Best Carry-On Luggage – The Ultimate Review Guide
Photo credit: Nancy D. Brown
So you’re going on a trip, how fun! May it be for leisure or work, a nice, functional piece of luggage to bring onboard will help to make your journey smooth and comfortable.
How then would you know which is the carry-on luggage that will best fit your needs? Is a backpack, a duffel bag or a suitcase what you want with you onboard? Wheels or no wheels? And even more important, how will you know which size is allowed for the luggage you want to take with you in the cabin?
Let’s sort all this out one step at a time, and at the same time have a first glimpse at some of the brands and products available. Right at top you’ll find links to the full carry-on luggage reviews of the best available products. Ready? Ok then, let’s go!
Read the full article, or click below on the parts you’re most interested in.
- All Carry-on Luggage Reviews You Need!
- What does carry-on luggage even mean? And personal item, what’s that?
- Where do you put your carry-on luggage then?
- What size is allowed for carry-on luggage?
- Is there a weight limit for carry-on luggage?
- Which is the lightest carry-on luggage?
- Wheeled carry-on luggage – eight, four, two or none?
- Carry-on backpack vs suitcase – which is the best choice?
- So which is the best carry-on luggage to buy then?
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All Carry-on Luggage Reviews You Need!
If you want to go directly to the specific reviews, here are the links to those pages. But if you want to read on, there’s a lot of helpful info below 🙂
Click on the title to go to the review article you want to read!
What does carry-on luggage even mean? And personal item, what’s that?
There are two types of luggage you can take with you when you fly. Checked luggage is the bags and suitcases (or skies or stroller or other large or bulky stuff like that) that you check in at the airline’s baggage counter. That luggage will then be stored in the space underneath the passenger cabin. You have to wait until you pick it off the baggage belt at your destination before you see it again.
Carry-on luggage, on the other hand, you keep at your side and carry yourself into the plane cabin. Sometimes that’s all you need. Perhaps you’ll only be away for a few days or you’re one of those enviable people who knows exactly what you’ll need and pack only that.
A personal item is smaller than a carry-on. It can be a shoulder bag, a smaller laptop bag or a backpack.
Where do you put your carry-on luggage then?
There are two places where you can stash the bags and outdoor clothes you’ve brought with you on the plane. These are the overhead compartment and underneath the flight chair in front of you. If you’re seated at one of the emergency exits, though, nothing is allowed on the floor except your feet. Everything else must go in the overhead compartment. So you actually pay for the extra leg space with having nowhere to easily put away your personal item, like your purse or jacket.
What size is allowed for carry-on luggage?
It’s easy to understand that the airlines must have size restrictions. Otherwise, the aircraft cabin could not contain all the luggage that passengers bring onboard.
Unfortunately, there is no standard used by all airlines. That is also quite easy to understand since there are so many different aircraft.
However, the restrictions don’t vary all that much. Most common is a maximum linear size of 45 inches. Linear size means that length, width and height are added together. The most common measurements are 22”x14”x9”, but that can vary with one or even a couple of inches.
On many international flights, rules are often stricter. If you choose between a smaller and a somewhat larger bag and know that you will use it for international flights, pick the smaller alternative.
Note! Always check the exact size allowed by the airline you are traveling with. The information can usually be found on your ticket or itinerary. If you are unsure, contact the airline and ask. It’s no fun at all to stand at the airport and realize that you have to check in your carry-on because it’s two inches too long…
You can read more about cabin luggage size restrictions here.
Is there a weight limit for carry-on luggage?
There is, and as for the size restrictions for carry-on bags the weight limit varies, and quite a lot actually. Where one airline allows only 11 lbs, another allows 26 lbs for approximately the same bag size. There is even one airline that allows 45 lbs!
This raises the issue of the weight of the carry-on luggage you buy, since you don’t want to spend precious lbs on the bag itself. There is a lot of innovation and development in this field, and new and lighter materials see the day of light each year.
Which is the lightest carry-on luggage?
This will be covered thoroughly in a separate review. But, let’s take a quick look at what weights we are actually talking about when it comes to lightweight carry-on luggage.
For example, there’s a Tumi bag which weighs 7,9 lbs and is considered a light carry-on. Not that heavy you might indeed think, but consider that some of the airlines only allow 11 lbs. altogether!
