• CONTACT US if you have any problems registering for the forums.

Luggage opinions- soft sided? Hard sided? Favourite features?


10+ Posts
We are looking to upgrade our luggage. We have been well served for years by an inexpensive hard sided set from Costco but it’s showing its age. It has fixed (not free spinning) wheels which have always annoyed me. So, time to go shopping. The choice is kind of overwhelming and the price range quite wide.

Seems to come down to a few style choices, and then quality and price, which may not be correlated. We travel via a variety of modes. Car, air, rail. Manageability getting on and off trains is the current main criteria for me. I think we are best served by a carry on size and a larger piece. Med size pieces don’t seem to fit any use case for us. 1 carry on each (plus a personal bag/purse) and one large bag seems to get us through any length of travel, and I pull the 2 small bags and my husband pulls the bigger one. For short trips we skip the larger bag. Works for us. For car journeys we also have many odd duffle bags that fill the gaps (literally— stuffed in the nooks and crannies of the car), so looking here mainly for rail and air recommendations.
  • Soft side or hard sided
  • Split to even spaces on each side when open, or one big space
  • Light yet durable- zippers and handles are the weakest points in my experience.
  • Spinner wheels
  • Price - willing to spend for quality, lightweight+durable.
  • Other features you value?
What do you like and why? Brand recommendations (if that is okay to do on the site)?
Going by the air crew themselves, you'd absolutely say the hardest of hard cases, as that's all I've ever seen them have themselves. If you have anything delicate packed, then they'll give you the best chance of keeping it intact. Plus they'll be very long-lasting.

Wheels certainly make life easier on a hard case, though trading up to a good solid design also adds to the weight of the empty case, which can be a consideration if weight allowances are tight e.g. on budget carriers.

However, personally I still use my full length backpack, as I find that much lighter, allowing me to carry more, and with the waist strap adjusted properly and done up, it allows the weight to taken on my hips more than my shoulders. I've regularly had it packed with bottles of wine, which I'll typically wrap in a double layer of bubble wrap and I've never had a breakage, despite seeing the rucksack thrown onto the plane or luggage trolley. Anything that might get crushed, either gets put in a tupperware style box, or goes in the carry-on bag, so I can protect it. For the latter, it's a smaller rucksack, that on budget carriers will go on the floor in front of me, which avoids the risk of hassled fellow passengers (or sometimes air crew) showing that they didn't learn from those 'square peg -> square hole' toys when growing up, as they try to ram their bag into a space that isn't big enough.
Last edited:
My husband and I bought new luggage on sale at Bloomingdale's last fall. Our preference is for soft sided pieces with the possibility of expansion.
We got the 3 Bears - small, medium, and large. Not sure that was all that smart, given we have taken several domestic and foreign trips and haven't yet used the smallest piece. The brand is TravelPro. A quick look at the Bloomingdale's website shows that again a sale is ongoing. Is there ever NOT a sale?
Anyway, some of what gets packed on month long trips are art supplies. My husband sketches and paints. We bought Kindles to cut down on how many books we carry. The large and medium cases are sufficient for us for 4 or even 5 week trips. They are spinners and have sturdy pull bars.
Sorry I can't help with a specific recommendation. We don't travel a lot, so we prefer not to invest in this particular travel necessity, and usually manage to borrow from family or friends.
However - some things that do bother me in suitcases that I would certainly take into account should I decide to invest in one :

1) wheels - everyone has there own preferences of course, but for me it would be critical that these be as noiseless as possible, meaning that they don't make a lot of noise while rolling over bumpy places. To this end, I understand that finally there are models with some sort of suspension system. I want to hope that the R&D departments of luggage companies will be able to come up with even better designs. Since mankind landed on the moon before it put wheels on suitcases, I am not sure that I should hold my breath. It goes without saying that the wheels have to be of durable design.
2) zippers - the play between the material of the suitcase and the ease-of-use of the zippers has to be excellent. No glitches at the corners, etc. I hate troublesome zippers on any type of bag or pack.

