Find the Best Carry On Luggage Reviews: Ultimate Guide
Getting ready for your next trip or looking to replace an old luggage? Whether you’re taking the train to a nearby state or crossing the globe on a plane, a carry-on luggage is an essential piece of your travel. Complementing your check-in luggage, or as a sole packing companion, a carry on must still be durable, functional and conform to strict airlines’ bag size limits. That’s what this carry on luggage reviews site is here to help you with.
The interactive chart of carry on luggage below and the guide bellow it will help you decide what the best carry on luggage is for you.
Inluded in the matrix are 7 columns:
- The name of the carry-on model, with the brand first
- Their rating
- The exterior shell: hard (usually made of polycarbonate) or soft (usually made of nylon or polyester)
- The size (Length x Width x Depth) in inches. Linear inches is Length + Width + Depth
- The capacity (in cubic inches)
- By how many inches can the luggage expand
- The weight
Comparison Guide: Best Carry On Luggage
|Model||Rating||Shell||L x W x D (inches)||Capacity (cubic inches)||Expands (inches)||Weight (lbs)|
|OGIO Layover 22in. Carry-On||soft||22 x 14 x 10
(46 linear in.)
|Delsey Helium Aero Carry-on Expandable Spinner Trolley||hard||20.5 x 14.5 x 10||2822||2||8|
|Samsonite LIFT-Lightweight Innovation for Travel 21in. Spinner||soft||21 x 15 x 7
(43 linear in.)
|Travelpro T-Pro Bold 22in Expandable Rollaboard||soft||22 x 14 x 9
(45 linear in.)
|Travelpro Crew 9 22in. Expandable Rollaboard Suiter||soft||22 x 14 x 9
(45 linear in.)
|Travelpro Crew 9 21in. Expandable Spinner Suiter||soft||21.5 x 14 x 9.5
(45 linear in.)
|Travelers Choice Toronto 21in. Expandable Hardside Spinner Carry On||hard||21 x 14 x 10
(45 linear in.)
|Delsey Helium COLOURS Carry-On 4 Wheel Trolley||hard||21 x 15 x 9
(45 linear in.)
|Eagle Creek Travel Gateway 2 Wheeled 22in. Upright||soft||22 x 14 x 10
(46 linear in.)
|Travelpro Walkabout Lite 4 20in. Expandable Wide Body Spinner||soft||20 x 16 x 9
(45 linear in.)
Top 3 Carry On Luggage
OGIO Layover 22″ Carry-On
This really is a high quality and good looking carry-on bag. Despite its name, it is not a backpack but a real suitcase. It is sturdy and well designed (some of the stitching is triple stitched), with lots of handles to grab from any angle. Every piece is of the highest quality material and manufactured perfectly. At 23 x 14.5 x 11” (measured with the protruding wheels) it is big though, so check your flight’s carry-on dimensions to make sure it will be accepted and that it will fit in the overhead compartment. The alternative is to pack it lightly. But it is really built like a tank (and thus a bit on the heavy side, though 8 lbs. is nothing to write home about). The bag will still be in great shape even after years of travel and hundreds of thousands of miles flown, thanks to the abrasion and tear-resistant 424 Denier ballistic nylon fabric. The zippers, which are a traditional carry-on flaw, are thick and ultra-resistant. The two wheels make it roll very smoothly.
It has multiple packing areas so you can pack lot of stuff AND separate your items neatly. Despite the handles being inside the clothing compartment rather than the outside, it is roomier than other suitcases. There are an additional two zippered compartments inside. The multiple zippered pockets on the outside are good for boarding passes, keys and small items like TSA liquids pouches. It also expands by 3 inches, making it a versatile bag.
The Ogio Layover22” carry on is highy recommended for people taking big trips, and/or those needing to pack a lot of stuff. With this bag, you will not need a check-in luggage (although you will likely need to check it in if using the 3” expandable feature). For this price, you will not get a better quality or more functional carry-on luggage than this one.
Delsey Helium Aero Carry-on Expandable Spinner Trolley
If you’re looking for an aesthetically-pleasing as well as strong luggage, the Delsey Helium Aero Spinner Trolley is for you. This carry-on luggage has a 100% polycarbonate hard shell (this smooth texture might be prone to scratch in case of rough handling, but is still ultra-resistant). It’s one of those rare hard side luggage that can expand, so if you end up bringing home more than you left with, you can do that.
The two halves in the interior are separated by a zippered divider, and include additional pockets and pouches for toiletries and liquids, which makes for convenient packing and finding of items. Elastic tie down straps with speed buckle ensure clothes are secured. With the available space, you can pack for up to a 6 or 7-days trip.
Placing a heavy bag or backpack on top of the trolley causes it to tip over, but then again this suitcase doesn’t include a method to attach another bag to it. Otherwise, the weight is evenly spread, relieving some stress from your wrists and elbows, and it manoeuvers easily. It glides effortlessly both at the airport and down the plane or train aisle, thanks to 4 twin spinner wheels which allow the bag to be pushed or pulled in all directions. It is and easy to carry, thanks to its lightness and top and side handles. The pull up handle stops at two positions, adapting to persons of different height.
