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Are Hard Shell Suitcases Better? Pros & Cons

When it comes to choosing luggage for your travels, there are many options available. One of the most popular choices is a hard shell suitcase. These can be rugged and durable suitcases and have become increasingly popular in recent years. But are hard shell suitcases better than alternative luggage choices?

In this article, we’ll explore the pros and cons of hard shell suitcases to help you make an informed decision.

What is a Hard Shell Suitcase?

What is a Hard Shell Suitcase?

Before we dive into the pros and cons, let’s define what makes a suitcase a hard-shell.. A hard shell suitcase uses rigid material to create the hard shell. Typically made from  polycarbonate, polypropylene, ABS plastic or aluminum, and has a solid outer shell. This makes it more durable and resistant to damage compared to soft shell luggage.

Pros of Hard Shell Suitcases

There are several advantages to choosing a hard shell suitcase for your travels. Here are some of the top pros:


A well known benefit of a hard shell suitcases is its durability. The solid outer shell can withstand rougher handling and better protect your belongings from damage.


Unlike soft-sided suitcases, hard shell suitcases are water resistant. This means your belongings are more likely to stay dry even in wet conditions.

Easy to clean

Hard shell suitcases are easier to clean. With most hard-shell suitcases, you can often clean away scuff marks and dirt more easily than with a soft-sided piece of luggage.

Better protection for fragile items

If you’re traveling with fragile items, a hard shell suitcase is a great choice. The solid outer shell provides extra protection reducing the risk of crushing or damage to items.


Hard shell suitcases often come with built-in TSA accepted locks. This provides an extra layer of security for your belongings. Giving you peace of mind while traveling.

Cons of Hard Shell Suitcases

While there are many advantages to hard shell suitcases, there are also some drawbacks to consider. Here are a few cons to keep in mind:

Less flexibility

Hard shell suitcases are not as flexible as softsided luggage. This means they may not fit into tight spaces or overhead bins as easily.

Can be heavier

Many hard shell suitcases use heavier materials, making them harder to carry and manoeuvre. Especially when comparing them to lighter soft shell suitcases.

Small space for storage

The solid outer shell of a hard shell suitcase means there is less give and less room for overpacking. This can be a disadvantage for those who tend to overpack.

More expensive

Hard shell suitcases tend to be more expensive than soft-sided luggage. This is due to the materials used and otheradded features.

Can crack or dent

While hard shell suitcases are durable, they are not indestructible. They can still crack or dent if mishandled or dropped from a great height.

Less pockets and compartments

Soft-sided suitcases often have multiple external pockets and compartments for organizing your belongings. Hard shell suitcases typically have less external storage options, making it harder to keep items accessible while travelling.

Are Hard Shell Suitcases Better?

So, are hard shell suitcases really better than soft-sided suitcases? The answer is, it depends. It ultimately comes down to personal preference and the type of travel you’ll be doing.

How to Choose the Right Hard Shell Suitcase

Here are a few things to consider when choosing the right hard shell suitcase if you think its right for you:

  • Material: Hard shell suitcases are made  from various materials, such as polycarbonate, polypropylene, ABS plastic, or aluminum. Consider the durability and weight of each material before making a decision.
  • Size and weight: Hard shell suitcases come in a range of sizes and weights. Consider the length of your trip and the weight restrictions of your airline before choosing a suitcase.
  • Wheels: Most hard shell suitcases come with four wheels, making them easy to maneuver. However, some may only have two wheels, which can make them more difficult to move around. When investing in a hardshell suitcase it’s best to test it out in person to see how it rolls, the noise it makes and its manoeuvrability. 
  • Handles: Look for a suitcase with sturdy and comfortable handles. This will make it easier to carry and lift, especially if you have a heavy load.
  • Locks: If security is a concern, look for a hard shell suitcase with built-in TSA locks. This will provide an extra layer of protection for your belongings.
  • Price: As mentioned earlier, hard shell suitcases tend to be more expensive than soft-sided suitcases. Set a budget and compare prices to find the best option for your needs.

View our brands section of our TSA lock page to see hardshell suitcase manufacturers that partner with Travel Sentry.


In conclusion, hard shell suitcases have both pros and cons to consider. They are durable, water-resistant, and easy to clean, but they may be less flexible and have less storage space compared to soft-sided suitcases.

Ultimately, the best choice for you will depend on your personal preferences and the type of travel you’ll be doing. Consider the material, size, weight, and features of a hard shell suitcase before making a decision. With the right hard shell suitcase and a TSA accepted lock, you can have a stress-free and enjoyable travel experience.

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