Hard Sided Luggage vs. Soft Sided

Disclosure: I mention some products that I’m an affiliate for is this post. If you buy via my link, then I get a commission — thank you!

The hard sided luggage vs. soft sided debate seems tiresome and drawn out, but choosing the right one will save you tons of headaches down the line. Luggage is a personal necessity and you simply cannot lend out your ears when making this all-important purchase. For once you should put your personal wants and needs first and buy the best piece for your lifestyle. Let’s look more closely at some of the pros and cons of these two travel essentials.

At a Glance: Our Top Recommended Hard & Soft Sided Luggage Brands

Soft-Sided Luggage

Pros & Cons

Soft-sided bags are undoubtedly still top of the popularity list amongst travelers. Whether it be wheelie bags, duffle bags, or backpacks, soft luggage is versatile and offers ultimate customizability. Your soft luggage is first and foremost a space saver when it comes to storage. Most of them can be folded or scrunched when you are not globetrotting. 

The materials are also rugged and washable. Cordura is commonly used in large luggage pieces and is durable and easy to maintain. In the case of a tear or damage to the surface, it is still salvageable.

The malleable nature of fabric bags also means you can stuff your bag to its very limits. A few last-minute forgotten items are no match for a soft-sided suitcase. Material sides do mean that it might harbor odors more easily. An ill-timed spill might also leave your bag moldy or damp for a while. 

On the downside, your precious souvenirs and cargo are not always safe. A jab in the wrong direction on the conveyor belt is bound to put a dent in your knick-knacks. Some material suitcases are also a little heavier due to their internal structural components. 

Hard-sided luggage vs. soft sided

Hard-Sided Luggage

Pros & Cons

Hard-shelled suitcases have gained popularity over time and are available in a much wider range of colors and styles than ever before. Unfortunately, you still need to choose to form the 50/50 shell design they first came out with all those years ago.

This means there is no wiggle room for over-packing and you are confined to the physical boundaries of your bag. This also makes space an issue as you will need twice as much room to open your bag. Soft-sided bags have lids that conveniently open but hard-shelled bags need to be fully opened to access the contents. 

That being said, you will have peace of mind that your belongings are safe in these ultra-rugged suitcases. Crew loading other bags on top of yours will never be a problem.

You do however run the risk of cracking the shell which renders the suitcase essentially useless. Material like aluminum is a great call to avoid this problem.

Aluminum bags also have latched locks instead of zips for even more security. These bags are often water-resistant and when traveling this can be a deciding factor. 


Both bags can be purchased at various price points with equal success. Hardshell luggage tends to be on the higher end of the price range if you consider durability and weight.

As for soft luggage, you can easily find cheaper options but they will also be on the heavier side. When it comes to luggage, you will want to put your scrooge ways behind you.

This is the one place where forking out an extra $50 will pay off in the long run and ensure many happy miles with your bags. 

Best Brands for Hard and Soft-Sided Luggage


Thule is one of the leading brands for soft-sided luggage. They have a wide range from backpacks to rolling bags that come in all shapes and sizes. Their bags have plenty of organizational systems and high-quality materials.

They offer limited lifetime warranties on their products which is a testament to their confidence. If you are looking for an unlimited lifetime warranty, Briggs & Riley are the brands for you. These bags are at the upper end of the price scale but their sleek designs and state-of-the-art quality makes it worth every cent.

Rimowa is one of the most recognizable hard case bags on the market. These bags have a hefty price tag but guarantee durability and innovation. They were the first brand to develop aluminum bags and started to use polycarbonate that makes their bags extra lightweight. They offer services and repairs and a 5-year guarantee.

Samsonite has dominated the luggage field for almost a century and they offer superior well-rounded suitcases. They are priced in the mid-range and offer a massive selection of both hard and soft-sided cases. A 2-piece set will cost in the area of $300 and they offer manufacturing warrantees as well as services and repairs.

The best in class will have to go to Away. Their bags are mostly under $300 and they have developed an expandable bag that will give you the structural integrity of a hard-shell bag but the packing versatility of a soft-sided bag.

The medium size weighs around 12 pounds and can carry up to 80L. The 360-degree rotation on the wheels is smooth and the front zipper pocket allows easy access to valuables. They also have a range of hard shell suitcases that tip the scales at around 9 pounds and have ultra-stylish finishes.

Final Thoughts

Man landed on the moon before he thought to put wheels on a suitcase. It is a young market that is constantly evolving and expanding. Invest in a bag that will suit your needs for the foreseeable future and don’t wait for the next best thing in luggage innovation. Hard and soft-sided bags both have a place in this world and both have dependable, affordable, and rugged brands. 

These are the definitive winners per category:

Safety and Security: Hard Sided

Convenience: Soft Sided

Durability: It’s a tie

Related Posts: