Air travel can be a very stressful prospect. Not only do you need to make sure you’ve got your flights settled, but you have to get transportation to and from the airport, keep a tight schedule so you don’t miss your plane, and make sure you’ve got all the gear you need for whatever trip upon which you are embarking.
The last thing you should have to be worried about is whether your bags will make it there in one piece with everything you packed still inside. One of the easiest ways to check that off your list is by making sure you pack all your clothes, toiletries, and whatever else inside hard-sided luggage. Made specifically to endure the rigors of travel by land, sea, or air, these are the ten best hard-sided luggage bags you can buy.
Hard-Sided vs. Soft-Sided
Pros & Cons
As most folks know, there are a couple of different types of luggage you can bring along with you on any trip. And each category has its own benefits and drawbacks. For the purposes of this article, we’ll break it down into three different options: hard-sided, soft-sided, and hybrid. Their differences, pluses, and minuses are as follows:
Hard-Sided: Typically made from materials like metal (usually aluminum) or a synthetic (like polycarbonate), hard-sided luggage is the toughest of the groups. It offers tremendous impact-resistance — making it practically immune to all abrasions, punctures, scratches, dents, etc. And it will keep everything you store inside it safe and secure, even in the hands of careless luggage handlers. The downside to this type of luggage is that it can be quite cumbersome. Even the empty bags are heavy (meaning you can fit less inside before you hit weight limits) and they don’t collapse — requiring a lot more room when placed into storage. Of course, if the safety and security of your gear is of the utmost importance, you’ll do no better than hard-sided luggage.
Soft-Sided: Often crafted from textile fabrics — including nylon (ballistic, Cordura, or otherwise), polyester, simple canvas, and (in rare cases) military-grade tarpaulin or high-strength laminates — soft-sided luggage is nowhere near as tough as hard-sided. Since the exteriors of the bags are made from pliable cloth, they’re prone to allowing their contents to be crushed. That being said, they can also be made more expandable than hard-sided bags and often collapse down for easier storage when not in use. So long as you’re not worried about the contents of your luggage getting smashed, a solid soft-sided bag won’t steer you wrong.
Hybrid: Though few and far between, there are a handful of hybrid bags that incorporate elements of both soft-sided and hard-sided luggage. Typically, they feature a cloth base with armored plating on the front and back of the bag. This allows them to be more packable and easier to collapse than hard-sided bags but also gives them greater impact protection than most soft-sided bags. While you might think that hybrid bags are the best of both worlds, they don’t quite do enough to compare to either option and their rarity makes them a difficult sell.
American Tourister Tribus Hard-Sided Luggage
Simple, straightforward, and easy — American Tourister’s Tribus hard-sided luggage is an excellent no-frills bag option for people on a budget. Available in three sizes — 20, 25, and 29 inches — each one comes with a quartet of uni-directional wheels, a telescoping handle, and an integrated TSA-friendly lock. Pair that with its tough, injection-molded polypropylene exterior and internal organizational packing pockets and this is an easy selection for those without a ton to spend.
Material: Injection-Molded Polypropylene
Delsey Chromium Lite Hard-Sided Luggage
While a fairly large jump up in price from the American Tourister Tribus, Delsey’s Chromium Lite hard-sided luggage is worth it for a number of factors. That includes a construction of polycarbonate — which is both extremely lightweight and remarkably durable — a dual-position trolley that works with both two and four wheels, a telescoping handle with a rubberized grip, an integrated TSA lock, and plenty of internal organizational options. There’s even a USB port and a dedicated power bank sleeve, so you can charge up all your favorite tech devices on the go.
Away Hard-Sided Luggage
Away isn’t bogged down by a massive catalog of options. They do one thing — hard-sided luggage — and they do it exceedingly well. With a wide variety of size and color options (seven sizes and eleven colors, to be exact), their polycarbonate bags are some of the best looking and functioning out there. They’re also available either with or without a TSA-compliant ejectable battery — so you can charge your gear on the go — they come with their own nylon dirty clothes bag and internal compression straps, and they are self-nesting (for easier storage if you own multiple sizes). Best of all, if you’re not confident enough in polycarbonate, they also have aluminum options.
