The 10 Best Hardside Carry-On Luggage

Updated October 09, 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

10 Best Hardside Carry-On Luggage
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We spent 43 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top selections for this wiki. With most airlines these days charging an arm and a leg for checked luggage, you may want to scale down your packing on your next trip by using one of these hardside carry-on options. We've included a variety of styles and designs to suit any taste along with a full range of prices to meet any budget, from the occasional traveler to the frequent flyer. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best hardside carry-on luggage on Amazon.

10. eBags EXO 2.0

With its rock solid construction and good looks, the eBags EXO 2.0 hits the mark in many areas. Its double-wheel casters provide a smooth, stable spinning motion and are secured with internal support plates for longevity, but the handle isn't very comfortable to hold.
  • all parts can be removed for repairs
  • comes with a lifetime guarantee
  • lock can be hard to open
Brand eBags
Model 264702
Weight 9.9 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

9. Tumi V3

With a streamlined design and performance-driven features, the Tumi V3 is a top-notch choice for frequent travelers who demand a lot. This piece has a smoothly-operating handle and four recessed casters that glide well over most terrain.
  • tie-down straps inside
  • quality construction
  • too close to airline size limits
Brand Tumi
Model 228061
Weight 9.4 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

8. Nautica Ahoy

The sleek 21-inch Nautica Ahoy offers a lot of style at an affordable price. Its petite size makes it a breeze to tote, and its dimensions meet airline standards, but the overall quality doesn't seem built to last, so it may not be a good choice for frequent travelers.
  • two-tone color combinations
  • strong zipper closure
  • grab handle is not very sturdy
Brand Nautica
Model 2694C13
Weight 7.4 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

7. Victorinox Spectra 2.0

If you like your items neatly packed, the split case design of the Victorinox Spectra 2.0 will please you greatly. It features a top compartment with a zip-around mesh door and a bottom area with Y-shaped compression straps, as well as an additional zippered pocket.
  • dual casters with soft treads
  • locking adjustable handle
  • polycarbonate exterior
Brand Victorinox
Model 31318503
Weight 12 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

6. Rockland F191 Skin

If you need a durable, lightweight piece for those quick getaways, the Rockland F191 Skin is your answer. It has multidirectional spinner wheels for easy maneuvering, and its roomy interior allows you to pack more and still avoid excess weight surcharges.
  • modern chrome telescoping handle
  • comes in many fashionable designs
  • zippers can be sticky
Brand Rockland
Model F191
Weight 8.2 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

5. Samsonite Winfield 2 Fashion

Travel in style and luxury with the Samsonite Winfield 2 Fashion. This 20-inch option features an elegant brushed exterior that hides any potential scratches or scuffs, plus it can absorb impacts by flexing while under stress and then popping back to its original shape.
  • cross-straps with a privacy curtain
  • tsa approved combination lock
  • full-zip interior divider
Brand Samsonite
Model 56844
Weight 7.8 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

4. Pelican Air Case 1535

The watertight, airtight, and corrosion-proof qualities of the Pelican Air Case 1535 make it a must-have when traveling with equipment that needs superior protection. It is made of an ultra-high-impact structural copolymer with double ABS latches that seal tightly.
  • padlock protectors
  • can create a customized interior
  • a bit heavy to carry and maneuver
Brand Pelican
Model 1535AIR
Weight 10.9 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

3. Delsey Luggage Helium Aero

The Delsey Luggage Helium Aero makes a stylish statement during your travels at a price that's relatively easy on your wallet. It comes in five striking finishes with a deep metallic sheen, and can expand up to two inches for additional packing space if needed.
  • handle retracts smoothly
  • holds a lot without looking bulky
  • cost varies with color
Brand DELSEY Paris
Model 07644PL
Weight 9.5 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

2. American Tourister R2D2 Spinner

The American Tourister R2D2 Spinner makes the perfect travel companion for any Star Wars fan. It features a themed interior lining, too, and comes with a hard plastic luggage tag. Plus, the cool design makes it very easy to spot on the baggage carousel.
  • easily fits in an overhead bin
  • great for kids and adults
  • other character designs available
Brand American Tourister
Model 65777-4431
Weight 8.9 pounds
Rating 5.0 / 5.0

1. Briggs & Riley Torq International

The premium Briggs & Riley Torq International is packed with features inside and out for the savvy traveler. It boasts an 80/20 lid opening design, ID tag, combination lock, and adjustable garment straps that are detachable if necessary.
  • integrated top grab handle
  • durable polycarbonate shell
  • rolls nicely in airplane aisles
Brand Briggs & Riley
Model QU121SPW-31
Weight 9.8 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

The Case For Hardside Carry-On Luggage

Perhaps you've always used soft luggage because, once it's empty, you can collapse it and shove it under your bed. But it could be time to upgrade to a hardside carry-on, especially if you travel often. Passengers and flight staff usually try to cram as many bags as possible into the overhead compartment, leaving a soft carry-on vulnerable to being squished between the others, and leaving your valuables susceptible to damage. Hard carry-on luggage essentially has built-in walls to protect your items. You'll probably want this, since handling your breakables with care isn't a concern for the frantic flight staff or TSA.

