Soft Shell vs Hard Shell Luggage: Which Type is the Best for Me

Eminent Luggage | Eminent Blog | Soft Shell vs Hard Shell Luggage: Which Type is the Best for Me

When purchasing new luggage it is important to make an informed, researched decision before you commit to a bag, so that you are certain your luggage will fit the purposes you purchased them for. One of the most asked question in regards to luggage is - shall I purchase a case with a soft or hard shell? And for that question, the main answer is personal preference. However it is great to consider all of the attributes of each, so you can decide which suitcase you would rather travel with.  

Soft Shell Luggage 


The overall makeup of a soft shell suitcase is often slightly more complicated than a hard shell case, this is because an extensive range of materials can be used. These can include materials such as nylon, leather, polyester, canvas, cloth and variants of each. At Eminent we use a variety of these fabric options, listed in our product descriptions, to ensure the quality of our luggage is excellent and durable. 

Other than the materials used, there is not too much difference in the components of the 2 bag options, soft shell bags can have 2 or 4 wheels, multiple handles (usually a similar fabric composition as the bag itself) and generally are produced to be around the same size as a hard shell bag. 


  • Fabric cases have more flexibility. For those of use that tend to pack more than anticipated, or purchase unexpected items along the trip. Soft shell cases tend to be more accommodating to ‘cramming’. They are also beneficial for storing items that have obscure shapes, as the soft material bends and stretches with the item, giving you a bit more leniency when packing your bag
  •  Can fit into tighter spaces. Similar to flexibility, fabric cases tend to be more popular for the smaller packs and if you want to squeeze your luggage into a tighter compartment.  For fitting into an overhead compartment, this luggage option is going to be accommodating to a range of overhead compartments. As well as fitting well under foot in a bus or plane. 
  • Additional pockets. Pockets can be very beneficial if you need to throw in your charger, or want to fit something in the side of your suitcase that you may need to access easily. More often soft shell luggage has pockets, and therefore pockets ensure those extra things easily be popped in the side. 
  • More lightweight. Although hard shell luggage can be made very lightweight with today's materials and technology. Soft shell luggage tends to still be the lighter option, even with additional components such as handles and wheels, if you are looking for a more lightweight option a soft shell suitcase is the way to go. 


  • Can become odorous. It is known that because soft shell luggage is made out of fabric, it does not clean as easily as the hard shell option. Therefore if something particularly pungent is placed in the luggage, or there is moisture inside the bag, it can affect the overall smell for trips to come. Soft shell luggage can be dry cleaned, and general maintenance of wiping and cleaning the bag is recommended. But in general it is known to deteriorate in this way more easily. 
  • Tears or cuts. Because there is a tendency to pack a soft shell case tighter, there is also an impact on the overall wear and tear of the product. Soft shell products have been known to rip or tear over time.


There are so many positives to soft shell luggage, Eminent highly recommends soft shell luggage particularly for smaller bags such as travel backpacks or satchels that tend to go in the overhead compartment when travelling. Also if you are a traveller that wants to fit more in this is the option for you. 


Hard Shell Luggage 


Hardshell luggage also can be made with a variety of materials but generally are made with similar harder materials. Most hardshell luggage today is made up of high-tech plastics such as polycarbonate, ABS or aluminium. Aluminium is not as common as it is heavier and most of the high tech plastics are proven to be significantly durable and practical. 

Eminent luggage uses Thermoplastic Polyolefin (TPO) for their hardshell cases, which is an extremely durable and versatile plastic. This product is 100% recyclable and stable against knocks and scratches. 

The other components such as wheels and handles can be made up with similar materials as the exterior of the case. The interior of hardshell cases often have fabric lining for a preferred protection that can usually be removed to clean. 


  • Better protection for more breakable or expensive items. The hardshell case offers added protection for items such as laptops that you may have stored in your main luggage. While soft shell luggage owners frequently tightly pack an abundance of clothes around the precious item, those travelling with hard shell luggage can pack more breakable items with less thought about who might be handling their luggage. 
  • Water resistant. Having a hard shell case, such as a TPO case, can ensure that the luggage is more water resistant. That way if you trek longer distances with your luggage, through the rain or puddles, there is less risk to the contents of your luggage. 
  • Durability. Although both hard shell and soft shell luggage should last well, if well made. Hard shell luggage tends to be more durable against knocks and scratches. This is because the advancements in manufacturing have come along quickly, to ensure hard shell luggage is made with the best materials that are most effective in creating longevity. 


  • Less flexibility. The Hard shell suitcase will always be the size you purchase. You cannot squish or manoeuvre it into a tight space, like you can a soft shell. And you are less likely to be able to force an unusually shaped object into your suitcase. Hard shell luggage is made to have plenty of room for packing, but the overall flexibility of the bag is not as co-operative. 
  • Can get visible scratches or knocks. Although the hardshell luggage is less permeable, over time knocks and scratches will show on the bag. Brighter colours of luggage can be more susceptible to showing marks. However the bag itself will tend to remain in good condition, just showing visible wear and tear on the exterior. 


Hard Shell luggage is a great option for travellers that want a durable bag that could contain more precious items. They are also great for compact travel, or if you want a solid yet lightweight option. 



Picking your luggage is a matter of taste, here we have presented what we believe to be the benefits and weaknesses of soft and hard shell luggage. Realistically both hard and soft shell luggage are extremely functional, durable and will fit the purpose you have purchased them for. That being said there are some benefits to each that may be more appealing to a certain demographic or consumer. That is why it is important to research exactly what you want in your luggage, before you purchase a good quality bag.

Make sure to have a look at Eminent's latest collection of high quality luggage, to purchase your preference of a hard or soft shell bag here