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 hard-shelled 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 only hard shell cabin luggage with a front pocket 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.
Another feature that’s hard to find on most hard shell suitcases is the ability to open and pack it the way you would a soft shell suitcase. The 50-50 split clam shell style that’s most common here makes unpacking it in a small hotel room quite difficult. If you find that that’s a common issue for you, we show you the best 80/20 split hardside luggage collections.
Table of Contents
- 1 Best Hardside Luggage with a Front Pocket
- 2 Hardside Bags with Hard-sided Front Pocket
- 2.1 Delsey Luggage Helium Aero International Carry-On
- 2.2 DELSEY Paris Titanium 19″ Hard Shell Carry On With Front Pocket
- 2.3 COOLIFE Luggage Carry On Spinner Trolley with Pocket Compartment
- 2.4 Swissgear 8836 20″ Expandable Laptop Carry On Hardside Spinner Luggage
- 2.5 Bric’s Bellagio 2.0 21″ Spinner Trunk w/Pocket
- 2.6 Briggs & Riley Torq Hardside Spinner Luggage
- 2.7 Enkloze X1 Carbon Carry-On Spinner
- 2.8 LEVEL8 Grace, Road Runner, and Pro Hardside Carry On Luggage With Front Pocket
- 3 Hybrid Hardside Bags with Soft-sided Front Pocket
Best Hardside Luggage with a Front Pocket
Bric's Bellagio 2.0 Spinner Trunk w/Pocket
Delsey Luggage Helium Aero International Carry-On
COOLIFE Luggage 20 inch Carry On Spinner Trolley
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 of hardside luggage with lid opening 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 carry on luggage with front laptop compartment, the Aero line’s International cabin suitcase with front pocket is also very good 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 21.25 x 9 x 14 inches overall and weighs 8.2 lbs.
DELSEY Paris Titanium 19″ Hard Shell Carry On With Front Pocket
Compared to the Aero collection, Titanium luggage is quite similar. These are also made of 100% pure Polycarbonate, which makes them highly impact-resistant and durable. Its matte finish differs from the metallic finish of Aero luggage and these bags are slightly lighter, but the difference isn’t too big.
A padded laptop sleeve and a couple of other pockets are included in the outside electronics compartment of the smallest suitcase – the DELSEY Paris Titanium 19″ Carry-On Spinner. Although they don’t have this feature, the 21″ Carry On and the larger suitcases have two fully lined packing compartments with expandable capacity. In the bottom compartment, tie-down compression straps are available as well as a zippered pocket, while in the top compartment there is a full zippered divider with a mesh pocket.
In addition to double spinner wheels, this front pocket carry on luggage has a lightweight aluminum telescopic wheel handle that locks into position when extended. The pieces also feature padded and soft handles on the top and sides. With these features, you have great maneuverability of your suitcases and can effortlessly move from one place to another with the Titanium pieces. Each of them has a TSA-approved combination lock, which ensures the safety of your belongings in the main compartment, however, the front compartment will need your own luggage lock that can only be used to go through the zipper tab holes.
COOLIFE Luggage Carry On Spinner Trolley with Pocket Compartment
Coolife luggage has found a permanent space in the budget luggage department by providing key well-liked features in their affordable lines. The COOLIFE Luggage Carry On Spinner Trolley with Pocket Compartment Weekend Bag is a 20 inch bag that’s part of a 2-piece set but only this one features an outer pocket, while the larger check in 28 inch one does not.
The outer pocket is top opening via dual zippers and can hold a 15 inch laptop along with a few accessories and documents in various pockets. Side gussets stop the pocket from falling open when the bag is standing up, but you can unsnap the gusset buttons if you want to open it fully. The main compartment opens clam-style with dual zippers and one side of this compartment has elastic cross band restraining straps, while the other side features two large zippered mesh pockets on a zippered divider to keep each side separate.
Both main and front zippered compartments’ zippers can be locked into the same TSA lock panel – a feature that you rarely find in other hardside luggage with outside pocket.
The shell of this bag is made of a durable and light ABS-polycarbonate compound with a textured finish to hide scratches better. There’s an adjustable 3-step telescopic handle with an ergonomic grip that locks into place and 4 double spinner wheels that roll silently.
The overall size of this bag is 21″ x 14″ x 9.5″ and it weighs just 6.7 lbs. While this is not on our list of best lightweight hard shell spinner suitcases, it is almost as light as those selections. The Aero is available in blue, pink and gray.
Swissgear 8836 20″ Expandable Laptop Carry On Hardside Spinner Luggage
Travel in style and comfort with the sleek and stylish Swissgear 8836 20″ Expandable Laptop Hardside Spinner Carry On. The case features several small pockets and a laptop sleeve with a protective hook and loop closure in the front compartment that can comfortably hold a laptop up to 15 inches in size and is made from lightweight, yet durable polypropylene.
The main compartment is divided into two halves with tie-down straps for neatness on one side and a zippered fabric divider on the other. In addition to these two good-sized storage spaces, there’s a large zippered side pocket to tuck essentials safely away, plus a zippered mesh organizer. This case also expands for even greater packing capacity, making it an ideal carry-on bag for short trips.
A 360-degree dual spinner wheels provide a smooth ride, while the telescopic handle makes it easy to maneuver. There’s a molded grab handle on the top to lift the case off the ground. Swissgear uses a TSA-approved combination locking system, which ensures that your laptop compartment’s and main compartment’s zippers can be locked in place and your gear is safe while traveling, while still allowing TSA agents to access the contents.
This 6.5 lb carry on measures 21.75 x 15.25 x 9.25 inches overall and there is one other suitcase in this Swissgear 8836 collection – a large 28″ hardside check in bag that does not have a front compartment.
