I might as well say it right off the top: the most durable luggage money can buy in 2020 is the Pelican Air TRVL series. These suitcases are apocalypse-proof beasts that will protect your belongings from crazy impacts and even full submersion in water.
A large 2017 survey by Consumer Reports found that durability had the strongest correlation to an owner’s overall satisfaction with their luggage.
But before we go any further, it’s important to understand that if you actually want durable luggage you need to prepared to pay for it.
Were not talking about affordability here…we’re talking about durability!
The most durable luggage on earth costs more because it is overengineered and meticulously built from premium materials that will withstand extremes far beyond what average luggage can endure.
The Most Durable Luggage By Category
Most luggage today is made from 5 basic materials, each with there strengths and weaknesses. Also, the majority of the luggage pieces we recommend here come with full lifetime warranties. Many of them even cover accidental damage as well.
To help simplify your search, here’s a list of the most durable luggage available today for each material category. (I didn’t include ABS plastic luggage because it’s crap)
|Category||Top Pick||Material Attributes||Cost|
1. Pelican AIR TRVL
|Best Overall Value|
best warranty, heavier
2. Zero Haliburton
|Most Expensive material|
stylish, Insanely expensive
3. AWAY Aluminum
Medium weight, very durable,
Dents easily, quite expensive
4. Briggs & Rilley Torq
Lightest, competitive price, resilient, medium crush resistance, not UV stable.
5. Briggs & Riley Baseline
good abrasion resistance,
water repellent. good lifetime warranties
Advanced Polypropylene Luggage
The exceptional durability of polypropylene hard cases is hard to deny. They have been battle-tested for decades in the most insane and unforgiving applications on earth.
We’re talking about war zones, polar expeditions, search & rescue, and the film industry. This stuff is true mil-spec.
Hard cases, like the Pelican cases shown above, have survived IEDs, fires and even been recovered from the ocean after months at sea with the contents intact and dry.
- Best Value
- Best possible protection for sensitive gear
- Saves room in vehicles: put them on a roof rack or truck bed.
- Use as a workbench, desk, or seat in the field.
- Tend to be heavier
- Very few Air Travel luggage models
- Style..what style?
- Sizes: Carry On or Full-Size (airline compliant)
Pelican AIR TRVL
In my opinion, the title of the most durable luggage on the planet belongs to Pelican cases. A distant second goes to Nanuk cases(available on Amazon). The thing about Pelican AIR TRVL series is that they are tough and light.
These things are insanely durable. The Pelican AIR TRVL suitcases are fully waterproof, airtight and 40% lighter than standard hard cases which makes them ideal as airline luggage.
The only way Pelican could have improved them would be to make them out of thick carbon fiber. However, that would render them far too expensive to be practical.
These are expedition-ready hard cases featuring beefy wheels, a retractable trolly handle, dual TSA locks, dual steel armored padlock holes, air equalization valve, a lid organizer and packing cubes. They can be had in carry-on or check-in suitcase sizes.
Four colors are also available: Black, Grey, Indigo blue and Oxblood red.
I own a 1535 TRVL myself (see the full review)and I’m fully convinced these suitcases will easily handle the most extreme adventures you can throw at them.
Pelican AIR TRVL Specs
- 100% waterproof
- 40% lighter.
- Standard with TSA locks
- Dual armored padlock holes
- Made in the USA
- Heavy-duty handles, hardware, and wheels
- Lid organizer
- Two packing cubes.
- Lifetime Warranty that even covers damage
Carbon Fiber Luggage
Carbon fiber is nearly the perfect material for durable luggage-if it weren’t for the cost. It’s light, five times stronger than steel and twice as stiff.
- Most durable luggage material available
- Lightest luggage
- Extremely expensive!
- No fully waterproof models available
Carbon Fibre is made from super-fine polymer strands that have been carefully oriented then heat-treated to shed non-carbon atoms. The resulting yarns(called tows) can be used to create super-strong, heat resistant composites for luggage. Making carbon fiber is actually an insanely complicated process. For more on that here’s a good “How it’s made” video.
Note: Don’t confuse polycarbonate luggage with true carbon fiber luggage. They are very different. Also, be aware that pleny of so-called, “carbon fiber” luggage is only carbon fiber reinforced or accented are not true carbon fiber pieces.
True carbon fiber luggage is actually quite rare and hard to find. It remains an elite luxury product that you can often expect to pay several thousand dollars for.
Carbon fiber luggage is basically for the Uber rich. The likes of Lamborghini and Rolls Royce make sell these bespoke pieces as accessories to their exotic cars.
