Softside Versus Hardside Luggage

Posted by Aviva Wolpert on

hardside or softside luggage

Baggage has come a long way from the heavy wooden chests and trunks of long ago. Portable suitcases appeared in the early 1900s and it wasn’t until 1972 that the U.S. patent for luggage wheels first appeared. Luggage continues to evolve with today’s manufacturers finding increasingly lightweight and durable materials that conform to airline regulations and accommodate today’s traveler.

 

Although soft-sided luggage made of polyester or nylon still dominates the North American market, hard-sided luggage is gaining popularity with its high-tech plastics like polycarbonate and polypropylene that are lightweight and durable.

 

So which kind of luggage should you choose?

It really depends on the type of trip you are taking. There is no ‘one bag fits all’. A business trip to London has different baggage requirements than a cruise to Athens or a hiking holiday in Corsica. Your itinerary and baggage contents will determine your choice of luggage. Whatever you decide, a bag well crafted with quality materials, zippers, wheels and handles will last longer and stand up to the rigors of travel.

 

When soft-sided luggage is best

The woven fabrics of soft-sided luggage combine durability, lightness and flexibility and conform to tight spaces like the overhead bin of the airplane or the trunk of a car. Most models provide exterior pockets, handy for quick-access items and internal compartments for organizing contents. Many of them offer an expanding section when you need more capacity.

 

More people prefer soft-sided luggage:

  • As carry on bags
  • When accommodations are small or restricted
  • For car, train or small plane transportation
  • For increased storage space

 

When hard-sided luggage is best

The high-tech polycarbonate, aluminum and polypropylene materials used to make hard-side luggage are light and strong. The hard shell exterior is resistant to stains and punctures and provides solid protection for fragile items. Most hard-side luggage is waterproof (except for the zippers), can be more easily maneuvered on four wheels and stacked for storage.

 

More people prefer hard-sided luggage:

  • To protect electronics and fragile belongings
  • For better security with integrated locks and no exterior pockets
  • For travel in places like China and some countries in Africa
  • For 4 wheel 360° easier maneuverability
  • For unique colors and prints

 

Hard-Sided Suitcase

samsonite firelite

  • Strong and Lightweight Polycarbonate and aluminum materials
  • Waterproof and stain resistant
  • Protects fragile belongings
  • Secures contents with integrated locks
  • Easier to clean
  • Stackable

 

 

Soft-Sided Suitcase

bu226x

  • Durable, lightweight fabrics
  • Exterior pockets and compartments
  • Flexible to conform to tight spaces more forgiving to overpacking
  • Often expandable
  • Easier storage
  • Less visible wear and tear

You voted - softside luggage wins! Here are your comments from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram:

"Dear Jet-Setter, my mom, dad and I prefer hardside luggage because it offers better protection for fragile items. That being said, they could really use another carry-on, so they can finally bring me with them in their next trip!"

cat luggage

"Soft sided w/pockets. Easy access to a change of clothes or jacket."

dog luggage

"I prefer soft side luggage for its flexibility and weight, but I also like hard side luggage to protect all the little trinkets I pick up!"

"I prefer soft sided luggage because of the extra pockets,and it is easier to fit in my car. "

"I went from softsides to hardsides because back then softsides were not as durable and were heavier than the new hardsides. Now new technology has made softsides more durable, lighter, more water resistant, and still retain their flexibility which makes them fit easier in the carry-on size check at the airports, so I am back to softsides"

"Soft sided, you don't really notice the wear and tear as much."

"Hard sided luggage - zipper closure is to easily broken into."

"I only use soft-sided bags, because 1) I like how the corners give a little around lumpy packing, 2) they are generally a little lighter than the hard-sided and 3) they're easier to stuff under a bed out of the way if you're staying in a tight space. Plus, it's a myth that you need a hard-sided bag to protect breakables. Earlier this year my husband and I spent six weeks travelling from Singapore around the Indian Ocean and Jordan, and we brought home all sorts of treasures, large and small, breakable and not. Things won't get broken in a soft-sided bag if they're packed properly. I've brought wine, dishes, sculptures, and who knows what else, and never lost anything. Yay soft-sided bags, the traveller's friend!"

"I like using hard side - keep items safe esp. when thrown around during travel."

"I prefer softshell as I can stuff more luggage inside!"

"I think I prefer softside luggage as it seems lighter, less bulky, and more versatile."

"I prefer soft sided,because of the extra pockets and they are easier to pack in the vehicle."

"I prefer softside luggage because I like outside pockets."

"I have used both soft and hard cover luggage. I prefer hard cover to protect all the little trinkets I pick up."

"I prefer the hardside luggage to help protect any breakables."

"I prefer softside luggage only because I wonder if hard side might crack."

"I prefer softside because of the extra pockets and it is easier to fit in the car."

"When I travel I prefer the softside! Less hassle, looks better than hardside and I honestly think it would last longer."

"Hard all the way! Light and don't have to worry about other people's heavy luggage ruining my items!"


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2 comments


  • The biggest complaint I have about hard sided is how much room you need to fully open them. In small places it is easier to “lift the lid” for access.

    jansly on

  • Most soft-sided luggage is accessible from the side or even upright on the floor which is a good feature in small hotel rooms where a hard side takes up the whole bed (or floor) just to get into it.

    Rod Nugent on

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