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What Are the Pros and Cons of Canvas Luggage?

Misty Amber Brighton
Misty Amber Brighton

There are many advantages and disadvantages of canvas luggage. One advantage is that this luggage can be inexpensive and easy to care for. This soft luggage is also somewhat expandable, which means travelers may be able to stuff additional items into their suitcases if need be. A disadvantage is that this type of luggage might tear easily. It also may not protect fragile items from breaking, especially during air travel.

A luggage set made from canvas is typically less expensive than those made from leather or vinyl. This can be good news for people who do not have a great deal of money to spend on cloth luggage. These suitcases could be ideal for people who travel only occasionally and do not need elaborate luggage.

Some canvas pieces of luggage are not sturdy enough to withstand the rough-and-tumble conditions of air travel.
Some canvas pieces of luggage are not sturdy enough to withstand the rough-and-tumble conditions of air travel.

Canvas luggage is typically very easy to care for. It generally does not need to be cleaned unless something gets spilled on the surface. In that instance, it can usually be cleaned by wiping it down with a damp cloth. Most models are somewhat stain-resistant but can be professionally cleaned if they become soiled.

Travelers often find they return from their trips with more items than they left home with. People who have a tendency to purchase souvenirs or extra clothing when traveling may appreciate the fact that canvas luggage is somewhat expandable. This can often make it possible to stretch suitcases slightly in order to accommodate these items.

Even though canvas luggage can expand, placing too many items inside can sometimes be harmful. This could cause the zipper to burst, making it impossible to close the suitcase. The seams could also rip open if extremely heavy items are placed inside.

This type of luggage can sometimes be caught on sharp objects, causing the fabric to rip or tear. When canvas luggage is torn, it can be very difficult to patch up without becoming unsightly. Pocket flaps are also susceptible to tearing, especially on the outside of the suitcase.

People who are carrying fragile items should use caution when placing them in a canvas suitcase. This is because the walls of this soft luggage are normally very thin and may not absorb shock well. When canvas luggage is handled roughly, things inside them may rattle around and eventually break. This is especially true whenever luggage is routed through numerous stations before arriving at a final destination. People who want to protect delicate items should pack them in a hard-shell suitcase or one lined with foam if possible.

Discussion Comments


I just always choose canvas luggage from a design standpoint. Soft sided luggage always has a lot of pockets and things that you just don't usually find with leather or hard-sided suitcases. I got my suitcase set at a luggage sale somewhere, and I have never had any problems with things getting broken or the suitcase taking any damage. We take a lot of car trips, though, so that might be part of it.

On that same point, canvas bags can really be nice for a family, since you can get whole sets for a relatively inexpensive price. I'm not sure about the other types of suitcases, but the canvas ones usually are able to next inside each other, as well. That is a huge space saver. Overall, I would just say you need to take into consideration where you will be taking your luggage, how much you will be putting in it, and what level of protection you need.


I have a friend who travels a lot, and he always chooses to use hard suitcases when he travels. He has had a couple of experiences with things getting broken during a flight. In one case, he even ended up with something spilled on his suitcase by the airline.

I think maybe the middle ground if you want more protection than canvas, but don't really want a hard case would be leather. I have a leather bag that I use as my carry on bag, and I really like it. It is easy to pack a lot of stuff in it, but the walls are still firm enough to stop it getting crushed if the person I'm sharing the compartment with has a big bag. It is really easy to clean up if it gets wet, too.


I think overall canvas bags are fine for using even if you are a regular traveler. Compared to the difficulty associated with packing a hard case, I think the canvas luggage offers a lot of benefits. I know my bags have been tossed around a lot, and they have never gotten ripped or torn. I guess if you think you might be traveling a lot, it might be worth investing in a set of luggage that is a little more durable.

Along those lines, I think they even make a material for suitcases now that is supposed to be resistant to ripping. I don't remember what the name of it is, though. I think it was made out of some sort of military grade fabric. I'm not sure how much it costs compared to other options, either.


@kylee07drg - That is sad to hear. I have always carried a lot of breakable things in my canvas luggage and have never had any problems. Hearing your story makes me think maybe I have just gotten lucky so far. Maybe I should go ahead and invest in a hard shell suitcase when I think I will need to carry anything I don't want broken.

I guess I have always been fortunate with my zippers, as well. I usually end up packing my suitcases to the brim, and I have never had any problems with zippers coming off of the tracks or anything. My luggage isn't particularly expensive or anything.


I thought that canvas was the best material for a travel bag until something broke inside of my soft sided luggage. I had been using that bag for years with no problems, but when I had no choice but to carry something breakable home in it, I learned a hard lesson.

I had gone up North for my grandmother’s funeral. In her will, she had left her decorative tea set to my disabled aunt, who lived near me but was too ill to travel. I offered to bring it back to her.

Since I hadn’t anticipated this, I hadn’t brought along any hard luggage. The only thing I had to carry the tea set in was my canvas bag. I wrapped it in tissue paper several times, and I surrounded it with clothing to cushion it.

This wasn’t enough, though. When I hit a large bump in the road going home, a case of bottled water on the seat fell onto the canvas bag below and broke the tea set into dozens of pieces.


I have popped the zipper on a big canvas travel bag before. I always seem to buy a lot of souvenirs while on a trip, and I can’t help but over-stuff my bag.

I got a canvas bag specifically for its flexibility. I knew that I should be able to cram more stuff inside. I stretched it beyond its limits the last time I used it, though.

I bought some sand glitter art for my cousin. It was an eight-inch tall seahorse made from sand and sprayed with brightly colored glitter. I wrapped it up in newspaper to keep from getting glitter on my clothes, and I crammed it down inside.

When I tried to zip it, I had to fight it. Finally, the zipper jumped over the lump and skipped a spot. It left an unzipped section about four inches long in the middle, and though I tried to zip back over it, this would not work.


@lighth0se33 - You can clean canvas bags with interior upholstery cleaner. It comes in a bottle with a brush attached to the top.

This foam is the same stuff I use on my car seat and my couch. You can usually find it in the automotive section of a store or in any auto parts store.

I spray the foam on and let it soak for thirty seconds. Then, I brush it in a circular motion. I take a damp cloth and wipe the area, and then I let it air dry.

This will make your bags smell like new. I haven’t seen any specially scented interior cleaner, and the only kind I know of just makes your stuff smell like the inside of a new car. It’s a fresh scent, and it smells so much better than dog!


Does anyone know how to get pet odors out of your canvas luggage without having them cleaned professionally? I made the mistake of leaving mine lying in the floor for a month after I got back from my trip, and my dog has been laying on them for awhile now.

I sniffed the canvas yesterday, and it smells strongly of dog. I would not want to put my clothes in it with that smell permeating the fabric.

After I clean it, I plan to store it in the attic so my dog can’t reach it. It doesn’t have any visible stains, but that odor has got to go.

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    • Some canvas pieces of luggage are not sturdy enough to withstand the rough-and-tumble conditions of air travel.
      By: Pavel Losevsky
      Some canvas pieces of luggage are not sturdy enough to withstand the rough-and-tumble conditions of air travel.