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.

If you’ve ever walked into a luggage store it can be hard to know exactly where to start. With rows and rows of different brands and styles to choose from, finding the perfect fit can be pretty overwhelming. One of the main style differences you may see is hardside vs. softside luggage. Unless you’re well-versed in suitcase technology, it can be hard to know which one is right for you.

Avid travelers know that a great luggage set is an important part of traveling. When it comes to choosing between the two, it all depends on your travel style and personal priorities. In order to ease the decision-making process, we’re breaking down hardside vs. softside luggage so you can see what the best option for you is.

Hardside Luggage

man walking with hardsided vs softsided luggage

We see them everywhere. Hardshell suitcases may seem like the millennial luggage of choice, but this doesn’t necessarily make them better than their softer counterparts. Hardshell suitcases have sprung up as a stylish choice for many travelers. There are tons of popular brands like Samsonite and Away offering innovative choices in their sleek designs. But how do these Instagram friendly suitcases fare when it comes to airport life?

Hardside Luggage Pros

Water Resistance 

Our travels can take us anywhere around the world with many types of conditions. Let’s face it, none of us really know what happens when we send our luggage on that belt to be loaded on to the plane. Choosing a hardshell suitcase can be comforting. With the hardshell case, you’re protected against any rainy weather conditions or even accidental spills that can happen during the chaos of traveling. Because hard-sided luggage is usually water resistant, you can avoid certain odors that soft-sided luggage may develop over the years.

If durability and weather is a concern for you then a hard-sided case may be a good place to start because of its water-resistance and it’s easy to clean factor.

Protection for Breakable Valuables 

Most people travel with plenty of valuable items that are fragile. It’s extremely common to travel with expensive cameras, iPads and laptops in our luggage, especially when it comes to a good quality carry-on luggage. Most hard shells are made of polycarbonate and, depending on the brand and quality of your luggage, this material is made to withstand a few blows here and there. A lot can happen between leaving your house and arriving at your destination. A hard-sided bag may offer more peace of mind when it comes to traveling with your valuable items.


This one may seem arbitrary, but most people do in fact look for a stylish luggage set that will go along with anything. We normally choose bags that look good and that won’t be hard to distinguish between the sea of bags on the conveyor belt. As we mentioned before, many hard-shell cases win in the aesthetics department. If aesthetics is something you’re into then you can’t go wrong with this style of luggage in the battle of hardside vs softside luggage.

Hardside Luggage Cons

Size Flexibility Is Limited

While many people choose hard-sided luggage for the minimalist effect, travel is unpredictable. You never know when you’re going to need more space. We’ve all been there. We pack our bags and everything seems to fit perfectly on the way there. However, on the way back, it always seems impossible to stuff everything. A hard shell is rigid, meaning it’s not as flexible when it comes to adjusting the size. Most soft shells come with an adjustable zipper that allows more space. This helps you fit in all of those extra souvenirs you picked up.

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 seem like the classic choice between the two types of luggage. With technology advancing and more styles coming out every day, softside luggage can also be a stylish choice. Soft-shell luggage shines in other areas where hard shells do not. So, weigh the pros and cons and see if it’s the right pick for you.

Softside Luggage Pros


Depending on the type of traveler you are, soft-sided luggage may the better choice for you. When it comes to flexibility in size and in storage, a soft shell bag undoubtedly excels. Using the same scenario as above, returning with more items than you left will be easier to manage. Because of its nylon or canvas-like exterior, softside luggage a lot easier to bend and move around items to get things to fit. You can stuff in a lot more when the exterior can mold to fit whatever is inside.

Travelers who tend to shop a lot on their trips should consider getting good quality soft-shell luggage. They are easy to adjust, and if it really comes down to it, you can always use the zipper to expand the width of your bag. Similarly, if you need to squeeze the bag into an overhead bin on a plane or on a bus, you have more wiggle room with a softer exterior.

Wear and Tear May Not Be as Visible

Unlike their hard-shelled cousins, a good quality soft shell luggage can take more of a beating. With all of the tossing and banging that luggage go through during the airport process, your soft shell won’t have as many nicks and dents in it. If something does stain the luggage, it can usually be cleaned with a warm damp cloth. Softside luggage is more durable in that sense because the damage won’t show up as easily. If wear and tear bother you, you might lean more toward softside in the hardside vs. softside luggage options.

Convenient Storage

Whether you’re a female traveler storing quick products to grab or simply a minimalist, a softer shell may be the more convenient option for you. Let’s say you want to pack some carry-on essentials that are easy to grab while you’re boarding. With most soft-shells, you have an accessible pocket on the outside that makes grabbing those essentials much easier. These bags come in handy when you’re in a rush and don’t have time to lay your suitcase down and open it. A lot of softside suitcases have plenty of storage space like small pockets that can be used for things like keys, cards and other small trinkets. These pockets make both packing and finding things later less of a chore.

Softside Luggage Cons

No Water Resistance

Unfortunately, there is a downside to our flexible durable soft-shells. Because most soft-side luggage is made of canvas or nylon material, this means that it is not water-resistant. While traveling, if your bag comes in contact with rain or some type of liquid spill, this could damage the exterior and possibly what’s inside of your bag. If you have to travel to a rainy region of the world, this may be a huge deterrent for you.

Also, over time, repeated exposure to water could cause your luggage to develop an odor. Nobody wants to pack their clothes in a stinky bag on vacation.

Damage Might Be Harder to Avoid

Like we mentioned earlier, hardside luggage can be good for protecting any fragile valuables you may have. The softer bags may not provide as much protection, especially if you’ll be packing electronics or fragile items. When loading your luggage onto a plane or even a bus, you wouldn’t want your valuables to get squished. To avoid this, you can try to use some of these packing tips to help you avoid any issues in this area.

Hardside Vs. Softside Luggage

Like all aspects of travel, it all comes down to preference. Just like choosing between a tropical paradise or a ski resort, you have to know exactly what it is you’re looking for. Finally, the most important thing to remember when choosing hardside vs softside luggage is making sure that the quality is up to par. It won’t matter what type of luggage you choose if it’s a shabby brand that will fall apart in a few months. Ultimately, choosing luggage that will last is the best place to start.

hardside vs. softside luggage. which is better?