The Best Carry-On Luggage and Travel Bags for 2021, Reviewed



Hard shell luggage almost always looks much better than soft shell luggage. Their glossy shells catch the light really nicely, as they float alongside you as you glide through the terminal to your gate. And in recent years, companies have gotten a lot better at making them. The models you buy today aren’t quite as durable as fabric ones, but they’re almost there. 

Fabric luggage does have one other advantage over hard shell. Thanks to their stretchiness, soft suitcases tend to be a little bit more accommodating to over-packers, while still maintaining the same carry-on size. You’ll find it a little bit easier to actually zip them shut, even when they’re filled to the brim with extra pairs of underwear. Hard shell suitcases have a lot less give in terms of packing space, which makes them unideal for anyone that tends to accumulate tokens of your trip. This isn’t often a big enough problem to be a dealbreaker, but it’s something to consider.

The Best Overall Carry-On Luggage: TravelPro Platinum Elite

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Travelpro Platinum Elite carry-on suitcase

The TravelPro Platinum Elite suitcase offers the best value of any suitcase we’ve tested. The case’s cavernous interior includes tons of weird little zippered sections and mesh pockets for you to cordon off your toiletries, small items, dirty clothes, and shoes from your clothes. If you have a suit you want to pack, the case comes with a suit bag you can fold and drop into its top area, which will minimize any wrinkling. Plus, the Platinum Elite has a limited lifetime warranty that covers any defects in its handle, zippers, or wheels. The one ding against the TravelPro is its humdrum looks, which evoke the carpeting of one of the airports you’re going to drag it through. But that hasn’t kept it from becoming a favorite of the kind of people that travel a ton. If the TravelPro logo looks familiar, that’s probably because you’ve seen it on the luggage of the flight attendants and pilots that spend most of their lives in the sky.

The Best Hard Shell Luggage: Arlo Skye “The Zipper” carry-on

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Arlo Skye “The Zipper” carry-on

The Arlo Skye Zipper carry-on is our favorite hard-shell suitcase for a couple reasons. The bag’s polycarbonate exterior isn’t as hearty as the fabric on the TravelPro or the aluminum of a Rimowa, say, but we found the suitcase a bit more capable of withstanding regular use than other hard-shelled suitcases we’ve tested. All of Arlo Skye’s carry-on sized suitcases have internal pockets that make them easy to pack, including a few zippered areas for dirty clothes and shoes. The company also makes a version with an easy access front pocket, presumably for a laptop or magazines, but we’d imagine you’d rather keep those things in a backpack or tote than in the suitcase you have to put in an overhead bin. Like the luggage from Away (more on that below), Arlo Skye’s luggage features a removable external charger. But while the one on the Away can only juice up your phone, you can use the battery included with the Arlo Skye luggage to charge a laptop.

For the Budget Conscious Menswear Bro: Horizn Studios H5 essential cabin case

Horizn Studios H5 essential cabin case

Listen, we’re all for splurging on some baller luggage when appropriate. (Clearly.) But sometimes you need a suitcase that will securely get you from point A to point B—and look good doing it—but won’t call for you dropping well over a G. Enter this stealthy, blacked-out carry-on. It’s made out of a scarily durable polycarbonate, lined with water-resistant nylon, and comes with 360-degree spinner wheels and a four-stage telescopic handle—all at a price that belies how methodically designed it is. Traveling on a budget this summer? Buy this and spend the cash you save on a better AirBnB.

For People Who Want to Own DTC Everything: Away The Carry-On 

AWAY The Carry-On

There are plenty of good reasons why the Away team has just about upended the luggage industry since it launched. Instagram-ready looks? Check. Durable shell? Check. Smooth wheels, top and side handles, clothes straps, a mesh zip pocket, a laundry bag, and—maybe most game-changing of all—a built-in USB charger so you don’t have to screw around with airport outlets? Yeah, check. At just over two hundred bucks and with a range of handsome, low-key colorways (we like the navy), Away’s carry-on means you don’t have to choose between getting something cheap and ugly and spending a rent check on something luxe. And for an industry that never really did the low-to-mid-tier thing well, that’s a very welcome change of pace.

