No matter where you’re traveling, you’ll need a way to get your gear there. This could be anything: a small personal item backpack, a travel backpack, a duffle bag, or carry on rolling luggage. In this post, we’ll be focusing on carry-on sized luggage.

For well over six months, we’ve been testing some of the most popular brands and styles of rolling luggage. We’ve tried hard and soft sides, suitcases with built-in shelves or packing cubes, and carry-ons that straddle the line between bags and suitcases. We’ve taken them on trips to the Dominican Republic, Florida, New York, and more, staying at hostels, hotels, resorts, and rental homes. We’ve dragged them across carpet, cobblestones, cement and tile, up and down stairs, escalators, elevators, and moving walkways.

Pairing rolling luggage with packing light might seem counterintuitive (cue movie scenes that show someone sitting on an overflowing suitcase while trying to zip it shut), but it’s an excellent way to keep your carry sleek. While we’re big fans of travel backpacks, we like that a roller bag allows us to be more selective about the personal item we carry. Instead of a packable bag, we can choose something with more structure and focus on carry comfort for the bag we’ll be wearing every day.

Carry on luggage comes in many variations, whether it’s made with a hard-sided or soft-sided shell or has spinner or roller wheels. Luckily, we’ve included a few of each in this post so you can better determine what you need.

Don’t worry—if you look at every bag we’ve listed and still can’t decide, we’ve included an FAQ section at the bottom of this post with loads of information on how to choose the best carry on luggage for you. After all, this is a big decision, so you might as well spend some time on it!

Let’s dive in.

1. Travelpro Maxlite 5 21″ Carry-On Expandable Spinner
Travelpro Maxlite 5 21″ Carry-On Expandable Spinner Review

There’s a reason you often see pilots and flight attendants using Travelpro luggage. It’s built well, lasts, and comes at a fair price! The Maxlite 5 21″ Carry-On Expandable Spinner has durable wheels, a smooth ride, and a comfortable handle for hustling through the airport when you’re late because you stayed up late the night before your early morning flight.

If you’re looking for the best luggage for easy packing, this bag has a zippered organizer lid and a large main compartment that’s easy to fill with packing cubes and other organizers. It includes compression straps that help hold cubes or clothing in place, though we prefer to pack bulky gear towards the expansion zipper at the bottom and lighter clothing near the top. That can make the spinner luggage a little front-heavy, though, if you don’t let the bag come to a complete stop before letting go. There are two external pockets for quick-grab items, and the telescoping handle has two adjustments to help you find the most comfortable height. We also dig its rubberized grip, which is ergonomic to hold and one of our favorite designs we’ve tested here at Pack Hacker HQ.

This model isn’t the most stylish spinner luggage on the market; however, it gets your gear from point A to point B, which is the most crucial part. After all, how often will people look at your bags, anyway? For those who need something smooth, reliable, and simple, this might be the best carry on luggage for you!

Why We Like It
  • The wheels are smooth and feel durable
  • Handle is comfortable to grip for long periods
What You Should Know
  • It isn’t the most stylish option we’ve seen
  • May be easy to confuse your bag with someone else’s since it’s so popular
See Full Review & Buying Options
2. Samsonite Freeform Carry-On Spinner
Samsonite Freeform Carry-On Spinner Review

The Samsonite Freeform Carry-On Spinner is hard-sided luggage with numerous colorways, so you can find one that perfectly matches your style. Whether you’re looking for something sleek or vibrant, there’s an option for you here.

We haven’t found this to be the best carry on suitcase for durability on the market—it got a bit scuffed up after being gate-checked with Delta. However, it will adequately protect your gear throughout your trip. Brighter colorways might show signs of scratching easier than darker models, so keep that in mind if you don’t like a distressed look.

The internal organization is simple, with one zippered side and another with X-shaped compression straps to hold larger clothing down, although the main compartment of this spinner luggage does have a few tucked-away corners where large items are a tight squeeze and where small gear can hide. On the outside, the telescoping handle has two adjustment points for comfort depending on your height, and pulling it around feels smooth and hassle-free despite the simplistic design choices.

Samsonite is a trusted brand, so you can likely find this model somewhere in person, which is ideal if you’re someone who likes to test out your gear before you buy it. If that’s the case, look for it at a big box store or the mall and try before you buy.

Why We Like It
  • Expandable in case you need to pack more gear
  • Internal organization is well thought-out
What You Should Know
  • X-shaped compression strap can be hard to get used to
  • Borderline carry on compliance given its size
See Full Review & Buying Options
3. Amazon Basics 20-Inch Hardside Spinner
Amazon Basics 20-Inch Hardside Spinner Review

You probably knew this was coming. It seems like Amazon Basics makes every product category under the sun. The fact of whether or not that’s ethical aside, there’s also a question of whether or not it’s any good.

