We tested which luggage is best, hard or soft. See for yourself which is the best fit for your travel needs.
Which Luggage is Best, Hard or Soft?
We all want to travel with ease and not have to worry about our belongings. When purchasing new luggage, being informed can help you choose the best carry-on, checked bag, suitcase set, backpack, duffle or garment bag for your needs.
There are many features to consider, such as size, price, colour, anti-theft features, expandability, number of wheels, and so on, but one of the first decisions you need to make is whether you are shopping for hardshell or softshell luggage. In this article, we’ll explain the main differences between the two and help you figure out which is best for your needs.
The Main Differences Between Soft and Hardshell Luggage
The main difference between hard vs softside luggage is the material it’s made from. Soft luggage is usually made from a woven nylon material like cordura, ballistic or ripstop. Cordura is more textured, softer and more abrasion-resistant than ballistic, which is smoother and shinier. Ballistic is more prone to abrasion over time, though that doesn’t affect its strength. Ripstop nylon is also known as “parachute material.” It’s very lightweight and is commonly used in unstructured or semi-structured bags.
Modern hardshell luggage is constructed of high-tech polymers like ABS and polycarbonate, which are lightweight and sturdy. ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) is a blend of three different plastics. It’s an impact-resistant material that can be easily molded into various shapes, and is well-liked because of its affordability and versatility by luggage producers.
Polycarbonate is a hardy, transparent plastic which is more flexible and impact resistant than ABS, but also more expensive. The material has a higher temperature resistance, diminishing the likelihood of cracking when met with drastic temperature changes that occur in a plane’s cargo hold.
Polypropylene plastic material is the lightest of all three options. In terms of durability, it’s more durable than ABS but not as durable as pure polycarbonate.
Samsonite, the world’s most well-known luggage brand, created their nearly indestructible Black-Label series using patented Curv technology. Curv is made out of 100% polypropylene, but yields stiffness and strength values around 5 times those of regular polypropylene. An interesting option to consider for the avid traveller or anyone who wants to keep their suitcases for a very long time.
So, is hard or soft luggage better for international travel? There is no right answer to this question. It depends entirely on what type of traveler and packer you are. Here’s a look at the benefits of each.
Benefits of Soft Luggage
Let's start with softside luggage. This type of luggage comes in a wide variety of styles, from garment bags and wheeled backpacks to standard suitcase shapes and massive rolling duffels. Here are some of the pros of softside suitcases:
The benefit of softside luggage is that it tends to be more flexible in shape. It can bend and compress, which can be helpful if you're trying to pack into tighter spaces, like an overhead bin. This flexibility makes soft luggage an excellent option for carry-on. Plus, if you’re the kind of traveler who loves to shop and bring back lots of souvenirs from your vacation, soft luggage is stretchier and can expand further, whereas hardshell luggage might make it more difficult to fit in extra goodies on the way back.
In contrast, because it’s not as flexible or expandable, a hard-sided suitcase will rein you in if you overpack; there's no possibility of overstuffing it. This can sound like a downside for shopaholics, but it has the benefit that, if you buy the correct size, a hard-sided piece is guaranteed to fit into your airline's luggage sizer. You won’t have any surprises at check-in.
Takes Up Less Space
Because of its flexible construction, soft luggage, for example, duffle bags, may also take up less room to store at home since it can be folded or compressed. This is a major bonus for apartment dwellers with limited closet space.
Most softside luggage options have pockets on the front, which can provide extra storage space. Having pockets on the front of the bag is also convenient for easy accessibility. You can reach for things you’d like to keep handy, but may not need in your personal bag, like your passport, a change of clothes, a jacket, toiletries or an extra magazine.
This is especially helpful for parents traveling with young kids. Having an extra snack, colouring book or blanket in an outside pocket is a nice alternative to cramming everything into a full diaper bag.
Benefits of Hard Luggage
Now let's talk about hardside luggage. While soft luggage offers more flexibility in terms of storage space and is easier to squeeze into tight spaces, hardshell luggage offers better protection for your packed items. Plus, there are more colour and pattern options available when it comes to hardside luggage.
Hardside luggage is designed to protect your belongings from being damaged while you're on the go. It is also more water-resistant than soft suitcases. If you know you'll be packing breakable items, like laptops, camera equipment or delicate souvenirs, you may want to invest in hardside luggage. It also provides greater security than soft baggage since it can't be ripped as easily. Both hard and soft include built TSA locks, adding an extra layer of protection.
Hardside luggage is often available in a wider selection of colours and fun patterns. You can choose a suitcase that matches your sense of style and is easy to pick out from the sea of bland colours at the baggage claim. This makes it a great option for checked luggage, along with the fact that your items will be better protected from possible airline damage.
In addition to being made of hefty materials, hard-shell luggages are actually much lower maintenance to clean. While hard-side suitcases are water-resistant, providing extra protection to your belongings, they’re also easier to wipe and disinfect, meaning you can easily clean your luggage before bringing it back home. This is an added bonus for travellers concerned about germs.
So, which type of luggage is best for you? It really depends on your needs and preferences. If you're looking for a bag that offers maximum protection for your belongings, hard-side luggage is the way to go. But if you're looking for something that's lighter and has more flexibility in terms of shape and storage, soft-side luggage is probably your best bet. Ready to choose? Shop our wide selection of luggage today!