The ULTIMATE Guide to Hard Shell Luggage

Posted by Sarah on 14th Apr 2023

The ULTIMATE Guide to Hard Shell Luggage

Are you baffled by the type of material that your luggage has been manufactured from? Are you not sure what the difference is between Polycarbonate, ABS or Samsonite CURV©? Worry not because we’ve got the ultimate guide to the materials used in Hard Side Luggage .

Hard Side Suitcases

Generally speaking, Hard Shell Luggage will be relevant for Suitcases only. As of April 2023, we do not have any Hard-Shell Wheeled Holdalls or any other items of Wheeled Luggage available in a hard material, so for simplistic purposes, we’ll be focusing purely on Hard Shell Suitcases.

What are Hard Suitcases made from?

Before we get into the Pros and Cons of Hard Sided Luggage, we’ll give a quick overview of the types of materials used to create that Hard Shell. There are several types of materials used when manufacturing a suitcase, each with their own unique benefits. Some customers know exactly what type of material they want their suitcase to be made from but for most of our customers, they don’t know but that’s where we can help. Our guide below will hopefully make it easier for our customers to navigate through the various materials on offer and make an informed decision on what would best suit their needs. We’ll also give some suggestions as to our best picks for each type of material and why we love that product.

  • Polypropylene 
  • Polycarbonate
  • ABS Luggage
  • Metal
  • Samsonite CURV©
  • Eco-Friendly Hard Side
  • Hybrid

Polypropylene Suitcases

Polypropylene is everywhere in our homes, and you’ve probably never even realised it! From food containers such as our beloved fresh cream from the supermarket, to rugs, carpets and even some clothing. We won’t go into the science behind how it is made as we’ll be here forever, but it is essentially, a type of synthetic resin.

Although generally heavier than some of the other Hard Shell Suitcase materials, Polypropylene has plenty of benefits such as being affordable and extremely strong. As a side note, the material used in Samsonite CURV© Suitcases is made from a Polypropylene type material, but we’ll cover that one later.

Our Polypropylene Luggage Choice:

The Rock Sunwave. Available in 3 sizes, numerous colours and with this pretty funky outer shell design, we feel the Rock Sunwave is a great choice for those who need a Suitcase with a Long Warranty and one which stands out.

Polycarbonate Suitcases

Polycarbonate is the material that is generally used in roofing sheets. You know the stuff that’s see-through but a hard plastic? That’s Polycarbonate. It is also used commonly for eye protection, car headlamp lenses, mobile phone cases and riot masks!

One of the key benefits of Suitcases made from Polycarbonate is that the material is quite flexible, in addition to being strong and lightweight. However, with the benefits, Polycarbonate Suitcases are often more expensive than Suitcases made from Polypropylene or ABS.

Our Polycarbonate Luggage Choice:

We've loved the Ted Baker Luggage collections for years and years and the Take Flight is simply one of our favourites. Why? We think it's obvious! Beautiful, elegant and full of character, the Ted Baker Take Flight has a print design for everyone and these prints change with the seasons too, which keeps the collection looking fresh.

ABS Suitcases

ABS or Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (If we want to use its posh name) is a type of polymer. It’s a bit more complex than that but for now, we’ll stick to Secondary School Science terms. From a cost point of view, ABS sits somewhere in the middle of the offerings. It is neither the cheapest, nor the most expensive, nor is it the strongest or lightest so is a good choice for the traveller who wants an excellent all-round Budget Suitcase option.

Being a bit of a ‘Jack-of-all-trades’, ABS doesn’t excel in anything when it comes to testing but what it can offer is a flexible, pliable, reasonably lightweight Hard Outer Shell for a Suitcase, at a reasonable price. It is also quite scratch resistant, so suitcases generally continue to look great for years after their purchase.

Our ABS Luggage Choice:

The Dune London Orchester collection is a great choice of Moulded Luggage that has been made from ABS. With its bold outer design and great choice of subtle colours. Double wheels provide exceptional mobility.

