What Are the Advantages of Soft-Sided Luggage?

What are the advantages of soft-sided luggage?

While hardside luggage has its benefits, many travelers are finding that soft luggage offers a range of advantages and unique features that make it the better choice.

And I can personally attest to its benefits, having relied on my trusty pair of soft-sided bags for all sorts of trips, from quick weekend escapes to long-haul flights.

In this article, we’re going to explore the benefits of soft shell carry-on luggage and why it could be the better choice for your travel needs.

Let’s go.

There are several benefits to using a soft-sided carry-on bag when traveling. Firstly, they are typically lighter than hard-sided luggage, which means you can pack more without exceeding airline weight restrictions. Soft-shell bags are also more flexible and easier to fit into tight spaces and overhead compartments.

Many soft-shell carry-on bags are made from durable materials like nylon or polyester, which can withstand the wear and tear of travel. Additionally, some of these bags can expand to accommodate souvenirs or other items you may acquire during your trip, which is not possible with hard-shell suitcases. Finally, soft carry-on bags are easier to store in small areas such as under a bed or in a closet when not in use.

Read on for more details…

What Are the Advantages of Soft-Sided Luggage?: Calpak suitcase

Soft-sided luggage is highly popular in the U.S. market, comprising the majority of bags sold as reported by Consumer Reports. These bags come in various styles, such as standard suitcases, garment bags, backpacks, and duffels, with rolling and non-rolling options available.

Below are the benefits of soft-sided suitcases: 

What Are the Advantages of Soft-Sided Luggage?
Credit: amazon

Despite advances in materials and technology that have made hard shell suitcases more lightweight, soft shell bags still tend to be lighter. 

This is because soft-sided luggage is typically made from lightweight materials such as ballistic nylon or polyester (the lightest fabric), even when additional components such as handles and wheels are included.

Let’s take a look at some real-life examples, shall we?

Take the popular Travelpro Maxlite 5 Softside Carry-on, for instance. This lightweight wonder boasts an impressive 46L volume, yet weighs in at just 5.4lbs.

Compare that to the Platinum Elite Hardside Carry-On, also from Travelpro, which has a slightly smaller volume of 45L and weighs a heftier 8.1 lbs. That’s a pretty significant difference, especially when you’re trying to adhere to strict weight restrictions.

But the contrast between hard or soft suitcase doesn’t stop there. In my recent review of the lightest carry-on luggage options in the market, I found that the lightest hardside bag on the list, the July Carry On Light, weighed in at a respectable 3.9 lbs

But the title of ultimate lightweight champion went to the IT World’s Lightest Los Angeles Softside Carry-On, which came in at a feather-light 3.8 lbs. It just goes to show that when it comes to weight, softshell bags wins.

As a result, softshell cases are easier to carry around and less likely to exceed weight restrictions, which can be particularly beneficial when carrying heavy items. So, if you’re looking for a lightweight option, a softshell suitcase would be the way to go. 

What Are the Advantages of Soft-Sided Luggage? : Briggs and Riley suitcase

If you’re the type of traveler who likes to bring a little extra (or ends up acquiring a lot along the way), you’ll want to opt for a soft-shell case.

Unlike their hard-shell counterparts, fabric cases have a bit more give, which makes it easier to “cram” in those last-minute purchases or unexpected items you pick up along the way.

They are also ideal for storing items with odd shapes, as the flexible material can bend and stretch to fit the item, providing more packing options.

With hard-shell luggage, you’re often limited by the shape and size of the case itself. But with soft-shell bags, you have a lot more leeway to make it work for you.

Additionally, soft-sided luggage can be compressed down to a smaller size when not in use, making it easier to store at home or in cramped spaces like overhead compartments, under a bed, or in a closet. 

What Are the Advantages of Soft-Sided Luggage?: suitcase in the overhead bin

When it comes to traveling with your bags, sometimes you need to get creative with the available space.

That’s where soft-shell cases really shine.

Similar to what I have said about their pliable materials, these bags can be molded and contorted to fit into all sorts of tight spaces.

Need to shove your bag into an overhead compartment on a crowded flight? No problem. Soft-shell luggage can easily be squished and squeezed to fit in snugly. And it’s not just limited to airplane travel – soft-shell luggage is great for fitting into tight spaces on buses, trains, or even in the gap under your bed. 

What Are the Advantages of Soft-Sided Luggage?: Briggs and Riley suitcase
Credit: briggs-riley.com

We’ve all been there: trying to fit everything into our luggage, only to realize that it’s bursting at the seams.

