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What Are the Pros and Cons of Soft Luggage?

Using soft luggage may help passengers avoid overweight-luggage fees when taking a flight.
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  • Written By: Lainie Petersen
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 25 July 2014
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Assessing the pros and cons of soft luggage typically requires that a potential user consider her frequency of travel, the kinds of things that she typically packs, as well as her budget. Soft luggage has several advantages, including its price, weight, and ease of storage. On the other hand, it may not protect items as well as hard side luggage and is often susceptible to both stains and tears.

Soft luggage is typically less expensive than hard luggage, though the price can vary according to quality and brand. As soft luggage is made of flexible material, it is typically fairly easy to store, with many pieces lying almost flat when empty. In fact, many soft luggage sets are designed so that all the smaller pieces can fit into the largest piece, which can make for very easy storage. In addition, the soft design makes it easier to cram pieces of luggage into tight quarters such as the trunk of a car. The material also lends itself well to the addition of outside zippers on the sides of the luggage, which can make it easy for travelers to access needed documents and items while traveling with packed luggage.

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Many travelers have significant concerns about the weight of their luggage. This is due, in part, to the fact that lighter luggage is easier to carry and handle during travel as well as because many airlines charge travelers additional fees if their luggage exceeds a certain weight limit. Soft luggage is typically lightweight, which makes it easier for travelers, particularly those with bad backs or who do not have a lot of upper body strength, to move. It can also reduce the risk of overweight luggage fees.

Although soft luggage has numerous advantages, it also has some disadvantages. As the sides are thin, soft, and flexible, they simply do not provide a great deal of protection for packed items. In addition to lacking a hard shell that can keep fragile items from breaking, the fabric is not as water resistant as hard luggage, which means that the contents of the luggage are more susceptible to water damage. In addition, soft luggage does not offer much protection against theft. Even if someone uses a lock to secure the bag, it is very easy for someone else to cut a soft-sided bag open and steal its contents. Finally, while hard side luggage can crack and break, it is generally easier to clean and is more stain resistant than its soft counterparts.

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cloudel
Post 9

My dad has some soft motorcycle luggage that he uses when he goes on long trips through the mountains. He shopped around for luggage that would be both durable and flexible, because he wanted to be able to fit souvenirs in it along the way, in addition to what he had already packed at home.

He got a soft bag that is also waterproof. Even the zippers are designed to keep rain out. Nothing inside will get harmed by moisture.

Last month, he took a trip to North Carolina, and he rode through some torrential rain. None of the papers inside his luggage even got moist!

Also, even though he had packed the bag pretty full before leaving, he was able to fit t-shirts from a gift shop for my sister and I in there. I think he's pretty impressed with his luggage.

seag47
Post 8

@wavy58 – Some hard luggage also comes with separate inner compartments. This is where I store my underwear.

I feel that hard luggage has more substance and structure. Like you, though, I like to store things separately so that I can find them without rifling through everything in the suitcase. That's why I bought one with a slitted inner lining.

A piece of soft material lines the inside of the lid. Elastic holds it close, but a slit across the top lets you tuck things down inside, all the way across the lid.

The privacy it offers is also nice. I can open my suitcase no matter who is in the room without worrying that they will see my underwear.

wavy58
Post 7

@Oceana – I'm with you. I tend to overpack when it comes to clothes, because I like to be prepared for any situation. Soft luggage allows me to do that, while hard luggage has a set point for how many dresses you can fit inside it.

Another thing I love about soft luggage is the outer zippered compartments. I put my socks and underwear in these pockets, and it is so nice not to have to dig through all my other clothes to find them.

I generally don't fold my underwear anyway, so keeping it neat inside the bag is not an issue. I just roll it up and store it on the outside of the bag.

Oceana
Post 6

I have used both types of luggage when traveling, and I have to say that I prefer soft luggage. Last year, my husband and I took a trip that lasted nearly two weeks, and we were able to cram plenty of clothes into our soft luggage. This much clothing never would have fit in our hard luggage.

We also were able to manipulate the luggage into various spaces. It could bend and arch over our other stuff in the floor, and we could press other things down on top of it in the trunk.

With hard luggage, we would have had a much more difficult time finding room for all the stuff his mother gave us to take back home with us. I think we stretched and compressed our soft luggage to the max by putting all his old junk in our car around it!

ysmina
Post 5

@burcinc-- I have seen some really durable soft luggage as well. So I think it depends on the type of material that was used and the quality.

Hard luggage definitely protects breakables better, but it's super heavy. I used to have one that I had trouble carrying even when it was empty.

The other thing I love about soft luggage is that even when it's full, I can manage to put a couple of more things in and zip it up. But with hard luggage, if it's full- it's full. There is no flexibility whatsoever even if I sit on it!

Buying luggage just depends on what your individual preference is I think because both soft and hard luggage has enough pros to make them worth buying.

whiteplane
Post 4

I recently had to buy luggage for the first time in my life. In the past I had usually just used backpacks and duffel bags but the demands of work meant that I had to get something a little more professional.

I went to a discount luggage place in the mall and I noticed immediately that most of the cool luggage was soft sided. Unfortunately, I needed to get something hard shelled because I have to transport my computer equipment and some other sensitive electronics. All the luggage I wanted to buy was soft sided but I had to settle for a big ugly hard shelled case.

chivebasil
Post 3

I almost always use soft luggage. I find that hard shell luggage is often more size, weight and bulk than I need.

I always travel as light as I can and I usually don't have anything delicate. My luggage is usually just clothes and a toothbrush. So there is really no reason not to use soft side luggage.

bear78
Post 2

I personally prefer soft sided luggage than the hard plastic ones. I think there is less chance for things breaking inside soft luggage. It seems like the hard plastic might be harder on glass or electronics when it's thrown into and out of planes and carriers at the airport. I think hard luggage can break too. It's plastic after all, so a hard hit can cause it to crack.

Plus, has anyone seen the cost of hard luggage? It's like twice the cost of soft luggage! I don't travel that often, so I don't need to invest in a super expensive luggage like that. I've been using soft luggage for two years and it's been fine so far. So why pay all that money?

burcinc
Post 1

The article has done a good job of summing up the pros and cons of soft luggage and I agree with all of them.

I generally prefer soft luggage for domestic travel or if I plan on driving. It's very light like the article said and the military type ones can fit so much stuff in it. If you plan on checking in one piece of luggage at the airport, you can probably fit two suitcases worth of stuff in one of these and would save on airline luggage fees.

The negatives I can think of is that some large soft luggage doesn't have wheels and since I jam so much stuff in it, it's terribly heavy and difficult to lift. I always have to have my husband carry it for me. So it's definitely not the best for a female. Weight is also an issue when traveling by plane because of the weight limit.

I absolutely hate travelling with soft luggage internationally because there have been so many times that my luggage arrived at my final destination in several pieces. It always has something ripped or broken on it. I've even received one completely taped up by the airline personnel because the zipper broke. This is rarely an issue with hard luggage if ever.

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