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Is Hard Shell Luggage Better Than Soft Luggage?
Airplane travel was much different 50 years ago. If you look at photographs from that time, you might notice everyone smiling and dressed very formally. Business people were expected to look nice. People took fewer vacations, so when families flew, it was a special occasion. They were excited.
You might also notice that in those old photos, most of the luggage was boxy or hard-shelled.
Over the years, soft-shell luggage, like duffle bags, became more popular. They were pliable, so air travelers had an easier time storing them in overhead bins. They also weighed less than hard-sided luggage, so they were easier to carry.
Hard-sided luggage is becoming more popular again because new materials, such as high-tech ABS, polypropylene, and polycarbonate, are lighter and more flexible than the hard-shell luggage of years ago.
A hard-shell suitcase is easier to carry now than in years past not only because it’s lighter, but because of the spinners and rollers that make it easy to pull.
Hard vs. soft luggage
Why choose hard-sided luggage over soft-sided luggage? For one thing, hard-shell suitcases protect breakable items such as glass or porcelain. If you take a once-in-lifetime vacation to tropical islands and buy a beautiful, fragile memento for someone you love, it’s nice to feel confident it will be well protected on the trip home. There’s no worse feeling than unwrapping something precious and seeing that it broke.
Think of how many times your bag is out of your control when you travel. It’s in the belly of a cruise ship. It’s on a series of conveyor belts and on a cart before it gets loaded on to an airplane. The clothes and other items you packed are important to you, but they’re not important to the baggage handler who’s under pressure to shove all the bags into the plane as fast as possible so the plane can take off on time. Of course, it’s always possible something inside could break, but it’s much less likely with a hard-shell suitcase.
High-tech plastic doesn’t bulge, so if you buy the right size, you know your hard-sided luggage carry on will fit in the box at the ticket counter. Soft-shell luggage, on the other hand, can be overstuffed so it won’t fit.
When you get stuck in the rain on the sidewalk, running toward the front door of your hotel, or in the snow in New York while walking to the subway station, your clothes are protected in a hard-shell suitcase. In soft-sided luggage, your items might get wet. In addition, ROAM luggage uses water-resistant zippers, so if your suitcase is stuck on the tarmac and a rainstorm occurs, your items will remain dry.
Polycarbonate and other high-tech plastics, although they’re tough, will flex a little bit with pressure and not break unless under extreme stress. That’s why a version of the same material used in ROAM suitcase shells is also used to make bullet-proof glass.
It’s easier to keep hard-sided luggage clean. Softer materials such as canvas and nylon absorb liquid and odor. When you spill that coffee all over your soft-shell bag, the bag will stain and smell. The coffee will wipe right off your hard-shell suitcase. Hard bags do get marked up after a while but can be easily cleaned often with a sponge, soap, and water.
Upshot, hard shell luggage is going to be lighter, easier to maintain and will resist the elements better than most soft-shell luggage.