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  1. #1
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    Luggage - hard vs soft case

    I've always traveled using a duffel bag. Thinking about stepping up to an actual suitcase, at lease for air travel. I'll likely buy a 2 piece set, one for carry-on, one for checking on longer trips.

    What are the collectives thoughts on hard sided vs soft sided luggage? Any recommendations on specific brands?

    Sent from my Moto G (4) using TGR Forums mobile app
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    Cell phones are great in the backcountry. If you're injured, you can use them to play Tetris, which helps pass the time while waiting for cold embrace of Death to envelop you.

  2. #2
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    Mar 2008
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    northern BC
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    a 40 liter back pack can be carried on and I never need more room than that
    Lee Lau - xxx-er is the laziest Asian canuck I know

  3. #3
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    Sep 2001
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    I prefer softer luggage I have an old softsided carryon that's beat to shit but it holds a lot and has a lot of outside pockets (which hard bags never have) that I use a lot. The thing's beat to shit and my wife hates it, she bought me a spiffy new hardsided replacement, I only used it once. It bugs her but hell I didn't ask for a new bag.

  4. #4
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    Feb 2008
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    I liked a checked bag with wheels. Current bag is a hard sided, but I've had wheeled duffel bags also. Hard sided if you have checked stuff you want to protect.

    I just got a 40L duffel/knapsack for carry-on. Haven't used it yet.

  5. #5
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    Sep 2004
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    Quote Originally Posted by farmer View Post
    I've always traveled using a duffel bag. Thinking about stepping up to an actual suitcase, at lease for air travel. I'll likely buy a 2 piece set, one for carry-on, one for checking on longer trips.

    What are the collectives thoughts on hard sided vs soft sided luggage? Any recommendations on specific brands?

    Sent from my Moto G (4) using TGR Forums mobile app
    don't do checked

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
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    Haxorland
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    7,113
    Traveling with the family has forced me to checked luggage. Expandable hardside with 4 good wheels is where it's at. I'm not particular to a brand, just whatever's on sale and doesn't look like crap.
    I've concluded that DJSapp was never DJSapp, and Not DJSapp is also not DJSapp, so that means he's telling the truth now and he was lying before.

  7. #7
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    Feb 2008
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    Donner Summit
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    For travel without skis or kids - get a max legal sized carry-on, soft sided, no wheels. Patty MLC is good as is the Red Oxx stuff (Air Boss, Sky Train). Then add a Tom Bihn Absolute Shoulder Strap, stretchy curved shoulder strap that's super comfortable. I've made multi week trips to India and Japan with just an Air Boss bag (packing light) and it's so nice to just have one small bag to deal with, and to be able to sling it over my shoulder for navigating trains or escalators. I've also never been forced to gate check even when people in front of me are told they need to gate check their wheelie bags.

    If you get a wheelie bag - I don't think there's any real advantage to hard sided, just get something reasonably sturdy with good zippers. The 4 wheel bags are nice if you're mostly on sidewalks and other smooth surfaces, 2 wheels is better for rougher terrain. A color other than black is good for identifying it in the baggage carousel.

  8. #8
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    Dec 2009
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    Bought this a few years back. Hard plastic. Minimalist design. Thought it would last indefinitely. Ended up being a big red stepping stool for ground crews. The whole bag was squeezed hard enough to bend the handle pole which was surprising since the pole slides inside the case. It's like crews see something like that and take it as a challenge.


  9. #9
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    Dec 2012
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    I smell poutine!!!
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    The ones with litium batteries. Snork.

  10. #10
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    Oct 2003
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    WI
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    I had a long vacation last month and asked a family member, who travels a lot for work for the last several years the same question. She said that she prefers soft sided luggage for her weekly flights as they hold up better, but for when she takes vacations 1 to 2 times a year she prefers hard sided. One recommendation she did give no matter which type I went with is to get a bag that has double wheels for each corner of the bag rather than the one wheel.

    I ended up going with a large hard sided bag that had TSA approved locks built in the luggage. I went with a basic $72 large bag from Walmart because of the price. It worked well enough though on the flight home the zippered flap did tear partly near the zipper. The bag is still very useable.


