Finding the best hardside luggage can be tricky if you’re not familiar with brand names or what features to look for.
In this guide I will share with you some quality recommendations for luggage that not only meet the standard airline requirements, but are also made by companies with a long history of producing the best hardside luggages.
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Best Hard Case Luggage
In recent years we’ve been trip planning more often as opposed to getting on a plane and winging it, meaning we can pack a little more like tourists and less so like backpackers.
Backpacks are great when you aren’t sure where you’ll end up because wheeled suitcases never faired well in rough terrain or on stony walkways.
However, on shorter trips with an actual plan we’ve swapped out our favourite backpacks for hard case luggage. In this article we’ll cover our favourite options, starting with the perfect carry-on hard cover suitcase Mike found at a luggage clearance sale.
We reviewed carry-on size suitcases for this one –click or tap on the suitcase images below to find larger sizes of the same hard luggage sets.
|Dimensions:||21.5″ x 13.5″ x 8.5″|
|Weight:||3.2 kg or 7 lbs|
|Available colours:||Charcoal, Black, Aluminum Grey, Ocean Blue, Sky Blue, Pink, Sand|
The Chester Minima 22-Inch” has consistently been recommended to us as one of the best hardside luggage for frequent travellers. It has the sleek feel of a luxury suitcase minus the high price tag.
|Dimensions:||20” x 14” x 9”|
|Weight:||3 kg or 6.5 lbs|
|Available colours:||Jade Green, Metallic Blue, and Grey (all with red accents)|
The American Tourister Technum Spinner is a favourite among consumers and it’s easy to see why. This product was well-thought out, as shown by the reinforced corners that protect it against damage.
This is usually the most vulnerable part of a bag during transit. You won’t have a hard time spotting this hard case luggage on the carousel thanks to its unique colours.
|Dimensions:||20.5″ x 14.5″ x 10″|
|Weight:||2.9 kg or 6.5 lbs|
|Available colours:||Black, Navy, Sage Green, Tangerine, White|
Samsonite is a brand that’s synonymous with quality hard cover luggage (and made more famous by Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels’ Dumb & Dumber).
This model in particular is quite stylish luggage with a futuristic ribbed design and wheels that handle smooth, like roller skates dipped in butter. You can move around the airport with ease thanks to its light but very compact build.
|Dimensions:||21” x 14” x 9”|
|Weight:||3 kg or 6.7 lbs|
|Available colours:||Dark Purple and Black/Green|
TravelPro is considered some of the best hardside luggage for airline crew, as per friends of ours who work at a popular Southeast Asian airline.
The Maxlite 4 21” in particular has perfect dimensions for most airline baggage requirements. It’s easy to handle thanks to its omni-directional wheel spinners and adjustable handles.
It’s colour-changing visual effect is worth a second look without looking tacky. This is definitely a must for frequent travellers.
|Dimensions:||20” x 13.5” x 9”|
|Weight:||3.03 kg or 6.7 lbs|
|Available colours:||Brushed Anthracite, Deep Blue, Orange, Purple, Charcoal|
The Samsonite Winfield 2 is stylish luggage that won’t get you dinged for exceeding carry-on requirements. In the image above we link to a luggage set, however you can also get this model as a 20″ standalone.
It’s packed with great features and is reasonably priced. What really makes this hard case luggage standout though is the brushed stroke interior which hides potential scratches and scuffs.
Why Hard Luggage and Not Soft?
Here are some reasons why you’ll want to opt for hard cover luggage:
- Hardside luggage is making a big comeback. For awhile, soft-sided versions were the preferred option because they were lighter. But thanks to new technology, manufacturers are now able to produce hard-case luggage using lightweight materials.
- Hardside luggage is much more durable and resistant to spills and leaks.
It forces you to pack smart.
- Hardside luggage is easier to clean. It’s impossible for mold to accumulate if you store it right. More on that later.
- Most hardside luggage has four omni-directional wheels which makes it easy to bring around.
- Hardside luggage comes in a variety of colours, designs, and textures –as well as great accessories like suitcase covers and leather baggage tags.
