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Some travelers prefer a hard shell suitcase because they’re durable when being handled at airports and hauled up and down stairs or over different terrain, and are also known for protecting belongings well like electronics. If you’re in the market for a hardside, review these top reader recommendations for the best hard suitcase for carryon travel!
Best Hard Shell Luggage
Table Of Contents
Why choose hardside over soft? Hardside suitcases are usually made with polycarbonate, a flexible element made to withstand impact when heaved onto hard places. Some travelers find that their fragile items and electronics are more secure when tucked inside a hard shell container.
As an added bonus, hardside suitcases are also lightweight compared to plastic and aluminum shells; some varieties are even lighter than soft case luggage, making them key when trying to keep your baggage weight to a minimum.
Should you need more assistance on what is the best suitcase for you, check out these comprehensive resources:
- How to Choose the Right Travel Luggage – If you’re new to traveling carryon only, this handy guide will help you determine what luggage to choose and what features to look out for.
- Top Suitcase Recommendations – If you’re unsure what carryon luggage brands are best, readers (the experts) share the top brands to buy!
- Best Carry-on Suitcases for Traveling Europe – This roundup is helpful when deciding what is the best size and type of luggage to travel around European cities that involve restrictive budget airlines, train travel, and navigating endless stairs, and the infamous cobblestone streets!
- Best Lightweight Luggage Under 5 lbs – While the size of a carryon is vital so is the weight! An overweight bag can put a damper on your trip if you have to pay overweight fees. This article shares the best lightweight luggage out there!
- Hardside vs. Softside Luggage: Pros and Cons – If you’re on the fence between the two, readers offer insight into the pros and cons. Ultimately, what you choose is solely up to you!
Tip: Remember to always check the baggage requirements for your specific airline when traveling carryon only.
If you’re on the lookout for a hardside option, here is the best hard case luggage as voted by readers!
Readers agree that the best tool for organizing and compressing clothes is by using packing cubes! See this tutorial video on how to use carryon packing cubes!
Best Hard Shell Carry On Luggage
Delsey Paris Helium Aero 21” Hardshell Luggage
The Delsey Helium Aero 21” carry on suitcase hard shell will make you feel like royalty as you glide down the airport with ease. It’s lightweight and the spinner wheels make for a smooth ride. It can expand up to 2” for extra packing space (or to even add the odd souvenir or two), and there’s any easy one-button locking system. It weighs a fairly light 8.4 lbs!
It comes in beautiful, bright colors that are easily recognizable from afar, and the durable, scratch-resistant cover will ensure it looks just as good off the plane as it did getting on!
One reader who has this suitcase says, “We have the Delsey Helium Aero and love it. It seems to be indestructible, carries a ridiculous amount, and the compression zipper setup is fantastic. I like that each side is packed independently.”
If you’re headed to Europe, the Delsey Helium 19” version is a great carryon option for European flights!
Use packing cubes to help you organize and even compress your belongings to maximize your space.
Delsey Paris Chatelet 21” Hardshell Carry On Luggage With Brake
Voted as some of the best hard luggage, the 21″ Delsey Chatelet is an ultra-lightweight at 7.7 lbs and is absolutely beautiful and built with all the bells and whistles! This 4-wheel spinner is highly functional with 360 wheels, locking zippers, and even a built-in tracking device! The inner organizational features are awesome, too.
A lot of our readers have reported that they’ve taken many trips with this carryon and it’s held up amazingly well. Plus, you’ll definitely look super stylish strolling through the airport with this beauty!
Feeling confident and ready for anything with my Delsey Paris Chatelet 21” Hardside Suitcase
I’ve also owned the Delsey Chatelet and find their carryon luggage stunning. I especially was impressed with the unique brake system so your suitcase doesn’t go rolling off, even on a boat! (I was shocked that it didn’t move with some small but rocky waves when I traveled on one!)
One reader says, “Very durable and the design was intelligent and user-friendly. Fantastic experience with the Delsey brand!”
The secret to traveling light is to create a functional but minimalist capsule wardrobe. Learn more in my guide!