  11. #11
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    Dec 2012
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    For heavy checked luggage I prefer spinner wheels. Especially if you are also going to hump the bag long distances by hand. It is much easier to navigate the rail system when your bag will roll in any direction you push it. It is easier to get it down the aisle of a crowded train when pushing or pulling short side to. Heck, it makes elevators and hotel lobbies easier too. The spinner wheels are more important than hard or soft sides. Oh, and if it is the hard case with a zipper, make sure that it is of superior quality and never over stuff. In that regard soft luggage is more forgiving. My large cases are soft with spinner wheels from TJ Maxx. They were cheap and the quality is marginal. I recommend a belly band if you don't want to go full Euro and plastic wrap your bag. The only hard case I have is a carry on that I bought in the Frankfurt airport. I actually sort of like it even though it is fugly as fuck owing to the bright Lufthansa colors. It doesn't have spinning wheels. Speaking of plastic wrap, I burned some extra time in the Bucharest airport watching the spectacle that accompanies it. It was rather entertaing. Even though I don't speak a word of Romanian, it was amusing watching the total huckster of an operator engaging his victims. I am in awe of that dude. I wish I could have wrapped a few of the passengers on my flight.

  12. #12
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    Soft sides are more durable. I dislike spinner wheels. The old two wheel ones are much stronger, especially the ones with Rollerblade wheels.

    Travelpro makes pretty good luggage at decent prices. There is a lot of garbage out there.
    Quote Originally Posted by powder11 View Post
    if you have to resort to taking advice from the nitwits on this forum, then you're doomed.

  13. #13
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    Jan 2006
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    Dreamland
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    Hard luggage always takes up the same big space even when it's empty, and every time you want something you've got to lay it flat, open it and rummage. I much prefer something soft with lots of pockets. On a long flight I may be in and out of my carry-on several times but never have to remove it from the overhead compartment. A suitcase forces you to carry lots of stuff on your person because you can't get to it easily when you need it. IMO the secret to life is lots of pockets on everything you use from clothes to luggage.
    Gravity Junkie

    How can you be in two places at once when you're not anywhere at all?

  14. #14
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    Dec 2005
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    I'm all about the waterproof duffle. My go to bag is a big black diamond duffle. Tough as hell, waterproof, and has backpack straps to throw on my back. Will swallow up other smaller bags so I can pack modularly. Like someone above, my wife got be a fancy hardsided suitcase to match what she uses. I used it once I think, now it sits. I got her a big patagonia duffle like my BD one, and now that has become her bag of choice.
    sigless.

  15. #15
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    We have North Face base camp duffles for trips where wheeled luggage isn't ideal - dirt, cobblestones, or just not having to carry the bag very far. Otherwise, for city trips, wheels are a lot easier than carrying heavy shit on you back from airport to taxi or subway to hotel.
    Quote Originally Posted by powder11 View Post
    if you have to resort to taking advice from the nitwits on this forum, then you're doomed.

  16. #16
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    Oct 2003
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    I guess it depends on how you travel but I prefer the small (40ish liter) backpack or duffel with backpack straps. Plenty of room for multi week trips and compresses down enough to work as carry on with every airline. Way easier to get through crowded city trains, boats, etc. with a small backpack than a large hardsided roller bag.
    Case in point, watching the couple with the huge hardsided rollers get on and off this longtail was amusing:
    Click image for larger version. 

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  17. #17
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    Sep 2001
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    For an urban environment you need frickin wheels. 2 is plenty but c'mon, wheels.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by iceman View Post
    For an urban environment you need frickin wheels. 2 is plenty but c'mon, wheels.
    Why? I'd guess my average luggage weight is 20ish pounds, maybe less? I'd rather carry that around the city all day long than to try and roll a hardside over curbs, up and down stairs, through tight alleys, etc.
    Again, it probably depends on how you travel, but even on "urban" trips I've found myself exploring some city on a long layover where I wouldn't want to be dragging luggage around on wheels.

