The 10 Best Hardside Luggage Bags of 2021

Durable bags for adventurous jetsetters

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TRIPSAVVY-best-hardside-luggage-bags

Chloe Jeong / TripSavvy

The Rundown

Best Overall: Away The Bigger Carry-On at Away Travel

"Here's a suitcase ideal for travelers who have a tendency to overpack."

Runner-Up, Best Overall: Delsey Aero Expandable Carry-On at Amazon

"One of the best features on this case is the roomy front compartment."

Best Budget: Samsonite Winfield 2 at Amazon

"This budget friendly hard case meets many domestic airline’s carry-on restrictions."

Best Checked: Travelpro Maxlite 25-inch Hardside Spinner at Amazon

"Built with a lightweight, 100 percent polycarbonate shell for scratch resistance."

Best Set: Away Set of Three at awaytravel.com

"At home, this set fits neatly inside each other so they don't take up your entire closet."

Best Splurge: Briggs & Riley International Carry-On Spinner at briggs-riley.com

"Between the polycarbonate material and a useful hinged exterior pocket, this suitcase serves up major points for functionality."

Best Carry-On: Victorinox Airox Frequent Flyer Hardside Carry-On at victorinox.com

"The butterfly-opening system makes packing and accessing your items a breeze."

Best Lightweight: Rimowa Essential Lite Cabin at rimowa.com

"This weighs less than five pounds, making it easy to lift or maneuver in all spaces."

Most Versatile: The Olympia Apache Carry-On Spinner at Amazon

"The affordable luggage has added features that make it a more versatile travel option."

Best for Durability: Paravel Aviator Carry-On Plus at Paravel

"The materials create a sustainable luggage that can seamlessly make its way through the airport, cargo, and more."

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. Hardside suitcases provide added protection for valuables, but are less malleable than luggage made from fabric. Travelers who prefer the hard shell for their carry-on bag have a variety of options that come with TSA-approved locks, unique designs, and spacious interiors.

In addition to features like locks, zipped compartments, and dividers, it's also important to consider the size. If you're more of a carry-on type, then a smaller option is the way to go, while a larger, sturdier piece of luggage is suitable to handle being checked.

Read on for our picks of the best hardside luggage bags available.

Best Overall: Away The Bigger Carry-On

Away The Bigger Carry-On

Away

4.2
What We Like
  • Large capacity

  • Unique colors

  • Compression panel

What We Don't Like
  • Charging port is hard to access

Instagram-adored Away makes some of the highest-quality suitcases on the market — and the Bigger Carry-On is no exception. Measuring a very spacious 22 inches, this top-notch carry-on is ideal for travelers who have a tendency to overpack. Its durable polycarbonate shell is both sleek and highly functional; you won’t have to worry about it getting scuffed up or damaged during a bumpy plane or cab ride. Conveniently, the hardshell luggage comes with an ejectable battery that charges your phone while you’re on the go, as well as a TSA-approved combo lock for extra security purposes. On the inside, you’ll find a compression system and a laundry bag that’s ideal for keeping your clothes neat and organized. Our tester particularly loved the interior panel that made it easy to compress garments and fold the suitcase.

Plus, for your peace of mind, Away offers a 100-day trial and lifetime warranty. You can snag one in more than ten shades.

Size: 22.7 x 14.7 x 9.6 in. | Weight: 8.4 lbs. | Capacity: 48 L 

“My Away Bigger Carry-on has been a crucial part of my luggage line-up since I got it in 2017. It's the perfect size for virtually any trip–I've even done two weeks in southeast Asia with it—and it's just the right size for all but the tiniest of planes.” —Laura Ratliff, Senior Editorial Director

Runner-Up, Best Overall: Delsey Aero Expandable Carry-On

4
What We Like
  • Wheels are easy to maneuver

  • Expandable

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Shows scuffs

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 hard case luggage 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 TSA), 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. In addition to the wheels, our tester appreciated the carry handles, which didn't just make it easy to hoist, but they lay flat and don't take up precious space.

Colors come in black, brick red, brushed charcoal, cobalt blue, pink, teal, and titanium.

