In my last review, we looked at the best soft-case suitcases for traveling this upcoming holiday season. As I am preparing for a vacation of my own overseas, I am reminded of yet again how careful I need to be with packing. Airplane flight can be rough even on the best carry on luggage, and sometimes a soft-case suitcase will just not be enough for protecting your items. While a hard-case is slightly heavier than soft-case suitcases, it can be worth the weight in exchange for the peace of mind the extra security of hard-case suitcase provides. Here are three of the best hard-case suitcases for your travels this holiday season.
Our Top Choice: Samsonite Winfield 2 Hardside 28″ Luggage
The best hard-case suitcases should be judged on different features than soft-case suitcases. The Samsonite Winfield 2 Hardside 28″ Luggage has been a favorite for hard-case suitcases for years. Samsonite is a top name in travel.
While their soft-case suitcases may not always win the top spot on favorite lists, their hard-case suitcase definitely still has that quality that Samsonite has always boasted about making it one of the best hard-case suitcases.
The Samsonite Winfield 2 Hardside 28″ Luggage is the 28-inch suitcase. This is a size that will suit most means of travel, even air travel. Many airlines have a maximum size of between 30 to 35 inches, so this suitcase gives some extra room for flexibility between airline regulations.
The exact dimensions are 28 inches by 19 inches by 12 inches. The suitcase can expand an extra 1.5 inches for packing if space is needed. It weighs a total of 11.5 pounds. Hard-case suitcases do tend to be heavier than soft-case due to the extra features and heavier materials that make it a harder case. For a hard-case suitcase, 11.5 pounds is very light, making it one of the lightest hard-case suitcase options.
Structure and Safety
While hard-cases are heavier, it is for good reason. A hard-case suitcase will protect all your items, even with other suitcases being stacked on top or the suitcase being dropped. As long as you packed the items properly, the suitcase will do the rest.
Soft-case suitcases will bend with the weight of items placed on top, crushing the contents of the suitcase. Those who travel with just clothes, books, and other non-fragile items may rather have the weight. But, those who travel with valuables may want the extra protection a hard-case suitcase provides.
The Samsonite Winfield 2 Hardside 28″ Luggage takes protection an extra step further. The case is made entirely from a polycarbonate material. The construction of the suitcase is firm to protect the contents, while still having a little give. This little bit of give will allow the suitcase to bounce back into shape after going through the regular bumps of travel. This will avoid the main complaint of hard-case suitcases, which is the dents they are more prone to. This Samsonite can avoid these dents.
Not only does the suitcase avoid dents, but it also helps hide scratches. Scratching tends to show up very clearly on many hard-case suitcases. Samsonite helps eliminate this with their brush stroke pattern that will hide any of the regular scuff marks from travel.
The case itself is not the only protection your belongings will have. There is also a special TSA lock fastened to the suitcase. After zippering up your suitcase, you then attach the zippers inside the TSA combination lock.
Hard-case suitcases do have some very similar features as the soft-case suitcase. One main similar feature is the wheels. The Samsonite Winfield 2 Hardside 28″ Luggage has four spinner wheels that turn 360 degrees. This will allow you to have advanced maneuverability and stability while you are traveling. You can easily back up and move side to side with these spinner wheels. You can also choose to either pull or push the suitcase, whichever is most convenient at the time.
The Samsonite Winfield 2 Hardside 28″ Luggage also has a pull handle. The pull handle retracts into the suitcase during the trip. It can easily be pulled out of the suitcase using a push button. The handle is extra wide so that it is very comfortable for pulling. The handle is made from aluminum so that it is both sturdy and lightweight. In addition to the pull handle, there is a top handle and side handle to make it easy to lift the suitcase from any direction for storage or moving.
The Samsonite Winfield 2 Hardside 28″ Luggage also comes in multiple colors. Choosing a bright and unique color will make it easier to identify your suitcase on a carrousel or other location. These hard-case suitcases have five different color options to choose from, each bright and unique.
