Hardside vs. Softside Luggage: Which Is Better?

We made an in-depth comparison of hardside vs. softside luggage. Use it to help you find the best luggage for your travel adventures.

Walking into a luggage store can be daunting. With countless brands and styles to choose from, finding the perfect fit is a challenge. Hardside vs softside luggage is one of the primary style differences, and unless you’re a suitcase expert, choosing between the two can be overwhelming.

Travel aficionados know that picking the right luggage is crucial. The decision is dependent on your travel style and priorities. To simplify the process, we’re comparing hardside vs softside luggage options. This way, you can make an informed choice that aligns perfectly with your needs.

Hardside Luggage

man walking with hardsided vs softsided luggage

Although ubiquitous, hardshell suitcases aren’t guaranteed to be superior to their soft equivalents, which have long had a reputation of being the luggage of choice. While hardshell models have recently evolved to include trendy, fashionable features from brands such as Samsonite and Away, the question remains: which option fares best in the rigors of airport life?

Hardside Luggage Pros

Water Resistance 

When we travel around the world, we face all sorts of conditions, from rainy weather to baggage handling. It’s easy to worry about what could happen to our luggage, but hardshell suitcases offer peace of mind. The rigid structure provides protection against spills and weather while being incredibly durable. Additionally, hard-sided luggage is usually water-resistant, preventing unpleasant odors that may accumulate in soft-sided luggage over time.

For anyone looking for a sturdy and reliable option, a hard-shell case is a great choice. Not only is it resistant to damage, but it’s also easy to maintain and keep clean.

Protection for Breakable Valuables 

Many people travel with fragile items of great value, such as expensive cameras, iPads, and laptops. This holds particularly true for those with good good quality carry-on luggage, which typically consists of hard shells made from polycarbonate, capable of withstanding some inevitable knocks. However, a lot can happen between leaving home and reaching your destination. A hard-sided bag can provide some much-needed reassurance when carrying precious belongings.


While it may seem trivial, most individuals seek a chic luggage set that complements their travel ensemble. Ideally, we opt for bags that are both appealing and easy to discern amidst a sea of identical luggage. As previously noted, many hard-shell cases come out on top in terms of aesthetics. Therefore, if you’re someone who values the visual appeal of luggage, a hardshell option is a safe bet when deciding between hardside and softside luggage.

Hardside Luggage Cons

Size Flexibility Is Limited

Although hard-sided luggage has become a popular choice among minimalists, the unpredictable nature of travel often requires a more spacious option. We’ve all found ourselves in that predicament before: packing our bags before departure only to realize insufficient storage capacity on our journey back. Unlike rigid hard shells, soft shell luggage provides flexibility that enables the size to be adjusted based on changing requirements. With an adjustable zipper system, these cases can accommodate additional souvenirs and other collectibles with ease.

When choosing the luggage, think of what you want in a carry-on bag versus a bigger bag. Maybe choosing a more flexible shell would work for bigger trips where you’ll be shopping. In the case of short weekend getaways or for a more minimal traveler who won’t need extra space, the hard shell may work just fine for you.

Damage Shows Up Easier

A rigid exterior is preferable when it comes to protecting your valuables. However, wear and tear may show up more on a hard-sided bag. Small hits may not do much damage, but in the event that your bags take a heavier blow, dents and scratches are more apparent and sometimes impossible to get rid of.

When choosing a bag, it may be good to go with a brand that has high-quality material that won’t mark up as easily. Unfortunately, in most cases it’s inevitable that your bag will get some wear and tear over the years, so just keep this in mind when shopping around. If this is a dealbreaker for you, softside might win in the hardside vs. softside luggage debate.

Softside Luggage

woman rolling softshell luggage hardside vs softside luggage

Soft-shelled luggage may appear to be the quintessential choice compared to its hard-shell counterpart. However, as technology advances and more styles emerge, softside luggage has garnered an eminent position in the fashion market. Besides, soft-shell luggage surpasses its counterpart in several areas. Carefully evaluate the pros and cons before making a choice that suits you.

Softside Luggage Pros


Soft-sided luggage might be the better choice depending on your traveling style. When it comes to flexibility in size and storage, nothing beats a soft-shell bag. Returning with more items than you left will be a breeze when you have a bag that molds to fit your needs. The nylon or canvas-like exterior of softside luggage makes it easy to bend and move around items to get everything to fit.

If you’re a shopping lover, then you should definitely consider getting quality soft-shell luggage. They’re easy to adjust, and the zipper can be used to expand the width of your bag. Plus, if you need to squeeze your bag into an overhead bin on a plane or on a bus, the softer exterior gives you more wiggle room.

Wear and Tear May Not Be as Visible

Compared to their hard-shelled counterparts, soft shell luggage is more resilient and can withstand a lot more rough and tumble. With all the tossing and banging that occurs during airport handling, your soft shell will remain blemish-free. Even if a stain sets in, a simple wipe with a damp cloth should do the trick. Softside luggage exhibits increased resistance to wear and tear, making it a superior choice. For those particular about baggage damage, softside triumphs over hardside alternatives.

Convenient Storage

Soft suitcases can be more convenient for female traveler to store quick-access items or for those who prefer to travel light. They are suitable for carrying carry-on essentials . Most softshells have easily accessible outer pockets where you can easily retrieve your valuables without having to open the entire suitcase, making them ideal for when you’re boarding a flight in a hurry. Additionally, many softside suitcases offer plenty of compartments with smaller pockets that can be a real lifesaver for small items like keys, cards, or other trinkets. Simplify packing with softshells and enjoy an effortless traveling experience!

Softside Luggage Cons

No Water Resistance

Despite their flexibility and durability, soft-shell luggage often has a significant drawback. Due to their canvas or nylon construction, most soft-side bags are not water-resistant. A sudden downpour or liquid spill during travel could easily damage the exterior and potentially the contents of the bag. This is especially concerning if you plan to visit a rainy region. Furthermore, repeated exposure to water can lead to an unpleasant odor developing in the luggage over time, which could ruin your packing and travel experience.

Damage Might Be Harder to Avoid

As we mentioned earlier, hardside luggage could be your go-to option for protecting fragile valuables. For packing electronics or fragile items, the softer bags may not be able to provide as much protection. Imagine your valuables getting squished while loading your luggage onto a plane or even a bus. Not an ideal scenario, right? To avoid this nightmare, you can implement some of these packing tips and avoid issues in the process.

Hardside Vs. Softside Luggage

When it comes to traveling, it’s all about personal preference. Like deciding between a tropical paradise and a ski resort, you need to have a clear idea of what you want. Quality is key too, so when picking between hardside vs softside luggage, ensure it’s from a reputable brand. Bear in mind, it’s important to invest in luggage that lasts and suits your needs.

hardside vs. softside luggage. which is better?