The Best Carry-On Luggage of 2023

Watch out, wobbly handles. Back off, boring colors. These compact carry-ons are making their way to an overhead compartment near you.

Person with a Lojel Cubo Small carry-on in Morocco

Lojel’s Cubo Small carry-on offer a rare top-loading opening for a hard-shell suitcase.

Courtesy of Lojel

Where in-line fixed wheels and rickety handles were once the standard, sleek and sturdy luggage options have rolled in to steal the show when it comes to the best bags for short trips. These rolling carry-ons—and backpacks and duffels for the wheel-averse—are compact and colorful but spacious enough to pack what you need for a few days of adventure. With all the bells and whistles, though, one question remains: Which one is actually right for you? We reviewed 14 of our favorite carry-on bags to make your decision easier.

Tips for choosing carry-on luggage

Before you purchase a new carry-on, you’ll want to consider the kind of traveler you are and the kind of trip you’re taking. Do you pack light or do you like bringing along lots of options? Are you heading to a city or going somewhere off the grid where wheeling a suitcase along dirt paths will be a hassle? If you’re traveling for work, will you need a bag with a laptop compartment? Most importantly: Will it fit into the overhead bin on an airplane? These are the features you’ll want to keep in mind when shopping for your next piece of carry-on luggage:

Soft Shell vs. Hard Shell. When it comes to rolling carry-ons, you can choose from hard-shell polycarbonate or aluminum options or soft-sided ones typically made with thick nylon. The decision is mostly aesthetic, but soft-shell luggage often comes with more pockets and expandable zippers, while hard-shell pieces tend to be more water-resistant. Carry-on backpacks and duffel bags can be made with nylon, canvas, leather, or a combination of all three. Nylon is your most durable and waterproof option. While leather may look great, it weighs more.

Two-Wheel vs. Spinner. A four-wheeled spinner carry-on can zip through airports with ease and roll down city sidewalks without weighing you down. But some people prefer the ergonomics of pulling a two-wheeled suitcase behind them. If you are heading somewhere more remote, or need to navigate train stations with lots of staircases during your travels, going the no-wheel route with a backpack or duffel bag you can sling across your shoulders may be more efficient.

Domestic vs. International Sizing. Carry-on size restrictions vary from airline to airline, but most domestic carriers allow bags up to 22 x 14 x 9 inches to be placed in overhead bins. (International carriers tend to cap out on bags that are 20 inches in length.) Any larger will need to be checked, while bags under 18 x 14 x 8 inches can generally fit underneath the seat in front of you. In terms of capacity, carry-ons between 30 and 50 liters tend to be big enough to pack essentials for a short trip but small enough to fit into overhead compartments.

Weight. Rolling carry-on luggage lacks the bulk it had back in the day thanks to lightweight polycarbonate shells. But if your airline also imposes strict weight limits on carry-ons, consider ditching the wheels for a travel backpack or duffel bag.

Sustainability. The most sustainable option is to buy a carry-on secondhand (websites like eBay, Poshmark, and REI’s used gear section are a good place to start your search online). Beyond that, many luggage brands have incorporated repurposed materials—like nylon woven from recycled water bottles—into their bags, while others like Paravel have taken their commitment to sustainability even further by offsetting carbon emissions from manufacturing and shipping.

Exchange Policy and Warranties. Until you take your new bag for a spin, you won’t know if it’s completely right for you. If you’re buying online, check to see if the brand offers a trial period with free returns. While you’re at it, consider its warranty policy too. You don’t want to invest hundreds of dollars in a new bag that can’t be replaced if the shell cracks or the handle breaks.

Additional Features. If you’re a business traveler who needs to stay connected on the go, you may want carry-on luggage that comes with a laptop compartment or an ejectable battery pack. Heading to a damp climate? You’ll want a bag that is water-repellent. And for those who want to stand out at the luggage carousel, consider a brand that offers its bags in a rainbow of colors.

>> Read More: The Avid Traveler’s Guide to Buying Luggage

Away Bigger Carry On

One of the handy features of the Away Bigger Carry-On is the ejectable charging port.

Photo by Kelsey McClellan, styling by Michelle Macguire

The Bigger Carry-On by Away

Best overall

  • Buy now: $295,
  • Style: Hard-shell spinner luggage
  • Capacity: 47.9 liters
  • Dimensions: 22.7 x 14.7 x 9.6 inches
  • Weight: 7.4 lbs.