In the case of the Amazon Basics 21-Inch Hardside Spinner, we think it’s one of the best budget luggage options out there for its quality. The hard sides will keep your gear safe no matter where you’re headed, though it scuffs up fairly easily and doesn’t feel as premium as some of the other models on this list. That said, it’s the best luggage if you’re on a budget, since it’s a fraction of the cost compared to some rolling luggage brands. You can use that money to invest in your trip, yourself, or on donuts.

This bag doesn’t have any external pockets, but the internal organization is helpful while traveling. It’s split in half; one side zips closed and has two pockets for small items, and the other utilizes tie-down straps to keep your clothing in check, though they don’t do a very good job in our experience—our gear easily shifts out of place. However, it expands if you need to jam extra goodies inside.

Why We Like It
  • It comes at a budget-friendly price
  • Fast shipping if you have Amazon Prime and need a bag last-minute
What You Should Know
  • It feels cheap, though it gets your gear where it needs to go
  • Style takes a back seat to price and functionality
See Full Review & Buying Options
4. SwissGear Sion Expandable Carry-On 21″ Luggage
SwissGear Sion Expandable Carry-On 21″ Luggage

SwissGear Sion Expandable Carry-On 21″ Luggage has an excellent mix of durability and space, with good wheels to boot. The wheels on this rolling luggage run smoothly, so it’s the best carry on suitcase if you need to balance a slice of pizza in one hand while getting your spinner luggage down the terminal concourse in the other.

However, that dream might be interrupted by the handle—it isn’t the most stable model we’ve tested and can wiggle a bit back and forth as you walk. While we don’t think this is an issue with durability, some users might find the wobbling annoying.

While we don’t think this is an issue with durability, and the telescoping extension is smooth, some users might find the wobbling annoying. There are two external pockets for quick-grab items, and the internal organization features a dump pocket with built-in pockets. Plus, the whole thing is expandable, so you can bring home souvenirs for whoever fed your pet while you were away!

The organization of this pack is helpful, and its budget-friendly price point may make it the best carry on luggage for some users.

Why We Like It
  • The wheels feel smooth on a range of terrain
  • It boasts good durability, even on rugged adventures
What You Should Know
  • Handle feels a bit too wobbly—although it functions properly
  • The logo placement can be distracting
See Details & Buying Options
5. LEVEL8 Road Runner Pro Carry-On 20”
LEVEL8 Road Runner Pro Carry-On With Laptop Pocket 20” Solo

The Level8 Pro Carry-On has a dedicated laptop sleeve—a modern amenity we’re here for. Some users might wince at the idea of stowing their precious laptop inside rolling luggage; however, this thing has more padding than some travel backpacks, and we stow a device in those all the time.

If you’re looking for the best luggage for the digital lifestyle, we like that the laptop compartment is on the outside of the pack. It makes it easy to work remotely while we’re waiting to board, and there’s room for other tech and travel accessories, as well. However, we’ve noticed that it can be hard to close if the main compartment is too full, so be sure to pack strategically. Meanwhile, the inside of the main compartment is a dump pocket with organization for smaller items on the lid.

While the handle isn’t the most comfortable we’ve tried, it feels fine during short jaunts at the airport. And, this hard-sided spinner luggage looks very futuristic, which we dig. There are no vibrant colorways available at the time of writing (though we have seen some bright limited edition options on occasion), so you may struggle to find your bag in a sea of neutral tones in the overhead bin. However, for those looking for dedicated laptop storage, this is one of the best carry on luggage models on the market.

Why We Like It
  • It has a dedicated laptop compartment
  • Zippers lock into the case itself
What You Should Know
  • Its modern look won’t spark joy for everyone
  • The combination lock may be easy to foil
See Full Review & Buying Options
6. July Carry On
July Carry On Review

The July Carry On spinner luggage is one of our favorite exterior designs on the market, and there are loads of colorways to ensure you find a fit that works for you and your vibes.

The telescopic handle stops at 20 places before fully extended, making it the best luggage for travelers of any size to find a comfortable fit. There aren’t any outside pockets, although you can get a version that includes an external battery bank to charge your devices. For everything else, bring along a sling or other kind of personal item. The interior organization features a dump pocket on one side topped with a mesh panel, and you can hold gear in place on the other side with a compression strap that includes a wire-framed panel and a zipper pocket. There’s a laundry bag included, as well.

Plus, it’s durable, looks good, and moves smoothly. Some of the lighter colorways might scuff up easier than the darker models available; however, we haven’t had any issues so far. We think this is some of the best-looking spinner luggage on the market because of its sleek design, and the interior organization is also easy to use. If those are near the top of your list, this might be the best carry on luggage for you and your next trip, no matter the destination. Luckily, you can use this bag in months other than July!