Even though hard-case suitcases do not have all those extra pockets on the outside like the soft-case suitcases, they still do have places for organization. The outside of the suitcase is solid. You unzip the suitcase down the center which will cause the suitcase to open up evenly like a sandwich.
You now have two compartments, the top and the bottom. There are straps to hold your items down so that your clothes will not flop about during your trip. In the middle, there is a divider. This divider helps keep your items in place and separated for more organization. This center divider has pockets for even more organization. The center divider zips onto the lid. This keeps the items in the lid safely inside.
Since this is a suitcase that splits down the center when opening, you will want to make sure to always open from the top. The bottom half only holds items in by a few straps, while the top half is entirely zippered closed with the divider, so items will not fall out when you open the suitcase lid.
Things to Consider
Some people have found the suitcase to be too large for some airlines, so double check with your airline before purchasing this suitcase. It was designed to qualify for airlines, so most airlines will accept this suitcase.
There are two main weaknesses with the suitcase. The first is the wheels. This tends to be a weak spot for most pieces of luggage so should always be an item to keep a close eye on. The second issue tends to be with the zipper. If you plan to stuff your suitcase full, be careful of the zipper splitting. You can always add safety straps for extra security in order to have the extra room for packing without the strain being put on the zipper.
While these are issues in some cases, they are not overly common and Samsonite will be glad to help fix any issues you may have. These issues are not great enough to detract from the suitcase itself, still making it one of the best hard-case suitcases for travel.
Runner Up: Delsey Luggage Helium Aero
The Delsey Luggage Helium Aero is a very high-quality contender in the suitcase world. This brand is a French luggage and travel company that designs high-quality and fashionable luggage and accessories for all your travel needs. They are based out of Paris, France and have been creating luggage since 1946. They are a name that can be trusted for all your travel adventures.
This Delsey Luggage Helium Aero hard-case luggage is a great addition to your suitcase sets. It is around the same weight as the Samsonite luggage with more room and more color options. It is also very similar in its high quality as the Samsonite suitcase.
The reason it does not make first on the list is because of the considerably higher price for an item of similar quality to other suitcases that are half the price. The second is that the size is borderline too large for some airlines, which could cause issues for some travelers.
The Delsey Luggage Helium Aero is slightly larger than the Samsonite. It comes in at 29 inches by 19.5 inches by 12.5 inches. It also can expand an extra two inches for additional space to pack if necessary. The entire suitcase only weighs 11.7 pounds, very light considering the larger size.
With these dimensions, the suitcase is barely two inches under the average size restrictions. Depending on the agent measuring, some have found the suitcase even goes over the size regulations when including the wheels and other parts of the suitcase into the grand total in size.
Structure and Safety
This suitcase is made entirely from polycarbonate. This is the same material as the Samsonite hard-case was made from. This is an ideal material for hard-case suitcases. It will protect your items by holding its form, while also being able to bend with all the bumps in order to prevent denting.
The suitcase comes in nine vibrant color options. Each color is unique in a way that will help make your suitcase stand out so that you can identify it easier when reclaiming it on a carousel. All the colors have a shiny, metallic finish with a beveled design.
For the safety of your items, this suitcase has a TSA safety lock. After zippering up the main compartment, the zippers are placed securely in the combination lock. This is a lock specially designed to remain locked unless it is opened by the combination or the TSA master key.
There are many similarities in features with the Delsey Luggage Helium Aero and other brands. It has the standard four spinner wheels with one wheel on each corner of the suitcase. They spin in a complete 360-degree circle for the best maneuverability around the airport or other destinations. This, in combination with the retracting handle, allows you to easily transport the suitcase. You can pull it by the handle, or push it in any direction.
