Something that is so often overlooked in terms of travel is something that can actually be pretty integral: humble carry-on luggage. It’s an afterthought for many people, with often opting to use an old backpack or small handbag, or even a tote bag, for their carry-on bag.
However, there are actually a whole lot of different carry-on bags out there. From business trips to hiking expeditions – the options are endless. The trouble is… Just how are you going to choose the best one for your personal travel needs?
Don’t worry. We’ve made this list of the best carry-on luggage of 2020 to make sure you find the best bag for your travels. Carry-on luggage doesn’t have to be an afterthought and can be a super useful part of your travel repertoire. It could even be the only bag you use!
So whether you are looking for swish carry-on luggage for a job that will take you around the world, or you travel a lot and you’re looking for weekend bags to make airports much less of a time-sink, you’ve come to the right place; here are the best ones you can find on the market right now.
Table of Contents
- Quick Answer: The Best Carry-on Luggage on the market right now:
- Best Carry-on Luggage of 2020
- #1 – Overall Best Carry-on Luggage
- #2 – Best Softside Carry-on
- #3 – Best Two-wheel Rollaboard Carry-on
- #4 – Great Cheap Hardside Carry-on
- #5 – Best Leather Carry-on
- #6 – Best Carry-on Backpack
- #7 – Most Luxurious Carry-on
- #8 – Best Carry-on with a Removable Battery
- #9 – Best Underseat Carry-on
- More of the Best Carry-on Luggage
- Buyer Guide – How to Choose the Best Carry-on Luggage
- Final Thoughts on the Best Carry-on Luggage
Quick Answer: The Best Carry-on Luggage on the market right now:
#1 Nomatic Carry-on Pro – Overall Best Carry-on Luggage
#2 Osprey Farpoint 36 Wheeled Travel Pack – Best Softside Carry-on
#3 Nomatic Carry-on Classic – Best Two-wheel Rollaboard Carry-on
#4 Gregory Quadro Hardcase Roller Luggage – Great Cheap Hardside Carry-on
#5 KomalC Leather Travel Duffel Bag – Best Leather Carry-on
#6 Nomatic Backpack – Best Carry-on Backpack
#7 Thule Revolve Carry-on Spinner – Most Luxurious Carry-on
#8 Traveler’s Choice Pagosa Spinner Luggage – Best Carry-on with a Removable Battery
#9 Nomatic Travel Pack – Best Underseat Carry-on
|Nomatic Carry-on Pro||Check on Nomatic|
|Osprey Farpoint 36 Wheeled Travel Pack||Check on REICheck on Osprey|
|Nomatic Carry-on Classic||Check on Nomatic|
|Gregory Quadro Hardcase Roller Luggage||Check on REICheck on Amazon|
|KomalC Leather Travel Duffel Bag||Check on Amazon|
|Nomatic Backpack||Check on Nomatic|
|Thule Revolve Carry-on Spinner||Check on REI|
|Traveler’s Choice Pagosa Spinner Luggage||Check on Amazon|
|Nomatic Travel Pack||Check on Nomatic|
Best Carry-on Luggage of 2020
#1 – Overall Best Carry-on Luggage
The Carry-on Pro by Nomatic looks as cool as it sounds. It is most definitely the ultimate solution to your hand luggage woes, and for so many reasons our top pick for the overall best carry-on luggage out there. It just IS.
First of all, it is super stylish. Sleek and sophisticated, you definitely won’t look like any old traveller strutting through the airport, getting on the plane or arriving at your destination. You definitely won’t feel out of place in any sort of urban environment, that’s for sure.
But it’s not all style: next up, let’s take a look at the SUBSTANCE going on here.
Designed by the luggage pros at Nomatic, the interior has been created for the maximum organisation of your belongings. There’s genius compartments going on, zip pockets and ways to secure everything in place. There’s even a removable tech case and plenty of room for all your electronics.
Every little detail has been thought out, from the super hardy exterior shell, right down to the magnetic compression straps. There’s enough room in the Nomatic Carry-on Pro for 3 days – if you want more, there’s always the Nomatic Check-in Pro to pair it with (just as awesome, but not carry-on sized).
They say it’s a “gamechanger” – we tend to agree!
Check out my full-length Nomatic Carry On Pro Review
#2 – Best Softside Carry-on
Osprey is well known in the world of travel for their high quality products, but it’s not just plain 0l’ backpacks that they make, as evidenced by the Osprey Farpoint 36 Wheeled Travel Pack.