Most Durable Carbon Fiber Luggage
Zero Halliburton 22″ Stealth Carryon.
- Weight (7.9lbs/ 3.6 kg.)
- High gloss armor coating
- 5-year warranty
- Made in the USA
- 50/50 clamshell design
- Full-length hinge
- TSA locks
- Premium sealed bearing spinners
This is a true, frameless carbon fiber carryon. The Zero Halliburton Stealth 22″ represents the top end of all of their luxury carry-ons.
How much is it? Buckle up your seatbelts and open up you wallets…its over three grand! (Check the latest price at Zero Halliburton)
I would have expected this case to weigh less, but the extra weightis clearly due to the overbuilt thickness of carbon fiber on this puppy.
Frankly, I would have expected a comprehensive lifetime warranty for a case like this not just a 5-year warranty. On the other hand if you’re used to spending 3 grand on suitcases, you’ll probably also be bored with it in a few years.
Lamborghini / Tecknomonster
Lamborghini definitely has the largest line of true carbon fiber luggage out there. These pieces represent the very pinnacle of luxury luggage. The Lamborghini Bynomio above costs almost $8000!
Durable as they are, at this price point, they are simply too nice to even scratch.
Lamborghini’s cases are made in Italy by Tecknomonster. So, I’d also suggest looking at the Tecknomonster Kasor Elfor Cabin Case. It is the same quality, a bit smaller, and more affordable.
For the rest of us “commoners”, at least we can admire the Italian leather-wrapped handles and thick autoclave-forged carbon fiber.
These things are absolutely among the most durable luggage money can buy.
- Volume: 26L
- Weight: 6 lbs/ 2.8 kg
- Made in Italy
- Carbon fiber shell
- Aluminum frame
- Carbon fiber telescoping handle
- Aluminum corner guards
Clearly, Italians love carbon fiber, especially in their supercars. The Ilatro T3 is an Italian retro-style carry on featuring an all-carbon-fiber shell and aluminum frame.
The armored corners and carbon fiber trolley handle also add extra durability to this unique piece of luggage.
It is also a lot more affordable but perhaps not quite as tough
Check the latest price on the Ilatro T3 from Amazon UK
Aluminum is light, corrosion-resistant and is well-proven to make exceptionally durable luggage since WW2. While aluminum luggage looks fantastic, it is still very expensive and is prone to dings and dents. Some folks consider such blemishes to be “added character; the “street cred” of well-seasoned travelers if you will.
- Very stylish
- Susceptible to denting
- Ages nicely
- Easy to spot on the carousel
- Dents and dings may not be your thing
- Quite expensive
- May attract unwanted attention(theft)
In the 70’s, filmmakers invariably relied on aluminum hard cases to keep their valuable gear safe. However, that changed when advanced poly hard cases like Pelican showed up offering far more affordable prices with more protection even though they were uglier.
Prices for good quality aluminum luggage range anywhere from $400 to $2000 depending on the size of the piece and the brand name.
Toughest Aluminum Luggage
Away Aluminum Edition
Specs (Carryon version)
- Capacity 35 L
- Weight 10.5lb (4.8 Kg)
- Lifetime Warranty including damage
- Ejectable mobile power bank(optional)
- Latch closure, not zippers
- Dual TSA combination Locks
- Corner guards
- Riveted construction
- 50/50 clamshell
- Compressions system
- Hidden laundry bag
AWAY’s Aluminum Edition luggage is our top pick for tough aluminum luggage even though they aren’t quite as tough as their high-end competitors. The brand is most recognizable by their evenly spaced horizontal grooves that circumnavigate the body of their luggage.
AWAY luggage has the most affordable quality aluminum luggage out there. They are also the only manufacturer to offer a lifetime warranty that even covers damage on aluminum luggage. That’s a lot of value.
Prices start around $500 for the carry-on which is actually s great price considering that competitors like Zero Halliburton or Rimowa cost twice as much.
Away’s aluminum editions’ styling and features remain very similar to their popular poly-carbonate line. The carry-on can be had with an optional power-bank for mobile devices.
RIMOWA Aluminum Luggage
German-based Rimowa makes the most recognizable elite luggage on earth. They have been dubbed “the Porsche of luggage.”
Rimowa’s very first aluminum luggage was actually made from the corrugated aluminum of a 1920’s German Junkers F13 airplane. That corrugated retro-styling still lives on in their luggage today.