The 7.4-pound Bigger Carry-On by Away holds a whopping 47.9 liters and is separated into two larger clamshell compartments. It also includes a hidden laundry bag and an interior mesh compression system that packs down bulky items. Plus, this bag has one of the most value-minded prices of all the luggage on the list. Despite its reasonable price, the bag looks really sleek and has Hinomoto wheels–arguably the highest quality wheels in the luggage industry and made with ball bearings to ensure an ultra-smooth ride. The polycarbonate exterior is available in a number of matte-finished colors, including blush, black, green, and several shades of blue. Aside from which color to buy, your toughest decision will be whether to buy the bag with or without the ejectable phone-charging battery (for an extra $20).

It hasn’t been all pastels and rainbow colors for Away, but change is here: Following a December 2019 report by the Verge about allegations from former employees of a toxic work environment, cofounder Steph Korey stepped down from her role as CEO in 2020. In 2021, cofounder and president Jen Rubio was named CEO. When her son was born just weeks after she took on the new role, Rubio’s first act as CEO was to set an example for her employees and take full advantage of Away’s parental leave policy, which gives all parents 16 weeks of paid time off.

>> Read the honest review: Is the Away Bigger Carry-On Worth the Hype?

Worried about the corners of your suitcase getting crushed? July makes its carry ons with aluminum bumpers.

Worried about the corners of your suitcase getting crushed? July makes its carry ons with aluminum bumpers.

Courtesy of July

Original Carry On by July


  • Buy now: $295,
  • Style: Hard-shell spinner luggage
  • Capacity: 42 liters
  • Dimensions: 21.5 x 15 x 8.5 inches
  • Weight: 7.4 lbs.

Essentially Australia’s version of Away, July started selling its bags online in the United States in 2021. Made with a crush-proof German polycarbonate shell, the standard July Carry On offers lots of space for your belongings (42 liters) while only weighing 7.4 pounds and still meeting domestic carrier size requirements. Available in more than a dozen matte colors from a cheerful Marigold Yellow to a trendy pink Clay hue, these bags are made with a multilevel telescoping handle for people of various heights, proprietary SilentMove 360° spinner wheels, and aluminum bumpers to prevent the corners from being crushed.
The bags also include an ejectable USB-C battery, integrated TSA locks, a hidden laundry bag, and a Y-strap compression system to help pack it all in. Want to personalize your bag? For an extra $50 you can add your name or initials in a variety of fonts and alphabets. July luggage is backed by a lifetime warranty on manufacturing defaults and includes a 100-day trial in case you change your mind for whatever reason.

Rimowa has been perfecting the luggage game for more than 100 years.

Rimowa has been perfecting the luggage game for more than 100 years.

Photo by Kelsey McClellan, styling by Michelle Macguire

Essential Lite Cabin by Rimowa

Best lightweight carry-on luggage

  • Buy now: $700,
  • Style: Hard-shell spinner luggage
  • Capacity: 37 liters
  • Dimensions: 21.7 x 15.8 x 9.1 inches
  • Weight: 4.9 lbs.

One of the lightest carry-ons on the market, Rimowa’s Essential Lite Cabin bag lives up to its name. Weighing 30 percent less than its predecessor, the Essential Lite is refined with portability in mind. The 4.9-pound, 37-liter carry-on is only separated into two big, zippered sections on the inside, but what it lacks in interior compartmentalization, it makes up for in exterior flash and durability. With a polycarbonate shell, it is built to withstand wear and tear but also bend, depending on its environment. The bag has a smooth roll and comfortable T-handle.

Monos Carry On Pro Plus

Instead of carrying your laptop’s weight on your shoulders, pop it into the exterior pocket on this stylish Monos suitcase.

Courtesy of Monos

Carry-On Pro Plus by Monos

Best carry-on with laptop pocket

  • Buy now: $315–$345 (was $332–$364),
  • Style: Hard-shell spinner luggage
  • Capacity: 46 liters
  • Dimensions: 23 x 15 x 9.5 inches
  • Weight: 8.38 lbs.

The Monos Carry-On Pro Plus is the bag that finally convinced Michelle Baran, AFAR’s senior travel news editor, to hang up her Team Checked Luggage hat and finally join Team Carry-On. “What I love about this super lightweight spinner is that it features an exterior pocket that fits a 15-inch laptop,” Baran said. It comes in eight standard colors, as well as a few limited-edition ones including the highly recommended Terrazzo pattern that looks just like the beloved tile of the same name. Major added bonus: Monos is an eco-conscious company that uses vegan materials and recyclable and reusable packaging, plus 1 percent of revenues go to nonprofits dedicated to “preserving and restoring the natural world.”

