If you are planning on taking to the skies sometime soon, don’t bust a gut lugging bulky cases through the airport. Opt instead for lightweight carry-on luggage that is easy to lift and spacious enough to carry all your belongings.
Table of contents
Table of Contents
Why Buy Lightweight Luggage?
Keeping your luggage lightweight gives you more all-important pounds and ounces for your prized possessions. Lighter luggage is not just more comfortable to carry around with you, but it will also help to keep you within your luggage allowance, letting you squeeze in that extra item in after all.
Things to Consider With Lightweight Luggage
There are lots of different types of lightweight luggage out there, and there will almost certainly be something to suit every style and budget. Before you commit, consider the following:
What Weight is Considered “Lightweight”?
The short answer is there is no standard definition.
According to manufacturers of “super lightweight” luggage, there are lots of different types of bags that qualify for this label.
For our purposes, we consider carry-on luggage lightweight if it weighs less than 5 or 6 pounds. You should investigate the true weight of any bag, backpack, or suitcase before you buy it. Don’t take a brand’s lightweight marketing message at face value.
Backpack vs. Suitcase – Which is Best?
Not everyone wants to wheel a small case around the airport, and likewise, there are many people who can’t conceive the idea of wearing their belongings on their backs. Whether you would rather choose a backpack over a suitcase, or vice versa — there are pros and cons for each type of luggage.
If you are more interested in speed over the comfort of wheels, then a travel backpack might be for you. Most lightweight cabin-sized backpacks offer plenty of space for a few days worth of clothing, travel-sized toiletries, and change of shoes. What they lack in clothing space they make up for in pockets, pouches, and padding. These are perfect for electronics, gadgets, tablets, and even your laptop.
Roll your belongings around with you in a neatly packed, cabin-sized suitcase full of clothes, shoes, and accessories. Your case will compress your clothing to keep them wrinkle-free in transit and offer enough padding and security to keep your electronics safe while you travel.
Suitcases open like a clam, which also makes them easy to pack and unpack. The sturdy construction can offer better all-round protection for your gear.
2 Wheels or 4 Wheels?
If you opt for a suitcase, it will more than likely come with wheels. You can choose from:
- 2 wheels to tip and roll with a cabin case that can be gently pulled along behind you. Not as stable when full, and prone to tipping over, these are still totally helpful and much easier than carrying your case everywhere with you. Some duffel bags also tip and roll on 2 wheels, too.
- 4-wheel options offer the ultimate in effortless rolling. These multi-directional wheels allow you to slide your case along right next to you, providing vastly improved maneuverability and are stable and sturdy when full.
You will need at least 2 handles on your carry-on — 1 to lift and 1 to pull. Side or top handles are useful for lifting the case in and out of the cab or to place it into the overhead lockers, while a long, extendable handle is used for pulling or pushing.
Pull handles need to be made from strong, durable materials like aluminum, and they should move smoothly from 1 position to another, allowing the user to find the optimum height for comfortable rolling.
Zips and Locks
While your carry-on may not see the inside of an airplane hold or never be manhandled by an army of luggage loaders, security is still key. TSA regulations state that your case must be accessible by TSA agents in any circumstance, and if you don’t have the correct kind of lock on it, they will simply break through the 1 you do have.
Some of the more expensive cases come with TSA-approved combination locks built-in, but if your budget doesn’t stretch that far, you can pick up stand-alone TSA approved locks virtually anywhere.
Hot Tip: Particularly on low-cost carriers, if overhead bins are full, you may be asked at the gate to put your luggage in the hold. Even if you are traveling with carry-on only, we still recommend that you have a TSA lock with you.
Hard or Soft Luggage
Hard luggage, like polycarbonate cases, can offer exceptional levels of protection for your belongings, but they will definitely be heavier than their fabric counterparts. There are some truly lightweight hardside cases out there, but they are few and far between.
If you opt for soft-sided luggage, durable high-grade nylon and other lightweight synthetics will keep your case incredibly manageable and your gear well protected.
Material and Durability
If we consider that the lightest weight carry-on bags and cases are usually always soft-sided, then it should come as no surprise to discover that materials like ballistic nylon, Cordura, or even polyester are the most popular choices for affordable yet durable luggage options.
Soft-sided luggage is often coated for water-resistance and designed to be strong enough to protect from rips or tears in transit. If you have any concerns about the strength of soft-sided luggage, check out the denier rating of the material to show just how durable it is.