Material: Polycarbonate or Aluminum
Crash Baggage Icon Hard-Sided Luggage
Even if you’ve got hard-sided luggage made from high-strength aluminum, there are baggage handlers who will still manage to dent the hell out of it. Of course, that will matter a lot less if your bag was made to embrace said dents into its styling — which is exactly the case with Crash Baggage and their entire suite of offerings. Their newest bags, called the Icon Collection, are beautiful and unique — available in three different colors and three different sizes. And while they look like they’ve been put through the wringer, they’re also built from insanely tough polycarbonate, which is the same stuff they use to make bulletproof glass. Chances are, you’ll never see a new dent in them at all.
Victorinox Spectra 2.0 Hard-Sided Luggage
Most folks know Victorinox as the makers of Swiss Army knives and Swiss Army watches. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg in regards to their offerings. In fact, they also have an intimidatingly-large catalog of superb luggage options. Our favorite, however, might just be their new Spectra series of hard-sided bags. With one of the widest ranges of sizes on the market, this collection has something for everyone. And each bag features a long list of standard features that include an ultra-tough polycarbonate shell, a quartet of unidirectional wheels, a telescoping handle, an integrated TSA lock, and more. Best of all, most of the bags feature a measure of expandability, making them a bit more versatile than other options on this list.
Pelican Elite Hard-Sided Luggage
Known for building some of the toughest adventure coolers on the planet, Pelican’s styling and ethos for those beverage haulers pairs perfectly into their series of Elite hard-sided luggage. Just as destructible, these double-wall polypropylene suitcases are the same used by professional adventurers and photographers to transport their delicate gear around the world. And that’s reason enough to trust them. They’re also surprisingly lightweight, come with wheels and a telescoping handle, are equipped with a TSA-friendly lock, and available in six different sizes. Built to withstand pressures of up to 15,000 pounds, this is about as tough as it gets.
Material: Double-Wall Polypropylene
Samsonite Fortifi Hard-Sided Luggage
Back in the mid-1990s, Samsonite was already enough of a household name that it was used for a joke in renowned sophomoric comedy Dumb and Dumber. And they’ve only managed to improve what they do best over the years. The latest in a long line of superb luggage is their Fortifi range of hard-sided bags. Available in three sizes — two check-in sizes and a carry-on — these uniquely designed bags are both handsome and rugged, thanks to their ultra-tough polycarbonate construction. They also all come standard with four unidirectional wheels, a telescoping handle, dual built-in TSA locks, a suitcase-style carry handle, and plenty of internal organizational options.
Briggs & Riley Sympatico Hard-Sided Luggage
Simple and no-fuss, the Briggs & Riley Sympatico line of hard-sided luggage masterfully embodies minimalism while still retaining its usefulness when it comes to packing your gear for a long flight. With four available sizes — including both domestic and international carry-on — each of these bags has the ability to expand up to 22% larger than their base size, granting users a little extra room for souvenirs they might pick up in their travels. They’re also built to be compatible with the soft-sized options in the Sympatico line, so you can pair the hard-sided luggage with a soft carry-on or pack a removable bag inside your hard-sided luggage for better organization and easier storage.
Tumi Latitude Hard-Sided Luggage
Tumi has been making superb luggage for years and years at this point, but their Latitude series is one of our favorites — both for its unique water-inspired rippled appearance and its extremely high-quality construction. Made from polycarbonate, these bags are as tough as they come, but they’re also easily organized thanks to a wealth of internal pouches. It’s also one of the most versatile in regards to available sizes, as there are 17 different varieties (and three colors each), so you can easily find the perfect option (or options) for you and all your gear. These bags are practically unmatched — and for good reason.
Material: SRPP Ballistic
Rimowa Hybrid Hard-Sided Luggage
The pinnacle of hard-sided luggage — both in cost and quality — can be found in Rimowa’s Hybrid line of bags. Made from a unique combination of aluminum-magnesium and polycarbonate, these high-end haulers were designed to last for a lifetime or more of hard use. And that ultra-tough construction pairs perfectly with the bags’ TSA locks, easy-to-use internal divider system, ball-bearing wheels, telescoping handle, and more. If you’re a frequent traveler who knows only the absolute top tier option will do, then go no further than Rimowa’s Hybrid collection.
How To Make A Travel Cocktail Kit
Everyone knows that traveling can be incredibly stressful. You can cut the aggravation and annoyance, however, with a strong beverage. Of course, airplane bars are pretty limited, which is why we’d encourage you to learn how to make a travel cocktail kit so you can have the perfect drink even at 30k feet.