Our pick for the best hard-sided carry-on luggage is the Rimowa Essential Lite Cabin.
The Essential Lite Cabin is lean and mean, with all the durability and style Rimowa is known for. When it comes to soft-sided carry-on luggage, the clear winner is the Briggs & Riley Baseline Expandable Spinner. Easy to maneuver, the Baseline will get you wherever you’re headed with incredible style. And if low-key travel is your game, go with the Eagle Creek 29 Gear Warrior Wheeled Duffle. With amazing packing capacity, the Eagle Creek Gear Warrior has everything you’ll need for your next adventure.
You’ve saved up your pennies for this trip. It’s a reward for all the hard work you do. But it’s not your style to fill some hotel suite with all your worldly belongings. You’re not the type to spend the day by the pool, only to hit the hotel restaurant for dinner.
Instead, you want to stay versatile, blend in with the crowd, and go off the beaten path. To discover some new corner of the globe, seeking to experience what life is really like where you’re visiting.
Or maybe you want to get away from people — to an isolated beach, or a small cabin in the woods. To do so, you need the best luggage for traveling along with you. In other words, you need soft-sided, hard-sided, or duffel luggage that you can carry on the plane — something small and durable that doesn’t sacrifice any of the space you’ll need.
Here are our picks for best hard-shell, soft-shell, and duffel carry-on luggage — the perfect traveling companions on your next adventure.
The Carry-Ons We RAVE AboutYou’re on the trip of a lifetime, but you don’t have to pack a lifetime’s worth of stuff.
Best Hard-Shell Carry-On: Rimowa Essential Lite Cabin
The Rimowa Essential is designed for painless travel: It’s lightweight, durable, and very easy to maneuver.Read Full Review
Best Soft-Shell Carry-On: Briggs & Riley Baseline Expandable Spinner
The Briggs & Riley Baseline is tough and versatile, offering excellent packing capacity and effortless maneuverability.Read Full Review
Best Duffel Carry-On: Eagle Creek 29 Gear Warrior Wheeled Duffel
The ultimate carry-on duffel in an ultra-light package, built with unrivaled durability for max adventure.Read Full Review
9 Hacks to Make the Most of Your Carry-On
Real talk. Shopping for the best carry-on luggage is fun. Packing carry-on luggage isn’t fun, and neither are excess baggage fees.
Make things easy on yourself with these simple packing hacks.
1. Make a list.
It’s a terrible feeling to get caught empty-handed once you reach your destination. With a packing checklist, you’ll never forget travel essentials like device chargers, sunscreen, or a toothbrush.
But remember, if you’re staying in a hotel, you’ll have access to things like soap and shampoo. Don’t pack what you don’t need!
2. Try a travel cube.
Travel cubes allow you to organize your stuff into brightly colored cubes. You’ll be able to find things more easily, and your belongings will be neatly compressed while in your suitcase. The travel cubes will also assist in the unpacking process and can help you stay organized once you reach your destination.
For small items, snack-sized Zip-lock bags work well as a substitute for travel cubes.
3. Don’t fold your clothes, roll them.
Rolling your clothing helps you maximize space in your carry-on luggage — especially if you’re traveling for leisure, and you don’t have to keep your clothing wrinkle-free.
Pro tip: When packing your spinner or roller case, put the heaviest things near the wheels. That way, your case will have better balance once it’s tipped upright.
4. Separate your in-flight essentials.
Keep everything you’ll need during the flight — like headphones, wallet, and cellphone — in a separate pouch. That way you can easily pull the pouch from your luggage and quickly put your bag in the overhead.
5. Plan your outfits in advance.
Avoid packing stuff you don’t need by planning your outfits in advance. For example, you don’t really need to pack a bowtie if you’ll only ever be wearing Bermuda shorts.
And speaking of Bermuda shorts, if your agenda includes some hardcore beach time, be sure to throw a plastic bag in your luggage for wet swimwear or dirty sandals.
