The Best Hard Shell Luggage, Tested and Reviewed

You won't be afraid to check these pieces of luggage, each road-tested by our editors.
A collage.

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Any frequent traveler knows that when you bid farewell to your bag at check-in, the likelihood of it being treated with the same care and attention you would give it is low. That's when you turn to hard shell luggage: sturdy, box-like suitcases with hard sides that are typically made of ultra-durable polycarbonate or aluminum (making them easier to clean than fabric suitcases). They can handle the wear and tear of being transported by baggage handlers and have all the perks you'd expect out of high-quality luggage—spinner wheels that can speed through an airport or take on a cobblestoned street, TSA-approved locks, and more often than not, a matching carry-on to consider. So, we set out to find the best hard shell luggage of 2023—read on to discover the winners, 16 suitcases that will last for years to come.

This article is part of Condé Nast Traveler's first-ever Luggage Week, for which dozens of suitcases, backpacks, and weekender bags were road-tested by our editors.

What we considered:

Every piece featured below has been road-tested by editors and contributors, and reviewed based on the following criteria:

  • How heavy or light is it when empty?
  • What is the interior like—are there useful pockets and compartments inside?
  • How much can it fit? Enough for a three-day weekend, or a weeklong trip?
  • How sturdy is the exterior? Did it scratch at all in transit?
  • How easily does it roll when full?
  • What is the handle placement like? Is it easy to pick up when placing in a car, on a train, or in the overhead compartment of a plane?
  • Is it aesthetically pleasing and well-designed?
  • Is it worth the price point?
  • Does it have any unique features that make it stand out from other luggage you’ve tried?

Emma Fishman
Emma Fishman

Keep reading for our editors' picks of the best hard shell luggage—or, jump straight to the size you're shopping for:

Hard shell checked luggage

Paravel Aviator Grand Checked Luggage

Weight: 11.8 lbs.
Dimensions: 28" x 18" x 11"

Pros: Sustainably made, rolled smoothly on uneven surfaces, textured exterior to hide scuffs
Cons: Quite a bit of branding on the exterior and interior, which some may not be a fan of

Among the most aesthetically pleasing on the list is Paravel's checked-size bag, the Aviator Grand. It's the rare suitcase that can call itself 100 percent carbon neutral—Paravel offsets the cost of the emissions that come from sourcing, assembly, shipping, and delivering the bag to you, as well as from your first trip (based on an average flight). The bag's materials are sourced sustainably, too: It's constructed with a recycled polycarbonate shell, recycled zippers, recycled nylon lining, and vegan leather trim. Beyond that, it's a handsome and chic bag you'll be happy to roll through the airport on that long-awaited next trip, with plenty of room inside; while testing it out, we fit two weeks worth of clothing inside, plus four pairs of shoes and a Dopp kit, and still had room to spare. Other highlights: a smooth, comfortable handle wrapped in vegan leather, carbon steel bearing wheels, and a sturdy (and easy-to-clean) nylon interior lining.

Arlo Skye The Zipper Check-In Medium

Weight: 9 lbs.
Dimensions: 27" x 18" x 11"

Pros: Super roomy, lightweight on its own, Arlo Skye carry-ons nest inside for easy storage
Cons: Scuffs pretty easily

A sturdy yet lightweight bag that's great for longer trips (think one to two weeks), this Arlo Skye bag is especially great when paired with Arlo's Zipper Carry-On if you're short on storage space—the carry-on nests inside the larger bag when it's empty. Inside, you'll find two even-sized compartments; one half zips closed and has a large zippered pocket built in to secure items like hats, bathing suits, belts, or purses. The other side is secured by compression straps, but still has two smaller zippered pockets to hold undergarments or socks.

Béis The 26" Check-In Roller

Weight: 10.2 lbs.
Dimensions: 28" x 18" x 11"

Pros: Luggage weight indicator, TSA-approved combination lock, sleek design, compression straps, two laundry bags, stain-resistant
Cons: The beige color shows the few scuffs it left

This expandable suitcase is “by far my favorite checked bag I’ve used—specifically due to its roomy interior and smart compartments,” says associate commerce editor Meaghan Kenny, who brought it on a nine-day trip to Italy this summer. “What I love most is the interior—pockets galore. There are two separate sides—one for stuffing as many packing cubes in as you can; that side comes with compression straps. The other side can be completely zipped and has two zippered pockets on top. It was like having two built-in packing cubes: I used one pocket to keep a wedding guest dress safe and the other for my large bottles of sunscreen—just in case anything spilled in transit. For the first time ever as an overpacker, I had room to spare. When I repacked before my flight home from Italy, I was able to fit several new shirts and souvenirs for my family and a new thick sweatshirt I bought in Florence.”

