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Amazon Basics 21-inch Hardside Spinner Review

A well-priced and reasonably spacious hardshell carry-on with limited organizational features and dubious long-term viability
amazon basics 21-inch hardside spinner carry-on luggage review
Credit: Amazon
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Price:  $90 List
Manufacturer:   Amazon
By Myrha Colt ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Sep 26, 2022
53
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 9
  • Ease of Use - 35% 5.6
  • Design - 25% 5.1
  • Packability - 25% 6.0
  • Durability - 15% 4.0

Our Verdict

The Amazon Basics 21-inch Hardside Spinner is another in a long line of “acceptable but not great” carry-on luggage pieces trying to capture your interest with a low price point. While it has the simple clamshell design we know and expect among hardshell bags overall, the lack of organizational extras means there’s little value to counterbalance its shortcomings in design and performance. As the heaviest hard-sided bag in our current test group and sized one inch too deep to be compliant with airline rules even before we’ve added a single item, it is hard to argue this simple underperforming carry-on is going to be a good bang for your buck.
REASONS TO BUY
Inexpensive
Decent storage
Expandable
REASONS TO AVOID
Durability concerns
Rattly roller handle
Finicky zippers
Heavy

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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Inexpensive, decent storage, expandableMany useful extras, impressive capacity, accessible priceSmooth and stable, impressive capacity, variety of colors, lightweightSpacious, easy to use, budget-friendly, lots of colorsBudget-friendly, numerous color choices, lightweight
Cons Durability concerns, rattly roller handle, finicky zippers, heavyHeavy, exceeds airline size requirements, frontside bulkDurability concerns, minimal organizational featuresDurability issues, rattly roller handleDurability issues, rattly roller handle, finicky zippers, lower-quality interior materials
Bottom Line A well-priced and reasonably spacious hardshell carry-on with limited organizational features and dubious long-term viabilityAn accessible price point and a slew of useful features make this carry-on a good option for those who want a solid performer without breaking the bankA simple, lightweight yet solid hardshell spinner that outshines other bags at a similar price pointAn affordable roller with enough utility to suit light packers and infrequent travelers and plenty of colors to keep it funAn inexpensive roller of dubious durability but enough utility to suit light packers and infrequent travelers and plenty of colors to keep it fun
Rating Categories Amazon Basics 21-in... SwissGear Sion Soft... Samsonite Omni PC H... Rockland Melbourne 20 Kenneth Cole Reacti...
Ease of Use (35%)
5.6
8.2
7.5
5.4
4.3
Design (25%)
5.1
6.1
8.0
6.6
6.9
Packability (25%)
6.0
8.7
7.0
7.1
4.0
Durability (15%)
4.0
7.0
5.2
4.0
3.6
Specs Amazon Basics 21-in... SwissGear Sion Soft... Samsonite Omni PC H... Rockland Melbourne 20 Kenneth Cole Reacti...
Measured Dimensions 22" x 14.8" x 10" 23" x 14.1" x 10" 21.5" x 14" x 9.5" 23" x 14" x 9" 21.1" x 14.6" x 8.5"
Handle Height Options (where it locks) 2 (33", 41") 3 (28", 34.5", 43") 5 (25", 30.5", 33", 36", 41.5") 3 (26", 33", 41") 3 (30.5", 33", 41")
Number of Wheels 4 4 4 4 4
Number of Exterior Pockets 0 2 0 0 0
Interior Opening Style Half shell Top lid Half shell Half shell Half shell
Locking? No No Yes No Main compartment zipper has a loop for a lock but does not come with lock
Exterior Material ABS hardshell Polyester Micro-diamond polycarbonate ABS hardshell ABS hardshell
Colors 4 - black, navy blue, blue, orange 8 - black, blue, burgandy, dark gray, navy lime, pewter, purple, teal 11 - black, carribean blue, red, white, silver, teal, navy, purple, bronze, burnt orange, radiant pink 26 - black, blue, brown, champagne, charcoal, gray, green, lime, magenta, navy, orange, pink, purple, quilt, red, silver, turquoise, two tone blue, two tone green, two tone navy, black wave, gold wave, mint, carbon, two tone magenta (with 3 additional colors available as part of a 2 piece set) 15 - charcoal, cobalt blue, kelly green, light silver, magenta, black, navy, rose gold, smokey purple, teal, barn red, deep purple, naval, white, purple

Our Analysis and Test Results

If you’re looking for a high-end performance piece or a road-worthy luggage catch-all that will endure over a lifetime of getaways, the inexpensive Amazon Basics Hardshell Spinner isn’t it. But if you are on a tight budget and looking for a simple carry-on that will get you through the short-term without any bells and whistles, and you can handle a slightly jittery ride to boot, this unembellished case could be your answer.

