Hard-sided cases may dominate current luggage trends, but if your priority is longtime use, consider eschewing a hard-sided bag in favor of a soft-sided styling. Both offer their pros and cons: If you’re in the camp that believes a hard-sided case will protect its contents more than a soft bag, that’s a valid argument—but what happens when your hard case emerges with a crack in it on the baggage carousel? This happened to me on a recent trip, while the extra-large soft-sided bag I’ve owned for years is still going strong.
If you’re considering a purchase of soft-sided luggage, knowing a few details will result in a smarter buy. Look for a nylon or polyester fabrication that has been treated so it’s water- and abrasion-resistant. Consider its weight, because that’s the starting point of your 50- or 70-pound maximum, depending on the rules of your preferred airline. And don’t downplay the importance of top, side and bottom handles, especially when you need to lug a hefty piece from the airport sidewalk to a car trunk, or vice versa. Travel, after all, isn’t always as glamorous as we’d like to imagine. With that in mind, we rounded up ﬁve soft-side styles that check many boxes in both design and durability.
Bric’s X-Bag 30″ Rolling Shoe Duffle
This just launched duffle can be compressed for easy storage, but travelers also will appreciate its 100-liter capacity and its weight of just 8.5 pounds. The wide opening on this two-wheeled rolling bag features an interior zippered pocket and compression straps, while its durable nylon exterior is both water- and fade-resistant. Founded in Milan in 1952 by Mario Briccola, Bric’s has always put an accent on Italian leather handcraft, and that’s evident in the nylon X-Collection, with each piece trimmed with leather handles and zipper pulls.
$369, at bricstore.com
Briggs & Riley ZDX Large Expandable Spinner
You wouldn’t think that the construction of your suitcase’s handle would make much difference in a bag’s capacity, but Briggs & Riley believes differently, placing its Outsider handle on the exterior of its Expandable Spinner bag to create a ﬂat, ultra-roomy interior. This 29-inch bag also offers an impressive and welcome 2.5 inches of expansion, appreciated by anyone who’s used to collecting souvenirs during a trip. In addition to interior and exterior zippered and mesh pockets and four 360-degree spinner wheels, the ZDX nylon bag also offers low-proﬁle corner guards and a strap that allows you to hook a smaller bag onto its front for an easy glide through an airport. And if you have an extra week before your trip, Briggs & Riley also offers complimentary monogramming on its ZDX collection.
$619, at briggs-riley.com
Delsey Paris Sky Max 2.0 28″ Large Checked Bag
Popular among travelers since the brand’s launch in 1946, Delsey Paris is indeed based in the French capital, spawning an automatic expectation of both handcraft and style. While hard-side offerings such as the Chatelet or the Allure, a collaboration with Air France, garner the lion’s share of attention, those seeking a soft-side bag should check out Delsey’s Sky Max 2.0 collection, among the most lightweight in the category. The Large Checked Bag weighs just 8.4 pounds and boasts a 117-liter capacity, while its twill-style polyester fabric is both durable and elegant. This expandable bag features four double-spinner wheels, interior and exterior zip and mesh pockets and a TSA combination lock you can secure with your own three-digit code.
$209.99, at us.delsey.com
Ricardo Malibu Bay 3.0 Large Check-In
Richard “Ricardo” Gibbs founded his eponymous brand in 1978 in Beverly Hills. More than four decades later, this Seattle-based company offers a comprehensive selection of both hard- and soft-sided bags, including Malibu Bay 3.0, which debuted in 2022. Designed to be both lightweight and durable, Malibu Bay also is ideal for business travel with a heathered fabric that’s professional and stylish. Features on the expandable Large Check-In bag include faux-leather accents, four 360-degree wheels, interior and exterior zip pockets and a bonus large packing cube.
$400, at ricardobeverlyhills.com
Yeti Crossroads 29″ Luggage
Known for its line of outdoor coolers, Yeti employed the same approach to creating tough yet lightweight products in its luggage collection. If the two wheels on the 29-inch Crossroads rolling suitcase look familiar, it’s because they’re similar to the rugged style designed for Yeti coolers (and the company will ﬁx them if something happens). Crafted of Yeti’s TuffSkin nylon on a molded polycarbonate base, this Crossroads checked bag boasts an 80-liter capacity and is water- and abrasion-resistant. Features include clamshell styling split in 70/30 proportions, mesh and zippered pockets and dividers, and small and medium-sized packing cubes. This is a bag that feels equally at home on outdoor adventures or rolling through an airport.
$450, at yeti.com