The other day at baggage claim I spotted a guy with a Rimowa Original series carry-on as we waited for the carousel to start. Sure enough, when it began moving another Remowa Medium Check In glided past me. I didn’t even need to guess who’s it was. It was his.
Status symbols they may be, but Remowa’s Original series aluminum luggage is undeniably super-durable and capable of enduring decades of hardcore jet setting.
Specs (Original Carryon version)
- Weight 9.5 lbs/ 4.3 kg
- Capacity 35 L
- 50/50 clamshell
- Polyester dividers to hold items from falling out
- Super-durable spinner wheels
- dual TSA/combination locks
- 5-year warranty
- Excellent after-sale repair services
- corrosion-resistant (anodized aluminum)
- Aluminum corner guards
Prices start around $1300 for a carry-on and go up from there. Yikes!
Zero Halliburton Aluminum Luggage
If Rimowa is the Porsche of luggage, Zero Halliburton is the “Airstream of luggage.
Just look at the smooth curves interspersed by aircraft rivets. Am I right? I think Zero Halliburton should do an Airstream edition for all the die-hard RV fans out there.
Zero Halliburton’s luxury aluminum luggage splits the difference between Away and Rimowa price-wise. Prices start at $950 for a carry-on and go up from there. Beyond color choices, styling remains fairly uniform across Zero Haliburton’s aluminum luggage line.
Zero Haliburton’s patent-pending concave edge design offers increased durability against corner impacts, dents, and damage.
At this level, I’m disappointed that Zero Halliburton only offers a 5-year limited warranty on defects and workmanship. Really? At the very least, they could easily have offered a limited lifetime warranty.
Specs (International Carryon)
- Weight 11.5lbs (5.2kg)
- Capacity 32 L
- ZH Concave Edging
- Dual Chrome TSA combination locks
- Small hook for shopping bag/purse
- Bottom grip handle
- Zip-out separator
- Compression panel
- 50/50 clamshell design
- Colors Options: silver/black/bronze
Poly Carbonate Luggage
Polycarbonate is an affordable, resilient, and light advanced plastic material that is vacuum molded into luggage pieces. It is capable of absorbing incredible impacts without cracking or shattering. Transparent multi-layered polycarbonate is used for fighter jet canopies, car headlights and riot shields.
Rimowa was the first to introduce the world to super-light polycarbonate luggage back in 2000.
The weight advantages are clear. Rimowas polycarbonate carryon weighs 2.4 pounds less than their aluminum carryon. That’s significant! Especially, if you are a one-bag traveler.
Downsides to Polycarbonate Luggage
Firstly, polycarbonate is not UV stable..meaning it will fade, weaken and eventually crack if left exposed to sunlight for long periods of time. That’s its only kryptonite so keep it stored in the closet.
SECONDLY BE ADVISED: Polycarbonate luggage is not a true “hard shell” as it is often advertised as. It is more of a “flexy shell.”
One layer of polycarbonate is just too flexible to protect luggage contents from heavy crushing forces.
Polycarbonate has a limited thickness, so it can only be stiffened if it is sandwiched into multiple layers. (source)
To my knowledge, the only luggage with multiple layers of polycarbonate is the Briggs and Riley Torq series. (see them on Amazon)
I get a kick out of luggage promo videos on youtube where people smash polycarbonate luggage with sledgehammers and crush them flat with vehicles just to show how they pop back into shape again. Nice party trick!
It all serves my point, the suitcase may survive but the contents would be absolutely pulverized..but hey! Your suitcase would look good.
Overall though, quality polycarbonate luggage an affordable and durable choice for anyone who doesn’t travel with camera gear or delicate souvenirs.
The Most Durable Polycarbonate Luggage
Briggs & Riley Torq Series
Briggs and Riley….they cost a lot, but dang! They’re good.
The Torq series is refreshingly different and the brawn to match the tough looks.
This is why Briggs & Riley luggage keeps making it to the top of most durable luggage lists. They make exceptionally well built products. The Torq series is made of 3 layers of Germain Makrolon polycarbonate.
Yes, three layers of polycarbonate! Everyone else settled for one layer… a typical example of Briggs & Riley’s habit of going above and beyond.
The Torq Domestic Carryon is particularly brilliant and tech-friendly. It features a side trap door to access a document and laptop sleeve. An outside USB plug allows you to charge your devices by connecting your own power bank inside the carryon.
Briggs & Riley’s luggage comes with their famous lifetime warranty that covers damage too.
