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If you are a frequent business traveller, you need the best carry-on luggage possible. It’s an investment that makes your business journeys more smooth, more efficient and far less stressful.
Think about all the issues you’ve encountered with substandard carry-on luggage over the years: too big and heavy for the overhead compartment, too small for your needs, too flimsy to cope with the realities of business travel.
First world problems, I know. But if you’re a manager or an executive who is on the road for 8 months of the year, they matter.
Now that border restrictions are starting to ease here in Australia, it’s a good time to upgrade your trusty old carry on that’s been gathering dust for over 18 months. Here is my list of the best carry on luggage bags for business travellers; let’s find out which ones are awesome – and which ones are overhyped.
1. July Carry On / Pro.
Best overall carry on luggage.
July Carry On and July Carry On have tied for the #1 spot in my review of the best carry on luggage in Australia because both offers an outstanding amount of style and practicality for the price.
Let’s unpack (excuse the pun) their features in detail.
The first thing you’ll notice about the July Carry On Pro is the detachable external pouch/sleeve, which the company calls SnapSleeve.
This is the main feature that separates the Pro vs the non-Pro versions of the bag.
Importantly, it’s voluminous enough to swallow a full-size laptop, a couple of notepads and an iPad. Maybe even a small paperback, too. This feature will become very important for reasons I’ll explain shortly.
Miraculously, it’s both securely attached – and easy to remove.
The July Carry On and Carry On Pro bags are very well built – and this is one of the key reasons they’ve earned our ‘best carry on luggage’ title.
Every touchpoint – from top-of-the-range YKK zippers to chunky handles and crush-proof shell – has a very satisfying, expensive kind of feel that reminds me of fixtures at expensive hotels, or door levers in expensive cars.
July gives you the option to customise your luggage with a short message (between 5 and 20 letters, depending on font), for a $65 fee. Just keep in mind that this voids the 100-day trial and adds 3 days to shipping times.
The carry on has an onboard ejectable battery with USB and USB-C built-in, underneath the handle. The battery’s 10,000mAh capacity isn’t massive, but is the maximum allowed by airline regulations, and will extend the life of your laptop and phone by about 30%, depending on their size and usage.
Because it’s ejectable, you won’t need to keep your bag by a power outlet while you wait for your phone or laptop to charge.
If you forget it at an airport, July will send you a replacement for $50.
There is a hidden, stain-proof and odour-proof laundry bag that rolls up and tucks away in a small area of the luggage. You can even use it as a cable or accessories pocket when it’s not filled with your dirty clothes.
For extra security, the bag features a robust-looking combination lock, but that’s expected at this price point.
Last, but certainly not least – noise. Or, more precisely, the lack of it. The July’s wheels are extremely quiet – even on rough surfaces – which means you won’t make a ruckus as you run to catch your flight.
Let’s talk about weight. The July is very well built – but this comes with a weight penalty.
Tipping scales at 3.6kg in the Pro version and 3.4kg for the non-Pro, the bag consumes about one-third of your maximum allowed per-bag carry on weight allowance with Qantas (10kg) and an eye-watering half of Virgin Australia’s paltry 7 kg per-bag carry-on allowance.
This means you’re left with a 6.4kg (Pro) or 6.6kg (non-Pro) payload when travelling with Qantas and only 3.4kg (Pro) or 3.6kg (non-Pro) when travelling with Virgin.
Granted, you could partially sidestep this issue by moving the bag’s ejectable battery, your laptop, its associated paraphernalia and some other heavy bits into the Pro’s cavernous SnapSleeve prior to boarding, detaching it, and carrying it on as a separate item in your hands.
This trick will technically give you an extra 2-3kg of payload inside the bag. However, it will only be an option if you don’t already plan to carry another item onboard in your hands (I’m looking at you, handbag).
You’re going to exceed the airline’s per-bag weight limit long before you exceed the bag’s massive 46L internal volume.
