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Why I’m using soft hand luggage now for short trips and why you should too

Why I’m using soft hand luggage now for short trips and why you should too

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My old cabin bag is almost falling apart ?. It is not something new, it’s been traveling with me for over 10 years now and hand luggage goes through a lot in airports, streets and cars. So, now that I have to choose a new bag, what should I choose? Hard case or soft luggage? 

The debate is not new. I’ve always been more of the hard case type (traveling by plane gives you a paranoia of things breaking up because of how they treat bags), but after checking the bags from the Cabinzero crew, I chose to change. Here’s why:

1. Soft luggage takes less space than a hard case

– Leticia are you crazy? A 55x40x20 hard case occupies the same space as a soft case of 55x40x20. Or not?
– Yes, that’s the theory, but reality is that a hard case can only fit the same (or less) space of its width, height and depth. But a soft case can be pushed inside smaller and different sizings

One of the things we faced on our roadtrip through the Japanese Alps was that Japanese cars are smaller, so we didn’t know if our bags (or how many) would fit inside. So having a bag that would fit different spaces was ideal. For low cost airlines, Ryanair makes you push your bag under your feet, so soft is also the handy option.

What’s changed: The Cabinzero bag I have now has strips to make the bag smaller or thinner and is quite flexible. Well, the color is not as white as it was, but I can use a wet cloth for that ?

2. It allows more contents than a hard case

Same coin, different side. 44 litres are the same for a hard case and a soft case, but since the bag is much more flexible, it is easier to fit the content inside.

The bad side is that it doesn’t offer the same protection for fragile things. Being honest, I don’t really care about this on short travels, since I will be the one carrying around.

What’s changed: For some reason I ignore, dirty clothes take more space than clean stuff, so having extra space for gifts, maps and books is a plus.

3. Soft luggage is now as waterproof as hard

Back in the days, if your bag fell in water or you when around in a rainy day, it was much better to have a hard luggage than soft ones. Today, good bags like the one I use are water resistant. What this means is that your clothes won’t get wet under rain or if something drops on top of it. If it falls in a river, they will, but how many times have your bags fallen in a river?

The change: It rained a couple of days, so I was a bit nervous about this, but it went all perfect and my clothes and books kept dry.

4. It’s easier to find things there

I’m not the unpacking type, so I keep things perfectly packed until I need it. But sometimes I can’t find things easily on my perfectly packed bag. While this is not solve just by having a soft case, it is easier to reach all you have and it has different pockets so you can “organize” those things I need to reach easily.

The change: Well… The CabinZero has a big outside pocket that I used a lot to have things at hand, such as the JRPass and the maps; 2 inside pockets, one that I used for documents and one that I almost didn’t use because things would fall from it all the time (since it’s soft, it kept folding and things falling.)

5.  Zippers are much more flexible

Most rigid cases have zippers that lock at a certain spot. This is great when you are checking your luggage in, because you don’t have to carry a padlock and they won’t get stuck with other bags or at baggage belts.

But since you won’t be checking your luggage for a short trip, there’s no need to have something like this.

The change: Having a flexible zipper means that you can open the bag from any point you need. Plus, this one has a bigger handles so it’s easier to manage.

6. They are lighter since there is no structure, nor wheels

There are some rigid cases with ultra light wheels, the lighter hard cases usually average 2 kilograms of weight. But when the airline only allows 10 kg per passenger (hand luggage), that leaves you with only 8 kg for the real stuff (if you ever wanted to carry that much.)

The change:  This bag only weights 760 grams, so I have an extra kilogram for whatever extras I want to bring home.

7. They don’t get as much damaged

Doesn’t it scare you to see how they treat luggage at airports? It’s not the only place where your luggage could get “hurt”.  A soft bag is harder to break and (don’t know if this is a pro or con) if it breaks it’s clear that it broke, so you won’t have to argue too much with the airline.

Also, most dirt goes away with a wet cloth, as I told you before.


Against using a soft luggage:

Many of the big “cons” of soft bags for luggage are almost gone with new technologies and other can become a great pro, for example:

1. Doesn’t have wheels, but you won’t carry as many “what ifs”

Being honest, half of our “what ifs” are there because you don’t have to carry you things. But do you ever use them? I’ve found out that I don’t.

Having to carry my bag on my back instead of pulling has made me move faster and more easily in japanese train stations. And since I wasn’t bringing all the extras, I was able to put the bag in all the overhead spaces.

2. If you need structure, you will have to use something else, like the packing cubes

With a hard case you might also need packing cubes. Also, some soft bags do bring more structure and even wheels, but then you miss the major advantages.

3. Doesn’t work right for fragile and valuable things

I’ve told you before: a rigid structure protects china ware better than a soft structure. But I don’t know why you would carry that with you…

If you were thinking on carrying money, take the same precautions as your handbag. If you think somebody would want to take it from you, be super careful. The world is safer than you think, most of the time.


Other extras you should look for on your next bag

Besides all the pros above, the bag I’m using now has some extras that are really good if you are planning on a short trip (or a mix of short and long):

  • It has handles that let me use it as a backpack or by hand. It’s half a backpack and half hand luggage. This is good for running through airports. The bad side is that backpack strips cannot be tied together, so checking it in at airports is not a good idea.
  • When folded it’s not bigger than an umbrella or a pair ou trousers, so it fits well inside a big luggage and I can use it as a second bag in case I buy something new.
  • It brings the Okoban tracking code, which helps you find your bag when lost
  • Quality is guaranteed for 25 years (my old carry-on only had 5 and my bigger one has 10)

These are small details but can make a nice difference when traveling.

Doubts? Questions? Let me know what you use as cabin bag or hand luggage and why you prefer it


The bag you see here is a gift from the CabinZero team so I could use it for my last trip to Japan. As always, this is my real opinion and tricks, after testing it in real life, hoping i helps you choose better next time you have to pack your bag ?. #adpost #spons #cabinzero

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