Why is Hard sided Luggage so Popular? : Horizn Studio Suitcase
Credit: horizn-studios.com

Have you noticed how almost everyone seems to use hard-shell luggage these days? From airports to hotel lobbies, it’s hard to miss. Even popular brands like Rimowa, Away, Monos, Paravel, Globe-Trotter,  and Horizn Studios are all exclusively into hard-shell luggage! So, why is hard sided luggage so popular?

Have you ever wondered the same thing?

Together, we’ll dive into the reasons behind the hard-sided luggage craze.

From their unbeatable durability to their sleek and stylish designs, we’ll uncover why hard-sided luggage has become the go-to choice for adventurers all around the globe.

Ready? Let’s go! 

Why are hardside suitcases so popular?

The surge in popularity of hard shell luggage is no surprise, given its many advantages. First off, its superior durability and ability to protect against the elements make it a go-to choice for frequent travelers who need a reliable option. On top of that, hard suitcases offer a higher level of security since accessing their contents without permission is a challenging feat. 

And let’s not forget about its sleek and modern design, which, coupled with its easy-to-clean nature, makes it a practical option for any traveler. 

Read on as I develop these reasons…

1. Hard shell suitcases are durable and offer better protection for fragile items

Why is Hard sided Luggage so Popular? : Away Aluminum suitcase
Credit: awaytravel.com

Let me start by saying that it is a common misconception that hard shell suitcases are always tougher than soft ones.

The truth is that a bag’s durability depends on the materials it’s made of.

So, hardside luggage made from strong plastics like polycarbonate or aluminum are generally more durable than those made with materials like ABS, Polypropylene, or Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), which are lightweight but not as sturdy.

Also, hard-sided luggage offers better protection from impact and prevents damage to the contents of the luggage.

In fact, hard luggage can withstand weight and pressure, meaning you can sit, lean, or stack items without any worries.

For instance, polycarbonate luggage can withstand high impact without cracking or denting, while aluminum is the heaviest and most durable luggage, making it ideal for carrying fragile, high-value contents that must be protected at all costs.

In fact, some experts recommend using hard shell suitcases for checked luggage.

This is because compared to soft-side bags, hard suitcases are less likely to be torn or dented during travel, which can help protect fragile or delicate items like electronics, glassware, and souvenirs.

A Reddit traveler agreed, saying “it is normally preferable to use a hard-shell for checked baggage. Although soft shell bag are more flexible, hard-shells are more impact resistant and are more likely to withstand baggage handlers’ rough treatment”.

That said, I should note that hard-shell suitcases are more prone to scratches and scuff marks than soft-shell bags.

A Redditor even shared, “hard shell, unlike soft, registers all knocks, scuffs and scratches. Corners are particularly vulnerable and will get cracked and dented in no time at all.”

To ensure the best protection for your hard-shell suitcase, Carl Friedrik recommends high-quality polycarbonate luggage with a reinforced aluminum frame like the LEVEL8 Full Aluminum Carry-On 20”, Away Aluminum Carry-on, and Monos Hybrid Carry-On Plus.

Plus, the sturdy construction of hard bags means they can last for years, making them a smart investment for frequent travelers. 

2. They are water-resistant

Why is Hard sided Luggage so Popular?

Although most suitcases are not entirely waterproof, hard shell suitcase is more effective in keeping your belongings inside dry in rainy, snowy, or puddle-filled environments.

Additionally, it offers superior protection against spills and accidents.

This is because hard shell material, typically made of aluminum, polycarbonate, or ABS plastic, creates a solid barrier against moisture and water, making it difficult for water to penetrate the surface.

On the other hand, soft shell bags are often crafted from porous materials such as woven nylon, polyester, or similar fabrics, which can quickly absorb water.

However, this does not imply that soft shell bag cannot repel water entirely.

Many high-quality soft-sided bags come with water-resistant coatings or laminates, which protect the contents of the bag from water damage.

Nonetheless, if you intend to travel in the winter or more rugged terrains, I think a hard shell suitcase may be a better option. This is particularly crucial for travelers packing breakable items or electronics like laptops or cameras, which could suffer damage due to exposure to water. 

3. Hard cases offer better security than soft-sided bags

Why is Hard sided Luggage so Popular? : July Suitcases

CleverJourney reports that hard-sided luggage is increasingly becoming the preferred option for checked luggage due to its durability and superior protection for personal belongings compared to soft-sided luggage.

The rigid exterior is more resistant to cuts and slashes, making it harder for thieves to quickly gain access to the bag’s contents.

Additionally, most hard luggage comes with built-in locking features, such as a zippered lock or a TSA-approved integrated lock. The latter permits TSA agents to examine the contents of the luggage without causing damage to the lock or suitcase.

There are also zipperless suitcases that utilize a latch or multiple latches that can be secured with a code or key for extra security.

As I have explained above, the sturdy exterior of hard-sided luggage shields delicate items such as electronics, artwork, and glassware from harm while in transit. 

