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The 16 Best Carry-On Luggage Bags for Any Traveler in 2024

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Amar Hussain
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Amar Hussain

Senior Content Contributor

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Countries Visited: 63U.S. States Visited: 9

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications incl...
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Keri Stooksbury

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Cabin bags have revolutionized the way we travel. With airlines charging extras fees for checked luggage, more and more of us are cramming our belongings into little carry-on bags.

If you pack well, you can get pretty much everything you need into these compact cases — and you will also reap the rewards of not having to waste time at baggage claim when you arrive at your destination.

Things To Consider With Carry-On Luggage

Size

Carry on sizes
Carry-on bags come in all shapes and sizes. Image Credit: Amar Hussain

Most U.S. airlines will have strict rules about the amount of carry-on luggage a traveler can have with them, as well as the size of the items they bring on board. Items that are too large, too heavy, or restricted won’t be allowed to travel with you and will need to be checked instead.

Every airline is different, but as a general rule you’ll be allowed the following per passenger:

  • 1 small purse or laptop bag
  • 1 small cabin bag measuring no more than 22 x 14 x 9 inches (some airlines have even tighter restrictions, so check before traveling)

Weight

Carry on weight
The lighter your carry-on bag, the more weight you can pack. Image Credit: Amar Hussain

The usual rule for carry-on luggage is that it must weigh less than 40 pounds, including the weight of the bag itself. If you want to be sure before you fly, weigh your bag using a good scale before you leave home.

If your bag is too heavy, it will be stowed in the hold. Carry-on luggage is placed in the overhead lockers — too heavy and it’s a safety risk since too many heavy bags make for a dangerous flying environment.

Need to fly with your suitcase full of weighty items? Opt for checked baggage instead.

Material and Durability

Carry on material
Hardside and softside carry-on luggage is made from lightweight materials. Image Credit: Amar Hussain

Unlike your checked luggage, your carry-on bag will stay close to you for the duration of your flight. This means you probably don’t need to pay for supertough materials if you don’t want to since it won’t be thrown around or battered by luggage handlers. But you do want something quality that will last.

You need to carefully consider the weight of the luggage you choose to use on board. Since you only have up to 40 pounds to play with, lightweight but durable nylon bags or similar are usually the most practical option.

There are thousands of small cases, bags, and even rucksacks that are designed to meet the size and weight restrictions of most major airlines, so finding one should be a cinch.

Carry-on Backpack vs. Carry-on Suitcase

Suitcase or backpack
A suitcase or backpack is a personal choice for travelers. Image Credit: Amar Hussain

As the battle between backpack and suitcase rages on, travelers usually come to a conclusion based on their individual travel needs. While a cabin bag usually comes with wheels and is easy to pull around the airport, they can have limited access and may hold less than their counterparts.

Backpacks need to be carried at all times, but do offer plenty of hidden compartments for handy travel accessories — and using one will keep your hands free while you fumble for your tickets at check-in.

Which is best? Both work well, and your choice should be based on your own personal preference.

Hot Tip: Need some tips on packing your carry-on? Check out our carry-on travel essentials for short and long flights!

Wheels

Spinner or rollaboard wheels
Spinner suitcases have 4 wheels. Rollaboards have 2 wheels. Image Credit: Amar Hussain

Wheeled cabin luggage is perfectly designed to let you pull it around the airport — when the wheels are good, that is! Complete with pull-up handles and different types of wheel options, these types of cases are now the go-to accessory for savvy travelers around the world.

Standard 2-wheeled versions are perfect for pulling behind you or pushing in front when you have to. They are practical and affordable.

If you want something that offers even more maneuverability, opt for spinner wheels that allow you to wheel your case sideways next to you as well. Spinner wheels are much more practical when it comes to pushing your case down a busy airplane where space is limited.

Either way, quality counts. Pay bargain prices and you can expect a wheel to pop off here or there or a broken handle that will render it useless halfway through your trip.

Handles

Carry on handle
Wheeled cases come with collapsible, extendable handles. Image Credit: Amar Hussain

If you are pulling, pushing, or even carrying your luggage, you want to be sure the handle will withstand the journey. Cases often come with collapsible, extendable handles that stow away in the body of the case when not being used.

Backpacks, on the other hand, need handles that are strong and durable but are also easily flexible when it comes to storing your luggage in the locker.

