Hardside vs Softside Luggage – What’s Your Best Choice?
While backpacking becomes a more and more common type of travelling, most of us need more than just a backpack to contain all of our travelling needs. Or, we don’t care to carry all of our stuff on our backs. A good travel luggage is a must to get the best travelling experience. But the current traveller’s tribe is divided into two factions: the softsiders and the hardsiders (Okay, I made the terms up!). Nevertheless, choosing between softside and hardside travel luggage is a never ending dilemma among travellers. Both have upsides and downsides, and it’s up to you to choose which one fits your needs best.
If you’re torn between the two sides, you need to know them well before you can choose one of the two. While the name seems to tell you all, they have deeper personalities behind those pretty cases. Let’s have a look!
Below the video you can choose to read the full text or, in the table of contents, click on the headline that sounds most interesting!
- The Story Of The Softside
- Making The Hard Decision
- Price And Craftsmanship
- And The Winner Is?
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The Story Of The Softside
In general, softside luggage refers to canvas-like or nylon baggage that can flex under pressure. This type of luggage doesn’t have the firm outside structure like the hardside type, but many people opt for the softside for various reasons. As it seems, the majority of luggage available on the market today is softside.
One reason why softside luggage is sometimes more preferable than hardside is that the softside is more flexible. All thanks to canvas or similar materials from which the luggage is made. Flexibility means that this kind of suitcase can be fit into tight spaces easier. You can also collapse it down to allow extra space for other bags when in storage.
This quality can also go the other way. The softside can be expanded easily. If you are travelling and you know that you will bring more home than what you originally packed, it’s good to know that you can slip in the extras in your bag instead of having to buy another one.
Pockets And Compartments
Soft suitcases are known for their extras. Many come with additional pockets and compartments on the exterior. Since there are always little things that we need to get quick access to on our trip, these small storages are proven to be a popular feature and will surely come in handy somewhere along the way.
If you spend many hours in terminals and in flight, you’ll need quick access to the kinds of stuff that make your journey enjoyable, such as reading materials, documents, passports, water bottle, mobile devices, chargers, tissues, glasses, etc. This quality is an important factor for those who use carry-on bags.
Bump And Scratch Proof
Another good perk of softside bags is that the materials are more bump and scratch proof. If the suitcase has to go through some rough conditions, it will be less likely to leave permanent marks. On most soft bags, you can easily wipe off the scratches with a wet towel. And since it’s flexible, a minor bump won’t be irreparable. You won’t have any problem putting the bag back to its shape.
Are There Any Downsides To Softsides?
Despite their great qualities, soft suitcases are not without their flaws. The first and foremost is their weight. Except for a few quality names and models, most softside bags are weighty and can’t compete with their featherlight hardside counterparts. And in the world where airlines charge your luggage by the weight, using the lightest suitcase options is crucial to your budget.
Next downside in line is protection. Considering that softsides will flex easily with even the slightest press, putting fragile items inside means they can break, especially when you know that your luggage will be stacked and pressed against others during your travel.
It’s worth noting, though, that higher quality soft bags are pretty sturdy with their ballistic nylon bodies.
Making The Hard Decision
The best hardside luggage, on the other hand, have stronger and more rigid outside shells. The purpose is to give more protection to everything that you put inside. While they’re not as popular as the softside types, hardside suitcases have gained popularity recently due to their advantages.
As the name suggests, hardside luggage means that its exterior case is more of a hard shell. You will want to use this kind of luggage if you bring something breakable that needs extra protection. The suitcase won’t bend easily under pressure. As long as it doesn’t go through an extreme wallop, the content should be okay. You could add extra protection by covering the item with soft clothing.
Lighter And Stronger
The hardside is often made of polycarbonate or ABS-plastic. This means you can expect reliable protection in a very light package. In general, hardsides are lighter than most of the softsides. Another advantage of hardsides is the additional structure in design that will add extra strength. It means that you can stack another bag on it without worrying about breaking the shell.
Waterproof And Easier To Clean
Looking at the materials that build the exterior shell of hardside luggage, it’s only logical that this type of suitcase is easier to clean. Dust and dirt can be wiped out easily with a damp cloth, or by using cleaner solution. The suitcases are waterproof, so a little bit of splish and splash – or more – along the road won’t find a way into the interior of the bags.
So What About Downsides To Hardsides?
Despite the advantages, there are some disadvantages to hardside luggage. First, it’s safe to say that (almost) all hardsides comes with no external pockets. So, if you are looking for a place to stash little things that can be easily grabbed, something like the boarding pass or phone charger, hardsides are not your best choice. You need to stop and open the whole case to do that.
Or, you could have a smaller tote or messenger bag with you as well, as your personal item in the cabin.
There’s this story on one of the traveller’s forums about drug scam. It seems that one of the ways drug smugglers use to slip their goods through the customs safely is to put the drugs into the open side pocket of softside bags going around the baggage carousel. If the bag owner gets past the customs, the drug dealer will stop the owner and reclaim their packet. If not, that’s the owner’s problem. Yikes.
Since almost all hardsides don’t have outside pockets, this scam shouldn’t be a problem. But softside users should beware and find ways to protect their bag’s pockets.
Second, strong and rigid can mean inflexibility. In some hardside bags, you can’t expand it to include more things than the maximum capacity. When they’re full, they’re full. If you have more coming back than you did going, you need to purchase additional bags.
But, many hard sides nowadays can be expanded, so just look for that when choosing your bag.
From another perspective, the rigidity can also mean that the case would crack if you put strong pressure on it. Some users reported that when the case is not full, the weight of the stacks above it cracked the shell. We all know too well how the airport staff always stack bags over the others. However, it’s very uncommon nowadays that hardsides crack, due to the new and very durable materials.
The third one is about cosmetics. Some hardside luggage can show wear and tear very quickly. Not only will the bags pick up scratches and blemishes easily, but they may also dent when you accidentally bang your luggage into the wall. The marks will stay as battle wounds for the rest of the bag’s life.
Price And Craftsmanship
The price is mentioned separately because it makes no difference. While common softsides are usually cheaper, the good quality ones are within the same price range as the hardsides. And if you are a frequent traveller, you know better than anyone that investing in good quality luggage is worth every penny. So, when we are comparing the good quality softcases and hardcases, we can rule out the price from the equation.
Speaking of quality, craftsmanship is a factor that you can’t ignore. People say the devil is in the details, and it’s true. Other than the actual case or shell, there are the other little things that make up the bag. No matter how strong or durable the cases are, if the zippers (or the telescoping handle, the stitches, the wheels, and other details) stop working or break, the bags would be rendered down to less functional or worse.
And The Winner Is?
It would be fun to be able to give you a firm answer here 🙂 But as it goes with most things, it depends on your needs. If flexibility is your keyword, you can’t go wrong with the softcases. But if protection is your priority, you’ll get along better with hardcases. The bottom line is, know your needs and research well before you make your purchase decision.
Whether you go with the hardsides or the softsides, less expensive bags will fall apart sooner than later, while more reputable brands that focus on quality will hold together for a long time along with your trips and vacations. And while you’re at it, why don’t you choose a bag that looks good on you? 😉