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Checking bags can be the straw that breaks the stressed-out traveler’s back. Between long check-in lines, more waiting at baggage claim, and the chance of luggage being damaged or lost, carry-on bags are often the right choice for short trips.
Luckily, carry-ons have come a long way: Some of the best carry-on luggage can fit up to a week’s worth of stuff in one lightweight, easy-to-maneuver package. Best of all, you can skip the check-in line, stroll past baggage claim, and rest assured that your stuff is always close by.
If you’re in need of a new carry-on bag, read on. We’ve rounded up the best carry-on luggage that you can order online, plus a few tips on finding the right bag.
How to Choose the Best Carry-On Luggage
Small differences in size, weight, and design can make or break a carry-on bag. Here are a few things to think about while shopping for the best carry-on luggage.
Style: First, you’ll want to choose between a roller or a duffel bag. Roller carry-ons are the most popular option for good reason: They don’t put stress on your back or shoulders, and you can leave them standing in the restroom or while paying for things at the airport.
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But duffel bags (which sometimes have optional backpack straps) shouldn’t be forgotten. Duffels can typically fit more clothing without the added bulk of the wheels and telescoping handle, and they’re easier to carry up a flight of stairs or on rough streets (think, cobblestone in Europe).
Hard vs Soft-Shell: Another decision is soft or hard-shell. Soft-shell luggage is actually more durable and longer-lasting (as it can’t be dinged or cracked), but hard-shell suitcases usually look better, and it’s easier to compress clothing and fit more inside a hard suitcase. For this reason (and the fact most of us treat our carry-ons quite nicely), most people opt for a hard-shell carry-on suitcase.
Size: In general, the best carry-on luggage measures around 22 inches long, 14 inches wide, and nine inches high, maximum. Carry-on size restrictions vary between airlines, so always check before flying. If you’re a frequent flyer with one airline, check their rules before buying a new carry-on bag.
Weight: Lighter is always better when it comes to luggage, leaving you more weight for your own clothing and gear before hitting the airline’s carry-on weight limit.
Organization: As any seasoned traveler knows, packing is an art. The best carry-on luggage accounts for this with an organized setup. Some bags feature extra pockets for shoes, suits, dirty clothes, or gadgets that you need to access quickly. Others have compression systems to squish down clothing and make more room. All of these are worth looking for.
The Best Carry-On Luggage to Buy Right Now
Below is some of the best carry-on luggage to buy online right now, from durable hard-shell suitcases to versatile duffel bags.
1. Away Carry-On
Away is a relatively young brand, but it has made a mark with stylish, high-quality suitcases like this Carry-On.
In terms of organization, Away gets an A+. The carry-on has two compartments (one for clothing and one for shoes and toiletries), a water-resistant laundry bag, and a central compression pad that squishes clothing for a bit more space. It also has some convenience-minded features like a TSA zipper lock and even an optional USB charging port.
Build quality on the Away valise is solid as well with a polycarbonate shell and durable spinner wheels. Overall, it’s a great choice for frequent fliers looking to maximize their carry-on capacity.
2. Aer de Aer Premium Carry On
This slick roller from Aer de Aer looks much more expensive than it is thanks to an all-black polycarbonate shell design. You also get a telescoping handle and four wheels, which brings the total weight to a mere six pounds.
At 21.5 by 14 by 9 inches, the suitcase is right on the mark sizewise, adhering to most airlines’ carry-on restrictions. You get one large compartment for clothing and shoes, as well as a zippered section that’s ideal for dirty laundry or socks. Once closed, use the TSA lock to keep everything secure.
3. Patagonia Black Hole Duffel 40L
If you want to go the duffel route, Patagonia’s Black Hole is the way to go. Although it’s called a duffel bag (and features the typical drop handles), the Black Hole also has shoulder straps that let you wear it like a backpack.
The bag is about as rugged as you’ll find — as expected from an outdoor brand like Patagonia — boasting a recycled ripstop polyester fabric with a water repellent treatment for weatherproofing. We’ve been using this exact Black Hole for years, and it’s perhaps the most resilient bag we’ve owned. Plus, dspite its durability, the bag weighs a feathery two pounds when empty. You also get plenty of room for clothing and gear with 40 liters of space and, because it’s a fabric bag, it’s easier to cram stuff in at odd angles.
4. Briggs & Riley Baseline
Our favorite soft carry-on suitcase is this Briggs & Riley Baseline — which also happens to be the only suitcase on our list with a dedicated wrinkle-resistant suit compartment. This special compartment can fit up to two suits and promises fewer (if any) wrinkles when you unpack.
As for build quality, the Baseline might be the most well-made soft-shell suitcase on the market. The fabric, wheels, zippers, and handle mechanism all work flawlessly, and Briggs & Riley offers a no-questions-asked, no proof of purchase lifetime guarantee for repairs.
In addition to the nifty suit compartment, the Baseline has a sophisticated compression-expansion system that squeezes clothes down to make room for more. There’s a cinch at the bottom to keep things organized, as well as zippered pockets on the interior and exterior for keeping track of smaller items.
5. Solgaard Carry-On Closet
Solgaard’s Carry-On Closet is a dream come true if you like to organize as much as possible when you travel.
The hard-shell luggage is 20-inches tall, 13.5-inches wide, nine inches deep, and weighs in at 8.3 pounds. It may be a little heavy, but that extra weight is due to its marquee feature: A removable shelf that lets you organize all of your clothes by type or outfit.
When you get to your destination, all you have to do is remove the shelf, hang it up, and pick out which day’s clothes you’d like to wear. Best of all, your organized closet only takes up half the bag’s space, leaving the other half free for all of your other gear.
In practice, this made a big difference in how we thought about packing, and made traveling less stressful. Solgaard says this carry-on holds enough clothes for between three and six days, which we found accurate.
This carry-on has a three-digit lock, with a TSA-approved lock. It also has a pouch for an external battery pack, which connects to a USB-A port on the side of the bag. This pouch is designed for Solgaard’s Solarbank, which is sold separately. If you’d like to minimize the amount of time you spend worrying about clothes on your trip, Solgaard’s Carry-On Closet is the clear choice.
6. Monos Carry-On Pro
Monos’ Carry-On Pro has quickly become our go-to carry-on for shorter trips.
It’s 22-inches tall, 14-inches wide, nine inches deep, and weighs 7.8 pounds. Monos says the Carry-On Pro was designed for trips up to five days, and we found it to be the perfect size for a long weekend getaway.
It holds a little less than the other carry-ons in this guide, but we like it for its outside pocket, which can be used as a laptop holder, saving space in our backpack. This compartment also has dedicated mesh pockets for tech accessories like battery packs or cables.
If you like to pack light, and want a piece of hard-shell carry-on luggage that suits that style, Monos’ Carry-On Pro is an excellent choice.
7. Rimowa Essential Cabin Carry-On Case
Rimowa is the Rolex of luggage, favorited by first-class flyers (including celebrities like Kanye West, Chris Pine and Lebron James, to name a few). And it’s easy to see why: the brand’s suitcases are easily the most stylish in the airport with a distinctive grooved design.
But the main reason for Rimowa’s dominance is durability. This Essential Cabin Carry-On uses a high-quality polycarbonate that’s very hard to ding or crack.
The organization of the Rimowa Cabin Carry-On is pretty straightforward. It has a spacious two-sided main compartment with two compression pads to squish clothing down, and a clamshell opening. Unsurprisingly, the spinner wheels and telescoping handle are very well made too, ensuring thousands of flights without a hitch.