Bric’s Bellagio 2.0 21″ Spinner Trunk w/Pocket
This is one sophisticated looking piece of luggage and is priced accordingly, but the Bric’s Bellagio 2.0 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. It weighs 8.5 lbs and measures 21.7 x 15.4 x 9.4 inches. 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 and there’s a USB charger port so that you can connect your own battery pack inside while you charge your phone at any time by plugging it in on the side.
The main compartment that opens via dual zippers is divided into two by a zippered fabric panel that holds 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.
Briggs & Riley Torq Hardside Spinner Luggage
Briggs & Riley is a well known premium luggage brand and the updated Torq Hardside Spinner Luggage collection is absolutely feature packed, made from 100% virgin makrolon polycarbonate and with an anti-scratch finish. It has 3 sizes of check in sized hardside spinner suitcases, but it’s the two carry on sizes that we’re interested in here. There’s a 21″ international carry on and a 22″ domestic carry on. Both have a patented hard front pocket that’s hinged at the bottom to let you easily access its contents.
The front pocket can accommodate a laptop, a tablet, and several small items that you would likely need for a business trip. It also has a pocket to carry your own battery pack which connects to an integrated external USB port so that you can charge your phone at any time.
Another interesting feature is that all the pieces in the collection are split 70/30 in terms of their packing space in the main compartment, which is rare for hardside luggage. This allows for easier packing in tight spaces, which is where soft-sided luggage has another upper hand.
The main compartment features a flat packing space on the bottom because the telescopic handle is set on the outside of the case. This part features garment cinch flaps to keep your clothes neat. The upper part features a garment suiter with a loop to hang a suit on a hanger from, and a foam roller to fold the garment over. This design keeps creasing to a minimum.
The dual spinner wheels are Japanese-made and very smooth and durable. The aircraft-grade telescopic handle extends and locks to 3 levels for travelers of different heights.
Enkloze X1 Carbon Carry-On Spinner
Enkloze is a relatively unknown California-based luggage brand but they make very good 21″ hardside luggage with exterior 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.
LEVEL8 Grace, Road Runner, and Pro Hardside Carry On Luggage With Front Pocket
LEVEL8 Grace Luggage is specifically targeted towards thin laptop users but that does not mean that others can’t travel with them. This LEVEL8 Grace 20″ Hardside Carry on with front pocket has a PC+ABS shell, telescopic handle, four double spinner wheels and a top and side handle. The corners are reinforced to prevent damage when bumped, and the shell is textured to prevent visible scratches. The main compartment’s zippers can be locked into the TSA combination lock panel. There are two versions of this hard carry on luggage with exterior pocket to choose from – the Grace and the Grace – EXT. The former cannot be expanded, while the latter can for additional packing space.
The vertical opening front compartment features two padded Velcro pockets for a 15.6 inch Macbook and iPad along with a few accessories. However, these pockets are thin so if you want to fit a non-Apple laptop, it will need to be no more than a 15″. Even the pocket for a mouse is only big enough for a Magic Mouse or similar.
The main compartment features two packing spaces that boast good organization for neatness. One side features a zippered panel, while the other side features a fabric panel with corner restraints to separate the other half. This panel features a zippered pocket too. There are also cross restraining straps on this side so if you don’t want to use the divider, you can unclip the two corners, roll it up and tuck it into the side and out of the way.
Weighing 8 lbs, the Grace measures 21.8″ x 14.5″ x 9.4″. The Grace EXT expandable carry on weighs 9 lbs, and measures 21.8” x 14.5” x 9.8” with an additional 1.57” width when expanded.
You should also consider the Level8 Road Runner model, which is a premium and more feature-rich option. Both the front compartment and main compartments can be locked, as both their zipper heads are accommodated in the in-built TSA-approved lock. This models is made of 100% polycarbonate, so it’s more durable. This model weighs a little more at 8 lbs and it measures 21.5″ x 14.6″ x 9.3″.
Finally, there’s the Level8 Pro Carry On with a Laptop Pocket and a built-in USB port and power bank pocket. This model is a Red Dot award winner and is only available on the Level8 website.
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 for you to consider.
RIMOWA Lufthansa Bolero Collection
Most hardsided suitcases with a front pocket are carry on sized bags because the thinking is that if you’re going to check in a suitcase, you won’t have it with you through most of your journey, and therefore won’t need to access anything from that suitcase.
The older Salsa Hybrid collection has now been updated to the RIMOWA Lufthansa Bolero Collection and it’s not just the carry on trolley that has the external front pocket feature. The entire Bolero line has hard shell pieces with soft front pockets. This collection consists of two business trolleys – one small 23L capacity, which is great as a 2-wheeler underseater, and one large 30L capacity, a large 64L check in bag, and an extra-large 85L check in bag.
All the pieces come with the RIMOWA Electronic Tag, which is an inbuilt Bluetooth enabled chip that allows you to check the suitcase before you arrive at the airport. Gone is the regular paper strip that you have to print and stick to the suitcase. All you need to do is drop the suitcase off outside any Lufthansa approved self-service airport terminal that has implemented this electronic tag system.
The Bolero pieces are made of 100% Polycarbonate for the exterior shell, keprotec® with Kevlar® fibres for the front pockets, and 100% polyester lining inside. These materials are of the highest quality to match the impeccable construction.
The front pockets include one large double zippered u-shaped pocket, one medium-sized single zippered pocket on top of the that on the bottom, and one smaller one above that on the check in sizes, while the carry on trolleys have a single u-shaped pocket on the front.
The interior of the bags has been modernized, with just one half of the clam-style packing section featuring a structured clip-in flex-divider, while the bottom half has a full zippered mesh divider.
Other notable features include a multi-stage telescopic handle for easy handling, a TSA combination lock, and low-noise ball-bearing dual spinner wheels.