The hard facts: the pros and cons of hardside luggage

When buying luggage, the first decision you have to make is whether to purchase hard or soft shell. A hard case will stand up better to rough handling, whether at airports or when your teen takes it to camp. And that means the contents are less likely to be damaged. When a piece of luggage is only packed with clothes, you may not need the extra protection hardside luggage provides, but if you want to make sure your vacation purchases make it home safe and sound, it'd be worth your time to review the pros and cons of hard shell luggage.

Pro: Materials make a difference

Going from least to most expensive, the materials used when manufacturing hardside luggage are ABS (a plastic material), polycarbonate (the type of hard plastic material found in glasses and bulletproof glass) and aluminum (think of the sturdiness of aluminum tires). ABS weighs the least, which is important if you're looking for lightweight luggage; however, you can also find lightweight polycarbonate and aluminum luggage. Aluminum has stood the test of time. Polycarbonate is the new kid on the block and is popular because it's similar in performance to aluminum, less expensive and provides manufacturers more options when it comes to color and patterns when designing luggage. In the past, hard luggage was easily scratched, and some dented easily. Protective coatings make today's models more scratch- and dent-resistant.

Pro: The inside scoop

While consumers love hardside luggage because of the durability, they do complain about the interiors. Soft luggage is typically loaded with all the bells and whistles to organize the contents: pockets, tie-down straps and compartment dividers. Hard luggage? Not so much. But that's changing. Shop smart and you'll find an ABS, polycarbonate or aluminum suitcase with the interior organization system you want.

Pro: Choice of wheels

If you want spinner wheels or rollers, you can find it. Some hardside luggage has spinners and others have rollers. Spinners are newer to the market than rollers but they're quickly gaining in popularity because each wheel can independently turn 360 degrees. The increased maneuverability means you can push or pull luggage on spinners when in crowded or tight spaces. The roller wheels just go forward and back. They can be used easily on sloping surfaces, unlike spinners, while can roll away.

Con: Lack of flexibility

Whereas an aluminum or other hardside suitcase protects the contents, it's not flexible. That means it's not so easy to push and squeeze the luggage while you're trying to pack it in an airplane overhead bin or the back of the van

Con: You get what you pay for

It's important to purchase a well-known brand from a reliable retailer. Cheap hardside luggage is usually just that: cheap. They can crack a lot easier than a piece made of quality material. Read all the product details when shopping. Is that glossy finish a protective coating to help reduce scratches and dents or just there for looks, to make the luggage shiny new?

Hard-side luggage provides great protection for all everything you pack inside it. Trust Sears to supply the quality materials and construction you are looking for.

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