Specs (Pro Carryon)
- Weight 6.9lbs
- Capacity 44.9L
- Tech compartment
- External USB powered by your own power bank
- TSA locking YKK zippers
- 70/30 opening
- Stable wide wheelbase
- Lifetime warranty covers damage
Specs (Carryon model)
- Weight 7 lbs
- Capacity 39.9L
- Sturdy Telescoping handle
- Hinomoto Lisof Silent Run 360° wheels
- Compression panel
- Included accessories: antimicrobial laundry bag, two shoe bags, vegan leather luggage tag
- TSA combination lock
- 350D anti-microbial interior fabric
- YKK reverse coil zippers
- Lifetime warranty covers damage
Monos is a disruptive little Canadian company based out of Vancouver that is giving AWAY Travel a run for their money. Visually, it is easy to confuse the two brands. Monos also offers a similar lifetime warranty that covers damage too.
A surprising number of reviewers who have owned both AWAY and Monos brands say that Monos is luggage substantially more solid, especially in the handles and wheels.
However, Monos luggage does cost around 20% more than AWAY luggage does.
Monos’ full line of luggage is made of aerospace quality German Makrolon polycarbonate and assembled in China. They take quality and durability very seriously and put their luggage designs through forty grueling tests such as loaded dead drops, endless stair climbs, long-distance wheel tests and the like.(here’s the complete list of tests)
- Weight 8.1 Lbs
- Capacity 39.8 L
- Ejectable power bank(optional)
- interior compression
- Hidden laundry bag
- leather luggage tag
- Lifetime warranty covers damage.
AWAY is one of the best-known premium polycarbonate luggage brands out there.
Much of that is due to successful marketing and an aggressive affiliate program. Nonetheless, AWAY does have a very durable product and they back it up with one of the best lifetime warranties in the industry.
One of the favorite options available on AWAY carryons is an ejectable power bank to keep your devices going through your Netflix binges on long layovers.
AWAY and Monos are very similar visually but AWAY has a more extensive line of luggage and color options as well as aluminum pieces which was mentioned earlier.
Soft-side luggage is typically the most affordable category of luggage out there. However, finding truly tough soft-sided luggage requires some knowledge of fabrics, and eye for quality hardware.
Durable soft-sided checked luggage should be made with at least 1000D nylon fabric like ballistic nylon or Cordura. The “1000D” represents the weight/density of the nylon fabric. Don’t bother with polyester.
Trolley handles should operate smoothly and have a minimal play, not rattle or plasticky buttons. Pay close attention to the handle materials. Expect heavy-duty # 10 YKK Zippers and stainless steel hardware. Also look closely at clasps and locks. Often luggage manufacturers cheap out on the details.
- More Affordable
- Understated..doesn’t draw unwanted attention
- Hides blemishes better
- Low water resistance
- Less abrasion resistant
Briggs & Riley Baseline series
Briggs & Riley’s Baseline series should be called the “Highline” because it sets a very high industry standard for exceptionally durable soft-sided luggage. This is their flagship line.
Most high-quality soft-sided suitcases use 600d-1000d nylon fabric..which is a very tough fabric. Briggs & Riley uses 1680d ballistic nylon!
That might not mean much to you, but believe me, this high-density fabric is practically unheard of in the luggage industry. Ballistic nylon was originally created to protect airmen from flak in WW2.(source) It’s extremely tough stuff.
Briggs & Riley has even made the zipper pulls and wheels easily replaceable for extra longevity.
If you’re inclined to fly under the radar without calling attention to yourself Briggs and Riley’s understated Baseline is absolutely the way to go.
Eagle Creek Tarmac Series
Eagle Creek makes some pretty impressive luggage and their Tarmac series is as rugged as heck. The Tarmac series are expandable and feature a combination of 1000d fabric and polycarbonate backplate armor. All sizes of luggage are available in two-wheel or spinner configurations.
The Tarmac series is the most affordable soft-sided luggage that comes with a warrantee that covers damage too. Eagle Creek calls it their “No Matter What” guarantee.
You can check the latest prices here on Amazon.
Travel Pro Platinum Elite Series
Travel Pro has long been a “mainstay brand for airline employees because they just seem to last forever. The Travel Pro Platinum Elite series, in particular, is extremely light also offers features like a USB outlet that you can power with your own power bank.
The Platinums are extremely practical and expandable. These are clearly well thought out bags designed by travelers for travelers.
Keep in mind that Travel Pro’s lifetime warranty only covers airline damage on their Platinum Elite series.
Check the latest price for Platinum Elite series on Amazon.