The 10 Best Hard Luggage Sets
This wiki has been updated 28 times since it was first published in June of 2016. Hard luggage sets can offer more protection to your belongings than soft-sided suitcases, but you may have steered away from them in the past because of their additional heft. However, today's models are manufactured using advanced materials that are super light while still keeping their contents safe. And even if they do weigh a touch more, their wheel systems make them easy to move around. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
April 25, 2019:
We know it's important that your luggage and its contents come off that carousel in just as good of condition as they went onto it, so we made sure our selections are equipped with features to survive not-so-delicate luggage handlers and bumpy rides. The Steve Madden Spinner has shock-absorbent polycarbonate shells that should mean your fragile items inside don't take a beating, even when the outside does. Meanwhile, the Hauptstadtkoffer Alex boasts bumpers that should prevent the corners from getting scuffed and the AmazonBasics Hardside has extra-thick exteriors to protect your belongings. Organization is also key, which is why the Samsonite Winfield 3, with its reversible center divider boasting two pockets on either side caught our attention. The Traveler's Choice Tasmania will also keep your things tidy with a zip-up divider that features two mesh pouches that make it easy to see what's inside. If you want to look fashionable while trotting the globe, then you'll like the Steve Madden Spinner once again, with its two modern and eye-catching prints, or the Nautica Lifeboat, the Hauptstadtkoffer Alex, and the Merax Travelhouse, each of which comes in several vibrant colors.
Go Hard Or Go Home
Both camps feel strongly about their positions, and in truth, both types of bags offer both pros and cons.
If you’ve spent any time at all shopping for baggage, you’ve probably noticed a raging debate between proponents of hard and soft luggage. Both camps feel strongly about their positions, and in truth, both types of bags offer both pros and cons. Although you’ll ultimately need to consider the context of travel before you decide, pieces of hard luggage do have a few added benefits that just might tip you their way.
To begin with, hard luggage offers better protection for your valuable belongings. Of course, if you’re taking a trip to Tahiti and only need a swimsuit and towel, this won’t matter as much. But if you’re going anywhere for serious sightseeing and souvenirs, then a hard bag is the better choice. It’ll keep your camera equipment, electronics, framed prints, tchotchkes, statuettes, and anything else you choose to pack safe from overzealous baggage handlers.
To further keep your valuables safe, you might next consider security. A hard shell is usually more difficult to break into than a soft one, since a nefarious character can quickly slash open the latter. Many pieces of hard luggage feature integrated locking systems, as well as openings for you to add your own locks, so a thief won’t be able to open them the more traditional way, either.
Then, hard luggage is usually easier to clean than soft. All you’ll need is a damp cloth or a light cleanser, whereas a soft piece might require stain removal or laundering — and do you really want to attempt to launder a big suitcase?
Don’t forget about ease of movement, as well. Most soft suitcases and bags, thanks to their construction, have only two wheels; hard pieces, on the other hand, often have four. Instead of having to drag a piece of hard luggage behind you, you can glide it along in front of you. Look for a bag with swiveling wheels for the most stress-free movement.
Finally, hard luggage is no longer the heavier choice. Most pieces are currently made from either ABS or polycarbonate, which are durable, lightweight plastics. In weight, pieces made from these materials are nothing like the old-school aluminum pieces. Even the younger members of your family should be able to handle a piece from today’s hard luggage sets.
But Why A Set?
Whether you’re looking at luggage for your family or just for yourself, you might be trying to decide between buying a set or single pieces. Spending money on a set with multiple bags might be daunting, since it’ll probably require a larger initial outlay. One thing to keep in mind is that good luggage is an investment. You should plan to use it for years, even though it’ll probably receive some rough treatment along the way. Choosing a high-quality set ensures that you have tough, matching luggage for each trip, long into the future.
Having the right size of bag on hand helps you avoid the dreaded airline baggage fees, too.
In fact, a set gives you the luxury of having the right piece for each trip. This year, you might take a short jaunt to see the fjords in Norway; next year, you might go on a long cruise. When you have only one piece of luggage, you won’t have the flexibility offered by a set, which usually includes several sizes. Ultimately, then, a set will give you long-lasting use along with convenience. Having the right size of bag on hand helps you avoid the dreaded airline baggage fees, too.
Beyond practicality and lifelong use, style is one of the most popular reasons that people select luggage sets over single pieces. Business travelers who want to look professional and put together, for instance, choose a set instead of relying on a hodgepodge of random pieces. Fashionistas love these, too, especially since hard luggage sets come in just about every style you can imagine, from sleek and urban to bright and tropical. You’ll probably need to find a separate purse or briefcase, but luggage companies produce such a wide variety of these nowadays that you’re almost certain to find one that complements your set.
And, of course, if you travel with family, it’s likely that you need more than one piece of luggage. Whether you share belongings between bags or let each person have their own, a hard luggage set gives the whole family ample room for their stuff. When you arrive at your destination, you’ll only have to remember what the set looks like, not each individual bag — another bonus.
Before The Hard Suitcase
These convenient, sleek, durable hard suitcases weren’t always popular. When luxury travel was still in its budding stages, suitcases as we know them weren’t a choice at all. Those very few who could afford to travel did so with steamer trunks, since these elite also had the means for servants or porters to deal with their possessions for them. Because steamer trunks were so heavy, it’s a good thing these travelers had help; anyone who needed to carry a trunk around by him or herself would probably have given up and gone home before long.
These trunks often had a heavy iron base and protective metal banding; many had canvas or leather coverings.
Steamer trunks had to be heavy, though, because they needed to withstand rough treatment during travel. For instance, a trunk in the hold of a ship might get tossed on its end or doused in water from leaks. These trunks often had a heavy iron base and protective metal banding; many had canvas or leather coverings. Fortunately, these types of protections are no longer necessary, thanks to breakthroughs in plastics and design. A piece of hard luggage can stand up to much of the same treatment at a fraction of the weight.
One thing travelers did lose along with the weight of the steamer trunk was its unique style. A vintage trunk calls up images of both daring voyages and finely dressed ladies sipping tea in an elegant stateroom. Thankfully, collectors help preserve this legacy by spending large amounts of money on trunks in order to lovingly restore them and proudly display them. While there’s no way to tell if hard luggage will ever reach such an echelon of antique style and value, you might hold on to your pieces in case the world ever becomes infatuated with “cool, vintage hard luggage style.”