Last updated: August 11, 2021

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Your holiday is coming up and you still haven't found the right suitcase for you? Hard shell suitcases are now the trend. They are available in many different designs. They differ primarily in material and size. With the right hard suitcase, you can take all your favourite things with you on holiday.

With our big hard suitcase test 2021 we want to help you find the right hard suitcase for you. For this purpose, we have compared several hard suitcases with each other and selected and answered the most important information and questions on the subject of hard suitcases.



The most important facts

  • Hard cases are made of various plastics and are known for their robustness.
  • Different materials can be used for the production of hard cases. This is how the different hard shell suitcases are made. The most popular materials are: Polycarbonate, Polypropylene, Aluminium, ABS and Curv.
  • Hard cases are characterised by their lightness, break resistance, durability and resistance.

The Best Hard Shell Suitcases: Our picks

Buying and evaluation criteria for hard shell suitcases

To help you find the right hard suitcase for your holiday, we have selected and briefly explained the most important criteria.

The criteria that you can use to compare hard suitcases with each other include:

Size

Hard shell suitcases come in many different sizes. It can be difficult to find the right size for you. Many factors play an important role. The length of your trip is important, but it also depends on how much you plan to take with you. The individual sizes and recommendations are presented below.

  • Hard suitcase size S: These suitcases are mainly suitable for hand luggage. You can also take them on short trips. The packing volume is approx. 20-49 litres.
  • Hard suitcase size M: The medium size is particularly suitable for trips lasting up to 7 days. The height of the medium suitcase is 68 cm and it has a volume of 50 litres to 69 litres.
  • Hard suitcase size L: This is a very popular size and suitable for trips lasting up to 14 days. The volume is 70 litres to 89 litres and the suitcase is 74 cm high.
  • Hard suitcase size XL: The XL size is suitable for long trips of up to 21 days. It fits approximately 90 litres to 119 litres.
  • Hard suitcase size XXL: This is the largest hard suitcase you can buy. This size is perfect for long international trips, and you can also fit your holiday shopping in it. The packing volume is over 120 litres. The XXL hard suitcase is recommended for trips of 21 days to 28 days.

Weight

The weight of the hard shell suitcase also plays an important role when travelling. First of all, you have to pull your suitcase behind you and there are also airline regulations that have to be adhered to.

A lighter suitcase allows you to carry extra weight for your clothes.

Hard-sided suitcases are generally heavier than soft-sided suitcases. However, hard-sided suitcases are more robust and shock-resistant than soft-sided suitcases.

This is important for air travel. A large hard shell suitcase can weigh between 3 and 4 kilograms. Many manufacturers now make lightweight hard-shell suitcases.

Wheels

Almost every hard shell suitcase is equipped with wheels. There are models with 2 wheels and models with 4 wheels. Which one is right for you?

Models with 4 wheels are especially suitable for commuters. If you are often at the airport or train stations, these suitcases are perfect for you. The hard shell suitcase with 4 wheels is flexible and manoeuvrable. Even on the train, you can push it in front of you and don't have to drag it behind you.

However, if you know that the ground on your trip is uneven, you should get a hard-sided suitcase with 2 wheels. 4 wheels tend to get stuck on the uneven ground and hold you up on your journey.

Design

Hard cases come in many different designs, colours and patterns. There is something for everyone. You also have the option to have a hard shell suitcase printed according to your preferences.

Lock

With locks you can protect the contents of your hard case. This protects your suitcase from theft, which is important when travelling.

Many hard suitcases have pre-integrated TSA locks, so all you have to do is set a combination of numbers. The special thing about a TSA lock is that it can be opened at customs or at the airport with a master key if your suitcase needs to be searched.

In some countries, such as the USA, officials are allowed to open your suitcase without your permission, and if you don't have a TSA lock, they will break your lock.

If your hard suitcase does not have a built-in TSA lock, we recommend you get a TSA padlock.

Decision: What types of hard shell suitcase are there and which is the right one for me?

Hard shell suitcase can be made of different materials. Due to the different materials, hard cases can differ in quality, weight and many other characteristics. Hard cases are made from the following materials:

Type Advantages Disadvantages
Polycarbonate suitcases Light weight, robust High price
Polypropylene suitcases High durability, inexpensive Temperature resistant
Aluminium suitcases Protects the contents perfectly High own weight
ABS hard suitcases Resistant Hard to recycle
Curv hard suitcases High durability High price

In the following, the individual hard cases are explained and the advantages and disadvantages are presented.

Hartschalenkoffer aus Polycarbonat

Polycarbonate hard shell suitcase

Polycarbonate is a lightweight plastic. It is characterised by its low weight. The manufacturing costs of the hard shell suitcase made of polycarbonate are high, for this reason the cost of the case is higher.

However, the polycarbonate suitcase has many advantages. It has a high impact and break resistance and is scratch resistant. Furthermore, the hard shell suitcase made of polycarbonate is temperature-resistant and can therefore withstand high temperatures.

hard shell suitcase made of pure polycarbonate are high quality cases and are of good quality.

Advantages
  • Light weight
  • High impact and break resistance
  • Scratch resistant
  • Can withstand high temperatures
Disadvantages
  • High manufacturing costs
  • High purchase price
Hartschalenkoffer aus Polypropylen

Polypropylene hard shell suitcase

Polypropylene is a low-density plastic, which means that it is very hard. Polypropylene is a lightweight plastic, which is why the hard cases made of polypropylene belong to the lightweight cases.

Furthermore, these suitcases are very robust, this is due to their manufacturing process. They are very hard-wearing and unbreakable. However, hard shell suitcases made of polypropylene are not temperature-resistant. At temperatures below freezing, properties such as break resistance decrease.

