Keep calm and carry on: TPG shares its favorite travel carry-on bags

Apr 12, 2022

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If you’re a frequent flyer, choosing a carry-on bag can be a serious commitment. It is, after all, something you’re going to use for days — possibly even weeks — at a time during your travels.

But even if you’re not a regular road warrior, it’s still important to have a carry-on bag that supports your travel needs.

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Whether you fly once a week or once a year, you’ll want a functional carry-on with room and versatility to accommodate everything you’re packing. It’s important for it to be eye-catching as well, so you can quickly identify your bag while expressing your personality and travel style.

As more of us are taking to the skies and road, now may be a great time to do some retail therapy while simultaneously building up your reward balances so you’ll have plenty of points and miles to cover your travel.

Before you press “confirm purchase,” do yourself a favor and check out our guides to airline shopping portals and the best credit cards for online shopping. That way, the gear you’re buying for your next trip is helping you actually get there, too.

Here are our favorite carry-on bags and suitcases right now:

  • Samsonite Stryde 111.
  • TravelPro Maxlite 5 21″ Expandable Carry-On Spinner.
  • Victorinox Sport EVO Backpack on Wheels.
  • SwissGear Sion Softside Luggage.
  • Calpak Ambeur Carry-On Luggage.
  • Rimowa Essential Cabin Carry-On.
  • The North Face Base Camp Duffel — S.
  • Tumi Alpha 3 International Expandable 4 Wheeled Carry-On.
  • Osprey Farpoint Travel Pack 55.
  • Paravel Aviator Carry-On Plus.
  • Away The Bigger Carry-On.
  • Briggs & Riley Baseline Essential Carry-On Spinner.

Related: Carry-on luggage showdown: Away vs. Roam

In This Post

 

Samsonite Stryde 111

(Photo courtesy of Samsonite)

Size: 22 inches by 14 inches by 9 inches.

Price: $550 on the Samsonite website.

Why we love it: Samsonite has been a longtime favorite of frequent travelers thanks to its innovative yet practical designs. With the Stryde 111, you’ll enjoy exterior features like four 360-degree spinner wheels, a curved polycarbonate design, built-in USB ports for charging electronics and a keyless lock approved by the Transportation Security Administration. There are a few innovative touches too, including LED lights on the telescoping handle to make the bag visible in dark spaces and a magnetized luggage tag that fits flush into the suitcase.

Inside the bag, you’ll find a removable Dopp kit for personal items, as well as a removable interior compartment that works with the bag’s compression straps. As far as colors go, you can pick from dark green, black and metallic blue.

Related: Travel is back — and that means it’s time for a luggage upgrade

TravelPro Maxlite 5 21″ Expandable Carry-On Spinner

(Photo courtesy of TravelPro)

Size: 23 inches by 14.5 inches by 9 inches.

Why we love it: TravelPro, a brand created by a pilot, is the OG of carry-on bags. If it’s good enough for the crew, it’s certainly good enough for everyone from casual travelers to frequent flyers. It has a two-position adjustable handle with a patented contour grip, four wheels that rotate 360 degrees for a smooth glide and low-profile top, side and bottom carry handles. Additionally, there are two exterior front pockets, including one that can hold a laptop.

The interior features a full-length lid pocket, a side accessory pocket and adjustable hold-down straps. There’s even an expandable zipper that gives you two inches of extra room on your trip home. The bag comes in seven colors: black, dusty rose, midnight blue, sapphire blue, imperial purple, azure blue and slate green.

Related: Thinking of switching to hard-shell luggage? These are the pros and cons

Victorinox Sport EVO Backpack on Wheels

(Photo courtesy of Victorinox)

Size: 21.3 inches by 15 inches by 10.2 inches.

Price: $215 on the Victorinox website.

Why we love it: Sometimes, you want a bag that can flex. This dual-function backpack is made of durable water-repellent polyester. It has a zip pocket on the front for smaller items, zip pockets on the sides and a retractable telescopic handle.

The interior features compression straps, a key holder, a mesh pocket that fits a passport or another form of ID, one zip pocket, three slip pockets and laptop and tablet compartments with anti-scratch lining. There are also padded shoulder straps for extra comfort. Color options include black and navy.

