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It’s the age old debate when it comes to suitcases: hard vs soft luggage? What’s best? Find out as our readers share their opinions on the best type of luggage!


Hard Sided vs Soft Sided Luggage



Table Of Contents



Travel Fashion Girl Help! A reader asks:


Buying luggage today. What are people’s thoughts on hardside vs. softside luggage?


One of the most common questions people ask about luggage is whether or not to buy hard or soft luggage. There isn’t a simple answer, as there are pros and cons to both, and it partially depends on a traveler’s preference.


Read the ultimate guide on how to choose a suitcase!


While I own both styles, I do prefer a soft suitcase vs a hardside because of the opening. I like having a simple, rectangular suitcase with a wide open space that I can customize with luggage organizers. I don’t like having built in internal compartments within my luggage as I don’t use them.

This type of wheeled luggage was especially useful for me as a long-term traveler. A soft suitcase like the Osprey Ozone allows me to pack things like scuba diving gear that wouldn’t have fit very easily in a hard shell due to its rigid shape.

The one time where a hardside suitcase was an absolute lifesaver was when I traveled to London from my home in the countryside during a snow storm. I had to trudge through the streets to get to the train station and that would not have been fun with a soft side. Using the hard side suitcase in wet or snowy weather was a major benefit!

Another time when I do find a hardside suitcase better than a soft side is when I share a carry-on on short trips. Each traveler gets a side making it extremely useful to keep our own belongings organized.


You’ll want to look your best when you travel! Read my travel tips to Pack Light Stylishly!



To find out the pros and cons of using soft vs hard luggage, I turned to our readers so their opinion can help you choose what’s best for you:



The Benefits of Hard Case Luggage




Delsey Paris Helium Aero


Hard shell suitcases are everywhere, and they look chic. Plus, if you aren’t using it as a carry on, they won’t get as damaged or beat up during air travel. TFG readers have given their expert input on why they prefer hard case luggage, too! 


Many TFG readers prefer the two halves of hard cases, because they’re much easier to pack and organize. One reader says, “I put my shoes and other things on the zip side, and my clothes in about three packing cubes on the other side. I like that the smaller things are zipped up and secure.”

Others mention that they have more peace of mind with hard case suitcases, especially with how rough luggage can be handled at airports and while in transit. A hard shell won’t budge under pressure, so your belongings inside will be safe and sound, even with harsh impact or consistent pressure. When traveling with fragile items or electronics, readers tend to opt for a hardside. 




Away The Carry On


Hard suitcases can also protect your belongings from unexpected weather or spills. One TFG reader agrees, sharing, “I had a bad experience with some kind of alcohol leaking all over my soft side suitcase when debarking a ship. Everything was soaked inside my suitcase. And it wasn’t my booze! I feel a bit more protected with the hard shell.”



Check out what’s inside the Away suitcase in this video review!


Additionally, hard suitcases are often very lightweight and spacious, and are sometimes even lighter than soft suitcases! This is a big plus when trying to keep your baggage weight to a minimum, or when you’re traveling carry on only and want to keep things as light as possible. 


We’ve rounded up some of the best hardside luggage. Take a look at our twelve fabulous finds!



More Reader-Recommended Hardside Luggage




Shop: Walmart


Delsey Paris Helium Aero 21” Hardside Expandable Luggage


The Delsey Helium Aero 21” Hardside will make you feel like a queen as you glide down the airport with ease. It’s lightweight and the spinner wheels make for a smooth ride. It can expand up to 2” for extra packing space (or to even add the odd souvenir or two), and there’s any easy one-button locking system. It weighs a fairly light 8.4 lbs!

It comes in beautiful, bright colors that are easily recognizable from afar, and the durable, scratch-resistant cover will ensure it looks just as good off the plane as it did getting on! 

The Delsey Helium 19” version is a great carryon option for European flights, if you’re headed that way.




Shop: Samsonite


Samsonsite Omni 20” Hardside Expandable Luggage


Samsonite’s Omni 20” makes for effortless travel at only 6.8 lbs! The 20” size fits in the overhead compartment of most major airlines, the 360-degree wheel spinners are easy to maneuver, and its scratch-resistant polycarbonate shell will most definitely hold up against all the rigors of a trip. 

