Hard Shell vs. Fabric Suitcases for Travel

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Luggage with wheels is a convenient option for many people.
Luggage with wheels is a convenient option for many people. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Having your new suitcase fall apart, become torn or damaged while traveling can be extremely frustrating and inconvenient. Suitcases are put through a considerable amount of wear and tear during travel, so you will want to make sure to select durable, high-quality luggage. There are many different options and styles of suitcases to pick from, depending on your specific needs and personal preferences and taste.

Hard-Shell Suitcases

Hard-shell suitcases are now available in designs that are extremely light weight, making them comparable to, or even lighter than, many fabric suitcases. Of course, the heavier your hard-shell suitcase, the more durable and resistant it will be. Hard-shell bags generally have wheels. Depending on the size of the bag and the items you are packing, you may prefer to go with a lighter fabric suitcase. Although lightweight, hard-shell cases are available, if your bag cracks during travel, it will need to be discarded.

Hard-Shell Suitcase Options

Hard-shell suitcases come in myriad sizes and are available in a wide range of prices. The positive aspect of having a durable exterior can also become an inconvenience if you are carrying your bag onto a plane or train. Fabric cases will allow some give and can be squeezed under your seat or into overhead storage. If you find that your hard-shell suitcase is too large for the space provided, you will be unable to fit it into the space without damaging your bag.

Fabric Suitcases

Travel cases made from fabric are more flexible. That also means that your fabric suitcase will be softer and less resistant when other bags are piled on top of yours, or when the luggage handler tosses your baggage around. Small rips and tears in fabric suitcases can easily be fixed by hand, whereas once hard-shell suitcases crack, they usually need to be thrown away. This makes fabric suitcases the more convenient option if you find yourself somewhere mid-travel, only to discover that your suitcase has been dented or torn.

Fabric Suitcase Options

Fabric suitcases come in a variety of shapes and sizes as well as bright colors and funky fabric patterns that can help you easily keep track of and identify your bags. Many fabric suitcases also feature conveniences such as roller wheels, which make it easier to maneuver a bag. Fabric suitcases vary widely in terms of price, with options available that can fit into almost any budget. It can be easier to stuff that one extra item into a soft suitcase as opposed to a hard-shell style. In addition, many fabric suitcases have an expandable feature that can be ideal if you purchase gifts and souvenirs while traveling and need extra space on your return trip.

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