Much like wheels, quality is key. A badly built extendable handle may snap or come out of its housing, while a backpack or bag with inferior handles can break and leave you cradling it like a baby.

Hard or Soft Luggage

Hard and softside luggage
Carry-on luggage can be hard- or soft-sided. Image Credit: Amar Hussain

This is another decision that should be based on personal choice. Legend has it that hard-shell luggage is more durable than softer cases, but in reality, this is not always so.

While hard cases do offer some extra protection, they can be heavier, and space may be compromised by the design of the shell. Soft suitcases are more flexible in terms of shape and generally lighter. That said, they could also be more prone to splits or tears.

Guess what we’re going to say next? Yep — whatever you choose, quality is key! Pay for well-manufactured, lightweight hard-shell cases or strong nylon soft cases to ensure your cabin luggage lasts you for more than 1 journey.

Laptop Compartment

Carry on Laptop compartment
Some carry-on bags have laptop compartments. Image Credit: Amar Hussain

If you’re taking your work with you, you need to ensure that your laptop is well-protected while you fly.

Carrying laptops on board has its own intricacies, and you’ll usually need easy access to remove the laptop for airport security. After that, you need practical, secure storage for the duration of the journey.

Some cabin cases are designed with laptop users in mind and have their own laptop compartments fully padded for extra protection. Other travelers choose to take a separate laptop bag with them, but you would need to check with your carrier to see if this is allowed within your onboard baggage limitations.

Smart Luggage

These days, everything is getting “smarter” — from our phones to our homes, and now even our luggage. Smart luggage offers fancy extras like power banks to charge your devices, electronic baggage tags, GPS tracking, and TSA-approved locks.

Bags like this may cost more than regular luggage, but they’re totally revolutionizing the way we travel. Locate lost luggage, charge your devices, and keep your belongings safe from theft or damage as you go.

These additional functions are priceless for anyone who wants to enjoy fuss-free travel in the digital age.

Airline Rules for Smart Luggage

Turns out some things really are too good to be true! While smart luggage may seem like the perfect solution for connectivity problems of the modern-day traveler, it appears that it’s also causing major problems for the airlines.

The lithium-ion batteries found in these cases aren’t allowed in the cargo hold, and uninstalled ones can only be held by the passenger in the cabin during transit.

In an effort to combat potential fires and explosions as a result of lithium-ion batteries, no smart bags are allowed to be checked at all, and they can only be carried in the cabin if the battery is removable. Airlines who have already implemented policies like this including Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, and Hawaiian Airlines.

It’s likely that many more will also follow suit, so please check with your airline before flying with smart luggage.

Best Carry-On Luggage Cases With Hard Shells

For Every Type of Traveler

DISCOUNT: 19%
BEST OVERALL: Samsonite Omni PC Hardside Expandable Luggage with Spinner Wheels
26,016 Reviews
BEST OVERALL: Samsonite Omni PC Hardside Expandable Luggage with Spinner Wheels
A hard case from Samsonite equipped with Micro-diamond polycarbonate making a sturdy, durable, and high-quality hard case. This 20-inch luggage comes with TSA locks that let you travel with comfort, safety, and style.

Samsonite Omni Hardside Spinner 20

Weight: 6.8 pounds

Overall Dimensions: 22.0 x 15.0 x 9.5 Inches

Made by one of the biggest names in luxury luggage, the Samsonite Omni Hardside Spinner is a beautiful piece of engineered luggage. Lightweight and effortlessly mobile, the 100% polycarbonate design is easy to move, offers plenty of internal space, and looks like business.

The micro-diamond texture is extremely scratch-resistant, which is important if you’re planning to use the case on multiple journeys. Inside the suitcase are interior dividers to help keep your belongings organized, as well as cross straps for flattening your clothes.

For added security, there is a side-mounted TSA-compliant lock. The free-spinning wheels are the major selling point of this individual case, and allow you to pull the case behind you or along next to your side.

Hard-wearing, good-looking, and incredibly practical, this Samsonite case is designed to match the size and weight allowances of most U.S. airlines. If you are looking for a case that will fit enough clothes and toiletries for a week away without checking your luggage, this little beauty could be the one for you.