But with a soft-shell suitcase, you have the advantage of some stretchability, meaning you can easily make room for those extra items you simply can’t leave behind.

This is particularly handy when you’re traveling with bulky items or have plans to pick up souvenirs along the way. Just be mindful not to go overboard with your packing, or you may end up with a broken zipper and a suitcase that’s barely holding on. 

What Are the Advantages of Soft-Sided Luggage?

Another perk of soft-shell luggage is its affordability.

Unlike its hard-shell counterpart, soft-shell luggage is often a more budget-friendly option, allowing you to save some cash for other travel expenses.

In order to verify this claim, I did a quick scan on Amazon with the check term “soft side carry on”, and “hard side carry on” to get the top 3 results under the bestseller category.

The table above shows the average selling price and the top 3 results for soft-side and hard-side carry-on suitcases on Amazon. Based on the information provided, the average selling price for soft suitcases is $89.33, which is slightly lower than the average selling price of hard cases, which is $93. The top 3 results for soft suitcases range from $79 to $144, while the top 3 results for hard suitcases range from $47 to $149.

What Are the Advantages of Soft-Sided Luggage?

It’s very common to see softsided suitcases that are designed with both external and internal pockets and compartments for frequently used items such as passports, boarding passes, and water bottles.

This is because the materials used in making soft sided suitcases, such as nylon, polyester, or canvas, are more flexible and can easily accommodate various shapes and sizes of items.

This flexibility allows manufacturers to create more intricate designs and add smaller pockets and compartments on the exterior and inside the suitcase.

On the other hand, hard-sided luggage mostly has interior pockets because it’s very difficult to add external pockets due to the hard exterior surface that’s made from rigid materials such as polycarbonate, aluminum, or ABS plastic, which are difficult to bend or stretch.

For instance, the Samsonite Bartlett Carry-On Spinner is a soft sided suitcase with plenty of internal and external organizational features such as shoe pockets, a mesh zippered pocket, a toiletry bag, internal pockets, and a zippered large pocket outside for easy access to frequently used items.

In contrast, the Samsonite Freeform Hardside carry-on does not have any external pockets but features a cross ribbon and divider system that keeps belongings organized, as well as a few internal pockets for storing small items.

Softsided suitcases are particularly useful for those who travel with a single bag or need quick and easy access to items during airport security checks.

The numerous pockets and compartments in soft luggage ensure that essentials are always within reach. 

What Are the Advantages of Soft-Sided Luggage?

Softshell suitcases are better equipped to withstand rough treatment at the airport compared to hardshell luggage.

While it may display stains and dirt, soft side luggage can still endure being thrown, twisted, squeezed, and dragged without sustaining serious damage, making it more resilient at baggage claim.

In contrast, hard shell suitcases are more susceptible to scratches and bruises, and even breakage due to their limited flexibility.

Moreover, while tears and dings may not have a significant impact on softside luggage, they can render hardshell luggage irreparable.

Softshell suitcases can be just as durable as hard shells if you choose a high-quality model made from premium materials.

Softshell bags are less likely to crack or scratch when handled roughly by baggage handlers, making them a suitable option for frequent travelers.

While some people believe that softside suitcases lack durability, this is not entirely true.

As one Quora user noted, their hard-sided suitcases were irreparably destroyed within the first few trips, while “All my soft-shell suitcases do eventually wear out, but have typically lasted a lot longer, and moderate damage to them is a little easier to repair. So I stick to the soft ones myself.”

Although breakable items may require extra wrapping, softshell suitcases can be a reliable and long-lasting choice if you choose a sturdy model. 

Drawbacks of softside luggage

Now, let’s talk about the not-so-cool things about soft-side luggage.

Don’t get me wrong, it has its perks, but there are some downsides to this type of bag that I’ll dive into below: 

Softside bags provide less protection for fragile items

What Are the Advantages of Soft-Sided Luggage?

I wouldn’t recommend softside bags when it comes to protecting your delicate items.

The flexible and pliable exterior of these bags offers little resistance against impact, leaving your belongings vulnerable to bumps and jolts during travel.

This means that fragile items, such as glassware, electronics, or musical instruments, are at a higher risk of damage.

Even if you handle your luggage with the utmost care, you can’t control how others treat it.

So, if you’re carrying delicate items, you might want to consider opting for hard-shell luggage instead. 

Softside bags are not immune to tears and cuts

What Are the Advantages of Soft-Sided Luggage?

Softside bags are susceptible to tears and cuts and can easily get damaged, especially if they are of low quality.

