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What Are the Pros and Cons of Polycarbonate Luggage?

Dan Cavallari
By
Updated May 23, 2024
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Polycarbonate luggage is any piece of luggage made from a type of thermoplastic known as polycarbonate; this material creates a hard shell around the contents, protecting it from impacts. Many travelers prefer this type of luggage because it is durable and strong, as well as being lightweight. Others avoid it because the polycarbonate shell is inflexible and will not allow a traveler to stow extra belongings inside; the inflexibility can also prevent a person from squeezing the luggage into an overhead bin on an airplane.

People who often travel with electronics or other fragile items may want to consider polycarbonate luggage for its strength and durability. The hard plastic shell will keep the luggage from compressing and potentially damaging the fragile items inside. It is important for travelers to remember, however, that unlike luggage made from fabric, polycarbonate will not flex to allow that last pair of pants or that souvenir from a trip to fit inside the already-full bag. The bag will also not bend inward, which is both an advantage and disadvantage: it will protect items inside, but it will not squeeze into tighter spaces, like the overhead bin on a plane.

The polycarbonate luggage is also susceptible to scratching and, in some cases, cracking. Scratches will not usually affect the structural integrity of the luggage, but it will affect how it looks, especially after many scratches have penetrated the polycarbonate after many trips through an airline's baggage system. If aesthetics are not important to the buyer, this is not an especially important disadvantage. The polycarbonate can crack if hit with a large enough force, though this is unlikely during train or airplane travel. The luggage is usually quite durable and resistant to shattering.

The weight is usually heavier than fabric luggage, though not by much. Any weight difference may be worth the extra effort to carry, especially if the suitcase features locks, waterproof seams, heavy duty wheels and handles, or other features that can make it more functional. The price difference between polycarbonate and fabric luggage can vary, though a buyer will be likely to pay more for products made from polycarbonate. The material is usually more durable and long-lasting than fabrics, however, so the buyer may end up saving on replacement costs down the road.

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Dan Cavallari
By Dan Cavallari , Former Writer
Dan Cavallari, a talented writer, editor, and project manager, crafts high-quality, engaging, and informative content for various outlets and brands. With a degree in English and certifications in project management, he brings his passion for storytelling and project management expertise to his work, launching and growing successful media projects. His ability to understand and communicate complex topics effectively makes him a valuable asset to any content creation team.

Discussion Comments

By anon351088 — On Oct 10, 2013

I heard polycarbonate material causes cancer and infertility. Is it true?

By pastanaga — On Mar 02, 2013

@Fa5t3r - I'd rather use a soft material bag, just because it's more flexible. Particularly in a cabin, I'd rather be able to fit it into tight spaces. And these days, you really want to be able to fit your bag into small spaces, because they cram so many people into the plane and charge extra for checking bags, so there's hardly any room for carry on.

Even inexpensive luggage is fine if you take care of it. The only thing is, make absolutely sure that the handles are going to last, because the last thing you need in a busy airport is to lose the handle of your bag.

By Fa5t3r — On Mar 01, 2013

@ButterPecan - I don't know, I think that if you pack it well, your stuff is going to be protected better 99% of the time in a hard shell suitcase.

I've traveled a lot and it's just really difficult to protect your stuff from pressure in a soft case. It's always going to have heavy things heaped on top of it and if you've got anything that might not do well in those conditions in your bag, you can guarantee that it's going to get smashed flat.

By ButterPecan — On Feb 13, 2013

Hard-shell luggage has improved since they first came out, but in my opinion they are still more susceptible to breakage than soft-luggage.

Dan Cavallari

Dan Cavallari

Former Writer

Dan Cavallari, a talented writer, editor, and project manager, crafts high-quality, engaging, and informative content for various outlets and brands. With a degree in English and certifications in project management, he brings his passion for storytelling and project management expertise to his work, launching and growing successful media projects. His ability to understand and communicate complex topics effectively makes him a valuable asset to any content creation team.
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