What We Like

  • Side-mounted TSA lock for security

What We Don’t Like

  • In the unlikely event of a fault, the buyer pays shipping to return the item

For the Fashion-Forward Traveler

UPGRADE PICK: DELSEY Paris Chatelet Hardside Luggage with Spinner Wheels
634 Reviews
UPGRADE PICK: DELSEY Paris Chatelet Hardside Luggage with Spinner Wheels
Elegant luggage from Delsey that combines durability and style. This 21-inch inch luggage is built with a tough and lasting polycarbonate case with gorgeous faux leather.

Delsey Luggage Chatelet Spinner

Weight: 7.7 pounds

Overall Dimensions: 22 x 15 x 10 inches

If you want to fit in with the jet set but aren’t quite in the market for a full set of Louis Vuittons, this little beauty is stylish, practical, and a firm favorite with those in the know.

Elegant and innovative, this case is a real looker and comes in a variety of different colors. Clean curves and soft leather trim mean it wouldn’t look out of place in the most luxurious of destinations, while the polycarbonate construction is built to last. Designed to be seen, it can withstand extreme temperatures and will survive the general scuffs you can expect to receive.

The nearly silent spinner wheels assure smooth maneuverability and are a real talking point. Finally, the luxurious red interior is like a Louboutin for your belongings, and the zippered compartments keep your garments safely secured while you travel.

What We Like

  • Stylish design without exorbitant price

What We Don’t Like

  • Marks are easier to see on a light-colored bag

Premium Suitcase That Really Go the Distance [We Use This One]

DISCOUNT: 27%
DELSEY Paris Helium Aero Hardside Expandable Luggage With Spinner Wheels
8,083 Reviews
DELSEY Paris Helium Aero Hardside Expandable Luggage With Spinner Wheels
A highly durable 21-inch suitcase finished with an eye-catching metallic sheen. This stylish case is made from resilient polycarbonate and includes a 3-dial lock that passes rigorous TSA safety standards.

Delsey Paris Helium Aero 21″ Hardside Luggage with Spinner Wheels

Weight: 7.98 pounds

Overall Dimensions: 20.5 x 14.5 x 10 inches

The Paris Helium Aero case is made from 100% impact-resistant polycarbonate, ensuring that it’s strong enough to withstand the bumps and dings of airline travel while still offering plenty of class and style.

At 8 pounds, this may not be the lightest carry-on case on the market, but it is close and arguably one of the best looking. Stylish and sleek, the double spinner wheels add to its allure as the case glides effortlessly around the airport. 

On the inside, 2 full-size packing compartments provide plenty of space for all your travel essentials, and the tie-down straps will prevent your neatly packed items from moving around in transit. No matter how full your case, you will still be able to comfortably carry it when you need to thanks to the soft-touch top and side carry handles. 

Because Delsey understands just how much you love your luggage, this case also features integrated, TSA-approved locks, allowing agents easy access to your belongings without the worry of them causing any damage. 

What We Like

  • Lots of pockets and compartments for storage

What We Don’t Like

  • Zippers can sometimes break with heavy use

For the Budget-Conscious Traveler

DISCOUNT: 13%
Amazon Basics 21-Inch Geometric Hardside Spinner Luggage
3,523 Reviews
Amazon Basics 21-Inch Geometric Hardside Spinner Luggage
This hardshell case made from durable ABS is a perfect luggage piece to use on short trips or as a carry-on. It includes a practical and comfortable telescope handle, and the interior can expand up to 15% if necessary.

AmazonBasics Geometric Hardside Spinner Cabin Case

Weight: 6.77 pounds

Overall Dimensions: 15 x 10 x 21.7 inches

Basic by name, but not necessarily basic by nature, this little case from Amazon is great for budget-conscious travelers. The 21.7-inch hardshell case is perfect for shorter trips and will easily stow all your belongings safely while you travel.

Made with a scratch-resistant finish to protect against over-eager cab drivers or baggage handlers, the extra thick ABS shell is on par with many of its more expensive competitors and adds enhanced strength and durability.

Inside, the case is lined with 3 zippered pockets for storing all those important bits and pieces you need to bring along. Packing is a breeze with this expandable case — a useful extra 15% capacity means you can throw in that extra sweater or pair of shoes with ease.