Additionally, overpacking a soft shell case can cause more wear and tear on the bag, leading to rips or tears over time.

Such damage can compromise the safety of your belongings, making them more vulnerable to damage or loss.

If you are a frequent traveler, it might be wise to invest in hard-shell luggage or, better yet, a high-quality softside bag that is more durable and can withstand the rigors of travel in the long term. 

Soft-sided bags are more prone to getting wet

What Are the Advantages of Soft-Sided Luggage?

Soft-sided bags are more susceptible to getting wet compared to hard-sided bags due to their materials and design.

Soft-sided bags are typically made from materials such as nylon, polyester, or canvas that are not completely waterproof. Even if the outer layer of the bag is treated with a water-resistant coating, water can still seep through seams, zippers, or other openings, because the materials can absorb moisture.

In case of prolonged exposure to rain, the contents of a soft-shell suitcase can get affected.

Additionally, dampness can cause unpleasant odors to develop, and as stated by a Quora user, “they are revolting to look at, let alone touch when they are wet.”

Moreover, soft-sided bags have more seams and stitching than hard-sided luggage, providing more areas where water can seep in.

Water can penetrate through the small gaps between the zippers and around the stitching, even if the material itself is water-resistant. This makes soft-sided bags more vulnerable to rain and other water-related incidents, such as accidental spills or leaks from other bags.

However, some soft-sided bags are treated with waterproof coatings or have water-resistant features such as sealed zippers or welded seams. These features make the bags less vulnerable to getting wet, but they still cannot match the water resistance of hard-sided luggage.

Difficult to clean

What Are the Advantages of Soft-Sided Luggage?

Soft luggage may not scratch or crack, but it is prone to staining. Being made of fabric, it can be challenging to clean, particularly if the stains or spills have already set in.

On the other hand, hard-shell luggage is generally easier to clean due to its smoother and less porous surface. Furthermore, removing mud, dust, or food stains from fabric can be quite a hassle.

While soft-shell luggage can be dry cleaned and maintained by wiping and cleaning, it is still more susceptible to deterioration through this method. 

Soft-sided luggage is less secure

Traveling can be stressful enough without worrying about the safety of your belongings.

Unfortunately, indeed, soft-sided luggage may not provide the same level of security as hard-shell luggage. This is because the material is more pliable, making it easier for someone with nefarious intentions to cut through and gain access to your items.

If you’re carrying valuable items or want to have peace of mind knowing your belongings are as secure as possible, it may be worth considering investing in a hard-shell suitcase.

The rigid material and integrated locking mechanisms can provide an extra layer of protection for your belongings and help ensure your travels are worry-free. 

Poor maneuverability

Limited maneuverability is a common issue with soft-sided luggage, which usually lacks four wheels and is instead equipped with two wheels. This can make it challenging to navigate the suitcase through busy airport terminals or hotel lobbies.

On the other hand, backpack-style soft-shell bags can be easily lifted and carried over rough terrain. 

Also, many soft suitcases like the Samsonite Solyte DLX bag do come with  4 smooth rolling wheels that make it easy to maneuver around airports and other busy areas.


Well, for me, soft-sided luggage made from high-quality and water-resistant materials like nylon is the way to go. I just love how flexible they are, and how they can easily fit into tight spaces when you need to store them.

Plus, they often come with convenient exterior pockets that can hold various items. And let’s be real, who doesn’t love being able to squeeze in some extra souvenirs or keepsakes?

Of course, that doesn’t mean hard shells aren’t good options for carry-on. In fact, I appreciate how durable and water-resistant they are, with their sturdy outer shell providing added protection for your belongings.

The only downside is that they can be a bit heavier and more prone to scratches.

But regardless of whether you go for hard or soft-sided luggage, the key is to choose a bag with good reviews and all the features you need for a stress-free travel experience. 

Soft luggage is a convenient option for travel, but it requires proper precautions to protect your belongings. Soft bags are flexible and easy to pack, but can also be easier for thieves to access because the material can be slashed through. 

To prevent theft, use a high-quality lock and never leave your bag unattended. Soft luggage may also not provide as much protection against damage as hard-shell luggage, so pack fragile items separately or use packing cubes.

With careful packing and precautions, hard or soft luggage can be a safe and practical option for travel. 

The main difference between hard and soft luggage is the material used in their construction. Hard suitcases have a rigid outer shell made from durable materials like polycarbonate, aluminum, or ABS plastic, providing excellent protection for fragile or valuable items.
They also offer better structural support but can be heavier and less flexible, making them difficult to pack and store.