Samsara smart suitcase in yellow

Worried about getting gate checked? This Samsara carry-on comes with an Apple Air Tag.

Courtesy of Samsara

Grand Carry-On by Samsara

Best smart carry-on suitcase

  • Buy now: $395,
  • Style: Hard-shell zipperless luggage
  • Capacity: 43.5 liters
  • Dimensions: 22.5 x 15 x 9.5 inches
  • Weight: 10.8 lbs.

Samsara luggage has all the features you’d expect from a premium suitcase—smooth 360° spinning wheels, a telescopic handle, TSA-compliant combination locks—and some that might surprise you like the clever built-in compartment for securing an Apple AirTag. (The AirTag is included, but you’ll need to have an iPhone to be able to track it if your luggage gets lost.) This zipperless luggage also features a flat top that doubles as a work space and a compression system to help keep your clothes in place. It comes in black, yellow, or white.

This carry-on is also made with recycled (and recyclable) aviation-grade aluminum for extra durability. And if there are problems, Samsara backs up its products with a five-year warranty on the body and a one-year warranty on parts (including the handle, wheels, and locks).

For an even smarter bag, Samsara also offers the Un-carrier On (a bag it made in partnership with T-Mobile) that comes with an ejectable power bank featuring a USB-C port. It’s a little more affordable at $325, about a pound lighter, and has two more liters of space. Despite those pros, there are a few cons: It only comes in one color (magenta) and has branding for the cellphone carrier on the handle, wheels, and interior.

You don’t need to battle with zippers to open Arlo Skye’s Frame Carry-On.

You don’t need to battle with zippers to open Arlo Skye’s Frame Carry-On.

Photo by Kelsey McClellan, styling by Michelle Macguire

The Frame Carry-On by Arlo Skye

Best zipperless carry-on luggage

  • Buy now: $475,
  • Style: Hard-shell zipperless luggage
  • Capacity: 40 liters
  • Dimensions: 22 x 14 x 9 inches
  • Weight: 8.1 lbs.

At 8.1 pounds, Arlo Skye’s Frame Carry-On is a bit bulkier than others on the market, but the polycarbonate shell is reinforced with an aluminum frame, making the bulk more bearable. The zipperless, 40-liter bag latches with two TSA-approved combination locks and is decked out with a compact charging station, portable charger, charging cable and adapter, two shoe bags, and a laundry bag. It rolls nicely and features an antimicrobial lining infused with natural silver fibers to prevent germ growth and odor-causing bacteria. Structurally, the bag looks a bit industrial, but the sleek color combinations—black, navy, and champagne with silver accents—ensure you’ll be rolling around the airport in style.

Paravel also has a standard size carry-on and a checked version of the Aviator.

Paravel also has a standard size carry-on and a checked version of the Aviator.

Courtesy of Paravel

Aviator Carry-On Plus by Paravel

Best sustainably made carry-on luggage

  • Buy now: $425,
  • Style: Hard-shell spinner luggage
  • Capacity: 46.6 liters
  • Dimensions: 22.7 x 14.7 x 9.6 inches
  • Weight: 8.5 lbs.

Paravel expertly amped up its standard carry-on in linear measurements and capacity—a whopping 46.6 liters—without compromising the weight of the bag itself. The Paravel Aviator Carry-On Plus is also one of the best-looking bags out there. Available in five stylish colors like Safari green and Scuba navy, these hard-shell spinners come with vegan leather-wrapped steel handles, carbon steel bearing wheels, and TSA-approved locks. Beyond its beautiful design, it’s also one of the most sustainably made suitcases available. In addition to using recycled materials for everything from its polycarbonate exterior to the zippers and the lining made from 15 upcycled water bottles, Paravel also offsets the carbon emissions from manufacturing and shipping the bag to you, plus the estimated emissions from the first flight you take with the bag. With details like a scuff-hiding textured finish and an interior compression board, this under $500 carry-on is a solid contender.

This soft-sided suitcase comes in classic black, as well as pink, purple, blue, and green.

This soft-sided suitcase comes in classic black, as well as pink, purple, blue, and green.

