Hardcase vs. Soft Luggage

Hard Side vs. Soft Luggage: How to Choose to the Best One

Finding the right luggage is not an easy task, especially if you are not sure whether to buy an hard side or a soft bag. To help you choose the best luggage for you, I interviewed expert baggage handlers, seasoned travelers (me!), and I reviewed ALL the best hard and soft bags on the market in 2017.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), almost half the world’s population will take to the skies for travel sometime this year.That’s a hell of a lot of people when you think about the amount of suitcases those airlines have to inevitably stow below every single passenger.

Making sure you have the right suitcase to protect your belongings from rough handling, theft, and airline size requirements is essential to having a stress-free, smooth, and painless travel experience.

I myself travel 8-10 times a month, and if I’m to be honest–I am a spoiled-yet-reasonable traveler.

Oftentimes, I get free upgrades or trips thanks to the miles I earn, which is to say I know a thing or two about how to travel right. But I didn’t just get there overnight.

I’ve spent my fair share of hours agonizing over a broken zipper, scuffed designer bag, or trying to cram one last t-shirt into my small carry-on suitcase. And believe me, I would have traded a few hundred miles for some honest advice on how to make the transit experience less panicked.

Hardcase vs. Soft Luggage: What Do The Experts Say?

When I first started researching about the best hard shell or soft sided luggage options, I decided to reach out to my friend Frank who has worked with KLM airlines for the past 25 years.

“The life of a piece of luggage is not an easy one. The luggage gets pushed, dragged, kicked, and stood on.”

I wanted to know what happened after I checked my bag in, and if that handling process should affect the way I go about buying my travel luggage.

hardside vs softside luggage“The life of a piece of luggage is not an easy one,” Frank said. “The luggage gets pushed, dragged, kicked, and stood on. It’s not that handlers find pleasure in not caring about your luggage. They just don’t care.”

Airline workers apathy towards passengers’ luggage is not a new concept. In fact, one out of every 60 pieces of luggage in Europe will fail to arrive with its owners according to the Association of European Airlines.

And even when suitcases do arrive on time, it’s not uncommon to find new scrapes, tears, or even broken clasps. According to Frank, that means it’s more important than ever to make sure your luggage can withstand any unexpected delays and rough handling while in transport.

It’s not that handlers find pleasure in not caring about your luggage. They just don’t care

These days, Frank travels with a 4 wheels Aerolite Medium and he’s really happy about it. “I love the way it’s organized and despite it’s not a small luggage, it’s a very light one. Again, it’s not the cheapest luggage on earth (~£60) but it will last you for as long as you need.”

While your exact travel needs may vary, investing in a quality suitcase will help you save money and stress later on down the line.

Why The Differences Between Hardside Luggage and Softside Are Important

There are literally hundreds of designs available to match your baggage needs including soft case, hard case, carry on size, or jumbo size luggage.

hardside luggage vs softside

Here I have compiled a list of the best hard case luggage versus soft luggage on the market today, taking into account factors such as size, style, quality, and function to ensure your luggage remains safe and durable through the entire journey.

Because the truth is:

  • a bad suitcase will last you just a couple of months
  • a good suitcase will last you perhaps a few years
  • the best suitcase will last a lifetime.

And if there’s one thing you can’t put a price tag on while traveling its peace of mind.

Top Soft Small Bags of 2017

And so – here we are. If you came here to understand how to choose the best hard side or soft luggage to buy, it’s time we analyze the best bags for sale in 2017 and see which one really meets your needs.

Bric’s Mylife 18 Inch Cargo Duffel Bag

Bric’s Mylife 18 Inch Cargo Duffel Bag is an imported cabin-sized luggage item which stands apart from the competition due to its attractive price point, classic appearance, and storage capabilities.

Though the soft sided luggage has the look and feel of a more expensive model, the bag’s durable canvas PVC material is both water and stain resistant for added durability when traveling.

This bag’s compact design and multiple zippered pockets make it a smart choice when traveling light as it is easily stored under your seat during flight. For those looking for hands-free travel, this model also comes with a free shoulder strap and slide sleeve for added versatility and comfort.

This bag’s compact design and multiple zippered pockets make it a smart choice when traveling light as it is easily stored under your seat during flight. For those looking for hands-free travel, this model also comes with a free shoulder strap and slide sleeve for added versatility and comfort.

BOSS Green Men’s Urbanized Holdall Weekender Bag

When it comes to style, there are very few designers who know how to bring together the best of function and design like Hugo Boss.

This classic men’s bag does away with a lot of unnecessary pockets and zips to bring you a piece of luggage that is practical, sharp, and made from the highest quality materials.

BOSS’s travel messenger bag also provides you with ample storage room for any items you may need to carry with you on flight—from electronics to spare clothes to work documents.