So for me the mechanical issues are the most important ones. I tend to agree with Ian - to a certain extent, if you protect your belongings well on the inside, it matters less what the outside material is.
We invested in 4 Briggs and Riley light weight soft sided 2 wheel 25” or 26” about 15 yrs ago and never regretted it. Suitcases weighs 8 lbs empty . Extremely durable but not inexpensive however we hit a sale
on their website! Friends that bought them on my recommendation love them too.
Bags travel everywhere plus any repairs sent to their headquarters or a participating dealer are free for life. We’ve only had to pay transport there one way and repairs take less than a week or so. Damage done to them by airlines are covered by them no questions asked .
We also have a 4 wheel hard sided American Tourister plus an Italian one purchased in Italy and both of us hate them as we find them difficult to maneuver on carpeting in a hotel.
For Carry on we again opted for a 2 wheel soft sided Lipault weighing 3 lbs as less wheels less weight and LOVE them!!!
Research weight , the reviews , the warranty etc etc .
Good luck!!
My two cents - I much prefer soft-sided luggage. They are more flexible when packing and fitting into spaces - and are "less dangerous" when pulling them down from over head luggage racks (whether plane or train). They also tend to have more places for handles so the bag can be grabbed easily from several angles.

Over the past twenty years we have continually down-sized our luggage. We now travel only with a carry-on size bag and a backpack that fits under an airline seat. This is true whether we travel for a week or for over a month. While we often check our "carry-on" bag anyway, for us the advantage is two-fold: (1) it is easier to lug around an airport, a city street or on to a train (and hoist onto the train luggage rack) and (2) it has enforced discipline on how much we pack (so many years of bringing things that we never, ever used).

As far as brand - we buy Eagle Creek. They are generally well thought out in design, have taken a lot of "abuse" from us (and the baggage handlers) and are moderately priced.

Have fun shopping!
I bought an Away carry-on 6 years ago and have been very happy with it. It took an adjustment for me to switch to a hard case with two side, but now with packing cubes I can fit quite a lot with it. The model I bought had the bonus of a removable USB charger. I do see the prices have doubled since I bought mine.

For longer trips I use my old trusted and true soft-sided expandable Victorinox. It has held up really well. I think it must be 20 years old, so their quality is good.
I've had expensive brands and cheap brands.

I had a Briggs & Riley carry on. When a zipper hook broke, I could not use the lifetime warranty that B&R supposedly offered.

So never again.

I had a large Tumi which was check in. Lasted maybe a dozen trips before it needed serious repairs. The back frame broke. I repaired it once, but the top handle kept tearing off.

To be frank, I'm an overpacker so I probably had it up to 55 pounds or so.

Bigger problem is that anything you check in gets quickly dirtied and marred. That beautiful Tumi got scuffed up after the first trip or two because the baggage handlers put it on the front, not the back, on the conveyor belts, which aren't clean to begin with.

So I realized how pointless it was to spend a lot of money on any checked suitcase, because it was going to get roughed up.

A few years back, I got IT luggage because it was so light compared to others. Yes it felt kind of flimsy because it didn't have the bulky framing, which is why it was so much lighter.

That also broke down but IT Luggage replaced it with a more sturdy model free of charge. I originally paid like $60-70. It's holding up though the framing is a bit warped because I overstuff it.

Definitely a soft-shell person. I could put all that stuff in two smaller suitcases but I'd rather wheel just two total, not three including the cary on roller.

And I'm finding that unless I plan to get a taxi from the front door of the hotel or B&B or whatever to the airport, train station, etc., I'm going to be wheeling the suitcases through cobblestones and uneven pavement in Europe, which will really stress the wheels.

So far my IT luggage with the casters have held up.

But it won't be that costly to replace.
I still use my Eagle Creek Switchback that I think I bought in 2010 as my checked bag. It is a bit heavy but the backpack feature has come in handy many, many times when staying in apartments with a few floors of stairs to climb. It is still in great shape after multiple trips per year and fits in the overhead area on Trenitalia trains (when travelling by train I do the "bench press test" before leaving to be sure I can lift it over my head to store myself). I like that the front portion zips off to use as a carryon backpack if I want. The back is stiff and well protected for bottles of wine, honey, etc. I'd consider replacing it with a lighter bag with similar features if I could find one. My husband has an older variation - I'd guess maybe 5-10 years older. He still uses it sometimes (good for train travel) but it is showing its age. He tends to use different bags based on the trip. He has a larger Rimowa that looked pretty banged up after a few trips of checking it. Also, one of the locks broke and the cost for repair just didn't seem worth it. He has a newer Samsonite spinner hard sided case for check in for when we are parked in one location and don't need to shlep it around as much. I'm not a fan of the "2 sides" it has even though we use packing cubes. For car trips it is sometimes a duffle bag checked for him as it is easier to squish into available trunk space.
I do the "bench press test" before leaving to be sure I can lift it over my head to store myself
LOL - love the idea of this pre-trip prep!

