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2022-06-16 08:18:40 By : Mr. Jackie Cai

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These hard-sided suitcases offer the ultimate durability and protection when traveling.

Good luck opening Instagram or Facebook nowadays without seeing an ad for trendy luggage—or a sponsored post with influencers casually lounging with their muted pink and tan hardshell suitcases. It seems as though hardshell luggage is the latest travel trend, with brands like AWAY and ROAM saturating the millennial market. But hardshell (also known as hard-sided) luggage isn’t anything new: “stateroom trunks” were standard on steamers crossing the Atlantic in the mid-1800s, and a Northwest Airlines pilot invented the first hard-sided bag with wheels in the 1980s.

Hardshell suitcases are still trendy for a reason: They’re very durable and offer more protection than a duffel bag—and it doesn’t hurt that they’re weather- and waterproof, too. Here are nine of the best hard-sided suitcases available in 2022, whether you’re a frequent flyer or just an occasional weekend traveler.

Every hard-sided suitcase is going to offer more protection than a soft-sided bag, especially when it comes to protecting fragile items and keeping your gear safe from wind and rain.

Nearly all hardshell suitcases have a polycarbonate shell. It’s an easily moldable, impact-resistant plastic (and is also easy to reshape and reuse). Thicker versions will be more durable but will likely weigh more. Some bags are made with new polycarbonate materials, though partially recycled versions are available from some brands.

If you’re considering an ultralight bag, it may be made with polypropylene, not polycarbonate. They’re similar materials, but polypropylene is lighter, making it slightly less durable.

Hard-shell luggage with a pattern or texture on the front will make it harder to see the inevitable scratches and dents.

Unlike a soft suitcase, your hard-sided bag’s size is very fixed. While some might have expandable zippers to add a few inches of width, they can’t go any smaller. Keep that in mind if you regularly fly on planes with smaller-than-average overhead bins or opt for a bag larger than the average carry-on max. For most US-based airlines, the carry-on limit is somewhere around 9 inches by 14 inches by 22 inches. Many popular carry-on bags exceed this size, but know that you could get the dreaded gate-check bag tag if you push the limits too much.

Don’t get overwhelmed by extra features. If you regularly fly no more than two hours at a time, you probably don’t need a backup USB charger built into your bag. But if you’re a heavy packer, it may be worth it to get a bag with a built-in compression panel. And if you’re a messy packer (or still don’t use packing cubes), you’ll likely want at least one interior pocket for small items like jewelry or power cords.

Most modern hardshell suitcases have four wheels that spin in all directions, rather than two fixed wheels like the suitcases 10 or 15 years ago. And a pull-up handle is standard. But when you’re evaluating the size of your hard-sided roller luggage, try to find interior photos. The wheels and pull-up bar often eat into the interior space, creating an uneven surface on one side of the bag (to accommodate the bar) and compressed corners to accommodate wheel hardware.

As a frequent traveler with a trip or two on the books at any given time, I get bombarded with travel ads, so I’m familiar with the latest products and trends on the market. Using that as a jumping-off point, I researched what hardshell luggage features are new and useful and which are gimmicks. Next, I looked at hundreds of reviews of products from new and established luggage companies and used my professional knowledge of travel conditions and logistics to assess which could be top contenders. From there, I looked at materials, costs, warranties, and overall reviews to narrow down the winners. I’ve also tested many of these brands, including Monos, Traveler’s Choice, Briggs & Riley, Samsonite, and July.

Despite a slew of similar minimalist brands making hardshell suitcases, July truly stands out. And the item that stands out the most is the Carry-on Pro, thanks to two useful features. First is a padded snap-on laptop and tablet case. Normally, my “personal item” is a padded laptop backpack. But by keeping my laptop and small tech in the snap-off case, I can use my under-the-seat space for more clothing, making it easier to travel carry-on only. The Carry-on Pro also has a power bank for juicing up on the go, an internal compression panel, and four actually silent spinner wheels.

The Coolife Bags available on Amazon look an awful lot like those from trendier brands but are less than half the price. While they’re not the cheapest bar none, they are near the most affordable when you rule out options with budget materials and iffy reviews. The carry-on size comes in five colors, each of which has clothing straps, a divider panel with a large pocket, and four wheels. Reviewers mention it’s prone to scuffs, so it may not be the best option for frequent travelers, but travelers who fly once or twice a year will find the low price a fair trade-off for the occasional scratch.

In 1987, an airline pilot invented the first consumer roller bag, which formed the basis for Traveler’s Choice. The brand makes reliable, reasonably priced luggage, but the Tasmania Expandable Spinner is our favorite. The expandable bag has a double zipper to add two inches of depth; even when full, we’ve never been asked to gate-check the bag. It also has several secure interior pockets, a zipper divider to separate dirty clothes or shoes, and a buckle strap to keep your folded clothing in place.

