The Best Carry-on Luggage For Travel

To begin with, when looking for a carry-on luggage, don’t forget that the main purpose of it is easier to travel through the airport, train stations or whatever trip you are planning on taking. When traveling by airplane, it is important to know that they don’t treat your luggage nicely. Statistics show that most suitcases are damaged while transporting them to the plane and out of it. The main reason for this is because the process is not automatic in most airports which leads to the human factor. People transporting your luggage have a certain amount of time in which range they have a task of replacing the luggage from one place to another. With this time frame being too small, the result is throwing your luggage from one place to another. The problem is, no one is there to catch it.

The wheels, the zippers, and your luggage shell should all be high-quality parts and they should be flawlessly attached in order for your luggage to be able to last for years. Regardless of whether you are traveling for work every week or you only need a vacation carry-on luggage, you will need a functional luggage that will make your travel easier and faster.

Last Updated: July 26, 2018
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By Mackenzie Jervis:

After some more travel, and even more research, we have made some much needed updates to our guide. Take a look at our revised list to see the new picks we came up with.

London Fog Coventry
  • London Fog Coventry
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Amazon Basics Softside
  • Amazon Basics Softside
  • 4.6 out of 5
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  • Durable Design
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Aerolite Carry On MAX
  • Aerolite Carry On MAX
  • 4.5 out of 5
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  • Fantastic value
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10 Best Carry-on Luggage Pieces

London Fog Coventry UL Collection

This London Fog carry-on luggage has a great design and even greater quality. Its design is made to fit almost all domestic airlines and their overhead compartments.
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Frame quality and material: The frame is made from high-quality corner guards that are helping the luggage look as new for a long time. The outside of it is made out of a hard synthetic material which is unable to be scratched. The back of the luggage usually provides the strength of the bag for carrying heavier items. In this case, this luggage has reinforced back frame that is able to withhold a greater weight. The frame of the luggage is made with a honeycomb structure that gives it strength without making it extra heavy. This results with an ultra-light carry-on luggage with strong support for your heavier items. The weight of this luggage is only 7, 5 pounds and the dimensions are 9 x 21 x 14 inches.

Additional features: The handle system is made from high-quality aluminum parts that work smoothly and without disruptions. The aluminum handle material also gives the luggage strength so you are even able to lift the suitcase by its handle and it wouldn’t break. However, this is only done for testing; it is not recommended for regular use. The aluminum handle system is reinforced with channels for extra strength.

Wheel system: The wheels are incorporated in a wheel system with protective corners in order to ensure that they are protected during the transport. This is a two-wheeled system which means you will be able to use it as a carry-on luggage for a long time. Since the wheels are placed inside a frame, the luggage is also convenient to use on rough terrains. However, you wouldn’t want to since it looks very elegant and well designed. The exterior is rich with pockets that will make your traveling more organized. However, the interior is also well organized with shoe pockets so that you don’t mix up the “dirty” shoes with your clean clothes and a mesh pocket which is zippered placed on the lid of the bag.

Functionality features: The liner dimensions are 13 inches when it is fully expanded. It is also very stable when standing on its own. Some cases tend to fall forward when they are over packed. However, this carry-on luggage doesn’t have that issue; it could certainly stand free regardless of its packing content.
Pros

Ultra lightweight

Spacious

Well-organized

Cons

Small wheels

Not lockable

Amazon Basics Softside

Amazon Basics Softside
This Amazon Basics suitcase is currently on sale and if you decide that this is your most suitable option you will save 26% of the full price. It is a soft-shell carry-on spinner luggage which is ideal for international flights or weekend getaways.
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Frame quality and material: The material it is made of is very durable and the outside is lined with protection layer in order to protect it from scratching and damage. Although the purpose of the lining is functional, the protective fabric looks very nice. The handle system is telescoping and the pulling is smooth and effortless. There is a push button on the top of the handle which allows you to activate it. There are 4 wheels that could move in any direction and the rolling is pretty smooth. However, the sizes of the wheels suggest that this suitcase choice is not too convenient to be used for rough terrains. If you are looking for such option, look through our other suggestions. This carry-on luggage is also very lightweight and it weighs only 5, 5 pounds. The volume of it is 9 liters.

