Best Hardside and Softside Luggage Sets
If you love following the rich and famous—people who bring enough luggage for a year’s stay despite a two-week itinerary—you know global tastes in travel bags have experienced an extreme evolution. Today’s traveler is in a rush to get where he is going and if a super-large, wheeled suitcase resembling a steamer trunk will do the job, the future of single-suitcase sales remains bright.
But some folks like to travel in style. They seek suitcase sets that hold just what they need for trips of all lengths. Luggage sets are making a comeback, and the three-piece set is standard: 20-, 24-and 28-inch bags. Some sets are hard-sided while others are soft and expandable, so there’s plenty to choose from when you shop.
The State of the Luggage Industry
According to Strategyr.com, the global market for luggage is hot. By 2020, sales are projected to “exceed US$67 billion.” Who spends the most on luggage: The U.S. of course. But the epicenter of production is concentrated in Asia with China being the most dominant fabricator.
You may not have heard of all 58 brands making Ranker.com’s best 2017 brand list, but you’ll likely recognize a few: Tumi, Samsonite, Victorinox, American Tourister and Delsey. Industry experts divide luggage into three lifestyle categories: casual bags, travel bags and business bags, say Persistent Market Research analysts (https://www.persistencemarketresearch.com/market-research/luggage-market.asp). There’s plenty of overlap because people tend to buy one set for business and pleasure trips.
Today’s Luggage Design Spotlights Safety
Luggage sales are being driven by myriad factors that include the rise in international migration, innovations in product design and quality increased tourist traffic by people of all walks of life. The biggest demand? Stylish, men’s carry-on bags. But regardless sales drivers, travelers still face lost bags regularly that can ruin a well-planned trip. But a lost bag is nothing compared to theft.
Can you prevent your luggage from being burgled or stolen? Believe it or not, don't buy black luggage, say the folks at ThiefHunters in Paradise. Thieves prefer black bags based on police reports, luggage handlers and airport security. The biggest haul so far? Phoenix officials found 1,000 pieces of stolen baggage at the home of thieves and nearly every one of them was black. This phenomenon is likely due to black bags being inconspicuous.
What’s Driving Today's Luggage Design Trends?
In a word: security. There’s a huge move toward luggage equipped with Global Positioning System trackers and built-in USB ports. Bluetooth-enabled locks offer travelers “insurance” against theft and better chances of bag retrieval if they go missing. According to Travelpulse.com, the following innovations are either here or on the horizon:
- Zipper-free bags are trending for myriad reasons.
- More product testing. To pass muster, bags are being opened and closed 5,000 times!
- Silent wheels are extremely popular features on large bags.
- Designer bags fitted with enough circuitry to turn them into rolling electronics hubs.
- Spinning wheels replacing front-facing wheels for easier mobility.
- Vintage finishes that make new bags look like they’ve been plucked from museums.
- Electronic tags. Purchase a Rimowa bag. It will check itself in. You download a bag tag using your cell, print the tag and leave the bag(s) at an automated or semi-automated drop-off point.
Hardside or Softside Luggage? That is the Question
Journalist Cari Oleskewicz, writing for USA Today, did her homework when she compared the differences. We also consulted the Luggage Factory, a business that’s been in operation since 1908, to get opinions on one versus the other.
- If you regularly travel with fragile contents, these items stay safer in a hard-side bag.
- Hard-sided bags survive being pushed, shoved, dropped and otherwise man-handled better.
- While hard-side bags look like they’re armor-coated, the latest styles are ultra-light.
- Your chances of protecting bag contents from rain are better than with soft-side bags.
- There’s little flexibility to be had with a hard-side bag, so you may not be able to pack as much.
- Overhead and beneath-seat stowage may prove to be impossible.
- If your bag is made of flimsy plastic, it could crack; hard bags are prone to scratching and denting.
- The ultimate hard-side bag, aluminum, could put a serious dent in your travel budget.
- By their very nature, soft-side bags adapt to extra clothing because the fabric expands.
- Soft-side bags are more likely to fit into overhead and under-seat storage space.
- Sturdy, durable nylon textiles can protect contents from sharp objects and water.
- On average, soft-side suitcases tend to be more affordable.
- Soft-side bags depend upon zippers which can malfunction, rendering bags useless.
- -Soft suitcases collect soil, grime, dirt and stains more easily hard-side bags.
- -Outer compartments, snaps, flaps, straps and other features can rip, tear and fray.