Certainly the best softside carry-on you’re likely to find, this baby is like a backpack on wheels. It comes with an extendable handle, so that you can pull it along like a rollaboard suitcase.
Thankfully there are also stowable straps, which means you can sling this versatile backpack right onto your back when the adventure business starts. Basically it is a very good choice if you feel like going on a short backpacking journey!
Osprey’s comfortable suspension system, with mesh back and padding, make it super easy to wear for longer periods of time; we think it also looks smart enough to use for urban locations, too.
The size – 36 litres – surprisingly meets carry-on size restrictions for most airlines, which means you can save yourself money from the all-important backpacking budget. A clear winner.
#3 – Best Two-wheel Rollaboard Carry-on
Much like our top choice (the Carry-on Pro), this next offering from the dons at Nomatic is all about substance and style. It’s got a hard outer shell made of durable polycarbonate, TSA-ready locking YKK zippers, silent Japanese-made Hinomoto wheels (nice!) and all the organisation you need for a short trip away.
While practically the same as the Nomatic Carry-on Classic, with all the same interior organisation, the only difference is that it lacks the electronics compartment and removable tech case.
But if having tech with you doesn’t matter, and it’s not too much of a problem, then you’ll love this top rollaboard carry-on.
This product is most certainly built to last and you’re really unlikely to have any broken wheels or stuck extendable handles. It’s slim, it’s smooth, and will fit into any luggage compartment that you need it to. We love the convenience of this one.
#4 – Great Cheap Hardside Carry-on
Even though the Gregory Quadro Hardcase Roller Luggage boasts an impressive 45 liters of room, it still miraculously meets the carry-on standards for most airlines. And much cheaper than other hardside cases, such as Nomatic’s offerings, it’s our pick for a great cheap hardside carry-on!
Offering a lot of protection for your precious belongings, the outer shell of this one is made from reinforced polycarbonate, which should withstand heavy impacts; it also boasts “thermal resistance and low temperature toughness.”
Inside, obviously, there’s a whole lot of storage space. It works very well for frequent travellers, with lots of organisational pockets and straps to keep things in place.
There are also expansion zippers to give you an extra 15 percent packing volume, if you need it. One of our most favourite things about this is the separate Activeshield compartment, which is specially made for dirty clothes, ski boots or any other used gear out of the way of your clean stuff. No bad smells!
The handle is durable and rubber coated for comfort and grip, while down below the wheel system is caster-like and allows for multidirectional rolling. Don’t you just hate it when your suitcase falls over itself because the wheels don’t move intuitively? Not with this great hardside carry-on luggage!
#5 – Best Leather Carry-on
For those of you who like a bit of classic style with your carry on, and who want to look a little chic on your travel trips, then the KomalC Leather Travel Duffel Bag is a great choice.
Made with full-grain finest buffalo leather, and handcrafted with a vintage-inspired design, this top leather carry-on has a timeless, classy look to it. It’s defintiely a high-end look.
Another thing about leather is the way it ages – it doesn’t get the same scuffs as hardside suitcases or polyester backpacks, and in fact, the wear and tear, and general age, adds to the personality of the bag. This means it’s something that looks better with the longer you keep it!
Made by a Chicago-based family business – KomalC – it’s designed specifically for overnight and weekend trips and is, of course, carry-on approved.
It comes with detachable shoulder straps (convenient for slinging over your shoulder when you’re in an airport), as well as duffel handles so you can grab the bag when you need to. On the bottom of the bag, there are pure brass rivets to protect the base of the bag from unnecessary wear and tear, or wet or dirty surfaces.
Other perks include YKK zippers and a water resistant lining. Definitely our choice for the best leather carry-on you’ll find right now.
#6 – Best Carry-on Backpack
Yet another awesome offering from Nomatic, the Nomatic Backpack looks simple and straightforward – and that’s because it IS!
However, there is a lot more going on inside this awesome carry-on backpack than meets the eye. In fact, there are more than 20 innovative features! So let’s take a look at some of them…
It’s made from water resistant materials (extra durability); it’s got YKK zippers’; it’s got magnetic water bottle pockets that fit flat to the pack when not in use; it’s got RFID-safe storage (no e-thievery!); a sunglasses cases; and a whole world of organisation for your tech, clothes and accessories.