6. Pack it all, then pare it down.
Packing is like an editing process. Start early. Throw everything you think you’ll need in the suitcase. Then sleep on it overnight and reevaluate your decisions in the morning. Chances are, you’ll rethink your choices and pack less stuff.
7. Be prepared.
Even when you’re not planning a trip in the near future, life throws you a lot of little ways to make packing easier — like getting extra toothpaste from the dentist, for example. Stash those travel necessities in a convenient overnight bag. That way, when it’s time to go, you’ll have fewer things to think about.
And be sure you won’t run into any trouble at security by pre-packing your liquid toiletries in TSA-approved travel-sized bottles. Keeping the bottles in a translucent bag will make getting through security a breeze!
8. Keep small stuff in your shoes.
Packing extra shoes creates a lot of wasted space. Solve this problem by stashing small items (like socks) inside your shoes.
9. Wear your bulkiest clothing on the plane.
Wearing your bulkiest clothing and shoes on the plane will save valuable space in your carry-on luggage.
Your Packing List
Now it’s time to decide what to pack. Here are a few things no traveler should leave home without.
- Passport: Showing up for the international trip you’ve been planning, only to realize you’ve forgotten your passport, sounds like a nightmare. Don’t let it happen to you.
- Adapters and device chargers: If you’re headed to Europe, you’re gonna need an EU adapter. Buying it in advance, as opposed to at the airport, will always save you some money. Pro tip: If you do forget your phone charger, just ask at the hotel front desk. A lot of hotels have entire boxes of left-behind phone and device chargers just looking for their forever home.
- Socks and underwear: So maybe these aren’t the most exciting things in the world, but with your mind on the fun times that lay ahead, you might forget some basics like socks and underwear. Does wherever you’ll be staying have a laundry room? If so, you’ll be able to wash your clothing while you’re on the road — meaning you can pack less for the trip!
- Extra layers and walking shoes: Be ready for all sorts of weather by packing extra layers. And if you’ll be doing a lot of walking, don’t forget appropriate footwear.
- Water bottle: We suggest a metal water bottle for your trip. They’re durable, hygienic, and reusable. Bringing your own water bottle will also help you save money on bottled water.
- Eye mask: If you have trouble sleeping in new places, an eye mask will help you get valuable rest and wake up rejuvenated for your next adventure.
With this information, you’re ready to pack like a pro. The only thing left to do is pick the best carry-on luggage. So let’s get started!
There are a lot of options when shopping for the best carry-on luggage. We know that, and we decided to help you out by compiling this list of the best hard-sided, soft-sided, and duffel bags on the market.
To create our list, we analyzed hundreds of consumer reviews, while heeding the advice of industry professionals and luggage connoisseurs. You can be confident that anything you choose from this list will serve you well on your next adventure.
As we reviewed the contenders for the best carry-on luggage, here’s what we were looking for:
- Brand reputation
- Overall customer satisfaction
- Unique features
Using these metrics, we refined our list to the following 10 winners. Take a look and get ready to find the perfect carry-on for you.
Best Hard-Shell Carry-On Luggage
Rimowa Essential Lite CabinPrice: $575Size: 21.7"
The Essential Lite is Rimowa’s lightest ever hard-shell carry-on suitcase, weighing 30% less than the Rimowa Essential. And somehow Rimowa managed to make a case this lightweight without sacrificing any durability.
With unmatched attention to detail, this case is amazingly stable. You’ll appreciate how portable it is. We also love the TSA-approved locks, which are easily opened by security during airline baggage checks.
The wheels and the outside of the case are both made from tough polycarbonate, while the inside is luxurious cotton with cotton dividers. The 18 premium zippers are made from KK METAL, and the handles are leather.
As can be expected from Rimowa, the Essential Lite offers effortless steering on ball-bearing mounted wheels with cushioned axles. And the telescopic handle is engineered for easy, stage-free adjustment. With the Essential Lite, expect maximum comfort and smooth maneuverability.
