While hardshell luggage continues to be more and more popular with travelers, that doesn’t mean that all hardsided suitcases boast great design. If you’re looking at functionality, there’s an important feature that’s missing from most hardshelled cases and that’s an external pocket that you can use to quickly stash your laptop, tablet, last minute items or frequently used items through your journey. Since you wouldn’t want to or cannot open up the entire suitcase right in the middle of the airport or on a train, how do you take out your laptop, charger or even a cardigan when you need it? That’s why we’ve selected the best hardside luggage with a front pocket or laptop compartment so that you won’t have this problem ever again.
While it would be nice if manufacturers would include an exterior front pocket on all sizes of hardside luggage, you’ll find that it is easier to find on only certain carry on models while leaving the bigger pieces in the same luggage collection without an exterior pocket. That’s why we’ll tell you in the following top picks whether this feature is present on multiple pieces in a luggage line or just on the carry on. However, a checked bag that does not have this feature should not be a deal breaker, in our opinion, because this piece won’t be with you most of the time if you’re flying. Anything that you think you’ll need with you throughout your journey should really be packed in your carry on.
- 1 Hardside Bags with Hard-sided Front Pocket
- 1.1 Delsey Luggage Helium Aero International Carry-On
- 1.2 Tumi Tegra-Lite Max Expandable Packing Cases
- 1.3 Victorinox Spectra 2.0 Dual-Access Carry On Spinners
- 1.4 Andiamo Luggage Pantera Hardside Suitcases
- 1.5 TravelCross Boston Carry On Lightweight Hardshell Spinner
- 1.6 Delsey Cruise Lite Hardside 21″ Carry-On Spinner
- 1.7 Bric’s Bellagio 21 inch Business Spinner Trunk
- 1.8 Enkloze X1 Carbon Carry-On Spinner
- 2 Hybrid Hardside Bags with Soft-sided Front Pocket
Hardside Bags with Hard-sided Front Pocket
When the front pocket is also hard-shelled, the design usually only allows for some wiggle room inwards and towards the main compartment when you pack this pocket full. A well designed piece should not take away too much packing space from the main compartment or you will not be able to pack more than a day or two worth of clothes.
Delsey Luggage Helium Aero International Carry-On
The 19″ Delsey Luggage Helium Aero International Carry-On has been one of the most popular carry on bags for a while and it is easy to see why. While we updated our picks for best hardside luggage overall to include the Delsey Helium Titanium collection, which also has a carry on with a front pocket, the Aero line’s International carry on is a bit better and of great value for money.
Available in a range of stylish colors with a glossy finish, this 100% polycarbonate bag features a main compartment and a front compartment. The front compartment opens with top access via dual zippers that you can lock using your own luggage lock. This compartment’s lid is gusseted with snap buttoned fabric to prevent it from falling open completely and spilling out the contents. If you want to pack the bag normally, just unbutton the gussets to open the lid fully. This compartment features a padded 15.6″ laptop sleeve with tablet sleeve and two mesh zippered pockets for gadget accessories or toiletries. This space is also good for last minute items and travel documents.
The main compartment is accessible clam-style via dual zippers that lock into an in-built TSA combination lock. It is expandable by 2 inches using the pull around zipper but this bag is extremely roomy even without it expanded. The space inside is neatly divided into two by a zipped fabric divider on one side. Both sides have a pair of cross-wise restraining straps to keep your clothes neat.
The telescopic handle extends and locks into place at two height settings. There is also a top grab handle and a side handle, while the opposite side features 4 pegs for setting the bag on its side. The dual spinner wheels roll smoothly and quietly.
When you take the wheels and top handle into account, this carry on measures 21 x 10 x 14 inches overall and weighs 8 lbs.
