Hard Versus Soft Luggage: Which Is Best For Your Travel Needs?

July 06, 2015 4 min read


While the casual traveler may be able to get away with grabbing whatever bag is in their closet and hitting the road, those who travel more frequently or who are embarking on a longer journey need to make careful luggage choices.


One of the most important features to consider early on when purchasing luggage is the kind of shell or case a suitcase has. Soft case luggage serves very different purposes and will need to be packed differently from hard case luggage. What kind you choose will depend on what you’re packing, how far you’re going, and how you’re getting there, among other factors. That means the best place to start when it comes to choosing the right luggage is with the details of the trip ahead.


Choosing The Right Luggage For Your Travel Needs

There are several questions you should stop and consider when you decide to invest in new luggage for a trip. By going through these questions step by step you can be certain no detail has been missed and that you have the right luggage for the job.


  • Where are you going?Is your luggage going to be exposed to the elements during your trip? If it’s likely that your luggage will get wet, hard sided luggage may offer the better protection, especially if you have electronics on board.
  • How long is your trip? This question of course comes with several others, such as will you have access to laundry on your trip? This is all about how much you will need to pack. Hard luggage offers less leeway when it comes to squeezing in that extra pair of pants, whereas soft luggage offers some room for expansion.
  • What mode of transportation are you using?Will you be trying to squeeze your bag into an overhead compartment, shoving it under a bus, or hopping public transit? Soft luggage will fit more easily into overhead compartments because of its flexibility, but hard luggage will hold up to being thrown around if you’re transferring a lot. Be careful not to overestimate the give of a stuffed soft case suitcase, though – you don’t want to find yourself trying to jam an oversized carry-on into your compartment with a line of people growing impatient behind you.
  • What are you packing?If you’re packing anything delicate, you could resort to cushioning it in a pile of clothes, or you could just choose a hard shell suitcase and protect your belongings that way. Also, don’t forget about the return trip – will you be bringing back a lot of souvenirs or presents? You may not leave home with anything fragile, but consider what kinds of things you might acquire in the course of your travels and what kind of protection those things might need.
  • Will you be moving your luggage around a lot?If you’re going to be carrying your luggage between places or lifting it frequently, you may be better off with soft case luggage because it’s lighter. Hard shell luggage trades protection for weight, and that should be taken into consideration.
  • Do you travel often?Hard case luggage may ultimately be the more durable choice at the end of the day if you travel frequently, but depending on the material, soft case luggage can last a long time.


Why Choose Hard Luggage

Hard sided Lightweight Luggage


There is a secret about hard luggage that only some of the most experienced travelers know. The secret is that if you’re trying to meet airline weight restrictions, extra light luggage is almost always of the hard case variety. This is because the tough, protective materials needed to make hard sided luggage can also be manipulated to be super lightweight in ways that the fabric used in soft case luggage cannot be. When shaving those valuable pounds off of a suitcase, this difference in material can be vital.


Take this as a warning to not assume that soft case luggage is always the lightest. It may cost a bit more to buy the extra lightweight hard case luggage, but if you travel frequently, the savings in airline overweight fees will add up quickly.


The Strengths of Soft Luggage

Soft sided Lightweight Luggage

Soft luggage can get a bad rap when it comes to snags and tears in the fabric, but a careful look at the material details can help you to choose ultra-durable soft shell luggage. Look for the denier level indicated on the luggage label. The higher the denier level, the higher the quality of the fabric used to make the suitcase and the less likely it will rip under frequent use. Most people don’t know to look at denier level, but if you’re concerned about having luggage with some extra give that won’t break down after a few trips, this is the information you’ll need.


The Final Verdict


At the end of the day, you may end up with even tally marks for both hard case and soft case luggage, so the very best thing you can do before investing is take some luggage for a test drive. Borrow from a friend, practice packing, and pull it around the block a few times. How does it feel? Is a hard sided case too heavy in the size you need? Don’t forget to consider questions of scale. You may love how hard case luggage handles as a carry-on piece, but find it too heavy for checked luggage. Particularly if you’ll be traveling alone, make sure you don’t choose something you find too unwieldy to manage.


Luggage is a big investment, so don’t choose pieces that will break down after a few trips. You’ll find yourself regretting the waste of money. Instead, contact the luggage professionals at Zoomlite. Zoomlite offers several excellent luggage choices in both soft case and hard case varieties. With different sizes and designs to choose from, you’re sure to find just the thing to fit your specific travel needs. Let Zoomlite help make your next trip a success.

About to head off on a trip...

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