How to Buy Your First Hard Shell Luggage:

​​​​Hard shell luggage usually come in handy at the airport. Most people prefer to avoid checking bags but want to be sure that, if they really have to, their belongings will be safe. That’s why these options tend to fall under the 21 inch hard shell luggage range. And that’s why you too should be looking for a carry-on compliant model. But what else, other than that?

If you just started browsing the web for hard-side spinner suitcases, you probably think that they all come with pretty much the same features. So, why don’t you…

Join Us On A Hard-Side Suitcase Series Review (Options Galore, Guaranteed!)

​We’ve made a list for you with pretty much anything from the Rockland hard-side spinner suitcase to the Samsonite spin tech 21 carry on hardside spinner suitcase. All the names you’re likely to come across when searching for the best hard shell luggage are listed in our review. Names and, of course, the most important features – size and weight, wheels and handles, outer case and internal compartmentalization, plus many other details.

Here’s our TOP 13 Hard Shell Luggage focused on 21 inch models!

I start most of my trips with comfy little bags (as much as I can). Then, I sometimes end up with an inflated bag, on the verge to explode because of all the souvenirs crammed inside. Imagine the share that I had on being forced to check my bag. And how many times I came back home, crying because of what the baggage handlers did to my precious souvenirs.

Now, picture my face when I travel with a small hard shell luggage and I’m asked to check it. I literally don’t give a f… (fearful?) thought to it. I, for one, have convinced myself:

If it ever comes to checking your bag, you’ll be ready!

If it doesn’t, lucky you – the luggage stays with you but, in the meantime, you’ll enjoy traveling with a wheeled suitcase. Choose the right 4-wheel system with an ergonomic handle, and your hard shell luggage will give you the feeling that it’s walking by your side, not that you’re pushing it on the endless airport corridors.

Still Wondering if You Should Use a 21 Inch Hard Shell Luggage?​

​I know what you’re thinking: that these bags are heavy and not too flexible. But what you probably haven’t considered is that a hard shell luggage will:

  • ​Spare you from worrying about weather conditions;
    Spare you from worrying about weather conditions;
  • ​Offer you enhanced protection against impact damage;
    Offer you enhanced protection against impact damage;
  • ​Act as a great replacement for any of your regular soft-sided cases;
    Act as a great replacement for any of your regular soft-sided cases;
  • ​Give you a great spinner variety on 4 wheels that spin at 360 degrees
    Give you a great spinner variety on 4 wheels that spin at 360 degrees

And for the past 4 or 5 years, this product niche has literally exploded. So…

Rockland, Kenneth Cole, Delsey Helium Aero Hard Shell, Samsonite Hardshell – Check the Best that the Market has to Offer you!

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The Rockland Melbourne hard shell luggage comes in 34 colors, the richest offer you’ll find in our selection. The popularity of the Rockland bags makes this 21 inch hard shell luggage truly stand out. And the great feedback coming from its buyers is pretty impressive, so, here’s our recommended hard-side spinner suitcase…

This Rockland Melbourne model measures 22 x 9.25 x 22 inches, weighs 7.3 lbs, and its case is 100% polycarbonate. It sits on four multi-directional spinner wheels, features two carry handles and one chrome telescoping handle. And its interior is split in 3 zip pockets (one of which a small toiletry pouch), with a set of compression straps to keep items together. Speaking of brand popularity, they’re so confident in it that it comes with a 3-year warranty.

Pros

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    ​Long-lasting, lightweight ABS exterior;
    Long-lasting, lightweight ABS exterior;
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    ​Convenient storage options;
    Convenient storage options;
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    ​Easy maneuvering with push-button handle;
    Easy maneuvering with push-button handle;
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    ​Easy transportation with the 4-wheel system;
    Easy transportation with the 4-wheel system;
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    ​Enhanced protection, with its combination locker.
    Enhanced protection, with its combination locker.

Cons

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    ​Slight feature and dimensions variations from one model to another;
    Slight feature and dimensions variations from one model to another;
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    ​Not guaranteed to fit as carry-on bag with all companies;
    Not guaranteed to fit as carry-on bag with all companies;
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    ​Some would complain about the smoothness of the spinner wheels.
    Some would complain about the smoothness of the spinner wheels.

See the Rockland Melbourne live in action with this video:


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The Kenneth Cole Reaction Luggage is yet another 21 inch hard shell luggage whose brand reputation is well-known. It ranks as the second recommended option in our top and it happens to be the lightest option! At only 6.2 lbs, it measures 8.5 x 21.8 x 14.5 inches. And just like the Rockland Melbourne luggage, it is entirely made of ABS.