Courtesy of Travelpro

Maxlite 5 22” Expandable Carry-On Rollaboard by Travelpro

Best soft-side carry-on luggage

  • Buy now: $144-153 (was $170),;
  • Style: Soft-side two-wheel luggage
  • Capacity: 52 liters
  • Dimensions: 23 x 14.5 x 9 inches (23 x 14.5 x 11 inches expanded)
  • Weight: 5.4 lbs.

There’s a reason Travelpro is a go-to brand for flight attendants. Its durable black nylon suitcases are virtually indestructible, have a timeless appeal, and are a fan-favorite of two-wheeled and soft-side luggage devotees. The ultra-lightweight (only 5.4 pounds!) Maxlite 5 carry-on suitcase is sized to meet most domestic airline carry-on size restrictions. In addition to one extra roomy interior compartment, this soft-shell bag also has two exterior front pockets for easy access stashing. When you need some wiggle room, the suitcase can also expand up to two extra inches to maximize its packing potential. (Thankfully, Travelpro tapered the design of this expansion zipper so that the bag’s center stays low in order to prevent toppling that some two-wheelers are prone to.) If anything does happen to your Travelpro suitcase, it’s backed by the company’s limited warranty that covers things like broken zippers, wheels, handles, and more.

lojel cubo small

Lojel’s Cubo Small offers a rare top-loading opening for a hard-shell carry on.

Courtesy of Lojel

Cubo Small by Lojel

Best top-loading hard-shell carry-on

  • Buy now: $300,
  • Style: Hard-shell spinner luggage
  • Capacity: 37 liters (42 liters expanded)
  • Dimensions: 20.9 x 14 x 9.8 inches (20.9 x 14 x 11 inches expanded)
  • Weight: 6.8 lbs.

Typically, hard-shell suitcases feature a (somewhat divisive) clamshell style of packing. The best feature of this carry-on from Lojel is that it has a top-loading opening for those who prefer that. Its other features make it a solid choice, too. Made with durable thermoplastic that’s heat and cold-resistant and scratch-proof, the Cubo Small also has 360° spinning wheels, the ability to expand two inches if needed, TSA-approved locks, and a front compartment where you can easily access items like laptops and wallets. It comes in nine colors including burgundy, rose, off-white, mustard, navy blue, warm gray, black, and cactus. Each suitcase has a 10-year warranty. We also love that Lojel is developing a system of modular, standardized parts, allowing travelers to fix their luggage piece-by-piece to help minimize landfill waste.

Roam’s Jaunt carry-on can hold 37 liters and comes in seven different colors.

Roam’s Jaunt carry-on can hold 37 liters and comes in seven different colors.

Photo by Kelsey McClellan, styling by Michelle Macguire

Jaunt Carry-On by Roam

Best customizable carry-on luggage

  • Buy now: $550,
  • Style: Hard-shell spinner luggage
  • Capacity: 37 liters
  • Dimensions: 22 x 14.25 x 9 inches
  • Weight: 7.3 lbs.

Inside, Roam’s 37-liter bag is simple: two big compartments with two removable accessory pockets and a laundry bag. However, it’s a showstopper in more ways than one. The Jaunt Carry-On features top-tier Hinomoto wheels, specially built for a smooth roll, as well as a water-repellent zipper, and a precision-fit handle to minimize wiggling. But what makes it truly stand out is that Roam leaves the appearance of the bag to you. With nine whimsical colors to choose from, such as Como blue and Venetian green, it’s completely customizable—the shell color, accents, zipper, binding, wheels, carry handle, right down to the stitching. You can even monogram the leather patch on the back of your case.

The Aer Travel Pack 2 is a previous version of the Travel Pack 3 by Aer.

The Aer Travel Pack 2 is a previous version of the Travel Pack 3 by Aer.

Courtesy of Aer

Travel Pack 3 by Aer

Best carry-on backpack

  • Buy now: $249,
  • Style: Backpack
  • Capacity: 35 liters
  • Dimensions: 21.5 x 13 x 9 inches
  • Weight: 4.12 lbs.

When quick work trips beckon, the Aer Travel Pack 3 swoops in to save the day. This versatile piece keeps all of your business trip essentials (passport, laptop, cords, and such) organized, at the ready, and secure with lockable zippers. The 35-liter Travel Pack can be carried as a backpack, shoulder bag, or briefcase, thanks to hideaway compartments that conceal straps and keep your bag looking sleek and professional.