Keep your most precious travel items with you in this light weekend soft luggage wit detachable shoulder strap from Hugo Boss and travel with style and peace of mind on your next flight.

HUGO Hugo Boss Men’s Future Holdall Weekender Bag

Another great model from HUGO BOSS, this 100% leather messenger bag has the look of a hard case luggage with the pliancy of a soft sided bag.

The heavier material more than makes up for the extra weight with a highly durable surface that is sleek and water resistant. The bag’s inside organizational pocket also helps you to separate important travel items and stay on top of your efficiency when traveling.

This model comes in blue and black and is perfectly sized to take on as cabin luggage. While the price is slightly higher than other models, the quality material of this bag cannot be understated and is well worth the monetary long-term investment.

Armani Exchange Men’s Light Weight Dobby Nylon All Over Logo Duffle Weekender Bag

For those who can’t part with their high-end designer bag, this Armani Exchange logo duffel bag is the perfect compromise.

Its elegant black exterior provides the necessary elasticity to cram in all of those must-have cabin items, while also giving a nod to the Italian label’s luxurious European lifestyle.

Unlike other models of its size, however, the majority of storage space is on the inside of the duffle bag making it hard to easily reach travel items like passports, phones, or reading material.

However, this soft case carry-on luggage is incredibly light and making it easier to store when not in use. Overall, the Armani Exchange logo duffel bag is reasonably priced when compared to other bags of its same small size and high-class brand.

Overall, the Armani Exchange logo duffel bag is reasonably priced when compared to other bags of its same small size and high-class brand.

Ted Baker Men’s Tanclan Nylon Holdall

This Ted Baker carry-on features a more structured shell and nylon material to help retain its shape and endurance when traveling.

The inside lining is made up of cotton to counterbalance the exterior and protect items from any rough handling while in transit.

Like other bags of its size, it can be carried by hand or via an additional detachable shoulder strap according to your travel preferences.

This bag is a great unisex option with a classic design and clean color palettes that help to hide any scrapes or tears along the journey.

Choose between the chocolate and navy color options to find the model that best matches our additional check-in luggage.

Top Soft Big Bags of 2017

American Tourister Ilite Max Softside Spinner 29

Utilizing the latest technology, American Tourister gives you a slightly roomier suitcase than your standard messenger bag carry-on with the same light and structured composition.

The size and functional design of this soft-sided suitcase make it a perfect choice for jetting off on your next international holiday adventure. This suitcase also comes in a range of fun colors like raspberry, tangerine, purple, and light blue for those looking to make a personal style statement.

The multi-directional wheels also allow the bag to move effortlessly alongside you throughout the many security checkpoints without putting a strain on your arms or shoulders.

With a price tag of just under $100, this medium sized suitcase is a real contender when it comes to your best soft case luggage options.

DELSEY Paris Air Adventure 29″ Expandable Spinner Luggage

The DELSEY Paris Air Adventure is a small suitcase is made from your standard polyester fabric, making it a durable and lightweight luggage choice when traveling.

The bag is right on the cusp of being able to travel as cabin luggage but is sturdy enough to withstand the journey as a checked item below the plane.

The main fabric-lined interior compartment is expandable for any extra space you may need to accommodate souvenirs on the return end of your holiday. In addition, the lock handle feature allows everyone in the family to carry this suitcase with ease.

The Paris Air Adventure soft case bag comes in red, purple, and grey—however exact color shades may vary from other suitcases in the DELSEY brand.

Pacsafe Toursafe AT29 Anti-Theft Wheeled Luggage

The Pacsafe Toursafe AT29 is a unique piece of luggage in that its main design was focused on anti-theft measures.

The stainless steel wire mesh fabric prevents any slashing and the puncture resistant ToughZip protects your locks and zips from unwanted intrusion. As an added bonus, the bag is also semi-collapsable for easy storage in between travels.

The PacSafe is also outfitted with high-quality wheels letting you roll your luggage through various types of terrain. Though slightly more expensive than other soft-sided medium size luggage options, its anti-theft measures make it an essential choice when traveling to countries with questionable safety measures.

Samsonite Lift Spinner 21 Inch Expandable Wheeled Luggage

Samsonite has been a leader in the luggage industry for decades, bringing you high-quality suitcases that are sure to last a lifetime.

The soft case Lift Spinner is a great option due to its expendable high-performance wheels which rotate 360 degrees for an easier range of motion when shuffling through the airport.

The bag was designed as a carry-on item, and includes several outside pockets which are perfect for stowing in-flight entertainment items like books, tablets, and magazines.

You can also transport the bag via the top or side handles when moving up staircases or between subway platform gaps. Overall a great luggage investment to meet every kind of travel need.

IT Luggage World’s Lightest Los Angeles 28.9 Upright

The IT Luggage World’s Lightest Los Angeles’s main claim to fame is its compact and lightweight size allowing you more room to squeeze in those essential carry-on items. The outward design is also unique in its two-tone appearance, allowing travelers to choose between Black White/Blue Navy/ and two shades of turquoise.

