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Hardsided vs Softsided - Hard Shell Luggage - Hard Luggage - Hard Sided

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Softsided vs. Hardsided Luggage

If you don’t have a preference between using softsided or hardsided (hard case) luggage, hopefully the chart below will help you.  If you want to know more about the material that is used for either type, visit this page: Luggage Materials.


Attribute Softsided Luggage Hardsided Luggage
Scratches/Marks Easily No Yes
Dents No Yes
Tears Could No
Weight Varies Varies
Stain Resistance Requires Cleaning Resistant
Waterproof No Almost
Protects Contents Good Better
Outside Pockets Yes No
Size Flexibility (expansion for one last thing) Yes No
Expandable Some Few
Built-in TSA-Approved Locks No Some


Hard sided luggage, hard shell luggage, hard luggage vs softsidedSo, did that help?  Unfortunately, the choice isn’t always clear – there are advantages and disadvantages to both types of luggage.  Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you make a choice.

  1. Do you believe that your luggage will spend long periods of time on the tarmac in the rain? If so, hardsided might be your answer, but remember that water could sneak in along the seams.
  2. Do you want luggage that looks like it’s been used for years on your second trip with it? If not, softsided would work best.
  3. Do you tend to set your luggage down in oil spots in parking lots or spill mustard on it a lot? Hardsided will wipe off easier than softsided.
  4. Are you concerned that a thief with a knife will slice open your luggage and steal all your stuff? Go with hardsided.
  5. Would you prefer to have easy access to exterior pockets in your luggage for last minutes items, or would you rather stop and open your case to stow that last pair of socks? Softsided/hardsided.
  6. Would you really pack that expensive glass figurine for Aunt Mary in something that will roll on the floor and could be kicked into next week? Pack and ship the figurine or carry it in your purse or backpack.
  7. Do you always come back from a trip with more than you left with? The expandability of some soft-sided and a few hard sided bags could come in handy.  Just remember, if it’s a carry-on, you may need to check it on the way home if it exceeds the size or weight restrictions.