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Choosing and buying the best hand luggage

Hard or soft-sided hand luggage?

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Hard or soft-sided hand luggage?

Which? advice on choosing between hard-sided and soft-sided hand luggage for your next holiday.


There are typically two types of suitcases – hard and soft. Hard-sided hand luggage has a rigid exterior that is stiff rather than flexible. Soft-sided hand luggage is made of fabric and has a flexible exterior. Many soft-sided suitcases will have some form of rigidity to give the suitcase shape. This can help to protect your belongings and may help to balance the suitcase.

There's often a perception that hard-sided hand luggage is more durable than soft-sided hand luggage. However, our lab testing of suitcases over a number of years has proven this not to be the case. Our results show that the best suitcases for durability can be either soft or hard-sided.

Which is the best hand luggage type for you will depend on your individual needs.  Here are some pros and cons of each suitcase type to help you make a decision.

Hard-sided hand luggage


  • Can offer greater protection to fragile items
  • Tend to be more water resistant
  • More lightweight options are available than with soft-shelled hand luggage
  • Is perceived to be more stylish by some travellers


  • The glossy finish of some suitcases can be prone to scratching
  • There are fewer expandable cases
  • The non-flexible exterior can make them trickier to store
  • They are typically more expensive than soft-sided cases.

Soft-sided hand luggage


  • Flexible fabric makes them comparatively easy to store
  • Many have expandable compartments to increase the suitcase's capacity
  • A number of lightweight options are available
  • Tends to be cheaper than like-for-like hard-sided suitcases


  • Fabric can be less water resistant compared with hard-suitcases
  • Fragile items may have less protection
  • May be perceived by some travellers as less stylish