Additional features: Since it doesn’t have the two-shell method of organizing your stuff inside, it does have interior pockets that will assist the organization. This Amazon Basics suitcase has an option of expanding. This means that you could choose to use it as a smaller carry-on luggage in case you have less stuff for a shorter trip. Or you could expand it to 25% and get additional packing capacity in which you will be able to fit most of your stuff. Although it is not recommended that you over pack your suitcase, the zippers are very durable if you don’t take the over packing too far. Inside, there are also clipping straps that will keep your stuff lined up. This is a feature that organized people will know to appreciate. There is also a zippered compartment inside that will allow you to physically separate the dirty stuff for instance from your clean ones.

Functionality characteristics: Even though its dimensions are limiting you to where you are going to place your suitcase while traveling, they are changeable. This doesn’t mean that you could turn the 21 inches of height in 18 inches to fit your airline rules. But if you are traveling by car and you have only a little space left, the soft side design of the suitcase will allow you to squeeze it inside, in order for it to fit the tight space. Of course, if your packed belongings allow this. Even though this is a characteristic that all soft-shell suitcases possess, the hard shell ones would crack if you push too hard to fit them in a tight space.
Pros
  • Easy to push around
  • Great quality material
  • Many organizational pockets
Cons
  • Bad wheel placement
  • Limited color choices

Aerolite Carry On MAX

This Aerolite carry-on luggage is made specifically for frequent flyers that are using domestic airlines. The dimensions fit most USA airlines as well as Southwest airlines. And what makes it a good and safe choice is its 10 years guarantee which enables you to buy this product with confidence.
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Frame quality and material: The material this suitcase is made of is high quality 600 denier polyester which is resistant to ripping and very durable. The entire suitcase is made with durable, but lightweight materials. This Aerolite carry-on luggage suggestion is one of the lightest suitcases on the market. With its weight of only 4, 6 lbs you would be able to carry it through airports easily. It is available in various color designs as well as other sizes. The company also offers a 10-year guarantee in order for you to make a more confident decision, in case you are not sure of your purchase.

Additional features: Comparing to other suitcases, this bag is more spacious and it can carry more weight. Its weight limit is 38 liters which are 20% more than competitive models. The handle is also retractable, like many other models from this price range and level of quality. The retractable handle can be put to use with the push of a button. It enables you to pull your suitcase on two wheels. Or you could also push it around on four wheels. The four wheels are not integrated into the suitcase, but that is rarely an option in bags in this price range. However, the wheel system is reinforced and conveniently placed so there is minimum impact in case you or someone else drops it. The corners of the luggage are also reinforced in order to protect your belongings from damage. This is also a regular feature in suitcases, although many lightweight luggage alternatives don’t have it.

Functionality features: This suitcase comes with its organizational properties. This Aerolite choice has two front pockets which can be closed with a zipper. The zipper is dual closed so you are able to easily access your belongings from every angle. The upper pocket is perfect for your passport, entertainment device or charger. Even though the dimensions are perfect for most airline overhead departments, this suitcase is not able to fit under the seat. However, this only applies for the economy class. It is also convenient that you have the freedom of movement with it, if you decide to push it on four wheels. It doesn’t go only in one direction, but it also swivels.
Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Durable material
  • 10 years guarantee
Cons
  • Might seem too fragile
  • Not so durable frame

Utopia 20-Inch ABS

This Utopia Home ABS carry-on luggage is a nice choice if you are looking for a standard hard-shell luggage with an affordable price and good features. It’s a good choice for some high-quality luggage.
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Frame quality and material: The material it is made of is polycarbonate which makes the suitcase extremely durable and a sturdy choice. The wheels are integrated into a plastic protection which is added on the suitcase instead of being designed as an integrated part of it. For this reason, it is highly likely that they will get damaged if you are planning on using the suitcase on rough surfaces or you are frequently flying. For frequents flyers, an integrated wheel system is required in order for the wheels not to get damaged in transport. However, the entire suitcase is very lightweight and spacious inside. The wheels are large considering the dimensions of the suitcase and this is making it more stable and even easier to maneuver. If you are one who changes transportation means frequently during one trip, this would be the perfect carry-on luggage choice for you.

