Many people have asked us: “what are the real differences between hard and soft sided luggage?” It is a fair question. These two types of suitcases can look totally different but how different are they really? Ignoring the obvious differences in materials, how they are built and how secure they are, there is actually not much difference between these two different styles of cases. When you compare a medium sized hard-shell suitcase with a similar sized soft sided suitcase, they are all generally the same weight and similar in price.
With airlines charging high fees for over-weight luggage, flyers have become much more aware of the weight of their empty suitcases. The thinking is that the lighter your case is, the more you can pack into it without risking over-weight fees. So, which type of case is heavier? Soft sided or hard sided? Read on to find out.
As for price, it seems that it should be much cheaper to stamp-out two plastic shells and rivet them together with a few catches, hinges and wheels than it would be to sew and glue multiple fabric and plastic pieces together to create a soft sided suitcase. We were surprised that the soft sided cases were not much more expensive than they are but this is probably due to cost savings provided by the slave-like third world manufacturing industry but that is another topic entirely.
We hear the same arguments all the time, some people think that hard shell luggage is much more expensive and/or much heavier than its soft sided counterpart. Well, we decided to do a little experiment and we compared 10 top hard sided suitcases alongside 10 top soft sided suitcases.
For the purposes of our comparison, we decided to compare only medium sized cases in the 24 inch to 28 inch (75 liter) category. We decided to keep it simple and compared only weight and prices. Admittedly, prices can vary enormously but we did our best to take a fair snapshot by pricing all of these on Amazon.com. We also tried to compare cases from similar or same brands and manufacturers.
One other element that we tried to factor in was similar quality. There are some really cheap suitcases on the market these days. It is not really fair to compare a $40 low quality bag with a $150 state-of-the-art manufactured suitcase.
As our domain name suggests, this entire website is dedicated to safer luggage. Aside from safety, there are other factors that we wanted to include but they are far less simple to measure. The first is durability. Both types of cases have pluses and minuses. Hard sided suitcases scuff and dent but they are much easier to clean. Soft sided luggage doesn’t show scuff marks as much but they are more difficult to keep clean. All of the hard sided suitcases included in this comparison do not employ zippered closures and have replaceable component parts such as handles and wheels – while the soft sided luggage uses zippers and straps, both of which are vulnerable to breakage at the hands of the airport belt system.
Another worry is insect infestation. Hard sided luggage is not impervious to nasty critters like spiders and bedbugs but they offer far less attractive homes than nice warm fabric cases. Checkout our Bedbug Prevention Products page.
|Name||Size (inches)||Weight (lbs)||Price (US$)|
|Ambassador Fortalice||25 x 16 x 10.5||10||189.00|
|Delsey Belfort Plus||26 x 17.5 x 11||10||89.00|
|Delsey Helium Colours||27 x 10 x 18.5||10.5||200.00|
|Delsey Honore||23 x 18 x 11.5||10.9||297.00|
|Heys Crown Edition M Elite||26 x 17 x 10.5||9||175.00|
|Lojel Octa||25 x 17 x 10.6||9.8||159.00|
|Roncato UNO SL||28 x 19 x 10||9.5||625.00|
|Samsonite Cruisair Bold||26 x 18.5 x 11||12.4||173.00|
|Samsonite F'Lite||29.5 x 12 x 20||11.2||186.00|
|Samsonite S'Cure||28.5 x 18 x 11||11.5||185.00|
|Name||Size (inches)||Weight (lbs)||Price (US$)|
|Ambassador Vintage||25 x 18 x 10.2||10.5||160.00|
|Delsey Helium Breeze||25 x 18 x 11||10.8||97.00|
|Delsey Dauphine||27 x 19.8 x 12||7.0||138.00|
|Delsey Chatelet||24 x 18 x 11||11||255.00|
|Heys America Air-Lite II||26 x 17.5 x 11||10.3||140.00|
|Roncato Venice||27.5 x 17 x 12||6.7||200.00|
|Tommy Hilfiger||28 x 15 x 9.5||13.2||170.00|
|Samsonite H-Lite||24 x 16 x 10||11.8||380.00|
|American Tourister Ilite Xtreme||25 x 18 x 10||9.5||75.00|
|Briggs & Riley Explore||26 x 17 x 10.9||8.4||360.00|
We cannot publish this page without repeating our core message about the perils that your luggage goes through once you surrender it to your airline. Hard sided suitcases are much better at protecting against thieves attempting to remove items from your luggage and smugglers trying to place contraband into your case. So no matter the comparison results, our money is still on the side of hardsided suitcases.
Okay, what did we discover? Once we tallied the numbers, we were not really surprised by the results. Yes, soft sided luggage is a little lighter (average 9.92 lbs vs 10.48 lbs) and a little cheaper ($197.50 vs $227.80) than hard sided (non-zippered) luggage. Having said this, the small advantage in weight and price, that soft sided luggage enjoys over hard sided, disappears when you factor in how insecure and vulnerable to damage they are. The numbers get even more convincing if you remove the highest and lowest numbers from the calculation.
Ultimately, the choice is yours but we are still convinced that hard sided luggage is a much safer choice of suitcase.
After years of trying to convince travellers that softsided, zipper-closure suitcases were not safe, the clever designs of several manufacturers have forced us to reconsider our position. Some companies have redesigned their zippers to make them harder for thieves and smugglers to breach. Although they are sold as "puncture resistant", they are pretty effective against simple attempts using ballpoint pens and such. We have written an in depth report on puncture resistant zippers and puncture resistant zippers luggage here.