Calpak Ambeur Large Luggage

Weight: 10.3 lbs.
Dimensions: 30" x 19" x 12"

Pros: The design and chic color options, dual spinning wheels, expandable feature
Cons: The size (if you tend to be a carry-on lover like myself)

Getting a carry-on-only traveler to change their ways can be difficult, but not impossible: “I tend to travel with carry-on sized luggage so that I don’t have to check my bag, so this was a bigger piece than I’m used to,” says global director of audience development Lara Kramer. “But for a road trip or big international trip, this bag is perfect. It’s as durable as some of my favorite pieces and definitely one of the prettiest to look at.” Inside, there are two large main compartments, with one that fully zips closed, as well as three other zipper compartments of varying sizes, which Kramer says are perfect for packing smaller or more delicate items.

Herschel Heritage Hardshell Medium

Weight: 9 lbs.
Dimensions: 27" x 16" x 12"

Pros: Reasonably priced, made of recycled materials, mesh storage sleeves, built-in locks
Cons: Limited colors (only dark, more masculine colors)

You've likely spotted a Herschel backpack on a plane, train, or city street, but don't overlook the brand's suitcases. This medium-size roller fits a ton, Kenny says: “I packed everything I needed for a two-week trip and definitely had a little bit of room to spare. It fits a lot more than most suitcases I’ve used before. It’s very durable, doesn’t scuff too easily, and has plenty of compartments to keep clothes organized.” Its four-wheel design rolls easily and quietly, too, even when the bag is full and gliding over bumpy streets.

Monos Check-In Medium

Weight: 9.59 lbs.
Dimensions: 26.5" × 18" × 10"

Pros: Compatible with Monos's leather duffel and backpacks, which slide right onto the handle of the suitcase, preventing it from bopping around as you race through an airport
Cons: Scratches fairly easily

One of the younger brands on this list, Monos launched in 2018 with a “fewer, better” perspective and a desire to create beautiful, timeless pieces at an accessible price point. They've succeeded—global digital director Arati Menon has taken this bag to Copenhagen, London, and Italy, and is a fan of the brand's backpacks and duffels, too. Of the checked bag, she says this: “It feels light, looks great, glides like a dream, and is super functional to boot. I’m close to pulling the trigger on a matching large size.” She uses it in tandem with Monos packing cubes, and stores shoes and accessories in the bag's interior pockets. As for its durability, Menon says: “The shell has been prone to dings and scratches, but honestly, which hard shell bag isn’t?”

Away The Medium

Weight: 10.4 lbs.
Dimensions: 26" x 18" x 11"

Pros: Fits plenty of stuff, fair enough price point
Cons: Middling design, susceptible to very visible scuffing

Another redesigned bag from Away: The Medium checked bag. While you could go larger with The Large or The Large Flex, this one got editorial assistant Charlie Hobbs through two weeks of travel without needing to do laundry; if you need more space, we'd recommend shifting to a trunk-style bag. Hobbs calls the bag “perfectly light” when empty, with an unassuming interior—one compartment closes, the other side is held in by compression straps. While he'd expect “a smidgeon more durability” at the price point, the bag does exactly what you want it to: rolls well, is easy to haul up and down as needed, especially with the new underside handle, and comes with both a dust bag and a laundry bag. If you own a smaller Away bag, it will nest inside this one for more compact storage.

Emma Fishman
Emma Fishman

Hard shell carry-on luggage

Paravel Aviator Carry-On

Weight: 8.2 lbs.
Dimensions: 22" x 14" x 9"

Pros: Smooth, sturdy spinner wheels and a texture finish add to its overall durability
Cons: No charger, could use a few additional pockets

As with the Aviator Grand, Paravel's carry-on is beloved for more than just its retro Wes Anderson–style designs. It's made using eco-friendly materials, like recycled zippers and a lining crafted out of upcycled plastic water bottles, and comes in beautiful shades like scout tan and safari green. Inside, one half zips fully closed and has an additional zip pocket of its own, while the other is covered by a compression board. It's a favorite of Traveler senior editor Megan Spurrell, who has brought it on trips to Mexico City, Lisbon, Los Angeles, and more.

Béis The Carry-on Roller

Weight: 8.36 lbs.
Dimensions: 23" x 16" x 10"

Pros: Comfortable handle, fairly easy to clean
Cons: Although the beige color is incredibly pretty, it gets dirty very quickly; I would recommend a darker color

While we've long been fans of Béis' soft-sided suitcases and weekender bags, we knew we needed to test out the popular hard-shell suitcases ahead of luggage week. Unsurprisingly, both sizes were a hit. “I would recommend this for a traveler who is an exclusive team carry-on member,” commerce producer Paris Wilson says. She managed to fit at least 14 outfits, plus four pairs of shoes and two purses, inside on a recent trip to the Florida Keys. The bag itself is easy to pick up—“I was able to bring it down from the overhead bin myself as well as move it in and out of the trunk of the rental car easily”—and easy to look at: “I got so many compliments on how pretty the carry-on was while in the airport and on vacation. I’d have to agree that the color is beautiful, the size is ideal, and the ribbed exterior adds some really cool dimensions.”

