The 10 Best Lightweight Luggage for Travelers in 2021 [Carry-On Options]

Lightweight Luggage

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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.

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 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?”

Carry on weight
Consider the true weight of any piece of luggage before you buy it. Image Credit: Amar Hussain

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?

Backpack or suitcase
Backpacks and suitcases both have their pros and cons. Image Credit: Amar Hussain

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.

Backpacks

Osprey Backpack with bottle holder
Backpacks usually have small pockets and bottle holders for quick access to personal items. Image Credit: Amar Hussain

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 a 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.

Suitcases

Packing suitcase
Suitcases open like a clam to make packing super easy. Image Credit: Amar Hussain

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?

Spinner or rollaboard wheels
Suitcases come with spinner wheels or 2 in-line skate wheels. Image Credit: Amar Hussain

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.

Handles

Luggage handle
You’ll need a sturdy handle to lift a heavy bag. Image Credit: Amar Hussain

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.

Suitcase handle
Suitcase handles can be useful for pulling your case long distances. Image Credit: Amar Hussain

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

Suitcase zips
Backpacks and suitcases often have loops to attach a padlock or a built-in TSA lock. Image Credit: Amar Hussain

While your carry-on may not see the inside of an airplane hold or ever 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 and softside luggage
There are benefits to both hardside and softside luggage. Image Credit: Amar Hussain

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

Water resistant material
Suitcases and backpacks are often made with water-resistant material. Image Credit: Amar Hussain

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 Suitcases

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

BEST OVERALL: it luggage World's Lightest Los Angeles Softside Upright
1,105 Reviews
BEST OVERALL: it luggage World's Lightest Los Angeles Softside Upright
This 22-inch suitcase offers comfort, durability, and style. It has a tough fiberglass structure, and it is made with high-tensile fabric making it insanely lightweight and sturdy.

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 World’s 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 make 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.

With an attractive design and choice of colors and sizes available, the Los Angeles range is the real deal when it comes to truly lightweight luggage.

What We Like:

  • Light and sturdy fiberglass structure

What We Don’t Like:

  • Too wide for some airline carry-on requirements

An Ultra-Lightweight Suitcase With Extra Storage Space

DISCOUNT: 15%
UPGRADE PICK: Travelpro Maxlite 5 Softside
1,943 Reviews
UPGRADE PICK: Travelpro Maxlite 5 Softside
A 22-inch rollaboard suitcase made with polyester fabric and water-repellent DuraGuard coating. It is extremely lightweight and tough with great packing power and ergonomic features.

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.

Available in a selection of different colors, the Travelite Pro range also offers matching checked suitcases that are lightweight and extremely durable, making the perfect set for those who want to travel further for longer.

What We Like:

  • Water-resistant with a Duraguard coating

What We Don’t Like:

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

Another Brilliant Buy From AmazonBasics

AmazonBasics Softside Carry-On Spinner Luggage Suitcase

Weight: 5.5 pounds

Another great piece from the ever-popular AmazonBasics luggage 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. 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.

Available in sleek black or sophisticated blue, the AmazonBasics range has a choice of 4 different size soft-sided cases to choose from, or you can buy them as a complete set. Basic by name, but certainly not by nature.

What We Like:

  • Expandable to accommodate 25% extra packing

What We Don’t Like:

  • Suitable for light use, rather than extensive use

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 belongings 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 alongside you through 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.

Available in a choice of stylish black or sophisticated blue check materials, the Lucas Ultra Light series also offers checked luggage, as well as this awesome, lightweight, and super-affordable carry-on. A low-cost but highly capable cabin bag.

What We Like:

  • Lightweight, so you can use more of your weight allowance for packing

What We Don’t Like:

  • Zipper quality could be improved

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 in-line 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.

Well-constructed and designed with practicality in mind, this is a brilliant basic case with plenty of space for everything you might need on your next adventure.

What We Like:

  • 2 front zipper pockets for quick access to personal items

What We Don’t Like:

  • Quite a small carry-on bag, so may not be suitable for all

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, this hardshell 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-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.

