Courtesy of Dagne Dover
Photo by Kelsey McClellan, styling by Michelle Macguire
Roam’s Jaunt carry-on can hold 40 liters and comes in seven different colors.
Watch out, wobbly handles. Back off, boring colors. These compact cases are making their way to an overhead compartment near you.
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. They’re 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 carry-on is actually right for you? We tested nine of them (and even elucidated carry-on size restrictions) to make your decision easier.
Inside, Roam’s 40-liter bag (pictured above) 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 Hinomoto wheels–arguably the highest quality wheels in the luggage industry and made with ball bearings to ensure an ultra-smooth ride. And Roam leaves the appearance of the bag to you. With seven whimsical colors to choose from, such as Pacific 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. With details like a water-repellent zipper and a precise fit of the handle to minimize wiggling, this 6.6-pound carry-on is a solid contender.
This stylish tote is hand-washable, quick-drying, and prepared for whatever you’ll be getting into each weekend. Choose from six eye-catching hues, including onyx, ash blue, dark moss, and dune, then select your size, from extra small to extra large. (Travelers packing for more than a day or two should spring for the large or extra large sizes.) The larger models are also equipped with a shoe bag, exterior phone pocket, crossbody strap, detachable zip-top pouch, and numerous interior compartments to keep belongings tidy and easy to locate.
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Away expertly amped up its former carry-on in linear measurements and capacity without compromising the weight of the bag itself. The 8.4-pound Bigger Carry-On holds a whopping 47.9 liters and is separated into two larger compartments, a removable mesh bag, and a hidden laundry bag, which is easily compressible and waterproof, so it can be used for, say, a wet bathing suit. Plus, this bag is the most budget-friendly of all the luggage on the list. Despite its low price, the bag looks really sleek and has top-tier Hinomoto wheels, specially built for a smooth roll. 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 travelers whose MO is to throw a couple things in the nearest bag and make a beeline for the airport, the Matador Freefly16 beckons. Available in two neutral colors, the lightweight, 16-liter backpack includes one large compartment, a smaller zippered pocket, breathable mesh shoulder straps, and external mesh pockets, ideal for a water bottle or other items that need to be accessed quickly. Better yet, it’s waterproof (yes, even the zippers are sealed for water resistance), and it folds up snugly into its own detachable storage bag. Another bonus? It works well as a daypack, too.
Weighing in 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 several different-sized compartments, ideal for separating the contents. Structurally, the bag looks a bit industrial, but more delicate color combinations—black, navy, and champagne with silver accents—ensure you’ll be rolling around the airport in style.
When quick work trips beckon, the Aer Travel Pack 2 swoops in to save the day. This versatile piece keeps all of your 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.
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Potentially the lightest carry-on you’ve ever traveled with, 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 is available in six eye-catching colors, including a Ferrari red and electric blue, and it has a smooth roll and comfortable T-handle.
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 (SRPP) ballistic material–is durable enough to bear high impact while still being flexible. Built to hold 35 liters, the 6.29-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 is for vagabonds who might pass on strict organization but need plenty of space to acquire a few new pieces. The wide zipper opening allows easy access to belongings, and a single interior stash pocket provides just enough space for valuables. What this piece lacks in organization, it makes up for in mobility: The bag can be worn over the shoulder or as a backpack, and it stuffs into its own pocket for storage. Nylon ripstop fabric makes the bag tear-resistant, and a special finish means it’s water-repellent, too—an ideal outdoors pick.
This article originally appeared online in April 2019; it was updated on October 1, 2020, to include current information. Products we write about are independently vetted and recommended by our editors. We may earn a commission if you buy through our links.
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