July Carry-On Light

Weight: 3.9 lbs.
Dimensions: 21" x 14" × 7"

Pros: I enjoy the ease with which you can move this piece of luggage around; it feels very zippy
Cons: The telescopic handle sometimes sticks

July bills itself as having the lightest carry-on in the world, and it is in fact the lightest our team has found at just under four pounds when empty. Tested by research director Alexandra Sanidad, the bag “can fit a week’s worth of clothing if you pack lightly, or a weekend’s worth if you’re bringing multiple day and night outfits.” It has two evenly-sized compartments inside, and is very easy to roll and navigate around obstacles on the ground like puddles and trash, Sanidad says. Order it in one of six classic colors or two limited-edition colors, and know that you can personalize it with your initials, or your pet's face (yep, you read that right).

Away The Bigger Carry-On

Weight: 7.9 lbs.
Dimensions: 23" x 15" x 9"

Pros: Durable wheels, easy to lift, compression straps
Cons: Because of its size, it may be checked on smaller planes or flagged to be checked on planes at full capacity

Recently redesigned with an upgraded interior compression system, Away's The Bigger Carry-On is great for travelers looking to stretch the limits of what a carry-on can usually handle. Senior commerce editor, Madison Flager has used the brand's previous iteration for years, packing it on trips as long as 11 days. Editorial assistant Jessica Chapel tested out the newer model, and appreciated its durable wheels, new underside grab handle, and multiple interior compartments.

Away Carry-On Flex

Weight: 8.15 lbs.
Dimensions: 22" x 14" x 9"

Pros: Smooth glide, TSA-approved combination lock, the expansion capabilities
Cons: Mistaken identity—given their popularity, get a unique color or add your favorite sticker to the outer hard shell to help identify yours if you wind up checking it

For a little more space when you need it, choose the Flex. It gives travelers an additional 2.25" of packing space when expanded, bringing the capacity up from just under 40L to 46.7L. Used by Kramer for trips including a one-week vacation to London, it earned points for rolling smoothly across almost any surface, thanks to its 360° spinner wheels.

Arlo Skye Zipper Carry-On Max with Front Pocket

Weight: 8.1 lbs.
Dimensions: 23" x 15" x 10"

Pros: Front pocket, a rarity for hard-shell bags, plus more internal compartments; comes with a removable charger
Cons: Not expandable, so less forgiving for overpackers

Used often by Spurrell, who has taken it on both weekend trips and week-long adventures, this bag has never let her down. She calls it surprisingly roomy, and notes its sturdy shell: “This bag looks sleek, but is totally durable. I’ve checked it on a few occasions, and it always survives being chucked onto the baggage carousel with little to no evidence of the journey.”

Samsonite Elevation Plus carry-on spinner

Weight: 6.06 lbs.
Dimensions: 22" x 14" x 9"

Pros: Great for organization, stylish, secure
Cons: Overall storage is on the smaller side

This suitcase was called “an organizer's dream” by frequent traveler Katie Thompson, thanks to the zip pockets and mesh nets that give every item its own place. Light packers can fit a week's worth of clothing inside comfortably, but it's probably best suited for weekend trips. It rolls easily and in all directions, and the built in patterns on the exterior help to hide any scratches. Overall, it is “sleek, unique, and compact,” though overall storage is on the smaller side.

Amazon Basics Carry-On

Weight: 6.53 lbs.
Dimensions: 21.5" x 15" x 9"

Pros: Lightweight, durable, and easy to move around and lift
Cons: Only available in a few standard colors and there really isn’t anything that stands out about it to help you know it’s yours.

On the other end of the price spectrum, there is this hardside carry-on from Amazon. Thanks to its affordable price, roomy size, spinner wheels, and built-in TSA lock, it has racked up tons of positive reviews on Amazon. Kenny agrees with those reviews, calling it “an overpacker's dream bag.”

Carl Friedrik The Carry-on

Weight: 8.6 lbs.
Dimensions: 22" x 14" x 9"

Pros: Compression straps and pad, easy to close, really good-looking
Cons: Not quite capacious enough

This particular designer bag may ring a bell for Succession fans—Carl Friedrik pieces were featured more than once during the show's run. It's also a go-to of Hobbs', who has brought it to Mérida in the Yucatan, his parents’ house in Connecticut for Christmas and Easter, to the North Fork of Long Island, and to Chicago. Outside, “This bag is gorgeous—beautiful contrasts between the gray of the polycarbonate shell and the delicious slivers of warm leather.” Inside, he says, “There are two very useful sets of compression straps and one (removable, also useful) compression pad which one might as I did mistake for a laptop case at first glance.” And perhaps the highest praise: “After nearly a year of use, it still looks brand new.”