Best Soft Shell Luggage: Travel with Confidence

On the move, people want travel gear that performs well and lets them tote their things with ease. Quality luggage that follows airline check-in rules can help you to avoid added fees and meet weight restrictions. Serious travelers look for the best soft shell checked in luggage that offers an added edge in quality and ease of use.

As so many types and styles of checked in suitcases are available, search for a good model can be properly confusing.

To help with the task, we review five medium to large suitcases that offer features and conveniences beyond the ordinary.

Best Buy
Briggs & Riley Baseline Large Expandable 28" Spinner, Black
Travelpro Platinum Magna 2 25 Inch Express Spinner Suiter (Navy)
it luggage 27.4" Quilte Lightweight Expandable Spinner, Flint Grey
Best Value
American Tourister Ilite Max Softside Spinner 29, Purple
Briggs & Riley Baseline Extra Large Expandable 31" Spinner, Olive, One Size
Briggs & Riley Baseline Large Expandable 28" Spinner, Black
Travelpro Platinum Magna 2 25 Inch Express Spinner Suiter (Navy)
it luggage 27.4" Quilte Lightweight Expandable Spinner, Flint Grey
American Tourister Ilite Max Softside Spinner 29, Purple
Briggs & Riley Baseline Extra Large Expandable 31" Spinner, Olive, One Size
-
from $615.00
from $229.77
$62.99
$86.21
from $679.00
Best Buy
Briggs & Riley Baseline Large Expandable 28" Spinner, Black
Briggs & Riley Baseline Large Expandable 28" Spinner, Black
from $615.00
Travelpro Platinum Magna 2 25 Inch Express Spinner Suiter (Navy)
Travelpro Platinum Magna 2 25 Inch Express Spinner Suiter (Navy)
from $229.77
it luggage 27.4" Quilte Lightweight Expandable Spinner, Flint Grey
it luggage 27.4" Quilte Lightweight Expandable Spinner, Flint Grey
-
$62.99
Best Value
American Tourister Ilite Max Softside Spinner 29, Purple
American Tourister Ilite Max Softside Spinner 29, Purple
$86.21
Briggs & Riley Baseline Extra Large Expandable 31" Spinner, Olive, One Size
Briggs & Riley Baseline Extra Large Expandable 31" Spinner, Olive, One Size
from $679.00

We emphasize clear differences between designs, such as how each suitcase carries once full, how robust their materials are in actual use, and if they are comfortable to hold and roll about. So is soft shell luggage a viable option?

Many believe that hard-sided models with stiff plastic or metal shells are sturdier than soft-sided, or soft-shell types. But the rigid walls and corners can be susceptible to crack in extreme conditions, for their materials are not as flexible as those of soft-sided luggage.

Hard-shelled bags might weigh a few pounds less, but their higher failure rate and tendency to acquire scratches means that soft sided options should not be dispelled without thorough examination. In this review we will look at five of the most prominent designs to determine the best soft sided luggage. These suit cases will be the larger sizes used for checked in luggage. 

The sections below detail the criteria each bag was reviewed against to meet the requirements I was looking for in my luggage.

Main Features - Review Criteria

Luggage Design

Soft-shell bags are normally constructed of fabrics that flex and adapt to conditions. The pliable construction allows manufacturers to add external pockets and internal organisational elements with fewer issues. Since these typically weigh less and can be compressed to conform into snug corners, it can be easier fit in additional clothing.

The soft materials used are more likely to bend and scrape than to break or crack. Just be aware that fabric shells are not as resistant to sharps blows as hard-sided types and can readily rip if not of high-quality specifications.

Materials

Soft-shell suitcases are usually enclosed in either nylon or polyester fabric shells. Polyester is lighter, less prone to abrasions, and less expensive. But, it degrades faster and is more prone to cuts and tears as well. Nylon usually endures better than other materials and enables more pliable, versatile designs.

In the best bags, the main nylon choices are Ballistic, which features smooth textures, and Cordura fabric, which has the hand of canvas weave. Ballistic is shinier and tends to acquire abrasions over time, but these will not undermine its strength, while Cordura tends to be slightly more pliable. Either type is robust just the same, so users are not likely to notice much difference.

Wheels

Urban goers will likely find two-wheeled bags to be better for overcoming uneven ground, such as rough pavement or stony paths. However, these basic rollers can be awkward to manage in crowded areas. The need to drag two-wheelers from the rear can lead to shoulder and wrist as well as back pains.

Four-wheeled suitcases, known as spinners due to their spin-around casters, can be pushed, pulled, turned to any direction, and even wheeled along by your side .

These characteristics make it easier to handle a heavy or outsize bag that is equipped with four spinning wheels. The arrangement is also ergonomically sound as it does not strain the shoulder, unlike with two-wheeled rollers.

More bits can potentially fail and inner volume is certainly reduced with more wheels in use. However, most travelers do accept this as necessary, in order to take advantage of the spinner’s adept handling in busy stations and airports.

Sealed wheel bearings should extend the lifespan of spinners, as these stop abrasive dust and grime from readily entering and damaging the wheels’ internal parts. This feature is not typically found on inexpensive luggage, but can be well worth the extra cost in premium brands.

Weight

Heaviness is not key to selecting large bags, as most will feel equally hefty when filled up. What matters is that a week’s worth of clothes for two can be packed and with some space to spare.

Overviews

Review:

Briggs & Riley’s reputation for robust and functional luggage was founded on useful features, such as its unique expanding and compressing design. The system enables you to fit another week’s worth of outfits into a bag that is hardly larger than regular models in its class.

