Nautica is a nautical inspired brand, from the US. But you probably already guessed that - the name is a dead giveaway. They are primarily a sportswear brand, but they do make lots of different things. Luggage is one of them.
In this review, we will check out both softside and hardside suitcases from Nautica. We'll focus mostly on their best-selling products, and hopefully that will help remove any doubts you might have about this brand.
We'll check out some suitcases that are insanely affordable, and others that are more mid-range, in terms of their price. But there will definitely be something for everyone's budget, so keep reading!
Nautica has both softshell and hardshell luggage.
I always recommend that you get a hardshell suitcase if you plan on flying somewhere. They are much more durable than softshells, and they are definitely the better choice for air travel. Baggage handlers are just not gentle with your luggage, and a softshell is more likely to wind up broken or squished.
Which also doesn’t mean that hardside suitcases are immune to being thrown around. They are not, but they do hold up better. They usually have really durable shells that don’t break too easily.
Softside luggage does have its benefits though. For one thing, these suitcases are generally more lightweight. And you can usually pack more things inside them, simply because their shells are pretty flexible. But they are definitely not designed to endure the torture baggage handlers put them through, so I recommend these only if you are travelling by train, bus or car.
Also, pretty much all softside suitcases have external compartments and pockets, which is really rare on hardshells. This makes them better for travelling organized - if that's something that's important to you, then a softside is definitely a better fit.
Or if you only want a carry on – in that case, you are fine getting a softshell because it’s going to be in the cabin with you. Just make sure that the airline you are flying with will accept your suitcase as a carry on. Most airlines have different standards for what they accept inside the cabin – sometimes, an inch is a difference between a carry on and a checked bag.
One thing to note is that there aren't a lot of differences when it comes to the materials this luggage is made of. Softsides are made from Polyester, and the hardsides are made from ABS plastic. So, in terms of durability and quality of materials, they are all very much like.
You might think that expandable suitcases are way better than non-expandable ones. But that’s really not the case – both have their upsides and downsides.
Let’s talk about flying a little. The standard weight limit for a checked suitcase is 50 lbs. If yours is heavier than that, you need to pay a fee. Now, consider just how much space you have in an average 28-29” suitcase. When you expand its capacity, you gain space to add even more stuff inside it, which makes it easy to get carried away and over pack.
You can weigh your suitcase before you get to the airport, but what about when you head home? Chances are you will be travelling back with more stuff than you initially brought, and that you won’t have a scale at your disposal. That’s one downside of large expandable suitcases.
The upside, however, is the same for all expandable luggage – there is a zipper on your suitcase that allows you to get more space should you need it. That can be really useful, especially if you tend to go shopping on your trips.
I think that expandable luggage is good in every scenario except as checked luggage, particularly if we are talking about really large suitcases.
Generally, carry-ons are good for shorter trips, up to one week. Anything longer than that, and you need a bigger suitcase. However, that only applies to air travel – if you don’t really fly that often, then it’s not that simple.
I would generally recommend the 24” suitcases in that case. They are the perfect size, unless you are going on a month-long trip. One reason for that is their weight – even when you fully pack a 24” suitcase, it’s still not too heavy and you can carry it around. But when you fully pack a 28” suitcase, picking it up will hurt.
Additionally, it's much more convenient to travel with a smaller suitcase. They take up less space in the trunk of your car, and they are easier to wheel around, which is particularly important if you travel alone. Even more so if you are on the shorter side - a suitcase that's about half your height will be a nightmare to deal with, and it will unnecessarily stress you out.
Consider how long your trips usually are – don’t get a huge suitcase just because it looks like best value for money if you rarely go on trips longer than a week. You’ll wind up using it less often because it’s way too spacious for your needs, and you won’t get your money’s worth.
This applies to both hardside and softside suitcases. And keep in mind that the features of a suitcase model are the same on all three versions of it. It’s not like you are getting any extra features if you go for the larger suitcase, so feel free to choose a size that is the most suitable for your traveling habits.