This means that whether your belongings are in the hotel room, overhead compartment, or on the luggage carousel, it’ll be really hard for anyone to tamper with or steal your items.

In contrast, soft bags are more susceptible to theft.

The fabric is a bit easier to cut into, and the zipper closure on most soft bags can be opened easily with a small knife or scissors, increasing the likelihood of theft.

As such, I would highly recommend hardside luggage for travelers seeking a secure luggage option. 

4. They are easier to clean

Why is Hard sided Luggage so Popular?

Hard-sided luggage is easy to clean.

This is because the smooth surface of these cases makes it less likely for dirt, dust, or stains to accumulate on them. Moreover, the outer shell can repel liquids and can be easily cleaned if anything is spilled on it.

Simply wipe it down with a damp cloth, and it will be good as new.

It’s also possible to clean and disinfect your luggage using specific cleaning products like hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol, but it’s important to follow the directions and perform a spot test beforehand.

However, softside suitcases are comparatively harder to clean.

This is because they are crafted from fabrics such as ripstop nylon or polyester, which have a tendency to absorb dirt and stains that can be challenging to remove.

Furthermore, if they get wet, they can become more vulnerable to mold and mildew, which can be stubborn to get rid of.

All in all, the ease of cleaning hard-sided luggage makes it a practical and reliable choice for some travelers.   

5. Hard cases help you pack light

Why is Hard sided Luggage so Popular?

One cannot overpack a hardside suitcase.

To be fair, this can be advantageous or disadvantageous depending on your preferences

For those of us who tend to overpack frequently, a suitcase that limits the number of items one can bring can be beneficial when attempting to fit the luggage in overhead bins or adhere to strict carry-on restrictions on select airlines.

As long as the suitcase is carry-on sized, it will fit perfectly in the airline’s luggage sizer without bulging.

Additionally, this feature helps to keep the weight of the luggage down, which can result in a smoother travel experience. 

6. Hard cases are incredibly stylish

Why is Hard sided Luggage so Popular? : Globe Trotter Suitcase

Although I have a fondness for softshell luggage, I must admit that hard shell suitcases are undeniably more fashionable with their sleek and modern designs that add a touch of elegance to any travel ensemble.

In comparison to soft luggage, hard bags are available in a variety of colors, textures, and patterns, providing ample options to choose from that reflect one’s personal style.

For instance, when it comes to looks alone, I would choose TravelPro’s Platinum Elite hard side over its softside counterpart, anytime, any day.

Additionally, some brands, such as Roam, even offer full customization options, allowing travelers to create a truly unique piece of hardside luggage.

How cool is that!  

What people don’t like about hardside luggage

In the debate between hard vs soft luggage, there are several common complaints that people have about hardshell suitcases.

We will explore these reasons in this section:

1. The exterior can get visible scratches, dents, or knocks

Why is Hard sided Luggage so Popular?

Do hard case suitcases break easily? Not necessarily, but they can break if subjected to excessive force.

So even though my hard shell suitcase offers better protection for delicate items, it can also crack or break if mishandled or dropped.

And of course, this can be costly to repair or replace.

Also, the exterior will inevitably show scratches and scuffs as time goes by, which can gradually deteriorate their appearance and create the impression of wear and tear.

So, if you dislike having a roughened surface on your suitcase, it is advisable to choose soft luggage instead.

Alternatively, I think it’s best to avoid hard cases with brighter colors since they tend to reveal marks and stains more easily. 

2. Lacks flexibility

Why is Hard sided Luggage so Popular?

Hard shell suitcases are not as flexible as their soft-sided counterparts. 

As a result, they are difficult to fit into tight spaces or conform to the shape of the contents inside.

Additionally, their rigid shape takes up more space at home when stored, which can be less convenient.

This lack of flexibility can make them less user-friendly to pack and travel with.

In contrast, soft luggage are more accommodating and can be easily squeezed into tight spaces, allowing for more efficient packing.  

3. Hard shell suitcases are often heavier than soft-sided suitcases

Why is Hard sided Luggage so Popular?

When compared to soft-sided suitcases, a common concern is that most hard shell luggage are generally heavier, even without any contents packed inside.

This is due to the denser and heavier materials used in hardside luggage such as polycarbonate, ABS, or aluminum, as opposed to the lighter materials such as nylon or polyester used in soft-sided suitcases.

Additionally, the thicker and more rigid walls of hard luggage also contribute to their weight. This can make them more cumbersome to lift and carry, particularly when navigating stairs or uneven surfaces.

That said, there are hardside suitcases that are incredibly lightweight and durable.

The July Carry-on Light, and the Travelpro Luggage Maxlite 5 are two of my personal favorites. 

4. Limited interior & exterior pockets

Hard shell suitcases often have few pockets, which can make it challenging to organize and have easy access to your belongings.

This is due to the use of rigid materials like high-tech plastics or aluminum, which do not allow for the addition of external pockets to the design.

As a result, it can be difficult to keep smaller items easily accessible and well-organized.

