Hard vs. Soft Luggage: A Guide To Finding Your Ideal Travel Companion

Hard vs. Soft Luggage: A Guide To Finding Your Ideal Travel Companion


So you’ve secured your plane ticket, prepared your travel documents and laid out your must-take clothes. 

All that’s left is to grab a reliable bag and start packing! But what type of luggage is ideal for your trip? 

Both hard shell luggage and soft-sided suitcases offer benefits, and we’re here to help you choose the one that’s right for you. 

From durability to maintenance and everything in between, here’s all you need to know in the hard vs. soft luggage showdown. 

Need new suitcase for your next trip? Shop our flexible luggage!

What’s The Difference Between Hard And Soft Luggage? 

You’ve heard of both hard shell and soft-sided luggage, but what exactly are these suitcases made out of? 

1. Hard Shell Luggage 

Hard shell luggage, also referred to as hard-sided luggage, is a waterproof suitcase with a hard exterior. 

Hard-sided luggage is made of: 

  • Polycarbonate shells: A type of plastic that is lightweight and can withstand impact 
  • Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic: A type of plastic which is also lightweight, but not durable as polycarbonate shells 
  • Aluminum: A type of metal that is durable but heavy 

Thanks to its strong exterior, hard-sided luggage can protect your fragile travel essentials from the stress of tight compartments and rough handling. 


2. Soft Shell Luggage 

Soft shell luggage, also referred to as soft-sided luggage, is a flexible suitcase with a soft exterior. 

Soft shell luggage is made of various types of fabric, from polyester to canvas and nylon. Thanks to its material, soft-sided luggage provides extra room for your travel essentials, as it’s able to stretch around your items. 

Hard Luggage Key Benefits 

Now that you have a better idea of hard and soft shell luggage, let’s dive into each bag’s key benefits. 

From easy maintenance to enhanced protection and more, we’ve compiled the key benefits of hard-side luggage. 

1. Easy To Clean 

Whether you’re bound for a wet and wild outdoor adventure or your bag ends up on the tarmac during a muddy rainstorm, a hard shell bag is a breeze to clean thanks to its tough, thermoplastic and water-resistant exterior. 

To clean the exterior of your hard shell luggage: 

  • Create a mild detergent soap and water solution
  • Dab the solution on a clean sponge and apply it on your bag’s exterior 
  • Set your luggage aside for five minutes 
  • Rinse it clean with water or wipe it down with a microfiber cloth

Pro tip: To learn how to clean your suitcase from handle to wheels, check out our guide to cleaning your luggage after a trip

2. Provides Better Protection For Fragile Items 

Bringing home a souvenir bottle of Sauvignon from your trip? You can count on hard shell bags to safeguard your delicate travel essentials whether on the road or in the air. 

Thanks to its sturdy material — whether a polycarbonate hard shell, aluminum or ABS plastic — hard-sided luggage provides an added layer of security for your belongings during bumpy rides in the airport’s conveyor belt a taxi trunk. 

3. Prevents Odors 

If there’s one thing the recent airport chaos has taught us (besides the convivence of a checked bag!) is that luggage can smell

But whether you’re carrying a few dirty clothes or even the funkiest of cheeses, a hard shell bag will keep odors sealed during travel. 

Expert tip: While the right hard shell luggage can offer all of these benefits and more, keep in mind that not all luggage is created equal. Low-quality bags can crack, dent and even fall apart during your travels (yikes!). High-quality luggage from a reputable brand is key. 

In case your bag does end up damaged, lost or delayed, read this guide to make sure you’re up-to-date on how to handle these sticky situations! 


Flex Vega hard shell luggage
The Flex Vega is the world’s slimmest and most flexible luggage

Soft Shell Luggage Key Benefits 

From providing ample space for your essentials to offering smart organizational features, here are the key benefits of a sturdy soft shell suitcase. 

1. Offers Flexibility 

Whether you’re a habitual overpacker or expert crammer, a soft shell suitcase is flexible enough to stretch around your belongings. 

In addition to storing more items than you may have anticipated — think souvenirs from your trip! — soft shell luggage can also store those awkward-shaped travel essentials. 

The best part? You can squeeze soft-sided luggage into the plane’s overhead bin, even on a crowded flight! 

Pro tip: To make the most of your luggage space, read our guide to packing a suitcase to maximize space. 

