If you’ve ever traveled before, you’re quite familiar with the fact that moving around is almost impossible without the right kind of luggage.
When buying a piece of luggage, the main factors that you should be concerned with are the impact resistance of the case and its weight.
Unlike their soft-surfaced counterparts, hard-sided cases provide a decent level of protection against various external factors.
You may ask yourself:
Are they indestructible?
Of course not.
Keep in mind that even hard-sided suitcases can be prone to damage and dents.
We’ve tested several of the most preferred materials and compared them regarding their endurance.
It all boils down to these four materials: Aluminum, Polypropylene, Polycarbonate, and ABS.
With that being said, let’s discuss which one of these is the best hard-sided luggage material.
First, let’s take a look at ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene). Even though ABS is generally reliable as a material, we think that it’s the weakest of four.
Since it is made of a plastic and rubber substitute, it does not fare well against rough treatment as evidenced by a test that we did when, after a couple of severe drops, we could see scratches and dents on the surface of the luggage.
However, the biggest advantage of this material is that it’s lighter than polycarbonate, so its structure does not add that much to the weight of the case. Another positive thing is that ABS is a cheaper alternative than other options we have listed.
Despite its endurance flaws, it can be combined and added to other, sturdier luggage materials such as polycarbonate to create an even better alternative.
This type of material has attributes that are better than regular ABS, though it’s not as good as polycarbonate. If you’re more interested in functionality rather than aesthetics, then suitcases made of ABS might be what you’re looking for.
Speaking of polycarbonate, it’s worth noting that this is a molded type of a thermoplastic polymer which is lighter than aluminum but still manages to retain its resilient properties.
Polycarbonate is usually described as a group of thermoplastic polymers that contains carbonate groups. This makes it very easy to mold and allows it to be extremely flexible.
During our test, when we applied brute force to it, we noticed that its construction flexes back in reaction to each hit, making it almost impossible to break.
You can read the Samsonite Winfield 2 Review to find out more about polycarbonate luggages.
We expected this product to be durable since people usually integrate polycarbonate into products such as bulletproof glass, safety goggles, and helmets.
Polycarbonate can also be stylized, and can come in different colors and patterns, giving it an advantage over other materials such as aluminum.
Other than pricing, there are not many disadvantages to this material. Because of this, we think that its price is justified by its outstanding performance against scratches and hits.
However, if affordability is your main concern, it might better for you to look at some cheaper materials (ABS).
Polypropylene is another thermoplastic polymer.
This material is resistant to chemicals due to its oil-based plastic structure, so it can withstand sharp temperature changes that might occur during travel.
This means that the chances that the suitcase will crack are little to none.
It’s also incredibly lightweight if we take into consideration its size and what it’s meant to do (to protect your belongings).
In fact, it’s the lightest one of the four materials that we tested.
As far as its affordability and durability goes, we’d say that it’s somewhere in the middle.
Overall, polypropylene does not differ that much from the other materials. Thus, we think that hard-side luggage made of polypropylene might suit people who always like to buy products that are a combination of two extremes.
The last material that we’ll be looking into is Aluminum. Aluminum suitcases are high-end products that have held their place at the top for a long time. From what we’ve gathered by browsing through customer feedback, we concluded that this is the most obvious choice for many people.
Aluminum has proven to be the most durable material compared to others.
We think that this might be the most significant advantage, though their solid and inflexible shells will protect your belongings regardless of how much pressure you apply.
You can pack everything from clothing to breakables in these sturdy suitcases without worrying about them bending under pressure.
Unfortunately, this extreme durability creates another inconvenience in the form of excessive weight. Aluminum is the heaviest of all four materials which can be a problem for some people.
In addition to this mobility problem, it does not come in a variety of colors or patterns like other materials. Because of this, aluminum cases often have a dull and not so aesthetically pleasing design to them.
This could be a problem if you want a suitcase that can be easily spotted amongst other peoples’ cases on the luggage belt.
Despite its aesthetic flaws, we think that it’s safe to say that aluminum is incomparable to the rest regarding durability.
The reason why there are so many alternatives to aluminum is its price. It can be costly, but it entirely justifies the saying, “You get what you pay for”.
While we can’t say which one of these materials is the best, we do hope that we were able to help you narrow down your choices.
To summarize their features, we will classify the mentioned luggage materials based on their prominent features:
- If you want your suitcase to be firm and sturdy, then aluminum is probably the way to go.
- If you want an affordable suitcase that is also durable, either polypropylene or polycarbonate will do.
- If you are strictly worried about cost, your best option is ABS.
Regardless of your reasoning, keep in mind that each of these materials are solely intended to preserve and protect your belongings – they only differ in certain aspects.
Ultimately, it all boils down to what your preference is. We realize that suitcases, like any other product, are a personal choice, so we encourage you to decide which one is the best hard-side material for you.