  19. #19
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    Because shit gets heavy? I agree I wouldn't want to drag a bag around behind me all day, if I didn't have a place to stash shit I'd go with a backpack too, and I have one, plus a big duffle. But I'm generally going directly to someplace I can leave my shit so I'd just rather not carry it. A couple days of clothes, extra shoes, toiletries, a couple pounds of weed, that shit gets heavy.

  20. #20
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    Oct 2003
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    This should be obvious, but it's probably something you wouldn't really think about until you buy one: the spinner bags won't sit still if there's any kind of slope, whereas a two-wheeled bag will. To me this is a point in favor of the two-wheeled bags. I can't fathom buying luggage without wheels in this day and age.

  21. #21
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    My most common travel luggage: a small day pack for daily use (sightseeing, camera, water, jacket) which I carry on the plane. A carryon roller bag for shorter trips. Either the duffel or a larger wheeled bag for longer trips, which gets checked. Sometimes we'll use a smaller wheeled carryon each, plus check one large duffel that can be transported on top of the duffel.

    I don't think I've ever traveled where I couldn't leave luggage and not have to schlep it around all day - leave it either at the airport, or dropped at hotel or airbnb or wherever, prior to check-in, or leave in the rental car.
    Quote Originally Posted by powder11 View Post
    if you have to resort to taking advice from the nitwits on this forum, then you're doomed.

  22. #22
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
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    10,111
    We've had a set of Samsonite soft bags for 10+ years, taken them all over the place. Lots of use. 1 carryon, 1 large bag for checking. I probably use the carryon 10 trips a year. Zippers have broken, sent them back, I just paid shipping, and they replaced the zippers. The corners are starting to wear out on them though. If you over pack them, the retractable handle doesn't work so well. If anything, get something with a decent warranty/repair policy.

    We also have a hard side carryon. It's been nice for a few years, zippers are starting to go on it too. No warranty. It works fine, 4 wheels, expandable, etc. Also blocks the handle when loaded heavily.

    I guess I'm not that big of a fan either way. Extra pockets and bullshit just take up room. The hard side seems to hold slightly more stuff, and if I'm not flying, it expands a little so that's nice.

  23. #23
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    Oct 2007
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    Quote Originally Posted by The AD View Post
    This should be obvious, but it's probably something you wouldn't really think about until you buy one: the spinner bags won't sit still if there's any kind of slope, whereas a two-wheeled bag will. To me this is a point in favor of the two-wheeled bags. I can't fathom buying luggage without wheels in this day and age.

    Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but bags with two wheels built into the sides, should take up less space in the overhead than the ones with 4 external skinny wheels right? Should mean that this would allow for more interior space in the bag.

  24. #24
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    Jan 2008
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    truckee
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    My wife likes spinners, I like 2 wheels. The spinners stick out from the bag quite a bit--seems like they're begging to be broken although so far she's been lucky. And they take up usable size on a carry-on.

    Consumer Reports likes Delsey bags, last time I looked. We have several and they are very well made.

  25. #25
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    Mar 2017
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    As a number of comments have pointed out already, how old you are and who are traveling with matters.

    Suitcases are top-notch if you are going somewhere longer than a month and/or have people with you (especially kids). Hardtop's are nice, but I don't really see the need for them unless you've got some really fragile stuff. A lot of the motivation for people buying hard-tops is the fear of having their stuff damaged, but I've flown international multiple times before with glass bottles and drinking glasses neatly wrapped in the suitcase. Nothing broken. A lot of it is bad luck, so if you are willing to accept that risk, stick with the cheaper soft-top.

    If nothing in the above really applies to you, then I'd stick with a soft 42-L Deuter backpack. It's able to expand and contract at-need, very comfortable to walk/hike/climb/ski with and the materiel is durable enough to last a long time. Held my dslr and macbook during travel in Europe, and as long as you are not entirely careless they would be able to break. With proper packing, you can fit a shit ton of stuff in there.

    But shit, I'll take any chance I get to fly with everything in my 40-L bag. Not having any checked baggage has been one of the better choices in flying, as it cuts an enormous amount of stress out.

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