Coming in a variety of glossy color options, the Rimowa Essential measures 5.8″ x 21.7″ x 9.1”, and it weighs 4.5 lbs. The case carries up to 38.2 L.
Register your product online for a 5-year guarantee, and feel secure with Rimowa’s hotel repairs program.Shop the Rimowa Essential Lite CabinPros
- Lighter than Rimowa Essential
- TSA-approved locks
- Ball-bearing mounted wheels
- No matte finish
- No add-a-bag strap
- Not designed for electronics
Delsey HeliumPrice: $140Size: 20.5"
The Delsey Helium is a piece of sleek and stylish hard-side spinner carry-on luggage. Made from 100% polycarbonate, it’s lightweight as well as impact- and scratch-resistant. And choosing Delsey means top-notch maneuverability while gliding effortlessly on silent-running double spinner wheels.
You’ll appreciate the comfort of soft-touch top and side grab handles, as well as a telescoping pull handle. There’s a privacy ID tag and a recessed TSA combination lock, keeping all your stuff safe and secure. And multiple color options help make your Delsey easy to identify.
In the fully lined interior, you’ll find tie-down garment straps, a main compartment capable of expanding up to 2”, and a zippered divider able to create 2 separate packing areas. The case is designed to fit the overhead compartments of most US airlines. (But note that size and weight restrictions for carry-on luggage vary.)
The case measures 20.5″ x 14.25″ x 10.25″, and it weighs in at 8 lbs, 6 oz.Shop the Delsey HeliumPros
- 100% polycarbonate
- Fully lined interior
- Silent-running wheels
- Prone to scratching
- Zipper issues reported
Calpak AmbeurPrice: $135Size: 20"
Rendered in vibrant metallics, the Calpak Ambeur is a piece of hard-sided carry-on luggage for those who like to be noticed no matter where they are. But that doesn’t mean the case is all style and no function.
In fact, the Ambeur is a lightweight and resilient hard-shelled case, with 4 aluminum corner protectors for added durability. The exterior is tough, made from polycarbonate ABS, and the interior is a plush polyester.
Travel with this spinner, and you’ll never lack space. There’s a large interior packing compartment and interior zippered divider with zippered mesh pocket. There are also 2 elastic pockets, an interior zippered accessory pocket, and a buckled elastic tie-down strap.
You’ll have no issues with mobility on the Ambeur’s versatile quartet of 360-degree spinner wheels. There’s a telescoping trolley, as well as cushioned top and side handles. As always, safety is a priority for Calpak, and the Ambeur is outfitted with an integrated TSA-approved combination lock.
The case dimensions are 22” x 14” x 8.5”, and it weighs 6 lbs. Don’t let the style fool you: The Calpak Ambeur is a sensible pick for carry-on luggage, and it looks great too.Shop the Calpak AmbeurPros
- Elastic tie-down strap
- Telescoping trolley
- Bright colors not for everyone
- Scratching reported
- Some issues with zippers
Victorinox Spectra 2.0Price: $350Size : 21.7"
Ever wanted to get something from your suitcase without opening up the whole thing? With the Spectra 2.0’s innovative quick-access door, you can!
You can pack and unpack the Spectra in 2 ways — through the front quick-access door, or through the main compartment. So whether you pack a little or a lot, there’s an option for you.
Winner of the 2014 Red Dot Award for Design Excellence, this piece of hard-side carry-on luggage is incredibly strong, made from 100% virgin, break-resistant polycarbonate. And the areas of the case most prone to dings and scratches are given extra support with corner guards and zipper bumpers.
We love the Spectra’s one-touch, dual-trolley aluminum handle system that locks into 3 different positions. The system adjusts easily to various heights, and it also provides a seamless transition between pulling the bag on 2 wheels to pushing it on 4. The case comes complete with a removable ID tag and a top handle for easy carrying.
