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7 Of The Best Hardcase Cabin Bags
— Updated on 29 December 2023

7 Of The Best Hardcase Cabin Bags

— Updated on 29 December 2023
Randy Lai
Randy Lai

Whether you’re the consummate J-Class veteran or can’t resist a deal on ‘hand carry only’ jaunts, packing efficiently is a skill bound to improve the quality of any commercial flight. While you could probably muscle through a same-day return with nothing more than your backpack and laptop, that’s a poor substitute for the indispensable (and frequently stylish) hardcase cabin bag.

Defined by its ability to slip neatly into the overhead compartment and hard protective shell, there are a lot of options out there when it comes to this ubiquitous bit of kit. Below, we sort the proverbial wheat from the chaff so that you can hit the ground running in 2024: from affordable workhorses to overengineered travel icons, these are the best hardcase cabin bags money can buy.

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Samsonite – Lite-Shock Sport 55cm

best hardcase cabin bags

Since 1974, Samsonite has been manufacturing luggage that the majority of the world’s travellers rely on when cruising at 30,000 feet, so it probably goes without saying: they know a thing or two about hard shell bags. At just 1.7kg, the brand’s Lite-Shock Sport (55cm) is the most compact hard-case cabin bag on offer. The case’s surface is inspired by nature, utilising a ripple effect design that actually improves overall durability.

Other refinements include a PU-coated water-resistant zip, four multidirectional spinners and a recessed TSA-approved lock. Forget weekends: with enough planning, it’s even sufficient for journeys of up to one week.

Horizn Studios – M5

Over the past five years, Berlin-based Horizn Studios has risen to become an industry leader in ‘smart’ luggage, forging interesting partnerships along the way with cultural mainstays like BMW, Soho House and NASA. It’s claim to fame in this space? The M5. Billed as one of those cabin bags you buy once “and keep forever”, it was among the first carry-on cases to integrate a portable charger – handily recessed beneath the M5’s telescoping handle.

On the front side, Horizn Studio’s designers have incorporated a multi-compartment pocket: easily capable of storing your average 15″ laptop and a range of travel essentials. Turning inward, space is divided into two compartments; with a built-in compression pad and laundry bag giving travellers even more tools to save space and pack cleverly.

As for the material science, the shell itself is made using partially recycled polycarbonate whereas all the trimmings – excepting the front pocket – are certified 100% vegan. For a truly timeless and low-key look, we’d recommend springing for the ‘Dark Olive’ colourway.

Crash Baggage – Share 55cm

best hardcase cabin bags

A brand that takes its inspiration from free-spirited and adventurous travel, Crash Baggage has doubled down on late designer Virgil Abloh’s interest in transparency (literally) with its appropriately titled ‘Share’ cabin case. Inspired by the brand’s sardonic ‘Handle Without Care’ philosophy, the Share is built with a nubbly, intentionally uneven surface – made out of a clear polycarbonate shell (for all your exhibitionists out there).

On the technical front, all of the Share’s features are consistent with what you’d expect from a well-made cabin bag at this price point. There’s a two-way zip, TSA-approved locking mechanism and an internal mesh divider – so even if you’re airing your proverbial dirty laundry, it’ll stay nice and neatly arrayed.

Rimowa – Classic Cabin

Still the gold standard in premium hard case luggage, Rimowa’s ‘Classic Cabin’ has been delighting discerning travellers for what feels like decades. Rooted in the German maker’s mid-century heritage, it is an airport lounge icon thanks to its distinctive anodised aluminium shell – replete with vertically grooved surfaces that imbue the Classic Cabin with added strength and style.

A simultaneously tough yet lightweight material, this aluminium is made even tougher by Rimowa’s distinctive hand-riveted corners – offering added protection to the most vulnerable stress points.

As you’d expect, all the other trimmings are just a cut above the competition: going some way to explaining why this 3-day carry-on is as (if not more) expensive than many of the largest check-in hard cases on the market. The Classic’s multi-wheel base is mounted with a patented ball-bearing system and handles are covered with premium leather inserts. Just make sure you nab the version in silver – it looks like an absolute treat once you’ve put a few miles on it.

July – Carry On Pro

Part of the latest crop of ‘smart luggage’ purveyors – designed right here in our backyard – July’s entrant into the fray is the straightforwardly titled ‘Carry On Pro’. Offering many of the same integrated features as the Horizon Studios M5 (at a marginally more affordable price) the Pro’s standout detail is the signature ‘SnapSleeve’ – in essence, an oversized laptop pocket that can bear up to 60kg of load weight when affixed, via a series of snap-fastening magnets, to the front of the case.

German polycarbonate, multi-directional spinner wheels and an ejectable battery all come as standard; meaning the only thing you have to concern yourself with is what colour you’ll be picking.

Herschel – Trade Luggage

Largely known as a maker of affordable canvas backpacks, Herschel is getting into the hardcase cabin game with a selection of riotous carry-on options. The ‘Trade Luggage’ is one such example: combining the brand’s recognisable flair for fun kitschy design with all the necessities of a reliable terminal mover.

Decorated with Herschel’s signature ‘rubber diamond’ logo, the Trade includes enough internal storage to see you and all your essentials through a weekend-long getaway. Currently available in black or red(ish) colourways, the latter is a great point of difference if you’re of blending into a sea of grey, black or silvery aluminium. Fitted with TSA locks and a multi-stage telescoping handle.

Tumi – TEGRA-LITE International Expandable

The closest thing that Rimowa has to an actual competitor, Tumi’s wheelhouse lies in crafting premium travel luggage that is augmented with superior technology, cutting-edge style and reliable customer service. That across-the-board commitment to innovation is encapsulated in the ‘International Expandable’ – machined out of a proprietary thermoplastic material called TEGRA-LITE that’s often favoured for protection by players in the NFL.

Partially made with recycled material, this hardcase shell offers a strikingly modern counterpoint to Rimowa’s sleek, silvered grooves.

Elsewhere, it’s little details under the hood that justify this Tumi cabin bag’s hefty price tag. The telescope handle is made with a tough-as-nails tubular aluminium structure while the signature ‘Omega’ closure ensures the only part of the zip closure you’re liable to damage is the puller.

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Randy Lai
Following 6 years in the trenches covering consumer luxury across East Asia, Randy joins Boss Hunting as the team's Commercial Editor. His work has been featured in A Collected Man, M.J. Bale, Soho Home, and the BurdaLuxury portfolio of lifestyle media titles. An ardent watch enthusiast, boozehound and sometimes-menswear dork, drop Randy a line at [email protected].