The cherry on top of the cake: it includes a built-in TSA lock, which means one less key to keep track of.
The quality finish, sturdy construction and overall build of this suitcase are really excellent for the price. It has all the necessary pockets and fits easily in overhead compartments. Available in brick red, cobalt blue and titanium, it looks decidedly modern and easy to spot at baggage claim. It is definitely a great and practical alternative to Tumi and similarly expensive brands.
Travelpro Maxlite 2 22″ Exp Rollaboard
This carry on fully deserves its name; it really is light, which makes it easy to lift into the overhead bin. The designer used durable yet lightweight fabric and minimal metal trim to achieve that quality. The telescopic aluminum handle is more sturdy than it looks (maybe a bit too bulky though) and has variable height, so it’s great for small or tall people. When the bag is packed tightly though, the handle is a bit hard to extend fully. Conversely, it does lock securely in the down position, so it’s not going to come out and get broken in transit. Cushiony hand-grips on the top, bottom and sides still make it easy to handle. Additionally, it rolls very smoothly, thanks to two ball bearing wheels.
The Travelpro Malite 2 pushes the boundaries of what is acceptable as a carry on under airline regulations, but will get accepted in all airlines. The interior is slightly smaller than the original 22” Travelpro Maxlite and is basically just one big compartment. It really is 20 inches, but can expand up to 1.5 inch. Even expanded, it still fits in the overhead compartment. This makes the bag better suited for short 4-7 days trips, although it can be used for longer vacations if you’re a light traveler
This suitcase doesn’t have as many pouches and pockets as bigger Travelpro rollaboards, but then again it’s geared to the functional businessman or traveler. If you don’t use pockets that much, then that’s extra space that’s not being eaten uselessly and that contributes to the suitcase’s lightness. Still, the Maxlite 2 is well supplied: the inside has a pocket along the side, and there is a large mesh pocket on the inside of the flap, perfect for placing folded shirts. A single front pocket offers enough deep space to put magazines, a laptop, or a jacket. An additional small mesh pocket inside there gives you easy access to pens or small electronic devices as well.
The bag is durable with a rigorously-made nylon interior that is easy to pack, thanks to two parallel tie-down straps. The exterior is not as stiff as bigger heavy-duty rollaboards, however there are good reinforcements at all the wear points on the corners. If you’re travelling in Europe, it will even take a beating from cobbled streets, without any damage. Those sturdy corners means zippers are sometimes difficult to pass around, though this has only been reported for a few suitcases. Balance is not exceptional, as when adding a handbag, garment bag over its handle or a heavy laptop in its front pocket, it will have trouble standing straight and will have a tendency to tip over. Keep in mind this may be a problem for you.
The black exterior is pretty generic, but fortunately it’s also available in ocean blue and maroon. If you’re the type of person this carry on was designed for, you will appreciate its versatility. If you’re willing to sacrifice an extensive wardrobe in favor of your clothes actually arriving at destination, then the Travelpro Maxlite 2 is the perfect carry on to avoid check ins. Especially if you’re a business traveler, you sometimes need to take a lot of flights in a short amount of time. This luggage means no queries by airport agents or flight attendants. It is a great choice all around, and offers the best quality for the price.
If none of these top rated carry on luggage suit your fancy, maybe you can check out our other carry on luggage reviews.
Finding the best carry on luggage
Benefits of a carry on luggage
Since their invention in the late 1980s, carry-ons have become the most popular luggage category, with everyone and their mother owning one. They are the ubiquitous choice for a short business trip or a small holiday getaway. A carry-on luggage is the luggage that travelers are allowed to take with them in the passenger compartment, and don’t have to check in the cargo compartment. It remains with you throughout the trip. On a plane, you can usually store these luggages under your seat or in overhead lockers, while trains have overhead luggage racks or storage placed in the middle or end of a wagon. A carry-on luggage is of advantage to every type of travelers, which is why they’re so great. For people who like to travel lightly, a carry-on is often all you need to transfer you stuff. This means a considerable amount of time saved, as you don’t have to check in any luggage at the airport (so you don’t have to arrive 2 or3 hours early), and you don’t have to support the nerve-wracking wait at the luggage carrousel. No chance of getting your cargo luggage lost as well. For traveling families or people going to another place for a long time (like moving to a new country), it is understandable that you may want to bring as much of your possessions with you as you can. After you’ve maxed out your cargo luggage limit, you still have a big carry-on allowance, which is why you need a good carry-on luggage. Finally, carry-ons allow you to take important items you may need during the flight/ride (books, etc.).