The 4 double spinner wheels make this case easy to maneuver with 1 hand, leaving the other free for important tasks like child-wrangling or retrieving your tickets and passport while you walk.

With a telescopic handle and an additional securely mounted short handle, you can drag, roll, or carry this case through airports and foreign lands the world over.

What We Like

  • Supersmooth double spinner wheels

What We Don’t Like

  • Nowhere to store the zippers for protection

The Bang-for-Your-Buck Hard-Shell Carry-on

Kenneth Cole Reaction Out of Bounds Collection 20-Inch Hardside
14,315 Reviews
Kenneth Cole Reaction Out of Bounds Collection 20-Inch Hardside
A durable and lightweight case made from resilient ABS, featuring shock-absorbent corner guards. The 4 multi-directional wheels allow for easy and comfortable handling. This stylish and practical choice is perfect as a carry-on piece on most airlines.

Kenneth Cole Reaction Out Of Bounds 20″ Hardside 4-Wheel Spinner

Weight: 6.25 pounds

Overall Dimensions: 21.75 x 14.5 x 8.5 inches

This case offers tons of useful features for an insanely low price. For ease of mobility, the Reaction case can literally turn on a dime — the multi-directional 4-wheel spinners allow for smooth, 360-degree movement over virtually any surface.

Being exceptionally lightweight makes it even easier to move around, and you can fill it to the brim with your belongings without having to worry too much about your weight allowance when you board. Garment straps are useful to hold your clothes in place and prevent too much creasing.

If you’re into the aesthetic charms of carry-on luggage, this one is sure to please, with molded corners, an ergonomic handle, an attractive shine, and a scratch-free ABD hard-shell cover that looks great and is highly durable. The case is also available in 11 different colors, so you are sure to find something that suits your tastes.

Internally, there are additional zippered compartments that make light work of keeping your valuables and smaller items safe while you travel. All in all, this is a great little case that won’t cost a fortune. Kenneth Cole also offers a 10-year limited warranty with this case for your peace of mind.

What We Like

  • Molded corner guards to protect from impact

What We Don’t Like

  • Warranty only covers manufacturing defects, not general wear and tear

For Travelers Looking for a Truly Lightweight Carry-On

BAGSMART Carry On Luggage 22x14x9 Airline Approved, 1OO% PC Lightweight Carry On Hardside Suitcase, 20 Inch Hard Shell Luggage...
276 Reviews
BAGSMART Carry On Luggage 22x14x9 Airline Approved, 1OO% PC Lightweight Carry On Hardside Suitcase, 20 Inch Hard Shell Luggage...
A top-quality lightweight case made from durable polycarbonate that can be the perfect companion on short or long trips. This lightweight choice is designed to be as sleek and resistant as possible.

BAGSMART Carry On Luggage

Weight: 6.39 pounds

Overall Dimensions: 21.7 x 14 x 8.7 inches

BAGSMART designs great-value luggage that performs well and looks awesome. This case is no exception, offering a lightweight, unbreakable shell that you can fill up for your next adventure.

Made from 100% polycarbonate, the case is ultra-durable, really lightweight, and incredibly easy to maneuver. It is also strong enough to withstand being thrown around during transit since the shell can absorb most knocks, eliminating nasty dents and scratches.

Designed for the organized traveler, the internal space is practical and well-thought-out. There are 2 main compartments, a zippered mesh compression divider, and an interior pocket for smaller items. These partitioned compartments keep everything neat and tidy.

When you’re packed up and ready to go, the multi-directional wheels make quick work of airport terminals — and have been tested on bumpy terrain such as gravel.

Complete with a TSA-approved lock that is set using a combination code, you should be able to pretty much guarantee your belongings will stay safe wherever you’re headed.

What We Like

  • Well-organized interior with a compression divider and internal pockets

What We Don’t Like

  • Doesn’t expand for more storage space

Hot Tip: For more lightweight options, check out our separate review dedicated to the best lightweight carry-on luggage

For Samsonite Luggage Lovers

DISCOUNT: 22%
Samsonite Freeform Hardside Carry-On
12,355 Reviews
Samsonite Freeform Hardside Carry-On
This highly lightweight 21-inch hard case is a stylish and durable choice for travelers. It includes a TSA-compatible combination lock, and the spinner wheels allow 360 degrees of rolling. The FreeForm technology keeps materials light and scratch-resistant.

