atop of clothing without sliding around – a thoughtful touch. The top flap also has two pouches for shoes and toiletry items. The Reaction weighs 7.5 pounds and measures 22.44 x 15.16 x 8.5 inches (with wheels) and has added structural features such as reinforced corners and expandable sides, plus incredibly smooth-gliding spinner wheels.

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    For an affordable carry-on bag that stands out in the crowd, check out the “Rockland 20 Inch Polycarbonate Carry On," which comes in 11 colorful design patterns. The artistic, glossy luggage ranges from geometric shapes and animals to flowers, hearts and more, with eye-popping shades that make it easy to spot in the overhead bin. The bag glides smoothly on four spinner wheels, weighs just 7.7 pounds and measures 13 x 9 x 20 inches. The inside design is simple – yet functional – with a large compartment for clothes and a separate zipper area for toiletries. Amazon buyers thought it was a sturdy carry-on bag that is good for kids and adults.

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    While mainly known for their clothing, Nautica also makes quality luggage and the company’s “Ahoy 21-Inch Hardside Spinner” is a reasonably priced, well-built piece that is a cut above others in its price range. The bright yellow and orange exterior colors make a statement, but there are also silver and black bags for those who prefer the traditional route. The spacious interior has two individual mesh pouches and a zipped compartment, as well as a main storage area with straps for securing clothes. The bag measures 9 x 21 x 14 inches, has spinner wheels and weighs just 7.4 pounds. One drawback is that there is no side handle, so going up and down stairs takes a little more maneuvering.

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    With a sleek, metallic finish that gives it an industrial feel, the aluminum-framed “Samsonite Cruiseair” luggage is an extremely sturdy carry-on made of polycarbonate. The bag includes a TSA locking system with clasps that easily snap open like a briefcase. And at 9.4 pounds it is durable enough to protect your valuables (although a bit heavier than some other choices). Clothes can be secured using an adjustable strap in the roomy main compartment and the top side of the interior has a zippered pouch that can also be adjusted for smaller items. The spinner wheels allow it to glide with ease. Although the bag falls within carry-on limits without the wheels included, if your airline measures the wheels it puts it a tad over. Be sure to check before flying.

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    If you just need a cheap carry-on that will get the job done, the “Goplus Globalway Expandable 20-Inch" option is a safe choice. Although the bag lacks the bells and whistles that some of the pricier options come with (like security locks or hand grips), it is a sturdy suitcase with spinner wheels that meets carry-on requirements. The GoPlus comes in eight different colors ranging from bright pinks, turquoise or blue to more traditional grey or black. Measuring 20 x 14 x 9 inches and weighing 6.6 pounds, the Globus is easy to tote around the airport. It also has a clothing compartment with straps to secure belongings and a mesh pouch for electronics and other small items.

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    The Olympia Apache Carry-On Spinner has a slightly different design than the standard hardshell bags with added features that make it a more versatile travel bag. The center of the bag has a hidden compartment that allows travelers to tuck away items such as laptop computers, briefcases and other business necessities (as well as headphones or a neck pillow) while the bag is upright. The lined interior has two zipped pouches for organizing, and the exterior is constructed from sturdy ABS with four spinner wheels. The expandable bag measures 9 x 14 x 21 inches and comes in solid black with lime, orange, red, blue or purple straps, stitching and wheels. 

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    Star Wars fans and kids love American Tourister’s Hardside Spinner that is designed to look like the famous movie character, R2D2. The carry-on bag adds a fun aspect to mundane luggage and is also sturdy and functional. Spinner wheels and a retractable handle makes it roll smoothly, a side handle adds additional convenience and the interior offers plenty of space and compartments. Although the bag is technically a tad over the carry-on limit for many airlines (by .5 inches), most travelers have no problem bringing it aboard.

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  • 09 of 11

    The Enkloze is a classy, chic suitcase that is still functional and a popular choice for business travelers. Measuring 14.6 x 9.4 x 21.3 inches, the bag has a polycarbonate body with reinforced corners, an aluminum frame to protect items and two TSA-approved locks. The interior has fashionable red lining, a clamshell design with adjustable straps on the top and bottom of the case and mesh compartments that can be tucked away when not in use. A quick-access front compartment is perfect for laptops, phone chargers and other must-have items. The exterior has sleek, geometric shapes and comes in white or black.

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    Samsonite Inova 20" Spinner Hardside
    ••• Courtesy of Zappos.com

    The Samsonite Inova 20 is a great option if you’re looking for a hardshell carry-on that stays looking new after many uses. Made of high-tech, Makrolon polycarbonate, the bag is a worthwhile splurge, thanks to its high-impact resistance material and textured finish that reduces the visibility of scratches. The sleek-looking, metallic carry-on measures 15 x 7.5 x 20 inches and weighs just over six pounds, allowing it to travel with ease on spinner wheels with little effort. The bag features a built-in, TSA-approved lock, and a spilt-interior design that’s fully lined with straps on one side and a large zippered compartment on the other, however, there are no small pockets for cell phones or other quick-grab items. 

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    Ricardo Beverly Hills Unisex Roxbury 2.0 19" Hybrid EZ Access
    ••• Courtesy of Jet.com

    Constructed from durable Makrolon polycarbonate, the Roxbury 2.0 Hybrid EZ Access bag is ideal for frequent business travelers who require a functional and long-lasting carry-on. Although the bag has a reinforced hard exterior, the front has a soft external pocket for grab-and-go items and a laptop sleeve with slots for office necessities that can be accessed while the bag is upright. There’s also a retractable exterior strap for attaching smaller bags to the outside during transport that tucks away when not in use. The interior has even more conveniences like a two-compartment packing system for separating clothes – a unique design that’s perfect for short getaways. 

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