Delsey Paris Titanium 19” Hard Case Suitcase
Some of the best hardside carry on luggage has not only extra room potential without sacrificing size or weight, but also sound safety features. The Delsey Titanium 19” fits this description well!
Fairly lightweight option at 8 lbs, it has a top-lid opening, so you can pack more and weigh less with this one! It’s super roomy, and readers have raved about how much they can fit inside, especially when they use packing cubes. The handle and spinner wheels are both super secure and smooth, and the TSA approved zipper locks add protection. It expands up to 2 more inches if you end up bringing some goodies back home with you!
A reader shares, “Tough like any other hardside, but the top opening is so much more convenient than the 50/50 clamshells.”
Samsonite Winfield 20” Hard Sided Luggage
TFG readers love Samsonite suitcases, and the Winfield 20” carry on hard luggage is a top pick, both for domestic and international travel! This gem only weighs just over 6.5 lbs, so it’s quite light, and readers applaud its durability and stability, even over years of wear and tear!
The interior divider zips fully so nothing will fall out when you open it, and the outer zipper locks keep your belongings safe. They also make very popular luggage sets that our readers love, too.
One TFGer who travels frequently says, “The carryon has survived many weekend train trips to Chicago, being gate-checked several times, and two international trips, and still looks brand new.”
Samsonite Omni 20” Hardside Spinner Luggage
Samsonite’s Omni 20” luggage hard shell style makes for effortless travel at only 6.8 lbs! The 20” size fits in the overhead compartment of most major airlines, the 360 degree wheel spinners are easy to maneuver, and its scratch-resistant polycarbonate shell will most definitely hold up against all the rigors of a trip. Users rave about the quality and security due to the TSA side mounted locks! The Omni comes in a variety of colors, including some fun, bright options. Also available as part of a 3-piece luggage set!
One traveler reports, “Suitcase held up perfectly over four 4-hour flights over the holidays, on two of which it actually had to be checked because the flight was very full. Not a single scratch or dent, no signs of wear, and it was easy to travel with—rolled smoothly and easily and has a sturdy handle.”
Discover the best luggage brands for travel and why they love them!
Travelpro Maxlite 5 21” Hard Case Suitcase Spinner
The Travelpro Maxlite 5 carry on luggage hard shell comes highly rated and recommended by our readers. It has such a sleek look, and its incredible design and functionality allow you to stroll through the airport with style and ease.
This is a super lightweight hardside luggage option at only 6.71 lbs yet the exterior is tough enough to handle impact and stay looking fab! The wheels are smooth and sturdy, and the handle is adjustable, with a comfy, ergonomic grip. The Maxlite 5 comes in a variety of pretty colors, too!
Some of our readers have reported using this 21” for international travel, but the 19” carryon may be a safer bet, especially for European travel!
One TFG reader says, “I got my TravelPro on Amazon. I have the 4 wheels and it’s easy to navigate. Putting it in the overhead bin is a breeze when traveling compared to other carryon suitcases I own. A great find!”
Read this Travelpro Maxlite 5 review to find out if this popular brand makes the cut!
American Tourister Moonlight 21” Hard Suitcase With Wheels
The color of this American Tourister hard sided carry on luggage is absolutely lovely! This 21” carryon will add a chic touch to your travel look, and its thoughtful design makes it a breeze to carry. At 7.83 pounds, it’s ideal for domestic travel and has ample space for your clothes! Users seriously appreciate how much they can fit in this suitcase! Plus, it’s expandable by 1.5” if you need that bit of extra room. There are other stylish colors to choose from, too!
A reader shares, “I have been using this one for the last 6 months. It’s gone to 8 countries and probably around 30 flights, and has made it!”
Coollife Melbourne 20” Hard Suitcase Carry On
This 20” Coollife hard sided suitcase is tiny but mighty at 6.38 lbs! This carryon will keep your belongings safe with a TSA lock and a sturdy shell that can withstand the roughest of handling! The aluminum telescoping handle is incredibly sturdy and, along with the spinner wheels, allows you to easily zip this compact guy through crowded airports and tight spaces.
It’s small enough to fit in almost any overhead cabin, but it’s super spacious and packable, with awesome organizational features inside.