One particularly cool feature is that the Nomatic Backpack’s front pocket opens up, clamshell style. This means you will get easy access to your tech – or whatever you keep in the front pocket – while on the go.
The interior organisation makes it super easy to get through airport security… Trust us, we know just what a pain that is when your backpack just isn’t built specifically for ease like this one!
It can change from a rucksack to a duffel in an instant, which is cool, and – if you want to use this as a carry-on with, say, the Nomatic Check-in Pro (a definitive favourite of ours), it has a luggage sleeve to slip it over the extendable suitcase handle.
Check out my full-length Nomatic Travel Bag review
#7 – Most Luxurious Carry-on
Sometimes you just want a little bit of luxury in your luggage… And this is where the Thule Revolve Carry-on Spinner comes in.
Easily our top pick for the most luxurious carry-on out there at the moment, this Thule offering comes with a tick-list of high-end features which will leave others lusting after your luggage as you pass them by.
With a capacity of 33 liters, it’s carry-on approved by most airlines, and is – thankfully – super lightweight. It’s constructed with European-made virgin polycarbonate, which also means that it is designed to last.
Its tough, rigid frame is also bolstered with additional internal corner protection; there’s also a reinforced front panel, so anything in the front pocket should stay nice and secure.
Inside, the luxurious feeling felt-lined interiors offer ample space for packing. The felt doesn’t just look – and feel – nice; it also reduces vibrations and protects any fragile or electronic gear, too.
Designed to easily take you from your doorstep to your destination, the four wheels glide over any rough terrain with ease thanks to their different sizes and high performance spec.
Want a high-end, luxurious carry-on suitcase? This is it.
#8 – Best Carry-on with a Removable Battery
Today there are a lot more considerations that luggage solutions have to put into play – one of them being an actual way to charge your phone or laptop. Yes, in case you didn’t know, that is a thing: a rechargeable battery unit within the actual suitcase itself.
And this one, the Traveler’s Choice Pagosa Spinner Luggage, has got to be the best carry-on with a removable battery. Why removable? Because going through security with an unremovable lithium battery (such as you find in your laptop) is not allowed. Simple!
Plug your phone in with a USB type C port straight into that interior power bank to get your battery up to 100% in no time. And then you need to go through airport security, simply remove the power bank to comply with security standards.
There’s also a lot of internal organisation going on here, so you can make sure that your stuff arrives as organised as you made it in the first place. There is also some expansion capacity, too, if you happen to fill up on souvenirs on your trip.
This carry-on suitcase is also built to last: the hard shell is abrasion, scratch and water resistance.
#9 – Best Underseat Carry-on
The experts at Nomatic have been at it again and have designed this travel pack that is easily the best underseat carry-on on the market.
That’s right, the Nomatic Travel Pack has all the perks that you would by now expect from the innovating company. There’s a ton of organisational space, hidden pockets galore, an innovative strap system (they stow away for easy storage), an RFID-safe pocket, and even a shoe compartment in this case! Pretty cool.
Much like the Nomatic Backpack, the Nomatic Travel Pack (a somewhat larger version, basically), boasts clamshell style opening which means you can get to your stuff easily.
There’s enough room in here for a weekend trip – you won’t have to worry about not being able to pack an additional pair of shoes either!
It’s sleek, it’s cool, it’s organisation-lover’s dream, and yes: it will slide right underneath the seat in front of you on any plane, so you can easily get to your stuff when you need it.
What else can we say? This pack is truly one of the best carry-on backpacks out there right now. If you travel a lot and you’re thinking of investing in luggage to fit your lifestyle, you may want to consider this one. We highly rate it!
More of the Best Carry-on Luggage
Those were the best of the best in terms of top carry-on luggage solutions you can get right now. But if that wasn’t enough for you, fear not! There is a whole TON of other options out there, just waiting for you to consider them and see them in all their durable, versatile, stylish glory. Cast your eyes below for even more of the best carry-on luggage you’re likely to see in one place!
Nomatic’s 30L Travel Bag, like all of this company’s other offerings, is a top luggage solution. The perfect carry-on companion, this bag has a place for quite literally everything.
There will be no more losing any of your precious belongings on a trip or in transit; you’ll be able to find everything tucked away in its own compartment.
The 30 liter size is compatible for carry-on standard for most airlines, which means no more headaches with checking in. It also means that it’s not too bulky, and is just as good as a day pack as it is for an expert packer’s weekend bag.
