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What Are the Pros and Cons of Using Hard Case Luggage?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 23, 2024
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The advantages, or pros, of traveling with hard case luggage include the protective shell to keep your belongings from becoming crushed. The disadvantages, or cons, of this type of luggage are that its colors and patterns may be limited and it doesn't "squish" down or fit as easily into small spaces as the more decorative, soft-sided suitcases. Hard case luggage is also heavier and tends to show scuffs or scratches quite easily. Yet, the plastic or metal shell can stay cleaner and is typically much more durable than cloth or vinyl suitcases.

The tough, durable quality of hard shell travel cases is a popular pro. They can withstand a lot of handling by airport staff and are unlikely to become damaged. Many types of hard shell luggage are designed to take maximum impact and still hold up well. Most kinds of cloth suitcases, on the other hand, could become torn, pierced or have a damaged handle or pocket section after being taken on half as many travel adventures as hard case luggage. One con though is that if a hard shell suitcase becomes scratched, it can be more difficult, or even impossible, to repair the scratch than the damage typically done to cloth bags.

Yet, the bottom of a cloth bag left on the ground can much more easily become soiled with a stain than an easy-to-wipe hard surface suitcase. Hard case luggage also has the pro of being less likely to mildew from damp conditions than cloth suitcases or to smell as musty from the excess moisture. The shell of hard cases can typically be dried as easily as they can be wiped, while cloth luggage may become ruined from too much moisture. Whereas a hard suitcase surface protects the contents from water, a soft one does not.

Although cloth or nylon soft-sided luggage is available in more patterns and colors that the hard case variety, it often doesn't look as elegant or modern. For instance, silver hard case luggage in an interestingly textured metal can be ultra-modern with a cool, streamlined appearance. A con can be that hard shell suitcases in neutral colors can be more difficult to spot on luggage carousels than brightly colored or distinctly patterned cloth bags.

A con of some hard surface luggage pieces is that they can be much heavier than cloth cases. On the other hand, a pro is that many are available with extending handles, bottom wheels and other innovative features. For instance, hard case luggage may have smaller, more stylish and easier rolling wheels than those on soft suitcases. These smaller wheels may swivel or turn better as well.

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Discussion Comments
By Stelando — On Dec 13, 2013
I'm a soft-sided luggage fan, personally. It just doesn't feel like packing if I'm not standing on top of my soft bag, jumping up and down, and defying the laws of physics by narrowly zipping that bag shut. Don't think you could work that kind of magic with a hard bag.
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