DEAL OF THE DAY: Spend $60 on spring cleaning supplies and get a $15 Amazon credit
Don't Waste Your Money is supported by our readers. When you purchase an item through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The Best Hardshell Luggage Set For Protecting Your Goods

Last updated on January 21, 2024
Best Hardshell Luggage Set

Our Review Process

Don't Waste Your Money is focused on helping you make the best purchasing decision. Our team of experts spends hundreds of hours analyzing, testing, and researching products so you don't have to. Learn more.

Look for the DWYM seal for products that are the best in a category.

If you’ve been enviously eyeing your friends’ photos from their latest trip and daydreaming about your dream beach vacation, it’s time to make that dream a reality and hit the friendly skies. A good first step is investing in luggage that can withstand long walks around the airport and hours in cargo storage or an overhead compartment. If you’ve always used soft suitcases, it’s time to upgrade and buy some hardshell luggage. 

Hardshell suitcases have rock-solid exteriors made from different types of ultra-strong plastic. The tough-as-nails outer shell is a better option for protecting your belongings. Most of these suitcases have lined interiors with pockets and compartments to keep you organized.

Hardshell luggage is usually too heavy to carry, but almost all brands install spinner wheels at the bottom of the suitcase to help you pull it through the airport and beyond.

“Smooth-rolling spinner wheels come in handy when you reach your destination,” notes Brittany Anas, our resident travel expert and an award-winning journalist who specializes in travel and lifestyle. “In a lot of European countries, you’ll be commuting from ferries to taxis or buses on older, uneven streets. Having wheels that can handle the terrain is essential.” 

Hardshell suitcases are a little pricier than soft luggage, but the added protection from bumps and drops makes them well worth the extra cash. 

Our Picks For The Top Hardshell Luggage Sets

View All Recommendations
Product Overview
Our Take
 Top Pick

Traveler’s Choice Carry-On Hardshell Luggage Set, 2-Piece

Don't Waste Your Money Seal of Approval

Traveler's Choice

Carry-On Hardshell Luggage Set, 2-Piece

Instead of one large inner compartment, this hardshell luggage set features built-in mesh bags and pouches to keep all of your items neatly organized. There's even a zipper pouch for your cell! Since the suitcase can be expanded by 2 inches, you won't have to worry about space if you pick up a souvenir or two.

Overall Take

Keeps You OrganizedTop features of this hardshell luggage set include a scratch-resistant outer material, 360-degree spinner wheels and a built-in USB port.

 Runner Up

Ben Sherman Nottingham Fully Lined Hardshell Luggage Set, 3-Piece

Ben Sherman

Nottingham Fully Lined Hardshell Luggage Set, 3-Piece

Available in 10 different shades, this attractive hardshell luggage set is a must for travelers. It features three suitcases that each offer a durable ABS exterior. The interior is lined with a tear-resistant material and has several mesh pockets for better organization.

Overall Take

Weighs Just Over 6 PoundsThis lightweight hardshell luggage set offers top, side and bottom handles to make moving or carrying the pieces a breeze.

 We Also Like

AmazonBasics Telescoping Handle Hardshell Luggage Set, 3-Piece

AmazonBasics

Telescoping Handle Hardshell Luggage Set, 3-Piece

The durability of this hardshell luggage set makes it a great option for those who travel often, since this hardshell luggage set will put up with a lot of abuse and still look like new. The compression straps and liner make packing the bags simple and straightforward as well.

Overall Take

Scratch-Resistant We like the rugged exterior of this hardshell luggage set since it lets you use your luggage often without it showing wear.

 Strong Contender

Rockland Melbourne Lightweight Hardshell Luggage Set, 2-Piece

Rockland

Melbourne Lightweight Hardshell Luggage Set, 2-Piece

The first thing you'll notice about this hardshell luggage set is the ergonomic chrome telescoping handle. It's comfortable to hold and extends to match your height. Each of the two pieces in this set also come with multi-directional double spinner wheels to make moving around the airport a breeze.

Overall Take

Multiple Color OptionsYou'll find this hardshell luggage set comes in a choice of 35 different colors, including champagne, lime, yellow, navy and turquoise.