The Best Lightweight Luggage
There is plenty of excellent, affordable, lightweight luggage out there, and here are just a few of the very best:
The World’s Lightest Suitcase With Wheels
IT Luggage 21.8″ World’s Lightest Los Angeles 2 Wheel Carry-On
Weight: 3.8 pounds
The perfect, low-cost carry-on for all kinds of travelers, this suitcase isn’t called “The Worlds Lightest” for nothing. Weighing in at just 3.8 pounds, you can carry this little beauty with ease, both on and off the airplane.
The ultra-strong fiberglass frame keeps the suitcase sturdy and upright, while the polyester shell has been reinforced to prevent rips, tears, and damage in transit. The wide, soft-grip handle is super easy to pull, and the smooth, silent wheels and strong carry handle makes it incredibly easy to travel with.
On the inside, there is plenty of room for everything you need to take with you. The 4 mesh-lined compartments make it easy to keep your clothing wrinkle-free and well organized, while the 2 adjustable straps will keep everything in place on the move. There are also 2 useful external zip-lined pockets that offer easy access to your travel documents and other important necessities.
An Ultra-Lightweight Suitcase With Extra Storage Space
Travelpro Maxlite 5 Lightweight Rollaboard Luggage
Weight: 5 pounds
This ultra-lightweight suitcase is small enough to use as a carry-on, yet large enough to handle everything you need for your next adventure. With sides that can expand up to 2 inches, you can maximize your packing potential, while still keeping your belongings close by you in the airplane.
Made from high-grade nylon, this roll-aboard suitcase features H20 Guard, making it water-resistant with a Duraguard coating, and the material is also incredibly stain-resistant. The PowerScope Lite handle makes it easy to control the case as you walk with it, and the high-performance ball bearing wheels glide effortlessly across any terrain.
On the inside, the Travelpro Maxlite has a full-length interior lid pocket and side accessory pockets to keep your precious possessions safe and well organized. The adjustable hold-down straps will keep your clothes neatly folded and wrinkle-free.
Another Brilliant Buy From AmazonBasics
AmazonBasics Softside Carry-On Spinner Luggage Suitcase
Weight: 5.5 pounds
As another great piece from the ever-popular AmazonBasics range, this lightweight carry-on case offers incredible value for money. This softside suitcase promises to offer increased flexibility compared to its hard-sided counterparts, and the case itself can compress for use in tight spaces.
No matter how much stuff you squeeze into this case, you will have no trouble taking it around with you. The telescopic handle locks into place, making it easy to find the perfect height for your comfort, and the securely mounted handles make it efficient to lift. The 4 360-degree spinner wheels also ensure that it glides effortlessly in any direction.
On the inside, there is plenty of space for all of your belongings, as well as interior storage pockets for easy organization of all of your smaller items as well. With the ability to expand to offer around 25% additional packing capacity, this is a good size carry-on that won’t bust your budget.
A Stylish Yet Practical Suitcase
Lucas Ultra Lightweight Carry-On Softside 20 Inch Expandable Luggage With Spinner Wheels
Weight: 5.8 pounds
This deluxe lightweight, soft-sided carry-on is both stylish and practical in equal measure. With the expandable design offering an additional 4 liters of space when you need it, this case is just right for a long weekend away.
Made from polyester, the case remains lightweight even when full. The external pockets are useful for holding items you need easy access to, and on the inside, the fully lined interior has plenty of pockets to keep your belongs tidy on the move. The elastic tie-down straps will keep your items in 1 place to ensure that they are wrinkle-free on arrival.
The double spinner wheels help the case to glide smoothly along next you though the concourse, and the telescopic wheel handle is ergonomic and easy to use. Made from 100% virgin PU material, these wheels are designed to withstand long term wear and tear.
One of the Lightest Suitcases Your Money Can Buy
Jetstream 18 Inch Lightweight Luggage Softside Carry-On Suitcase
Weight: 3.8 pounds
As one of the lightest softside cases on the market, the Jetstream carry-on case offers an affordable option for travelers on a budget. Made from 500 denier polyester fabric, this case can repel rain and is easy to keep clean. It also comes with a padded carry handle making light work of lifting.
For ease of use, the 20-inch telescopic retractable handle has a selection of height stops to choose from. The 2 inline wheels with stability pads are great for tipping and pulling the case behind you, or pushing out in front. Available in a choice of red or blue, these brightly colored, easy to maneuver carry-on cases are well worth their incredibly affordable price tag.
On the inside, the main compartment is roomy enough to hold all of your belongings, and the 2 front zippered pockets have plenty of space to keep your travel essentials safe and easily accessible. The elastic compression straps are also incredibly helpful when it comes to keeping your gear all in 1 place, even on the go.