Trust us: you’re going to fall in love with this pack.
Both a rucksack and a duffel, we also love the versatility of this bag. Simply sling it over your shoulder as a backpack, or carry it as a duffel using the two handles. That, and the additional grab handle, makes it easy to grab for a quick exit from the plane.
Designed by the ever-cool Fjallraven, if you like looking like you’ve definitely thought about how you’re going to look when you carry your luggage, you’ll want this top carry-on option.
The Fjallraven Splitpack, as its name implies, is versatile: is it a backpack? Is it a duffel bag? Who knows – not even Fjallraven themselves are sure. But we think that works supremely in this awesome bag’s favour.
The backpack unzips and opens up fully, like a suitcase, meaning that you will have no packing woes. There’s enough room on either side of the opening to pack in at least a weekend’s worth of clothes into the 35 liter capacity of the bag. All whilst still being carry-on ready.
Made from G-1000 HeavyDuty Eco fabric, this bag is robust and built to last. Sort of like the modern version of those old canvas duffels – but much cooler (and comfortable). The straps are padded with mesh fabric for extra ventilation.
This unisex offering also comes in two different colours: olive khaki green and a smart navy. Definitely suitable if you’re into a skate style or street aesthetics. There are even some eco credentials thrown in there, too!
The Kuhl Karryall 25L Duffel is an easygoing bag that’s perfect for use as a carry-on. Designed for last-minute excursions, this pretty awesome bag has enough room for a couple of outfits, a fresh pair of shoes and your washbag (maybe electronics, too), before you head out on your journey.
Aside from the spacious main pocket, there are four external pockets, which add a decent amount of organisation to this bag, too. Inside there is even an interior padded laptop sleeve for
The bag looks like it’s tough – and, you know what? It is. Constructed from tear-resistant 10 oz waxed cotton/nylon ENDURAWAX material, this duffel is super resistant to wear and tear and should last you for years of travel and trips.
It’s the sort of thing that’s a simple go-to bag that can be stowed away easily when you’re not using it – it’s soft, so it can be folded up and stashed under your bed or something, unlike a carry-on suitcase, which takes up room. We’re definitely into this one: it comes in a couple of smart colours too (dark khaki and ink black).
If what you want out of a carry-on is for it to just be for a laptop and a few other essentials, then the amazing Nomatic Messenger Bag could easily be the choice for you.
Even though it’s small, and lacks a lot of the room that other Nomatic products boast, being part of the Nomatic family you can bet that there’s a whole lot of functionality going on with this carry-on bag.
There’s space inside for chargers, cords, external hard drives, notebooks, pens, pencils, laptops – all sorts of tech and accessories that you may need while you’re on a plane, or if you want easy access while you’re on the go.
There are two customisable panels, which means you can decide for yourself just how you want to pack your stuff. You can easily sling it over your shoulder with the shoulder strap, which has 360 degree movement; the magnetic buckles here allow you to take the strap off when you’re not carrying it.
It’s a great carry-on, especially if you’re pairing it with the Nomatic Check-in Pro, and being small, sleek and not too bulky means that it’s perfect for business trips.
Check out our in-depth Nomatic Messenger Bag review
If all the other khakis and blacks of the other carry-on luggage out there is too dull for you, then the colourful and quirky design of the Topo Designs Travel Bag will suit you. However, it is more serious and robust than it looks!
This awesome carry-on backpack boasts a 30 liter capacity, meaning you can fit in anything from an overnight stash of clothes to enough stuff for a long weekend away. There’s even room for a laptop, as well as a whole load of integrated design inside which means that your stuff can be nicely organised as you go.
The clamshell opening means you can easily access your stuff on the go, but this isn’t the only perk of the bag that we like.
The Topo Designs Travel Bag also has stowable straps, so you can put it in overhead lockers or under seats easily; there’s a suitcase sleeve so you can pair it with a check-in suitcase; there’s a secondary organisation compartment and even a funky detachable hip belt, and there are load-lifting sternum straps to help when it’s heavy.
While the colourful version, with its yellow interiors, blue exterior and red detailing, is cute (we love it!) there is also an all-black version for all you budding professionals out there.
In contrast to our last pick, this top carry-on suitcase is a sleek and serious affair. A wheeled suitcase, the Sherpani Flite 22 meets most carry-on size restrictions and boasts a whopping 44 liters of space to pack all your stuff.