Samsonite Freeform Spinner Cabin Case

Weight: 6.5 pounds

Overall Dimensions: 23 x 15 x 10 inches

Samsonite is one of the biggest names in luggage, and every case it sells is designed to be lightweight, extremely durable, and a good-looking addition to any traveler’s collection.

This particular model has been created to offer the strength you would expect from a hard-shell case, with the lightweight maneuverability you’d expect from a roller skate (honestly, it handles that well!).

Spacious interiors make light work of clothing and belongings to last a few days away, while the cross straps and divider are perfect for keeping your clothing tightly pressed and uncreased during transit.

The double wheels are perfect for pulling along behind you or keeping close by your side, and the Samsonite TSA 3-dial lock will prevent unwanted opening by anyone other than TSA agents.

This case is also expandable to a degree so you can pack that extra heavy sweater, and the built-in ID tag makes it easily identifiable as it swings past you on the luggage carousel.

The Freeform is designed with the discerning traveler in mind. The price tag may be a little higher than some of the lesser-known models out there, but you’re paying for a superb case built to last by a world leader in the luggage market.

What We Like

  • Built-in ID tag for quick identification

What We Don’t Like

  • Shows scratches easily

For Frequent Flyers Who Want Chic Design

Trek Aluminum Black
Image Credit: MVST Select

Trek Aluminium Suitcase

Hot Tip: Use special promo code UP10 for 10% off!

Weight: 9.6 pounds

Overall Dimensions: 22 x 14 x 8.7 inches

Chic and stylish, this hardshell carry-on case is designed to offer maximum luggage capacity, while still meeting the size restrictions for overhead lockers on most domestic and international airplanes.

With its unbreakable aluminum-magnesium alloy shell, the Trek carry-on case oozes sophistication and good looks, making it perfect for both business travelers and leisure trips alike. The unique zipper-less closure is easy to open while remaining incredibly secure, and the dual TSA-approved combination locks mean the case can be accessed easily by security agents should they need to.

The super spacious, fully-lined interior offers over 34 liters of space in both halves to carry everything you need for your next trip. The pocketed panels will keep your liquids and clear bag secure in transit.

It’s not just the rugged good looks, and clever design touches that make this such an excellent choice for carry-on passengers, the way in which it moves is a revelation, too. Forget about wonky wheels and flimsy handles, this beauty comes complete with ultra-smooth 360-degree spinner wheels and an aluminum telescoping handle that makes it an absolute delight to wheel around the airport.

Refined, sophisticated, and built to last, this is the perfect carry-on case for frequent flyers.

What We Like

  • Zipless closure and hard-shell for tamper protection

What We Don’t Like

  • Might be out of budget for many travelers

For the Tech-Heavy Business Traveler

Coolife Luggage Suitcase Piece Carry On ABS+PC Spinner Trolley with pocket Compartment(White, 20in(carry on))
5,034 Reviews
Coolife Luggage Suitcase Piece Carry On ABS+PC Spinner Trolley with pocket Compartment(White, 20in(carry on))
A durable hard case with spinner wheels and a retractable handle. The front pocket provides easy access to your laptop or business documents and the  TSA-compatible combination lock will keep your personal items safe and sound.

COOLIFE Suitcase With Front Compartment

Weight: 7.87 pounds

Overall Dimensions: 14.5 x 9 x 21 inches

With a front opening compartment complete with a padded laptop pocket and other small storage, this suitcase is designed for those who need instant access to their devices, documents, and other items while they travel.

Grab your passport, wallet, phone, tablet, or laptop with the flick of a zipper, leaving your pockets empty and your hands free. Great for business travelers or those who need to take a lot of tech with them, you can breeze through security without having to unpack your entire bag just to get your devices out.

The main compartment is also pretty impressive with plenty of space for your clothes, and each compartment is held in place by cross straps and an organization divider to stop your belongings from rolling around during transit.

Both the main and front compartments can be locked using the double TSA combination lock, so you can rest easy knowing your items are secure when unattended in the overhead lockers.

Made from ABS and polycarbonate, this suitcase is lightweight to maneuver on the 360-degree spinner wheels. With a durable structure, this sleek and futuristic-looking case has a particularly impressive look.

This is a great case for those who want to be able to access their items at a moment’s notice.

