Luggage: Soft-shell vs. Hard-shell

5:30 PM

I am the type of person who relentlessly researches products before making a purchase. I like to ensure that I've explored every option out there so that I am getting the absolute best option for my needs. Case in point: it took me months to find a gym bag that fit my every need/want, and it took me just as long to find a luggage that I deemed perfect.

(Note: I of course do not do this when shopping for basic goods, such as clothing or grocery items - can you imagine how long that would take?!)

Before a recent trip to Maui, Hawaii (another travel post coming soon!), I decided that I needed a new suitcase. My old suitcase, while a durable and wonderful Samsonite that was purchased over 10 years ago, only had two wheels. During my trip to Peru, I had borrowed my boyfriend's four-wheeled luggage and could not go back to a two-wheeler.

What is the difference between a two-wheeled luggage and a four-wheeled luggage?


two-wheeled luggage

A two-wheeled luggage can only steer in one direction - forwards. This makes it extremely hard to turn corners quickly, to wheel your luggage down the middle aisle of the plane, as well as walking around with your luggage in general.

four-wheeled luggage


A four-wheeled luggage allows you to effortlessly wheel your luggage alongside you. This means you can walk right next to your luggage, spin it around 360 degrees if you want, and generally push your luggage along without much force. This is very crucial when you are walking in the airport with a lot of bags, or are in a rush.

What was I looking for in a new luggage?
  • I wanted to be able to carry on my luggage. I try to avoid checking in my luggage whenever possible - not only do you save time at the baggage carousel, but you save money now that airlines have decided to nickel and dime everything, including checked luggage. Thus, I was seeking a baggage that was 22" (height) x 9" (depth) x 14" (width).
  • I wanted a hard-shell luggage. I saw first-hand how useful it would be to have a hard-shell luggage whenever the weather was unpredictable - when it rained, my friends who had hard-shell luggage were protected from water damage.
  • The aforementioned four wheels, of course!
Why did I want a hard shelled luggage?
I will sum it up with a pro and con list:

Pros of a hard-shelled luggage
  • Clean and durable. One of the gripes I have about soft-sided luggage is that every time i return from a trip, I feel the need to wash my luggage. With a hard shell luggage, that is not necessary as I would only need to wipe down the outside of the luggage.
  • You have the option of other colors aside from the standard black carry on, which makes your luggage instantly recognizable.
  • Waterproof/weatherproof. When I went to Peru, it started to rain unexpectedly while our stack of luggage was on top of the car. All of my friends were not worried about their hard-shelled luggage, but I was. We had to stop the car to bring my soft-shell luggage down into the van so my things would not be soaked. After all, few things are worse than having wet luggage! This encounter taught me how useful a hard-shelled luggage would be.
Pros of a soft-hard shell luggage
  • There are more pockets that are on the outside of the bag, as well as inside of the bag. This enables you to organize your belongings better.
  • A soft-shell luggage will enable you to pack more into your bag, as they typically have more "give". You can sit on top of your luggage to ensure everything is zipped up, but that would be fairly difficult for a hard-shell.
  • One might argue that it is easier to squeeze a soft-shell luggage into the overhead compartment of an airplane. (I personally am not sure about this, since if the dimensions are within TSA regulations, the bag should fit?)
I really found the pros of a hard-shelled luggage appealing.

However, as I continued my search for a hard-shell luggage, I found that most hard-shelled luggage open halfway:


While this is most likely not an annoyance to most people, I personally would find it more difficult to pack. Additionally, when you arrive at your destination, you would need more space to open up your luggage. You would be unable to prop it up against a wall as I usually do.

I then came across Delsey's Helium Shadow 3.0 21" Carry-On luggage and found that it was everything that I was looking for!


Pros of the Delsey's Helium Shadow 3.0 21" Carry-On luggage:
  • Hard-shelled luggage
  • Within TSA's carry-on luggage dimensions, ensuring that I could carry this on most flights (sometimes the plane is just too small to accommodate any luggage)
  • Four-wheeled
  • Interior pockets to organize your belongings
  • Well known-brand. After countless research, I concluded that the best luggage brands that offer the most bang for your buck was Samsonite and Delsey. I found that these two brands offered the highest-scored product reviews, and also offered 10 year warranties on their products. Not only are these brands reputable, but their products were fairly affordable compared to other high-end brands such as Tumi.

    Also, my old luggage was a Samsonite that lasted me for over 10 years!)
  • Built in TSA lock, which is very convenient for the times you may want to check your luggage, or leave it in the hands of a hotel's lobby.
  • Zippered expansion. You can expand the luggage by 1", which is extremely helpful when you want to fit some souvenirs on your return home.
  • And most importantly...this particular hard-shell luggage has a front lid closure!

The front lid closure, to me, combined the durability of a hard-shelled luggage with the practicality of a soft-shell luggage. I felt that I could really pack a lot and my items remained protected.

I personally purchased my Delsey Helium Shadow (in purple! I am absolutely in love with the color) from Irv's Luggage. The experience was seamless, and my luggage came relatively quickly. I believe there is free shipping, and they also offer free returns if you are unsatisfied with your purchase.

In addition to having a quality luggage bag, you may find that using space saver bags to pack convenient. Space saver bags will allow you to compress your clothes so that you can pack more.

I hope that you found this review on luggage helpful! If you have a favorite luggage, let me know what it is in the comments below!

*All the images used in this post were not taken by me. Images were sourced from Google and Irv's Luggage.

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