Users rave about the quality and security due to the TSA side mounted locks! The Omni comes in a variety of colors too, including some fun, bright options. Also available as part of a 3-piece luggage set!




Shop: Travelpro


Travelpro Maxlite Air 21” Hard Case Spinner Wheel Luggage


The Travelpro Maxlite Air 21” comes highly rated and recommended by our readers. It has such a sleek look, and its incredible design and functionality allow you to stroll through the airport with style and ease. This is a lightweight option at only 6.3 lbs yet the exterior is tough enough to handle impact and stay looking fab! 

The wheels are smooth and sturdy, and the handle is adjustable, with a comfy, ergonomic grip. The Maxlite Air comes in a variety of pretty colors, too! 

Some of our readers have reported using this 21” for international travel, but the 20” carryon may be a safer bet, especially for European travel!  



The Benefits of Soft Case Luggage




TravelPro Maxlite 5 Softside Suitcase


Soft shell suitcases may be traditional, but that doesn’t mean they’re old school. There are a number of modern styles made from durable fabrics. Many TFG readers are “team soft side luggage,” and have given some great reasons why! 


While some readers like the two halves of a hard shell, a lot of TFGs actually find that much less convenient. The top opening of a softshell is quick and easy to open in tight spaces, especially on an airplane! 

TFGs say that having one, deep space to fill is much more practical, and they can fit a lot more in a softside, because the fabric has a bit more give. Softside suitcases can usually squeeze into overhead bins a little bit easier, and some readers report having trouble fitting their hard shell suitcases into those overhead compartments.


Read TFG’s review to out why our readers can’t stop raving about the Travelpro Maxlite 5!




Samsonite Solyte DLX Suitcase | Kohl’s


Another common issue that readers bring up is being able to set their case on a suitcase stand in a hotel. Many feel a soft case is easy to handle.  One reader reiterates this, “I use a soft shell case because I like being able to use luggage stands and racks in hotels. I really detest putting my stuff on the floor.”

Overall, readers say soft side suitcases are lightweight, much more packable, and tend to be easier to work with. A TFGer says, “I’ll only travel with soft sided luggage, it’s lighter and more practical. Plus, they don’t slide around and stack easier.”


These are the best softside suitcases – all in one place!



More Reader-Recommended Softside Luggage




Shop: Macy’s


Delsey Optimax Lite 2.0 20” Softside Expandable Luggage


The Delsey Paris Optimax Lite 2.0 20” is a beauty at 6.9 lbs, with silver metal accents and a beautiful exterior and interior! Constructed of durable and elegant MicroBallistec with twill design included.

The spinner wheels roll so smoothly, and exterior pockets allow for easy access to essentials. Your belongings will stay safe with the zipper locks, and its corner protectors and kick plate will combat the wear and tear of travel. 

Another popular Delsey suitcase is the 21” Paris Max 2.0 Carry On, which is made of a super durable micro ballistic fabric, neoprene handles, and nine pockets for major organization! It’s lightweight but very resilient. 




Shop: Kohl’s


Kenneth Cole Reaction Chelsea 20” Softside 8-Wheel Spinner Suitcase


Kenneth Cole’s Chelsea 20” Suitcase is super stylish! The polyester-twill exterior not only looks great, but holds up super well. It has eight multi-directional spinner wheels for the smoothest of rides where you won’t feel the weight! 

Great interior organization allows you to perfectly fit everything you need, and at a mere 6.4 lbs, it definitely won’t weigh you down. In fact, because it’s on the smaller side, some users report being able to use this as their personal item!




Shop: Tumi | Nordstrom | Macy’s


Tumi Alpha 3 Continental 4 Wheeled 22” Carry-On Soft Luggage 


Though at a higher price tag, the Tumi is popular with TFG readers for frequent trips and its ability to last years and years. The Alpha 3 Continential Carry On is 22” and weighs a light 11.1 lbs. It’s roomy too, expanding to 11” when packed and the compartments are well designed to accommodate a wide range of clothes and shoes (having a garment sleeve and a hanger bracket). 

With extras like a USB port and dual TSA locks, this also moves like a dream down plane aisles.