On the interior, there is a zippered mesh divider wall, as well as a Y-shaped compression strap to keep folded items secure. For safety, the Spectra comes with an integrated Travel Sentry Approved lock.
Victorinox offers the Access Lock Combination Recovery Program, through which you can register your lock combination on victorinox.com and recover it quickly and easily if it’s ever forgotten.
With the Spectra, you can travel confidently with the Swiss Tracker Bag Tracking Program, which will help reunite you with your luggage if it’s ever lost or stolen — no matter where you are, for free!
Product dimensions are 21.7″ x 15″ x 7.9″, and it weighs 7 lbs.Shop the Victorinox Spectra 2.0Pros
- Tracking program
- Dual-trolley handle system
- Quick-access door
- Reports of wheel issues
- Some zipper problems
- A bit pricey
Tumi V3 International Exapandable Carry-OnPrice: $525Size: 22"
The Tumi V3 has all the style you’ve come to expect from Tumi. But this hard-shell carry-on suitcase is also constructed from a special, multi-layer polycarbonate alloy formulation. All that means is the V3 is very light, without losing any durability.
On the interior of this expandable case, there are 4 pockets and tie-down straps, perfect for keeping your belongings neat and organized for the entire journey. You can keep your club clothes wrinkle-free with a hanger bracket (hangers sold separately).
On the outside of the case, you’ll find a supremely comfortable, retractable top carry handle, as well as a 3-stage telescoping handle.
The case maneuvers effortlessly on 4 recessed dual wheels, and it locks up tight with an integrated TSA lock. As far as warranty, Tumi offers comprehensive product coverage so you can hit the road with confidence.
Case dimensions are 22” x 14” x 9”. When expanded, the V3 reaches a depth of 11”. It weighs 7.12 lbs.Shop the Tumi V3 International Exapandable Carry-OnPros
- Multi-layer polycarbonate
- Tie-down straps
- 4 recessed dual wheels
- Issues with maneuverability
- Not as durable as some
Best Soft-Shell Carry-On Luggage
Briggs & Riley Baseline Expandable SpinnerPrice: $549Size: 22"
The Baseline is a stylish soft-sided carry-on that basically has superpowers, thanks to its patented CX technology. This tech allows the case to expand up to 25% for maximum packing space, and then compress back down to its original size for storage in the overhead compartment.
The outside of the case is tough, ballistic fabric with reinforced corner guards, so it will stand up well under all sorts of travel conditions. The interior of the case is fully lined, with organizational elements to make packing easy.
The exterior zipper pockets offer quick access to items like umbrellas and phones. Other design features include a lightweight hybrid fiberglass frame, an aircraft-grade aluminum handle, and smooth rolling spinner wheels. The strong V-groove handle tubes guarantee less jamming, and the case is detailed with top and side grab handles.
The case measures 22” x 14” x 9” and it weighs 9.3 lbs.
On top of it all, you can feel secure in your purchase with Briggs & Riley’s “Simple As That” Lifetime Warranty.Shop the Briggs & Riley Baseline Expandable SpinnerPros
- Lifetime warranty
- V-groove tubes
- Corner guards
- High-end price tag
- Some issues with stability
- Easily scuffed
Travelpro Platinum ElitePrice: $217Size: 21"
There’s nothing worse than being stuck at the airport with a dead device and no place to charge it up. With the Travelpro Platinum Elite soft-side spinner, you can charge up your electronics straight from your suitcase! There’s an external USB port, with dedicated power bank pocket (power bank not included). And it all meets FAA regulations for carry-on and checked baggage.
For the business traveler, the case comes with a drop-in, fold-out suiter. And the deluxe interior’s tie-down system includes built-in accessory pockets for easy access to travel essentials. The Elite comes with a removable quart-size wet pocket — it’s TSA-compliant and perfect for storing toiletries.
