Hard-shell luggage vs soft-shell luggage
Hard-shell luggage vs soft-shell luggage

Luggage top trumps: hard-shell suitcases vs soft-shell suitcases, which one should I buy?

Do you like it hard or soft? (Your luggage, that is.) We’re here to tackle the ultimate travel question: are hard-shell suitcases superior to their soft-luggage siblings? The answer isn’t as simple as you think.

We can safely claim to be unbiased, rustling up both hard-shell suitcases and soft-shell suitcases worth booking a flight or train ticket for. And because we’ve made luggage our business since 1914, who better than Antler to expertly delve into the debate: hard-shell suitcase vs soft-shell suitcase?

What to pick: hard-shell or soft-shell luggage?


When you’re travelling with your treasures with you – laptops, iPads, jewellery etc – you want a case that can withstand the inevitable knocks and blows of travel. Most of our hard-shell luggage has a lightweight but tough-as-nails polycarbonate exterior (geeky fact: we have also dabbled in polypropylene cases in the past, but it has less flex). Polycarbonate has the advantage of being British-weather-ready, offering more water resistance than the softies.

Antler hard-shell stamford suitcases


If you’ve read our recent article on how to clean your hard-shell luggage, you’ll already know that hard-shell luggage is easier to maintain and refresh. Planning on trekking into icy, rainy or any-other-form-of-mucky environment? You’ll be better off with a heroic hard-shell suitcase. Hard-shell luggage is less likely to pick up any unwanted odours, too.

Perks of polycarbonate

Back in the day, hard-shell luggage could be accused of being susceptible to cracking. However, most Antler cases star durable polycarbonate, which has clever, built-in flex to absorb impact if it’s dropped or thrown. (Hello, over-enthusiastic baggage handlers and clumsy taxi drivers!) Intriguing fact for the quiz-heads: polycarbonate is also used to make contact lenses. Our polycarbonate cases are scratch-resistant and lighter than aluminium or plastic alternatives – they’re even lighter than some soft luggage. It’s clear to see they’re a winner.

Antler hard-shell clifton suitcases

For retail addicts

If you’re going on a shopping trip, however, you might want to opt for a soft-shell suitcase that has more give and flex to stuff your new-found retail plunder in. Soft-shell suitcases can also be easier to fit into compact spaces, due to their enhanced flexibility and general squishiness.

Antler soft-shell Prestwick suitcase

Four wheels or two?

Hard-shell luggage tends to have four wheels rather than two, offering smoother gliding – although Antler is the proud exception, offering soft-shell luggage with four wheels, such as our Prestwick collection.

Some travellers prefer a suitcase with two wheels so the wheels are less of a nuisance when the suitcase is open and you’re packing; two wheels also pick up less dirt than four.

On the flip side, literally, four wheels with 360-degree rotation make carrying heavy bags a heck of a lot easier, reducing the risk of the bag flipping over. Carrying heavy items? Opt for hard-shell luggage. We suggest our Stamford range, whose 360-degree rotating Hinomoto wheels were developed with Mitsubishi, starring a noise-muting fabric for whisper-quiet gliding. It’s our quietest suitcase yet. Sssshhhh!

Antler Stamford suitcases

Print or colour?

Soft-shell luggage can offer more variety in terms of prints and fabrics, but hard-shell luggage often comes in a wider range of colourways. For example, our classic Clifton collection stars an enticing range of hues, including Ocean and Mineral, our two new, summer-ready shades. Even if the beach isn’t in reach, Clifton is.

Antler hard-shell Clifton suitcase

Pockets ahoy

Soft-shell suitcases are more likely to have pockets on the exterior, making it easy to reach and store your essentials on the go. Yet again, Antler is the proud exception: one version of our classic Clifton case has a handy front pocket. No wonder it sells out on the regular.

For maximum travel coordination for the hard-shell heroes amongst us, we suggest adding our Clifton Mini or our Clifton Vanity Case for easy access to your travel documents and other essentials. For maximum packing smugness, why not try our handy packing cubes, too?

Antler Clifton Cabin with Pocket suitcase


Soft-shell suitcases are often cheaper than their hard-shell siblings, making them a more budget-friendly choice. However, when you factor in the longer lifespan of a hard-shell case, we reckon the extra money is more than worth it.


Call us biased, but in our opinion it’s hard to rival the streamlined silhouette and modern good looks of our handsome, hard-shell luggage. If style is a priority, stick with hard-shell luggage for chicness that’s sure to stand the test of time.

Antler Clifton suitcase and Vanity Case

The case closed: hard-shell or soft-shell suitcase?

Looking for luggage with durability, manoeuvrability, and the ability to withstand inclement weather conditions? A hard-shell suitcase is the one. Keen to have a case that will fit shopping treasures in, that can fit into small spaces and that won’t get scratched? Opt for a soft-shell suitcase instead.

Whatever you decide, rest assured that Antler has the perfect bag for you. Plus, our 10-year warranty ensures that if your suitcases get lost or damaged in transit, you can always get it repaired – whether hard or soft. That’s just how we roll. PS Just pack your proof of purchase away somewhere safe!

Antler incentives: in case you were undecided

  • 10-year warranty
    Our cases are tested to rigorous, audited, and industry-leading standards. Our warranty is your ultimate peace of mind.
  • Rated 4.8 / 5 by fellow travellers
    Don’t just take our word for it – almost 5,000 travellers have independently rated and reviewed our cases.
  • 100+ years of expertise
    Since 1914, we’ve been innovating for the perfect balance of strength, style and weightlessness.

Shop our hard-shell luggage and soft-shell luggage collection and get ready for your next getaway. Find more luggage tips, travel tales and worldwide wanderlust over on our blog