Why We Like It
  • Incredibly sleek from top to bottom
  • All four wheels move well forwards, backwards, and sideways
What You Should Know
  • Lighter colorways are more likely to show blemishes
  • External device charging can be superfluous for shorter trips, though you can get an “Essential” model without it
See Full Review & Buying Options
7. Monos Carry-On
Monos Carry-On Review

The Monos Carry-On comes in multiple sizes, so you can get the best rolling luggage for your needs and the airline you typically fly. Depending on the version that you get, the organization and layout will change slightly; but overall, we dig using this bag.

If you overstuff the luggage, the handle can get stuck in the up or down position, requiring some force to get put back into place. We’re always able to get it eventually, but it’s worth noting this issue if you’re an over-packer and/or unable to apply lots of force.

We also like that the handle has four stops on the road to full extension since it allows us to find the right height for each user. As for internal organization, one side zips completely closed to keep clothing in check and features a separate zippered pocket on top for thin, flat items. The other side is open to pack as you please and includes a compression pad, which pushes down your clothing and keeps it in place. It’s a great alternative to packing cubes, and it’s removable if you don’t find it useful.

Why We Like It
  • There are multiple sizes available
  • Internal pockets are well integrated
What You Should Know
  • The handle can get stuck when the pack is overstuffed
  • Underside handle release button takes some getting used to
See Full Review & Buying Options
8. Beis Carry-On Roller
Beis Carry-On Roller

Sometimes, even the best rolling luggage only comes in a few colorways. With the Beis Carry-On Roller, that isn’t an issue. With ten options at the time of writing, there’s a perfect fit for any vibe or style you’re looking for. In addition to bright, vibrant colors, there are sleek and muted options, too.

All that colored paint comes at a price, though, as this thing is pretty heavy. Okay, that’s not the reason why it weighs more, though it is heavier than we expect, even for hard-sided luggage. It isn’t unmanageable; however, it’s worth noting if you’re trying to cut ounces to keep your bag within a weight limit.

This pack is split in half with equal storage space on either side except for the small space taken up by the multi-stop telescoping handle. It’s worth noting that the button on the handle is on the bottom rather than the top. This doesn’t impact it’s effectiveness, but you may find yourself accidentally pushing it in if you grip the handle too hard.

In addition those features, we dig the locking zippers, and wheel design on this bag. In the end, if you want something colorful with some bonus quality of life features, this might be the best carry on luggage for you.

Why We Like It
  • Plenty of colorways to choose from
  • Locking zippers are nice for added security
What You Should Know
  • It’s heavier than it looks
  • Some colorways will scuff up easier than others
See Details & Buying Options
9. Calpak Ambeur Carry-On Luggage
Calpak Ambeur Carry-On Luggage Review

Have you ever noticed that most athletic shoes have white soles, no matter what the top of the shoe is? Well, many rolling luggage offerings have that same issue—even on rolling and spinner luggage that comes in vibrant colorways, the wheels are often black. However, on the Calpak Ambeur Carry-On Luggage, the wheels match the color of the bag, which is a fun detail for those who appreciate thoughtful design.

The shiny exterior may get scuffed up by baggage handlers if you have to gate check, but if you aren’t rough on your gear, it should suffice. We love the built-in TSA friendly lock, too, because it not only keeps our gear safe, but stops the zippers from accidentally coming undone if they catch on another bag. Like many offerings here, the Ambeur is split down the middle. One side is a wide open bucket with compression straps to save space, and the other has an organizer for smaller gear. It doesn’t have any external pockets, so you’ll have to rely on a personal item for your quick-grab essentials.

Some of Calpak’s colorways are limited editions, so it’s worth seeing what’s available right now!

Why We Like It
  • The wheel color matches the body of the bag
  • Reinforced corners are great for durability
What You Should Know
  • It isn’t the most durable option
  • Expansion can feel clunky if all the space isn’t being used
See Details & Buying Options
10. Briggs & Riley Global 21″ Carry-On Expandable Spinner
Briggs & Riley Global 21″ Carry-On Expandable Spinner

We've got you covered if you’re in search of a professional looking suitcase. Well, Briggs & Riley does, but we’ll get the assist. This bag looks just as comfortable in business class as it does being wheeled down the runway—seriously, this thing is sleek. If you’re looking for the best carry on suitcase with style, look no further.

Our Pack Hacker Pros say Briggs & Riley makes some of the best carry on luggage because they stand behind their lifetime warranty. Our members have made multiple warranty claims for wear and tear and found the company easy to work with.

However, we aren’t able to fit as much gear inside this pack as we thought we were going to be able to. While it’s reasonably roomy, it doesn’t feel any more versatile than other rolling luggage options on the market considering all the added storage and unique expansion system. There are external pockets on the front of the pack, and the interior has one large dump pocket with detailed organization on the lid for smaller items you don’t want to get lost in the main compartment. The handle is telescopic and easy to use, so you’ll be on your way in a jiffy.

