Hard vs Soft Sided Luggage: What's the Difference?

Hard vs Soft Sided Luggage: What's the Difference?

Wondering how to compare hard vs soft luggage? If hard or soft luggage is best? The truth is, there’s really no right or wrong answer.

We know – not the answer you wanted! But choosing luggage is a personal decision because everyone has different packing and travel needs. So, let’s take a closer look at these two types so you can decide if hard or soft side luggage is better for your travels, needs, and style preferences. 


Don’t worry; the hardside luggage of today is a far cry from the heavy, bulky models your ancestors toted around back in the day. 

  • Durability

We know what you’re thinking. Does hard-sided luggage crack? In the past, this was a common problem — but our hardshell luggage is made out of 3-layer, 100% virgin Makrolon® polycarbonate material. It’s high-strength, lightweight, and provides elasticity and resiliency. Not only is it some of the most durable luggage around, but it also can handle anything from rain puddles to being thrown onto the baggage drop.

  • Plenty of Packing Space

 A common complaint about hard-sided luggage is that it doesn’t have as much flexibility to jam-pack extra items as with soft-sided models. However, our hard shell expandable spinners are designed with the Briggs & Riley CX™ system, meaning when you need it, they expand for 25% more space, which means you can pack that extra jacket or pair of pants, then compress back to their original size when you don’t.

  • Mobility

 One noticeable difference when comparing hard shell vs. soft shell luggage is that it’s notoriously easier to handle. The reason for such effortless maneuvering is the fact that hard-sided luggage is equipped with four wheels instead of two, so it will stay balanced no matter how much you’ve crammed into it. As a bonus, you are able to push the bag in front of you, which makes walking down the narrow airplane aisle a little bit easier.

  • Easy Upkeep

Unlike soft-sided bags, hardshell luggage is easy to clean. You don’t have to worry about stains from weather-related incidents or a leaky toiletry bag, or anything else life throws your way. Simply wipe it down with a damp cloth, and it’s as good as new. 


Are you looking for more variety and flexibility in your luggage collection? Softside luggage may be for you.

  • Resiliency 

 Soft shell luggage can be thrown into the cargo (belly) of the plane or tossed and turned on the baggage claim belt yet still come out without a scratch. 

  • Flexible Space Allowance

 A soft luggage bag is constructed out of flexible materials so that you can pack more personal belongings. And with models such as the Domestic 22” Carry-On Expandable Spinner in our Baseline Luggage Collection, this luggage style is also easier to place into an overhead bin on a plane or compact luggage racks on buses and trains. Here at Briggs & Riley, we took things a step further by incorporating a patented CX Technology that expands selected soft luggage bags up to 34%. 

  • Organizational Options Abound

 Typically, soft side luggage has internal and external pockets, so you have the added convenience of quickly accessing that much-needed power cable or travel read without having to open up your suitcase. We kicked things up a notch by adding a SpeedThru pocket for storage of items at security checkpoints — because everyone can agree that’s one of the least desirable parts about traveling. Our Baseline Luggage Collection’s Expandable Cabin Bag is a favorite for its organizational features and spaciousness.


Which is better, soft-sided luggage or hard? Again, hardshell luggage isn’t necessarily better than soft-sided luggage and vice versa. There are definitely pros and cons to each. However, before choosing the best travel suitcase for you, consider your plans and needs. You never know — you may wind up needing both!

Need luggage or want to upgrade your current pieces? You’ll find the perfect luggage for your style and travel needs at Briggs & Riley.

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