Additional features: The luggage consists of four spinner wheels which are very easy to maneuver and the mobility with it is quite effortless. The suitcase is designed especially for smooth surfaces, and if you try using it on rough terrains the mobility would be significantly harder. In fact, there is a great probability the wheel system could get damaged.

Functionality features: Since this is a two compartments luggage, you will be able to organize better your stuff and the two inner straps will let you allow divide the two parts even better. Even though it is lightweight, the outer shell material is strong enough to protect your belongings and it doesn’t crack easily. However, if the looks of your suitcase is of importance to you, it is would probably be an issue for you that it is very easy to scratch. Even after your first trip, your suitcase will have “scars”. If this minds to you at all, look through our other soft shell luggage suggestions.
Pros
  • Large wheels
  • Very durable
  • Spacious
Cons
  • Large wheels
  • Easy to scratch

Platinum Magma 2

Platinum Magma 2
The Platinum Magma 2 is designed to give you a well-balanced bag that isn’t prone to tipping. It also offers you a smooth rolling option in luggage choices.
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Frame and quality material: Designed out of 100% nylon and featuring a nylon fabric with DuraGuard coating, you get a powerful aluminum frame. Also, the aluminum handle extension on this luggage is very strong.
Additional features: The expansion capabilities on this bag are up to two inches, and the bag is designed with a leather top and easy carry handles. You’ll be able to easily carry and take this bag along with you.
Functionality characteristics: There is a zipper closure designed into this bag, and the bag also features a leather top with side carry handles. Its total weight is 7.7 pounds.
Pros
  • Strong bag

  • Durable and versatile

  • Nice design

Cons
  • Could come in more color options.

  • Can feel heavy

TravelPro Crew 10

TravelPro Crew 10
The TravelPro Crew 10 is a strong nylon bag that’s made to roll easy and not wobble. It’s durable and features a high-quality design and great materials.
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Frame and quality material: The material designed into this bag is 100% nylon, and also features a nylon lining on the inside. The frame is made from a solid, durable aluminum that is built to last.
Additional features: The interior of this bag comes with a full lid and also has a deluxe suite inside it, so your clothes won’t wrinkle when you travel with them. Also, this bag comes with a limited lifetime warranty.
Functionality characteristics: Designed with a power scope aluminum extension handle, this bag holds itself upright well and also gives you several stops with the handle. The bag features corner guards, side feet and skid guards to help make your luggage last longer.
Pros
  • Durable

  • Nice handle

  • Good frame

Cons
  • Can feel heavy

  • Wheels could be more smooth

Briggs And Riley International

Briggs And Riley International
Briggs And Riley International’s bag is made with high-quality materials and brings you a lot of durability. This bag is built to last and carry heavy loads, and it’s very easy to bring along with you when you travel.
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Frame and quality material: Briggs and Riley designed their bag out of a durable 100% nylon material. The frame is made from quality aluminum, and is built to be strong and durable.
Additional features: This bag features expansion compression, meaning you can actually expand the bag out when you need to pack additional items. This part of the bag also compresses in when you no longer need it.
Functionality characteristics: The zipper closure used on this bag makes it very easy to pack your items and take them along with you. Plus, the inside of the bag features a large, flat interior and compression panels.
Pros
  • Durable

  • Compression bag

  • Built to last

Cons
  • Could offer more color options

  • Wheel system could be better.