Needless to say, this spacious bag allows for not just overnight and weekend travel, but for longer trips too. Made from durable, weather resistant fabric to keep all your important stuff dry, this suitcase from Sherpani boasts large, sturdy wheels which hold their own on unsteady surfaces.
Inside there are two interior zippered pockets, as well as a mesh pocket and compression straps just to make sure everything is kept in place nice and secure. In addition, the integrated locking system on this carry-on suitcase is built to deter any potential thieves.
Coming in three colours (midnight blue, black and “merlot”) this smart suitcase also boasts RFID-blocking material to stop skimmers, as well as a side water bottle pocket and shoe storage in a separate pocket.
It’s the kind of suitcase that’ll last you for a while – you won’t want to replace it!
This fantastic carry-on bag is a super budget option – an easygoing duffel that packs a lot of space into it. Because it’s soft it can be squashed into tight spaces or packed away easily when it’s not in use.
The Pacsafe Dry Lite 40L duffel also doubles up as a dry bag, so you shouldn’t have to worry about any of your gear getting damaged by water. There’s yet more safety added with the RFID-blocking pockets and material throughout the bag, so you won’t be at risk from any credit card or chip data getting swiped.
Added security is found in the PopNLock security clip, which means you can attach your bag to a table leg or a chair to stop it getting taken when you’re at a table, sitting on a chair or waiting at a bus station.
The bag also comes with a detachable shoulder strap, so you can grab it from the handles or wear it over your shoulder depending on how heavy it is.
Add a bit of internal organisation – so you can keep electronics away from your underwear – and this bag is a definite option for a great piece of carry-on luggage.
A hybrid of a bag, the Eagle Creek Tarmac Carry-on is basically a convertible briefcase that also opens up as a suitcase and can be carried as a backpack. We think that’s pretty cool.
So this top carry-on bag is suitable for everything from a business trip to a being used as an overnight bag.
The capacity of this offering is 26.5 liters, and there is enough room inside to fit up to a 17″ laptop; however, the internal organisation doesn’t stop there. There is also a padded electronics pocket, cord winder, key fob, pen slot, and zipper pocket. Anybody who likes things in their place will like this.
You can also use this bag in conjunction with a suitcase (we recommend the very cool Nomatic Check-in Pro for those purposes). And to make this transformation complete, note that the straps can be tucked away easily and the comfortable shoulder strap can be removed.
We really like the aesthetics of this bag. It’s slimline and smart and comes in three colours – moss, slate and graphite. The Millican Oli The Zip 25L Pack is a cool option, we reckon, and is a go-to backpack for everything from a commute to a hop on a plane for a weekend in Paris (or wherever!).
Weighing in at just 2 lbs 5 oz, this backpack is lightweight and has a capacity of 25 liters (obviously); there’s enough room in here for daily essentials, including a 15″ laptop in its easy access padded laptop sleeve.
As for organisation, there are two external zip pockets on the sides of the bag – where you can keep things like tickets and the like – as well as some internal organisation to make sure you’re not just rummaging around in one big expanse.
It is constructed from bionic canvas fabric, which has been itself made from paraffin wax that’s been mixed with recycled polyester and cotton; it’s also been treated with DWR (durable water repellent) so you can shed moisture should you be caught in a shower.
Our verdict is that this cool carry-on luggage solution doesn’t just look the part, it’s also got some pretty great specifications too, meaning that it’s up there in our estimation in terms of everything from durability to functionality.
If you were looking for an eye-catching sort of bag, then you really are going to want to consider this one. That’s right: if run of the mill backpacks and duffels just aren’t your thing, then the rugged Tepui Tents Expedition Series Tool Case is going to be the bag for you.
With a capacity of 19.5 liters, this bag easily meets carry-on bag restrictions and, weighing in at 3 lbs, isn’t too heavy either.
Designed for outdoors activities, the Tepui Tents Expedition Series Tool Case is for all your outdoors-y gear: we’re talking maps, torches, walkie-talkies, everything that you’ll need for a back country adventure.
It’s seriously strong, too.
Heat resistant up to approximately 158 degrees F, the high stretch polyester canvas that makes up this bag is designed to take a beating; it is also coated with synthetic resin, which makes this bag both water and abrasion resistant, while also making it easy to clean (a godsend after a muddy trip in the wilderness).