What We Like

  • Front pocket and double TSA lock

What We Don’t Like

  • Tech compartment eats into the main compartment space quite a bit when full

Best Carry-On Luggage Cases With Soft-shells

Designed for the Practical Traveler

SwissGear Sion Softside Luggage With Spinner Wheels
18,711 Reviews
SwissGear Sion Softside Luggage With Spinner Wheels
A softshell case with excellent maneuverability and a highly efficient compartment system that maximizes packing space. It uses resistant polyester for a soft and durable design. The case features handles on 3 sides to make lifting easier.

SwissGear Travel Gear 6283 Spinner Luggage

Weight: 8 pounds

Overall Dimensions: 22.75 x 14.25 x 10.25 inches

Soft and light yet somehow strong and dependable, the SwissGear Travel Gear 6283 is a good choice for those who like soft-shelled cabin luggage.

Every aspect of this case has been designed with longevity in mind. This is a case that’s built to last and offers tons of features to help it withstand the rough and tumble of long-distance travel.

Made from durable, scuff-resistant polyester, the case is lightweight and can expand to offer extra packing space when needed. It also has some nice extra features like a zippered wet bag for keeping dirty clothes separate from the clean stuff.

It is also easy to maneuver with a telescoping locking push/pull handle system and 360-degree multi-directional spinner wheels that will glide effortlessly across most types of terrain.

With easy-to-access front pockets (that you won’t find on most hard-shell cases) and a built-in ID tag, this is one case that you can literally buy, fill, and carry on!

What We Like

  • Comes with a removable zippered wet bag

What We Don’t Like

  • Can tip over easily due to lightweight wheels

For the Discerning Traveler

DISCOUNT: 15%
Travelpro Platinum Elite Softside Expandable Carry on Luggage, 2 Wheel Upright Suitcase, USB Port, Men and Women, Shadow Black,...
920 Reviews
Travelpro Platinum Elite Softside Expandable Carry on Luggage, 2 Wheel Upright Suitcase, USB Port, Men and Women, Shadow Black,...
A luxurious soft case built to be durable with its airline-grade aluminum handle and high-performance wheels. This resistant choice is full of style and includes an expansion capability to get the most out of the space.

Travelpro Platinum Magna Expandable Spinner Suitcase

Weight: 7.7 pounds

Overall Dimensions: 23 x 14.5 x 9 inches

No one wants to be traveling and find their cell phone has run out of charge. This Travelpro suitcase comes with a built-in USB port and power bank pocket, so you can charge up on the move.

As with all the best cabin luggage, this suitcase is lightweight, sturdy, and conforms with the height and weight restrictions in place on most U.S. airlines. It’s not just on the plane where this case excels though — the super-smooth rollaboard wheels and PowerScope extendable handle ensure that this case is easy to pull along, no matter how far the journey.

On the inside, your clothes can remain wrinkle-free during travel as you lay them neatly inside the suiter compartment. The engineered zipper is also designed to withstand the constant opening and closing of your case while you find the perfect outfit for your vacation.

Another plus for this particular bag is its extremely lightweight design, meaning you can pack more belongings without worrying about having to check your luggage. Overpacked? Not to worry — this case also comes with expandable capability to increase the internal storage area.

Complete with a worry-free lifetime warranty, this is a great little case for your next adventure from a brand that makes quality products.

What We Like

  • No loss of internal space with rollaboard wheels

What We Don’t Like

  • The built-in suiter is a little narrow

For the Traveler Who Always Packs Too Much

Briggs & Riley Baseline-Softside Carry-On
320 Reviews
Briggs & Riley Baseline-Softside Carry-On
An expandable soft case made from wear-resistant nylon. It includes a lockable double zipper for safety, as well as a SpeedThru pocket that lets you easily access your passport while going through the airport.

Briggs & Riley Baseline Domestic Expandable Cabin Case

Weight: 9 pounds

Overall Dimensions: 14 x 9 x 22 inches

Briggs & Riley has been committed to supplying American globetrotters with luxury luggage for over a quarter of a century; this cabin case is another example of the company’s very fine work.

A top pick with frequent flyers and airline staff, the Baseline expandable case has its very own neat trick that allows it to offer a whopping 25% more packing space when needed. The case then manages to compress back down to fit perfectly in the overhead storage lockers of most U.S. domestic airlines.