Genius Pack G3

Genius Pack G3
The Genius Pack G3 is a neat option in luggage choices, and features an integrated air valve to compress clothing. That means you can pack a lot more into this bag than you could with some other luggage options.
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Frame and quality material: Designed from high-quality 840-denier ballistic nylon and polyurethane coated trims, this bag is made for durability. It also features a strong honeycomb frame that can take a lot of abuse.
Additional features: This bag can expand out an extra two inches, providing 20% more packing space when you need it. It also has a checklist embedded inside of it so you always know what to bring with you.
Functionality characteristics: This bag is designed with a 100% aluminum telescoping handle that has two locking positions. You also get a memory foam-filled top area that makes the bag more comfortable.
Pros
  • Light

  • Good materials

  • Compresses

  • Durable
Cons
  • Wheels could be stronger

  • Can feel wobbly at times

Samsonite Omni PC

Samsonite Omni PC
If you’re looking for an affordable choice for your luggage, then you might want to check out what the Samsonite Omni PC has to offer. Designed for easy use and packed with extra features that ensure organization, this bag offers a lot of functionality.
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Frame and quality material: Made out of 100% polycarbonate, this bag features micro-diamond technology that resists abrasions. Also, the bag features a nice spinner wheel that’s easy to use.
Additional features: This luggage will fit in most overhead compartments, but won’t always meet carry-on standards. You also get the ability to expand the bag on the sides when you pack.
Functionality characteristics: With this bag, you get a full-zip interior, divider and cross-straps to help you better organize your items when you pack. You also get a TSA lock on the back so your items stay secure.
Pros
  • Affordable

  • Easy wheels

  • Good packing features

Cons
  • Cheaply made

  • Not durable

In the past decade, the prices for flights have significantly dropped, however, airlines are trying to make up for this by adding additional charges for every additional pound to your luggage. For this reason, the weight of your luggage is also of great significance.

Let’s take a look at features you should consider when choosing a carry-on luggage in order to choose the best one for your needs. We will also suggest some carry-on luggage options ourselves that we have reviewed and tested. We are sharing the positive as well as our negative experiences with each and every one of them.

Backpacking luggage straps are an important part of its design and functionality. It is best when the straps that go on your back are padded and adjustable. There should also be waist straps in order for you to avoid back pain while wearing it. With good straps, your posture will remain straight and you will feel good afterward.

 

How We Picked Our Favorite Carry-On Luggage

Frame and quality material

Even though you might prefer a soft-shell bag, a hard-shell one might be more suitable for you. There is also the number of wheels dilemma. You could choose luggage with four wheels, two wheels, or our personal favorite, one that turns in a backpack and has comfortable straps instead of wheels.

It is also important to take into account the stuff that you are planning on packing into your carry-on luggage. Although it is clear that you are never going to pack the same stuff, you are going to pack the similar kind of objects inside. This means that if you are using your luggage for traveling, you will probably be packing clothes. Clothes are not fragile stuff, so you won’t have the need to pick a hard-shell luggage unless your taste requires you to do so. The soft-shell luggage has the advantage of numerous pockets that you can access quite easily. If this is something that matters to you then this style of a carry-on luggage is more convenient for your needs. Softshell luggage is also convenient when traveling by car. Everyone who has ever traveled knows that you are always lacking space when packing in the trunk. However, the soft-shell luggage can be squished and it could easily fit in smaller spaces. Of course, if the nature of the stuff inside allows it. When you do so, make sure you are careful enough not to rip the outer material since it is easy to do so if there is a sharp object around.

The soft-shell luggage has the advantage of numerous pockets that you can access quite easily. If this is something that matters to you then this style of a carry-on luggage is more convenient for your needs. Softshell luggage is also convenient when traveling by car. Everyone who has ever traveled knows that you are always lacking space when packing in the trunk. However, the soft-shell luggage can be squished and it could easily fit in smaller spaces. Of course, if the nature of the stuff inside allows it. When you do so, make sure you are careful enough not to rip the outer material since it is easy to do so if there is a sharp object around.

