Home>Travel inspiration>Tips + News>Travel Gear

The Best Carry-On Luggage for 2022

By Brooke Vaughan and Lyndsey Matthews

Mar 14, 2022

share this article
flipboard
One of the handy features of the Away Bigger Carry-On is the ejectable charging port.

Photo by Kelsey McClellan, styling by Michelle Macguire

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

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

share this article
flipboard

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 weekend getaway bags. 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 10 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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

The Bigger Carry-On by Away

Best overall

  • Buy now: $295, away.com
  • Style: Hard-shell spinner luggage
  • Capacity: 47.9 liters
  • Dimensions: 22.7 x 14.7 x 9.6 inches
  • Weight: 8.4 lbs.

The 8.4-pound Bigger Carry-On (pictured above) by Away holds a whopping 47.9 liters and is separated into two larger compartments. It also includes a hidden laundry bag and an interior mesh compression system that packs down bulky items. Plus, this bag is one of the most budget-friendly of all the luggage on the list. Despite its low 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.

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.

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

Carry On by July

Runner-up

  • Buy now: $245, july.com
  • Style: Hard-shell spinner luggage
  • Capacity: 46 liters
  • Dimensions: 21 x 14.5 x 8 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 (46 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.

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

The Frame Carry-On by Arlo Skye

Best zipperless carry-on luggage

  • Buy now: $450, arloskye.com
  • Style: Hard-shell spinner luggage
  • Capacity: 40 liters
  • Dimensions: 22 x 14 x 9 inches
  • Weight: 8.5 lbs.

At 8.5 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.

Aviator Carry-On Plus by Paravel

Best large carry-on

  • Buy now: $375, tourparavel.com
  • Style: Hard-shell spinner luggage
  • Capacity: 52.1 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 52.1 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 $400 carry-on is a solid contender.

Tumi upholds its reputation for durability with its Latitude International Carry-On.

Latitude International Carry-On by Tumi

Best investment piece

  • Buy now: $750, saksfifthavenue.com; amazon.com
  • Style: Hard-shell spinner luggage
  • Capacity: 35 liters
  • Dimensions: 22 x 14 x 9 inches
  • Weight: 6.3 lbs.

The sporty Latitude International Carry-On comes with a hefty price tag, but Tumi made sure to deck out this Corvette of carry-ons to make it worth your while. The roll is smooth, the retractable handle is sturdy, and the hard shell—specially crafted with Tumi’s trademarked self-reinforced polypropylene ballistic material—is durable enough to bear high impact while still being flexible. Built to hold 35 liters, the 6.3-pound bag allows you to neatly separate and secure your items with two fully lined packing compartments, two smaller zip pockets, a mesh zip pocket, and tie-down straps. Extra corner protection comes in handy during those inevitable rough patches at the airport (like shoving your suitcase into the metal measuring bin), and it keeps your luggage looking fresh.

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

Maxlite 5 22” Expandable Carry-On Rollaboard by Travelpro

Best two-wheel carry-on luggage

  • Buy now: $150, travelpro.com; amazon.com
  • Style: Soft-shell two-wheel luggage
  • Capacity: 52 liters
  • Dimensions: 23 x 14.5 x 9 inches
  • 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 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.

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

Essential Lite Cabin by Rimowa

Best lightweight rolling carry-on

  • Buy now: $580, rimowa.com
  • 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.

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

Jaunt Carry-On by Roam

Best customizable carry-on luggage

  • Buy now: $550, roamluggage.com
  • 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 seven whimsical colors to choose from, such as Como blue and Arabian purple, 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.

Does your trip have a quick turnaround? Consider the Aer Travel Pack 2.

Travel Pack 2 by Aer

Best carry-on backpack

  • Buy now: $230, aersf.com; nordstrom.com
  • Style: Backpack
  • Capacity: 33 liters
  • Dimensions: 21.5 x 13.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Weight: 3.7 lbs.

When quick work trips beckon, the Aer Travel Pack 2 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 33-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.

The Carryall comes in six colors, including core versions like this heather gray, as well as limited edition ones.

Extra Large Landon Carryall Bag by Dagne Dover

Best carry-on duffel bag

  • Buy now: $230, dagnedover.com
  • Style: Duffel bag
  • Capacity: 42 liters
  • Dimensions: 20.5 x 10 x 10.5 inches
  • Weight: 3.3 lbs.

This stylish tote is hand washable, quick drying, and prepared for whatever you’ll be getting into each weekend. Choose from a variety of colors, including classic black, gray, and navy, as well as limited edition colors released seasonally. Available in five different sizes, the “extra large” is sized to fit in overhead bins on most airlines and also comes with a dedicated laptop sleeve, shoe bag, exterior phone pocket, crossbody strap, detachable zip-top pouch, and numerous interior compartments to keep belongings tidy and easy to locate.

This article originally appeared online in April 2019; it was updated in October 2020, February 2021, and again on March 14, 2022, to include current information. 

>>Next: How to Apply Marie Kondo’s Life-Changing Magic to Packing

Products we write about are independently vetted and recommended by our editors. AFAR may earn a commission if you buy through our links, which helps support our independent publication.

Sign up for the Daily Wander newsletter for expert travel inspiration and tips

Please enter a valid email address.

Read our privacy policy