Approved by Delta, United, American, JetBlue, and Virgin Atlantic, among others, this is a great little case for anyone that wants to take as much with them as possible without having to worry about checking their luggage.

What We Like:

  • Maximizes airline standard carry-on allowances and has a 40-liter capacity

What We Don’t Like:

  • The carrying handle could be more durable

Fun and Funky Carry-On for Travelers of All Ages

Rockland Luggage Rolling 22 Inch Duffle Bag

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. In-line 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.

If you would like a change from a regular carry-on case, this rollable, strollable duffel bag is an excellent alternative.

What We Like:

  • Comes in a range of designs and colors

What We Don’t Like:

  • Not really durable enough to be checked

The Best Lightweight Backpacks

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 use 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 women’s 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.

Available in a selection of colors, the Farpoint 40 is just the right size to be used as a carry-on. Osprey also makes the Farpoint in a range of larger sizes that can be used as checked luggage if you are looking to get away for longer. A compact backpack with big brand features.

What We Like:

  • Comfortable and easy to transport without compromising on packing space

What We Don’t Like:

  • Mesh water bottle holders are difficult to use when the bag is packed full

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 brilliant backpack for a bargain price. Travelers will love the compartments and functionality of this sleek backpack.

What We Like:

  • Protected laptop compartment and pockets for your gadgets

What We Don’t Like:

  • Bag straps could have more padding

A Strong and Affordable Backpack With Plenty of Packing Space

Asenlin 40 Liter Travel Backpack for Women or Men

Weight: 2.94 pounds

Lightweight and easy to carry, this carry-on compatible backpack offers 40 liters of uninterrupted packing space. Made from polyester oxford cloth material, the Asenlin 40 Liter Travel Backpack is showerproof and built to last, with hideaway shoulder straps for easy and safe transportation. There is also a heavy-duty handle on the top of the bag for lifting and unloading.

Perhaps the biggest feature of this backpack is the impressive amount of compartments available for keeping your gear safe on the go. The bag comes with 3 packing cubes to keep everything organized in the main compartment and there’s a padded pocket to hold a 17-inch laptop. When traveling with a wheelie suitcase, the back strap allows you to attach the backpack to your pull handle for ease.

Available in a wide variety of colors and designs, these backpacks are practical, good-looking, and perfect for travelers looking for an affordable alternative to a suitcase.

What We Like:

  • Comes with small, medium, and large packing cubes to keep organized

What We Don’t Like:

  • Laptop compartment would be better at the back of the bag rather than the front for better weight distribution

Final Thoughts

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.

Looking for more great travel product guides? Explore our recommendations for the best checked bags, luggage sets, carry-ons, laptop backpacks, weekenders, and garment bags.


Frequently asked questions

What is considered lightweight luggage?

While there is no official limit for luggage to be deemed lightweight, a carry-on bag under 6 pounds would be a good upper limit to qualify.

What is the lightest travel luggage?

For softside luggage, the lightest carry-on travel luggage is the IT Luggage which is only 3.8 pounds and yet 21.8 inches tall with wheels.

Carry-on backpacks can be even lighter with the Osprey Farpoint coming in at 1.4 pounds.

What is the lightest hardshell suitcase?

Hardshell or hardside luggage tends to be heavier than its soft-sided counterparts. That being said, there is 1 carry-on sized luggage from Aerolite that can compete. Its carry-on luggage weighs only 4.6 pounds and is made from ABS.

What is the best lightweight luggage for international travel?

Weighing a tiny 1.4 pounds, the Osprey Packs Farpoint 40 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.

Amar Hussain

About Amar Hussain

Amar was born and raised in England, UK, embarked on an 11 country round the world gap year after graduation and then became well and truly hooked. The first gap year inspired a second which ended up being a 23 country down-the-world trip from Canada to Antarctica. Since then Amar has endeavored to turn his gap year into a ‘gap life’ and has spent the last 10 years traveling the 7 continents.

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