Osprey Farpoint backpack with wheels

The Osprey Farpoint and Fairview are the same bag, just with the straps designed differently for smaller and larger frames.

Courtesy of Osprey

Fairview/Farpoint Wheeled Travel Pack Carry-On 36L by Osprey

Best wheeled carry-on backpack

  • Buy now: Fairview, $300,; Farpoint, $300,
  • Style: Wheeled backpack
  • Capacity: 36 liters
  • Dimensions: 21.5 x 14 x 9 inches
  • Weight: 5.3 lbs.

Virtually identical bags with some slight design tweaks to make the Fairview fit better on smaller body frames, these Osprey carry-ons quickly convert from two-wheeled roller bags to backpacks. And unlike other convertible backpacks, these come with seriously padded waist and chest belts, making them super-comfortable to wear. Made with Bluesign-approved recycled nylon, these bags are durable enough to last for years and also water repellent to keep your belongings protected. The three zippered compartments are lined in beautiful complementary colors (the black Fairview pack has a deep teal interior and the dark blue Farpoint bag is lined in red) making it easy to find what you need.

The two mesh pockets on the front are perfectly sized for water bottles and other small items, which means you can pack as much as you would in normal carry-on luggage, without the bulk or weight. The straps on the front of the backpack are compatible with the brand’s Farpoint/Fairview Travel Daypack—sold separately—so you can clip on the 15-liter daypack and carry everything all at once.

Patagonia Black Hole Duffel 40L

Patagonia Black Hole Duffels are lightweight but fit a ton of stuff.

Courtesy of Patagonia

Patagonia Black Hole Duffel Bag 40L

Best carry-on duffel bag

  • Buy now: $159,;
  • Style: Duffel bag
  • Capacity: 40 liters
  • Dimensions: 21 x 13.7 x 10.6 inches
  • Weight: 2.05 lbs.

Patagonia’s Black Hole duffels are hugely popular among outdoor enthusiasts—and for good reason. The ecofriendly brand’s durable and lightweight duffels are made with 100 percent recycled polyester fabric, lining, and webbing that is also water repellent. Available in four different sizes, the small 40L bag is the only one sized to fit in an overhead compartment.

The large main compartment comes with a full-length zippered opening that lets you access all your belongings at once. The large mesh pocket on the lid’s interior helps organize small items such as toiletry bottles, charging chords, or socks, while a zippered exterior side pocket lets you stash items quickly on the go. Padded backpack straps keep your shoulders from getting too sore and can be removed if you prefer to carry it with the traditional duffel straps. When you’re home, the entire bag can stuff into its own pocket for easy storage.

Royce & Rocket carry-on interior

If you struggle to stay organized, this carry-on’s shelves are helpful.

Courtesy of Royce & Rocket

The Castle Carry-on by Royce & Rocket

Best carry-on with shelves

  • Buy now: $415,
  • Style: Hard-shell spinner luggage
  • Capacity: 19 liters (21 liters expanded)
  • Dimensions: 21 x 14 x 9 inches (21 x 14 x 11 expanded)
  • Weight: 8.5 lbs.

Featuring two fold-down shelves (which lay flat when not in use to ensure you’re not losing valuable space), the Castle Carry-on is excellent for those who struggle with staying organized—they’re perfect for arranging packing cubes and toiletry bags on.

Both the carry-on and the check-in-size Classic Bag are designed to be highly efficient and functional—beyond the dual shelves, they include a compression system and a slew of pockets (our favorite being the hidden pocket for additional privacy). It also has a TSA-approved lock, the ability to expand up to two inches, and Hinomoto Lisof Silent Run 360° Wheels. It comes in black, burgundy, and silver; customers can choose a tobacco or pink interior color.

From a sustainability standpoint, all of Royce & Rocket’s products have packing that is 100 percent recyclable. The suitcases also have a 10-year limited warranty that covers manufacturing issues related to the wheels, zippers, handles, compression straps, shelves, and cracks in the polycarbonate shell, so it’ll be a suitcase you’ll have for a while. There is one con to consider: At 8.5 pounds, this carry-on is quite heavy considering it only has room for up to 21 liters of stuff even when expanded.

Bailey Berg, Michelle Baran, and Ami Kealoha contributed additional reporting to this story. This article originally appeared online in 2019; it was updated most recently on March 10, 2023, to include current information.

Lyndsey Matthews is the senior commerce editor at AFAR who covers travel gear, packing advice, and points and loyalty.
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