When it comes to luggage, there are just so many options. Soft sided luggage made of fabric, and hard sided luggage made of plastics, and really everything in between. But which should you choose? There’s no wrong answer. Really, there isn’t.
Firstly, think about what you are packing, and where you are travelling. Are you packing breakables, are you going to countries with a lot of thievery? If you are leaving the luggage unattended you may want to consider a hard sided luggage with no zippers, they have hinge closures and sturdy side locks that are unable to be opened without knowing the combination. These bags are typically made out of an ABS plastic and are slightly heavier than other hard sided bags.
If you’re looking for light weight, you can get both light or heavy in hard side and soft side luggage. A 100% polycarbonate or carbon fiber bag may be lighter than an ABS or recycled plastic bag, in a hard side, and a polyester may be lighter than nylon in a soft sided bag.
Durability always comes into play with luggage because they are often handled by baggage carriers that quickly toss hundreds of thousands of bags a day, and aren’t concerned about damaging your bag or contents. When choosing a durable bag in a hard side bag consider that polycarbonates and carbon fibers are flexible and light so they bounce around but so do your contents, an ABS, and aluminium bag, handle like a brick, they are rough and tough and can also handle being thrown around but your contents are less likely to feel the effect of being tossed. Recycled materials and bags that are NOT 100% of a type of plastic, will be more likely to crack because there aren’t the same softeners in the plastic and can’t take the stress of being thrown. These bags would be better suited for train or car travel. In a soft sided bag, polyester bags can be made to look like nylon, but nylon bags will wear better over time, they are more abrasive resistant, and overtime won’t fray like polyester. If you can choose a higher denier (tighter fabric weave) do so, it will be more puncture resistant and will hold together better at the seams, which is where most of the damage to soft bags happens.
How you like to pack, can be another way to choose between a hard sided or soft sided bag. Most hard sided bags are packed 50/50. That means the zipper is down the center of the bag and you pack half your clothes on the top and half on the bottom of the bag. You will need extra space to lay the bag open to access everything, but there will be less digging through the bag to find what you need. In a soft sided bag, you pack the majority of your garments on the bottom side of the bag and the top may have a small pocket on the inside but it makes clothing the bag really simple. You get outside pockets on all soft sided bags, but not hard sided bags, so for last minute items or quick access pockets, soft sided bags are the only way to go.
If you tend to over pack your luggage and you feel like you need to limit yourself, a hard sided bag will give you that option of “what you see is what you can pack”, and soft sided will give you the option to buy more stuff on your trip and really stuff it full to get it all home.
What’s your preference?