The Lifeboat suitcase is a pretty standard hardside. Its exterior is made of ABS plastic, which usually has great scratch resistance. However, it’s not the most durable material for hardshell luggage, and it can crack if too much pressure is applied to it. But at least it’s pretty easy to repair.
This luggage has expandable capacity, which can be pretty useful in some situations. There are two packing compartments, and both of them are fully lined. The top compartment features a zippered divider and a large mesh pocket, while the bottom compartment has elastic cross straps and one small pocket on the side.
Four single spinner wheels give you great manoeuvrability of your luggage, but they are somewhat flimsy. Single spinner wheels are generally not as durable as double spinner wheels. But, as long as you don’t use them on rocky terrain, you should be fine.
There’s also a telescopic wheel handle that locks with a push button, as well as two carry handles. Overall, we see all of this features on at least 70% of similar suitcases, so no surprises there. One thing that the Lifeboat luggage does not have is a lock. This is a bigger deal for larger suitcases, since they will be out of your sight for the better part of your flight, and you never know who might try to open them up.
The Flagship suitcases are among the best ones Nautica has to offer. They have an ABS exterior, which is ribbed. That helps make it even more scratch resistant, and just generally make the scuffs and scratches less visible than they would be on a completely smooth shell.
The suitcases have double spinner wheels, which roll smoothly. I especially like that their color matches the exterior of the suitcase – it’s a nice little detail that just makes the suitcase look better. There’s also the telescopic wheel handle with a locking push button, as well as two non-slip grab handles. You can’t lock the wheel handle in multiple positions, so not all of you will find it to be a good height.
This luggage has a TSA lock. That’s pretty important if you plan to fly to the US, since it allows to TSA agents to safely inspect your suitcase. It’s a three-digit combination lock, and you can easily set up the combination yourself. Additionally, the capacity of the Flagship suitcases is expandable, and you can always make them bigger if you need to.
Their interior is divided into two packing compartments. Both of them are fully lined, but only the top one features a pocket. The bottom one has just cross straps, while the top one has a full panel zippered divider with a mesh pocket on it. Overall, this is definitely one of my favorite Nautica suitcases, since it has all the necessary features I look for in a large checked bag.
The Tide Beach Suitcases are slightly larger than other Nautica luggage. It’s not a drastic difference – they are less than an inch taller. But it is something you should be aware of, considering that airlines have different restrictions for carry ons.
The shell of these suitcases is made from ABS plastic – a durable and sturdy material, but not the best one for luggage. You have four spinner wheels on the Tide Beach luggage, as well as a telescopic wheel handle and two grab handles. Unfortunately, there are no locks on these Nautica suitcases.
Another downside of this luggage is that there are no corner guards. They significantly improve the impact resistance of a suitcase, and protect the shell from breaking when it falls. But at least the shell is ribbed – that will help protect it from scuffs and scratches, and makes any inevitable ones less visible.
The interior of the Tide Beach is pretty different from what we saw so far from Nautica. The top compartment has a full panel zippered divider, but with two smaller slip pockets on it. The bottom compartment has just elastic cross straps. One thing I love about the interior of the suitcase is that the accent color matches the accent color of the exterior – it looks really good. The capacity of these isn’t expandable, so keep that in mind.
The Ahoy suitcases are another popular option. Their exterior is made from ABS plastic, but their shell is not that scratch resistant. It is completely smooth, which means that it’s much more likely to get visibly scratched. I would definitely recommend you get a suitcase cover if you decide to get this suitcase.
These suitcases are seriously lightweight, and that’s a big upside. The aluminium wheel handle is a big part of that. And so are the single spinner wheels – even though they are not quite as good as double spinner wheels, they are much lighter. And they still roll smoothly, so you should have good manoeuvrability of the Ahoy luggage.
The interior of these consists of two packing compartments. The bottom compartment has elastic cross straps, but unfortunately it doesn’t have a pocket. The top compartment features a zippered divider, as well as two mesh slip pockets on it. And both compartments are fully lined.