One traveler shares, “This suitcase has gone through a couple of trips and vacations and has taken everything that TSA, luggage handlers, hotel personnel, and whatever else the world of travel can throw at it in stride. The first couple of trips left some marks on the outside that I was able to buff out with car wax, but nothing more. This has been well worth the price.”
Read these tips on how to pack for 5kg baggage allowance!
Rockland Melbourne 20” Expandable Hard Case Carry On Luggage
The Rockland Melbourne 20” small hard shell suitcase is just as functional as it is adorable! It’s lightweight at only 6 lbs and can easily fit in most overhead compartments, so it’s a great option for either domestic or international travel. One reader says that this suitcase worked really well with her Compass Rose packing cubes.
The simple interior features two handy pockets, and the wheels and handle are of amazing quality that will last over many, many trips!
One reader doesn’t hesitate in their love for this suitcase, “I love my Rockland! Made it to Zimbabwe and back and Israel and Jordan and back in one piece. It’s very lightweight!!”
Kenneth Cole Reaction Out of Bounds 20” Hard Side Carry On Luggage
The Out of Bounds 20” carry on hard sided luggage by Kenneth Cole Reaction is quite compact at 6.25 lbs, but is still quite spacious when opened up! It’s lightweight, with a super-strong exterior, and has reinforced corners that absorb shock for added durability. When you’re not strolling along smoothly with the 360 degree spinner wheels, this bag features a top and side handle for easy carrying.
Readers have recommended this, saying it’s a great, dependable carryon. It’s also available in a range of both neutral and bright colors! This hardside also available as a part of a highly rated 3-piece luggage set.
One reader shares their review, “I’ve had a Reaction one that saw a ton of use and held up well.”
Shop: Away Travel
Away 21” Carry On Hard Shell Luggage
Readers have said that Away makes some of the best hard shell carry on luggage, and the “Carry-On” 21” is a particular favorite. Users report that its polycarbonate hard shell rarely shows any signs of use, even after lots of rigorous travel. It’ll fit in the overhead bins of most major airlines, and you can fit SO much inside, especially with the mesh zippered compartment on one side, and the compression system on the other.
It comes with a water-resistant laundry bag, and there’s even an option to add a USB charger! This Carry-On is available in some gorgeous colors, too.
Getting ready for my TravelCon speaking gig with the Away Carry-On
And guess what? I also just picked up the Away The Carry-On recently just because so many readers say it’s a reliable, durable suitcase. I took it with me to speak at TravelCon and feel free to head to the TFG Facebook Group to watch my first impressions! (If you aren’t a member of the TFG Community it’s easy to join!)
One reader shares how they used this popular suitcase, “I had that stuffed in May when traveling to Europe and had no issues at all. That bag is a beast. I’m amazed it hasn’t broken with everything I put it through. It’s worth every penny.”
And check out the Bigger Carry-On too if you mostly travel domestically and want a little extra space!
Traveler’s Club Chicago 20” Hard Case Rolling Luggage
If you’re looking for cheap hardside luggage, the Traveler’s Club 20” does the job for a great price and it’s lightweight at 5.6 lbs! The durable hardshell opens up into a roomy interior with an accessory pocket, and a compression band keeps everything packed nice and tight. Four spinner wheels give it intelligent mobility, and the cute color options add some style!
Traveler’s Club also offers this as a part of a suitcase set! One traveler reports, “Very spacious, can easily pack for a 5-day trip, rolls great, both handles work great, beautiful color (I get compliments all the time) and overall, just a really great value for what you pay.”
Tumi 19 Degrees Expandable 22” Lightweight Hard Shell Luggage
While at a higher price tag, TFG readers adore the Tumi hardside luggage, and the 19 Degrees 22” is ideal for domestic carryon travel. It’s uber lightweight at only 9 lbs and is designed to bend and flex with the rigors of anything a baggage claim agent can throw at it.
It has smart packing compartments, an expandable zipper, and an integrated TSA lock so your belongings stay secure. If you’re a frequent traveler or business traveler, the Tumi is an excellent choice!