I must point out that payload is a hard problem to dodge when purchasing a carry-on cabin bag. Most hardshell cabin bags weigh between 3kg and 3.5kg and even some cheap and flimsy softshell bags – ones you would not want to be seen with – often come in at about 2.5kg.
But the July certainly takes it up a notch – and if you tend to travel with heavy items, this may not be for you.
The July Carry On is our #1 recommended carry on cabin bag in Australia because it provides mountains of practicality and style in a reasonably priced package.
Its large internal volume makes it particularly useful for business travellers who tend to take longer, 2-4 day business trips, but want to travel with one bag.
The bag’s payload is modest, but in this category, payload is never a strong point – and in the Pro’s case, can be extended by using the SnapSleeve trick I described above.
If your type of business travel does not involve aeroplanes, this problem disappears altogether – and makes this choice even more of a no-brainer.
If you do fly for business, you get a lot of space, outstanding build quality and a professional design that won’t look out of place in a business lounge.
Plus, it doubles up as a great weekender that will fit everything that you and your spouse* need during a getaway.
July’s build quality and design punch well above its price point.
Should you purchase the Pro or the standard version?
If you carry a laptop and tend to pack a lot of stuff, definitely opt for the Pro version, which adds a significant layer of versatility with its detachable SnapSleeve. I suspect 80%+ of business travellers will fall in this boat.
If you tend to pack very light, or don’t often carry a laptop with you, the standard version is the better choice.
Businesspeople who mostly take 1-day trips are better served by our #2 best carry on luggage option – the Herschel Highland (see below).
I’ve seen carry on bags that sell for twice as much and yet appear twice as cheap.
✔ Huge 46L internal volume
✔ Onboard removable battery with USB and FastCharge USB-C
✔ 100 day trial with free returns
✔ Top-of-the-range YKK zippers
✔ Safely attached, easy to remove SnapSleeve™ on the Pro model
✘ Modest payload due to strong build
* Depends on the spouse.
At $365 for the Pro and $295 for the standard version, July represents outstanding value for money. Its premium construction and high attention to detail make it look – and feel – like a bag that could easily cost upwards of $600.
I suspect that this pricing is intentionally lowballed to help the company achieve market penetration – and will not be surprised if July increases the price of its bags up by about 30% in about a year or two.
➤ Size: 55cm H x 38cm W x 22cm D
➤ Weight: 3.6kg (Carry On Pro), 3.4kg (Carry On)
➤ Capacity: 46L
2. Herschel Highland Carry-On.
Best cabin bag for startup and creative types.
The Herschel Highland is our #2 overall best carry on bag and our #1 small carry on because of one major factor: its low weight.
If the July Carry On Pro is too heavy for your needs, this lightweight soft-shelled Herschel Highland is your next best bet.
Its soft shell construction keeps the weight down to 2.81 kg, which gives you a 7.19 kg payload with Qantas and 4.19 kg with Virgin. Unless you go down to super cheap, flimsy and nasty carry-ons (some of which weigh as little as 2 kg), this is as good as it gets.
The carry on’s lightweight, yet durable outer soft shell is available in four different colours to choose from: Raven, Ivy Green Cordura, Black and Black Cordura.
Cordura options add leather accents and a quick-access laptop sleeve, which make this a no-brainer option for business travellers.
Herschell’s design balances modern urban sophistication with retro nostalgia hipster chic. It does a great job of this, but in terms of vibe it tilts more towards “creative/hip” than “classic/corporate”.
It’s more “I’m a VP at Airbnb” than “I’m a partner at Deloitte”.
(If your business image must project formality and conservativism, you’ll be better served by the Victorinox Spectra, in position #3.)
The Herschel Highland’s internal volume is 34 litres, which is 26% less than the July Carry-On Pro’s 46 litres. This smaller size, combined with its soft shell, is how the bag achieves its low weight.
Herschel will sell you a larger version of this bag, aptly named Highland Carry On Large, but that bag exceeds the maximum size limits for most airlines by about 10cm. This is why we didn’t include it in this review.