Performance Comparison


amazon basics 21-inch hardside spinner carry-on luggage review - the amazon basics spinner has the basic shiny good looks you'd...
The Amazon Basics Spinner has the basic shiny good looks you'd expect from a hardshell carry-on.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Ease of Use


The Amazon Basics clamshell carry-on isn’t going to wow you with special features or a liquid-smooth ride. Inside, you’ll find room enough in its two open-layout halves to thoughtfully pack a week’s worth of summertime garments into a standard hard-sided case in which a limited collection of additional built-in components – fabric enclosure panel, accessory pockets, and minimally effective restraint straps — are available to lock items into place before you seal the bag for transit. Exterior organizational tools don’t exist (as is true with most hard shells). So, don’t count on extra pockets or access points, or even a lockable zipper loop to lock your luggage on travel days. But for those whose needs run oversized or who like to squeeze in one last souvenir, you can count on a simple expansion zipper to serve up a couple of inches of extra space for your return haul.

amazon basics 21-inch hardside spinner carry-on luggage review - expand your amazon basics spinner by a couple of extra inches with...
Expand your Amazon Basics Spinner by a couple of extra inches with this handy zippered panel.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

It's when you start handling your bag in transit that you begin to question how secure or functional the Amazon carry-on is. Clumsy, disappointing haul handles make carrying the case an uncomfortable task when dealing with awkward spaces, distances, or loading it into cars or planes. Similarly, a flimsy telescoping handle offers only two height options, further limiting the number of travelers who will find it a satisfactory tool for navigating crowds or tackling long walks between gates. A set of large double-spinner wheels offer significant clearance and decent maneuverability across standard flat terrain. But we found they struggled to remain in a straight line at different points during testing, in some cases pulling away from us or even shuddering in their housings as we tried to maintain a straight line. Eventually, the wheels always fell back into alignment so we could walk mostly unencumbered. But hiccups such as these appeared before the bag was put under real duress during drop tests, and continued to worsen over time of their own accord. And their occurrence undermined our confidence in the case’s ability to perform basic functions over the long term.

amazon basics 21-inch hardside spinner carry-on luggage review - the double-wheel spinners offer high clearance, but they sometimes...
The double-wheel spinners offer high clearance, but they sometimes struggled to stay aligned when in motion.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Packability


As noted with other hard shells, the Amazon isn’t going to offer up a lot of extra features when it comes to storing your gear. In standard form, one half of the bag is enclosed with a fabric panel while the other is home to a small accessory pocket and two crisscrossed elasticized restraint straps. A couple of additional mesh pockets are inlaid in that same interior panel as well, although we found they yielded limited benefits due to their awkward size. So yes, the Amason Basics model does in fact serve up the basics, but it's nothing particularly noteworthy. Packing cubes could be a real boon when trying to make the most of this space.

Small mesh pockets on the interior half-clam enclosure seem like...
Small mesh pockets on the interior half-clam enclosure seem like they'd be a good idea, but we found them far too small to be particularly useful.
The small accessory pocket inside the Amazon Basics Spinner is only...
The small accessory pocket inside the Amazon Basics Spinner is only large enough to hold the tiniest of items.

While we did manage to find a home for everything during our 7-day Summertime packing test, we also had to employ the expansion feature to ensure we weren’t straining exterior zippers in the process. The Bulky Gear test yielded similar results, although we weren't able to manage to squeeze in the climbing helmet, even with the expansion system. Perhaps if we’d had organizational cubes to pre-compress our items before packing we might have managed to do better. But without any such extra assists, we weren’t all that impressed with the results.

amazon basics 21-inch hardside spinner carry-on luggage review - we were able to fit almost all of the items from our bulky gear...
We were able to fit almost all of the items from our Bulky Gear packability test into the Amazon Basics Spinner by employing the expansion system.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Design


Like some other bags in our test lineup, we were puzzled by the promotion of the Amazon Basics 21-inch Hardside as an airline-compliant carry-on when both its advertised dimensions and those we confirmed ourselves demonstrate that it’s built one inch too deep for requirements (before the bag is even packed or the expansion feature is unzipped). Although we realize many airlines are not diligent in double-checking before travelers board, it does seem odd to create confusion by not acknowledging that discrepancy. So if you are a stickler for rules and a frequent flyer, these dimension details are something to consider. Although under most circumstances, it’s quite possible you’d fly without issue.