The user only has to pull up on dual plastic handles inside the suitcase, which deepens the space by up to 2.5 inches. Stuff is then loaded, the top zippered closed and pushed down.

Flexible but robust 1,680-denier ballistic fabric forms the shell, which encloses one of the toughest frames among soft-shell designs. Dual exterior pockets feature at the front, while the tubes for the handrails are externally located at the back, which results in a flatter floor for easier packing.

With its superlative build and satisfying operation, Briggs & Riley’s Baseline Large Expandable Spinner is our overall pick for the best soft side luggage.

This luggage comes in three colors Black, Navy and Olive as shown below:

Pros

  • Robust nylon shell and frame
  • Easy compression system
  • Many organisational features
  • Flat packing space

Cons

  • Expensive

Review:

The Platinum Magna is a durable and well-organised spinner with wheels that feature quality sealed bearings. The shell is formed of ballistic nylon and the interior can hold an entire week’s worth of clothes for up to two travelers.

The flexible fabric construction integrates dual front pockets, including a flat sleeve for documents and an accordion-style pocket for storing small items.

The combination of sturdy pockets, zippers, and internal lining will let you readily compartmentalize things, while the sizable pull-back cover allows access to the whole interior.

The aluminium handle can be positioned at three different levels and includes a convenient hook-and-loop arrangement for attaching a carry-on. For a large spinner, the bag handles nicely as the wheels are built to magnetically self-align along straight tracks.

High-quality YKK zippers are good for using the expansion feature to further compress packed soft items, rather than to add additional interior space. The 9 pound weight is average among soft-sided luggage, but this is compensated for by the spacious 6,980-cubic-inch interior. The top tends to sag slightly after much use, though.

Travelpro’s Platinum Magna 2 25-Inch Expandable Spinner Suiter compares well enough with higher-end luggage that sell for much more, it is our premium pick for lower-mileage flyers.

The Travelpro comes in Black, Charcoal Grey, Marsala Red, Navy and Olive.

Pros

  • Sturdy nylon shell
  • Self aligning magnetic wheels
  • Smart compartments
  • Reasonable price

Cons

  • Pliant top

Review:

The spacious and expandable interior of the Megalite 27.4 offers lots of storage area for a lightweight design. Its polyester shell is sturdy enough and comes in four appealing colors, which can help you set your stuff apart from others’ bags.

For a design that can hold more than its share of clothes under airline check-in limits, this bag is a decent and affordable choice. Even with its relatively large external dimensions, it weighs only 6 pounds when empty. You can pack it full while consistently keeping total weight within bounds.

Four spinning wheels and an easy-to-operate collapsible handle will let you handle things in crowded places while making the suitcase easy to park. The suitcase rolls smoothly enough to make traversing a large terminal less of a chore.

One issue is that the space between the internal lining and the collapsible handle has no padding, so users should avoid placing sharp-edged items there that can readily tear the liner. The Megalite 27.4" Spinner with Expander from it Luggage sells as one of the top-selling lightweight models and for good reason.

These suitcases come in grey (above), burnt brick, black and khaki shown below.

Pros

  • Lightweight design
  • Full featured spinner design
  • Smart organizing compartments
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Less durable Polyester shell

Review:

The Max Spinner 29 is a good budget option for those in need of a large-sized luggage that does not sacrifice too much performance. Constructed of high-quality fabric, three spritely colors are available to personalize your travel. Four spinner wheels ensure that the suitcase can readily roll while upright along most surfaces.

A full set of top, bottom and side handles will let you heft its average 10-pound mass out of a trunk or rack with less strain. The interior should be roomy enough for two on a typical seven-day trip.

Inside, there is a transparent pouch for toiletries that integrates into the topmost flap, while a zippered sleeve and straps lets you pack outfits securely.

American Tourister’s Ilite Max Softside Spinner 29 delivers quality and features that are unexpectedly good for the price. It remains our budget suitcase pick.

Two more vibrant color options are shown below:

Pros

  • Lightweight design
  • Full featured spinner design
  • Smart organizing compartments
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Less durable Polyester shell

Review:

Briggs & Riley loyalists who need the maximum allowed dimensions will know that the Baseline’s 31-inch version makes it happen. The interior offers almost 8,000 cubic inches of space. But, the flip side of having so much packable space is that you can readily exceed most check-in weight restrictions when filling it to capacity.

Many additional features are included that should please high-mileage trippers, including sturdy zippers, smooth-rolling wheels, and smart compartments that include a convenient garment folder.

The brand’s exclusive compression system delivers the same volume of storage as most regular 29-inch models, which effectively translates to an extra seven days’ worth of clothes.

Once expanded, the suitcase is the largest available and should please those who require all the space they can get. If you fly frequently or have a big family to shepherd and prefer top-shelf travel gear,

Briggs & Riley’s Baseline Extra Large Expandable Spinner offers the best packing experience for the most capacity. This suitcase is available in black, navy and olive.

Pros

  • Robust nylon shell and frame
  • Easy compression system
  • Massive and organized storage
  • Flat packing space

Cons

  • Expensive

Best Soft Sided Luggage Verdict

Investing in luggage that delivers quality above the minimum and enhances ease of use is worthwhile for the most traveled. If you start with these suitcases that we selected accordingly, you should find one that matches if not exceeds your expectations.

The superior performance and conveniences of Briggs & Riley’s Baseline Large Expandable 28" Spinner made it the overall best soft side luggage.

Travelers on a budget may try American Tourister Lite Max, if their colors are on the bright side for you then the it Luggage’s Megalite 27.4" Spinner with Expander, also performs well above its class for a very reasonable price.

With one of these worthies on hand for packing your needs, you will be moving with greater ease wherever the travel spirit takes you.

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