Carry-on luggage showdown: Away vs. Roam

Dec 14, 2021

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

I am of an age where I have lived through the evolution of luggage. When I took my first flight, at age 6, from New York (JFK) to London (LHR) in 1971, our family had a set of olive Samsonite luggage with old-school locks — and no wheels in sight. Yes, you actually had to carry your suitcase back in the day.

My mother’s carry-on was a matching Samsonite makeup case and her purse. There was no such thing as rollaboards or the large totes that are so common these days.

Related: Keep calm and carry on: Our 13 favorite travel carry-ons

As someone who refuses to check a bag, I need a carry-on that can haul all my stuff for trips of up to a week. I decided to buy myself Away’s soft-side Expandable Bigger Carry-On with Pocket suitcase in black for my birthday after seeing so many versions of Away suitcases at a TPG managers meeting in June.

But there are myriad carry-on suitcases ranging from under $100 (the Amazon Basics 21-Inch Hardside Spinner) to more than $1,000 (the Rimowa Original Cabin), depending on the brand. And competition in the market is fierce. So with decades of travel and luggage experience under my heels, here are my thoughts about products from two of the hottest brands on the market. — Away and Roam.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

In This Post

Carried away by Roam

Part of Roam’s suitcase gallery. (Image courtesy of Roam)

Roam, launched in 2019 by the founder of and an executive at Tumi, touts that it assembles suitcases by hand in its U.S. factory and can ship it in as little as one business day. It also brought a twist to the luggage game — customization.

It allows you to fully customize your suitcase by choosing the colors of the front and back shell, the trim, the zipper, the binding, the wheels and the carry-on handle. The website walks you through the steps and it’s pretty easy. If customization isn’t for you, there’s a gallery with 16 versions of the suitcases.

(Screenshot courtesy of Roam)

In October, I was contacted by Roam to test out its hard-side Jaunt XL Expandable – Extra Capacity Carry-on. I customized my suitcase, above, and put it through its paces during a TPG retreat in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Related: Is expensive luggage worth it?

Side by side

(Photo by Benét J. Wilson/The Points Guy)

Because I’m a big fan of soft-side luggage (as it provides room to stuff it to the gills), my Away bag has that feature. However, it’s no longer available for sale in that configuration.

Related: Here’s why we love this cult-favorite carry-on

An Away spokesperson noted that its new expandable Polycarbonate Flex, launched this summer, will replace its soft-side collection moving forward. The Polycarbonate Flex was the brand’s first-ever expandable hard-side offering, designed for those who prefer the durability of Away’s polycarbonate shell while maximizing space with the added expandability feature. “We’ve been sold out since launch in August but will be restocking (and offering more colors!) this coming year,” she added.

Here’s a comparison with Away’s version of the polycarbonate shell.

Away Expandable Bigger
Carry-On with Pocket
Roam Jaunt XL Expandable
Size Exterior: 22.7 inches by 14.7 inches by 9.6 inches Exterior: 22 inches by 15.75 inches by 9 inches
Weight 8.4 lbs 7.1 lbs
Features
  • Leather details, including a black leather luggage tag.
  • Ejectable USB charger.
  • TSA-approved combination lock.
  • 360-degree spinner wheels.
  • Interior compression system.
  • Hidden laundry bag.
  • Telescoping handle with four height settings.
  • Ergonomic handle grip.
  • Water-repellent zipper.
  • TSA-approved combination lock.
  • Ball-bearing wheels.
  • Interior compression system.
  • Hidden laundry bag.
  • Free monogram.
Cost $245-$265 $575

Related: What your luggage brand says about you

Pros and cons: Away

(Photo by Benét J. Wilson/The Points Guy)

Pros

  • Choice of polycarbonate shell or aluminum.
  • Fits in overhead bins even when expanded.
  • Offers USB charger for $20.
  • Black version hides a multitude of travel sins, including scuffs and scratches.
  • Locks are on top of the suitcase.
  • Handles are comfortable to hold.
  • Front pocket offers easy access to laptops and documents.
  • Wheels roll smoothly.
  • Monogrammed luggage tag for $25.
  • Top corner guards offer extra protection.
  • Solid price.

Cons

  • Only one side offers interior compression.
  • Hard to grip zipper at the bottom of the suitcase to store dirty laundry.
  • Only two levels on the telescoping handle.
  • Some colors and styles scuff quite easily.

Pros and cons: Roam

(Photo by Benét J. Wilson/The Points Guy)

Pros

  • Ability to customize with really cool color combinations.
  • Both sides of the suitcase have interior compression.
  • Four levels on the telescoping handle.
  • Easily fit six packing cubes.
  • Fits in overhead bins even when expanded.
  • Feels really light.
  • Offers $50 Amazon gift card when you refer a friend.
  • Receive a free shoe-and-laundry-bag set when you write a review.

Cons

  • Higher price.
  • Didn’t like the luggage lock located on the side.
  • Handles weren’t soft.
  • Wheels don’t always run smoothly.
  • Hard to grip zipper at the bottom of the suitcase to store dirty laundry.
  • Lighter colors show scuff marks.
  • Outer shell felt fragile to me.

Bottom line

Both carry-ons are solid options for travelers. Being on #TeamSoftSide, I wish Away still had that option and that Roam would offer it, too.

That being said, the bag you choose really depends on the type of traveler you are and how you use it. I found the Away bag was within my budget and has most of the features I want in a carry-on. But if you want to travel in a bit more style — and don’t mind paying for it — the Roam bag might be the one for you.

Related: Over 400,000 miles and counting: Review of the Rimowa carry-on bag

Featured photo by Benét J. Wilson/The Points Guy

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
17.24%-26.24% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.