2. Provides Easy Access To Essentials 

Have you ever had to open your suitcase in an airport full of strangers and publicly dig around for an item? If you’ve experienced this awkward moment, you’re sure to appreciate the streamlined access a soft shell suitcase offers. 

From zippered exterior sleeves and pockets to dual compartments and more, soft shell bags provide easy access to important documents or travel essentials, without the need to open your entire suitcase. 

3. Offers Durability 

Made from fabric, you won’t need to worry about cracks or dents if your luggage gets tossed around. If you notice a few scuffs after your trip, soft shell suitcases are typically easy to wipe down and refresh. 

Stay updated: Wondering which airlines are the most and least likely to damage your bag? Read this recent study

Flex Aura soft shell luggage
Introducing the Flex Aura, which is made of water-resistant fabric

Hard And Softshell Luggage: Combining The Best Of Both Worlds With Rollink 

Whether you want the sleekness of a hard-sided suitcase or the flexibility of soft shell luggage, Rollink’s line of hybrid bags gives you the best of both worlds when it comes to finding your ideal travel companion. 

Designed for any type of adventure or travel lifestyle, and made to last for years to come, Flex Vega is a lightweight hard shell suitcase that can withstand impact, water and scratches! 

After your trip, cleaning is easy with a simple wipe down, thanks to the polycarbonate hard shell exterior. And once your Flex Vega looks good as new, just fold it to 2” flat and store it in your closet or under your bed until the next adventure calls. 

Flex Vega Checked Luggage
Meet the Flex Vega – durable, lightweight and flexible

Available in three sizes, Flex Vega features include:   

  • Made of strong polycarbonate hard shell   
  • Water-, scratch- and impact-resistant 
  • Folds flat to about 2’’ thick 
  • Silent, coated wheels for effortless gliding 
  • Easy storage at home or on the go   
  • Side pocket to keep your essentials close by 
  • Height-adjustable telescopic handle 


If the softer side is calling your name, look no further than the Flex Aura. The water- and impact-resistant fabric is a game changer, as not every soft shell suitcase on the market has this feature. Another upside to this fabric? It adds to its luxurious and premium feel! 

Flex Vega is known for its innovative storage features and convenient compartments, keeping your belongings close by and maximizing your storage space. 

Flex Aura Checked Luggage
Meet the Flex Aura – it’s water-proof, spacious and flexible

Available in two sizes, Flex Aura features include:   

  • Premium and luxurious design   
  • Durable, water- and impact-resistant fabric on each side 
  • Front and inner pocket for more storage 
  • Secure closure with a magnetic strap 
  • Folds flat to about 2’’ thick   
  • Silent, coated wheels for easy gliding 


Worried you might need to chase a stranger through baggage claim who mistakenly walked away with your generic black suitcase? Make your luggage stand out with a pop of color! 

Choose from eight vibrant colors in the Flex Vega and seven colors in the Flex Aura! 


Hard Or Soft Luggage? Find Out Which One Is Right For You! 

Your luggage of choice can make or break your trip. Take this short quiz to find out which kind of luggage best suits your travel personality and style! 

1. Do you frequently travel with electronics and fragile items or just basic travel essentials? 

  • I bring my electronics and stock up on souvenirs 
  • I stick to the basics – clothing and essentials! 


2. Which style do you prefer?

  • I prefer a sleek and modern bag 
  • I’m an old soul and prefer flexibility over style 


3. Where are you headed to? 

  • Somewhere tropical. I’ll go beach hopping! 
  • I’ll explore a city I’ve never been to! 


4. Are you headed to a weekend getaway or jet setting into a two-week holiday? 

  • I’ll pack only a few basics for the weekend 
  • I’ll pack several outfits so I can choose which pieces I can rock as my OOTDs 


5. You’ve just arrived home from a week-long vacation. How do you plan on cleaning your luggage? 

  • Wipe the bag down then store it under my bed 
  • Toss it into the washer and air dry it overnight 

If you answered A for most of these questions, your trusty piece of luggage is hard shell. However, if you answered B for most, opt for a soft-sided travel bag. 

From hard shell to soft-sided bags that you can use either as a carry-on or checked bag, Rollink is your one-stop shop for luggage that’s designed for adventure seekers and smart packers alike.   

Shop Rollink for your next travel companion and open the door once adventure comes knocking! 

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