The Herschel Highland is the best carry on luggage option for businesspeople who mostly do day trips and overnighters – and want to travel with one bag.
Its small size combines with a high payload to ensure that you can fill it to the brim and not worry about exceeding the airline’s carry on baggage weight limits.
Compared with the July Carry On Pro, it can carry more weight before hitting the aforementioned limits, but is capable of a lesser internal volume.
This is an interesting predicament to wrestle with, and your final decision, all things being equal, will rest on the length of your trips and the mass of items you tend to carry.
If you find yourself on day business trips and overnighters, and tend to carry heavy but non-bulky things, the Herschell Highland is your best bet.
But if the reverse is true – and you mostly do 2-4 day business trips while carrying bulky, but lightweight items, then the July Carry On Pro is still your best cabin bag option.
✔ Very lightweight at 2.81 kg
✔ High payload
✔ Doesn’t exceed carry on size limits of any major airlines
Herschel will charge you $359 for Black or Raven colour options – and $499 for Black or Ivy Green colour options in Cordura.
Depends on how you look at it. At $499 for 34 litres of capacity, you’re paying an eye-watering $15 per litre. But who measures the value of a business carry on like that?
If you’re a frequent business traveller, your carry on is one of your key business tools – and a good one is worth every penny – because it simplifies your life and gets out of your way.
The Herschel Highland is a pricey cabin bag, but for the right person, this won’t pose an issue.
➤ Size: 54cm H x 33cm W x 21cm D
➤ Weight: 2.8kg
➤ Capacity: 34L
3. Victorinox Spectra 2.0 Expandable Global Carry On.
Best cabin bag for travellers who fly with multiple airlines.
Number three on our list of best carry-on luggage is the Victorinox Spectra 2.0 Expandable Global Carry On. It’s a serious-looking cabin bag that is small enough to carry on to any airline on the planet.
The Spectra 2.0 Expandable Global Carry On is the best carry on bag if you travel with multiple airlines and never want to worry about checking in your luggage.
It’s small enough to fit within the size limits of even the most stingy airlines, yet can expand by 3cm to help you take advantage of more generous size allowances.
Additionally, each Spectra 2.0 Expandable has its own personal ID number that can help you locate your luggage should it get lost or stolen.
You can call the Victorinox hotline from anywhere in the world 24/7.
When (or if) your lost bag is found and identified, Victorinox will notify you and deliver it to you at no cost.
The front door of the Spectra 2.0 Expandable unzips with ease to reveal an organisational panel and provide rapid access to your laptop and other travel essentials.
The carry on’s outer shell is crafted from hard, matt, scratch-resistant polycarbonate that looks and feels like it will last a lifetime, while corner guards work to minimise damage from rough handling.
At 29 litres capacity (when unexpanded), this bag has the smallest internal capacity of all bags we’ve reviewed so far. While enough to hold your essentials, the bag will force you to rethink what “essential items” really means.
Yes, the expansion feature does relieve this problem by expanding the bag to 32 litres, but that’s still 1 litre less than the Herschel Highland and a whopping 15 litres less than the July Carry On Pro.
If locks are important to you, there are none included in this bag; however, since it’s a carry-on, you may not have to worry about having a lock at all.
The zippers are arranged so that the front opens on the long side, which is okay at the hotel, but less OK when you’re being hurried through the airport security line. A top-opening quick-access panel would have been more intuitive.
For those of you who enjoy travelling light, or travel with multiple airlines without hassle, this cabin bag is for you.
Design-wise, the Victorinox 2.0 Expandable Global is stylish without being ostentatious and professional without being stuffy. It will dress up your business suit during the week and will look funky with your sneakers during weekend getaways.
✔ Highly versatile due to expandable case
✔ Unique ID number and 24/7 lost bag hotline
✔ Nostalgic, iconic Victorinox design
✘ May be too small for some travellers
The price varies, depending on the retailer and season.
➤ Size: 55cm H x 35cm W x 20/23cm D
➤ Weight: 2.95kg
➤ Capacity: 29/32L
4. Samsonite Oc2lite Hardside Spinner Suitcase
Best carry on bag for businesspeople who tend to overpack.
