Monos Carry-On Review
In addition to the sleek exterior, we’re digging the Monos Carry-On’s removable compression pad, which doubles as a mini garment bag.
- Included laundry and shoe bags work as starter packing cubes
- Sleek handle feels ergonomic
- Compression pad cleverly doubles as a garment bag
- No exterior pockets for quick-grab items
- Underside handle release button takes some getting used to
- Polycarbonate body susceptible to scratches
7.01 lb (3.2 kg)
22 in x 14 in x 9 in (55.9 x 35.6 x 22.9 cm)
Polycarbonate, Recycled Polyester, Vegan Leather, YKK Zippers
Beneath the unassuming exterior of the Monos Carry-On is a very organized interior. Whereas other carry on spinners have mostly empty bucket spaces inside, the brand opted for plenty of zippered mesh pockets. That’s not to say Monos’ approach is as simple as more-pockets-equals-better. Rest assured, there are clever subtleties at play here, not least of which is the removable compression pad.
Though our preference for travel backpacks is still strong, the Monos Carry-On makes a strong case for carry on luggage. All four wheels spin and rotate freely even after a few weeks of use, with no jamming or hiccups worth mentioning. That’s always a chief concern whenever we test rollers or spinners. Another concern is the bulkiness, especially with the Monos Carry-On’s rigid polycarbonate exterior. Is it a deal-breaker? Let’s find out.
We’ll start with the looks. Whether you call it bare or plain, we think the hard exterior plays the minimalist card well, with only a few subtle indented lines to break it up. There’s also a small black logo at the top right corner, but it blends well with the rest of the bag’s black hardware, like the handle and the wheels. It took us a good while to figure out why we liked the Monos Carry-On’s Olive Green looks so much, but then we remembered how fond we grew of the Aer Travel Pack 3’s Olive colorway—they’re both super relaxing for the eyes.
The Monos Carry-On’s exterior is the hard shell type, unlike soft-sided luggage with slightly softer fabric exteriors. The main material used here is polycarbonate. You’re probably familiar with it since it’s used for a wide range of products, including electronics, automotive parts, and medical devices. That sounds impressive, but polycarbonate is not particularly scratch-resistant. Anyone who’s used a smartphone with a polycarbonate body can tell you as much, and it’s a similar case with the Monos Carry-On.
To be fair, Monos did provide a magic eraser that can touch up the scratches, but we opted not to use it so you can see the extent of the damage. They’re not that bad considering it went through a handful of bumps through two busy airports. That said, you should be careful when pulling the Monos Carry-On around if you want to keep the Olive colorway looking pristine for as long as possible.
There are two secondary handles, one on the right and one at the top. They’re rubberized for extra grip, though they don’t have the same comfort as padded handles. That’s okay since handles like these aren’t meant for long periods of carrying since you’re not hauling this like a suitcase. They’re more for pulling the bag out of overhead bins or picking them up off the ground. In that sense, they get the job done.
The zippers can be locked using the built-in TSA-approved combination lock. It uses a three-digit combination, which isn’t the most secure yet is a good deterrent. It’s located on the upper right side of the bag, and each zipper slots into the lock via tabs on the zipper pulls themselves. Enter the right combination (000 by default, which you can change to whatever you want), slide the toggle to release, and the zippers pop right out. In case you were wondering, the zippers themselves are from YKK. Combined with the Monos Carry-On’s straight edges, rounded corners, and rigid structure, zipping has been a smooth and reliable experience.
The main handle on the Monos Carry-On looks pretty slick. It’s almost a trivial part to scrutinize, but something that stood out to us about the bag. Unlike other carry on luggage, the handle is well-integrated with the shafts into an almost unibody-like configuration. Monos even went as far as to put the release button underneath the handle, whereas other pieces of rolling luggage have it on top where it’s easy to see. Further proving the point, Monos also put subtle branding between the bases of the shafts. They’re the three dots debossed into the black plastic.
Now for the wheels. There are four sets, each with two wheels, for a total of eight. Each set rotates freely, so you can pull and push the Monos Carry-On as you please. They’re all rubberized, too, so grip isn’t a problem even when rolling through freshly mopped tiles. Do they roll well? Let’s move to the next section for that discussion.
Let’s loop back to the handle first, though. Despite the seemingly aesthetics-first approach, it’s given careful consideration. It’s not too big nor too small; it’s just right and not sacrificing much in terms of ergonomics. The only caveat is it takes some getting used to the underside release button. Your fingers can definitely touch it while pulling, though there’s no danger of collapsing the shafts since you’re pulling anyway. It’s more of a strange sensation if you’re used to pulling luggage handles with the release button at the top.
So, how does it roll? Well, on the carpeted lounges of an airport terminal, it glides very smoothly. The rubberized wheels really help by preventing that jittery roughness you get with hard plastic wheels. The handle’s generous four levels of height adjustment are also very helpful. At max height, even the tallest of the Pack Hacker crew could put the Monos Carry-On to a complete stop without clipping their heels.
Inside The Carry On
Like most typical carry on luggage, the Monos Carry-On opens butterfly-style, with the lid flipping to the left. Under the lid is a wide zippered mesh compartment. We’ve used this for flat gear like a packable hat, gloves, and a small pouch of various accessories (Pack Hacker patches, mostly). This mesh pocket sits adjacent to a fairly deep bucket space, hidden away by a zipper track going around the outer three edges of the lid.
This bucket space doesn’t have its own pockets built within. However, the Monos Carry-On comes with its own set of pouches, which includes a laundry bag and two shoe bags, and they all fit within this compartment. These pouches aren’t the most robust-feeling we’ve seen, falling short of the quality we see on most branded packing cubes. Their drawstring closures feel particularly lackluster, though they secure well enough to keep dirty shoes and clothing separated from the rest of your gear. You can also use them as packing cubes if you don’t already have a set, though purpose-made ones will have better features like compression systems and better rigidity.
If you’ve noticed the leather tag above the zippered mesh pocket, don’t worry, we see it too. Monos says that the included luggage tag is vegan leather. That feels very similar to the leather tags within the main compartment, so we’re confident they’re vegan leather, as well.
That’s a good chunk of features we’ve already gone over, but it gets even more interesting over on the right side of the main compartment. First, there’s a compression pad attached to the two hold-down straps. Though it’s pegged as a compression pad, it doubles as a zippered mesh pocket for flat items. Its rigid frame sheet makes it ideal for storing neatly folded shirts and/or pants, clothing you generally want to keep neat and unwrinkled. Since it’s removable, it’s also entirely optional if you’re already using a separate garment bag.
There’s also a small zippered pocket to the side where we store leftover and loose toiletries. Other than that, though, the rest of the main compartment is an empty bucket space. Even though there’s a good chunk of space allocated to the left half, the vast majority of the Monos Carry-On’s space remains in this half. The main handle’s shafts protrude from the other side, so a bit of space is taken away. However, for the most part, the packing process is as easy as stacking gear side-by-side as needed. Luckily, we have no trouble slotting pouches and packing cubes between the shafts.
- Dig that the button to engage the handle is below it
- We think the Olive Green colorway looks slick
- The handle is long enough and wheels spin nicely on initial test
- Digging the divider for flatter items paired with the compression straps
- Really love how this bag looks
- 8 total wheels with 360 degree rotation makes it easy to maneuver
- Compression flap in the middle keeps delicate items protected and the right side of the case compressed