Our Expert Consultant

Brittany Anas
Travel journalist

Brittany Anas is an award-winning investigative journalist turned freelancer who now specializes in travel and lifestyle topics. She is a former reporter for the Daily Camera and The Denver Post. Her travel writing has been featured in American Way, USA Today, AAA magazines, Simplemost, Better, Livability, Apartment Therapy, Men’s Journal, Austin-American Statesman, TripSavvy and other outlets. She’s carved out a niche in adventure travel writing and has a column with Forbes that’s focused on outdoors travel. She logs about 75,000 airline miles a year and has mastered the art of napping in airports and finding the best spicy cocktails in whichever city she visits. She treats travel like a scavenger hunt, finding what makes cities special. Brittany is based in Denver, and loves exploring Colorado’s hiking trails with her gremlin that the rescue described as a “Boston Terrier.”

What to Look For

  • Hardshell luggage offers more protection for your belongings than soft-sided baggage, but it won’t do you much good if it’s too heavy to carry. Take a look at your suitcase’s weight before you buy, and make sure you can handle that piece of luggage when it’s at capacity.
  • Hardshell luggage is usually made from either polycarbonate plastic or ABS plastic. Polycarbonate is lightweight and resistant to high temperatures and impact. ABS is a blend of three types of plastic. It’s even lighter than polycarbonate and less expensive, but ABS suitcases aren’t quite as durable. If you travel frequently, investing in polycarbonate luggage is a good bet. If you only go on the occasional vacation, save yourself some cash with ABS hard-side luggage.
  • Certain finishes will protect your luggage from scrapes and dings better than others. Brushed polycarbonate is great for maintaining that brand-new look, and microdiamond texturing also hides any damage. 
  • The inside of your luggage is just as important as the outside. Multiple compartments will help keep you organized, and mesh pockets are great for separating small accessories. Garment straps will keep your clothes in place during bumpy flights. Check out pictures of the inside of your dream suitcase to make sure it has enough compartments for your needs.
  • No one’s expecting you to haul hard-side luggage across the airport without a little help. The best hardshell luggage will have 360-degree spinner wheels that move smoothly in all directions. Check out your luggage’s specs, and make sure it has this type of wheels before you buy.
  • You’re already taking an extra step towards protecting your belongings with hard-side luggage. You can add to that effort by choosing a hardshell suitcase with a built-in, TSA-approved lock. Pieces with combination locks will offer more security than key locks (and you don’t have to worry about losing a tiny key). 
  • It’s the little things that make the difference between a good suitcase and a great suitcase. A built-in slot for a luggage tag will give you peace of mind when you hand over your checked bag. Make sure that the hardshell suitcase you’re eyeing has one before you buy.
  • You can also look for high-tech add-ons when you buy your luggage. “Many pieces have ejectable batteries that can charge you’re phone when you’re on the go,” says travel pro Brittany Anas. “You’ll come to love this because the airport outlets are in high demand.”
  • The quality of your hardshell’s zippers and spinner wheels will tell you a lot about its longevity. The last thing you need is a zipper breaking as you’re closing your suitcase or a spinner wheel catching and snapping as you’re rushing to make a flight. Look closely at any photos of your luggage’s zippers or wheels, and consider returning it if they look weak upon closer examination.
  • Hardshell luggage tends to be a greater financial investment than soft luggage, and you should do what you can to help maintain it. Purchasing luggage straps to wrap around your hardshell suitcase will reduce strain on the zippers if you’ve packed a lot for a long trip.
  • If you travel infrequently, you’ll put less strain on your luggage and it will last longer.  

More to Explore

Your new hardshell luggage is built to withstand dents, drops and scrapes, but even the toughest suitcases can fall into the dreaded purgatory of lost luggage. 

It’s very rare for a suitcase to disappear forever: Almost all lost bags are found and returned to the owner within two days. If an unlucky bag isn’t reunited with its owner within 90 days, the airline can buy it and ship it to the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama. The airline chooses items from the lost luggage to clean up and sell. Anyone can buy these choice picks at a steep discount from the Unclaimed Baggage Center’s brick and mortar store. 

Your hardshell suitcase will likely be with you for years to come, but at least your belongings will find a happy home if it does go missing.

More to explore