If you’re trying to decide between hardside and softside luggage, it can be a tough choice. There are pros and cons to each depending on what kind of traveling you do and which feature sets are important to you.
To start, let’s just say that we’re bigger fans of softside luggage. Most of our luggage lines are softside, although we do offer a few models of hardside bags. (And I’ll even admit to wanting one of those brushed aluminum briefcases when I was a kid because they looked so cool.) We’ve found that more people want softside bags and we have followed the market demands.
Here are a few differences between the two styles:
First, softside luggage is usually lighter than the hardshell bags. For example, our Maxlite® 5 21″ spinner weighs 5.4 pounds empty, and it’s one of the lightest carry-on bags in the industry. In some cases, hard shells can be lighter than soft shells because they don’t always have interior reinforcement, but then you could be sacrificing durability for weight.
Speaking of durability, softside bags have a bit of an advantage because hard shell bags can crack and break when they’re dropped. They can do a better job of protecting what’s inside, if the shell is really thick and rigid but again, that comes with additional weight.
Packing may be an issue when you look at the configuration of a hardside versus a softside. For the most part, the hard shell bags are split right in the middle, giving you two nearly-equal halves to pack everything. This can be a bit of a problem if you’re trying to pack bulky items.
On the other hand, a softside bag is usually a single compartment with a flat lid. The whole suitcase is a single packing space, which lets you see how much will fit without a lot of closing and repacking, closing and repacking until you finally get the lid shut.
And space is a problem with hardshell bags. Many of them cannot be expanded, and you certainly can’t compress them to fit into a cramped overhead bin. There, the softsides have the advantage. Not only does the fabric give a little bit, so you can close the lid a little more easily, but many of them come with expansion zippers that give you a couple extra inches of room.
Softside bags also have added accessibility in the forms of exterior pockets. Nearly all of our softside carry-on bags have pockets for water bottles, folders, reading material, and even a large exterior pocket to stick a light jacket or your laptop. We even offer some carry-on models in our Crew™ 11 and Platinum® Elite collections that feature a small pocket for your rechargeable battery pack that integrates with an external USB port so you can charge your phone while you move.
For many business travelers, the softside bags are the preferred choice, especially for carry-ons. They’re lightweight, have external pockets for extra storage and convenience, they can hold more, fit into tighter spaces, and packing is much easier because of the single compartment. Keeping them clean and dry isn’t a problem for many business travelers, since you’re usually going from the apartment to your car to the hotel, and so on. If you’re worried about the elements, our bags feature a DuraGuard® coating which protects the bags from moisture and abrasions.
Photo credit: Max•Lite 5 21″ Spinner (Travelpro Luggage)