The Last Carry-On You’ll Ever Buy: Moncler Genius x Rimowa reflection silver suitcase

Moncler Genius x Rimowa reflection silver suitcase

Rimowa, the storied German luggage company founded in the late 1800s, has been on something of a collaborative spree. Few have yielded better results though than the suitcase the brand cooked up with the Italian skiwear gods at Moncler, which sees Rimowa’s iconic aluminum suitcase polished to a mirror-like sheen. The futuristic spinner the duo released through Moncler’s “Genius” program comes packed with the sort of details that made Rimowa a powerhouse in the luggage space for over a century: A single-stage telescoping handle, a hinged double latch lock by the main compartment, elastic compression straps with magnetic pull-release fastenings, the works. If you’ve ever been stuck traveling with a lackluster piece of luggage and thought, Man, I wish my suitcase could do that, chances are Rimowa’s can, and masterfully.

For Lovers of Luxury: Prada logo spinner suitcase

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Prada logo four-wheel suitcase

These days, there’s a lot more to luggage shopping than choosing from the same old selection of black nylon options. The industry’s evolved by leaps and bounds since the family vacations of your youth, and there’s a hell of a lot of choices out there. So if you are going to go the black nylon route, best to travel with Prada, the cerebral fashion-fan favorite that made the material a signature of its brand in the ’80s and hasn’t let up since. The brand’s leather and nylon suitcase boasts an adjustable top handle, four wheels at the base, and plenty of zip fastenings to help you securely store all your other fancy gear. Is it pricey? Yes. But it’s also sleek, durable, and packs just the right amount of designer pizzazz for a suitcase you’ll always be stoked to see rolling down the conveyor belt at baggage claim.

The Ultimate Travel Flex: Brunello Cucinelli leather carry-on suitcase

Brunello Cucinelli leather carry-on suitcase

If you only know of Brunello Cucinelli through the label’s ultra-soft cashmere—all milled in Solomeo, the scenic Italian hamlet the company calls home—you’re missing out. The ruminative designer makes far more than knitwear. Case in point: This classic carry-on, a handsome leather spinner that says, “I don’t usually fly commercial, but when I do I always fly first class.”

The Streamlined Duffle For Short and Long Trips: Porter-Yoshida & Co Tanker 2Way Boston nylon duffle bag

Porter-Yoshida & Co Tanker 2Way Boston nylon duffle bag

Calling the team at Porter-Yoshida & Co luggage experts is a bit of an understatement. They’re bona fide obsessives. Since the ’60s, the Japanese brand has painstakingly crafted military-inspired bags designed to last. This one, done up in a sleek black nylon and lined in hi-vis orange, takes its cues from the US Air Force’s legendary MA-1 jacket, but will help you travel like you’re a megawatt celebrity in 1996.

The Convertible Travel Backpack: Patagonia black hole duffel bag

Patagonia black hole duffel bag

Remember that hapless kid in fifth grade the whole class mocked for showing up with a rolling backpack the first day of school? (People don’t forget!) Well, if you still holding onto some secondhand trauma from the incident, Patagonia’s streamlined duffel might be good enough to risk straining your back to carry. The body fabric, lining, and webbing are all made out of water-resistant recycled materials designed to keep your valuables dry, while two padded straps make for an easy switch if you’d rather sling it over your shoulders like a carry-on backpack. Jokes aside, the bag’s handles are also specially reinforced to make for comfortable hand-carrying so your lower vertebrae will hold up fine no matter how far your terminal is from the gate. With all due respect to your childhood classmate (who you definitely owe an apology), sometimes carrying your bag just looks cooler than wheeling it around.

22 More High-Quality Spinners, Rollers, and Duffels to Consider

Away The Bigger Carry-On: Aluminum Edition

This newer version of Away’s Carry-on has all the same selling points of the original, but with an even tougher construction and a super cool shine. Who wouldn’t want to pack their goods in a silver bullion with wheels?

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Arlo Skye Polycarbonate carry-on

The all-black design gives this roller a more designer-y feel, but the details—two TSA-approved combo locks on the side, plus a removable battery—are what really make it worth the money. 

Rimowa cabin neon

Plenty of room to pack all of your rave outfits.