Why We Like It
  • It looks professional and sleek
  • Made with durable materials
What You Should Know
  • Fits less gear than expected for its capacity
  • It’s on the pricier end
See Details & Buying Options
11. TUMI Alpha International Expandable 4 Wheeled Carry-On
TUMI Alpha International Expandable 4 Wheeled Carry-On

If you’ve already invested in the TUMI ecosystem, you probably wondered when we’d feature one of their suitcases. After all, TUMI is one of the better-known spinner luggage brands on the market. The Alpha International Expandable 4 Wheeled Carry-On is modular with other TUMI gear, looks sleek, and has many unique features.

The inside of the bag has a fold-out organizer for dress clothing, a large dump pocket for other gear, and organization on the lid for smaller items. The handle is telescoping with three different height stages so you can find the best for you.

It has a zippered garment compartment, hanger bracket, multiple pockets to store gear inside, impact-resistant side panels for protection, compression straps, and the TUMI Tracer system for recovering your luggage if it gets lost. However, all of this comes at a cost.

At the time of writing, this pack will cost you nearly $900. However, it’s built to last and our Pack Hacker Pro members feel that justifies the price. After all, a warranty doesn’t do you any good if you have a wheel bust in the middle of a South African airport at the beginning of a three-week trip. If that would be the last straw for you, this might be the best carry on luggage option, especially if you already own other TUMI gear.

Why We Like It
  • Lots of internal features
  • It’s modular with other TUMI gear
What You Should Know
  • One of the most expensive bags on this list
  • The width of the handle can be hard to manage with smaller hands
See Details & Buying Options
12. RIMOWA Essential Cabin
RIMOWA Essential Cabin

A few bags on this list have unique zipper-locking technology; however, the Rimowa Essential Cabin is one of our favorites. It’s simple to stow and unlock the zippers when you’re ready to use the bag, which we dig. Plus, the hard-sided exterior is harder to bust into than some of the soft-sided options on this list.

We dig the modern look, though you’ll have to decide if that’s for you. After all, you’re the one that has to haul this luggage around, not us! The luggage is divided in the center with a dump pocket on either side, so you can split your gear between them. One will hold your things behind a zipper mesh panel, while the other side features a stiff compression panel with a zippered mesh pocket for small accessories built-in. It flips out of the way when you go to pack, though we sometimes find it awkward to arrange over our gear.

If you’re looking for something sleek, modern, and without jangly zippers, this might be the best carry on suitcase for your next adventure.

Why We Like It
  • The zipper lock is intuitive
  • The hard-sided exterior is durable and rugged enough for travel
What You Should Know
  • The minimalist look may not be for everyone
  • The price is higher than other similar bags
See Details & Buying Options
13. Away The Carry-On
Away The Carry-On In Detroit

If you’ve scoured the internet for the best carry on luggage, you’ve probably seen the Away The Carry-On. It has a sleek design, sleek colorways, and a handle on the bottom of the suitcase that’s hidden but handy when lifting and moving the bag around. If you can’t tell, there’s a lot to love here.

The materials don’t feel as thick as you’d expect from expensive rolling luggage; however, they feel durable enough for most uses. There are a wide range of colorways available, so you can get one that matches your travel gear or other Away products you’ve already got at home. For a sleek look that works when you need it to, this might be the best rolling luggage for you.

On the inside, one of the sides is a dump pocket with compression straps, and the other is made of mesh with zippered organization. According to Away’s site, we’re working with a “high-grade aluminum telescopic handle,” which is smooth and easy to operate.

Why We Like It
  • Has a hidden bottom handle for quick grabs and moving the suitcase around
  • Numerous sleek colorways available
What You Should Know
  • It isn’t the thickest hard-shelled luggage we’ve tested, which could impact durability
  • Not much padding on the top handle for added comfort
See Full Review & Buying Options
14. Patagonia Black Hole Wheeled Duffel Bag 40L
Patagonia Black Hole Wheeled Duffel Bag 40L

If you’re familiar with the Black Hole line by Patagonia, this pack might look like an old friend. The Patagonia Black Hole Wheeled Duffel Bag 40L is lightweight compared to most of the offerings on this list because it only has two wheels, has lightweight yet durable materials, and doesn’t have much padding.

This might not be the best pack to use as checked baggage because of the lack of protection, and the design may feel limiting to some who are used to four-wheeled bags with dump-bucket-sized main compartments; however, the weight saved is noticeable and handy for moving quickly through the airport or on the road.

We’ve got external pockets to work with while commuting to our destination, which we dig. This pack loads like a duffle and includes zippered pockets on the lid, which is helpful for organization and makes it the best luggage to live out of when you get to your trip.

For a classic roller luggage design without the bulk, this might be the best carry on luggage option for you.

