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3 Reasons Hard Shell Luggage is Better than Soft Shell Luggage

If you’re someone who travels regularly you’ll know that one of the most important decisions is picking up the right suitcase – after-all you can’t just take it home and switch it!

Today the luggage industry offers variety of different luggage options to suit individual travelers’ preference, though one of the most significant innovations over the past decade has been the hard shell suitcase.

While previously known to crack and fall apart, the travel industry has seen significant innovations in overall quality of the hard shell suitcase. Most companies nowadays use polycarbonate, a softer material that actually flexes a little bit to absorb impact when dropped or thrown onto hard surfaces.

The following are 3 reasons why hard sided polycarbonate luggage is a better choice than opting for a soft case.

Light Weight

Bag Suitcase luggage RF

Weight is a significant concern when investing in a suitcase, especially when it comes to air travel. When you already have a weight limit to be carried on the aircraft, you can’t afford to lose a significant chunk of it in the weight of the suitcase itself.

One of the primary reasons that travelers in the past have ditched hard sided luggage is that they were bulkier and consumed extra weight. This also made them difficult to handle.

However polycarbonate luggage is lighter than even many soft-sided pieced. The weightlessness allows you to utilize your baggage weight limit to the maximum and lets you carry around the luggage easily without any hassle or extra assistance.


Bag Suitcase luggage RF

Another major problem with hard-sided suitcases earlier was that the material easily cracked during baggage handling. As a result, damage to passenger belongings was more than that of soft-sided luggage.

Fortunately, now that companies have started using polycarbonate, modern hard sided luggage is unscratchable and flexible, which means it has the room to expand or contract and it will not crack due to force or pressure.


Hard-shell suitcases made of polycarbonate material win the durability game hands down, especially if you are traveling somewhere where you are likely to encounter weather conditions such as rain or snow.

Unlike soft-sided luggage, they provide you an extra layer of protection against water and moisture. They also keep your gadgets such as tablets, phones, and laptops protected from any shock or pressure and lasts much longer than any other luggage.


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Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 50+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.



  1. The challenge I have with hard shell luggage is that you must completely fill it, otherwise everything rattles around inside and gets not only very disorganized, but often, broken.
    What if you plan to buy things at your destination? If you pack light on the way there, you’ll have this problem with hard shell luggage.

    My own luggage – or at least the contents thereof – often changes from trip to trip, and even throughout a trip. With soft-sided luggage, I can cinch in the compression straps (mine has straps on the inside AND the outside) when I under-pack, and it has a bit more give if/when I over-pack.

    • Really great tips Nora, definitely something to keep in mind if weighing up the pros and cons. Re completely filling it, I have a couple of hard shell bags which are split into two distinct sections. I usually only fill one but then the divider keeps everything in place, and there’s an empty side to fill with shopping, or dirty laundry if I don’t buy anything and decide to separate some clothes.

      I also use packing cubes for loose gear so that even if it does move around, the cubes keep everything pretty tight. Soft sided luggage is definitely more flexible though, and your compression straps sounds like a great idea; love that they’re there on the inside and out. Will have to look for that if I’m buying soft-sided in the future :)

      Happy travels!

    • So point in picking a suitcase based on how pretty it looks..because that prettiness is only going to last until it goes through it’s first flight :)

  2. All good points Meg. We need some luggage for an upcoming trip – announcement soon – so will keep hard shell in mind. I love how it looks and the durability factor too.

    • Ooooh sounds mysterious! Looking forward to hearing where you’re going!

  3. Interesting! I’ve never had a hard shell either. My decision came down to the best deal I could find at TJ Maxx ?

    • If you do ever make the jump let us know what you think about the difference :)

  4. Finally! I am a big fan of hard shell luggage but no one seems to agree with me (until now).

    There is one other element that you should consider. Standard zippers are far easy to open and close without anyone knowing. Choosing a hard sided suitcase that is held closed using latches or newer double coil zippers and avoid traditional single coil zips.

    • We should start a club lol. Great point re zippers, I find that even when I put cable ties around my zips to lock them in they’re usually snapped open either by customs or just from having been thrown around so much. I like the idea of finding hard shell luggage with double coil zips or latches though :)

      Thanks for sharing your insights David – happy travels!

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