The tip-resistant tapered expansion system creates up to an additional 2” packing capacity. The case resists discoloration and rips thanks to its high-density nylon fabric with DuraGuard coating. The SUPRA zipper heads will last for years without wearing out.
In terms of comfort, the Platinum Elite is outfitted with the PrecisionGlide System, which includes a contour grip, PowerScope handle, and MagnaTrac spinner wheels. The patented PowerScope airline-grade aluminum improves balance, with 4 stops accommodating different heights. And the premium leather top and side carry handles provide an assortment of comfortable carrying options.
It’s all backed up by Travelpro’s Built for a Lifetime Limited Worry-Free Warranty. Case dimensions are 21” x 14” x 9”. It weighs 7.8 lbs and holds up to 46 L.Shop the Travelpro Platinum ElitePros
- Quart-size wet pocket
- Drop-in, fold-out suiter
- Smaller than pull-behind version
- Powerbank not included
Samsonite Fiero 20" SpinnerPrice: $86Size: 21.5"
The carry-on sized Samsonite Fiero 20” soft-shell spinner is made from lightweight, 100% polycarbonate with a micro diamond texture that is extremely resistant to nicks and scratches — so your Samsonite Fiero will look as good as new, trip after trip.
The case also features re-engineered and lighter-weight wheels. The objective: smooth rolling, pivoting, and increased maneuverability with no stress to your arm. The retractable handle extends easily from the suitcase, then stores cleanly back inside the case when not needed. The handle locks securely in place in both the fully extended and stored positions.
When it comes time to pack, the case is capable of expanding up to 2″ for added capacity. And there’s a full-zip interior luggage divider and cross straps for better organization.
In addition, the side-mounted TSA-approved lock provides safety and security while you’re on the road. Overall, it’s a challenge to find a more affordable soft-side case than the Samsonite Fiero.
Case dimensions run 19.5″ x 14.5″ x 9″, and it weighs 7 lbs, 8 oz. It’s available in a variety of color options.Shop the Samsonite Fiero 20" SpinnerPros
- Micro diamond texture
- Re-engineered wheels
- Retractable handle
- No side handle
- No way to store liquids
- Slim handles
TUMI Alpha 2 Continental Carry-OnPrice: $539Size: 22"
The TUMI Alpha 2 is short and wide, but still offers the capacity of a 22” case, expanding up to 2” for packing and fitting easily into most overhead compartments when compressed. And don’t miss the suiter component (TUMI-engineered hangers sold separately).
With this case, pockets are never an issue — it’s got 2 side zip pockets, a large mesh zip pocket, and a passport pocket. And your stuff will remain neatly organized with the compression straps.
On the outside of the case, you’ll find a U-shaped zip pocket and a straight zip pocket. There are top and side carry handles, as well as a bottom grab handle, and a 3-stage telescoping handle. It all glides along smoothly on 4 recessed swivel wheels, with protective bumper guards.
If you love to accessorize, don’t forget to pick up the brightly colored TUMI Accents kit (for an extra cost). The kit includes a luggage tag, monogram patch, handle wrap, and zipper pull tie.
The case measures 22” x 16” x 9”. It weighs 11.1 lbs, and has a capacity of 35 L.Shop the TUMI Alpha 2 Continental Carry-OnPros
- TUMI Tracer program for lost bags
- TUMI Accents kit available
- Expands up to 2”
- Some issues with the handle
- Reports of missing zipper pulls
Incase Via Roller 21Price: $350Size: 23"
If you’re just getting away for the weekend, consider the soft-side carry-on Incase Via Roller 21 for your next trip. Designed with a capacity for about 2 days of travel, the case is constructed from long-lasting 1680D ballistic nylon.
Durability is not an issue with the Via Roller 21. There’s a protectively coated front panel, as well as a compartment intended for secure storage of personal items. It’s perfect for device chargers, cables, and other travel essentials. If you’re making a quick trip for work, you’ll enjoy the convenience of keeping these items separate from business-related packing.
