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.