Tumi Tegra-Lite Max Expandable Packing Cases
Tumi is as high end as you can get and this Tegris Polypropylene Thermoplastic Composite hardshell spinner collection called Tumi Tegra-Lite Max features great design overall in a very lightweight avatar. There are three checked in size suitcases starting with a 26″ Medium Trip, then a 29″ Large Trip, and finally a 32.5″ Extended Trip packing case. The three carry on options include an International sized 20″ case, a Continental sized 22″ case and a 4-wheeled briefcase. You have a choice of 3 colors. All are expandable by 2″ using the zip around zipper.
The multistage aircraft aluminum grade telescopic handle is accompanied by a top, side and bottom grab handle, and the dual spinner wheels are low profile. The corners feature bumper protection.
If you want hardside luggage with outside pocket on all sizes of suitcases, then this is the collection to consider. All the cases feature a front exterior pocket that opens via a u-shaped zipper. This is gusseted at the sides to prevent things from falling out. This pocket is large enough for a small laptop or other items that you need easy access to.
The main compartment opens clam style via dual zippers that are lockable in the in-built TSA-approved combination and key lock. The space inside is divided into two sections. The top lid section is the suiter section with a hanger bracket and it is separated from the bottom section by a full u-shaped fabric zippered lid with its own large zippered mesh pocket lying on top of it. The bottom section features two full length zippered pockets and butterfly-style restraining straps with mesh zippered pockets on them.
Customers love how roomy the interior is and how light all the bags are. However, there have been a few reports of the telescopic handle breaking after a couple years, which can be repaired under the 5 year warranty.
Victorinox Spectra 2.0 Dual-Access Carry On Spinners
We have reviewed the Victorinox Spectra 2.0 Dual-Access Global Carry on separately, but the other piece in the collection that also features a front door pocket is the Extra Capacity carry on. Both of the Victorinox Spectra 2.0 Carry on spinners have won design awards for the unique way you can quickly access your belongings and pack your laptop and clothes. Both are 21.6 inches high but the Extended Capacity model is slightly wider and thicker for those who normally take US domestic flights in standard aircraft. The Global model is meant for international travel and domestic flights in small regional aircraft.
These carry on bags feature dual spinner wheels, a multistage telescopic handle and a single top grab handle. Corner bumper protectors prevent accidental scrapes. The shell is made of 100% pure Bayer polycarbonate with a scratch-resistance matt finish.
The bags open clam style but the top lid section can be packed in two ways – either via the front door or in the standard way where you open up the suitcase via the zippered main compartment. The inside of the front door features the organizer section with two velcroed flap pockets, one slip pocket, two pen holders and one large zippered pocket. When you open the door, a detachable padded laptop sleeve with a tablet pocket is revealed. The sleeve can accommodate a 15.6″ laptop. When going through security lines, you can just remove the sleeve from the bag via the front door and you don’t have to lay the bag down on its back to retrieve it.
You can also leave the laptop sleeve at home if you don’t need it and use the extra space to pack more clothes or your toiletry bag for easy access at security. There’s a divider flap behind the laptop sleeve to keep the clothes and accessories in the lid section secure. If you open the bag in the standard way, you can pack your clothes from this side too by folding down the flap and then fastening it back up.
The other side of the main compartment is standard, with restraining straps and a long zippered pocket.
Both the front compartment and the main one open via dual zippers. The front zipper heads can be locked with your own luggage lock, while the main zippers are secured by the in-built TSA combination lock. Two additional features include the Swiss bag tracking program that allows you to locate your bag anywhere in the world in case it gets lost, and the access lock combination recovery program, which allows you to register your combination lock code and retrieve it in case you forget it.
Andiamo Luggage Pantera Hardside Suitcases
The Andiamo Luggage Pantera Hardside collection features just two pieces – a carry on spinner and a large checked size spinner, and both bags feature a front pocket. The carry on measures 21.8 X 13.5 X 9 inches and weighs 7.1 lbs with the wheels and handle, while the checked bag measures 29 X 21 X 13.5 inches and weighs 13.8 lbs with the wheels and handle.
