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Away Hard vs Soft Luggage (2020): Which Type Is Better For You?

Away has only recently launched their soft-sided expandable suitcases, finally giving travelers an option between their hard and soft luggage lines. If you need help deciding whether to go for one of the original hard-sided shells or one of the Expandables (as Away cleverly named the new line), we’ve listed the pros and cons of each below. To illustrate better, we’ll compare The Bigger Carry-On and The Expandable Bigger Carry-On.

Away Hard vs Soft Luggage Comparison Chart

ModelAway The Bigger Carry-OnAway The Expandable Bigger Carry-On
PriceCheck PriceCheck Price
MaterialPolycarbonateWoven nylon
Internal21” x 14.5”19.7” x 14.7”
Weight8.4 lbs9.92 lbs
Capacity47.9 L47-52 L
Front PocketOptionalYes
Hidden Laundry BagYesYes


Away hard luggage still look trendier than the soft-sided models.

Away Hard vs Soft Luggage Design
Notice the cleaner lines of The Bigger Carry-On (left) in comparison with The Expandable Bigger Carry-On (right).

Away’s classic hard shell suitcases made waves on its release, gaining immense popularity among the fashion-forward Instagram crowd. Its clean lines and overall minimalist design helped make hard-sided carry-ons all the rage in recent years. In comparison, the soft-sided Expandables still look great but just aren’t as eye-catching. Also, you get a lot more color choices with the hard versions, 13 instead of 4.

One welcome inclusion to the soft Carry-On is the big front pocket, which can fit 15-inch laptops easily along with other items you’d want easy access to. Still, for a few extra bucks you can opt for a hard-sided Carry-On with a front pocket. What remains an exclusive feature of the hard shell Away carry-ons is the ejectable battery, which is highly convenient if you find yourself needing to recharge your devices often.

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Storage Space

Away soft luggage can fit more items than the hard-sided models.

Away Hard vs Soft Luggage Storage Space
The Expandable Bigger Carry-On has a zipper feature that can widen packing space by 1.75 inches.

The biggest advantage of the soft-sided Expandables is of course their ability to accommodate more clothes and items than the rigid hard shell models. Those who like being prepared for anything or simply tend to over-pack will love being able to expand Away’s soft luggage by 1.75 inches, which can mean maybe 2 to 3 more changes of clothing.

Its flexible woven nylon material also means you can cram more things without having to expand it. In addition, this makes the soft-sided luggage easier to fit into tight spaces such as overhead compartments and taxi trunks. Away notes that, depending on your flight’s size, you might have to check the Expandable Carry-On if you do pack it to its limits since that would make it go over carry-on requirements.


Away hard luggage will be easier to handle than soft-sided models.

Away Hard vs Soft Luggage Handling
The hard shell Away suitcases require less attention and upkeep.

As both hard and soft Away luggage utilize the same spinner wheel and handle designs, you’ll find them just as smooth to walk and guide as each other. However, the hard shell suitcases are actually lighter, thanks to the lightweight polycarbonate material, which also has the added benefits of being easier to keep clean and dry.

The nylon fabric of the Expandable Bigger Carry-On has the tendency to absorb spills, so unpleasant smells and stains can stick longer and are more difficult to get rid of compared to a hard shell. Moreover, soft-sided suitcases aren’t the best when there’s rain or snow. As a result, you’ll find the hard-sided Away luggage to be easier to bring along wherever you’re going.

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Away soft luggage are less prone to exterior damage, but hard-sided models offer better protection.

Away Hard vs Soft Luggage Durability
The Expandable Away suitcases can weather scratches and scuffs better.

If you’re concerned about rough handling getting your luggage scuffed, the fabric material of the Expandable Bigger Carry-On will hide any such much better than the hard polycarbonate shells of the classic Away luggage. You’ll find that soft-sided luggage tend to look cleaner and newer longer, especially in dark colors.

The trade-off is that Away hard luggage can protect fragile items better, as its exterior material and overall structure can withstand the beating instead of what’s inside. It’s a definite consideration if you tend to pack digital SLR cameras, laptops, perfume bottles, breakable makeup kits, etc.


Away’s hard luggage models are better overall picks than the soft-sided ones.

Away The Bigger Carry-On

Away The Expandable Bigger Carry-On

Considering that they have the advantage on durability, handling and overall style factor, Away’s hard luggage are sill safer to recommend than the new soft-sided models. You can trust the durable polycarbonate shell of the The Bigger Carry-On to keep your belongings undamaged while worrying less about splashes and spills. The Carry-On sizes also have optional built-in phone chargers and front pockets for extra accessibility, and you get more color choices to pick from.

Those who like being able to pack more will find the Expandable Bigger Carry-On to be the more flexible choice. While it’s still recommended that you practice packing light and avoid overweight baggage charges, you might simply need more room for everything you’re bringing or taking home. You’ll also find that the nylon material handles scratches like a boss, and the included front pocket offers plenty of room for items you need readily available.

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Derick Bondoc
Derick Bondoc

Managing Editor at Compare Before Buying. Writer and researcher passionate about gadgets, gaming and snacks.