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Choosing and buying the best luggage

Hard or soft-sided suitcase?

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Hard or soft-sided suitcase?

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

There are typically two types of suitcases – hard and soft. Hard-sided luggage has a rigid exterior that is stiff rather than flexible. Soft-sided luggage is made of fabric and has a flexible exterior.

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

The 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 luggage

Pros

  • Can offer greater protection to fragile items
  • Tends to be more water resistant
  • Increasing number of lightweight options available
  • Perceived to be more stylish by some travellers

Cons

  • Glossy finish of some suitcases may scratch
  • Fewer expandable cases
  • Non-flexible exterior can make them trickier to store
  • Typically more expensive than soft-sided cases

Soft-sided luggage

Pros

  • Flexible fabric makes them comparatively easy to store
  • Many are expandable to increase suitcase capacity
  • Generally lighter than hard-sided suitcases
  • Often cheaper than like-for-like hard-sided suitcases

Cons

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