Backpack, suitcase or weekender? It’s the eternal question for both frequent and sporadic travellers looking for the perfect carry-on luggage. With endless options in every category – do I want aluminium or polycarbonate? Do I need a built-in USB charger? What colour does this come in? Choosing the right one for you can be a tricky task. Luckily, we’ve done the work: here’s our guide to the best carry-on bags on the market.
Image credit: July
July Carry On Pro1/15
This cult luggage brand known for its monogrammable luggage has done it again with their updated Carry On Pro, a further refined version of their beloved cabin option. The game changer is its external, zippable laptop pocket – now in hardshell for added device protection – that saves rummaging for your devices at security. There’s also a clever, ejectable battery for on-the-go charging, blissfully smooth wheels and that signature selection of very cool colours, from the muted green Moss to the terracotta-esque Clay.
Image credit: Bellroy
Bellroy Tokyo Backpack2/15
Fight the fumble with Bellroy’s Tokyo Totepack, which has internal and external pockets galore. Along with a stack of internal compartments, there are vertical exterior pockets perfect for stashing your passport and headphones as well as pop-up bottle slots, reducing the possibility of a lost water bottle on domestic flights. Carryable as both a backpack and tote bag, you’ve got double grab capacity and the tough, nylon webbing is repellent of both water- and liquid-based stains.
Image credit: Stackers
Stackers Weekend Garment Bag3/15
A crucial vessel for transporting clothing, garment bags are a key piece of luggage that don’t get a whole lot of airtime. Stackers Weekend Garment Bag is a helpful hybrid of weekender-meets-garment-bag, ensuring you’ll use it more than a few times a year. When zipped, it’s a duffel; when unzipped, it’s a full garment bag that you can hang in a hotel closet upon arrival.
Image credit: Weekender
Everlane The ReNew Transit Weekender4/15
Everlane’s trendy handbag-like weekender doesn’t follow the rules of luggage – at least not when it comes to aesthetics. Although it has plenty of space for a weekend’s worth of luggage – from shoes to laptops and everything in between – it’s also chic and sustainable, with its shell and zips crafted from recycled plastic.
Image credit: Ölend
Ölend Ona Soft Bag5/15
Barcelona-based brand Ölend has done away with sober practicality and created the Ona Soft Bag, a functional everyday carrier that’s also guaranteed to please the fashion set. Padded for comfort (and protection of valuables, including 16-inch laptops, which fit easily inside), the soft, nylon fabric is both water-resistant and spot-cleaning friendly and the adjustable straps can suit a tote and backpack carrying style. The product is limited to pre-order only, reducing waste and overproduction to ensure a sustainable supply chain.
Arlo The Frame Carry-On Max: Aluminium Edition6/15
Dependable luggage is an investment and Arlo’s The Frame Carry-On Max: Aluminium Edition is a worthy splurge. The quality is exceptional, from the hand-stitched leather handles to the sturdy clasps fixed with airport security-approved locks. There’s also a lightning fast in-built charger for last-minute device top-ups and whisper-quiet wheels (15 per cent quieter than other suitcase offerings, in fact) that’ll prevent you from waking anyone up as you have to catch the red eye.
Nomatic Travel Backpack7/15
Packing cell people (or those who like to organise and separate their belongings into different bags and containers) won’t be able to resist the Nomatic Travel Bag 40L, where there’s a compartment for almost anything. Shoes, laptops, passports, water bottles and even dirty laundry have their own dedicated and cleverly designed pockets, streamlining any mid-transit searches. (It can all be easily carried as a duffel or backpack, too.)
Image credit: Tumi
Tumi Alpha Garment Tri-Fold Carry On8/15
If clothing is a crucial part of your travel, Tumi’s tri-fold garment bag will keep your best dresses and business suits protected. Made from Tumi’s anti-abrasion FXT Ballistic Nylon®, nothing will get in the way of your suits and gowns – and monogramming comes standard with each suitcase, too.
Image credit: July
July Weekender Plus9/15
When is a Weekender not a Weekender? When it’s a July Carry All Weekender Plus. This unique offering is somewhere between a duffel and a suitcase, with a unique “clamshell” ability to open flat, solving the soft bag conundrum of crushed clothes and in-transit shifting of stuff. With a 50-litre capacity, this Mary Poppins-style bag can fit a lot more than you think, but with a helpful strap that fits over the handle of a suitcase, you won’t have to worry about how much you’ve packed.
Image credit: Antler
Antler Carry On Prestwick10/15
Soft shell suitcases are featherlight and Antler’s classic black Prestwick is no exception, weighing in at easy 2.23 kilograms. It’s also equipped with a tough, water-resistant fabric, four 360-degree spinnable wheels and interior zip pockets and straps for keeping your belongings organised.
Image credit: Peak Design
Peak Design Backpack11/15
Gadget-lovers assemble: the Peak Everyday Design Backpack is perfect for travellers with top-quality gear who need a backpack that’s both protective and practical. Built for photographers but usable by all, the Peak Design Everyday Backpack features three internal reconfigurable dividers: your lenses, batteries and additional accessories will be safe and sound within the 100 per cent recycled, weatherproof shell. There’s even capacity for tripods and larger bits and pieces if you’re planning to work while on the road.
Image credit: Solgaard
Solgaard Carry-on Closet12/15
Few suitcases can solve the problem of being, well, suitcase-like. The Solgaard Carry-on Closet is more like a wardrobe than a suitcase, folding up into a smart, compact shelving system that makes unpacking or finding certain pieces infinitely easier. The polycarbonate shell sheaths it all in an indestructible exterior and there’s also a USB charging port for on-the-go power.
Image credit: Bellroy
Bellroy classic weekender13/15
The benefit of a soft duffel is its versatility. You don’t have to delegate Bellroy’s Classic Weekender to the back of a wardrobe for plane journeys: this water-resistant, polyester number (made from 100 per cent recycled PET plastic bottles) is as much a gym or work bag as it is a cabin bag. (The zippable interior pockets are phone- and valuables-friendly, too.) Don’t be surprised if you put this one on regular rotation for office days.
Image credit: Rimowa
Rimowa Essential Lite Cabin U14/15
Sleek, slight and Rimowa’s Essential Lite Cabin U is a classic choice for frequent travellers. Weighing in at just two kilos, it’s a nifty number with glossy polycarbonate body, ball-bearing mounted wheels that spin smoothly and an impressive lifetime guarantee, you’ll be pulling this out again and again, no matter where you’re headed.
Image credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto