So, you are planning on taking a trip by plane? Can you, with some careful planning, fit all you need for your excursion into a suitable carry on case rather than have to take a larger suitcase that you will have to check in?
Do you need a safe, convenient, robust case in addition to your checked luggage to carry those excess clothes you couldn’t fit into your hold cases, your laptop and personal effects you would rather have with you during the flight?
Either way you need the best carry on luggage that meets all your personal requirements when traveling.
Unlike traditional suitcases, which can take in plenty of things, carry on luggage is significantly smaller, can fit less things, but as the name suggests, you can carry it with you on the plane.
However, since there are so many different manufacturers and models, and they are not all that good, finding the ideal model for your needs is a bit tricky.
This is where we jump in and help you out in your search.
Choosing a suitcase, when you don’t know what to keep an eye on, can turn into a nightmare, especially when the research stretches to hours. Therefore, in this article, we will first deal with the most important features that should be considered before making the purchase.
After that, when you get yourself armed with specific knowledge, you will have a chance to read the reviews of the market’s best 5 models and make the perfect choice.
Main Features – Review Criteria
Before we get to the carry-on luggage model reviews, let us take a look at the features you should definitely consider before you make the final choice.
Security, Aesthetics & Value for Money
As discussed carry on luggage is a great dual purpose solution for carrying all your clothes for a short trip or as a supplementary bag for longer duration vacations or business trips.
Functionality is key but in all honesty if the greatest bag had a garish design I would not be buying it whatever advantages it gave me. Therefore the carry on luggage reviewed here are all good looking pieces at their price points.
We will discuss the maneuverability of the suitcases when examining the wheel configuration but it is important that the handles are ergonomically designed strong and able to be retracted.
Security is important, around the airport and even in the cabin itself. Having the ability to lock your luggage is, excuse the pun, key. Whether an external lock or integrated within the case itself it must be easy to operate and afford the protection required.
The price points of the luggage reviewed will be evaluated against the pros and cons of each model. The best buy will be the best combination of the two.
Internal Organisation and Size/Weight of Case
Rather than just throwing, sorry packing, items into a empty cube having internal molding that aids tight packing and straps/pockets etc. to organize your belongings means that more can be packed but also results in items being more secure. If you are carrying valuable items such as laptops in with some clothing then this inherently adds some padding dispersing the forces experienced as the bag is moved around.
Even with effective spinners or rollers you will have to lift your cabin luggage at some point to put in overhead lockers etc. You also don’t want to exceed any weight restrictions on carry on luggage so weight is a characteristic that needs to be taken into account.
Probably the most draconian and enforced restriction on cabin luggage is the size of the case itself. I have always tried to avoid being ‘that person’ who is performing a great feat of strength pushing then pulling their luggage out of the size checker, or possibly more embarrassing, having to layer up with clothes from your case to reduce its width! Please Please Please check with your carrier on restrictions before you travel.
Rollers vs Spinners
Let’s be honest, nowadays, no one wants to carry a suitcase across the airport. Especially if you travel with kids, and you need to be able to easily drag it to keep up with the kids, or if your back can’t handle all the weight. That is why most modern luggage manufacturers now use wheels.
But, there are two types of suitcases with wheels: Rollers (2 wheels), and Spinners (4 wheels). Each has its pros and cons, and you should keep this in mind before choosing a type:
- The wheels are mounted internally, meaning that they are protected from being snapped off
- It is easier to use them around the town, where you need to clear curbs or roll them over uneven surfaces
- Since the wheels are only rolling forward and backward, you can’t rotate in place with them, so you will either pull or push them like when trying to “park a bus”
- They are more ergonomic and your back and shoulders suffer less
- Much less complicated to maneuver with 4 wheels in tight spaces such as plane aisles, in a bus, and so on
- Many organisational features
- Flat packing space
- Wheels are externally mounted, meaning they are more exposed and can snap off easier
- Since they are externally mounted, this means that your luggage is actually slightly bigger than advertised because the wheels are also included in cabin space calculations
Hard Shells vs Soft Shell
Travel can and definitely will take its toll on your suitcase, so make sure that the one you buy is well built. Otherwise, it will fall apart after just one trip.