The Oc2lite Hardside Spinner is best for buyers who want a very lightweight hard shell cabin bag.
The Oc2lite Hardside’s most important feature is its incredibly light weight. At 2.6kg, the bag is the lightest hardshell carry on bag we’ve reviewed.
This feature translates into a huge payload capacity – 7.4kg with Qantas and 4.9kg with Virgin, to be exact. If you’re the type of person who tends to pack heavy, this bag is for you.
Like the Victorinox Spectra, this cabin bag also boasts an expander feature that supercharges your carrying capacity from 37 to 43 litres.
Everything else is exactly what you’d expect from a well-known brand like Samsonite – sturdy spinner wheels, TSA locks, built-in ID tag and a limited 10-year warranty.
It’s not a statement piece and – while very modern-looking – it’s not going to win any design awards. It’s simply a quality business bag that’s designed to look like it belongs on a business trip.
The build is not on the same level as that of July, Herschel and Victorinox bags.
The shell feels noticeably floppy and thin. Because it’s built with low weight in mind, it’s less rigid and won’t protect your laptop as well as a heavier hardshell case.
This is the best lightweight hardshell carry on bag for people who need a high payload, but are not willing to sacrifice longevity to get it. It’s practical, modern and professional.
Think of it as the BMW 3 Series of business luggage.
In other words, it’s a supremely competent all-rounder that will complement your corporate business attire.
It’s doesn’t have the same “built like a tank” feel as you get from July, Herschel and Victorinox luggage, but this is exactly what allows the bag to remain lightweight and relatively inexpensive.
✔ Very light weight for a hardshell
✔ Has every feature you’d expect from a Samsonite
✘ Too corporate for advertising and creative types
The Oc2lite Hardside’s RRP is about $300, but can often be found on special for about $190. It’s a steal at that price.
➤ Size: 55cm H x 36cm W x 24/26cm D
➤ Weight: 2.6kg
➤ Capacity: 37/43L
5. Delsey Paris Montrouge Spinner Carry-On
Best overall carry on luggage for women who like bling.
Delsey Paris Montrouge is a luggage range designed for women. This line includes several pieces, but the carry-on is the most elegant (and functional) of them all.
Its black, vegan leather exterior and gold hardware make it worth considering if you’re looking for a stand-out carry-on that has a sparkly, feminine vibe.
The Delsey Paris Montrouge’s design is based around a Euro-style black and gold colour palette.
It’s not at all tacky, but is moderately blingy thanks to the gold plating on the handle and zippers.
Very Paris, c. 1995.
Speaking of zippers, the first zips all the way around the bag, and a second zipper comes around the other side. It means you won’t have to open the entire bag to get to your laptop.
Both zippers snap into a three-digit TSA lock for extra security.
You can also use these zippers to expand your bag for extra 4 centimetres of depth.
Interestingly, this bag is designed with two handles: one on the top and one on the side. I quite like this feature because it adds another grab point that you can use to maneuver the bag into the overhead locker.
Being a softside bag, it’s very light – and this translates into healthy payload capacity. You get 7.4kg with Qantas and 4.4kg with Virgin, and this is backed up by very cavernous 45 litres of internal volume.
While the outside zippers are sturdy, the interior compartments and secured with flimsy, plastic zippers.
Additionally, the outside pockets only provide minimal expansion room.
Montrouge is a chic and stylish carry on bag aimed at female travellers. It’s best for women who want a change from the usual stark, black business cabin bags.
Its build quality is not as top-notch as that of the July, Victorinox and Herschel options above, but at 1/2 of the price, it also lives in a different price point.
✔ Chic European styling
✔ Relatively inexpensive
✘ May be too blingy for some women
✘ Cheap internal zippers
Speaking of price points, the Montrouge retails for between $200 and $250 dollars and, in doing so, exists in an awkward market segment.