These spinners feature an anti scratch Makrolon polycarbonate shell with corner bumper protection, dual spinner wheels, and a telescopic handle that you lock into place or unlock to move using one of the two push buttons that are placed for use by left-handed or right-handed persons. In addition to the top and side grab handles, there is also a carbon fiber easy lift bar in front of the top handle to make lifting of a fully packed and heavy bag into a car trunk or overhead bin easier, as it is built to take the stress of the weight better. The dual zippers on both compartments are YKK Thinguard and are water resistant. The main compartment zippers are locked into the 3-dial TSA combination lock, while the front pocket zippers feature lockable heads to accommodate your own locks.
The main compartment opens clam-style and there are plenty of pockets here for organization of the roomy interior. The top lid side features a fabric zippered divider and the other side features butterfly panel restraining straps with built in mesh pockets and two zippered mesh pockets along the long sides. The front compartment opens by top access and is perfect for a 15″ laptop or a toiletry bag or other accessories.
These bags are not light but they are of excellent build and can withstand rough baggage handling long term. Just make sure you don’t over pack and go over any weight limit if you’re flying!
TravelCross Boston Carry On Lightweight Hardshell Spinner
This TravelCross Boston Carry On Hardshell Spinner proves that you certainly don’t have to shell out big bucks in order to have extra features on your hard shell carry on spinner. The style may be simple but its organizational design is not.
Measuring 21″ high with the spinner wheels, 15″ wide and 8″ deep, the light weight of 6.85 lbs comes from 100% ABS. Pick from 5 different colors where the finish is pebbled so as to prevent the shell from scratching too easily.
Both the main compartment and the front pocket open via double zippers that you can lock with your own TSA luggage lock. The front pocket opens forward from the top when standing upright and is gusseted on the sides with Velcro panels to prevent the lid from falling away completely and allowing your belongings to fall out. Inside this pocket are organizer pockets and slots on one wall, while the other wall features two padded sleeves against each other with Velcro securing tab for a laptop with a 17 inch screen and a tablet.
The main compartment opens book style, with the top lid packing space separated from the rest of the space by a zippered fabric panel. The larger back lid space features elastic restraining straps and a zippered pocket for small items.
There are 4 single spinner wheels, a low profile top carry handle and height adjustable telescopic handle. It will fit in to all standard overhead bins easily.
Most customers love how light and easy to pack this carry on is, however you will sacrifice some packing space in the main compartment if you pack too much in the front pocket, as the divider wall between the two compartments is soft and flexible.
Delsey Cruise Lite Hardside 21″ Carry-On Spinner
The Delsey Luggage Cruise Lite Hardside 21″ Carry on Exp. Spinner Trolley is the only spinner bag in the Cruise Lite Hardside collection with a front pocket. The other with a front pocket is a 2-wheeled underseater bag.
The main USP of this 100% polycarbonate line is that all the hardside pieces are easy to pack like softside suitcases. The ones without a front pocket open to the main compartment in a 90/10 split so that most of the packing space lies flat when you open the bag. Other than the 21″ carry on and the 2-wheeler underseater, there is another 19″ spinner and two checked size spinners. All of them feature the 90/10 split lid opening. All the pieces except for the underseater are expandable by 2 inches by a pull-through zipper. The two checked sized spinners feature an in-built overweight indicator to prevent you from incurring extra baggage fees. All the spinners feature dual spinner wheels, a soft grip telescopic handle and a low profile top handle and side handle.
The 21″ carry on and the 2-wheeled bag open clam-style, i.e. 50/50 split. The front pocket in the 21″ can hold a 15.6″ laptop in the padded sleeve, while the one in the underseater can hold a 14″ laptop or tablet. This pocket is also good for other items that you need easy access to, like a toiletry bag. Keep in mind that it does take up some of the space from the main compartment. The front pockets open via dual zippers and provide access from the top with the sides gusseted to prevent anything from falling out. The main compartment features zippered pockets, tie-down straps and a zippered divider panel to separate the two halves. Both the main and the front pocket’s dual zippers can be locked by the shared in-built TSA combination lock.