Why We Like It
  • Extraordinarily lightweight compared to many luggage items on this list
  • Matches other Patagonia bags and gear
What You Should Know
  • Front face feels like wasted space with no pockets
  • It doesn’t hold its shape or offer protection from bumps and knocks
See Details & Buying Options
15. Topo Designs Travel Bag Roller
Topo Designs Travel Bag Roller

Heritage styling isn’t common on rolling luggage, but it’s something that Topo Designs excels at and has brought to the Travel Bag Roller. It’s a fun design that will perk up even the rainiest days, and it can be worn as a backpack, which isn’t a feature you often see on roller bags. The wheels are sturdy and roll smooth, which is excellent for the airport and playing with it in the office when the boss isn’t there…oops, we’ve said too much. Move on!

Backpack mode can look a little goofy because the hard rolling luggage underbelly is exposed to the world; however, it works well in a pinch and offers extra protection if one of your friends tries to sabotage you from the back when you reach your destination. Or, paint it green and look like a turtle. How fun is that?

The inside of this bag features large mesh pockets and a zippered panel (with more pockets for organization) to keep your gear in place in the large main compartment. If you’re looking for the best luggage to give you access to your gear as you’re waiting to board, there’s also a top quick-access pocket for your phone and wallet, a vertical front pocket for documents or a book, and an admin-style panel where you can store small travel accessories. It’s also a great spot to stow the shoulder straps when you’d rather drag this bag than carry it.

Why We Like It
  • It brings heritage styling to the rolling luggage world
  • You can wear it as a backpack
What You Should Know
  • The backpack harness system isn’t very comfortable
  • Backpack mode looks a bit goofy
See Details & Buying Options
16. Osprey Transporter Wheeled Carry-On 38
Osprey Transporter Wheeled Carry-On 38

The Osprey Transporter Wheeled Carry-On 38 packs more like a travel backpack or daypack, which will be a plus for many users, but it might take some getting used to for others. We dig how lightweight it is and the versatility of the pocket design, too.

The organization inside the main compartment feels like a mixture between a duffle and a suitcase. It has a large dump pocket, and the lid has organization for extra goodies you don’t want floating around the main compartment. There are a few external pockets, too, which help with holding quick-use items.

If you’ve used Osprey gear in the past, you’ll recognize some of the intuitive organizational features that make them a stellar travel and outdoors brand. If you prefer a dump pocket for all of your gear and doing the organization yourself, this might not be the best carry on luggage for you.

Why We Like It
  • It packs like a backpack, so there’s numerous compartments to work with
  • The materials feel heavier than they need to be for most use cases
What You Should Know
  • The handle design is larger than we’d like
  • It feels stuck between wanting to be a backpack and rolling luggage, with neither of the benefits
See Details & Buying Options
17. Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler XT Wheeled 21.5″ International Carry On Duffel
Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler XT Wheeled International Carry On Duffel Review
Wait, you’re serious? It’s rolling luggage and a backpack? I thought you were joking. No? Really? Well, it is pretty comfortable, and we do like the versatility of transitioning between the wheeled, backpack, and duffle modes.

Silly internal monologues aside, the Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler XT is a versatile offering that is more comfortable in backpack mode than expected, although there’s no padding or breathable mesh to prevent a sweaty back. Don’t get your hopes up—it still feels a tad bulky, but it’s a great way to bring rolling luggage to a historic place with many stairs and not get stuck breaking a wheel by the end of the trip. It might take some time to get used to how to pack this bag because it packs like a duffle but rolls like luggage; however, its versatility makes for a unique travel experience. The telescoping handle lacks padding or grip, so it can get sweaty after a while, but we dig the four stops on its elevator ride to the top. There is a height for almost everyone here, and they all feel comfortable.

The main compartment is a large open pocket with a mesh organizer on the lid, so you can place smaller items here and large items in the big area it covers. We’ve got some external pockets on this bag, so you have a spot to stow smaller items you want to have quick access to.

Why We Like It
  • Backpack mode works better than others we’ve tested
  • It can be used as rolling luggage, a backpack, and a duffle
What You Should Know
  • Materials aren’t nearly as durable as typical rolling luggage
  • It takes time to get used to carrying it in the different modes
See Full Review & Buying Options
18. Solgaard Carry-On Closet
Solgaard Carry-On Closet Review

How much do you plan to bring on vacation? Just an outfit or two, or your entire closet? All kidding aside, the Carry-On Closet includes a shelving system that may make it the best luggage for your next trip if you bring a lot of clothing. It provides you with a unique way of packing, and there are other pockets around this spinner luggage to fill with anything else that doesn’t fit. Fully expanded, it spans almost the entire height of the Carry-On Closet, including the fully-extended telescoping handle, which the shelves can hang from to allow you to live out of your suitcase without unpacking at the hotel. The shelving system itself is divided into four main sections, further subdivided into compartments. In all, it has enough variety in pockets to store large pieces of clothing like denim pants, all the way down to small rolls of socks and underwear. While that makes it easy to find a place for every item of clothing, it also makes it easy to overpack, and we ran into a bit of trouble sometimes when trying to close the bag. It’s easy to compress, though, by cinching down the sides, so it’s obvious pretty quickly whether you need to pull out that extra sweater or not. However, if you’ve fully packed the shelving system, it will bulge and rob space from the front-side compartment, using nearly all its space.