You can get the Kenneth Cole Reaction Luggage in one of the 10 available colors, which are more tempered than the ones from the Rockland model. While the structure and the compartmentalization are very similar, this hard shell luggage actually comes with a more serious look and a dazzling 10-year warranty!

Pros

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    ​Spacious and ready to use for 2-sided packing;
    Spacious and ready to use for 2-sided packing;
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    ​Sturdy, thanks to the ABS and the molded corner guard reinforcements;
    Sturdy, thanks to the ABS and the molded corner guard reinforcements;
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    ​Surprisingly lightweight for a hard shell luggage;
    Surprisingly lightweight for a hard shell luggage;
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    ​Flexible, with its 4-wheel system and the 3 handles;
    Flexible, with its 4-wheel system and the 3 handles;
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    ​Easy to carry on almost any surface, thanks to the smooth wheels rotating at 360-degree.
    Easy to carry on almost any surface, thanks to the smooth wheels rotating at 360-degree.

Cons

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    ​​Doesn’t look as big as you would expect;
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    Some buyers reported issues with the quality of the zippers
    Doesn’t look as big as you would expect;! Some buyers reported issues with the quality of the zippers
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    ​Definitely not one of the most affordable models.
    Definitely not one of the most affordable models.

See the Kenneth Cole Reaction Luggage live in action with this video:


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New position, old name with this Rockland Luggage available in 22 different colors and patterns. Hopefully, the very same brand name you’ve seen in the first position of our top should tell you all about: the 3-year warranty, the lightweight and durable polycarbonate shell, and the multi-directional spinner wheels that rotate at 360-degree.

Nevertheless, this Rockland Luggage is even lighter than our recommended model and only 0.3 lbs behind the Kenneth Cole Reaction Luggage. It measures 20 x 13 x 10 inches and boasts a classy interior, with limited zippers and compression straps, while the exterior strikes with all its colorful patterns.

Pros

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    Cheerful, vibrant look that stands-out;
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    Lightweight structure, easy to glide wheels system;
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    Perfect dimensions even for an overhead bin;
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    Facilitates 2-side packing, with compression straps and mesh pocket;
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    Comes with a combination lock.

Cons

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    Some might look for a soberer design;
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    The telescopic handle doesn’t always seem to move smoothly;
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    The shell can tend to scratch if not handled properly.

See the Rockland Luggage live in action with this video:



This Nautica Ahoy 21 Inch Hardside Spinner is a different breed. Polycarbonate on the outside, textile lining and zipper closure on the inside, these are just the basic features. But the 7.7 lbs and 14 x 8.5 x 20.5 inches hard shell luggage will truly make you stand out with its bright colors and the large brand logo.

Get the Nautica Ahoy 21 Inch Hardside Spinner for a 4-wheel spinner with mesh pockets and valet straps, fancy recessed carry handles, and a push-button telescoping handle. It looks stylish yet sober, in any of the 7 available colors and you should definitely check it out!

Pros

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    Designed to match the dimension restrictions for most carry-ons;
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    Simple but elegant design even in the brighter colors;
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    Balanced, lightweight structure and comfortable storage space;
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    Textured surface that makes wear and tear traces less obvious;
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    Can also be bought as a set, along with 2 or 3 other items.

Cons

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    The oversized brand name imprinted on the shell stands out a bit too much;
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    Has no side handle, only a top handle doubled by a telescopic handle;
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    Its durability may be a bit questionable.

See the Nautica Ahoy 21 Inch Hardside Spinner live in action with this video:


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This Delsey Luggage is a part of the Delsey helium aero hard-shell / hard-side suitcase series. You’ll see two other models in our review, from the same manufacturer, but for now, let’s focus on this 8.4 lbs spinner. It measures 21 x 14.5 x 10 inches, which makes it a perfect 21 inch hard shell luggage, and boasts a shiny case with metallic finish in 6 different colors, all cases being made of polycarbonate.

The Delsey Luggage Helium Aero Carry-On is the first one in our series, so far, with twin spinner wheels. It features two large compartments, fully-lined, multiple pockets, a zippered divider, and straps, plus a comfortable handle system that locks at two height levels.

Pros

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    Shiny and sleek design, with deep metallic finish;
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    Fancy grip handle with molded, ergonomic design and telescoping handle;
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    Provides the option to expand it for up to 2 inches, for additional space;
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    Allows for easy organization, with an impressive selection of zippered pockets;
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    Integrates a 3-dial TSA-approved combination lock.

