Soft or Hard luggage?
When you’re heading out on a tour it’s good to think about what kind of luggage carriers you might need. Will a backpack or waterproof roll, strapped on your bike with some ROK-straps be enough or do you need more room? Of course everyone has their own opinion on the matter. Just like the difference between which bike to take into the outback or which tires are the best for driving wherever. But to make a good decision between hard or soft luggage, you need to look at both sides of the medallion. So let me help you a bit to make up your mind by telling you what I think.
If I will be heading out onto the back trails then I prefer to travel as light as possible. In this case I would opt for soft luggage. It’s lighter, cheaper, safer and easier to mount in comparison to plastic or hard case luggage. It does require a little thought about where to put it on your bike and how to center it correctly. But when that all fits, it’s actually easier than hard case luggage which often needs pannier racks or other mountings. Let’s put this down in some pros and cons:
- Solid and robust: The luggage won’t shift while riding and they can take a little stress. They might dent and warp a bit though.
- Waterproof: Water has a hard time getting through the hard luggage cases. They might leak a bit through the seams if they have a plunge but 99% of the time the cases are waterproof.
- Easy to handle: Hard luggage opens and close on the same point and you don’t need to hassle with straps, rolls and clips.
- Security: Often the hardcover panniers have locks or is easy to secure and hard to cut through. This ensures no one can get to your valuable riding gear to easy.
- Weight: The case and the pannier alone may weigh around 10 kilo’s before you even fill them
- Safety: Some people think that riding off-road with hard luggage makes a deathtrap when falling over in slow falls. They believe you can get trapped between them with your legs. On the other side there are also riders who think it’s safer to have hard luggage for the reason that they work as a bumper between your bike and the ground, keeping your legs free.
- Costs: A soft luggage Mosko Moto reckless 80L costs around 500 euro while a Touratech ZEGA PRO pannier system could set you back around 965 euro. And is often dedicated to a certain bike type. So if you have multiple bikes you can’t really transfer the kit easily.
- Catching on obstacles: The hard surface doesn’t give way for rocks and branches and this might throw a bike off course or even break the pannier system and cause a crash.
- Weight: Like said before, hard panniers can be very heavy in comparison with soft carriers. This means that an average empty soft bag weighs around the 5 kg’s and is easily compress able to save space.
- Compatibility: Most rack less soft bags are often compatible with a lot of bike types. Take in consideration how your exhaust is running and you might want to attach a protection heatshield plate to your bikes exhaust. Most suppliers like Mosko Moto and Giant Loop will provide these headshields also.
- Costs: As stated above, rack less bags or panniers are often lower in cost. Where a hardcase pannier system can set you back around 1000 euro a good rack less luggage system costs around 500 euro.
- Weatherproof: Soft bags aren’t waterproof but is made of high quality PVC/ Cordura / Ballistic nylon. They often come with waterproof inner liners and these make it easy to haul around your luggage without disconnecting your luggage system.
- Security: Nothing is 100% secure. But soft luggage makes it a lot easier to cut into and take something out. Also they are harder to lock. Although there are solutions for this like the locking straps. Check out the MoskoMoto link posted below for these straps.
- Durability: Abrasion, hot exhausts, clogged zippers, ripped material. It is all possible with soft luggage. A big deal of this can be taken care of by buying a high quality piece of equipment. Don’t save a few euros on something as important as your luggage carrier. You’ll regret it.
- Damage: The rubbing and chafing of the soft bags on your bikes frame / bodywork may cause scratches and rough spots. This can be avoided by placing a towel or a rubber plate between it and your bike. Also some protective film can prevent this.
- Stability: Soft bags have no solid anchor point and therefore is prone to move in difficult terrain. This might cause your bike to feel instable. This is, of course, dependent on how you can mount the bags on your bike.
Do you want to check out the ROK-straps and other luggage options? Then click the logo’s below:
Here you go, some pros and cons I think are important for choosing which type to take on the trip. Of course no one can say which one of these is the winner in this discussion. It all depends on what kind of trip you are taking. The soft carriers are definitely better and safer for the hard-core off-roading but has some limitations if you are searching for safety and convenience on a long tour trip.
Let me know in the comments below what kind of luggage you like to use 🙂