However, there are much lighter bags than that. For example, Hartmann has a hardside carry-on that weighs only 3,9 lbs. The difference means you can pack another 3,6 lbs. in the Hartmann bag. If your carry-on bag is the only luggage you bring, that difference could mean you’ll be able to bring another pair of trousers and a sweater. Or why not an extra pair of comfortable or dress shoes, or perhaps your best and coziest pajamas 🙂
Wheeled carry-on luggage – eight, four, two or none?
These days wheeled luggage is the obvious choice for most of us. The quality of the wheels has improved much since wheeled luggage saw the light of day back in 1970, and are usually durable enough. Even very small bags, as for example carry-ons, more often than not have wheels of some kind.
Basically, there are two different kinds of wheeled luggage. There are the so-called inline roller bags. They have two wheels attached on the same side as the handle, but at the bottom of the bag of course. These are fairly easy to manoeuver over curbs, gravel, and other bumpy surfaces. Usually, inline wheels are more durable than the spinner wheels.
Spinner luggage bags, on the other hand, are very versatile in the ways they can be rolled along. The wheels can spin 360 degrees while the bag is in an upright position, making it possible to have the bag walk beside you like a good dog. You can also easily push it in front of you and in any direction, or drag it behind you in the same manner as the inline bags.
A backside to the spinner wheels is the fact that they are heavier than the inlines due to the wheeling system attached to the bottom of the bag. As mentioned above, they also tend to be less durable than inline roller wheels.
Some of the spinner bags are equipped with as much as eight wheels, or actually four double wheels. This is presumably to make them somewhat sturdier.
Alright then, how many wheels are the best choice for your rolling carry-on luggage? Considering the importance of weight, due to the airline’s restrictions for the luggage brought into the cabin, and the fact that the wheels on the spinners often are less durable we here at Travel Gear Depot definitely prefer the inline roller bags.
Also, carry-ons are small and not that heavy compared to checked luggage. There really is no need for the option to push your bag in an upright position in front of you or beside you. But if that’s what you prefer even for your carry-on, there are many bags to choose from, we promise. Spinner wheels seem to be the most common wheels to roll on the airport floors these days. And admittedly, there has been some improvement in the quality of spinner wheels in recent years.
So what about no wheels at all then? If your travel is just for the day or you are a light packer, then you may not even need the space of a carry-on suitcase. A nice duffel bag or messenger bag with an over-the-shoulder strap might do it for you.
Carry-on backpack vs suitcase – which is the best choice?
I have to admit, I am very partial towards the suitcase variety… I can see only one advantage to having a backpack for a carry-on, and that is that you have your hands totally free for other tasks. Maybe you have a child that needs to be carried, or a disabled fellow passenger to assist. Or you simply like to have your hands free for whatever might come your way.
It could also be that you have some kind of large checked baggage to handle when you’ve arrived at your destination. If that is the case the backpack would seem like a good choice so you can to use both hands for the luggage on the belt.
In those cases, a backpack is of course what you need, and we do review them as well here at Travel Gear Depot to help you make a well informed choice.
But in most cases, a backpack has so many disadvantages compared to a suitcase. The most obvious perhaps being that you do actually have to carry it. A wheeled suitcase rolls nicely behind you, and when you stop you can just straighten it up and let go of the handle, and you’re free of the weight.
And if you like to arrive at your destination with clothes that are still smooth, the backpack is out of the question. I have yet to experience the day when I unpack my backpack and my clothes are uncrumpled and ready-to-wear for a smart night out or the important business meeting.
Also, it’s really hard to find stuff in a backpack, especially if you have one that opens at the top. For some reason, the thing you want the most always seems to have slipped to the bottom…
So which is the best carry-on luggage to buy then?
Of course, in the end, it comes down to your own preferences. Do you prefer hard-side or soft-shell, inline roller bag or a spinner one? Or do you even want a bag without wheels altogether, that’s easily carried around, liike a duffel? What color do you like? Do you want leather or some other material like nylon, and what price is right for you? Is the weight important enough for you to shadow out other features?
Our aim here at Travel Gear Depot is to help you with the information you need to make a good decision. We have picked the carry-ons we consider the best choices. We have divided them into categories, to make it easier for you to browse through the kind of carry-ons you’re most interested in.
There are a LOT of choices out there, plenty of brands and a large number of models from each brand. When we research we try to pick the ones we truly believe and experience to be the most priceworthy, whatever the actual price. Every bag is not for everyone. Our wish is that you will be able to make a choice you’ll be happy with, using the information we have gathered and put together.