Cons

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    May not fit the carry-on requirements of some companies;
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    The shiny surface can act like a magnet for dust and also shows scratches;
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    Some would consider the wheels a bit flimsy.

See the Delsey Luggage Helium Aero Carry-On live in action with this video:


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The Samsonite Luggage is a part of the Samsonite Inova 20 spinner collection, renowned as the lightest polycarbonate models from Samsonite. There’s no Samsonite Inova review out there that won’t mention this particular luggage available in two colors – Indigo Blue and Metallic Silver – and you’ll see why in just a few seconds…

This Samsonite Luggage measures 20 x 15 x 7.5 inches and weighs 7.7 pounds. Its hard shell is made of high-tech Makrolon Polycarbonate, with a fancy brushed finish and perfect high-impact resistance that doesn’t sacrifice the looks in any way. It has that 3-digit TSA lock, a functional interior, and flat handles, as well as many other handy features.

Pros

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    Built to last;
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    Suits both business and personal travel purposes;
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    Split opening design, with plenty of storage room;
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    Twin spinner wheels for smooth roll;
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    Maximizes baggage allowance with the flat handles.

Cons

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    Could use some extra internal pockets;
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    Available in only two colors;
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    Quite pricey.

See the Samsonite Luggage live in action with this video:


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The Goplus Expandable spinner weighs 6.6 lbs and measures 20 x 14 x 9 inches, which shows a striking resemblance with the Rockland Luggage. While it doesn’t come in 22 different colors, the 8 options available are more than enough. Plus, it certainly compensates through the ability to expand with up to 2 inches in width, for a larger storage capacity.

Other than that, this Goplus Expandable hard shell luggage boasts an embossed shell, scratch-resistant, and a heavy-duty handle. It sits on the traditional 4-wheels system and comes with a telescopic handle that can go up to 22.8 inches. What else is there to say?

Pros

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    Great value for the money;
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    Expandable design, handy for extra souvenirs;
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    Scratch-resistance shell, for checking baggage;
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    Sturdy side handles and telescopic handle;
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    Nicely compartmented.

Cons

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    Some would complain about the way its wheels roll;
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    It may not suit as a carry-on bag with any airplane company;
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    Also, pulling the zippers around the corners is difficult when the luggage is full.
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The bigger brother of the Samsonite Spin Tech 21, this Samsonite Omni Spinner at 28.5 x 20.5 x 13.5 inches weighs 10.45 lbs. That’s right, it’s the heaviest in our selection of best hard shell luggage but definitely one of the finest Samsonite spin tech luggage. It comes in 14 different colors, each one with a micro-diamond texture known to be extremely scratch-resistant, and there’s a lot more to it…

 The Samsonite Omni Spinner can literally expand on all sites, reaching a maximum of 30.5 x 21.5 x 13.5 inches. It also has a full-zip interior, cross-straps, and a special divider for keeping things organized inside, while on the outside, it has that TSA lock that everybody is talking about. After seeing our short Samsonite Inova review (no. 6) from above, you should be able to tell which Samsonite hardshell is right for you.

Pros

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    Hard shell with micro-diamond texture for scratch-resistance;
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    Re-engineered spinner wheels system;
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    Can expand on all sides;
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    Has a side-mounted TSA lock;
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    Enjoys great brand reputation.

Cons

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    The design is oversized even when not expanded on all sides;
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    It is also quite heavy without being loaded with anything; 
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    The high price can be a turn off for some buyers.
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This AmazonBasics Hardside Spinner is made of very thick polyester on the outside and a smoother 150D-polyester on the inside. Just like the Samsonite Omni Spinner from above, it can considerably expand its capacity, with up to 15%. And while it only comes in 4 different colors, its scratch-resistant finish is a welcome addition.

At 7.3 lbs and 14 x 9.4 x 22 inches, the AmazonBasics Hardside Spinner is great for all of your international carry-on or weekend getaway needs. On the inside, it has 3 zippered pockets with strong zippers, and on the outside, you have the classy telescoping handle and 4 spinner wheels, but in a twin format!

Pros

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    Perfect carry-on size;
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    Convenient, expandable design;
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    Made of thick, scratch-resistant ABS;
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    Telescoping handle with 3 heights to lock on;
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    Well-structured main compartment with extra pouches.

