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 hard shell cabin luggage with 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 if 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.
Best Hardside Luggage with a 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 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 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.
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. It is available in blue, pink and gray.
NINETYGO Hard Shell Carry on with Front Pocket
This NINETYGO hard shell cabin luggage with front pocket has very similar features to the Coolife above. Where it differs is in the exterior look, price and material used for the outer shell. While it is more expensive, it is also made of a stronger German 100% Makrolon polycarbonate shell.
This is another carry on with a front compartment that is also lockable along with the main compartment’s zippers on a single TSA locking panel with combination lock and key lock. Your electronics, clothes and other belongings will all be secure. The telescopic handle is adjustable to 4 heights and there are four double wheel spinners for sturdy and silent maneuvering.
The front compartment has space for a 15.6″ laptop along with any business accessories you may have. The main compartment opens into two equal halves with one side restrained by a full divider featuring two zippered mesh pockets, and the other half featuring restraining straps.
The dimensions are 21.5 x 14 x 9″ including the handle and wheels and it weighs about 7.8 pounds empty. It is available in blue, pink and gray.
Victorinox Spectra 2.0 Dual-Access Carry On Luggage with Laptop Compartment
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 toiletries 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.
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 outer 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 2.0 Ultra Light 21 inch Business Spinner Trunk
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 just 7.7 lbs. 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 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 Luggage Hardside Suitcase Spinner with Front Compartment
LEVEL8 Luggage is specifically targeted towards Apple product users but that does not mean that others can’t travel with them. This LEVEL8 Hardside 20″ Carry on 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.
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 boasts 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 8.5 lbs, it measures 21.6″ x 14.6″ x 9.4″.
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.
AmazonBasics Hybrid Hard-Softside Expandable Spinner Suitcase
For budget-minded and practical travelers, the AmazonBasics Hybrid Hard-Softside Expandable Spinner 22 inch carry on must be considered. The main shell of this suitcase is made of polycarbonate but the front outer compartment with dual zippers is made of polyester. The front wall of the front compartment opens vertically and is prevented from falling open fulling by side gussets. It features a padded laptop pocket as well as accessories pockets on the inside of this front wall, while the back wall of this compartment is actually a zippered fabric panel to separate it from the large main compartment. The rest of this pocket’s space can be used for toiletries, documents, etc. There’s also a smaller outer pouch with single zipper that can hold a newspaper, travel documents or small snacks.
The main compartment with tie straps is also expandable by pulling on the single zipper, so you can use this bag even for longer trips where you won’t need to carry it on. The inside surface of the divider panel features a large zippered mesh pocket. When you take the handle and spinner wheels into consideration, it measures 14.3 x 10.6 x 22.2 and weighs 6.4 lbs.
There is just one top handle that you can use for lifting the bag off the ground, so not the easiest for lifting into an overhead bin. The double spinner wheels are good enough for rolling it around on most surfaces, while the 2-stage telescopic handle feels a bit delicate but there have been no complaints of it failing.
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.