Savvy travelers almost never check bags. The benefits of a carry-on bag are tremendous. No 30-minute wait at baggage claim. You can go directly to get a taxi when you arrive. In case your flight is delayed, you have more flexibility since you are travelling without check-in luggage. In other situations, you also have the option to go on an earlier flight if seats are available. Finally, any valuables inside your luggage will not be damaged by airline baggage handlers.
Types of carry on luggage
There are different types of carry on luggage, depending on the use you have for it and the trips you’re taking. A carry-on can have 1, 2 or even 3 separate bags, stacked on each other. Depending of the length of the trip and rules and restrictions of the airline, you can take out or add one bag. These types of luggages are most commonly used by business travellers, as they often include a document or laptop folder. Those traveling for business may also make use of a garment bag. It can keep suits, dresses or coats wrinkle-free upon arrival, as garments remain on the hanger and are generally folded in half.
Duffelbags, backpacks or messenger bags can be tucked underneath a seat and can contain everything from reading material and medication, to a laptop computer and cell phone. Larger carry on luggage pieces are usually stored in an overhead compartment, and can hold clothes, shoes, accessories and more.
Overall, bags and luggage that are lightweight and that include hand grips will make lifting and carrying efficient when storing on the plane. And those that have multi-directional wheels (spinner luggage) and telescoping handles will simplify those long walks through the airport.
How to choose the best carry on luggage
Obviously, the first guiding principle in choosing the carry on luggage that is right for you is to balance the size and weight of the bag and what you want to pack in it. If you’re a one-time traveler, you should look at the limits of the air company you’ll be travelling with. If you’re a frequent business traveler, you should also look at the limits of the airline you’re travelling with most often, if there are any. Carry-on luggage size and weight guidelines are set by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Carry-ons’ maximum allowed size is 56 cm (22 inches) of length, 45 cm (18 inches) of width and 25 cm (10 inches) of depth. However, airlines are free to follow these guidelines or not. Low cost airlines usually have more stringent limits. Similarly, the maximum weight can vary from 5 kg (11lbs) to 12 kg (26lbs). In that regard, buying a lightweight carry on could be a shrewd decision. A lighter carry on means you can pack a heavier load inside it. For that reason, an expandable luggage is not always the best option; this feature makes the bag heavier, and temps you to overpack. It also unbalances the bag when expanded and filled. Conversely, a expandable luggage may be the best option if you’re looking for a versatile luggage, than can function both as a carry on and as a check-in when expanded.
Secondly, you must decide if you want a hard-sided or soft-sided carry on. Hard-sided, clam-like luggage protect what’s inside them better than a soft-sidded luggage, and there is less risk of an unscrupulous airport employee sticking a knife into it. The interior layout is also different. While soft-sided luggage have a big main compartment that’s about 80-90% of the available space, hard-sided carry ons usually have a main compartment that’s 60% of the space, and a 2nd one opposite to it that’s 40% of the space. Depending on what you’ll be packing, this distinction can be interesting. It’s also better for balance.
Another essential point is to choose a recognized brand. Unknown brands will not withstand a battering. You want a luggage that will last more than 10 years, and sometimes that means putting a bit more money into your purchase. A recognized brand has better material, better-thought layout and ergonomics, better balance, etc. In the long term, investing in quality will be well worth it.
Additional things to consider relate to practicality and comfort: You could also get a 4-rotational-wheel spinner, which allows you to push the luggage in front of you rather than pulling it behind you. That’s just a matter of how much you want to work those shoulders. Choosing the best carry on luggage also depends on what kind of travel you usually do. If you’re going to be backpacking, then a carry-on backpack or duffle bag is obviously better than a wheeled luggage.
Finally, you should consider these 5 key elements of a quality carry-on luggage (some of them have already been alluded to):
- Layout: A big, easy-to-access main compartment, multiple well-designed pockets all mean painless packing and unpacking.
- Balance and Ergonomics: A good luggage rolls smoothly. Ideally, look for 4 (single or double) big spinner wheels, with a sturdy, comfortably-situated telescopic handle that can stop at different heights (to adapt to the person’s height).
- Durability: Is the bag well-crafted? Are the zippers going to break and are the handles going to get mangled? This is the area where brand name makes a huge difference. Go with an unknown cheaper brand at your own risk. On the other hand, a Samsonite, Travelpro, Delsey or the more expensive Tumi is a guarantee that you’ll get the best quality material, that won’t break even after 10 years.
- Weight: obviously, the lighter the better, as you can pack more/heavier stuff.
- Aesthetics: travel in style, and feel good about yourself. Do you go with a low-key, versatile black or grey color, or a more original color like green or red, that you will easily be able to distinguish from other bags?
While finding a carry on luggage that ticks all of these criteria is hard, it is not impossible. Usually though, you will have to have tradeoffs between some of these criteria. The most beautiful-looking luggage are not necessarily the most durable or ergonomic. Similarly, having a wheeled bag is better for usability, but it also increases the size and weight slightly (remember, there are carry on limitations). When deciding on the best carry on luggage for you, you have to decide which of these 5 criterias are most important to you.