You’re already late for your flight and still have miles of security to walk through at the airport, weaving your way around those silly little ropes so that the TSA agent doesn’t scream at you. The last thing you need to do is wait in a line to check your bag behind the girl with the 700 lbs. worth of luggage. You want to keep things to a minimum, speed your process along, and ensure that your stuff doesn’t get busted up by an angry, underpaid baggage handler. The solution is thus: Stick to bags you can carry-on.
When you want to pick a piece of equipment to tote around, you can just grab yourself a decent duffel or a natty knapsack, but that means throwing your back all out of alignment as you lug it around like a papoose. Don’t fall into that trap. Instead, keep your cool and let your suitcase do the walking by choosing something that’s small enough to be modular, offers smooth rolling wheels for easy maneuvering, and has stiff sides that can take abuse. In short, ditch the backpack and select one of the 15 best carry-on luggage options.
Pro: Can be moved without bearing any of the weight
Con: Beware actual dimensions and airline requirements
Best Basic: TravelPro started out as one of the visionary companies that realized every person should have a bag with wheels for easier carrying. That concept of the future has now inundated the industry and proven TravelPro’s crystal ball works like a charm. While their Maxlite3 might not break barriers, it does give the average traveler with little to spend a lot of bang for their buck. Coming in at less than 7 pounds, it reduces the amount of bulk while simultaneously providing the maximum 21-inches worth of space. Nice, tough polyester and a few snappy colors make this more than worth the pennies you’ll spend on it.
Delsey Helium Shadow 2.0
Pro: Plenty of color choices
Con: Terrible customer support from Delsey
Trendsetter: Delsey was one of the pioneers in crafting hard-sided, injection molded luggage for the average consumer. While some of their newer models have gotten away from these roots, the slightly older Helium Shadow 2.0 is a prime example of why the stiff carry-on should never be abandoned. Coupled with a set of spinner wheels that are mounted high for easy movement even when the bag is stuffed, this is a real mover with safety in mind. Despite the overly grandiose name, there’s few suitcases that accomplish as much while managing to keep the price at a minimum. Casual travelers will enjoy the easy packing capabilities that also protects their parcel when it ends up taking a beating.
Pro: Large, flexible luggage compartment
Con: Does not stand properly with straps deployed
Go Time: TravelTeq has devoted themselves to making gear for the active person who doesn’t have time to fiddle around with airport security, can’t be digging through their whole pack, and needs something light and durable to see them through. Using four exterior pockets, this lets you put your laptop and tablet right within easy reach, as well as any toiletries that might be a bomb disguised as shampoo. You’ll never again need to open the main compartment and expose your unmentionables to everyone in line. Combine that with a pair of compacting straps to keep your bag within the size requirements, and the Active is a quick and affordable buy for any budget.
Flight 001 Avionette
Pro: Hides abrasion marks even after years of use
Con: Zippers tend to be a bit vexatious
Satchel Attachment: The retro-styled water and stain repellent nylon exterior may not draw many admiring looks, but what it lacks in panache, the Avionette more than makes up for with high functionality. On the side is a strap that allows you to add on an extra bag so that laptop case you have with you, or nutrition pack for surviving the long flight can come along for the ride while keeping your hands free. Inside is a wraparound reinforcement tie that keeps everything in place, even if you had to jump on the Avionette to close it.
Travelpro Platinum Magna
Pro: Works on smooth and rough terrain
Con: Handle mechanism is entirely interior
Steady On: It may be hard to believe that there is much of anything new in the world of luggage, since it’s been around as long as humans have been travelling, but the Paltinum Magna actually has a few features that truly set it apart. First, the spinner wheels are MagnaTrac which are designed to prevent jiggles, jostles, and arbitrary movements, so you can stay on course without your bag going rogue. Second, the ergonomic handle is remarkably comfortable and works for pushing as well as pulling your bag. A feature that is notably absent in many spinner bags. On the inside is a very debonair garment bag that folds up tight and will keep your permanent press wrinkle free through multiple connections. A bargain at twice the price.
Timbuk 2 Copilot Luggage Roller
Pro: Front zipper holds a 13″ laptop
Con: Split holding area can be difficult for large items
Dig In: Instead of loading itself up with innumerable pockets that take ages to dig through as you hunt for a pen or your razor, this offers a wide, clamshell design that gives you loads of visibility no matter how you utilize it. Throw open the front like you’re opening the gates or crack open the middle to reveal your stuff, all organized in a mesh binder format. Either way you’ll be able to see everything and access it easily without the need for getting up to your elbows in travel equipment just for that loose flash drive. The wheels are based on skateboard designs and are set wide apart for more stability and fewer tips as you trundle along.
Lipault 2-Wheeled Foldable Weekend Carry-on
Pro: Protective storage cover included
Con: Top does not stay propped open
Hot Compress: Founded by designer François Lipovetsky just ten years ago, Lipault has made a name for itself as one of the premier luggage providers in France, a country that has forgotten more about style and sophistication than most will ever know. This compactable bag offers soft-sides for squeezing down to fit the most petite demands or stretching the seams to maximum without ever hitting the breaking point. Completely made of nylon with a specialized fabric lining to protect everything on the inside, it has compartments to spare making loading up and packing out equally easy.