The exterior webbing means you can attach additional tools and accessories, while inside – after opening up like a suitcase – there are plenty of compartments for everything from dry clothes to dried food.
It comes in two colours (expedition orange, and black), this bag may not be for everybody, but for those who love the great outdoors, it’s a sure winner in terms of a carry-on bag.
The high-end outdoor brand that is Osprey is always reliable, and verging away slightly from what you may expect of the company is this offering: the streamlined and urban friendly Osprey Arcane Duffel Pack.
As you may be able to tell from its name, this awesome carry-on bag acts both as a duffel – coming with a shoulder strap, too – and as a backpack. With a capacity of 30 liters, it is also lightweight and made from durable materials (recycled fabrics).
Opening up clamshell style, you can really maximise your packing with additional packing cubes – if you want – plus there is also an easy access laptop or tablet compartment in the front.
There is also a breathable NeoSpacer-covered foam back panel, which means more comfort and less sweat when you are wearing this Osprey offering on your back in a hot destination.
There are also some pretty good safety credentials on the Osprey Arcane Duffel Pack that protects your belongings. Specifically, we are talking about the self-locking aluminium security hook, built into the harness and shoulder strap, so that people won’t be snatching the bag off your back easily.
It also means you can easily stow away both straps for comfortably sliding the pack under the seat in front of you, or in an overhead locker, without dangling straps getting in the way.
Ideal for a quick getaway, we love how “non-Osprey” this bag is; coming in stonewash black and aqua blue, there’s a lot of reasons why this is one of our favourite carry-on bags out there right now.
Buyer Guide – How to Choose the Best Carry-on Luggage
There you have it – those were our selections for the best carry-on luggage out there right now. There is a whole lot to choose from, sure, but how do you choose the best one for you? Worry not: we’re about to run you through the things you should be looking for when it comes to choosing a carry-on luggage solution that’s fit for purpose and will be a welcome addition to your travel wardrobe.
The term “carry-on” doesn’t mean just one style of bag. There are actually a lot of different types that can be put into this category.
From purpose designed suitcases that fit the measurements required for hand luggage, to easygoing duffels, there is a lot to think about here.
It is all about what suits you. If what you want is the dream of one-bag travel, then you may want something like a suitcase that can fit a lot into it; or maybe you would be interested in a high capacity backpack – like one of Nomatic’s offerings – that will allow you to simply pack everything you need into one piece of carry-on luggage.
Then again, if all you are looking to do is to supplement your check-in luggage, then you won’t mind having something smaller. Perhaps something like the Nomatic Messenger Bag would suit you, or if you are going far away from the office and heading into the woods, the Tepui Tents Expedition Series would be more suitable for you.
Carry-on luggage can obviously be made out of a wide range of materials. This ranges from the simple leather – of, say, a classic duffel bag – to the high performance reinforced polycarbonate of some of the hardside suitcases out there.
For business trips, it’s not likely that you’re going to need something that’s super durable and weather resistant; airport to taxi to hotel to office isn’t likely to take much of a physical strain on your luggage.
On the other hand, if you are thinking of getting a piece of carry-on luggage that you will be using for a weekend getaway, or even as a supplement to checked-in luggage (maybe you’ll end up using it as a day pack), then you may want something a little more durable and weather resistant… For obvious reasons!
Other materials that are more solutions for the modern day include RFID-blocking materials that stop important information (and money) being stolen from you electronically by skimmers. Those with luggage that falls into this category, and especially in an urban environment, will want to bear this in mind.
Those pesky fees for check-in luggage may mean you want to pack everything into a weekend bag. We all want to save money when we travel, right?
Having carry-on luggage that boasts a high capacity (think 30L +) means that the dream of one-bag travel can be a reality. However, with the increased capacity is the increased weight – which isn’t always comfy – and also the increased chance of the bag not being carry-on sized.
While many airlines around the world take many of the bags we’ve listed, some are not carry-on standard for all airlines. No matter what the size, it’s always a good idea to check with airport staff about what size of bag is acceptable. Most airports will have somewhere you can check to make sure your bag complies with size standards, anyway.
Carry-on luggage definitely boasts different levels of organisation in their various compartments. Some carry-on luggage may just have one main compartment, where you can just stash clothes and a few accessories in side pockets.
Others – like many in the Nomatic series – have a whole ton of organisational space, complete with different compartments, zipper pockets and sometimes even the option to buy additional packing cubes to make the whole process even more organised and streamlined.