The soft sided exterior and interior come with multiple zippered pockets which are great for keeping organized while traveling. Its low price point of $50 also makes it one of the most inexpensive bags on our list.

So if you’re still questioning if you should throw out that thrift store suitcase, this just might be the cheap option to change your mind and make you upgrade.

Top Hard Luggage of 2017

Samsonite Winfield2 Fashion 28- Inch Luggage

The Samsonite Winfield2 is a high-quality hard case luggage option which expands to allow a higher packing capacity.

The bag comes in nine different colors ranging from Orange to Deep Blue all with the same brushed pattern for every kind of travel fashion statement. The polycarbonate material also helps protect against unsightly dings and scrapes.

Travelers can rest easy with this model’s TSA side lock keeping your items safe and secure while in transit.

And as always, the hard case bag also comes with several interior zipper pockets and divides to further insulate your belongings and absorb the blow of rough handling.

Kenneth Cole Reaction Out of Bounds 4 wheel Upright Suitcase

The Kenneth Cole Reaction Out of Bounds hard sided luggage is another option that appears more expensive than it actually is.

Standing upright, the bag measures in at just over 21 inches tall and has several handle features for a more versatile carrying experience.

The bag’s sleek, square design and 4-wheel spinners combine the best in practical design and aesthetic appeal. Though this hard case luggage was designed to be a carry-on, it is slightly bigger than your standard-issue carry on size giving you a little extra wiggle room for in-flight items.

Thanks to its fun color options, quality build, and low price tag the Kenneth Cole Reaction Out of Bounds bag is considered one of the best hard case luggage options you can buy.

Delsey Luggage Helium Aero Expandable Spinner Trolley

Straddle the edge between a checked bag and an oversized bag with this amazing hard sided carry on luggage from Delsey. The Luggage-Expendable trolley bag is made from a resilient polycarbonate material which is both lightweight and attractive with its polished metallic finish.

Choose between hues with names like Brick Red, Emerald Green, and Cobalt Blue for the best luggage fit depending on your aesthetic taste and budget.

The TSA approved security locks are also a great addition to this piece, keeping your checked items safe and regulation ready for flight. This model helps put the hard or soft luggage debate to bed, providing you with a high-end piece of luggage that will last you for years and years to come.

iFLY Carbon Racing Hard Sided Large Checked Luggage

The iFLY Carbon Racing Hard Sided Large Checked Luggage is an excellent option for those who just can’t fit it all in a carry on!

The outer material is tough on hard surfaces but flexible enough to protect against any potential cracks. In addition, though the hard case luggage appears heavy it is in fact made using an incredibly lightweight material so you can save weight for the items that truly matter.

This Carbon Racing hard shell suitcase does not come with a built in lock, however, it is possible to add on a TSA approved side lock which you can attach to the bag’s two zips.

Potential buyers should be aware that there have been some issues with the quality of the zipper, however, iFLY’s customer service team is ready and incredibly helpful with any suitcase malfunctions you may incur.

SwissGear Wiese 20 Inch Hardside Spinner Suitcase

SwissGear is another fantastic brand with a real commitment to classy and dependable luggage.

The SwissGear Wiese 20-inch Hardside Spinner suitcase has a solid build with a shiny black gloss for a classic and elegant look.

The hard case luggage is also the perfect size to fit in one of the overhead compartments as a carry-on bag. The aluminum locking handle is sturdy, allowing you to easily control the movement of your suitcase while moving through the airport.

While there is no storage on the outside of the suitcase, the interior zippered compartments provide more than enough storage room for any must-have in-flight items.

So – Which One Should I Choose?

Whether you do it for business or pleasure, any well-seasoned traveler knows that finding the best lightweight suitcase for international travel is extremely important.  Upgrading from your hand-me-down college suitcase to invest in a sturdier luggage model can really help you to streamline your travel experience.

When trying to decide between hard side luggage vs soft side luggage, the perfect bag is really going to depend on your travel style. If you’re looking for a little more flexibility and space to pack in more on your flight, try a soft case carry-on luggage.

If you’re looking to transport large fragile items in your checked bag, I suggest trying a hard case luggage option. Whatever you end up choosing, try to keep in mind the bag’s size, function, and extra amenities you may need for future travels.

Remember: you’re investing not only in the traveler you are today, but also the kinds of journeys you may go on in the future.

Infographic: How to Choose Between Hard and Soft Luggage

HardCase Vs soft Luggage inforgraphic

Steven Saunders

Steven Saunders Author

Hi! I am Steven Saunders! This is my personal blog and I am TRULY happy to see you here! During the past years, I have been writing reviews of some of the most popular products you can find on the web. I love doing that, and I would love to hear what you think about my reviews!

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