It’s not a trashy cheap bag that you’ll be happy to throw away after a couple of seasons and it’s not an expensive bag that you’ll hope to own for a lifetime, either.
Rather, it’s a moderately expensive, mostly good bag. Nor here, nor there, which is why I recommend you stick with either the July, Herschel or Victorinox carry on bags above.
➤ Size: 55cm H x 35cm W x 25cm D
➤ Weight: 2.6kg
➤ Capacity: 45L
6. Samsonite 72 Hours Deluxe Spinner Suitcase.
Best cabin bag if you’re on a budget, but need high payload.
This carry on is ideal if you want a lightweight, inexpensive, unpretentious bag.
This Samsonite’s party trick is its ultra-low weight that’s matched by its low price. At 1.8kg, it gives you a massive 8.2kg payload with Qantas and 5.7kg with Virgin. That’s the best carry on luggage payload figure in this round-up.
Apart from its Herculean payload, the bag has every feature you need – and none of the features that you don’t.
Reinforced handles, check. TSA lock, check. Cross straps, check.
“No-nonsense” is the word that springs to mind when looking for a description.
Unexpectedly for this price point, Samsonite also includes a handy external pocket to make sure that you don’t misplace your boarding pass and a folding laundry bag to keep your smelly stuff separate from the clean pile.
Nice touches, Samsonite.
You’re not going to get excited about this cabin bag. If you buy it, it will be a 100% practical, 0% emotional type of purchase.
This is the Toyota Corolla of carry on cabin bags.
(This is not necessarily a weak point, by the way. After all, Toyota Corolla is one of the top-selling cars in Australia – and from a cost/benefit perspective, like the Samsonite 72 Hour Deluxe Spinner, it represents incredible value for money).
This carry on will happily haul huge amounts of payload everywhere you go. Its light construction may lead to its demise within a season or two of heavy use, but at this price point, it’s hard to complain.
✔ Very lightweight thanks to nylon construction
✔ Low price
✘ Zipper on the cheap side
➤ Size: 55cm H x 35cm W x 24cm D
➤ Weight: 1.8kg
➤ Capacity: 36L
7. American Tourister Frontec.
Best all-rounder cabin bag.
The Frontec is the unsung hero of this luggage review because it is well-designed, robust and, highly organised and stylish.
A lot of thought has gone into the design of the Frontec.
First, it’s equipped with several compartments to make organising your belongings easier.
The laptop compartment resides in the front-most part of the bag, which you will find behind the first zipper.
There are three additional pouches in there as well that can hold a tablet or books/magazines and any accessories you may have.
The main compartment contains an internal organiser and clever wet pocket to separate your dry items from your damp, cold ones.
A USB port allows you to plug in an internally mounted battery bank (sold separately) and charge your devices by simply plugging them into your carry on bag. But be aware that this is just a port – not a dedicated, ejectable battery pack like you get on July Carry On Pro.
Like a few other bags featured in this review,
Like most mid-tier bags from American Tourister and Samsonite, the Frontec is not exciting. In other words, it’s not a statement piece or a fashion item.
It does not draw attention to itself, so if you’re looking to stand out, you’re better served by one of the July, Victorinox or Herschel options above.
The Frontec is one of the best carry on bags for corporate travellers. It’s modest, yet professional in appearance.
✔ Professional, stylish exterior
✔ Quick-access section
✔ USB port
✘ Not much!
The bag’s price ranges between $250 and $350, depending on deals at the time.
➤ Size: 54cm H x 36cm W x 25/28cm D
➤ Weight: 3.1kg
➤ Capacity: 38/43L
8. Victorinox Lexicon Hardside Frequent Flyer.
Best carry on luggage for style-conscious travellers.
This carry-on bag is jaw-dropping. For a number of reasons – both practical and purely emotional – I find myself simply wanting one. Let’s take a closer look.
First of all, a word of warning – this carry on bag is not designed to blend in. Rather, it’s designed to communicate – subtly, but firmly – “I’m doing well, and I’m doing it with style”.