Now, you have two choices, a soft or a hard shell suitcase. If you are not sure which type to choose, here are the pros and cons of both types:
- Better protection
- They can’t be ripped open with a blade so they are more secure
- You can sit on them while waiting
- Not all models can be expanded/compressed
- They can easily get scratched or crack if the quality is not high
- You can’t squeeze them into tight spaces
- Usually without external pockets
- More lightweight when compared to hard shell models, and can be stuffed into tight spaces easier
- Great for those who like to over pack because they allow you to squeeze in, for example, in “one more” shirt
- They better at absorbing shock
- Less protection than with the hard-shell suitcases
- Fabric loses its rigidity over time and they can be ripped
- May not be waterproof
As promised, after obtaining the needed knowledge on how to choose the right carry-on luggage, it’s time to see which are the best models on the market. Let’s see who made the cut.
The TravelKing All Aluminum Hard Shell Carry On is a small model that comes with a weight of 9.7 lbs and the size of 21.6 x 14.6 x 9 inches. This means that most US airline companies will allow it to be used as a cabin luggage.
This small suitcase is not actually that small, as it is capable of taking in up to 35 L of gear, and has internal measurements of 19 x 13.4 x 9 inches.
The All Aluminum model from TravelKing, is great for short business trips, weekend getaways, and travelers who use planes frequently, and it also comes with a travel bag that you can use for miscellaneous items.
As for the design, the suitcase body is completely made of high-grade aluminum, with aluminum-magnesium alloy protective guards on the edges, so that it doesn’t get bent in you accidentally hit a wall or a pole while in hurry, and a 3-step handle for ease of “driving”. Also, all 4, 360°directional spinner, wheels are made of double layered rubber, are chrome accented, and what’s most important, they are quiet.
When it comes to the interior, the suitcase is lined with waterproof nylon, includes clothing straps that are adjustable and an X shape retractable belt, and zippered compartment, for a perfect organization of your items.
Other features worth mentioning are the TSA approved combination locks, which combined with the hard shell, make this suitcase hard to rip open and mug, and it also comes with a 3 year warranty.
The case is also available Grey shown below:
- Highly Organizable
- Can get scratched and dent rather easily
The Enkloze X1 Carbon Carry-On is a great model for those who are focused on securely transporting their items, as it features a zipperless main compartment, a TSA approved combo lock, and a latch system lock.
The body of the suitcase is made of polycarbonate, and also comes with an aluminum frame and reinforced corners. These features are great if you want to use the suitcase for international flights, but it also fits most of US airline rules.
Furthermore, the X1 is equipped with a multistage, height adjustable Aluminum pull rod, which not only allows you to get you in and out of the airport quickly, but also allows you to, for example, attach a messenger bag on the rod, so that you don’t have to carry it around.
The front loading compartment, or as the manufacturer named it, the Quick Access Front Loading Compartment, allows you to have your most used items easily reachable, whether we are talking about the passport, or the phone, or even a 15 inch laptop. Plus, when it comes to the security lines, you will be able to allow the security to quickly check everything and not hold the line.
The only two things left to discuss are the interior design and the wheels. The latter, are known as the Ultra Quiet Hinomoto 4X4 wheels, and they make pulling or pushing the suitcase effortless. As for the interior, the clam shell shape of the suitcase, allows for interior space dividers, and even 2 pockets, of which, one is removable.
All in all, with such a sleek, modern design, and with the safety this suitcase offers, it is one of the finest choices when it comes to traveling rather light and by a plane.
The X1 comes in three colors carbon black (shown in title), carbon blue and carbon white (shown below).
- Front Loading Compartment, ideal for easy access
- Modern Design
- Great Capacity
- Very Durable
- Extremely organizable and with an easy access pocket for important items
- Relatively affordable
- The main handle seems pretty flimsy
- The “carbon fiber” is not real, it is just a design pattern
The Samsonite Omni PC Carry-On suitcase comes from a manufacturer that has been a leader in this area for a long time. Needles to say that this model, like all their other, is a high-quality, durable product that will last you for seasons to come.
The suitcase measures 22.0 x 15.0 x 9.5 inches, has a weight of 6.8 lbs, and is offered in 10 different colors. Also, if there’s a need for it, or if the airline company you are using is not that thorough with the luggage size checking, you can even expand it for full 2 inches and create more room for items or souvenirs on the way back.