In addition to the pull handle, the suitcase also has a handle on the side and on the top of the suitcase. These handles are very important for lifting the suitcase after the retractable handle is put away. It makes it easy to grab it from a carousel, lift it in an overhead bin of a train, or store it in the trunk of a car. The two locations of the handles make sure that you can easily grab it from any angle.
One of the Delsey Luggage Helium Aero’s greatest strength is in its wheels. This is one area in which this suitcase exceeds over most of the other hard-case suitcases. Instead of the typical single wheels, the Delsey Luggage Helium Aero wheels are double wheels. This helps to evenly distribute the weight. The wheels are also more solidly connected to the suitcase to avoid them breaking easily after only a few months of use. The wheels are both silent and smooth, making transportation a breeze.
This suitcase is designed as typical hard-case suitcases usually are designed, the sandwich design. There is one zipper on the outside that will split the suitcase evenly down the center. You then have two separate compartments on the inside.
On the bottom, you have a large area for clothing. Your clothing will be secured using straps attached to the bottom of the suitcase. Whenever you open the suitcase, be sure that you have the bottom of the suitcase sitting down, as the straps will not hold the clothing entirely secure.
The top of the suitcase has an equally sized compartment for more items. These items are sealed in the top with a cloth divider. This divider zippers around the edges so that even when you open your suitcase, your items will not fall out of the top compartment.
The divider works as more than just a divider. It also offers another area for storage. There are multiple pockets to keep smaller items for better organization.
Things to Consider
One major downfall with this piece of luggage is its size. While it measures just under the average for airline checked baggage, with two inches to spare, this measurement does not include the wheels. With the protruding wheels, the suitcase comes to the limit of the measurements. Some airlines will let it slide, while others may charge an oversized baggage fee for this piece of luggage.
The size also makes it a little more difficult to fit in other areas as well. For example, the luggage stands at your hotel. This may lead to you having to use valuable space elsewhere to store your suitcase during your visit.
The second item to consider is that this is a more expensive piece of luggage. It is made from the same materials as Samsonite and many other hard-case suitcases. Many travelers have found it lasts about the same amount as those other suitcases.
Travel is not easy on suitcases, so you do not want to be paying out hundreds of dollars on suitcases every year. The extra investment, while can be seen in some areas like the higher-quality wheels, does not quite reflect in the overall quality of the case. It is still an average quality, similar to that of the Samsonite, which makes this a runner-up as one of the best hard-case suitcases.
Honorable Mention: Coolife Luggage Expandable Suitcase
Traveling does not have to be expensive. The Coolife Luggage Expandable Suitcase is a great way to keep your items safe without breaking the bank. Even though it is considerably more affordable than the other options, it has surprisingly good quality, making it worth a mention as one of the best hard-case suitcases.
The Coolife Luggage Expandable Suitcase comes out to measuring 29 inches by 20.5 inches by 11 inches. The suitcase can expand two more inches for a total of about 13 inches if the extra room is needed. It is considered a 28-inch suitcase, but the dimensions are listed as 29-inches due to the extra height added by the wheels.
This height is important to consider as TSA agents will measure a suitcase including the wheels if the wheels stick out. This size is still just below the limit for checked luggage, though it is close and may cause issues depending on measuring variables.
In total, the Coolife Luggage Expandable Suitcase weighs just 10.88 pounds, making it the lightest of the hard-case suitcases mentioned in this list. In fact, this weight is light enough to even rival some soft-case suitcases of similar dimensions. This is another feature, on top of the affordable price, that makes this a very great option to consider.
Structure and Safety
Like the other suitcases mentioned before, this is also made from polycarbonate as well as ABS. This makes it both durable and lightweight. It also makes it slightly flexible in order to minimize bumps and possible dents that hard-case suitcases are so prone to.
The case also has a TSA lock that is located on the side of the suitcase. It is a combination lock that securely holds the zippers when the suitcase is closed.
The Coolife Luggage Expandable Suitcase has four spinner wheels. These wheels can swivel in complete circles for the best maneuverability in all situations. The wheels have a little extra security by being double wheels. This helps to evenly distribute the weight and helps the wheels run smoother and last longer.