On the other side, if you are planning on using the luggage for business trips and you have fragile item samples that you need to carry around, you should definitely choose a hard-shell luggage that will protect your belongings up to some extent. However, keep in mind that the hard shell luggage is prone to scratching. In fact, it will probably get scratched after only a few travels. If this doesn’t mind you, you are good to go. Luckily, there are some hard shell suitcases that don’t have a shiny surface, but a rougher hard side that is resistant to scratching. However, this kind of luggage also has a higher price than the previously mentioned versions.

Additional features

First of all, the carry-on size is important for several reasons. It is important to you because you would want your luggage to be able to fit your most essential belongings. And it is important for the airlines because they have an interest for your carry-on luggage to fit the overhead bin. Different airplanes have different measurements for the overhead bins. However, in order to ensure that your luggage will fit, you could be asked to try to fit it into the measuring slot that is put on checking in point. The measuring slots on the other side, are a bit smaller than the overhead bins, as you might have already noticed. If your luggage doesn’t fit the measuring slot, you have no other option but to check in your luggage and this is certainly not a pleasant neither a cheap experience.

Having this in mind, a carry-on luggage has two measurements that you should consider; linear and the dimensions of the luggage itself. The accepted size of most airlines is 22 x 14 x 9 inch, although you should always double check this before packing. International flights have different size requirements. They usually require 20 inches in height. Surprisingly enough, the airlines are not only measuring the bag itself but in these dimensions, the handles and wheels are also included. Although this can be frustrating, it is quite logical because the handles and wheels must fit the overhead department.

In addition to this, airlines also have restrictions regarding the weight of the luggage. Although many domestic companies don’t have these restrictions, international ones usually do. However, even if they do, these restrictions are not so important because there is a little chance that in the space allowed, you will be able to pack more than the weight allowed. However, if you are using vacuum seal clear storage, then you might want to double check the weight since it is likely that it exceeds the limit.

Functionality characteristics

When it comes to the number of wheels your choice is simple. You can choose between four-wheel luggage, a two-wheel bag or no wheels at all. However, the numbers of wheels are not just for style. They provide a different functionality and stability of the luggage.

Four-wheeled luggage is more suitable for flat surfaces and places where the roughest terrain is concrete. Otherwise, pushing it will be significantly more difficult. However, the positive advantage of this type of luggage is that on smoother surfaces, the bag is very easy to push. It practically follows you.

It also feels lighter on the shoulders and arms and you would be able to travel greater walking distances without getting tired. They are also recommended for people who have neck or back issues since pulling a luggage around an airport could have a negative effect on them; especially if the luggage is heavy. These types of luggage are also more convenient for children or older people. If you have a stroller to push, then a four-wheeled luggage should be your obvious choice since it is the easiest way to handle them.

With it being easy to push around, you should consider that it is just as easy for the four-wheeled luggage to escape you. If you take your eye off it on an uneven ground, all it takes is just an accident push so that it rolls away from you. Before you know it, you will be in an embarrassing situation of running for your luggage. However, if the luggage has a secure break, all this could be avoided.

Four wheels also mean four potential issues that might come up. Although if you choose a high-quality luggage, you might not have to replace the wheels for a long time, the wheels of a luggage are still a sensitive subject. After the zipper, they are the second thing that causes troubles to travelers around the world.

 

Other Important Things Worth Considering

There are two types of backpacking luggage. One can convert into regular luggage and you are also able to roll it around. The second version comes with straps but without wheels. Each of these versions has its own use. The one with wheels is convenient if you are traveling through airports often and you need a carry-on luggage that would be used there as well as walking to your destination. The wheels will allow you to move freely through the airport and the straps will make sure you could walk to your destination without having to roll your bag behind you. This way, both of your hands will be free. This version is also more convenient if you are traveling to some rural area where the walking terrains are not exactly smooth.