Zipping up the Amazon Basics 21-inch Spinner was a true pain, and...
Zipping up the Amazon Basics 21-inch Spinner was a true pain, and made us much less eager to pick up this bag for our next trip.
Double-checking the dimensions with the expansion feature employed.
Double-checking the dimensions with the expansion feature employed.


The Amazon Basics carry-on is also among the heaviest hard shells in our test group, a strange honor to receive since it doesn’t offer many extra features, notably high-quality materials, or other helpful assets to account for that added weight. We also found the two mesh pockets embedded within the enclosure panel (sealing in one half of the clamshell opening) to be somewhat useless given their odd size. We struggled to find items small enough to fit in them, particularly when other packables were already stored within. The fabric and zippers all strained under the pressure. One of the other failures that really stood out was its poorly functioning master zipper. Although the exterior pull felt stronger in hand than the cheaper zipper models used on the inside, we found ourselves struggling to slide it around the outer edges of the bag when needed. And when the expansion feature was finally put to use, we found the two clamshell halves of the case would often end up misaligned at the expansion point. This would cause the zipper to run off track and create a real hassle for us to get the case closed and working again.

amazon basics 21-inch hardside spinner carry-on luggage review - the zippers on the amazon basics spinner drove us a bit crazy in...
The zippers on the Amazon Basics Spinner drove us a bit crazy in use, as often they didn't align or would get caught up on the fabric when we'd try to close the bag.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Durability


Whenever the material of choice is ABS hardshell, we’re already tipped off to some potential vulnerabilities that may be found in a bag. So, while we experienced no great failures upon testing with the Amazon Basics Hardside Carry-On, we did document a number of scrapes and scratches the case picked up in use, particularly after drop testing. We also noted the flimsy interior liner fabric felt cheap straight out of the gate and then quickly appeared worse for wear as pack testing continued. The double-spinner wheels also took a beating, especially during drop testing (which caused one “hubcap” to break off). We were able to reattach the offending wheel cap without problem, but continued use eventually resulted in all wheels developing an increasingly wobbly roll, particularly after the “big drop” tests. This left us questioning how much longer before major components of the bag might give out. Nothing in testing damaged the case so much that it was no longer serviceable, but the results certainly raised enough red flags we’d be worried about what prolonged abuse might serve up while out on the road.

amazon basics 21-inch hardside spinner carry-on luggage review - while the amazon basics 21-inch hardside spinner held up, for the...
While the Amazon Basics 21-Inch Hardside Spinner held up, for the most part, a hub cap came off during drop testing and we are left wondering if this is a vulnerable part that may continue to prove problematic down the road.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Should You Buy the Amazon Basics 21-inch Carry-On?


The Amazon Basics 21-inch Hardshell reminds us that lower prices often means cutting corners on the big and little structural features that sit at the core of any product, and how much those details count. Its low-grade ABS construction, uncomfortable handles, and loose, wobbly wheels are enough to send us looking at upgraded options. Unless your budget absolutely demands going low and your travel plans have the flexibility to account for a myriad of potential headaches and unexpected mishaps on the road, we’d suggest you do too. We imagine students heading out for the occasional weekend away or those who just need an affordable, simple fix to an immediate problem (say you just need to pack up gifts to fly home for the holidays) might find this is an acceptable option.

amazon basics 21-inch hardside spinner carry-on luggage review - an inexpensive option for those who don't need a reliable case in...
An inexpensive option for those who don't need a reliable case in the long term.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

What Other Carry-On Should You Consider?


Hitting the pavement with the Amazon Basics carry-on isn’t particularly noteworthy for any other reason other than price. But, while we don’t love many aspects of its construction and we are loath to promote the idea of disposable, minimal-use carry-on luggage that will likely end up in the trash after limited days of travel, we do also understand that sometimes cost is paramount. And if that’s the case, this inexpensive hardshell carry-on could be exactly the right tool for the job.

We'd also note that for a small uptick in cost, you can score a sturdier bag that will hang equally well on quick work retreats or long weekends away with friends. Check out the Samsonite Omni PC for a solid hardshell option, or the versatile soft-sided SwissGear Sion that offers similar quality and functionality at a reasonable price.

Myrha Colt
 
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