Check out this YouTube video here to help with your decision-making process before you begin exploring our recommendations.
Our 5 Best Hardside Luggage Set Reviews
Out to impress when you travel? This trio of space-age Coolife spinner suitcases will get you noticed. This sleek, imported collection comes in three colors and sports a 2-year warranty. For storage ease, nest them so only the biggest bag takes up closet space. Fabricated of ABS/PC materials, the shell on these bags is submitted to a proprietary grinding process that holds the shine so no flimsy protective film is necessary. Telescoping handles, multi-directional silent spinner wheels and a lock approved by the TSA make this a fashionable and sophisticated choice at a price that won’t force you to fly tourist class.
- Outstanding design sets this best luggage set apart from the crowd.
- Surprisingly affordable given its look and durability.
- Interior straps and cotton lining keep garments and contents secure.
- Shoppers rave about the thief-proof locking mechanism.
- There are only three colors; the ice blue set adds to the cost of the set.
- Zipper on the mesh interior accessories compartment could break.
- You probably won’t be able to stow these bags in an overhead bin.
- The mix of ABS/PC materials won’t hold up as long as aluminum.
If you trust the Samsonite brand because it’s been a household name for as long as you can remember, you might not mind paying nearly twice as much as the Coolife set, but 100-percent polycarbonate construction makes these the Cadillac of travel gear. The Omni’s micro-diamond exterior texture is built to resist scratches and you’ll transport your bags with ease thanks to spinner wheels for smooth navigation. These bags feature full-zip interiors plus divider and cross straps to confine your clothing, organize contents and maximize interior space. All three bags feature side-mounted TSA locks guaranteed to keep contents safe.
- Fabricated by a trusted brand and ideal for extended travel and short trips.
- The outer shell is constructed of top-quality polycarbonate that repels scratches, dents and soil.
- Choose from 10 baked-in colors to suit everyone from conservatives to fashion divas.
- The interior strapping system saves time, stress and your wardrobe.
- Purchasers report jammed wheels so despite the spinning advantage, they’re not perfect.
- Even the smallest bag isn’t likely to fit into overhead bins on airliners.
- You may not wish to fork over twice as much as other sets cost.
- Despite TSA approval, broken locks have been reported by travelers.
Need a solid, sturdy, 3-piece luggage set that won’t cost as much as your plane ticket? Consider the Goplus rolling suitcase collection with a rock-hard sell fashioned of polycarbonate and ABS. Subject these three pieces to the roughest handling because the shell resists scratches and dents. Simple design meets functionality; this collection of bags is short on bells and whistles, but it has the features you crave: spinner wheels, a choice of 10 fashion-forward colors, an ergonomically-designed, push-button telescoping handle and a coded lock to keep contents safe. Use a rag and water to remove exterior soil and secure contents within the fully-line interior that features a zippered pocket and a divider for organizational efficiency.
- The 100-percent risk-free satisfaction warranty/guarantee beats other manufacturers.
- The shell material include polycarbonate, one of the strongest on the market.
- Available in a variety of colors to suit every traveler’s tastes.
- The most attractively-priced set compared to other bag sets in this review.
- There are no interior fittings that organize and constrain contents.
- The safety lock comes with no TSA security assurances.
- Despite materials used to craft these bags, the shell could crack if subjected to extreme abuse.
- Reported returns are for malfunctioning wheels and broken zippers.
If you like comparing apples to oranges, stack this Lemoone collection against the Coolife set because materials, pricing and features are similar. Made of scratch-resist ABS and PC materials, the shell is waterproof and designed to resist pressure, heat and scratching. Buy this set for a few dollars less than the Coolife bags but you still get features like adaptable spinner wheels, a telescoping, ergonomically-designed handle made of aluminum and the interior is lined with soft cloth and features security straps to keep contents from being tousled inflight. These bags have two small interior mesh pockets and a zippered compartment. Lemoone offers buyers a 2-year warranty.
- Affordable, sturdy and sleekly designed.
- Comes in 5 fashion-forward colors.
- Waterproof, pressure and heat-resistant, these bags hold up to weather extremes.
- Each piece nests, so when stored, they won’t take up half of your closet.
- There aren’t as many interior pockets for organizing as comparable sets.
- There’s an add-on charge for several of the color choices.
- Interior fabric/zipper/mesh compartments can rip, fray or break.