Cons

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    The adjustable handle seems a little loose;
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    Might not be a great fit for heavy use;
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    Requires purchasing a TSA lock separately.
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Yet another light spinner (6.7 lbs), the Traveler's Choice Cambridge Hardsided Spinner Luggage measures 22 x 15 x 12 inches. Full polyester, as expected, available in 6 different colors, some of which at 20-inches and others at 22-inches. We’ve selected the latter and we trust you’ll appreciate it as well.

This Traveler's Choice Cambridge Hardsided Spinner Luggage comes with the standard set of 4 wheels and a telescoping handle. But it also has an add-a-bag strap attached to it, plus side and top handles, for easy maneuvering in any context.

Pros

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    Great size for most overhead bins;
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    Rugged and secure retractable handle;
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    Practical dividers and zipped compartments;
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    Handy add-a-bag strap for carrying multiple luggage;
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    Easy to carry on the stairs or throw in the bin, from the side handle.

Cons

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    Some buyers are unhappy with the multi-directional wheels;
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    The storage space is not very generous;
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    Zippers may tend to break, in time.

See the Traveler's Choice Cambridge Hardsided Spinner Luggage live in action with this video:


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With this Delsey Luggage Helium Shadow 2.0 model, we’re getting closer to the end of our best hard shell luggage review, though we’re not quite done with the Delsey spinners. This particular suitcase stands out, among other things, for being the smallest in our series – 19 x 9 x 14 inches. But despite being so small, it weighs 7.5 lbs, with only 0.2 lbs more than our recommended Rockland Melbourne!

 The Delsey Luggage Helium Shadow 2.0, unlike all the other 21 inch hard shell luggage you’ve seen so far, comes as a single Platinum model. It also has a surprisingly large and convenient front pocket, 2 zippered mesh pockets for electronics, and a soft-touch telescoping handle. Small but fancy, right?

Pros

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    Unique compartments, laptop padded sleeve included;
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    Two sets of compression straps on both inner sides;
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    Expandable design that gives 2 extra inches storage room;
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    Ergonomic telescopic handle, ready to fit the palm;
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    Includes a fixed TSA combination lock.

Cons

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    Using the laptop sleeve on the go would imply not storing anything in the interior top section;
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    The luggage is available in only one color;
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    Not necessarily an affordable model.

See the Delsey Luggage Helium Shadow 2.0 live in action with this video:


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The Enkloze X1 Carbon name could make you think of a carbon fiber luggage, but that’s not the case here. You’re actually looking at an aluminum frame with carbon fiber print on its wheels, a luggage measuring 14.6 x 9.4 x 21.3 inches. It comes in only two colors and features a price that can leave you open-mouthed and, still, it is worth keeping a close eye on it…

That’s because this Enkloze X1 Carbon hard shell luggage has a zipperless main compartment, aluminum pull rod and body, reinforced corners, and ultra-quiet Hinomoto wheels. Without a doubt, it’s a combination you don’t get to see too often.

Pros

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    Rich selection of space dividers, mesh pockets, compression straps;
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    Separate laptop compartment, with front loading design;
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    Three levels, with extra bag support, on the pull rod;
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    Two TSA approved locks, combo and key lock;
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    Lightweight but sturdy.

Cons

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    Has no side handle, so lifting it to the overhead bin can be a bit difficult;
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    One of the most expensive products in this series;
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    And for its price, being entirely made of carbon fiber would have been nice.
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Finally, we’re closing the list with this Delsey Luggage Cruise Lite model, available in Black Cherry, Blue or Platinum. This 21 inch hard shell luggage, just like the Enkloze X1 Carbon, has a special front pocket and lightweight but strong structure. It even has double spinner wheels and that scratch-resistant finish that any hard-side suitcase needs.

The Delsey Luggage Cruise Lite measures 20.25 x 14.75 x 9.75 inches, more like the Delsey Helium Aero Hard Shell model that we’ve talked earlier (no. 5). And even though it might not surprise in any way through its internal compartmentalization, it can certainly catch your eye with all the attention to details reflected in the overall design elements.

Pros

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    Front pocket for laptop or personal items storage;
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    Resistant to wear and tear, with scratch-resistant finish;
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    Fits most domestic airlines’ requirements for overhead bins;
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    Comes with side and top carry handles, enhanced with TPR non-slip grip;
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    Features TSA-approved lock, keeping your belongings safe when checking the baggage.

Cons

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    A relatively new product that has gathered some controversial feedback;
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    The expandable handle seems to require careful maneuvering;
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    The selection of colors is somewhat limited.

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