Related: Carry-on vs. checked bags: Which is the better choice?

SwissGear Sion Softside Luggage

(Photo courtesy of Swissgear)

Size: 21 inches by 12.75 inches by 10.25 inches.

Why we love it: For travelers who want a solid bag without spending a fortune, the Sion Softside fits the bill. It comes with four 360-degree spinner wheels and a locking retractable push-pull handle. Plus, the bag offers plenty of storage areas, including two outside pockets (one fits a laptop or tablet while the other can hold small items such as keys) and a built-in ID tag, made from durable, scuff-resistant polyester fabric.

The interior is fully lined, with adjustable tie-down straps, a removable zippered wet bag, a large mesh lid pocket and a packing pocket for holding small items and accessories. The Sion also comes with a reinforced padded top handle, along with side and bottom handles. And it’s expandable, giving you 2 inches of extra room. The bag comes in seven colors: black, dark gray, blue, burgundy, pewter, teal and navy.

Related: 9 great suitcases worth the checked-bag fee

Calpak Ambeur Carry-On Luggage

(Photo courtesy of Calpak)
(Photo courtesy of Calpak)

Size: 22 inches by 14 inches by 8.5 inches.

Price: $195 on the Calpak website.

Why we love it: Calpak’s Ambeur bag is a favorite among TPG editors. It’s a four-wheel spinner that’s stylish and functional, with plenty of pockets to store and organize all your essentials. It’s also somewhat less expensive than the competitive Away suitcase.

Other features the Ambeur bag has that you’ll appreciate include its TSA-approved lock and its compression straps. The selection of colors is great, too. You can choose from rose gold, gold, black and silver.

Related: What your luggage brand says about you

Rimowa Essential Cabin Carry-on

(Photo courtesy of Rimowa)
(Photo courtesy of Rimowa)

Size: 21.7 inches by 15.8 inches by 9.1 inches.

Price: $875 on the Rimowa website.

Why we love it: When it comes to luxury luggage, Rimowa has a lot of fans on the TPG team. The Essential Cabin bag is lightweight but strong enough to carry up to three days’ worth of clothing. The hard shell in a glossy finish can handle the rough-and-tumble of travel, and there’s a TSA-friendly keyless lock to keep your belongings safe. Another highlight is the flex divider, which is height adjustable.

The Essential Cabin’s four 360-degree wheels and four-level retractable handle make travel much smoother. While the price is high compared to other options on this list, it covers the suitcase plus a leather luggage tag and a sticker set. An array of colors are available, including matte black, flamingo red, azure blue, bamboo green and mango orange.

The North Face Base Camp Duffel — S

(Photo courtesy of The North Face)
(Photo courtesy of The North Face)

Size: 13 inches by 21 inches by 13 inches.

Why we love it: This is the duffel you’re going to want to take with you no matter what type of trip you’re going on. It’s large enough to fit everything you need for a long weekend getaway without being so big that it’s cumbersome. Plus, it’s made of rugged, water-resistant nylon and comes with a lifetime warranty, so you don’t have to worry about it holding up during your adventures.

The Base Camp Duffle — S offers an array of features, such as removable, adjustable straps (so you can wear it like a backpack), a surprising number of pockets and compartments, and four compression straps (for overpackers). Available colors include standard hues like black, blue and red, as well as less-common options like sharp green, summit gold and rose dawn. You can even pick from a couple of patterned choices featuring The North Face logo.

Tumi Alpha 3 International Expandable 4 Wheeled Carry-On

(Photo courtesy of Tumi)
(Photo courtesy of Tumi)

Size: 22 inches by 14 inches by 9 inches.

Why we love it: Tumi has established a stellar reputation for itself, and this four-wheel spinner carry-on lives up to expectations. It features a ton of pockets, including a large front U-zip pocket with a security zipper, a second front U-zip pocket and a front straight-zip pocket. There’s a built-in USB port and a TSA-friendly combination lock, too.

In the interior, you’ll find three more zip pockets, plus compression straps and a built-in garment sleeve. Although it only comes in black, you can personalize your bag by adding a monogram free of charge.