In this sense, the Lexicon takes the polar opposite approach to all the Samsonite and American Tourister cabin bags in this review.
I love how Victorinox leveraged its iconic brand design cues to create a cabin suitcase that is both retro and modern, yet timeless. Don’t believe me?
- Imagine Elvis Presley with it, in Memphis, in 1960.
- Now imagine Elon Musk with it, on Mars, in 2060.
- Finally, imagine a corporate CEO with it, today.
Works in all 3 scenarios, right?
Cleverly, the bag’s four double wheels are semi-recessed to maximise the bag’s internal volume (in case you didn’t know, airlines include wheels when measuring up your carry-on suitcases).
Cross-shaped compression straps allow you to squeeze the most out of the bag’s internal space and YKK zippers ensure years of trouble-free service.
This might seem like a trivial detail, but for me, YKK zippers are a non-negotiable feature.
I’m the type of person that is allergic to hassle, and broken suitcase zippers on a trans-Atlantic flight are an off-the-charts type of hassle that I never want to deal with.
The bag has an integrated, external-facing USB port. Importantly, this isn’t a power pack – you will need to supply your own and store it (in a dedicated pocket) inside the bag.
To help this cabin bag live up to the brand’s “Swiss army knife” reputation, Victorinox equipped it with a “multi-tool” that includes a pin for removing phone sim cards and a pen.
Cool? Somewhat. Useful? Not really. An integrated battery back would have been much better.
The integrated USB port is USB 2.0, which is quickly becoming yesterday’s technology. If I buy a bag like this, I’ll be hoping to keep it for at least 5 years, by which point USB 2.0 will be ancient history. Why haven’t you updated the bag with USB-C yet, Victorinox?
The bag has zero external pockets and compartments.
If you want to get anything out of the bag, you will need to unzip the main compartment. This, unfortunately, is the biggest downside of the bag’s sleek, chunky design.
Despite a couple of minor glitches, the Victorinox Lexicon is a stunningly attractive and useful cabin bag that is built well enough to withstand years of business travel.
It’s attractive, but it’s not just a stylish show pony. It’s a thoroughbred workhorse that is as beautiful as it is practical. And at 3.08kg in weight, it does an excellent job of walking the tightrope between build quality and payload.
✔ Reliable YKK Zippers
✔ Super stylish
✘ No external compartments
✘ Integrated USB 2.0 will be obsolete in a couple of years
The Victorinox Lexicon typically retails for between $550 and $800, depending on season and retailer. Definitely not a cheap, throwaway piece of travel gear!
➤ Size: 55cm H x 35cm W x 23cm D
➤ Weight: 3.08kg
➤ Capacity: 34L
Airline Carry On Luggage Size And Weight Limits.
The world of airline cabin bag limits is frustratingly inconsistent. Each airline imposes its own rules and limits, and you better obey them if you want to avoid checking in your luggage.
See the table below to make sure your cabin bag will work for your specific travel habits.
|Domestic Economy||Domestic Business||International Economy||International Business|
|Qantas||1 x 115cm bag, up to 10kg OR 2 x 105cm bags, one piece up to 10kgs, 14kgs total||1 x 115cm bag, up to 10kg OR 2 x 105cm bags, one piece up to 10kgs, 14kgs total||1 x 115cm bag, up to 7kg||1 x 115cm bag, up to 10kg OR 2 x 105cm bags, one piece up to 10kgs, 14kgs total|
|Virgin||1 X bag, up to 56 X 36 X 23, up to 7kg OR 2 X bags, 48 X 34 X 23, 7kg total||1 X bag, up to 56 X 36 X 23, up to 7kg OR 2 X bags, 48 X 34 X 23, 7kg each||1 X bag, up to 56cm long, 36cm wide, 23cm deep, up to 7kg OR 2 X bags, 48cm long, 34cm wide, 23cm deep, 7kg total||1 X bag, up to 56cm long, 36cm wide, 23cm deep, up to 7kg OR 2 X bags, 48cm long, 34cm wide, 23cm deep, up to 7kg + 7kg each|
|Air New Zealand||1 x 118cm bag, up to 7kg||2x 118cm bags, with 1 bag up to 10kg and the other bag up to 7kg||1 x 118cm bag, up to 7kg||2x 118cm bags, with 1 bag up to 10kg and the other bag up to 7kg|
|Etihad||N/A||N/A||1 X bag, up to 56cm long, 36cm wide, 23cm deep, up to 7kg||1 X bags, up to 56 X 36 X 23, up to 12kg total|
|Emirates||N/A||N/A||1 X bag, up to 55cm by 38cm by 20cm, 7kg||1 X bag, up to 55 X 38 X20, 7kg AND 1 X briefcase, up to 45 X 35 X 20, 7kg|
|American Airlines||N/A||N/A||1 X bag, 56 x 36 x 23, no weight limit||1 X bag, 56 x 36 x 23, no weight limit|
This is far less of an issue if you travel with one airline.
