Today’s hard-shell or hard-sided luggage is made with high-tech plastics such as ABS and polycarbonate PC, which are lightweight and durable. ABS is the lightest but polycarbonate is more durable. The most durable, but also the heaviest, is aluminum.
Hard-sided luggage often features a 50/50-split opening, allowing you to pack two sides equally and stabilize the contents with an interior strap or a middle divider. But the clamshell design requires double the surface space to spread it open. Most hard-sided luggage are built this way, but there are some on the market that have a lid opening.
You may want to buy hard-sided luggage if you’ll be packing breakable items. It may offer better security than soft-sided baggage because it can’t be ripped open as easily and it usually has integrated locks.
Aluminum hard sided luggage can be even more secure. It often has metal drawbolt latches instead of zippers. If you tend to overpack, a hard-sided luggage will rein you in; there’s no chance of overstuffing it. For a carry-on, as long as you buy the right size, you’re guaranteed a no-bulge fit in your airline’s luggage sizer. Hard-sided luggage also stacks easily, making it ideal for cruise ships, where bags are stacked in the belly of the ship before departure.
Of course, it scuffs and scratches easily, too. It’s also rigid, so you can’t squeeze in extras if the need arises. You’ll need a fixed storage space, which can be a challenge for apartment and small-house dwellers.