Samsonite CURV© Suitcases

Samsonite created their own CURV material by utilising the properties that Polypropene has and remanufacturing into a completely new type of material that is exceptionally lightweight, extremely tough and able to cope with being thrown about. We do not advocate throwing your suitcase around but… You know, it’s handy to know if the need ever arises!

We’re not going to lie, Samsonite CURV material suitcases are not cheap, however, if you are a frequent flyer and need a suitcase that has a very long warranty (10 years) CURV could be a great choice. As an example of its lightness, the Samsonite Lite-Shock 55cm Cabin Suitcase weighs in at just 1.8kg, a similar sized Polycarbonate Suitcase can be around the 2.3kg – 2.5kg mark, meaning more packing weight – And if you’re anything like our Ecommerce Team, that extra weight allowance means more allowance for more shoes! CURV is also resistant to extreme temperatures and in tests retained its shape at 125° to -100°.

Watch the video below from Samsonite about CURV Suitcases and make up your own mind about whether you feel the extra cost is worth it. We think it is!

Our Samsonite CURV© Choice

The Samsonite Lite-Shock collection is one of the lightest hard-shell suitcase collections that we have on offer at Luggage Superstore. Made from the unique CURV material and being manufactured in Europe, the Samsonite Lite-Shock has plenty to offer the user who requires a reliable, extremely lightweight and hard-wearing suitcase for their journeys.

Eco-Friendly Hard Shell Suitcases

Although technically a Polypropylene Suitcase, we felt that Suitcases made from Recycled Materials deserved a special mention in our Hard Side Luggage blog. Internationally, we are becoming more aware of the effects that we have on our environment and that’s why our Eco-Friendly Hard Shell Luggage is a great choice for the traveller who likes to feel like they are doing their bit to promote recycling and who relishes the thought being kind to the environment. Who wouldn’t!

These Eco-Friendly Suitcases have been manufactured from a repurposed Polypropylene material that would otherwise had been classed as a ‘waste product’. Many of these suitcases also have added Environmentally Friendly additions such as recycled wood waste details, internal linings that have been made from RPET recycled bottles or other waste by-products.

Our Hard Sided Eco-Friendly Luggage Choice:

The Samsonite S'Cure Eco has been based on our best-selling S'Cure collection but this model has been constructed from a specialist material called Flowlite, which utilises and repurposes Polypropylene to make a super strong but Eco-Friendly outer material.

Last on our options are 2 types of material that we currently do not have an offerings of, however, we felt they deserved a mention anyway.

Metal Suitcases

The vast majority of Suitcases Made from Metal are constructed using Aluminium. Aluminium Suitcases are not over common, but we do have some available. We’re all pretty familiar with aluminium, so it doesn’t really need any formal introductions into what it is or any fancy names for it and with it being a naturally occurring metal, we don’t have to go into the nitty gritty of the science behind it.

Aluminium Suitcases are probably about the toughest and most Hard-Wearing Suitcases that you can buy, however, although Aluminium is one of the lightest metals around, these types of suitcases are a lot heavier than their plastic or resin shell counterparts. Aluminium Luggage is generally also more expensive than other materials.

Hybrid Suitcases

Hybrid Luggage has a shell that has been made from a hard material such as Polycarbonate, Polypropylene or ABS with a soft, material shell such as Nylon or Polyester. Generally speaking, the rear of the suitcase will have been made from the hard material and the front from the soft, although it is not uncommon to have frames made from a hard material, which is then covered with a soft material. We have also seen Suitcases that have a base panel that has been made from Polycarbonate.

Hybrid Suitcases are not as common as they were 4 or 5 years ago but they are a great choice for the traveller who needs a more rigid structure but who does not want to compromise on weight, making them a good Lightweight Luggage option.

Hopefully, this Blog on Hard Side Suitcases will enable you to make an informed decision about what type of Hard Shell material you would like your new suitcase to be made from and what each type of material has to offer. However, if you are still undecided on what might be best for your needs, please get in touch with a member of our expert team and we'll be delighted to help you choose your new item of Hard Sided Luggage.