These don’t have expandable capacity, which can be both an upside and a downside – depends on how you look at it. And they don’t feature any locks, so I wouldn’t recommend them as checked bags. Overall, they are a good affordable option, since they are cheaper than most other Nautica suitcases. But the low price is reflected in the lack of features.
These are three bright red suitcases from Nautica. And if you want to be able to spot your luggage immediately on the luggage best, then these are a great option. Especially if you like to stand out from the crowds.
The Henderson Harbor suitcases feature a textured ABS shell, which does a good job at avoiding scratches. They are equipped with four single spinner wheels that are lightweight and roll smoothly. And, along with the retractable locking wheel handle, you will have good manoeuvrability of these suitcases.
They have expandable capacity – you can get two extra inches of packing space with the expansion zipper. Unfortunately, they don’t have any locks or corner guards, so I wouldn’t say that the larger Henderson Harbor suitcases are your best choice as checked baggage. But that's pretty much the only scenario in which they would disappoint - for all other purposes, there are actually really good suitcases. Especially for the price.
Their interior is as bright red as the exterior. And what I like here is that the color of the elastic straps in the bottom compartment matches the color of the wheels. Somehow it ties it together, and it actually looks pretty cool. Although you don’t get a pocket in the bottom compartment, you do get a big one on the zippered divider in the top compartment. Overall, these Nautica suitcases are definitely interesting. And they are pretty affordable – I think these are actually the cheapest hardshells from them.
The Shipline suitcases are zippered softshells with a Polyester exterior. They are pretty durable, especially considering that they feature corner guards on the bottom half. This Nautica luggage also has spinner wheels, which is always a pleasant surprise on softside suitcases.
There are two exterior pockets on the Shipline suitcases, that are great for any items you want to have handy during your travels. Or just things you remembered to pack last minute. They also have a telescopic wheel handle with a push locking button, that allows you to manoeuver your suitcase with ease.
One downside is that the wheels on this suitcase are plastic. Rubber wheels are generally what you want, since they handle uneven terrain better. Plus, they are easier to fix. With a plastic wheel, if a chunk breaks off you need to replace the entire leg of the suitcase, and that can sometimes be a lot of work.
These Nautica suitcases have a single packing compartment. It is fully lined, and has a zippered mesh pocket on the side. There are also valet straps that will hold all your clothes in place and ensure that nothing gets jumbled around in the expandable packing compartment. Additionally, the lid has a zippered pocket on it, so you can easily organize all your stuff.
Helmsman suitcases are easily one of your best choices here. For one thing, they are made from 1200 x 900D Polyester, which is a really durable material. But what I like the most about these is that they don’t have typical zipper pullers. Instead they have Polyester pullers, which are much more easy to use. And they don’t break as easily as metal pullers.
These Nautica suitcases don’t have spinner wheels, which is a shame. They have in-line skate wheels, and you have to tilt the suitcase to get the wheels rolling. Meaning that you are dragging the weight of these behind you, and your arm could get sore eventually.
But that’s pretty much the only downside of this luggage. They have corner guards, which improves their overall durability and impact resistance. Plus, there are three external pockets on the Helmsman suitcases, as well as a D-ring that allows you to attach an additional bag to the top of a suitcase.
Their interior is also great – the color of the external accents matches the color of the internal ones. And there is also a wet pocket in the packing compartment that allows you to separate any wet garments from the rest of your clothes. The top lid features a large zippered pocket, while the main compartment has tie-down straps. Also, the capacity of these Nautica suitcases is expandable, which is pretty convenient.
As you can see in the photo, the exterior of this Nautica luggage is made from two different materials. It’s actually two types of Polyester - one is 630D microwave Polyester, and the other is 900D water resistant Polyester. That combination works well, and the overall shell of this suitcase is pretty durable.
The Harpswell luggage is equipped with single spinner wheels, but unfortunately not with corner guards. Which means that they are not too impact resistant, and definitely not a good choice for a checked bag.