Globe-Trotter “Safari” carry-on suitcase

The type of handsome, old-school suitcase that’s practically begging for you to stuff it with exotic curios (read: tourist-trap tsotchkes) on your next trip.

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FPM Milano aluminum carry-on suitcase

A subtle aluminum number from Italian luggage specialists.

Crash Baggage stripe cabin suitcase

Crash Baggage makes artfully pre-dented—and deceptively durable—suitcases you don’t have to worry about getting destroyed in the overhead compartment.

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Floyd cabin luggage

Help your carry-on stand out in a sea of black nylon by copping a skate-inspired (peep the wheels!) polycarbonate spinner in robin’s egg blue.

Filson rugged twill rolling 4-wheel carry-on bag

All the built-tough Americana energy you love in your Filson duffle—now with wheels!

Zero Halliburton Edge lightweight continental carry on

From the makers of James Bond’s briefcase. ‘Nuff said.

Lands’ End travel carry on rolling luggage bag (was $200, now 30% off with code “LUNCHBOXES”)

Maximize the preppy vibes with your own personalized monogram.

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North Face base camp duffel bag

School bus yellow keeps it interesting, while the rip-resistant, waterproof exterior ensures that your weekender bag can hold it together trek after trek.

Aer de Aer premium carry-on luggage

Aer de Aer’s ethos is weightless travel, and this shellacked six-pounder is one of its most popular, lightest options—roomy enough for all the shoe and apparel permutations you’ve prepped, without tipping the scales. 

Samsonite Omni PC hardside spinner

It’s not exactly a flashy first-class choice, but this best-selling Samsonite Omni is at least a solid trekker for frequent fliers—durable, with a ding-resistant hard shell body.

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Timbuk2 Co-Pilot small rolling luggage

The sportswear details on Timbuk2’s Co-Pilot spare it from looking like every other travel bag: Peep the bike-inspired handlebar grip, plus the removable skateboard-inspired wheels.

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Travelpro Platunum “Magna” carry-on suitcase

The Travelpro Magna has all the upsides of our overall favorite Travelpro spinner suitcase—strong fabric exterior, tons of pockets—but with two wheels instead of four.

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Briggs & Riley domestic expandable spinner

Briggs & Riley’s reputation for high-quality luggage precedes itself. Its carry-on spinner is no different, with an almost magical capacity for expanding to fit a week’s worth of clothes, plus a built-in garment bag.

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AmazonBasics Hardsider Spinner Luggage 20-inch

A simple, no-fuss, nice-enough-to-look-at black carry-on for under a hundred bucks? With Prime shipping? This one’s a slam dunk as far as we’re concerned. 

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Roam “The Jaunt” carry-on suitcase

Roam was founded by two former executives at Tumi with a pretty simple proposition: your luggage should be more colorful! The company offers pretty basic suitcases with completely customizable color patterns, down to the zippers on the sides.

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Tumi international carry-on

If you’re looking for an alternative to all the DTC startup hard-shells, consider getting one from a company that’s been operating in the US since 1975. Tumi’s luggage gets all the basics right: good zippers, good pockets, good locks—all with an elevated look. 

Carhartt packable duffel with utility pouch

For the price and the style, Carhartt is the perfect non-schlubby, entry-level duffel (good enough for a graduate or the Frontier budget flier). 

Herschel highland softside spinner

In that same category, don’t miss Herschel’s pared-down softside carry-on. It’s squarely under $200, with all the details you’d want: a large storage area, a retractable handle, and multi-direction wheels.

Pacsafe venturesafe anti-theft travel backpack

For day trips and there-and-back adventures, a non-bulky backpack like this will keep all your travel gear secure thanks to its slashproof steel mesh fabric and enforced zippers.


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  • Denis Ava

    Denis Ava is mainly a business blogger who writes for Biz Grows. Rather than business blogs he loves to write and explore his talents in other niches such as fashion, technology, travelling, finance, etc.

Originally posted 2021-08-20 13:45:07.


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Denis Ava
Denis Ava
Denis Ava is mainly a business blogger who writes for Biz Grows. Rather than business blogs he loves to write and explore his talents in other niches such as fashion, technology, travelling, finance, etc.


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