- Even light-coloured hardside suitcases don’t get as dirty quickly as soft-sided luggage do.
Is There a Universal Carry-On Limit?
Unfortunately, there is not a universal carry-on limit. Airlines often have varying weight and dimension limits.
The smallest carry-on limit is 15.7 inches long, 11.8 inches wide, and 7.8 inches deep from Spring Airlines while others airline companies like Southeast Airlines allow carry-on luggage as big as 24 inches long, 16 inches wide, and 10 inches deep.
Other airlines go by total linear size. For example, Singapore Airlines has a maximum size limit of 45 inches. So the total wrap-around dimensions of your suitcase should be no more than 45 inches.
The average carry-on weight limit is 7 kg or 15.4 lbs. However, some airlines are generous allowing as much as 15 kg or 35 lbs while others strictly limit you to only 5kg or 11 lbs.
Based on my research, the most common size limit for a carry on is 22” x 14” x 9”. Big name airlines such as American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, United Airlines, Delta, and Jetblue currently follow this –I recommend you check for yourself to verify this.
Other international airlines such as Lufthansa, Air France, and Ryan Air have weight limit and dimensions that fall under this size.
Basically, your luggage should fit in the overhead cabin. Airlines have different sized planes and they all have varying levels of strictness. To be absolutely sure, you need to check the baggage policy of the airline you’ll be flying with.
The hardside luggage reviews mentioned above meet the average carry-on size. They’re also lightweight luggage that you have enough room to fit all the things you need.
Be careful when shopping for hard case luggage models outside of our list. Consumer Reports found that some manufacturers understate the dimensions of their product measuring only the interior, not including the handle and wheels.
If there is a very minor inch of difference, you can probably get away with it. Just be sure not to overstuff your bag. Airlines seem to care more about your bag going over the weight limit than its size.
Hardside Luggage Maintenance Tips
Buying the best hardside luggage is an investment –here’s a few ways to make it last longer.
Choose Quality Luggage
This one’s pretty obvious but it’s highly relevant. I’ve recommended some of the best hard case luggage out there, but it’s really up to you to choose what carry-on suits your style of travel. Pick the cheapest one and you might just get your not-so-good money’s worth.
Mind Your Zipper
The zippers are what holds your luggage together so you want it to be very durable. Ideally, it should be a zipper from YKK; they are a reputable zipper manufacturer supplying half of the world’s zippers so you can be assured that they know what they’re doing. The teeth should also interlock or a lock should hold them in place.
Use Packing Cubes
Don’t put a lot of pressure on your suitcase’ zippers and seams by filling it to the brim.
Packing cubes are another surefire way to increase your luggage capacity while preventing unnecessary pressure on its zippers.
Know Your Material
Most hardshell suitcases are made of ABS, polycarbonate, or aluminium. Take note that these materials have their own special advantages. Suitcases made of aluminium and polycarbonate are more durable while those made of ABS tend to be lighter.
Clean It Regularly
After your trip, clean your luggage inside and out. Empty the inside of the bag from crumbs and wipe the hard shell with soap and water. Leave it to dry and close all the zippers before storing it in a cool and dry place.
Fasten Any Loose Ends
Your luggage should be compact when in transit. Fasten all straps and get rid of any cloth hanging out of it. Cargo workers will tell you that the best checked luggage to work with are those that don’t have straps in them as they often get stuck on the conveyor belt.
Pack From Heaviest to Lightest
Place your heaviest items at the bottom of your suitcase and the lightest. This prevents your bag from tipping over which can lead to damage.
There are cool stretchy suitcase covers that protect your case from dirt and grease. Having these also makes it easy to find your bag at the baggage claim.
No Warranty? Don’t Buy It
If your luggage gets damaged, leverage your warranty. Most brands offer a limited warranty in case the item needs repair or replacement.
Make sure to keep the warranty and reciept throughout the lifetime of your luggage in case you need to return or exchange it.
What Do You Think?
I hope this guide helps you! I definitely learned a lot about airline policies and luggage warranties while writing this, and I hope you did too.
Experience any luggage horror stories? What’s your best checked luggage choice? Share them in the comments below!