and whilst I've personally made a very weak argument in favour of having a rucksack (or something that can be carried like that), you've made a good point that carrying up/down stairs, be that in a hotel, apartment building or train station, is lot easier with a balanced weight on the back, rather than on the arms.
Split to even spaces on each side when open, or one big space
I prefer the 'one big space option' simply because, at your destination, it takes up the same floor area whether open or closed. The problem with the equal halves design is that they must be open all the time to be useful, otherwise you have to repack stuff and zip up the dividers so that you can close it and save space in small hotel rooms. Often they won't fit or are unstable on those folding luggage rack things you find in rooms.
I am taking all your experiences and recommendations and blending it with my own preferences. So far I am thinking carry on should be very light and soft sided, and if we pay a premium, it would be for these. Soft so there is a bit of give to squish if necessary. Checked bag is better as hard sided, and given airline baggage handling practices it’s not worth paying for premium brands on this. Sorry Ian but I don’t think a backpack would work for us as our main bag, but I am imagining running into you at an airport or train station one day and recognizing you by the big backpack

So far I have just looked online and I will follow up with a trip to a luggage store to see them in person. For carry on, I like the soft sided Lipault or even Tumi soft sided (I have another Tumi laptop bag that is great). The travel pro ones look good too.

I am searching for a one-big-space hard sided (80/20 split?) for the larger checked bag, but haven’t found much online. Clamshell is most common. We are in Canada so selection is not a vast as in the US. I also like the ones where the handle bars/rails are recessed but on the outside so the don’t interfere with the flat bottom on the inside.

Wheels ease on carpet wasn’t something I had thought to consider, and I realized this is where our current pieces cause the most issues. Is there any style of wheels that are better on a variety of surfaces? Good wheels might be the reason to pay more for a piece. There seems to be such a wide range of technologies in the wheels - doubles, stainless ball bearings, etc. I just don’t know what actually makes a difference.
Last edited:
Last edited:
After our first trip to Italy in the 1990's we starting researching durable and lightweight luggage for our future trips. We settled on 2 identical pieces of Atlantic luggage and almost 30 years later they are still going strong. Since living in Italy we have purchased Carpisa luggage and found them to also be light and durable.

We have all soft-sided - easier to cram in more and never any breakage issues with proper packing. We prefer an open space inside to configure as needed based on what we are packing for that trip. We also prefer with the wheels inside the bag (not trolley/spinner style) but those seem very difficult to find these days.
Last edited:
I am taking all your experiences and recommendations and blending it with my own preferences. So far I am thinking carry on should be very light and soft sided, and if we pay a premium, it would be for these. Soft so there is a bit of give to squish if necessary. Checked bag is better as hard sided, and given airline baggage handling practices it’s not worth paying for premium brands on this. Sorry Ian but I don’t think a backpack would work for us as our main bag, but I am imagining running into you at an airport or train station one day and recognizing you by the big backpack

No need to apologise Ellesee - I'm definitely an outlier on this, stubbornly clinging to being able to carry it like that :D

For the carry-on, we also use soft-sided, but as that's the only practical place for stuff that is delicate/could get crushed, it always goes on the floor by our legs when using the (invariably) budget airline like RyanAir.

If going with a hard case for check-in, then It would be ideal if the 20% (in the 80/20) could be protected well enough to make that your safe haven for anything really delicate. However in exceptions, then you could revert to the carry-on for that, but beware of the overhead lockers, as fellow passengers / crew can be shockingly brutal in trying to force bags into a gap that doesn't exists (but might if your delicate stuff gets crushed).
I am a Briggs and Riley fan! We have bought four different pieces over the years. My current favorites are a small roller carryon and a cabin bag, also on wheels. We have had to request two repairs. Both were done promptly and at no cost to us at a luggage dealer in Minneapolis, which is fairly close to our home. As others have said, not inexpensive, but, in my opinion, worth the cost for the quality and service we have experienced. The cabin bag I have fits under most seats, if you can't find an overhead spot and it stacks easily on one of the other checked bags or the carryon roller bag while going through the airport, etc. The bags expand, if necessary, and have a compression feature.

How to Find Information

Search using the search button in the upper right. Search all forums or current forum by keyword or member. Advanced search gives you more options.

Filter forum threads using the filter pulldown above the threads. Filter by prefix, member, date. Or click on a thread title prefix to see all threads with that prefix.


Booking.com Hotels in Europe
AutoEurope.com Car Rentals

Recommended Guides, Apps and Books

52 Things to See and Do in Basilicata by Valerie Fortney
Italian Food & Life Rules by Ann Reavis
Italian Food Decoder App by Dana Facaros, Michael Pauls
French Food Decoder App by Dana Facaros, Michael Pauls
She Left No Note, Lake Iseo Italy Mystery 1 by J L Crellina

Share this page