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Should you buy hard-sided or soft-sided luggage?

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If you’re taking a trip this summer, you’ll need the right luggage. In a recent survey by Consumer Reports, members said that “wheel-ability,” durability, and weight are the most important luggage attributes. But what kind of luggage is best?

Luggage has come a long way since the days of that old valise. Nowadays, your biggest decision when buying luggage is whether you should get soft-sided or hard.

Thanks to modern plastics like polypropylene, ABS, and polycarbonate, hard-sided luggage can be durable and light. Aluminum luggage is probably the most durable, but it’s a bit heavier. Its strong construction makes it harder to cut through, and locks are usually built-in. It’s also a good option for traveling with more fragile items, which can crush easily. And you’re guaranteed a no-bulge fit in the overhead bin—as long as you buy the right size. There are some drawbacks. Hard-sided luggage takes up twice the space of soft suitcases when packing and it lacks flexibility.

Soft-sided luggage, on the other hand, is more flexible, fits well in cars, and can compress into overhead bins. Extra pockets may mean more organized packing. But soft suitcases can be vulnerable when it comes to security and ripping. So buy ones made of strong materials, like nylon or polyester, with a high denier—or “D” rating—an indicator of thickness and strength. (Six-hundred is a common number.) The higher the number, the more wear and tear the luggage can take.

Even the right luggage won’t make travel totally stress-free, but it can help take the edge off. And Consumer Reports says to pay attention to the wheels. Suitcases with four wheels are more ergonomic and can spin in different directions. Two-wheeled suitcases only go backward and forward but are better when rolling on sidewalks or over uneven surfaces.

All Consumer Reports material Copyright 2018 Consumer Reports, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Consumer Reports is a not-for-profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site. For more information visit

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