Hardside luggage is made from durable materials, like ABS plastic or polycarbonate. It's very difficult to puncture these materials. Meanwhile, the cotton, leather, or canvas on your soft bag isn't very strong. One sharp item floating around in the overhead compartment during turbulence could easily puncture a soft-sided bag. Of course, not all punctures are an accident. If a thief gets a hold of your soft bag, he can rapidly cut it open, even if the zipper is locked. But locked hardside luggage is much harder to break into. Many cannot be cut with a knife. Airport luggage thieves have to take these to a remote place to break them open, giving you and the police more time to catch them.

Having a hardside carry-on doesn't only protect your belongings — it can also help you. How many times have you arrived at the airport to find that your airline clearly overbooked the flight? The situation has become so dire that some airlines even pay volunteers to change flights. And when this happens, there may be nowhere left to sit in the airport. You may not be able to find a seat in the boarding area, the nearby bars, the restaurants, or anywhere else, but you can sit on your hardside luggage if needed.

Items You Should Always Have In Your Hardside Carry-On

There are some items that are just too precious to keep in a soft bag or store in the cargo area of the plane. Let's take a look at things you should always pack in your hardside carry-on. First, keep both your passport, and also a photocopy of your passport in your carry-on. Your passport is an item that should only pass through your hands and the hands of airport or government officials. You cannot guarantee that will happen if you put it in your checked luggage. Of course, there is always the possibility someone can still steal your passport from your carry-on, which is why you need a photocopy, too. Storing your passport in a soft bag leaves this important document vulnerable to being crumpled up — not so in hardside luggage.

The second thing you should put in your hard carry-on is a cache of snacks. You may have noticed a few very problematic issues with airlines these days. They charge for snacks, they can run out of certain items quickly, and they can be held up on the tarmac for hours before takeoff or after landing. This can be a nuisance for most people, and even a medical disaster for some, like diabetics. A new rule limits the time planes can keep passengers on the tarmac, but it still allows for aircrafts to sit there for three hours without having you deplane. You'll be glad you have food in your carry-on if that happens. You'll be even more grateful that your granola bar wasn't smashed to pieces in a soft bag.

There are obviously several things you can keep in your carry-on that will enhance your comfort and experience, but we are just focusing on critical items that protect your health and safety. With that in mind, the third thing you should keep in your carry-on is hand sanitizer. Considering that deadly bacteria can exist on a plane for up to seven days, you can't risk not cleaning your hands regularly on an aircraft. But between bathroom lines and turbulence, you don't always have the option to properly wash your hands. Keeping hand sanitizer in your carry-on solves this issue.

What To Look For In Your Carry-On Bag

When looking for a carry-on bag, one with multidirectional, smooth-turning wheels is non-negotiable. If you're late for your flight, you want to be able to make a run for it through the airport, without your bag slowing you down. On that same note, look for one with a non-slip, ergonomic handle so you can get a good grip on it as you navigate the airport crowds. For those rare instances when you'll need to pick your bag up, you'll want one made from lightweight materials that also has handles on both the top and sides.

Frequent flyers know that the TSA line is a hectic place. Make sure your bag has two-way zippers so you can rapidly take out your travel laptop and liquids. Some even have privacy curtains, allowing you to cover up your unmentionables when you have to open your bag in the security line. You might want luggage that is brightly colored or features a unique design, too, so you can quickly spot it in the assembly line of suitcases coming out of the scanner.

Flights can be bumpy, so make sure your hardside luggage has tie-down straps to keep your items from shifting during turbulence. Depending on how rough the skies are, you may want a carry-on that can absorb impact without denting. For extra long trips, you'll want a carry-on with a roomy interior. This will allow you to pack things that make your flight more enjoyable, like your pillow or noise-canceling headphones.

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Last updated on October 09, 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel is a writer, actor, and director living in Los Angeles, CA. He spent a large portion of his 20s roaming the country in search of new experiences, taking on odd jobs in the strangest places, studying at incredible schools, and making art with empathy and curiosity.

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