There’s even a dedicated compartment for a 15” laptop. And it moves along on silky-smooth-rolling urethane wheels.
Product dimensions are 23” x 14.2” x 10.2” and it weighs 9.24 lbs. Choose from multiple color options.Shop the Incase Via Roller 21Pros
- Hard-shell front panel
- 1680D ballistic nylon
- Urethane wheels
- No protective sleeve for laptop
- Issues reported with handle
- Fabric is prone to damage
Best Duffel Carry-On Luggage
Eagle Creek 29 Gear Warrior Wheeled DuffelPrice: $203Size: 29"
Eagle Creek’s Gear Warrior duffel is built for pushing your travel experience to the limit. With seamless composite fabrication, the bag’s sturdy exoskeleton provides maximum durability in all sorts of conditions. The design strengthens typical wear points while providing maximum resistance to abrasion.
In terms of packing capacity, the stowable Equipment Keeper attaches gear to the top of the duffel. The large secondary compartment helps separate gear from clothing. And the front compression straps on the wings help tie down your gear to the bag.
The duffel’s top pocket allows grab ‘n’ go accessibility, while you stay organized with large internal pockets. And it comes with a piggyback clip for add-a-bag versatility.
The dual-tube handle is made from feather-light anodized aluminum. This super-mobile duffel bag comes with oversized treaded wheels, protected in a wheel housing with durable kick plate.
The duffel’s #10 zippers are lockable, with strong, user-friendly pulls. There are also reflective accents for increased visibility in low-light conditions.
Your duffel will stay secure with an ID Tag pocket and contrasting accents for easy identification.
Product dimensions are 29.25″ x 16.25″ x 12″ and it weighs 7 lbs.Shop the Eagle Creek 29 Gear Warrior Wheeled DuffelPros
- Equipment Keeper attachment
- Treaded wheels
- Aluminum handle
- Zipper issues
- May be easily damaged
Incase TRACTO Split Duffel MPrice: $150Size: 14.5"
The highly mobile TRACTO Split Duffel M is an incredibly functional and weather-resistant carry-on duffel bag, designed to endure any adventure that comes its way.
Made with a durable 1000D tarpaulin exterior and 1680D ballistic nylon base, the bottom of this duffel is reinforced with an inner lining of the same tough 1000D tarpaulin.
Sling the bag over your shoulder, or wear it like a backpack with the UTX Tension Lock buckles. The bag butterflies open for optimal access and organization, while zippered mesh curtains keep your gear separate if needed. The curtains can also be unzipped when one large main compartment is preferable.
The duffel’s dimensions are 23.5″ x 12.6″ x 10.6″, it holds up to 63.5 L, and it’s protected by a one-year limited warranty.Shop the Incase TRACTO Split Duffel MPros
- 1000D tarpaulin exterior
- 1680D ballistic nylon base
- UTX Tension Lock
- No wheels
- Limited warranty
- No frame
Eagle Creek Load Warrior 22 DufflePrice: $239Size: 21"
Like our top winner in this category, Eagle Creek’s Gear Warrior, the Load Warrior’s durable exoskeleton strengthens wear points for unrivaled abrasion resistance. This bag also features large treaded wheels secure in a wheel housing and a durable kick plate.
This duffel isn’t afraid of water, with water-repellent ripstop and ballistic fabrics. Stash your stuff on top of the bag using the stowable Equipment Keeper attachment. On the interior, get more packing space with the expandable main compartment. Or quickly grab your essentials from the bag’s top pocket.
Stabilize extra gear on the outside of the bag with exterior compression straps, and enjoy add-a-bag versatility with the attached piggyback clip. The mono tube handle is lightweight anodized aluminum, and the #10 lockable zippers have ergonomically designed pulls.
