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Ask Indagare: Hard vs. Soft Luggage

It’s no secret that a suitcase can say a lot about its owner. Neutral tones, black or neon? Solid colors or patterned? And with the rise of carry-on culture, travelers are in closer, more frequent contact with their luggage than ever before. The ultimate debate, of course, is between a soft or hard suitcase. We turned to our globe-trotting team at Indagare for their opinions and which bags they choose when they are out on the road.

Contact Indagare to plan your next trip (and put your new luggage to use!).

The Case for Soft Cases

Multiple staffers are proud proponents of soft-sided luggage, mostly because of the flexibility it brings. “On short trips, I want something convenient that I can throw into an overhead and just sling around me as I go,” says VP of Finance Blair Diversi. “This will be my 10th year I’ve been using a leather duffel I bought in a Florence market.”

CTO Michael Urcinoli agrees. “The fabric always has some give to get that last thing in. I have a Travelpro roller that I love. You can lock both compartments together with one TSA-approved lock.”

Another plus: cloth bags can shrink, too. Trip Designer Lizzie Eberhart uses a duffel because it’s “much easier to stuff into smaller places—helicopter holds, safari planes—for trips with multiple flights. And with limited overhead space, you’re also more likely to sneak past the gate agent with a duffel than a roller bag when they start checking bags at the gate.”

And for safaris, “you should pack in a soft, weather-resistant duffel bag,” says Indagare’s CEO and founder Melissa Biggs Bradley. “You’ll most likely be taking charter flights, and there are strict luggage limits of no more than 33 pounds per passenger for checked pieces that may need to be stuffed under seats or in small holds.”

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Related: Packing for Safari

The Case for Hard Cases

Others at Indagare prefer hard-shell suitcases—both for checked bags and carry-on. The benefit: better wheels that make for better mobility. Senior Membership Manager Alex Clifford and Senior Membership Director Elise Bronzo both recommend Bric’s for the brand’s wheels in particular. “The suitcase moves so fast, it runs ahead of me sometimes,” jokes Alex. And when he’s on longer trips, Blair leaves the Florentine duffel at home, opting for a hard-sided case. “It forces me to stay under the weight limits and is still going strong 17 years in,” he says. (The color? Bright maroon—“easy to spot on the conveyor belt.”) Employing a slightly different strategy, Indagare’s Director of Content Jen Barr opts for a gray hard case with an expandable interior from Briggs & Riley. “It still compresses to allow you to carry-on, but you can opt to check on the way home, which is sometimes the best option with multi-stop trips—or when shopping opportunities are too good to pass up,” she says. “On a recent trip to Thailand, it was so helpful to have the extra space to able to carry on my favorite purchases. And gray is easier to spot than black, if I do want the option to check it.”

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The Case for Both

Want easy wheeling with extra flexibility? Pack a duffel or other soft suitcase inside your hard-sided suitcase to use on the return trip. Trip Designer Missy Weil and Travel Operations Assistant Holden Rhodes both use that trick when they know they’ll want souvenirs. Missy recommends Paravel for both: stashing one of the brand’s fold-up bags in a hard-shell case. Holden’s go-to duffel is from Re-Sails, a company that turns sails into luggage. And Melissa Biggs Bradley loves her matching hard- and soft-shell set from T. Anthony.

Related: The Experts’ Carry-On: The Best of Travel Essentials

The Conclusion

At Indagare, it’s clear that the hard vs. soft luggage debate is far from being settled. There are a few key takeaways that can help you decide however. If you travel through major airports frequently and prefer carry-on, rollable hard-cases are significantly easier to manage than bulky duffels. If you’re looking for a small carry-on to supplement a checked bag, soft-sided wins for its flexibility. And for larger, checked-bags, it comes down to personal style—although overpackers may still prefer soft luggage, which is more forgiving.

Contact Indagare to plan your next trip (and put your new luggage to use!).

– Peter Schlesinger on January 28, 2020

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