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Hard shell vs soft carry-on luggage for 100 day Euro journey

We each have a soft carry-on Euro regulation we use for 2 of our our most recent excursions. Interested in hard shell spinner because it seems it might be easier to set in overhead, a bit lighter and more manageable than cloth. We will each have a backpack that will fit under the seat. Our travels will include 6 flights.
We are 67 years old. This will be our 5th trip to Europe, and hopefully not our last. Looking forward to your comparison with pros and cons for each of the 2 options (after reading RS guide commentary I remain on the fence).

Posted by
14939 posts

I hate to tell you this but it really comes down to personal preference.

You will get responses from people who like spinners, don't like spinners, don't like wheels at all, among others.

Hard shell cases are popular now but know the main reason they go for repair are cracks in the shell.

A hard shell spinner isn't going to weigh that much less than a cloth bag. As for maneuverability it has more to do with the wheels.

Why not pack your backpack full and go to a luggage store. Put the bacpack in the spinner, a weighed down spinner will roll differently than an empty one, and see how you like it.

Posted by
255 posts

Thank you. If we stick with what we have, we will have at least $150 more to spend in Europe. With a smile, wishing all enjoyable smart travel.

Posted by
27057 posts

Clamshell cases have to be laid out flat. You can't open the case and lean the top part against the wall, else stuff will fall out. In my experience, not all hotel rooms provide the space needed to open a bag flat.

Be sure any bag with spinner wheels is of good quality. Those wheels take a beating on rough pavement. My first spinner wheel died on Day 90. The second one died on Day 120, rendering the bag unusable.

Posted by
23238 posts

Just tell us that you understand the limitation to the Schengen zone visa so we don't have to discuss it -- again and again.

Personally am not a big fan of spinners (for previously posted problems) and prefer the more rugged, and larger two wheel bags. And for previous stated reason do not like clam shell. Find them hard to pack efficiently.

Posted by
255 posts

Thanks for the insight and practice considerations. We know about the Schengen zone regulations. Spending the our first 30 days in the British Isles.

Posted by
3940 posts

I’ve never had a hard shell, but I like the convenience of the front pockets on my regular old bag...so I can tuck in a snack, my book with my travel papers, iPad...anything I want to be able to get to in a hurry at the airport or on the plane...

Posted by
55 posts

Personal preference, but based on a single two-week Europe trip with one, I really, really dislike spinners.

In my mind, two more wheels = two more failure points. Four wheels on cobblestones or other uneven street materials is a miserable experience, and basically toasted two of my four wheels within a couple of blocks. Granted, this was an inexpensive (about $50) suitcase I bought as a single-use gift carrier for a trip to visit family, but even the truly expensive spinners don't look robust to me. Dealing with a non-functional suitcase for more than half my trip wasn't vacation destroying, but it wasn't great. Full disclosure, my usual vacation bag (and my 2nd bag on that trip) is a 30L convertible backpack/duffle.

I see tons of spinners in airports and on planes, but... last week, I was at an event with an attendee demographic that travels at least weekly for business. Didn't see a single spinner amongst all their luggage. That to me says something about the usefulness and reliability of spinners from people who should know.

My vote is to keep your current soft carry-on bags, and use that money on a great meal or fun day-trip. :)

Posted by
3961 posts

We have had good luck for years with our 2 wheeled cloth bags negotiating cobblestones & other rough terrain. As others have mentioned, the advantage of outside pockets, and ease of packable room is a plus. Fits our needs and wouldn't change a thing.

Posted by
19091 posts

I've never used a spinner, but I have considerable experience with cloth bags.

I have never seen a spinner that weighs less than my convertible back packs. My current cloth bag weighs 2¼ #; my previous one was 1¾ #.

I would not consider a cloth bag less manageable than a spinner. For one thing, when I put down my cloth bag, it stays there. I have seen spinner wandering away on their own on less than flat surfaces.

I hardly half fill my cloth bag, so it fits in smaller spaces, like in the overhead bin. A hard shell "bag" takes the same space, no matter how little you put in it.

Posted by
1625 posts

I like hard shell for the simple fact that I do not need to worry if it rains, gets splattered or spilled on. It can bang against anything and I don't worry about my contents being damaged. I don't worry about carrying garbage bags to cover the cases in case in rains. I DO miss a front zip pocket on my old soft case, but I have big outside pockets on my personal carry on tote (Fits perfectly under the seat). We do carry on only and have the Samsonite 21 Fierro, which is expandable (a must have for my return trip home, when I do check in) and my personal item is the Kipling Sasha tote. I do not need to worry about squishing it down or having making it fit anywhere, it has fit just fine on most airlines we have flown.

Posted by
1194 posts

I like hard shell for the simple fact that I do not need to worry if it rains, gets splattered or spilled on.

In all my years I’ve only had this happen once. I was in the African Bush and it flooded. Then the two inches of water inside my tent soaked into the bag. But that was because the bag had been sitting in the water for hours.

It’s really hard to get the contents of a carry on bag wet. You’d have to be out in the rain for hours for it to soak through the nylon and then the packing cube nylon.

If you check your bag then a hard sided bag may protect your clothes. But hard sides have a lot less usefulness when the bag is under your full control.

And a hard side doesn’t ever squish into smaller spaces.

Posted by
902 posts

How about a soft sided bag and pack half of the clothes you normally would and take twice the money. After watching people pull spinner bags or carry them after a wheel broke in Europe last month, I would not recommend them. You can always go into a store and buy an item if it is needed.

Posted by
5697 posts

Drop by a charity thrift store and see if there are gently-used hard sided spinners (this works best in an area where people have disposable income and travel a lot.) Buy one for $25 or less, and test it out around your neighborhood, lifting and pulling. If you like it, great. If not, donate it back. It's all subjective -- some people love them, some hate them.

Posted by
255 posts

The thrift store concept is brilliant. Thank you, Savvy Traveler!

Posted by
1206 posts

Another vote for soft sided, two wheeled bag. Here's a direct comparison of the two kinds of luggage, similarly sized: On a two-week trip all around north Italy with dear friend, I took my trusty two-wheeled bag, and she (against my advice) insisted that she preferred her spinner. After all, she had taken it on numerous trips in the US and liked how it ROLLED IN THE AIRPORTS. (You see it coming, don't you....?) Well, the treks up and down the cobble-stoned streets of Assisi, Montepulciano, Venice and the like, and up and down stairs in various train stations and hotels proved that the measly little wheels of her spinner were not up to the task. She simply could NOT push/pull her bag on all four wheels in many/most of the locations that we visited, and when she attempted to pull her bag on two of its four wheels, it was difficult, clumsy, and just not built for many of the maneuvers she needed to do. zagfam, if you try out a second-hand spinner before taking one to Europe, I suggest you try it fully loaded on gravel, on rocks, on grass, and up and down various staircases. That would give you a better sense of whether it might work on cobblestones, etc.

Posted by
2349 posts

My spinner works just fine pulled on 2 wheels in gravel or on uneven surfaces. Good inline skate style wheels are the key.

Posted by
1625 posts

I had the same experience as Karen, my spinner case worked just fine on all surfaces.