There’s an ID Tag pocket, as well as colorful contrasting accents for easy identification when you have to find your bag in the pile of everyone else’s luggage. There are also reflective accents, which are perfect for dusk and nighttime visibility.
The bag is sized 22″ x 14″ x 9″. It weighs 4 lbs, 12 oz.Shop the Eagle Creek Load Warrior 22 DufflePros
- Easy-access top pocket
- Compact design
- Durable exoskeleton
- Not suited for packing cubes
- Mono tube handle only
- Issues with Equipment Keeper
Patagonia Black Hole Duffel 45LPrice: $129Size: 25"
Perfect for the weekend warrior, the Patagonia Black Hole Duffel carry-on is made from tough ripstop polyester with highly weatherproof TPU film laminate. You can pack everything you need for a weekend away in the large main compartment. Packing is a breeze with the duffel’s internal compression.
Stash incidentals in the zippered side pocket, or the mesh pockets in the lid. The whole thing stuffs into its own pocket for easy storage.
Sling the duffel over your shoulder with the padded removable shoulder strap. There’s also a reinforced haul handle for easy carrying. The padded base will protect your stuff while traveling.
The bag comes in a sporty dual-tone design. You’ll be representing Patagonia pride with the large brand logo on the side.
Product dimensions are 25″ x 13″ x 10″ and it weighs 2 lbs, 7 oz. It has a capacity of 60 L.Shop the Patagonia Black Hole Duffel 45LPros
- Made from ripstop polyester
- Weatherproof TPU film laminate
- Padded base
- No wheels
- Too large for gym bag
- Takes practice to fold/unfold
Filson Large Rugged Twill Duffle BagPrice: $425Size: 30"
Nothing says long-lasting like saddle-grade bridle leather. And on the Filson Twill Duffle Bag, the carry straps are made from just that. But that’s just the start when it comes to how durable this bag is.
With its classic-looking design, this bag is made from rugged water- and abrasion-resistant twill. There are solid brass zipper closures. And for extra security, there’s a storm flap custom cut by Filson.
On the inside, stash your gear in interior stow pockets. And carry it all with a removable leather carrying strap, complete with a comfortable shoulder pad. Carry it over your shoulder, or try it cross-body messenger-style.
Product dimensions are 30″ x 13″ x 14″. It weighs 4 lbs, 3 oz, and carries up to 75 L.Shop the Filson Large Rugged Twill Duffle BagPros
- Leather carry straps
- Storm flap
- Brass zipper closures
- No wheels
- No compression strap
Should I use a duffel bag or suitcase?
The choice is, of course, up to you. If you find yourself on the fence, here are some things to keep in mind while making your decision.
The best option for luggage has a lot to do with where and how you’ll be traveling.
Will you be driving a car or using public transportation? If you plan on using a lot of buses and shuttles, go for a duffel bag. They’re easier to carry when you have to squeeze to the one empty seat in the back, and they’re more likely to fit under a bus seat.
How’s the infrastructure where you’re headed? If you’ll be indoors or on sidewalks, any kind of luggage should do. But if you’re headed somewhere with limited roads or paved trails, a duffel bag might be your best bet.
Will you be moving a lot from place to place? If your luggage will be spending a lot of time on the road instead of sitting in a hotel room, a duffel bag is better-suited for rough travel.
Do you have a bad back? Certain personal considerations, like a bad back, would make a suitcase your best choice.
How important is security to you? To put it simply, with locks and other security features, your stuff will be safer in a suitcase than in a duffel bag.
What kind of luggage will suit your needs if things go wrong? Of course, we hope your every trip is picture-perfect. But a lot can go wrong while traveling. Before choosing your luggage, imagine your worst-case travel scenario. Should that occur, what kind of luggage features would be most helpful for you?
Can you pack everything in a carry-on?
Depending on the length of your trip and where you’re traveling, it might be tough. But it is possible to go on even long trips with only a carry-on.