This suitcase does have a retractable pull handle that makes it easy to pull the suitcase around an airport or through the halls of a hotel. There are also two strong handles on the top and side of the suitcase to help lift the suitcase up or store it.
It comes in five different vibrant color options. Each color has a glossy finish that will help it stand out when traveling to make it easier to find your suitcase among dozens of other pieces of luggage.
The Coolife Luggage Expandable Suitcase opens in the middle like a sandwich. Each side is equal in size. The bottom of the suitcase is secured by an X strap with an adjustable clip. The top of the suitcase is secured by a zippered divider. The divider has additional storage for small items that need more organization.
Things to Consider
Since this is a more budget-friendly suitcase, there will be small areas in which the suitcase will just not quite be as well made as some of the other options. One of the biggest areas would be the zipper. This suitcase is known for its zippers either getting caught or splitting completely. Be aware of the weakness of the zippers and take precautions to either strap the suitcase for extra security, or to not pack the suitcase as full to avoid unnecessary strain on the zippers.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between a hard-case and soft-case suitcase?
Hard-case and soft-case suitcases have one major difference, and that is the material of the outer shell. A soft-case suitcase is more flexible. It tends to have more pockets for organization and is generally lighter than hard-case suitcases.
Hard-case suitcases are slightly heavier, but they offer more protection. The harder shell will protect valuables from being crushed as the hard case keeps its shape through the entire travel process.
What size suitcase do I need?
This depends on where you plan to travel. Every travel method has different requirements for suitcase sizes and weights. Airlines tend to be the most strict when it comes to suitcase sizes, so if you are looking for the most versatile suitcase, choose one that will work for airline travel and it will most likely fall within the regulations of all other travel.
For national travel, most airlines will allow you to take one carry-on and one personal item. A carry-on size is usually limited to about 22 inches and 40 pounds. A personal item would be a small purse or laptop bag.
International travel has the same regulations with the added allowance of one checked bag. This checked bag has a size regulation of about 30 to 35 inches depending on the airline. The weight is also limited to 50 to 55 pounds depending on the airline.
Finding the largest possible bag might not be the best option when traveling. The larger bag will also mean a higher weight of the actual luggage, which will take away from your weight limit for the belongings being packed. A slightly smaller bag will be lighter and will allow for you to pack more items. A larger bag also has quite a bit of room.
If you do not fill your suitcase, then your belongings will easily flop around the suitcase during the trip, and break or wrinkle. A smaller suitcase will help hold everything in place. Most people find that a 25 to 29-inch suitcase tends to have enough room for items for a week, while not having too much room or luggage weight that will detract from the actual weight of belongings.
How can I secure my belongings?
A purse can be easy to secure as it remains on your person at all times. Your checked baggage is another issue altogether. Many people have misgivings about sending their valuable belongings on a plane without their supervision. This is why people have decided to take security into their own hands by adding locks.
Locks serve two purposes, to keep your luggage closed and to keep others out of your luggage. With all the moving about a suitcase does, zippers can be wiggled open or ripped. That is why it is important to use a lock or zip tie to attach the zippers to each other to avoid them being opened. For safety reasons, others use a combination or key locks on the zippers of their luggage.
For those who travel airlines often, you know how strict security can be. TSA agents will randomly select bags to search. Sometimes you will be present, but often times you may not be. This is why airports require all bags to be accessible to the TSA agents, even without the owner present. For this reason, special TSA locks were created.
Regular locks or zip ties will need to be cut by agents when they search the bag. This will leave your bag without a lock for the rest of the journey. TSA locks are similar to a regular padlock, except that they can be easily opened by a master key that all TSA agents own. This master key allows them to open up the lock, search your items, and return the lock so your items remain safe for the rest of the journey. TSA locks are identified by the red diamond symbol.