Don’t let the extension feature fool you as this is still a hard shell case, made of polycarbonate material, and an abrasion-resistant micro-diamond texture, and it will look like just bought even after years of use.
The Omni PC is likewise extremely easy to maneuver, due to the fact it has 4 wheels that can pivot a full circle, and the handle is retractable and contoured for comfort while using the suitcase.
What is a feature that is rather unbelievable, is the price tag of this model. With a price of well under $100, and all the features it comes with, it is a serious contender for the best carry-on suitcase model.
This Samsonite Model comes in a number of colors a few of which are shown below:
- Strong and sturdy
- The handle is long and slides out easily
- High quality wheels
- Plenty of Space inside
- Very Organizable interior
- Doesn’t have a side handle for easy placing and taking out from overhead bins
The Delsey Luggage Helium Aero Carry On suitcase comes as a durable and lightweight luggage solution if you plan to travel by a plane. The deep metallic finished body, is made of polycarbonate, meaning that the suitcase itself is quite crack and break resistant.
Furthermore, the “one-button” recessed locking handle system that comes with a molded ergonomic comfort grip handle, and is made of industrial grade aluminum tubes, combined with the double spinner wheels, make this suitcase extremely easy to maneuver, without having any weight whatsoever on your arms.
With measurements of 21 x 14.5 x 10 inches, and the ability of expanding the storage room for 2 inches, this model is one of the roomiest on our list. As for the interior, you get two large fully-lined compartments and multiple pockets, which is great for accessing and organizing your items easily and quickly.
When it comes to the security of your items inside the suitcase, there’s an Integrated 3-dial TSA-accepted combination lock, which is durable and safe, and the number combination can easily be set to the one you prefer, thanks to the instructions placed inside the suitcase.
The Delsey Helium comes in a number of colors, a few shown below:
- Excellent Design
- Lightweight and durable
- Great Maneuverability
- Easily Organizable interior
- The “Hard shell” is not that hard could possibly crack
With a weight of 6.3 lbs, and measurements of 22 x 14 x 9 inches, the Travelpro Luggage MaxLite3 Carry-On is an ultra-lightweight, polyester suitcase that offers room for plenty of travel items and clothes, without going over the cabin baggage limits. Also, the suitcase has a Honeycomb Framing System, combined with EVA foam construction, for admirable durability, considering how lightweight the suitcase actually is.
The Maxlite 3 also has protective corner and skid guards, and a crash-guard wheel housings, which is great because you don’t have to worry about damaging your items inside the suitcase, when you are in a hurry and hit a few polls or walls, or a more durable suitcase along the way.
As for the ease of maneuverability, the suitcase comes with two, internally positioned, rubber wheels, which makes it slightly harder to maneuver in tight spaces when compared with a 4-wheeler, but the long, telescopic airline-grade aluminum handle, that has stops at 38 inches and 42 inches, makes it rather easy to maneuver, regardless of your height.
The interior of the Maxlite 3 includes a full length interior lid pocket, accessory pocket on the side, adjustable hold down straps for easily organizing your items. Also, the suitcase offers a full length front pocket, which is great for those items you remembered to take at the last minute, or to simply have an easy access to your ticket.
The Maxlite comes in black (shown in top table), blue, grey, purple (all shown below) and Navy:
- Great Design
- Both Internal and External Pockets
- Not a 4-Wheeler
- Tips Forward when stationed
Best Carry On Luggage Verdict
With the Travelpro Luggage Maxlite3 Carry-On suitcase, we have reached the end of our article. By now, with the help of our features to consider section, you have a much better idea what to keep an eye on in order to order the right model for you. But, in case you are still unsure, let us announce the winner of the best carry-on luggage category for 2018.
The winner is the Samsonite Omni PC Carry-On suitcase. This is not just because it is a Samsonite, but because it really offers more than a great value for the money. For its competitive price, you get a modern looking suitcase that not only offers a great, safe, quiet, and comfortable way to carry your items over the crowded airports, but you can also feel confident if it has to be checked and not taken in the cabin, because it is quite durable, and scratch and crack resistant. Also, if the default storage space is not enough, you can easily expand it and create more room.
Now, it’s your turn to share some of your carry-on luggage travel experience. Have you tried any of the models we talked about today? If so, do you have anything to share with our readers? You can let us know by leaving a comment in the comments section.