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Soft Side or Hard Side?

Nowadays, suitcases come in all shapes and colors, although their sizes remain almost the same due to carrier restrictions. Travelers aren't only able to choose suitcases in their favorite color, but also the design. Fans of popular and nerd cultures can proudly display their suitcases brandished with logos or graphics of their favorite characters that are made possible through licensing deals.


Another aspect that has more or less remained the same is the outer shell. Hard-side luggage is on the rise, while soft-side luggage is still the choice for many travelers.


Prima USA Travel designs and produces both hard-side and soft-side suitcases. Although we advise stocking up on both types of luggage, we understand sometimes issues like display or inventory space may be a problem. As your business grows, you'll be able to discern which shell material works better for your company. This will help you make a business decision whether to stay with one shell type or diversify. But when you're just starting, it can sometimes be overwhelming to choose, especially with so many options out there. Let's look at the differences between the two to decide which one works better for your business and your customer.



Soft Side


Typically made from durable woven nylon, soft-side or soft-shell suitcases are still generally more popular than their hard side counterpart. According to a research published in 2020 by Coherent Marketing Insight, soft-side suitcases take up to 73.1% of luggage market share, with the rest belonging to hard-side suitcases.


Pilots and airline staff are also fiercely loyal to soft-side carry-ons, according to an article published by Reader's Digest.


Soft-side suitcases offer a bit of a give and therefore more space flexibility. It's easier to squeeze in more items into a soft-side suitcase than a hard-side suitcase. That said, a savvy traveler needs to remember that an overweight suitcase will not only result in extra charges but also damage the suitcase and its content.


Another reason why many travelers prefer soft-side suitcases is the practical outer pockets. Unlike with hard-side suitcases, manufacturers can easily and securely attach external pockets and compartments on soft-shelled luggage. These compartments can be used to store items without opening (and rearranging) the whole suitcase.


The third reason is the weight. Soft-side suitcases are generally lighter than hard-side suitcases. This means a traveler can pack more items to reach the weight limit.



Hard Side


Although good quality soft-shelled suitcases can withstand normal wear and tear, many travelers believe hard-side luggage last longer. The most popular materials used to make hard-side suitcases are plastic compounds called ABS, polycarbonate, and polypropylene.


A traveler may find a hard-side suitcase more suitable than soft-side suitcase to transport valuable or fragile items. The external shell of hard-side luggage is generally a better protective layer than that of soft-side luggage.


Although soft-side suitcases may offer more space due to the material, many hard-side suitcases are expandable. The Varsity collection from American Sport Plus by Prima USA Travel can expand up to 20% so travelers can fit more items.


While both hard-side and soft-side luggage will experience normal wear and tear as they get rolled onto surfaces and loaded into different carriers, hard-side luggage tends to look better much longer. When it gets dirty, the traveler can wipe the surface clean or use a melamine foam like the Magic Eraser.


Speaking of cosmetic appearance, travelers who love personalizing their travel paraphernalia will find stickers adhere to hard-side suitcases more easily than to soft-side suitcases.




That said, a good quality suitcase, regardless of its shell, can make or break a trip. It's always prudent to do a six-point of examination on a suitcase (wheels, handles, zippers, build, size, and warranty) before deciding whether it's a yes or a pass.


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