On the other hand, soft suitcases are lighter and more malleable, making them easier to pack and store, but may not offer as much protection against impacts or crushing.

If you’re traveling with fragile items or need extra protection for your belongings, I would recommend hard shells.

However, if you’re looking for a lightweight and flexible suitcase that can easily fit into overhead bins or crowded spaces, a soft suitcase is the way to go.  

Softside suitcases are lighter than hard-side ones. This is because softshell luggage is made from lightweight materials like woven nylon or polyester which can significantly reduce the overall weight of the suitcase, while hard shell suitcases are constructed from heavier materials like polycarbonate or ABS plastic.

The weight difference can be significant, especially if you are trying to stay under the weight limit for airline baggage. 

In the debate of hard vs soft luggage, hard suitcases tend to be heavier than soft-sided luggage because of the denser and heavier materials used to make it, such as polycarbonate, aluminum, or ABS plastic, compared to the lighter nylon or polyester used in soft-sided luggage.

However, the weight difference between soft and hard luggage can vary depending on the specific brands, models, and sizes of the luggage.

But that’s not to say there are no lightweight hardsided suitcases. Some hard luggage, such as the Carry On Light, weighs as little as 3.9 lbs, thanks to lightweight materials and construction techniques.

To ensure that any luggage purchase meets your needs and requirements, it’s always a good idea to check its weight, regardless of whether it’s hard or soft luggage.  

There are a few potential disadvantages to hard suitcases.

Firstly, it can be heavier than soft-shell luggage, which can make it more difficult to lift and carry, particularly if you are traveling for an extended time or have a lot of other bags to carry.

Additionally, they are less flexible and less forgiving than soft shell luggage, which means they may not be able to accommodate overpacking or irregularly shaped items as easily.

Also, hard shell luggage pieces are more prone to scratches and dents, which can detract from their appearance. 

Closing Thoughts

So, is it good to travel with a soft sided carry-on luggage?

Definitely. Traveling with soft-sided carry-on luggage can be a good option, especially if you need flexibility and convenience when it comes to packing and storing your belongings. Soft-sided luggage is often lighter and more malleable than hard-shell luggage, making it easier to fit into an overhead bin or a tight space.

It can also come with useful features like outside pockets and compartments for organizing your belongings.

However, soft-sided luggage may not provide as much protection against impacts or crush as hard-shell luggage, so it’s important to pack your belongings carefully and consider investing in a high-quality lock to deter theft.

Over to you.

Are softside carry-on better than hard-sided options? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!  

4 thoughts on “What Are the Advantages of Soft-Sided Luggage? 7 Things You Should Know”

  1. Hey Femi,

    nice collection of pros and cons about soft sided luggage. I´m currently on a long vacation trip in thailand and I have my softside luggage with me. The allowed weight for baggage differs quite a bit when you compare inland flights in thailand with international flights, so I´m quite pleased that my luggage isn´t very heavy.
    I also like the small pockets it has to put my new accessoires somewhere safe, lol

    • Hey Thimo!

      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad to hear that you’re finding the information useful and that your soft-sided luggage is working well for your long vacation trip in Thailand.
      You bring up a great point about the weight restrictions for baggage on different types of flights, and soft-sided luggage can definitely help with this since it’s generally lighter than hard-sided luggage. And those small pockets are definitely handy for keeping your accessories safe and organized!

      Thanks for sharing your experience and happy travels!


  2. I completely agree with you that soft-sided carry-on luggage can offer many advantages, especially for those who prioritize convenience and flexibility while travelling. I appreciate your advice on packing carefully and investing in a good lock to ensure the safety of our belongings.

    As for the comparison between soft-sided and hard-sided luggage, I think it ultimately comes down to personal preference and the type of travel one is embarking on. Hard-sided luggage may be more suitable for long-distance travel and protecting fragile items, while soft-sided luggage may be more convenient for shorter trips and ease of packing. What do you think?

    • Hi, John.

      I’m glad to hear that you found the advice helpful, particularly with regard to packing and securing your belongings.
      You make an excellent point about the trade-offs between soft-sided and hard-sided luggage. While both have their advantages, the decision ultimately comes down to personal preference and the specific needs of each traveler. As you mentioned, hard-sided luggage may be better suited for long-distance travel and fragile items, while soft-sided luggage can offer more flexibility and convenience for shorter trips and ease of packing.

      In the end, the most important thing is to choose luggage that meets your individual needs and preferences, and that will help you travel comfortably and confidently.



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