- The brand isn’t well known, so even the affordable price may not appeal to you.
If you prefer not to hang around the luggage carousel, acquire this Steve Madden 3-piece hard-side set. It attracts more than the usual amount of attention for its artsy look. This collection has all of the features you seek and comes with a manufacturer’s 10-year warranty--a surprising bonus. While most bags have 4 spinner wheels, this Steve Madden bag is fitted with double wheels so you get 8-wheel navigation. The ergonomic handles are made of airplane-grade aluminum and the shell is a combination of ABS/PC materials. Like to be seen as a trendsetter? You’ve found your passport to achieving that goal if you purchase this unique hardside luggage set.
- You’ll have zero problem spotting your bags in a crowd or on the carousel.
- The 8-spinner wheel system makes threading through airport concourses fast.
- Style belies functionality; these bags are sturdy and can withstand plenty of abuse.
- A zippered interior feature divides bag into two sections for organizational ease.
- There are no small storage pockets within these bags’ interiors.
- Not everyone wants luggage that features extreme colors and geometric prints.
- You’ll spend twice as much on this set to look trendy.
- Travelers report small marks and blemishes on their bags after just a few trips.
Hardside Luggage Conclusions
There are going to be plenty of travelers whose sense of style demands ownership of that colorful Steve Madden set, and for that demographic, the choice is made. We applaud the look and functionality of the Coolite hardside luggage set despite its shortcomings. The space age shell is bound to appeal to folks determined to buy black. For travelers refusing to purchase any bag that doesn’t come with an iconic brand name, the Samsonite set will be preferred despite the fact that it costs even more than the Steve Madden collection.
We compared and contrasted the last two—-Globalway and Lemoone—-and concluded that the Globalway set has more going for it when compared to other hardside luggage sets. The Lemoone warranty length is 2-years, while there’s no time limit on the Globalway bags. Further, the Lemoone set costs $40 more despite the minute differences between the two. The Globalway collection ticks off all the right boxes: polycarbonate/ABS shell, spinner wheels, 10 color choices and telescoping handles. While the lock isn’t TSA-approved, you can buy your own lock with that $40 saving.
Now for Our 5 Best Softside Luggage Sets
This 3-piece soft-shell luggage set is constructed of lightweight, 600-denier polyester that’s thick enough to rebuff scratches, rain and the battering luggage takes on airport trollies. The color you choose will determine the price: silver with red trim, black with purple, silver, red, green or blue trim. These color touches aren’t splashy, so they won’t turn off conservatives. Each bag features 4 silent spinner wheels; a retractable handle pops up for easy transport. Ignore the sizing parameters used to describe this collection: Lemoone includes the wheels in their measurement so you might think these bags are larger than other bags in this review. Find handy zippered pockets inside and out; interior straps secure contents and there's a mesh interior pocket for small items.
- Excellent value for the money.
- There’s just enough color trim for interest, but it doesn’t dominate the look.
- A couple of handy exterior, zippered pockets stow essential items.
- 600-denier polyester is one of the highest material grades on the market.
- The warranty only covers 2 years, so if that’s not enough, consider another collection.
- Despite being soft-sided, these aren’t as expandable as competitor bags due to structural features.
- Could collect “battle scars” despite the dense, thick exterior fabric.
- With a $20-range differential between colors you may have to pick your 2nd choice if you’re on a budget.
On the subject of budgets, this is the mother lode of bags: Merax’s 5-piece set includes rolling suitcases and an astonishing price tag. Fashioned of 100-percent polyester, the rolling bags feature a retractable handle system featuring a push-button launch. There are multiple zippered pockets for essentials. Get the standard size mix of bags plus an 18-inch travel bag and 15-inch flight bag so your entire family can hit the road. These bags have the least amount of structure, which is why you can pack 25-percent more items than other pieces in this review, yet Merax didn’t skimp on interior features: Large bags offer interior lining, tie down straps, a zippered mesh pocket and dual shoe pockets, too.
- Terrific price for this many pieces and each one coordinates beautifully.
- Choose this collection if your biggest goal is extended capacity.
- Large bags feature wheels and retractable handles; smaller bags have matching cloth handles.
- Decide between black, blue and red with colorful accents.
- Stitching may cause problems like detached handles and seam rips.
- Zippers could break along the stitch line as a result of over-stuffing.
- Manufacturer sizing on marketing materials is incorrect; each piece is actually 1-inch smaller.