Size: 21 x 14 x 10 in. | Weight: 8.2 lbs. | Capacity: 41 L 

“A good zipper is a heavy zipper, and there are three here—one that opens the front laptop compartment, a second for the main compartment, and a third that allows for up to 2 inches of extra expansion when unzipped.” Joy Merrifield, Product Tester

Best Budget: Samsonite Winfield 2

What We Like
  • Durable polycarbonate shell

  • Interior dividers

  • Range of colors

What We Don't Like
  • Can scratch easily

  • Doesn't expand

This budget-friendly 20-inch hard case meets many domestic airline’s carry-on restrictions, including United, American, Delta, Southwest, and Allegiant. It offers four, multi-directional spinner wheels so maneuvering through the airport is easy. Side-mounted TSA-friendly locks deter theft, but they are easily accessible if agents need to look in your luggage. A re-engineered case offers a lightweight solution for lifting into overhead bins. It comes with a 10-year warranty.

Size: 23 x 14.5 x 9.5 in. | Weight: 6.7 lbs. 

Best Checked: Travelpro Maxlite 25-inch Hardside Spinner

What We Like
  • Contour grip handle

  • TSA-approved lock

  • 2-inch expansion

What We Don't Like
  • Zippers can be hard to access

This sleek, hardside spinner is for those who need to check in a bag. Built with a lightweight, 100 percent polycarbonate shell for scratch resistance, the Travelpro Maxlite comes with an aluminum PowerScope handle, four spinner wheels, and low grab handles for extreme durability. Fit all of your belongings in the spacious interior, which includes a divider pocket and elastic hold-down straps to keep all the contents in place during your journey. Plus, its precision glide system offers breezy mobility throughout the airport. The hardshell luggage bag also has a TSA-compliant lock to protect your items. It's available in six stylish colors including azure blue, dusty rose, and imperial purple.

Size: 27 x 17.25 x 11.5 in. | Weight: 8.1 lbs. | Capacity: 89 L

Best Set: Away Set of Three

Away Set of Three

Courtesy of Away

What We Like
  • Stores well when not in use

  • 360-degree spinner wheels

  • Includes a laundry bag

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

With this set, you’re fully equipped from a carry-on to two checked bags. At home, they fit neatly inside each other so they don’t take up your entire closet. They’re a favorite of content creator Glo Atanmo, who blogs at TheBlogAbroad.com, thanks to their durability and lifetime warranty. “It’s survived over 50 countries in the past three years,” she says. “If you're an over-packer like me, get hard-sided luggage because it'll last longer and also force you to better arrange your items inside. And though we all love a cheap price, it's worth the investment to get a more expensive suitcase that will last you for life!”

Size: 21.7 x 13.7 x 9 in. | Weight: 7.1 lbs. | Capacity: 39 L

Best Splurge: Briggs & Riley International Carry-On Spinner

Briggs & Riley International Carry-On Spinner

Briggs & Riley

What We Like
  • External USB

  • Can be monogrammed

  • Easy access, hinged front pocket

What We Don't Like
  • Limited color options

Making the choice to spend several hundred dollars on a piece of luggage is a decision most travelers don’t take lightly. That’s why it’s so important to find the perfect piece that isn’t just stylish (though that helps), but will last for quite some time. Briggs & Riley’s spinner is a major winner from the inside out.

The three layers of polycarbonate are scratch-resistant, cutting down on dings and marks that seem to inevitably happen. One standout feature is the exterior hinge pocket that easily lets you access a laptop or other items you might need while traveling. The padded laptop sleeve accommodates devices up to 15 inches and there’s also a smaller tablet pocket. Also, the RFID-blocking pocket is sure to keep cards safe from being scanned. 

Between the 100 percent polycarbonate material and a useful hinged exterior pocket, this suitcase serves up major points for functionality. 

Size: 21 x 14 x 9 in. | Weight: 6.9 lbs. | Capacity: 38 L

Best Carry-On: Victorinox Airox Frequent Flyer Hardside Carry-On

Victorinox Airox Frequent Flyer Hardside Carry-On

Courtesy of Victorinox

What We Like
  • Light but durable

  • Handle doesn't take up interior space

What We Don't Like
  • Limited colors

At 5 pounds, this carry-on is among the lightest in its class. Although it’s lightweight, it’s sturdy. It’s crafted of 100 percent pure polycarbonate that’s incredibly strong and break resistant. The butterfly-opening system makes packing and accessing your items a breeze, and dual-caster wheels provide 360-degree maneuverability.