If you’re up for the challenge, here are some pointers. Follow these guidelines and you’ll be gliding by everyone who’s stuck waiting at baggage claim.
- Clothes: To get all your clothes in a carry-on, try to mix ‘n’ match your wardrobe. Choose pieces that can be combined into a variety of outfits.
- Outerwear: What’s the weather like where you’re headed? If you’re going to San Diego in July, you can safely leave the raincoat at home.
- Tops: Again, depending on the climate and the length of your trip, stick to one shirt for every day you’ll be gone.
- Pants: Plan for one pair of pants or shorts (or one skirt or dress) for each day of the trip. Don’t forget to include whatever you’re wearing on the plane.
- Underwear: You might be able to double up on pants and outerwear — as in, maybe you can wear your jeans a couple days in a row. But for most of you, you’ll want a fresh pair of underwear and socks for each day of your trip. Or maybe not. (We won’t judge.) Of course, this is all assuming you won’t have easy access to a washing machine while on your trip. If you will, you can pack even less!
- Shoes: Bring as few pairs of shoes as you can — they eat up tons of luggage space. Wear your bulkiest pair of shoes on the plane.
- Accessories: Some sensible accessories to pack in your carry-on include sunglasses, sunscreen, and a watch.
- Paperwork, Electronics, Incidentals: Keep paperwork like your passport, ID, and travel itinerary easily accessible in your carry-on. You might want to also keep your phone or other devices within reach, as well as a water bottle, ear plugs, or an eye mask.
What are the best backpacks for traveling?
Besides hard-sided luggage, soft-sided luggage, and duffel bags, there is a fourth option for traveling: backpacks.
Many of the best backpacks have an amazing amount of space, so you won’t have to over-stuff them or wear your entire travel wardrobe (including 3 pairs of underwear) when checking in for your flight.
Here are some of the best backpacks for traveling:
- Deuter Aircontact 65+10 Backpack: This hiking backpack is designed to handle serious treks and long-haul travel with ease.
- Osprey Farpoint 40 Travel Backpack: Perfect for weekend warriors, this backpack also pulls through for longer-term adventures on the road.
- Hynes Eagle Travel Backpack: Compact in appearance without sacrificing packing space, this backpack will get you where you need to go, from a weekend business trip to that spontaneous road trip you’ve always wanted to take.
What is the best carry-on luggage?
Luggage is more important than we give it credit for. After all, without a solid piece of luggage to keep your belongings safe and secure, you’re not going anywhere.
Because luggage is such a critical part of our travel plans, we were careful and thorough in our investigation of the best carry-ons. We conducted an analysis of hundreds of customer reviews, and we got input from expert travelers and industry pros. As we sorted through all of this information, here are the main criteria that we focused on:
- Brand reputation
- Overall customer satisfaction
- Unique features
With all of these metrics in mind, we were able to narrow our list down to 15 winners. In the duffel category, the Eagle Creek Gear Warrior 29 was our clear winner. For the best soft-sided carry-on, our pick is the Briggs & Riley Baseline Expandable Spinner. And for hard-sided carry-on luggage, it doesn’t get any better than the Rimowa Essential Lite Cabin.
Now that you’ve selected the best carry-on luggage for your trip, check out these much-loved luggage accessories.
- Acrodo Space Saver Travel Bags for Clothes: Increase storage space up to 300% with Acrodo Space Saver Travel Bags.
- OEE Luggage Packing Organizers: This 6-piece packing organizer set will keep your stuff organized while you’re traveling.
- Stow-N-Go Portable Luggage System Suitcase Organizer: The perfect accessory to your Samsonite, TUMI, or other favorite bag, this handy organizer can save you up to 30% in packing space.
- YAMIU Travel Organizer Accessories with Shoe Bag & 2 Toiletry Bags: Divide your clothes into sections with different cubes for each day of the trip, or for each member of the family.