When it’s time to go, we find the telescoping handle to be pretty standard, with two metal shafts connected by a handle at the top. The handle houses the button, which releases the lock, allowing you to extend the shafts in two levels. There is some wiggle along the shafts, but our biggest concern about this rolling luggage is that the handle’s plasticky feel and rounded shape just wasn’t that comfortable.

Why We Like It
  • While the built-in closet is included and nice to use, the carry on works fine without it, as well
  • Buckles are quicker than zippers to get into your bag
What You Should Know
  • The Carry-On Closet takes up significant space inside the luggage compared to regular packing cubes
  • Magnetic buckles can accidentally disengage with the right conditions, though we haven’t had issues
See Full Review & Buying Options
19. The Ridge Carry-On
The Ridge Carry-On Solo

If you’re familiar with the metal minimalist wallets from The Ridge, you may not know they make luggage and other travel accessories, as well. With a German Makrolon Polycarbonate exterior, this is the best luggage if you dig that no-nonsense, utilitarian look and feel as other gear from the brand, with aluminum reinforcement on each corner for added durability. We’re happy to report that the extendable handle gets a slightly softer touch; it’s made with rubberized plastic with a mesh-like pattern for spinner luggage that’s comfortable and easy to grip, even with wet hands or gloves.

The utilitarian features continue inside, where there’s a large zippered compartment to hold your clothing in place, whether or not you use packing cubes. The panel covering it includes a built-in pocket that we used for small gear, like socks and underwear. It also has a small pocket for a smart tracker, so you can make sure your luggage made it on the plane if you’re asked to gate-check. The right side features a large compression panel that’s attached with two adjustable straps so you can lock gear into place. While this may seem like a lot of internal organization if you’re the type to just dump in clothing and shoes willy-nilly, we think it’s the best carry on luggage if you like having the option to organize without it getting in the way.

Why We Like It
  • Wheels move smoothly either in four-wheel or two-wheel mode
  • The handle is comfortable to hold
What You Should Know
  • There are only two adjustment heights for the handle on this rolling luggage
  • The smart tracker pocket is pretty obvious as soon as you open the bag, which defeats the purpose if you’re concerned about theft
See Full Review & Buying Options

If you’re still unsure about what rolling luggage is the best fit for you, we’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions to help you make an informed decision.

Is rolling luggage the best carry-on bag?

Some trips require extra space, which makes larger bags more appealing. Or, if you’re traveling with formal clothing, more space typically means fewer folds and less wrinkles (plus, some carry on luggage comes with built-in garment bags). Parents hitting the skies with kids will undoubtedly enjoy extra space. And, if you’re a chronic over-packer, rolling luggage will ensure you have space for all your gear, even if you know you’re packing too much.

Typically, carry-on-sized rolling luggage has a larger capacity than a travel backpack because it maximizes space with an empty, rectangular bucket shape. While a travel backpack typically ranges between 35 and 45 liters, rolling luggage is usually around 45 liters and can even be more.

Best Carry On Luggage | On a roll!
Best Carry On Luggage | On a roll!

Now picture the rectangular bins at the airport that airlines use to test the size of your carry-on. Rolling luggage is optimized to fit inside the rectangular, whereas travel backpacks are often more oval-shaped, possibly leading to wasted space. For example, at the time of writing, Delta’s carry on size is 22 by 14 by 9 inches, which comes out to roughly 45.42 liters. Not all 45-liter backpacks will fit that bill because of their dimensions, but many 45-liter suitcases will.

Rolling carry on luggage has a space in the Digital Nomad world, too. If you’re one bag traveling with a backpack, you’ll have to empty it before using it as a daypack and it still might be too large for what you’d typically use it for. Or, you’ve got to use a packable bag, which likely isn’t as comfortable as what you’re used to. If you bring rolling luggage and a personal item-sized daypack, you can leave your larger bag at the hotel or Airbnb and use your smaller bag to explore the world when you aren’t working.

On the down side, unlike a travel backpack, you’ll always need to have one hand on the—well—handle. This makes it more difficult to quickly pull out your ID at security, grab your card for last-minute snack purchases, or multitask while carrying a coffee. This is a fairly small (and expected) inconvenience, though we think it’s worth mentioning.

What capacity should my rolling luggage be?

This depends on quite a few factors.

Are you planning on checking your bag? If yes, you have more freedom in your size options because your luggage is going in the cargo hold. If you want to stick with carry on luggage, it’s important to check the sizing of the airline you fly with most to ensure you’re always carry-on compliant.