Travel and wellness blogger Olivia Christine Perez, of O. Christine recommends the carry-on, which she says fits the smaller global carry-on size requirements that airlines are enforcing more strictly. “Consider your luggage size requirements and what that means in terms of weight. Sometimes they can get quite heavy,” she says. The Airox Frequent Flyer Hardside carry-on is the perfect lightweight solution.

Size: 21.7 x 13.8 x 9.1 in. | Weight: 5.1 lbs. | Capacity: 34 L

Best Lightweight: Rimowa Essential Lite Cabin

Rimowa Essential Lite Cabin

Courtesy of Bloomingdales

What We Like
  • Easy to lift or maneuver

  • Glossy exterior

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Weighing less than five pounds, Rimowa boasts the Essential Lite Cabin as its lightest suitcase ever. Even more, it weighs 30 percent less than the Rimowa Essential cases. The polycarbonate case is still stable, thanks to a multi-stage, telescopic handle that can easily adjust to your desired height. Smooth-rolling spinner wheels offer seamless traveling, while a TSA-approved lock will give you peace of mind. Inside, there's a flex-divider system for organized packing. The hardshell suitcase also comes in a glossy finish with colors like red, black, or blue.

Size: 21.7 x 15.8 x 9.1 in. | Weight: 4.9 lbs. | Capacity: 38 L

Most Versatile: The Olympia Apache Carry-On Spinner

What We Like
  • Useful middle compartment

  • Expandable

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Wheels can wobble

The Olympia Apache Carry-On Spinner has a slightly different design than the standard hardshell luggage 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 a laptop, briefcase, and other 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 comes in solid black with lime, orange, red, blue or purple straps, stitching, and wheels. 

Size: 21 x 14 x 9 in. | Weight: 6.6 lbs. | Capacity: 54 L

Best for Durability: Paravel Aviator Carry-On Plus

Paravel Aviator Carry-On Plus

Paravel

What We Like
  • Quality, sustainable materials

  • Telescopic handle

  • 360-degree wheels

What We Don't Like
  • Can scuff quickly

Paravel is known for its eco-friendly materials when it comes to luggage. Though the Aviator Carry-On Plus is made with recycled goods, this is probably one of the sturdiest bags you'll come across. The exterior is recycled polycarbonate, while the lining consists of more than a dozen recycled water bottles. Also, the handle is recycled aluminum. All of these materials create a sustainable luggage that can seamlessly make its way through the airport, cargo, and more.

The suitcase features vegan leather trim and you can choose between six color options, including navy, silver, and safari green. Between the chic trim and hues, this luggage is sure to standout.

Size: 22.7 x 14.7 x 9.6 in. | Weight: 8.5 lbs. | Capacity: Not listed

Final Verdict

Away’s Bigger Carry-On (view at Away) isn’t an Instagram favorite for no reason. We love it for it’s slightly oversized dimensions and solid polycarbonate shell that makes it both attractive and durable.

What to Look for in Hardside Luggage Bags

Size

Travel and wellness blogger Olivia Christine Perez, of O. Christine, reminds shoppers to “Always check that the dimensions of the carry-on fits that of your favorite airlines!” The same is also true of checked bags. Check your bag's dimensions to see that it won't be considered oversized by airlines or you'll need to pay an extra fee.

Material

If you’re opting for a hardside case, you’ll want a material that’s unbreakable. However, durability often adds weight, so you’ll need to balance these qualities.

Weight

Your luggage is only going to get heavier once full, so if it feels hard to lift or maneuver when empty, look for a lighter design. You should also make sure your bag isn't too heavy so you can be sure it won't be considered overweight once it's packed and at the airport.

Features

Qualities such as wheels that don’t squeak and move smoothly, pockets, working zippers, locks, and interior pockets, and dividers all add to the luggage’s functionality and appeal. Think about how you travel and what items you like to bring. If organization is important to you, consider bags with multiple pockets and dividers. Overpackers should consider getting an expandable suitcase or one that comes with compression straps.

FAQs

Is it better to get hard or soft luggage?

This is a personal choice. If you’re packing breakable items, you may choose to use hardside luggage which is more difficult to rip open and usually has integrated locks. However, hardside luggage is also heavier than soft luggage. Many people believe it’s also easier to pack more into soft luggage.

How can you protect hardside luggage?

A few scuff marks are inevitable during travel; however, you can minimize damage with a few precautions. First, choose a bag made of durable material, like polycarbonate. Second, you could purchase a bag protector. Or third, you could wrap your bag in plastic.

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