What About a Hybrid Suitcase?




Osprey Transporter Hybrid Carry On


Yes, there’s such a thing! To address travelers’ concerns and desires about hardside vs. softside, many brands offer hybrid suitcases, which is a hard case on one side and a soft case on the other. Readers share some great reasons why they love hybrid suitcases.


Readers love that hybrids have the protection and durability of a hardshell, with the wiggle room and single opening of a softside. One reader shares that the soft part can be compact or expanded, while the hard part keeps your belongings protected from being crushed or from rough impact. 

Hybrid carry ons have the flexibility of a softside suitcase, so they’re able to be maneuvered into tight spaces or stuffed into small overhead bins, which readers really like, too. 


Here is a quick list of the best luggage brands according to top travel experts!



More Reader-Recommended Hybrid Luggage




Shop: Osprey


Osprey Transporter 38L Carry On Wheeled Luggage


Readers LOVE Osprey, and the Transporter Hyprid Wheeled Luggage is a fantastic pick that offers 38L of storage in an incredibly durable package! The material is waterproof and super strong, while the spacious interior is super easy to pack. 

The padded front sleeve will keep your laptop safe, and its multiple interior and exterior pockets will keep you organized!




Shop: Osprey


Osprey Transporter 40 Rolling Duffle Bag


Osprey has done it again with this awesome Transporter Rolling Duffle Bag that gives you plenty of storage space while still being compact enough to use as a carry-on (for most major airlines!). Its aluminum structure is strong and reliable, yet lightweight for easy rolling or carrying!

The zippers are lockable and it comes with rain flap protection, so you’ll have peace of mind with this one.


Check out our readers recommendations for the most lightweight rolling duffel bags!




Shop: Eddie Bauer | Macy’s


Eddie Bauer Expedition 22 Duffel 2.0


The Eddie Bauer’s Expedition 2.0 Rolling Duffel is efficient, easy to carry and maneuver, and holds up super well over time. It fits almost all airlines’ carry-on requirements, and its organizational features make traveling so easy! The inner compartment is split up into three sections, and compression straps keep everything snug.



Hard Sided vs Soft Sided Luggage Comparison Chart


[wpsm_comparison_table id=”399″ class=”center-table-align”]






Whichever style you end up choosing, always use packing cubes. They’re the ultimate tool to travel in a carryon! They changed everything for me and millions of our readers. See my packing tutorial on how to use them! Trust me, they are a must!




Apple AirTags


Luggage Tags


A super practical addition to your new suitcase is a luggage tag! TFG readers have been raving about luggage tags, and highly recommend them for every trip. 

Luggage tags are handy little trackers that you attach to your belongings and then track through an app on your phone. The most popular option in the TFG community is Apple Airtags, which hooks up to the Find My iPhone app so you can see where your item is in real time. Readers say they’ve been lifesavers in finding lost luggage in an airport! 

For non-iPhone users, readers recommend the Samsung Galaxy SmartTag and the TilePro, which are compatible with Android devices, and the TilePro also works for iOS. 

Luggage tags are not only handy for your luggage but for your purse, keys, wallet, or even your parked car. You can enjoy your vacation with the utmost peace of mind!




Left: Compass Rose Medium Packing Cubes (13″ x 8.5″ x 2.8″) | Right: Compass Rose Slim Packing Cubes (13″ x 5″ x 2.8″)


How to Pack Your Travel Clothing


It’s time to pack your clothing to prepare for your big trip! Many readers use our packing cubes for this task.

The Compass Rose Packing Cubes are now offered in two sizes: slim and medium. The slim size cubes measure 13 x 5 x 2.8, and the medium size cubes measure 2.8 x 13 x 8.5. Both fit an international carry-on suitcase and can help you organize and compress clothing items. The medium sizes is great for bulkier items.

If you’d like more help on learning how to use packing cubes, see the video below.



Watch this video to start learning how to organize with packing cubes!


We also put together a five-part YouTube series showing the different methods to use packing cubes for travel. If you use this specific packing strategy, packing cubes can also compress your belongings. This method has helped many women travel carry-on only!



What are your thoughts on hard shell vs soft shell luggage? Share in the comments below!


For more suitcase recommendations, please read:





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