Advantages
  • Low weight
  • robustness
  • high durability &
  • break resistance
Disadvantages
  • Temperature unstable
Hartschalenkoffer aus Aluminium

Aluminium hard shell suitcases

Aluminium hard shell suitcases are among the most impact-resistant and robust cases. Your contents are perfectly protected in the aluminium hard case. The case has a long service life.

However, aluminium hhard shell suitcases are heavier than hard shell suitcases made of other materials and more expensive. Aluminium hard shell suitcases are used to transport expensive contents, such as clothing, electronics, etc.

Advantages
  • Maximum impact resistance &
  • robustness
  • contents well protected
  • long life
Disadvantages
  • Heavier weight
  • expensive
Hartschalenkoffer aus ABS

Hard shell suitcases made of ABS

ABS is a plastic called acrylonitrile butadiene styrene copolymer. This plastic is very durable and impact and scratch resistant. These cases are inexpensive and worthwhile if you travel little or use the case little.

You should note that ABS hard cases come in different qualities. If you compare this plastic with polycarbonate, the polycarbonate hard cases perform much better. Furthermore, it is difficult to recycle ABS hard cases.

Advantages
  • Resistant
  • impact and scratch-resistant
  • good value
Disadvantages
  • many differences in quality
  • difficult to recycle
Hartschalen aus Curv

Hard shell suitcases made of Curv

Curv is one of the innovative materials for hard cases. This material is produced in the manufacturing process. The manufacturing process is more complex and therefore the prices for the hard case are in the upper price segment.

The hard shell suitcase made of Curv is very robust and resistant to scratches. It is also very durable and lighter than a suitcase made of polycarbonate. If you like to travel a lot, a suitcase made of Curv could be the right one for you.

Advantages
  • Robust
  • scratch-resistant
  • long-lasting
  • lighter than polycarbonate suitcases
Disadvantages
  • Complex manufacturing process
  • Price-intensive

Guide: Frequently asked questions about hard shell suitcases answered in detail

This section answers the most important questions about hard suitcases. After reading this section, you will know all the basic information about hard cases.

What is a hard shell suitcase?

Hard cases have, as the term implies, a hard shell. The opposite of hhard shell suitcases are soft-shell cases. These are lighter than hard-shell cases, but the hard-shell case can score with other features.

Hard-sided suitcases can be made of different materials. Popular materials for hard cases are:

  • Polycarbonate
  • Polypropylene
  • Aluminium
  • ABS
  • Curv

Hard cases are very robust and shockproof. Your contents will not be damaged easily. Many manufacturers now make lightweight hard cases. You can easily transport the hard case because of its telescopic handle and cleaning is also easy.

Is it worth buying a hard shell suitcase in a set?

You can also buy a hard shell suitcase in a set. In a set, more than 2 suitcases are available in different sizes or sometimes in the same size. The design and colour are usually the same.

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Hard suitcases are available in different sizes and colours.
(Image source: image by tookapic on Pixabay)

A set has many advantages. You have the perfect suitcase for every type of trip. It is usually cheaper to buy a set than to buy all the suitcases separately.

For families a set can be very advantageous, the parents can use the larger hard suitcases while the children use the smaller hard suitcases. The uniform design of the hard cases in a set, is also very nice to look at.

What size hard shell suitcase should I buy?

The size of your hard case depends on your intended use. Are you going away for a few days? Or will you be going on a longer holiday? Of course, the size also depends on what you want to take with you.

Before you buy a hard suitcase, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • How long will I be travelling?
  • What am I taking with me?
  • Do I want to bring anything back from my holiday?
  • What are the airline requirements?

In the following table, you will find a small orientation. This is only based on the length of stay.

Size of the hard case length of stay
Size S 3 days
Size M 1 week
Size L 1-2 weeks
Size XL 2-3 weeks
Size XXL 3-4 weeks

What are the alternatives to a hard shell suitcase?

The alternative to a hard shell suitcase is the soft-shell case. These are usually made of fabrics such as nylon or perlon. There are also variants made of leather.

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This is what your alternative to a hard-shell case could look like.
(Image source: Image by TheDigitalWay on Pixabay)

Soft-sided suitcases have a lower tare weight than hard-sided suitcases. They are also more flexible. So you have the option of packing the suitcase a little fuller than specified.

Soft-sided suitcases are cheaper than hard-sided suitcases. Soft-sided suitcases are equipped with outside pockets. There you can store things you want to access quickly.

Soft-sided suitcases with a zippered expansion fold add another 15-20% to your luggage.

Can I use a hard shell suitcase as hand luggage?

Hard-sided suitcases come in different sizes. For hand luggage, it is important that the hard suitcase does not exceed the specified size and weight. The sizes vary from airline to airline. Here you will find an approximate size that you can use as a guide:

  • Dimensions: 55 x 40 x 25 cm
  • Weight: 5-10 kilograms

Note that these are not exact values. You should check with your airline to get the correct measurements.

Is it worth buying a hard shell suitcase?

A hard-sided suitcase has many advantages. It is robust, scratch-resistant, light and hard-wearing. If you are looking for a quality suitcase, we recommend a hard suitcase.

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Hard shell suitcases can withstand a lot without harming themselves or your belongings.
(Image source: image by G37G on Pixabay)

Since the hard case can be cleaned easily and quickly, it is well suited for allergy sufferers. Transporting the suitcase is also easy. If you regularly go on holiday or commute and don't want the contents to get damaged, we recommend a hard-shell case.

How do I care for a hard shell suitcase?

After a trip, your hard case will no longer look like new. But you can fix it with the following tips:

  • Wipe hard case with a damp cloth (mild soap is fine)
  • Interior can be vacuumed to remove sand etc
  • Lining can usually be removed, wash by hand
  • Clean the case wheels with a brush

Image source: Ranmai/ 123rf.com

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