With a state-of-the-art hybrid fiberglass frame, the case remains lightweight and easy to maneuver while still being incredibly durable. Made from super-strong ballistic nylon, the outer fabric is hard-wearing and water-resistant.

The aluminum handle system offers a super comfortable ergonomic handle, and the freewheeling system makes this case a dream to move around even the busiest of airports.

What We Like

  • Exterior telescopic handle with no compromise on internal space

What We Don’t Like

  • Not as much freedom pushing and pulling compared to spinner wheels

For the Really Modern Traveler

DISCOUNT: 15%
Travelpro Maxlite Expandable Carry-On
4,702 Reviews
Travelpro Maxlite Expandable Carry-On
A lightweight and highly resistant aluminum case with a honeycomb frame. This great carry-on choice has plenty of pockets to help compartmentalize your items. For increased damage protection, it includes built-in corner guards, skid guards, and wheel guards.

Travelpro Luggage Maxlite 5 22 Inch Expandable Rollaboard

Weight: 5.4 pounds

Overall Dimensions: 22 x 14.5 x 9 inches

The Travelpro Luggage Maxlite 5 is one of the lightest cabin bags ever made, meaning you can bring even more of your wardrobe when you travel. With lots of innovative features, this little beauty is made from tough, durable polyester that looks and works perfectly.

This case’s most fascinating feature is the patented Rollaboard that places a frame several inches from the bottom, allowing the designers to do away with heavy and bulky reinforcing frames found in similar cases. This means less weight and more space for you!

Exterior pockets are spacious enough to safely store a laptop, while the full-size inner compartment is large enough to keep even the crispest of suits wrinkle-free. If you want to squeeze even more in there, the case can expand to give you more room — but you could quickly exceed the maximum size restrictions for your airline carrier.

The modern design is also pretty impressive. Despite its somewhat surprising dimensions, this looks pretty sleek for a softshell case, and the smooth gliding wheels and ergonomic handle make it a good choice for most travelers.

What We Like

  • Super light, so you can get more from your carry-on allowance

What We Don’t Like

  • Tips forward easily

Best Carry-On Backpacks

For Those Serious About Traveling the World

DISCOUNT: 8%
Osprey Farpoint Travel Backpack
538 Reviews
Osprey Farpoint Travel Backpack
This comfortable duffel bag is designed for men on the go. It’s a practical carry-on choice that fits the guidelines of most airlines. The backpack includes a lockable zipper to protect your belongings.

Osprey Farpoint Travel Backpack

Weight: 3.5 pounds

Overall Dimensions: 22 x 14 x 9 inches

Osprey is world-famous for their awesome backpacks, and this one is as good as any in the range. In fact, this one comes in 2 different options for men and women. The Farpoint and the Fairview offer practical solutions for those looking for a cabin-sized rucksack that can be used for your onward journeys, too.

If you like to sling your belongings on your back, both the Farpoint and the Fairview are made from super-tough ripstop nylon and feature slash-proof straps, tons of useful compartments, and a harness and hip belt for ease of wear during longer excursions.

Both have a discreet laptop and tablet sleeve that will keep your tech protected while you travel. Easy to access, lightweight, and big enough to handle a good amount of belongings while still being cabin-sized, these backpacks are just about the perfect alternative to cabin-sized suitcases.

Osprey backpacks also come in a wide range of colors (and bigger sizes, too), so if you want to coordinate your checked luggage, you should be able to find a size and style that matches.

What We Like

  • Comfortable harness and hip belt for comfortable wear

What We Don’t Like

  • No frame to stand up straight vertically

The Backpack To Stay Organized on the Go

Asenlin 40L Travel Backpack
8,900 Reviews
Asenlin 40L Travel Backpack
A unisex bag that's perfect to use as a carry-on and as a laptop carrier. It includes 3 custom storage bags. This is a highly durable choice, made from water-resistant polyester and even featuring a zipper that could withstand explosions.

Asenlin 40 Liter Travel Backpack

Weight: 2.7 pounds

Overall Dimensions: 18.5 x 12.2 x 9.45 inches

Whether you’re jetting off on vacation or a business trip, this backpack is versatile, attractive, and perfect for travelers who prefer to carry the world on their back instead of pulling it along on wheels.

