Journy's Definitive Guide To The Pros And Cons Of Hard And Soft Suitcases

It's a topic we feel passionate about

By Journy Admin

3 August 2018

Baggage claim: nerve-wracking waiting game or travel habits research? If you ask us it's a bit of both. Yes, we're worried that this is the time our bag gets lost, but we're also curious. Who bought that floral suitcase? Who checked in that teeny-tiny backpack?

Most importantly: hard or soft suitcases—which is better?

In our mind the perfect suitcase is durable, rolls smoothly, can fit an astonishing amount and stands out just enough so we recognize it at baggage claim. Bonus points for lightweight, easily washable and general good looks. We like a smartcase, space for shoes and a laundry bag, but those are more nice-to-haves that you can find in either style. Nowadays, any number of suitcases offer these traits, but if we're investing in a suitcase, we want to make sure we're getting one that will look chic in Paris and can stand up to a flight to Beijing.


Is A Hard Or Soft Suitcase More Durable?

Hard Cases

Hard cases seem to have this one down. Their firm plastic will protect wine bottles from breaking when tossed by TSA agents or crammed into the overhead bin by flight attendants. We also appreciate how they are weather-resistant, meaning you won't have to worry about your clothes getting a little damp if it's raining during your trip.

Soft Cases

Ten years ago we might have said that soft cases won't go and crack on you, but now most hard suitcases have developed enough so that they don't shatter. What you do get with durability in terms of soft cases is no scratches. We grumble every time we find another deep dig on a hard suitcase. Yet, shoddily made soft cases to have a tendency to rip if you pack them too full or too heavy.


Which Suitcase Is The Most Portable?

Hard Cases

Most hard case come with four wheels, which makes them easy to push alongside or behind you in loads of different terrain. Unfortunately, cheaper models can have flimsy handles that struggle to stand up to a battering on cobblestone streets. Hard cases also tend to be easier to slip into the overhead bin as there's no danger of stuffing them so much they manage to over go the slim space margins on board most airlines nowadays.

Soft Cases

For some reason lots of soft cases are HEAVY, with even lightweight ones tipping the scales at eleven pounds. But there are some brands that do offer seriously lightweight options such as Eagle Creek and Lipault. While lots of soft cases are two wheeled, this prevents them from rolling away on slick airport floors. They're also easier to store as they can be smushed down to fit in a crowded closet.


Does A Hard Or Soft Suitcase Have More Room For Packing?

Hard Cases

We've heard both sides of this for hard cases. Some people swear they can fit more in hard cases thanks to the defined corners you can shove into. Other people argue that you'll fit less, but it will be more tightly packed. We're on the fence, but will always favor a case that does expand a bit so that we can fit in foreign shopping finds.

Soft Cases

These things expand like crazy! Not only do you have an negotiable space inside, you also have a bevy of pockets on the outside that expand outwards. Then there are the actual zip out expandable panels. Basically, if you think you're going to be needing a crazy amount of space you can't beat a soft case. A word of warning, if you do expand it know that your carry on might have grown into a check in.


Will A Hard Or Soft Suitcase Make Me Feel More Like A Jet-Setter?

Hard Cases

We will forever reach for hard cases when we want a sleek looking travel companion—you associate Rimowa luggage with business travelers for a reason, and it's not just because of their elevated price tags. Streamlined, monochrome—we feel awesome pulling one of these behind us. Only thing is they can be a bit tough to identify as definitely ours at the airport baggage claim (there's a reason Away released decals). That being said, we take it as an excuse to either buy a chic luggage tag or just keep it to carry on.

Soft Cases

This really depends on the case. We're not fans of the dime-a-dozen black cases that look like they were mail ordered from a department store catalogue. But we're also seen some super sharp ones out there from the likes of Briggs & Riley and Brics. We also love the sporty aesthetic of a Patagonia or North Face rolling duffel—they look ready for adventure, and really do fit all the sport kit you'll need for an active vacation.


Will A Hard Or Soft Suitcase Last Longer?

Hard Cases

You can wash hard cases down. If you've ever had to slide your suitcase under a train seat only to wonder what was actually on the ground, you'll appreciate how revolutionary this is. Also, we appreciate how suitcase companies like Rimowa, Samsonite and Away have warranties that protect the cases from any damage.

Soft Cases

This is where soft cases tend to let you down. No matter how durable they promise to be, they're much more prone to rips and tears and bursting at the seams. That being said, we're consistently impressed by the warranties at Eagle Creek and Briggs & Riley, which promise that your cases should last for life.

A Note On Smartcases

It seems like every other suitcases companies nowadays is promising the best battery pack to end all of our on-the-go charging woes! We debate how necessary this really is, but it's certainly nice to have.

Our Verdict: We Just Love Hard-Sided Luggage

While hard luggage might require sacrificing some space in both our closets at home and on the road, we love how durable they are, how easy they roll and how simple they are to clean, not to mention the streamlined aesthetics. Yep, we're hard suitcase people.