Related: How and why I travel the world with only a Tumi backpack

Osprey Farpoint Travel Pack 55

(Photo courtesy of Osperey)
(Photo courtesy of Osprey)

Size: 24 inches by 13 inches by 12 inches for the small/medium size; 25 inches by 13 inches by 12 inches for the medium/large size.

Why we love it: Say goodbye to your checked bag forever. This Osprey pack is like a backpack, suitcase and carry-on all rolled into one. It can carry loads up to a whopping 50 pounds and is equipped with a detachable daypack, if you’re looking to travel a little lighter throughout your trip.

Inside, you’ll find a main compartment with dual compression straps to keep belongings from shifting, plus a zippered interior mesh pocket for storing small items. The bag comes in two sizes, both of which are available in volcanic gray and jasper red hues.

Related: TPG readers recommended their favorite travel backpacks — here’s what I chose

Paravel Aviator Carry-on Plus

(Photo courtesy of Paravel)
(Photo courtesy of Paravel)

Size: 22.7 inches 14.7 inches by 9.6 inches.

Price: $375 on the Paravel website.

Why we love it: Paravel’s vintage-inspired luggage looks like it came straight from the TWA Hotel. Better yet, it’s made with a recycled nylon lining, a lightweight exterior and an aircraft-grade aluminum handle.

The suitcase’s four frictionless carbon steel wheels ensure an effortless trip from the airport to the hotel, and it also boasts an interior compression board and a TSA-approved lock to make sure all your valuables stay safe and secure in transit. It comes in a handful of colors (scout tan, scuba navy, derby black, safari green and domino black), each with a highlight color that accentuates the bag’s design.

Related: How to tell if your backpack counts as a personal or carry-on item

Away The Bigger Carry-on

(Photo courtesy of Away)
(Photo courtesy of Away)

Size: 22.7 inches by 14.7 inches by 9.6 inches.

Price: $295 on the Away website.

Why we love it: The larger version of the original Away Carry-On is another TPG favorite for a reason. Not only is it stylish and durable, but it also offers a TSA-approved lock and four 360-degree wheels. There are also a laundry bag and a hidden compression system that can expand (or contract) your bag as needed.

If you constantly worry about keeping your devices charged while transiting through airports, you can pay an extra $20 to add a portable USB charger to your suitcase. You can customize your bag to include your monogram, too, for an extra charge. A multitude of color options are available, including black, green, coast, blush, sand and lavender.

Related: Calling all overpackers: Away now has expandable hard-sided suitcases

Briggs & Riley Baseline Carry-on Spinner

(Photo courtesy of Briggs and Riley)
(Photo courtesy of Briggs & Riley)

Size: 22 inches by 14 inches by 9 inches.

Why we love it: Briggs & Riley’s utilitarian four-wheel spinner carry-on is for the traveler who just wants to get this show on the road. It’s sleek yet functional, offering a deep interior for everything you need (and let’s be real, don’t need) to pack.

The bag features self-repairing, durable coil zippers and is made of a water-repellent and abrasion-resistant fabric. Best of all, it can expand up to 25% and compress down when less space is needed. Three colors are available: black, navy and olive.

Related: Is expensive luggage worth it?

Frequently asked questions

How to select the best carry-on

Selecting a carry-on comes down to your travel goals. This is an item you’re going to get a lot of mileage out of, and it’s important that it fits and organizes all of your essentials while also expressing your personality and accommodating your travel style.

You’ll also want to make sure it’s an item you enjoy taking with you on trips. If you’re heading straight from the airport to a business meeting, you may want to stick with a slick spinner. If you need complete versatility, you may prefer a bag that can transition from a duffel or rollaboard into a backpack.

The last key component, of course, is your budget. Carry-ons range greatly in price, so decide what the maximum you’re willing to spend is, and go from there.

Benefits of traveling with a carry-on

Traveling with a carry-on instead of a large suitcase can make your journey so much more efficient. Gone are the days of waiting at baggage claim or fretting while on a flight that the airline lost your luggage during your connection.

By taking a carry-on with you, you’re in control of your time and belongings — and you can start your trip on your terms.

Not to mention, traveling with only a carry-on can also help you avoid pesky fees for checked baggage.

Additional reporting by Benét J. Wilson.

Featured photo by Christophe Gateau/picture alliance/Getty Images.

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