These suitcases don’t have traditional zipper pullers, which I actually like since metal pullers can break off super easily. Instead they have steel cable zipper pullers, which are much more convenient to use. Plus, the zipper of the main compartment is interlocking – that makes it pretty safe, since it makes it much harder for a thief to open up your luggage.
The packing compartment of this Nautica luggage is pretty spacious and fully lined, and its capacity is expandable. It has tie-down straps to keep your luggage in place, while the lid features both a zippered and slip pockets. That’s good for organizing your belongings, especially when combined with the several external compartments.
The Gennaker suitcases feature a really modern, color block design. I actually like that – it makes them stand out from the rest of these Nautica suitcases, and also other baggage on the luggage belt. They are made from 600D striped Polyester - a material of good durability.
There are spinner wheels on this Nautica luggage, so they are pretty easy to manoeuvre around. Especially in combination with the telescopic wheel handle. These suitcases also have expandable capacity, meaning that you can basically pack all you can carry in them.
One thing I’m not really a fan of is that there is only one external compartment. It is pretty large though, so it’s good for any bulkier items you wouldn’t want in the packing compartment. But because of that it’s also not that convenient for stuff you would want handy during your travels, like your passport and boarding passes.
There are two zippered mesh pockets inside the suitcase – one in the packing compartment, and the other one on the top lid. There is also a slip pocket on the lid, which is great for anything you would separate from the rest of your clothes. And the tie-down straps will ensure that your things in the main compartment stay put at all times.
The Naval Yard suitcases have quite an interesting design. Their front is mostly solid color, with just a few accents in other color. But then their back is mostly the accent color and that makes them pretty easy to spot on the luggage carousel. This luggage is made from one Polyester, so it is really durable.
These are the only Nautica softside suitcases that have double spinner wheels, which is why I think they are your best option, if you are looking for a large softshell. They are really easy to manoeuvre around, and they have a telescopic wheel handle that locks into position when extended.
The capacity of this luggage is expandable, and the zipper of the main compartment is overlocking, which makes it pretty safe. Additionally, there is a single external compartment – the only thing I’m not a big fan of, since it’s not that great for organization.
But the interior makes up for that. It is fully lined, and the lining is actually the same color as the back of the suitcase. The accents inside are the same color as the smallest exterior accents, which ties the entire design of the luggage together. There are tie-down straps inside, but no pockets. There are, however, two zippered pockets on the lid of the suitcase, so you can still organize your clothes neatly.
Since that was a lot of luggage, I'll try to narrow this down to my top choices.
The Lifeboat suitcase is my top choice for a small hardside. It has two spacious packing compartments with expandable capacity, a scratch resistant ABS shell and spinner wheels that roll smoothly. There are several pockets inside the suitcase, which allow for good organization and the grab handles are pretty comfortable. It doesn’t have a lock, but that’s not too important for carry-ons, since you will be near your suitcase the whole time.
Nautica Flagship is the best checked bag you can get. It’s a lightweight suitcase with double spinner wheels, an aluminium wheel handle and a scratch resistant shell. Also, this is the only hardside suitcase from Nautica that has a TSA lock, which is pretty important if you plan to travel to the US. But also it’s generally important for checked luggage, since it’s not in your sight the whole flight.
The Helmsman is your best option if you want a small softside suitcase. The lack of spinner wheels isn’t really a big issue with smaller suitcases, since they rarely get too heavy. And it definitely has one of the best interiors. I especially like the addition of a wet pocket, since that tends to be really useful on summer vacations. Not to mention the sturdy exterior and the convenient zippers that will really make your travels easier.
If you are looking for a larger softside suitcase, I would recommend the Naval Yard. It's a durable suitcase with expandable capacity and interlocking zippers of the main compartment, which really helps keep all your belongings safe. Plus, it is the only softside suitcase from Nautica with double spinner wheels - rolling it around will be effortless. It's not that great for organization, but it does have a couple of internal and external pockets.
Head over to Amazon to check out the prices of these suitcases, as well as all the different colors they are available in!
If you don’t think any one of these is right for you, check out our other reviews – you might find them more helpful.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!