Hardside Luggage Vs Softside Luggage – These Are The Differences

Hardside Luggage Vs Softside Luggage – These Are The Differences

Why do many people choose Softside luggage, and why do some people swear by hard-side luggage? What are the differences when comparing hardside luggage vs softside luggage? The choice usually comes down to personal preference, but what are the reasons for choosing either of them? I’ve taken a closer look at both options for you and found the following distinctions when comparing the options.


Soft-side – Flexibility Is The Winner For Many

As mentioned above, most travellers prefer a soft-side suitcase, which is typically made of nylon or similar softer materials. One of those materials is also used to make parachutes and therefore known as the parachute material (it is nylon), which, as you can imagine, is a super lightweight.

These materials all have the same thing in common, they are flexible, yet strong enough to hold your luggage and belongings safe. This flexibility also means for you that you can stuff way more pieces of clothing and accessories and shoes and souvenirs etc. (I think you get what I’m talking about) into it as your soft suitcase will just bend outwards a bit more.

Many times you can get expandable versions, which only takes undoing a zipper to be able to fit the extra luggage in. This is much preferable than having to heave around an extra piece of luggage. Another great feat of the soft-side’s flexibility is that you will also find it easier to fit the suitcase into tight spaces and once you’re done travelling, you can store them away using much less room than hard-side suitcase.

Tougher Than You Think

softsided carry on

Don’t be deceived by the name, Softside luggage features materials that are quite resistant and won’t get torn or break easily. They are easy to clean should you spill something on them, won’t break easily if you bang into something or should your luggage be handled roughly (which most likely it will be at some point). A few dents or scratches on your soft-side will not make a difference to your luggage; many times you won’t even notice it.

Even though they’re called soft-side, many of them have reinforced shells and because of that are not completely flexible. They still have many of the perks as your average soft-side, but offer the feature of an extra strong exterior.

Reasons For Buying A Softside

We’ve already mentioned the flexibility and resistance of the soft materials, not to forget the lighter weight, which will come in handy if you have to lift your luggage into a car.

Another bonus are the expandable versions, which you won’t find in a hard-side suitcase.
Soft-sides sometimes come with exterior pockets, which can be very handy for keeping your passport and tickets in for quick access during transit. These pockets are usually or can be secured with a lock to keep your valuables safe from pickpockets.

Softside mostly feature two or more interior compartments to make it easier to store away and access your belongings. This is also a plus if you’re traveling around quite a bit and might just stay a night or two in each place and don’t feel like unpacking the bag every time. A soft-side suitcase is easier to maneuver around and pack into tight spaces, such as car boots and later into storage in your cupboard.

Make sure you choose a good quality suitcase though. You don’t want to choose cheap material, which might rip or tear easily. This would also make the case much less secure.

Hard-side – Best Choice In Protecting Your Fragile Belongings

hardside luggage

If you are packing items that might break easily, you might want to consider buying a hard-side suitcase. These are rigid and won’t bend easily under pressure. Many are made of polycarbonate, which is lightweight and durable. Of course, many times the soft-side suitcases are lighter still.

The best option if you’re looking for less weight but maximum durability would be ultra-lightweight hard-sided luggage. If on the other hand you are looking for maximum durability and are not so worried about the weight, then aluminium would be your number one choice.

Resilient And Secure, But Inflexible

Although a hard-side suitcase will definitely protect your fragile items better than a soft-side, it also has its downsides. Though it shows better resilience to impact, the hard-side is likely to show wear and tear quicker.

Marks, scratches and dents will leave a lasting impression on the exterior and sometimes dents might not come out at all and might even damage the case to the point that it needs replacing. This is more so the case when you’re choosing luggage of a lesser quality.

Better quality will give a very durable and resilient piece of luggage. Most times these come without the option of expansion, so you won’t be able to pack anything extra, which you would be able to with a soft-side suitcase.

Hard-sides usually don’t have outside pockets (so they can’t be picked) and are more secure as most of them have inbuilt locks. The hard case material also won’t be able to cut open like a soft-side might either.

No More Overpacking

hardside luggage inside

The 50/50 split opening you see with most hard-sides is a bonus and drawback at the same time. You will need more room to open your suitcase, unless it is one of the few that comes with a lid opening; otherwise, it will take up twice the space, as you will always have to open the whole case to access anything. This might be impractical in smaller rooms or when realising you forgot to put your jacket in.

On the other hand, it helps packing the two sides equally and you can access either one side or the other without having to lift through everything first. The rigidity of the case will definitely stop you from overpacking, as you just won’t be able to squeeze in anything extra.

Consider that a hard-side probably will take up more space when packing in a car or into storage, but they are great for stacking. (This is perfect for cruise ships.)

Hard-side vs. Soft-side

To sum it all up for you, here are the main points:


Pros: Durable and rigid, great for protecting your fragile belongings

Cons: Inflexible, shows wear and tear, needs more room, not expandable


Pros: Flexible, tough, most expandable, outside pockets, easy access and storage

Cons: Easier to break into, won’t protect fragile items as well

I hope this makes it all a bit easier for you to decide which one is the right choice for you!

Safe and happy travels!

6 Replies to “Hardside Luggage Vs Softside Luggage – These Are The Differences”

  1. Hi there,
    What a great post on these 2 types of luggage. I never knew much about these differences until now. Next time I want to go on a trip I will certainly keep these differences in mind. I am very happy that you have wrote this post. I would love to do some traveling soon and now I know the differences in order to keep my luggage safe and protected. Thanks for sharing 🙂
    Best regards,

    1. Hi Daniel,

      Thanks for your message. You are very welcome and I hope you get to go on some traveling adventures soon! 🙂

  2. I have been considering getting a hard side since I had my first one in my college days, but I never got around to it. I like it for the protection it give and its durability but I was never sure of all the pros and cons when compared to soft side luggage. The 50/50 split packing is a con for me that I had never thought of. I can just imagine opening the luggage and the belt snap holders on one side coming apart and all my stuff on the floor lol. But it still gives good protection for fragile items, so I have a lot to consider. Good info to have!

    1. Hi Yemi,

      Most hardsides do have the split opening, but some of them come with a quick access front panel to solve that problem. As long as you have enough room to open the suitcase the split opening shouldn’t be a problem though. If you are worried about the belt snap holders, there are some really good quality ones that are sure to last and endure quite some weight too.
      Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  3. This is very interesting and very informative, I love it! I did not know the difference between soft-sided and hard-shell luggage until now! It will help me to choose proper ones depending what I have to carry now. Thank you for sharing!

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