If you need a large bag but aren’t ready to shell out for the trendy Steamline options, consider the Delsey Paris Clavel Hardside Bag. It comes in two checked sizes, both under $200, and is ultralight at just seven pounds for the 25-inch checked version. All of Delsey’s bags are very well-loved online (and often sold out), so this is one you may want to regularly check on until your favorite color comes back in stock.

Brands like July, Monos, and Steamline don’t sell multi-item sets, though they do make plenty of matching pieces you can buy individually. But if you want to make one purchase and be done, consider the Samsonite Freeform two-piece set. I generally recommend two-piece sets, unless you’re the type of person who regularly checks more than one bag. The set comes with a carry-on and a checked bag and has functional interior pockets, a 10-year warranty, and a 1.5-inch expansion zipper.

Very similar to the July Carry-on Pro is the similarly named Monos Carry-on Pro Plus, which also has a front laptop pocket (though it’s fixed and has additional small tech pockets). That functionality slightly reduces the interior space, which is why we gave the July option the top pick. But the extra features of the Monos Bag—including a laundry bag and shoe bags, a luggage tag, and an interior compression panel with large mesh pockets—make it an excellent carry-on option for minimalist travelers. Opt for the regular Carry-on Plus if you don’t want the laptop pocket.

You don’t want to spend very much on a luggage set for kids, especially since they’ll outgrow it as soon as they start buying shoes from the adult section. That’s what makes the sub-$100 Costway two-piece set a good buy, especially considering the overall light weight and four wheels to make it easy for kids to pull their own bags. It comes in two patterns, but we think the jungle print is cutest for kids of any gender.

It can be hard to fit suit jackets or wrinkle-prone pants into a regular spinner bag, but the Hard-side Carry-On Luggage from Briggs and Riley makes it easy to travel wrinkle-free. The hardshell suitcase is vaguely the size of a garment bag, with a built-in garment hook and anti-wrinkle divider bar. It also has a few zippered pockets to keep smaller items from bouncing around. I also like the 70/30 clamshell split so that you can store your suits or dresses by themselves on one side with the rest of your clothing in the larger compartment.

Cases and trunks from Steamline Luggage harken back to the golden age of rail and ocean travel, updated with modern features. The check-in 27-inch bag comes with four spinner wheels, a pull-out hanging bag for toiletries or jewelry, and a nylon cover to ensure it doesn’t get scratched in transit. It’s expensive, but guarantees yours will be the most attractive bag on the airport conveyor belt.

Q: What tips do you have for packing hardshell suitcases?

A: When packing a hardshell suitcase, remember that there’s very little give. With more flexible bags, I can usually make room to shove in an extra pair of shoes after the bag is packed, even if it makes it bulge out a bit. So with hardshell suitcases, I recommend packing your larger items first, like shoes, toiletry/makeup bags, larger electronics, etc. You can then use your softer items, such as t-shirts, workout clothing, and socks, to fill empty spaces. (Don’t forget to use the space inside your shoes.)

While I love using packing cubes, I need fewer when packing a hardshell case as items tend to shift less. When traveling with a hardshell bag, I usually just use two: one for compressible items and one for socks and underwear.

Q: Do you typically use hardshell suitcases as check-in luggage or carry-on? What are the pros/cons of either option when it comes to hard-sided luggage?

A: I prefer using hardshell suitcases as a checked item. They offer more protection against drops and throws from baggage handlers during travel, and I don’t have to worry about my clothing getting wet if it’s raining while my luggage waits on the tarmac. The downside of using them as a checked bag is that they often weigh more than soft-sided luggage, which eats into the weight limit for bags. They’re also a bit prone to scratching, though I find a scratched bag just makes me look well-traveled.

I find the downside of using a hardshell suitcase during carry-on travel is that you’re more likely to get asked to gate-check your bag, as they aren’t quite as easy to shove into an already semi-full overhead bin. I also live near a small airport and often fly on smaller planes, which sometimes have even smaller-than-usual carry-on limits. That said, hardshell roller suitcases are far easier to move through an airport than an over-the-shoulder duffel bag and can double as a laptop table or coffee stand in a pinch.

Q: What’s the one feature in a hardshell suitcase that you won’t travel without?

A: I’m a very big fan of anything that assists with compression, like an expandable zipper or built-in compression panel. The wheels and bars on hardshell suitcases often eat into the internal storage space, so anything that helps me squeeze in an extra day’s worth of clothing is a big selling point.