Incase Eo Hardshell Travel Roller
Pro: Fast access to your electronics
Con: Outer face tends to shows scuffs and scratches
Contraption Case: If the idea of a few moments away from your laptop, tablet, smartphone, backup tablet, ultrabook, chromebook, and Bluetooth earpiece gives you the jitters, then the Eo Travel Roller might be the cure. It isn’t really large enough to be the only bag you take with you, even if you’re just going for a single night. Instead, it is meant to give you plenty of places to stash cables and cords, power packs, battery backups, USB add-ons, and every other gizmo you need to keep on your person at all times. The padded areas are fine for toting around, but never, ever check this bag with any precious cargo on-board.
Pro: Soft sides for easier carry and less heft
Con: Does not have expandable pockets
Globe Trotter: International travel comes with a unique set of problems, including variation on the size and type of luggage that can be taken into the airplane cabin. Leave it to the inventors of the Swiss Army Knife to find a way to ensure that you’ll never need to check your bag because Air Canada has implemented a new measuring system based on moose antlers. With an outside that is completely made of ballistic nylon, the Lexicon stands up to plenty of wear and tear without packing on the pounds. Though it is made in Thailand, Victorinox says that any damage that comes to it during the first five years will be repaired by them, whether caused by a manufacturing defect or angry cab driver.
Osprey Packs Ozone
Pro: Rugged wheels handle tough areas without tipping
Con: Getting the right fit in backpack mode is tiresome
More Than Meets the Eye: A rolling backpack usually is both lousy when being carried and even worse on the ground. Such is not the case with the Ozone. The convertible design actually changes modes rapidly and is both comfortable when riding on your shoulders and moves easily when being drug along behind. At just over 5 pounds, it’s easy to load to the gills without ever violating weight considerations, though you won’t get quite as much space on the inside as you would with a more standard piece of square luggage. Transformation is handled through a series of zippers and adjustments, and give you a full hip belt for serious endeavors. While convertibles are more gimmick than not, if it appeals to you, there is no better choice.
Pro: Matte black polycarbonate with a soft font pocket
Con: Front pocket doesn’t lock
Any Occasion: The Bolero is a suitcase, it’s a briefcase, and it’s an ultra-quiet spinner that rolls in stealth mode through the travel hubs of the world. A simple TSA lock provides security against theft or tampering while not slowing you down during security checks. The comprehensive front pocket gives you access to all the necessary goodies, be they work documents or passports, without needing to hunt or dig. Go huge for family getaways, or just snap up the laptop case for a quick business trip.
Briggs & Riley Expandable Upright
Pro: Includes a hideable mesh external pouch
Con: When fully expanded, it might not fit in overhead storage bins
Clothes Horse: Usable as just a standard suitcase, this also has the Briggs & Riley HangRound system that lets you stuff in up to 5 garments on their hangers. Nylon securing panels hold them in place to prevent wrinkling and keep you looking sharp even when living out of a hotel room. On the side is a rapid close zipper that will dial this down to a much more modest set of dimensions or let you ratchet up the storage space so you never need to leave a knick-knack behind. The nylon and polyester exterior looks surprisingly good with a deep black professionalism that is also able to shrug off water while keeping the carry weight at the more reasonable end of the bell curve.
Filson Rolling Carry-On
Pro: Internal elastic straps secure loose materials
Con: Straps and buckles are mostly superfluous
Rain or Shine: Filson has more than a century of making some of the toughest luggage in the world, and this piece is just showing off. At first glance, this gives the impression of being a sturdy backpack, but it doesn’t have the shoulder straps and instead opts for a pair of classy handles on top and side that allow you to tote it along or make the wheels do the work. While you can use it for trips around the terminal, nylon and brindle leather make this capable of resisting water and tough weather, while a storm flap closure prepares you for hitting the tarmac during the monsoon at your favorite adventure destination.
Tumi Tegra Lite
Pro: Smooth, patented spinner wheels roll like they’re on rails
Con: No external pockets
Consummate Professional: The Tumi Tegra Lite is as much a fashion accessory as it is a piece of luggage. With a slick, sleek polycarbonate exterior that goes with everything, there’s no mistaking this for anything other than a bag for serious business. The interior has a special pocket that is meant for your laptop with a smaller companion for your go-to tablet. Keep your clothes from getting wrinkled with the X-shaped internal straps that hold everything flat and never let any errant items escape. A quick key-release lock deters thieves without making your kit inaccessible at short notice.
Rimowa Salsa Deluxe
Pro: Tight turning radius
Con: Loading the front pocket tends to make the bag tip
Easy Roller: Mobility is the backbone of the Salsa Deluxe with the four wheels providing the ability to literally shove this around with naught but your littlest finger, or swap it to two-wheeled mode for a little canted strolling. The body is stiff polycarbonate with a pocket on the outside for your most vital papers and possessions. Though relatively soft to the touch, the pocket uses Keprotec with actual Kevlar fibers for reducing frays and injuries during transit. Removable organizers help prevent shifting disasters and allow for more space when needed.