Weighing in at 2.7 pounds, you can maximize your hand luggage allowance by filling up your bag with as many belongings as you need while still meeting the size restrictions for overhead bins.

Offering an impressive 40-liter interior, you can pull the compression straps tight to keep the pack easy to carry. Stay organized on the go by stashing your belongings into the convenient packing cubes that come in 3 different sizes.

To increase the comfort, the designers added well-padded and adjustable shoulder and sternum straps that can be zipped away to check your backpack or to easily attach to the handle of your suitcase.

With a front organizer pocket to quickly access your tickets, passport, and other accessories and a separate padded compartment for a 17.3-inch laptop, you’ll breeze through security in a matter of minutes.

What We Like

  • Includes 3 packing cubes to stay organized

What We Don’t Like

  • The laptop compartment makes the backpack front heavy

The Best Design for the Cool Backpacker

Hynes Eagle Travel Backpack 40L
3,695 Reviews
Hynes Eagle Travel Backpack 40L
A great choice to use as a carry-on or as a laptop carrier that can convert from duffel bag to backpack. Made from water-repellent polyester, this flight-approved bag has adjustable straps and extra pockets for storage.

Hynes Eagle Flight Approved 40L Backpack

Weight: 2.53 pounds

Overall Dimensions: 20.1 x 13.4 x 9.8 inches

Hynes Eagle bags suggest that you’re a traveler who knows a bit about the world — and that you certainly know which kind of bag best suits your needs. Their cabin-approved backpacks are just the right size and offer tons of interior space while retaining modern silhouettes and a certain minimalist chic.

Made from water-repellent polyester, this is one of the hippest of all cabin rucksacks… and should probably be accessorized with a chai latte (and maybe even a beard).

Trendsetting aside, everyone should be impressed by the multiple interior slip pockets — one of which fits a 15.6-inch laptop with ease. Externally, there is a front zip pocket that enables easy access to your passport, money, phone, and frequent flyer cards.

Designed with ergonomics in mind, there is an adjustable sternum strap for added stability, as well as multiple exterior compression buckle straps for adjusting the height based on your own individual needs.

This is a true hands-free carry-on bag that won’t limit your mobility, while still being able to stow plenty during your travels.

What We Like

  • Convenient interior slip pockets for your passport, money, and gadgets

What We Don’t Like

  • No waist belt to help distribute the weight

Final Thoughts

The ability to travel without having to check bags makes your check-in faster and negates the need for lengthy waits at baggage claim.

Although you may need to do your research before you invest in the right cabin luggage for your needs, finding a small case that is easily maneuverable, lightweight, and able to hold everything you need for a few days away is really a game-changer when it comes to domestic and international air travel.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a backpack considered a personal item or carry-on?

The size of the backpack and the individual airlines rules will determine whether a backpack is a personal item or carry-on. As a rough guide, if the backpack is handbag-sized and comfortably fits under the seat in front of you, it would usually be classed as a personal item. Please check with your airline for their exact requirements.

What is considered carry-on luggage?

Each airline will have different carry-on luggage size requirements but carry-on luggage is usually determined by its dimensions. As a rough guide many airlines consider carry-on luggage to be no larger than 22 x 14 x 9 inches. This will vary, so please check with the airline you are flying with.

What is the best carry-on bag for travel?

Cabin bags have revolutionized the way we travel. With airlines charging extra fees for checked luggage, more and more of us are cramming our belongings into little carry-on bags. These are some of our tops picks:

  • Chester Lightweight Polycarbonate Spinner Case
  • Delsey Paris Helium Aero 21″ Hardside Luggage
  • Kenneth Cole Reaction Out Of Bounds 20″ Hardside
  • Samsonite Freeform Spinner Cabin Case
  • Samsonite Omni Hardside Spinner 20

What bags are suitable for hand luggage?

As the battle between backpack and suitcase rages on, travelers usually come to a conclusion based on their individual travel needs. While a cabin bag usually comes with wheels and is easy to pull around the airport, they can have limited access and may hold less than their counterparts. Backpacks need to be carried at all times, but do offer plenty of hidden compartments for handy travel accessories — and using one will keep your hands free while you fumble for your tickets at check-in.

Amar Hussain's image

About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.

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