Bric’s Bellagio 21 inch Business Spinner Trunk
This is one sophisticated looking piece of luggage and is priced accordingly, but the Bric’s Bellagio 21″ Spinner Trunk evokes a bygone time of retro travel glamor like these other vintage-style luggage sets. The shell of the Bric’s Bellagio is 100% Makrolon polycarbonate and available in a few different colors, and the top handle along with accents are made of Italian leather. The 3-stage pullout telescopic handle, rubber Hinomoto dual spinner wheels and water-repellent zips that lock into an in-built 3-dial TSA combination lock complete the exterior features.
The packing space consists of a front pocket organizer compartment that has a padded sleeve for a medium-size laptop and tablet and a regular sleeve for a magazine or book. The various pockets can accommodate your phone, chargers, pens and other small accessories. The main compartment that opens via dual zippers is divided into two by a zippered fabric panel that hold a zippered mesh pocket on top of it. The other side features a fabric restraining panel that zips to one end and is secured by corner tightening buckles at the other end. This panel holds an opaque zipped pocket on top of it.
The Bellagio line also has another 21″ spinner that does not come with a front pocket, a 27″ spinner and a 30″ spinner.
Enkloze X1 Carbon Carry-On Spinner
Enkloze is a relatively unknown California-based luggage brand but they make a very good 21″ carry on hard case suitcase with front pocket. It has a polycarbonate shell and aluminum frame, a height adjustable telescopic handle, dual Hinomoto spinner wheels and a top carry handle.
The front pocket opens via top access dual zippers that lock into a TSA combination dial lock at the top. This pocket is gusseted and can hold a 15″ laptop in the sleeve as well as other gadgets and accessories. The main compartment is a zipperless locking one that uses two latch locks instead to close. If you want to check the bag, it can then lock with an included TSA-approved key. A spare one is also included. Here are some other good zipperless luggage options.
Inside this main compartment the space is divided into two halves by a flexible panel on each side. One of the panels features a large zippered mesh pocket and is attached along the inside spine on one edge with the other edge secured to the corners with buckles. Under this panel are crosswise restraining straps. The other side’s panel is completely detachable via 4 corner buckles and features two zippered mesh pockets.
Hybrid Hardside Bags with Soft-sided Front Pocket
While a full hard shell bag with hard-sided pocket is becoming more common, there is a drawback to the feature. The front pocket takes away quite a bit of space from the main compartment. Because the front pocket is rigid, if you place too many items or anything with a bit of bulk there, it eats into the space that’s meant for your clothes.
A hybrid bag has a hard shell all over but a fabric zippered pocket is placed in front. This way there’s some give in front to accommodate a laptop and other items without this pocket eating up too much space from the adjacent main compartment. We have a high end option and a lower priced one for you to consider.
Rimowa Salsa Deluxe Cabin Hybrids
The Rimowa Salsa Deluxe collection is expensive but highly rated for good design and quality. It has been around a long time and is a testament to customer brand loyalty. The cabin hybrid 21″ bag is a mostly hardsided piece but with full softsided front that’s divided into 3 double zipper U-shaped compartments. A full size one comes flush against the front of the hard shell and is perfect for a laptop. In front of that are two others – one small one stacked on top of a larger one. The larger one is good for an iPad.
Read our full review and description of the Rimowa Salsa Deluxe Cabin Multiwheel Hybrid here.
Ricardo Beverly Hills Rodeo Drive 21-Inch 4-Wheel Expandable Hybrid
If the Rimowa bag above is too pricey for you but you like the idea of a hybrid where the body is hard but the front pockets are soft, then the Ricardo Beverly Hills Rodeo Drive 21″ Hybrid is an alternative. Here there are two soft front pockets against the hard shell. The first is a large U-shaped double zippered pocket that has organizer pockets as well as padded compartments for a laptop as well as a tablet. The other pocket lies in front of that and is smaller with a straight single zip.
Read our full review with features of the Ricardo Beverly Hills Rodeo Drive 21″ 4-Wheel Expandable Hybrid Wheelaboard here.