- May arrive with a smelly odor that could take weeks to air out.
If you’re happy to pay a premium price for a 3-piece set that’s called “the world’s lightest luggage,” meet iT, the luggage that hasn’t a thing to do with computers or technology. These bags are advertised as being larger than comparable sets, but that differential is the result of the unusual silhouette. Unlike other sets profiled here, these suitcases roll on just 2 silent spinner wheels. Soft-grip, cushioned handles make lifting and carrying easy. There are two exterior zip pockets, 4 interior mesh slip pockets plus tie-down straps and bag interiors are fully lined. iT is so confident these bags will outlast competitors, there’s a 10-year warranty on the collection.
- Extra-wide fiberglass handles are built into the frame for longevity and ease of navigation.
- Stylish and popular, these bags are fitted with interior constraints.
- The textile used to construct these bags is a tightly-woven, two-tone fabric that repels soil.
- Choose from trendy, contemporary colors.
- You could spend up to $55 extra to get the color you prefer.
- These bags sell out fast so you may have to wait to get your hands on your picks.
- Complaints have been registered about wheel functionality.
- Despite the unique design, you may not like the two-wheels per-bag feature.
Admit it: Anything related to a Caribbean get-away is compelling, so in terms of allure, this Caribbean Joe bag collection attracts shoppers. Show off your good taste by owning luggage in a tropical brown color mix reminiscent of palm tree trunks. Crafted of cross-woven polyester and featuring earthy accents, you’ll even roll at a leisurely pace because instead of the standard 4-spinner wheel configuration, all three of the big bags feature double wheels. The upgraded telescopic push button handle is state-of-the-art and each bag offers an extra 2-inchs of packing capacity—just in case your luggage isn’t filled with flip-flops and shorts.
- 5-year manufacturer’s warranties come with each of these bags.
- The carry-on features a double lock-stitched shoulder strap and carry handle.
- This collection comes with 4 pieces rather than the standard 3.
- Brand fans say these bags are sexy and practical!
- You’d better love the look because the price is double that of the Merax collection.
- Broken or malfunctioning handles have been reported to the manufacturer.
- The exotic edging that attracts shoppers may rip or fray over time.
- Zipper breakage has also been reported by folks returning their bags to the manufacturer.
Like all Steve Madden designs, this 3-piece soft-side suitcase set identifies you as a trendsetter the moment you head for your departure gate. Avoid excessive airline baggage fees that come with larger bags because the fabric is so lightweight, you have nobody but yourself to blame if you over-pack and send your bag to the luggage hold . Steve Madden refers to the wheels on his bags as “360-degree enhanced,” but that’s designer talk for “they spin in all directions.” The exterior look sells this set because the fabric satisfies sensibilities: choose from a pixilated cityscape pattern to solids that run the gamut from conservative blue and black to hot pink and turquoise. The brown leather trim adds a dash of sophistication, no matter which color you choose.
- The Steve Madden brand is known for solid construction and gorgeous design.
- Materials used to construct these bags is top-quality and attention to detail is a brand hallmark.
- Ergonomic handles and fully-lined interiors do not disappoint.
- These bags come with a 5-year manufacturer’s warranty.
- Studs embellishing these bags may fall off; stylish leatherette trim could come loose.
- Ripped seams have been reported by travelers after a relatively short period of use.
- You might not want to pay the mark-up added on designer-promoted products.
- These bags tend to soil easily, leaving scuff marks and dirt that could be hard to remove.
Softside Luggage Conclusions
The Caribbean Joe luggage collection has done something not many brands can do: beat Steve Madden at his game in terms of appeal, style and sophistication. But at twice the price of the 5-piece Merax collection, neither of these sets offer the value-added factor we found in the other three. That 3-piece iT set comes with an irresistible 10-year warranty and it’s marketed as the world’s lightest luggage but who wants to pay a differential for a favorite color only to find that set is no longer in stock?
Having concluded that the two best deals in this category are the Lemoone and the Merax, we find the 5-bag Merax set to be irresistible, especially since it’s the least expensive set of all. Is this collection perfect? Perfect enough to get our roundup vote for capacity when rating luggage best luggage set choices. Each bag offers 25-percent more interior room because they're unstructured. Think of these pieces as you would duffle bags made of industrial quality 600-denier polyester. At half the price of the Caribbean Joe set, you could use the leftover cash for your own Caribbean adventure.