The second version, however, the one without wheels is recommended for adventure traveling when not much of airport walking is included. These types of bags are also called convertible bags and they are intended for off-road travel. Convertible bags are suitable if you are often changing transportation mediums. If you choose to purchase a luggage of this type, be prepared for the conversion since it is not as easy as it seems. Some wheels are retractable and they should be extracted before usage. Convertible luggage is also convenient if you already have two regular bags checked in and you are lacking more hands for a third one. It is also suitable if you only have one rolling luggage since it is not easy to roll with two bags at once.

 

FAQ

Q: Can hard shell bags crack?

Hardshell bags can crack from too much pressure. In this case, you would be forced to replace it with another one, and some airline companies don’t offer compensation for these accidents. In order to avoid such problems, make sure you don’t under pack by leaving more space inside. This way, when pressure is added, the cracking is easier. Overpacking can result in the same problem. This style of luggage is visually looking like they hold more stuff inside. It is comprised out of two parts and it closes with a clamshell method which is connecting the two sides in the middle. You could pack stuff on each side which is more convenient if you are an organized type. However, if you manage to pack more stuff inside, you will probably overpack the luggage which would make the zipper prone to cracking.

Q: Can over packing cause cracking?

Overpacking can result in the same problem. This style of luggage is visually looking like they hold more stuff inside. It is comprised out of two parts and it closes with a clamshell method which is connecting the two sides in the middle. You could pack stuff on each side which is more convenient if you are an organized type. However, if you manage to pack more stuff inside, you will probably overpack the luggage which would make the zipper prone to cracking.

Q: What do I need to consider about luggage with wheels?

Since wheels are fragile and they tend to break or wear off, if you are taking the luggage with you in the overhead department, four-wheel luggage is a logical choice. However, if you are checking it in, and letting someone else take care of your luggage, then definitely go for the two-wheeled one since it will last you longer.

Q: When should I consider backpacking luggage?

If you are the adventurous type and you are planning on traveling the world with a carry-on luggage and a map, then backpack luggage might better suit your needs. Or, if you have a young child as a travel companion who often requires that you hold his or her hand in order to keep him from escaping your side, you might want backpacking luggage. In this case, backpacking luggage will allow you to have a regular luggage in one hand and a backpacking carry-on on the back, meanwhile holding your child’s hand at all times. Even though this might not seem logical to some people, in some international countries it is essential for your child’s safety that you always keep an eye on him.

Q: What do I need to know about straps with backpacking luggage?

In backpacking luggage, straps an important part of its design and functionality. It is best when the straps that go on your back are padded and adjustable. There should also be waist straps in order for you to avoid back pain while wearing it. With good straps, your posture will remain straight and you will feel good afterward.

Q: How can I save money when shopping for luggage on a budget?

Sometimes, if all you need is a less expensive travel bag, it is perfectly good to choose one that you are aware that is not going to last for a long time. However, you should always get the features that you are paying for. For this reason, we have given you valuable pointers on how to choose a carry-on luggage that will act to your personal convenience. It should be easy for you to use and of course, you should always be satisfied with your choice. Whether you prefer a certain design or a four-wheel option, you should always consider your preferences first.

Traveling is a wonderful activity that everyone likes. However, we all wish to skip on those airport check-in moments which can be somewhat stressful or inconvenient. Nevertheless, with the right luggage choice, you will be able to organize yourself neatly and be prepared for each part of the process. Even though there are some bits of advice on how to choose the best carry-on luggage, there is no such thing as the best one. In this buying guide, though, we have hopefully helped you decide what you need and how to determine a low-quality suitcase from a quality one.

Is there a particular brand of carry-on luggage that you are satisfied with? Share with us in the comment section below and let our fellow travelers avoid the hard way of learning this. Have a nice trip everyone!

 

Sources

  1. Brent Rose and Kit Dillon, The Best Carry-On Luggage, Informational Consumer Website, Jun 17, 2017
  2. Amber Nolan, 10 Best Carry-On Roller Bags to Buy in 2017 , Informational Consumer Website, Nov 21, 2017
  3. Johnny Jet, The Best Carry On Luggage for Travel Review, Informational Consumer Website, Nov 17, 2017
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