Best Hard Carry On Luggage Comparison Chart
|BRAND | MODEL||FEATURES | REVIEWS||RATING | PRICE|
|Delsey Paris Helium Aero 21” Hardshell Luggage||“We have the Delsey Helium Aero and love it. It seems to be indestructible, carries a ridiculous amount, and the compression zipper setup is fantastic. I like that each side is packed independently.”||Check Price|
|Delsey Paris Chatelet 21” Hardshell Carry On Luggage With Brake||“Very durable and the design was intelligent and user-friendly. Fantastic experience with the Delsey brand!”||Check Price|
|Delsey Paris Titanium 19” Hard Case Suitcase||“Tough like any other hardside, but the top opening is so much more convenient than the 50/50 clamshells.”||Check Price|
|Samsonsite Winfield 20” Hard Sided Luggage||“The carryon has survived many weekend train trips to Chicago, being gate-checked several times, and two international trips, and still looks brand new.”||Check Price|
|Samsonsite Omni 20” Hardside Spinner Luggage||“Suitcase held up perfectly over four 4-hour flights over the holidays, on two of which it actually had to be checked because the flight was very full. Not a single scratch or dent, no signs of wear, and it was easy to travel with—rolled smoothly and easily and has a sturdy handle.”||Check Price|
|Travelpro Maxlite 5 21” Hard Case Suitcase Spinner||“I got my TravelPro on Amazon. I have the 4 wheels and it's easy to navigate. Putting it in the overhead bin is a breeze when traveling compared to other carryon suitcases I own. A great find!”||Check Price|
|American Tourister Moonlight 21” Hard Suitcase With Wheels||“I have been using this one for the last 6 months. It’s gone to 8 countries and probably around 30 flights, and has made it!”||Check Price|
|Coollife Melbourne 20” Hard Suitcase Carry On||“This suitcase has gone through a couple of trips and vacations and has taken everything that TSA, luggage handlers, hotel personnel, and whatever else the world of travel can throw at it in stride. The first couple of trips left some marks on the outside that I was able to buff out with car wax, but nothing more. This has been well worth the price.”||Check Price|
|Rockland Melbourne 20” Expandable Hard Case Carry On Luggage||“I love my Rockland! Made it to Zimbabwe and back and Israel and Jordan and back in one piece. It’s very lightweight!!”||Check Price|
|Kenneth Cole Reaction Out of Bounds 20” Hard Side Carry On Luggage||“I’ve had a Reaction one that saw a ton of use and held up well.”||Check Price|
|Away 21” Carry On Hard Shell Luggage||It comes with a water-resistant laundry bag, and there’s even an option to add a USB charger! This Carry-On is available in some gorgeous colors, too.||Check Price|
|Traveler’s Club Chicago 20” Hard Case Rolling Luggage||“Very spacious, can easily pack for a 5-day trip, rolls great, both handles work great, beautiful color (I get compliments all the time) and overall, just a really great value for what you pay.”||Check Price|
|Tumi Continental Expandable 22” Lightweight Hard Shell Luggage||It has smart packing compartments, an expandable zipper, and an integrated TSA lock so your belongings stay secure. If you’re a frequent traveler or business traveler, the Tumi is an excellent choice!||Check Price|
A super practical addition to your new suitcase is a luggage tag! TFG readers have been raving about luggage tags, and highly recommend them for every trip.
Luggage tags are handy little trackers that you attach to your belongings and then track through an app on your phone. The most popular option in the TFG community is Apple Airtags, which hook up to the Find My iPhone app so you can see where your item is in real time. Readers say they’ve been lifesavers for finding lost luggage in an airport!
Luggage tags are not only handy for your luggage, but for your purse, keys, wallet, or even your parked car. You can enjoy your vacation with the utmost peace of mind!
Remember to always check the baggage requirements for your specific airline when traveling carry-on only.
What’s the best hardshell luggage that you’ve found? Comment below!
For more tips on how to choose the best luggage, please read:
- Suitcase 101: How to Choose the Right Travel Luggage
- Best Under Seat Luggage and How to Pack with Minimal Space
- Best Rolling Duffle Bags: Great Alternative to a Suitcase
- Step by Step Guide to Choosing the Best Travel Backpack
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