Next, how long is your trip going to be? The longer the trip, the more space you’ll need for clothing, and the larger your suitcase should be. However, you’ll run into the laundromat paradox once a trip spans longer than a week or two. The solution to this puzzle is determining how long you can go without washing your clothing (or pack items made with Merino wool and similar moisture-wicking, odor-resistant fabrics). Once you’ve figured that out, you can pack light and do laundry as needed.

Best Carry On Luggage for Travel
Best Carry On Luggage | There are a lot of sizes to choose from.

It’s not just about what you wear, though. Some users opt for rolling carry on luggage to bring larger items, like a CPAP machine, while traveling. If this is the case, it’s worth taking the machine and going to a store selling rolling luggage in person. That way, you can see what size you need for your device and move forward from there. Luckily, the best carry on luggage companies will put detailed measurements of their rolling luggage online, so you can compare the size of your machine to the interior specs of the bag. Regardless, it’s always good to leave enough time to find a replacement bag if the one you purchase is too small!

Some luggage is expandable, so you can get a few liters of extra space if you buy extra goodies on your trip. Whereas this feature is helpful, it can compromise the look of a bag. This is especially true for some hard-sided luggage, as the zipper isn’t strong enough to hold the two sides together without them moving independently. And, if you plan to use the expansion, check the size of the pack against how large your carry on can be for the airline you’re flying! A lot of luggage will be sized to fit within carry-on restrictions without expansion, so giving yourself more space may compromise the compatibility.

Lastly, thinking about things you might purchase on your journey is important. If you’re obsessed with stroopwafels from Holland or prawn cocktail crisps from the UK, you’ll need to save some extra space for souvenirs on the way back.

How big should my rolling luggage be?

The best luggage for your next trip is determined less by you and more by airlines. Before purchasing rolling luggage, it’s a good idea to check the companies you fly with most often to see their size restrictions. Budget airlines are typically more strict and have smaller size requirements than large companies.

Best Carry On Luggage for Travel
Best Carry On Luggage | Every bag utilizes space differently.

Another aspect to consider is where you’ll be storing your luggage at your destination and after a trip is over. We recommend unpacking once you arrive because it allows you to move your bag out of the way (kicking a wheel at 2 AM en route to the bathroom is not ideal). However, this means the suitcase needs to be tucked away somewhere.

Check before you book to see if your hotel, Airbnb, or hostel has dedicated closet or storage space. For example, if you’re staying in a pod hotel in Japan, you don’t want a ton of your room taken up by large spinner luggage. And, once you return home, you’ll need to find closet or basement space to store your suitcase, as the hard sides don’t compress for easier storage (unlike travel backpacks). Even soft-sided luggage has structure along the edges that keep it from fully collapsing down—a great feature while you’re flying, but less convenient when you’re not on a trip.

What kind of luggage handle is best?

Like most gear, this will depend on your specific needs. However, a handle on the best luggage should be comfortable when you hold onto it tightly. Not many handles will cause discomfort when you’re meandering through the airport for a pre-flight snack, though a few might when you’re sprinting across the terminal because you’re late for your flight.

Best Carry On Luggage for Travel
Best Carry On Luggage | Does this look comfortable to you?

You also don’t want your handle to wobble or make too much noise. Some models flex so that the bars won’t snap when stowed, but there’s a happy medium—that’s where luggage reviews come in! We also recommend looking for handles with multiple height options because they allow you to find the most comfortable resting position (usually at the hip). It’s also handy if you plan on sharing with your partner, kids, or family members of varying heights. If you’re taller, look for one that extends further for a more comfortable experience. Most brands will list the maximum height of their handles on their website.

How many wheels should rolling luggage have?

Ah, the age-old question: two or four wheels? By definition, two-wheeled bags with stationary wheels are rolling luggage, and four-wheeled models with 360-degree spinning wheels are (appropriately named) spinner luggage. Generally speaking, rolling luggage can be used to describe either model and spinning is only for bags with four wheels.

So what are the benefits of each?

Spinner luggage allows you to push the suitcase without transitioning from a 90-degree angle to 45-degrees. However, adding two more wheels will increase the weight and size of your bag, as they hang below the main compartment versus being set in. A major benefit is that if one of the wheels breaks, you can use it as regular two-wheeled rolling luggage until you’re able to get a replacement.

Best Carry On Luggage for Travel
Best Carry On Luggage | Certain features on your bag wheel determine if you have a good time.

On the other hand, some travelers prefer two-wheeled luggage because it’s often lighter, smaller, and can be less expensive. This might be a good option if you’re looking for something that’s easier to lug around (weight-wise).

In general, we’ve found that four-wheeled spinner luggage models are more comfortable and versatile. They feel more natural to push beside you compared to always pulling, and we think personal items feel more balanced when sitting on top since they’re upright and supported by the luggage itself and not fully by the handle. Plus, if you’re moving fast enough, it can feel like your spinner is pulling you through the airport toward your gate. Who doesn’t want that in a last-call boarding emergency?

