Good luggage is an investment. Not only should it be aesthetically pleasing, it should be easy to use and durable. There is a multitude of styles available, but all of them can be divided up into two types: hard or soft. Which one is a better buy?
The difference between hard and soft luggage.
Though both types have their advantages and disadvantages, the chief difference between hard and soft luggage is their material. Hard luggage is made of a rigid material like aluminum or polypropylene. Soft luggage is typically made out of fabric, like nylon.
Which is more durable?
Hard luggage is generally tougher than soft luggage, but that can vary depending on the situation. While materials like leather and nylon are resistant to tearing and cracking, they’re not indestructible and can allow contents to be damaged if they’re struck by something. Similarly, while hard luggage can’t be torn and can protect contents from crushing, it can be cracked.
Hard luggage is particularly prone to cracking if it isn’t completely full, or if it is exposed to freezing temperatures that cause the material to become brittle. Once damaged, hard luggage may become more difficult to use– dents can deform its shape and make closing it properly difficult or impossible. New hard suitcases made of lightweight polycarbonate flex slightly with impact, making them much more durable than their completely-rigid brethren.
Which is cleaner?
Hard luggage has one clear advantage over soft luggage here– it isn’t absorbent. While soft luggage may be coated to help it repel water, it’s generally not water proof. It can pick up splashes and odors more easily than hard luggage, and the rough nylon surface can trap dirt, requiring more maintenance to help keep it looking (and smelling) presentable.
Which is safer?
There are a couple of things every traveler should do to prevent theft of their luggage or its contents, including using a lock or luggage straps. Unfortunately, a simple lock isn’t going to deter a determined thief. Soft luggage can be cut into pretty easily, while hard luggage can’t. If security’s an issue, a hard shell suitcase may be a better choice.
Which is easier to travel with?
If weight is a consideration, soft luggage wins. While hard luggage has other advantages, weight is not one of them– it’s generally heavier than soft suitcases. A hard rolling suitcase that’s taken a few knocks may also not roll properly, which can make it a pain to travel with.
Both hard and soft luggage can suffer from damaged wheels or casters, which may need occasional replacing (especially if they get a lot of hard use).
Which luggage is best? It depends.
Everyone has different needs when they travel, so the best luggage is whatever type helps meet them. Are damage, wet weather, extra weight, or theft a concern? All of these criteria will help determine which type of luggage is the best one for the job.