What Is Soft Sided Luggage?

What Is Soft Sided Luggage?

To give you the very short answer to what is soft sided luggage, it is luggage made from soft materials, such as polyester, ballistic nylon, canvas or leather.

Soft sided luggage does not usually mean that the whole bag has to be soft like a stuffed pillow case or a duffel bag. It really only refers to the outer material, like the ones mentioned above.


There are however some instances where there are only soft bags allowed, for example, sometimes on very small planes there is not enough room to accommodate for bags that are in some way stiff or bulky, as bags might have to be squashed into tight spots.

In this case, you would be made aware of what kind of bag is allowed and there would be quite a few restrictions to size, weight and also what you can carry in your bag.


The materials for soft sided luggage are quite common and probably quite familiar, because many of the materials are also used for day-to-day items, such as clothing or handbags; you might have seen the care instructions with the name of the material on it.

How Do You Tell A Good Soft Sided Material?

One thing to keep in mind is the denier rating of some soft materials such as polyester, nylon and canvas.

A rule is that the higher the denier count the stronger (not the better) the material. It is therefore rather easy to tell how durable fabric will be. The higher the denier count, the more durable.

What Is Denier Count?

It is a unit of measurement to determine fiber thickness of single threads used in making textiles and fabrics.

To explain a bit further:

One single strand of silk is measured as one denier. This measurement is defined as the mass of 9000 meters of fiber, which means that denier tells you about fiber thickness as well as its weight in grams (1 denier = 1 gram per 9000 meters).

Manufacturers use the denier count to make sure their materials are strong enough for the product they are making. Denier count these days is most commonly associated with synthetics like polyester and nylon, but originally it was used to measure natural fibers such as cotton and silk.

As mentioned, the higher the denier count the better for luggage, as it also means it’s thicker, heavier, sturdier and more durable the material will be.

A low count doesn’t necessarily mean it is low quality, but rather that the fabric might be soft and silky.

What Is A Good Denier Count For Luggage?

A higher denier count is usually better when it comes to luggage, as it means it’s a thicker fiber and stronger at holding your belongings.

A good range for larger and more frequently used luggage is between 500 and 2000 denier count. Keep in mind that the higher the count or rating, the heavier the luggage will be.

What Is The Best Material For Soft Sided Luggage?

One of the better choices for soft sided luggage material is either ballistic nylon or cordura.

Ballistic nylon was initially invented during WWII and was intended for protective gear, such as to protect from shrapnel, bullets and other ballistic impacts that could occur to aircraft personnel. That is where it gets its name.

It is known to be a thick fabric, very durable and easy to clean, as well as being quite resistant to abrasion and tearing.

Its downside is that it is hard to dye and there are usually not too many colour choices and many times it is between black and other darker colours.

Cordura is also a durable fabric, resistant to abrasions, tearing and scuffing. However, it has a higher resistance to abrasions than ballistic nylon, but a lower resistance to tearing than ballistic nylon.

It also weighs a little less than ballistic nylon and dyes easily, which means there are many colour choices for luggage made with cordura.

There is also the option of leather, which, if it is high quality top grain or full grain leather, will be durable, strong and flexible.

What Are The Pros Of Soft Sided Luggage?

Most times it is easier to compress and flex the soft sided suitcases, so if it needs to fit in a tighter space such as an overhead bin, it might be easier to do so with soft cases. Also, you might be able to put a few extra items in a soft sided bag.

Of course these days there are hard sided cases that expand and also compress, but they are still rigid.

Many times soft sided luggage is lighter than some of their hard sided counter parts, although there have been quite some advancements there with lighter materials for hard sided luggage.

Often it comes down to preference when it comes to deciding whether to buy soft or hard sided luggage.

What Are The Cons Of Soft Sided Luggage?

Soft case materials are many times more prone to dirt and stains, therefore it is always a good idea to research how to clean them.

Soft sided luggage is not the best way to transport fragile items. If you have something you need to transport from A to B without breaking, it might be better to choose hard sided luggage.

Depending on the quality of the material of your luggage, they might be more prone to ripping. It might also make it easier for thieves to slash your suitcase and steal your items.

What Is The Lightest Soft Sided Luggage Material?

Keep in mind that while some of the lightest luggage options might be made of polyester, this is not the strongest or the most durable material when it comes to luggage. Of course other factors come in when determining weight, such as what the frame might be made of etc.

So just remember that the lightest might not be the best quality (The higher the denier count, the heavier the luggage). Polyester for example is the cheapest option for soft sided luggage.

I hope this post answered some of your questions. Let me know your thoughts and comments and I will get back to you soon.

Safe and happy travels!

10 Replies to “What Is Soft Sided Luggage?”

  1. This is quite informative albeit the first time i am hearing about soft sided luggage. I am so used to seeing hard sided luggage everywhere.

    I like the materials you say it is made from and the lightness and ability to fit into tight spaces is really a draw on why i would be looking to get one of these before my next travels.

    Thanks

    1. Yes I know what you mean, hard sided luggage is definitely more common in shops these days. But there is still a lot to say for soft sided luggage 

  2. Thank you for explaining about soft sided luggage. I’ve heard about it but somewhat hesitate to buy and use it. I’m not sure whether soft sided luggage can be carried under rain or snow weather? I personally think this luggage is suitable for short trip or short distance traveling. For long distance or trip, I still prefer to use hard sided luggage

    1. It depends on the material and the quality thereof. Nylon is usually quite good for any weather, but just read the specifications for each suitcase. Soft sided luggage is perfectly suited for long distance travel, especially if you want to be able to add some extra items. 

  3. You are spot on with the information you have written concerning the soft side luggage. I have like two polyester soft sided luggage here and I do take them on my travelling. 

    I like the fact that they can be compressed and suit littler spaces than they fit in normally and as such, makes it much more a better option but the big problem with them is the fact that they get dirty very easily. 

    Also, due to them getting compressed easily, they can spoil fragile materials placed in them. But other than those, they are totally great an prefect for use. Thanks

  4. Thank you for the information on soft sided luggage. This is very useful as there are times I have seen requirements for travel and I did not know what soft sided luggage meant.

    I now understand why it is necessary to have this. I like that luggage kept in soft sided suitcases can be compressed to fit a smaller space. Thank you for the clarification on transporting fragile items. 

    This is a very useful and informative post. Thank you for taking your time.

  5. I want to say thank you for the in-sighted info about Soft Sided Luggage,  I actually needed to learn more about such bag because I’ve had a bad experience handling my luggage that are soft sided and i tend to blame the manufacturers all the time, the ones I’ve used before don’t always last long and always disappoint at times i needed it most even on the road. 

    With the great knowledge you have provided i think i know how to shop for quality ones when next i want to buy a soft sided luggage again. Thank you for the info. 

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