That doesn’t mean they’re perfect, though. We dig 360-spinning wheels for their versatility; however, when set the wrong way, they can cause problems when you start moving quickly because they take a moment or two to snap into position. However, in most situations, they work well.

Regardless of the style you choose, you want capable wheels that can handle a range of terrain, from bumpy airport jet bridges to cobblestone streets across Europe. It’s important to be mindful of the surfaces you’re rolling over—worst-case scenario, just pick the bag up for a bit until you’re back on dependable ground.

What features should my rolling luggage have?

The usefulness of suitcase features will depend on what you plan to bring with you.

Best Carry On Luggage for Travel
Best Carry On Luggage | To internal organization, or not to internal organization?

Some rolling luggage will have a device to store formal clothing in transit. If you’re bringing a suit or dress for business or a formal event, this is excellent. However, if you’re a more casual traveler, the added hardware is just wasting space, so we recommend looking for an option without those features or where they’re easily removable.

Similarly, some suitcases will have built-in packing cubes and other organizers like toiletry bags. This is ideal for somebody starting fresh, but you might already have pouches thatwork with your gear. If this is the case, look for roller bag with big open space so you can continue using the organization you like. And, if your suitcase does have a toiletry bag, ensure it’s removable for passing through TSA. If not, you’ll need to get a separate 3-1-1 bag or check your bag.

Other suitcases will have unique features, such as a hook to hold a purse, varying types of expansion systems to give you more capacity, or secret pockets to hold your identification or a tracking device. Some features may be superfluous, but if you’re someone who likes a little guidance in how to carry your gear, there are tons of options out there.

Should I get hard-sided or soft-sided rolling luggage?

If you’re packing items worth a lot of money, are vital to your health or job, or have sentimental value, hard-sided luggage offers extra protection from damage while traveling. However, not all luggage is built the same. In some cases, multiple thick layers of high-denier fabric are better than a thin sheet of plastic.

While a soft material is at risk of ripping or developing holes, it can often be repaired with patches and still maintain most of its structural integrity. Meanwhile, hard shells can dent or crack when tossed around by airport staff, which may result in needing a full luggage replacement versus a quick repair.

That said, some of our Pack Hacker Pro Members (and Pack Hacker Team) have shared stories of their soft-sided luggage getting ruined on a trip while in transit. Whether it’s treated roughly when being loaded onto the plane, gets caught on the belt at baggage claim, or sees a few too many rodeos, you want your luggage to stand up to the test.

Best Carry On Luggage for Travel
Best Carry On Luggage | Hard-sided luggage is generally more durable.

However, your gear may be the deciding factor. Items that might warrant bringing hard-sided luggage include expensive electronics like a computer or camera, medical equpment like a CPAP machine, or gifts you’re taking across the country to a family member.

Soft-sided luggage typically has external pockets, which is essential if you want a place to stow quick-grab items like a phone, wallet, or passport. However, hard-sided luggage might be your best bet if you don’t need external pockets.

In terms of materials, aluminum is the most durable option for hard-sided luggage. However, it’s also the most expensive and weighs more than some alternatives. Polycarbonate materials (e.g. plastic) are common because they’re lightweight but remain pretty stable. It’s hard to beat aluminum for rugged adventures, but be ready to carry that extra weight!

Depending on the style you’re going with, you might find that hard-sided luggage is better suited for your vibes. If that’s the case, roll with it!

What are the best rolling luggage brands?

Hundreds of brands on the market make carry on luggage. This can make choosing your next bag stressful; however, there are a few to look out for. It’s essential to remember that just because you’ve heard of a company doesn’t mean that the product will be quality. McDonald’s might release a travel backpack, but that doesn’t mean that it’ll be a good option for you. If it comes with fries, it might be worth it, though! To start, here are a few you’ll see around often:

Best Carry On Luggage for Travel
Best Carry On Luggage | Samsonite is a popular brand.

TravelPro is commonly recommended by flight attendants and pilots. They’re reliable bags that might not have many bells and whistles or look very premium, but they’ll get your gear where it needs to go without costing an arm and a leg.

For a good reason, Samsonite is one of the most widely recognized rolling luggage brands. They offer carry ons, checked bags, hard-sided, soft-sided, and duffel bags on wheels. They utilize durable materials, so you can find something that will last and works for you and your needs.

At the time of writing, TUMI is owned by Samsonite and operates at a higher level, both stylistically and price-wise. The materials are high-end, the features are a step-above others we’ve tested, and you can customize everything. If luxury is what you’re after, you’ve found it!

Rimowa is another brand to look at if you’re looking for the best carry on luggage for your next trip. Though we think most of their bags look similar, that means you can find a style that suits you and ensure everything matches. Many of their suitcases are crafted from aluminum, which is durable enough to handle the stresses of travel.

So there you have it; the best carry on luggage options for your next trip. Happy rolling!

August 29, 2023

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Pack Hacker