A Lightweight Hardside Case With Impressive Looks
Aerolite Carry-On Suitcase
Weight: 4.6 pounds
Offering more space than many of the other carry-on cases available, the Aerolite uses every inch of available space to your advantage. Made from hard-wearing ABS Hard Shell, this case offers superior levels of protection and an impressive 40 liter packing capacity.
Good looking and easy to use, this case has 4 smooth-rolling spinner wheels for easy 360 Degree maneuverability and a retractable handle with push-button release. It also comes with a 3 digit combination barrel padlock so you can be assured of exceptional added security for your belongings.
On the inside, the case has a smooth lining to prevent snags and scratches, as well as a large zipper compartment and cross-compression straps to help keep your neatly folded clothing wrinkle-free in transit. Available in steel grey or rose gold, this case is not only super practical, but it is also super good looking, too.
Fun and Funky Carry-On for Travelers of All Ages
Weight: 4.3 pounds
Funky, fun, and incredibly lightweight, these roll-along duffel bags are a great alternative to a traditional, carry-on sized suitcase. Available in a ton of bright colors and vivid designs, you can customize your luggage to suit your mood.
Made from 600 denier heavy-duty polyester, this soft-sided duffel bag is practical, roomy and just right for both international and domestic air travel. Inline skate wheels offer increased stability and are super easy to maneuver around the airport. The internal retractable hide-away handle system makes it easy to steer your bag through a crowded concourse, and the ergonomic shoulder strap is there to lift it when you need to.
The main compartment has plenty of space for a few days worth of belongings, and the U-top opening provides easy access for packing and unpacking at either end of your journey. There are also 2 front zippered pockets for keeping your travel documents close at hand, and an internal pocket for smaller items.
A World Class Top-Selling Backpack by Osprey
Osprey Packs Farpoint 40 Travel Backpack
Weight: 1.4 pounds
Weighing a tiny 1.4 pounds, this award-winning backpack from Osprey is perfect for using as a carry-on bag. Designed to fit perfectly within international carry-dimensions, this bag can be carried like a backpack but packed like a suitcase.
With cushioned carry handles on both the tops and side of the bag, you don’t even have to rely on the padded, ergonomic shoulder straps and durable back system with the ventilated back panel if you would rather carry it like a case.
The sizable main compartment has more than enough space to hold your clothes and accessories for a few days away and the top stash pockets are perfect for keeping your smaller personal items close at hand. There are also dual mesh front pockets for water bottles and a padded internal laptop sleeve.
While the Farpoint was originally marketed as unisex (but now for men), Osprey has since released the ladies’ version in the form of the Fairview. It has the exact same design features but straps and a back system that fits the female form better.
Perfect for the Really Well-Organized Traveler
Hynes Eagle Travel Backpack 40 Liter Flight-Approved Carry-On Backpack
Weight: 2.6 pounds
This good-looking and practical backpack is perfect for those who want to stay organized on the go. Made from water-repellent polyester, this hardwearing and durable backpack can fit in the overhead compartment easily.
With a 40 liter capacity, you should easily be able to fit enough for a few days away. The roomy main compartment has inner tie-down straps and a mesh zip pocket, while the middle organizer compartment has been designed to hold and protect your laptop or tablet comfortably.
The front pocket has slot pockets for organizing your travel essentials and paperwork, and the bag features strong, durable zippers that won’t fall open when you don’t want them to.
With suppressible shoulder straps and multiple exterior compression straps, you can adjust the bag to suit your height and the amount of space available to you, while still keeping everything you need within easy reach. This backpack also comes with an adjustable sternum strap and waist strap for added stability and an upgraded strap buckle for durability.
A Strong and Affordable Backpack With Plenty of Packing Space
Cabin Max Metz Backpack Flight Approved Carry-On 44 Liter
Weight: 1.47 pounds
Lightweight and easy to carry, this carry-on compatible backpack offers 40 liters of uninterrupted packing space. Made from 600D polyester, the Cabin Max Metz Backpack is showerproof and built to last, with padded shoulder straps for added comfort while carrying. There is also a heavy-duty handle on the top of the bag for lifting and unloading.
Perhaps the biggest feature this backpack is the impressive amount of extra compartments available for keeping your gear safe on the go. The main compartment will easily hold everything you need for your next adventure, and there are also organizational slots, a separate document pocket, and even a tech pocket for all your gadgets and gizmos. The bigger compartments also feature strong and durable zippers and are fully lockable.
Whether you choose to commit to a carry-on case made of strong fabric with an expandable option for extra space or a traditional backpack for far-flung adventures, 1 thing remains the same — keep your luggage lightweight to help make your journey more enjoyable.
With so many different options out there, you should easily be able to find the right lightweight suitcase, duffel bag or backpack for you.