When it comes to making sure your stuff stays in place, you should see if the carry-on luggage you want comes complete with its own compression straps; this can really help you be organised, as keeping your clothes in place in one part of the bag will allow for a laundry bag or something else to take up the saved space.
Take note that some bags will also come with separate compartments where dirty clothes and shoes can be kept – this is something to bear in mind if you’re heading on a hiking trip or somewhere your clothes will get mucky.
What do you want your carry-on luggage for? That is possibly the biggest question to consider when you are thinking of purchasing a new bag.
That is not only because of what the bag will look like, but also its functionality, too. What you buy will very much depend on what you intend to use it for.
An example would be a business trip. This sort of thing may not require a huge bag, and may only need a messenger bag or small suitcase. Chances are a trip like this will be to a city, where you won’t exactly want to turn up with a scruffy looking duffel bag; you’ll want to look as streamlined as everyone else around you.
Again, if you are heading for a city break, chances are you won’t need some hiking quality carry-on luggage. You may want to opt for something that means you blend in more to the backdrop of the city; this not only means that you feel comfortable in your surroundings, but will also make you stick out less as a tourist, and less of a potential target for pickpockets.
When it comes to a backpacking trip, we would say that a suitcase is basically out of the question. A backpack, or a versatile carry-on bag that can transform from a duffel to a backpack, would be much more suited to a backpacking trip around Southeast Asia than a hardside suitcase designed more for city trips.
So ensure that you consider what types of trip you will be making, and how often you will be making them, before you make a final decision on what brand new carry-on luggage you decide to purchase.
Another thing to consider is the versatility of the bag you are looking at. Is it too bulky to be used as a daypack, or is it streamlined enough that it can be used day-to-day as well as for weekend trips? If a good all-rounder is what you are looking for in a carry-on bag, then the ability for it to be used for many different functions is probably something that your bag of choice should have.
This is something that obviously will affect what you want to buy, but there is more to it than you think.
Not all bags that are cheap are necessarily ‘not as good’ as other bags; some may be on sale, others may simply be older versions of products that have since been built upon.
Another thing to consider is just how often you will be travelling. Frequent travellers will probably want something that is more of an investment; it is only natural that more wear and tear is likely to have an inferior quality bag falling apart at the seams after years of use. An investment piece, however, is something that will last trip after trip.
If you don’t travel all that much, but instead only take a few trips a year, then you probably don’t need to spend a whole chunk of money on getting the best, most top of the range product for you.
However, paying more money does usually mean that you get one of the best products going at the moment. This instantly makes us think of the Nomatic series which is, though pricey, is top quality stuff that has been thoroughly designed.
Final Thoughts on the Best Carry-on Luggage
There are so many different choices for carry-on luggage out there that it really can be a difficult choice to make. But with our extensive list of the winning bags out there, and our handy guide on how to choose the best carry-on luggage for you, we hope you’ll be able to make a choice now.
There’s a whole lot of cool bags out there. From durable duffels and hardside suitcases, to versatile backpacks and sleek looking bags that work just as well in a city as they would do on a backpacking adventure, you’re spoilt for choice!
Our number one choice for the overall best carry-on luggage is the Nomatic Carry-on Pro. So if you’re stuck and want our top recommendation, this is the one to choose; it’s just about the best choice you can make.
Another of our favourites is the Topo Designs 30L Travel Bag – it’s colourful, it’s durable, it’s just as good for backpacking as it is for a daypack or a city adventure. It’s a great alternative to the professional-looking Nomatic series.
Are you the proud owner of an awesome carry-on bag that’s not on this list? Tell us about it in the comments below!
“Yay for transparency! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation, buy a book or sort your insurance, I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only link to stuff I’ve actually used and never endorse crap. Your support helps me keep the site going.”
Need More Inspiration?
- Best Backpacks With Wheels
- Best Travel Bags
- AER Travel Pack 2 Review
- Best Carry On Backpacks
- EPIC Nomatic Check In Suitcase Review
- Best Travel Duffel Bags
Chris Lininger is a writer, photographer, and guide from California. He is an advocate for off-beat responsible travel and the preservation of the world’s wild places and spaces. Chris is also a founding member of Epic Backpacker Tours and leads expeditions to Pakistan throughout the year. He is currently riding out the pandemic in Bali. Follow his adventures on Instagram.