Additionally, the limited organizational features of these suitcases mean that you have to open the entire bag to access your items.

For example, only a few suitcases are equipped with an external compartment designed to hold a laptop and other items, while most hardside luggage choices like the Samsonite Omni PC, Paravel Aviator case, and DELSEY Helium Aero hard shell suitcase do not feature any exterior pockets or compartments.  

5. Most hard suitcases are not expandable

Why is Hard sided Luggage so Popular?

Some softside suitcases come equipped with expandable zippers, which allows travelers to increase the capacity of their luggage simply by unzipping an additional section.

I find this feature to be useful, as it allows me to pack more souvenirs and other items during my travels.

However, hard suitcases do not commonly come with an expander section.

This is due to the rigid construction of a hard suitcase, which makes it difficult to add extra space without compromising the structural integrity of the bag.

That being said, there are hard suitcases that are expandable, offering extra space when needed. 


Do airlines prefer hard or soft luggage?

Airlines don’t have a preference for hard or soft luggage as long as the luggage meets its size and weight restrictions and can withstand the normal handling processes involved in air travel.

It’s really up to you and what you prefer when it comes to choosing between hard or soft suitcase!

I’d say you go for the luggage that fits your travel style and requirements, regardless of what airlines may or may not prefer.

After all, you’re the one who will be lugging it around!

Are hard side luggage better?  

Personally, I prefer hardshell bags crafted from high-quality materials such as polycarbonate or aluminum to soft-sided bags.

Yes, they may weigh more and are more prone to scratches compared to bags made of fabric, but I still think the benefits are well worth it!

I have found that hardshell bags are more durable, water-resistant, and provide a sturdy outer shell that offers extra protection for my belongings, especially when I have to check my bag at the airport.

This is not to say that soft suitcases aren’t good.

They are great, and I appreciate their ability to hold extra items, fit into tight spaces, and often have outside pockets. You can even sneak a few souvenirs and keepsakes into a softshell bag.

The key point here is to choose a bag that has excellent reviews and all the features you need in a travel bag.

Do hard shell suitcases crack easily?

Yes, hard luggage cracks easily if subjected to extreme force or impact, especially if they are made from cheaper materials or if they have been improperly handled or stored.

It is important to note that different types of hard-shell suitcases have varying levels of durability. For example, polycarbonate suitcases tend to be more flexible and less prone to cracking than those made from ABS plastic.

To minimize the risk of cracking, I advise you to handle your hard case with care, avoid overpacking it or stacking heavy objects on top of it, and store it properly when not in use.

And of course, purchasing a high-quality, well-constructed hard shell suitcase can help to ensure its durability and longevity.

Can you sit on a hard suitcase?

Yes, it is possible to sit on a hard suitcase as long as it is sturdy enough to support your weight.

But, it’s not advisable to use your luggage, particularly soft shell luggage, as a seat, because it can harm both the suitcase and the items inside.

Is hard luggage more durable than fabric luggage?

Yes, hard luggage is more durable than fabric luggage.

It can withstand rough handling, pressure, and impact, protecting your belongings from damage. Additionally, it is less likely to be punctured, torn, or damaged during travel.

I should point out that not all hard luggage is created equal, and quality can vary depending on the materials used and the manufacturing process.

As such, look for well-rated bags made with polycarbonate, aluminum, or ABS/PC blend, rather than Polypropylene, or ABS.

Which luggage type is better for checked luggage- hard or soft luggage?

Personally, I prefer to check my hard luggage due to its durability and ability to withstand the rough handling and impact that checked baggage often experiences.

Additionally, it offers better protection for fragile items, reducing the risk of damage during transit.

However, if you prioritize lightweight and flexible luggage that’s easy to pack and store in overhead bins, a piece of high-quality soft shell luggage can also be a great option for checked baggage.

Plus, you won’t have to worry about your suitcase being dented or cracked.

What are the pros and cons of hardside luggage?

Here’s a table outlining the pros and cons of hardside suitcases:

Why is Hard sided Luggage so Popular? : Pros and Cons of hardside suitcase

Closing Thoughts

Why is Hard sided Luggage so Popular?

So, why is hard shell luggage so darn popular?

As discussed, hard-sided suitcases are a popular choice among travelers due to their durability and ability to protect belongings during travel, as well as their attractive and visually appealing designs.

Despite being heavier and less flexible than soft-sided options, the advantages of hard-sided luggage often outweigh the drawbacks.

No matter which type of luggage you choose, I recommend investing in high-quality luggage with excellent reviews and all the essential features you require in a travel bag.

Over to you.

What are your thoughts on hard-sided luggage? Do you think they are superior to soft shell luggage?

Feel free to share your opinion in the comments section. 

Leave a Comment


Don't miss out on our periodic giveaways

Join our newsletter and stay up-to-date with the latest blogpost, travel tips and giveaways.


Don't miss out on our periodic giveaway

Join our newsletter and stay up-to-date with the latest blogpost, travel tips and giveaways.