But if you tend to catch international flights with connections, remember that the magic size for your cabin bag is 55 x 35 x 20 cm. Keep to this limit to ensure that your carry on luggage does not trigger any alarms with any airline in the world.
This is easier said than done – because 20 cm of depth is quite restrictive. It limits you to a pair of shoes, a change of clothes, a laptop and a few other small bits.
In our review of the best carry on luggage, only the Victorinox Spectra Global Carry On meets this requirement (but can also expand by 3 cm).
Note that some airlines take the “cm bag” approach to measure bags, which simply gives you a maximum number that the sum of your bag’s width, depth and length should not exceed.
For example, a 115cm bag can mean 56cm + 36cm + 23cm or any combination thereof, as long as the total sum of its length, width and depth does not exceed 115cm.
Other airlines give you very concrete maximum dimensions for each of your bag’s sides.
In almost all cases you’ll get away with bringing on a laptop sleeve or a small handbag in addition to the above items.
What To Consider When Choosing Carry-On Luggage.
1. How Much Payload Do You Need?
The lighter the bag, the higher its payload. Most airlines impose a 7kg per-item limit on carry-on luggage (with Qantas being a rare exception at 10Kg), and the weight of the bag itself is a “dead weight” that cuts into this allowance.
If your bag weighs 3.5kg, you’re left with 3.5kg of payload (assuming you’re not flying with Qantas).
The relationship between the carry on bag’s weight and its payload is mediated by its build quality.
Robust hardshell bags with plenty of features, like the July Carry On Pro and the Victorinox Lexicon that are featured in this review, usually weigh between 3.1 and 3.6kg.
Less robust hardshell bags, like the Samsonite Oc2lite featured here, weigh in at about 2.6kg.
But if maximum payload is what you really need, you’ll need to sacrifice the durability of a hardshell by opting for a softside suitcase.
Some of these are extremely well-built and therefore offer very modest payload gains. For example, the Herschel Highland, tipping the scales at 2.8kg, weighs as much as some of the hardshells in this review.
But the Herschell is an outlier.
You won’t have trouble finding quality softside carry on bags that weigh between 2kg-2.5kg. For example, the Samsonite 72 Hours Deluxe Spinner, which made our list of best carry on luggage, weighs in at a remarkable 1.8kg.
2. Hardshell Or Softside?
Most people will make this decision based on aesthetics. While looks are very important – especially in the context of business travel – it’s more prudent to make this decision as a function of payload (see above).
There’s very little benefit in buying a good-looking bag that matches your image, but can’t support you on a business trip by carrying your essential gear.
Carry on luggage is a very competitive space. As a result, manufacturers offer very generous warranties that typically extend past 5 years. Realistically speaking, you’ll be replacing your carry on due to wear and tear long before the warranty runs out.
I’ve already covered carry on luggage sizes in detail, in the section above. The easiest option is to fly with one airline, and to purchase a carry-on bag that fits within its limits.
If that option does not work for you, I suggest you buy an expandable carry on bag that fits under the limit of the airline with the most restrictive limits when it’s not expanded.