Is your trusty old carry-on bag about to fall apart? For frequent travellers, a carry-on isn’t an afterthought. It’s an essential part of your travel toolkit that makes journeys smoother and less stressful.
Substandard carry-on luggage fails to protect your privacy during airport security checks, doesn’t cope with frequent travel and makes your belongings vulnerable to damage.
Upgrade your airport game with my list of the best carry-ons in Australia for November 2023. I compiled this list to help you pick the right one.
Best overall carry-on luggage.
Above: The July Carry-On Pro’s exterior is sleek and minimalist.
The July Carry-On Pro has won the #1 spot in my review of the best carry-on luggage in Australia because it’s stylish, practical and not overpriced.
Let’s unpack (ha) its features in detail.
July Carry On Pro‘s build quality is outstanding.
Unlike the cheap and cheerful mass-produced vibe you get from most other brands (I’m looking at you, American Tourister) – the July surprises with tactile and robust surfaces.
Every touchpoint – from top-of-the-range YKK zippers to chunky handles and crush-proof shell – has a satisfying, expensive feel that reminds me of French hotels and German cars.
Above: The SnapSleeve is securely mounted yet easy to access.
You’ll find an onboard ejectable battery underneath the handle, with USB and USB-C built-in.
The battery’s 10,000mAh capacity isn’t massive. Yet, it is the maximum allowed by airline regulations and will:
- Extend the life of your laptop by about 30%, or
- Recharge your phone 1.5 times
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 the battery at the airport, July will sell you a replacement for $50.
Mounted on the front of the bag, the SnapSleeve does two things:
- First, it makes airport security checks a breeze. Unzip, take out your laptop and whack it onto the conveyor belt – without having to open the main compartment of your cabin bag (and reveal the colour of your underwear to your colleagues or fellow passengers).
- Second, it acts as your day bag while the main carry-on stays at the hotel. Throw in your notepad, a notepad, a pen and a set of headphones, and you’re ready for a day of meetings.
You can make your July uniquely yours by customising it with a short message (between 5 and 20 letters, depending on font), for a $65 fee.
Customisation voids the 100-day trial and adds three days to shipping times.
A hidden, stain-proof, and odour-proof laundry bag 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 clothes.
Well, I’m about to fly to Europe for a 3-week holiday. Ideally, I’d like to travel only with a carry-on, which makes me the perfect guinea pig for answering this question.
Below is what I plan to take with me:
- 1 X puffer vest
- 1 X wool jumper
- 2 X pants
- 3 X shorts
- 6 X T-shirts
- 2 X collared dress shirts
- 1 X shoes
- 1 X thongs
- 1 X beanie
And here it is, folded and compressed using July’s compression system. Everything fits – and the bag zips up without straining.
Above: There’s still plenty of room in the top compartment for underwear, chargers and a toiletries kit.
Let’s talk about weight, as it’s the July Carry On Pro‘s main drawback. Being a well-built hardshell carry-on bag, it comes with a weight penalty.
Above: July’s attention to detail is remarkable. Perforated mesh, stitched and embossed compression straps and logo-typed fabric make this look like a $600+ bag.
Tipping scales at 3.6kg, the cabin bag is about 200 grams heavier than other bags in its class.
EDIT: I’ve now travelled to Europe (twice), Bali (once) and domestically in Australia (once). Each time my bag was at least 2 kg over the limit. No one has ever checked the weight, and I haven’t been asked to surrender the bag at the gate (yet).
Expert Packing Tip.
Stash your laptop (and maybe some magazines) into the SnapSleeve and carry it on as a separate item. By doing this, you’re effectively reducing the empty weight of the July Carry On Pro by about 2kgs, as anything you split out into the SnapSleeve will not count towards the single-item weight limit.
Above: how big is the SnapSleeve? My 14″ MacBook Pro and trusty A4 notepad slide in with ease.
If weight is a deal-breaker for you, the company offers a workaround in the form of a much lighter carry-on bag, appropriately named July Carry On Light.
Weighing in at a tiny 1.8kg, the July Carry On Light features the same German polycarbonate hard-shell construction but misses out on the battery, the SnapSleeve and about 10L of internal volume.
The second issue with the July Carry-On Pro is the attachment mechanism of the SnapSleeve. It’s fiddly to attach when the bag is empty, and almost impossible to attach when the bag is full.
EDIT: I suspect I’m not the only one complaining about this, as July has recently launched a new version of the Carry On Pro with a non-detachable laptop sleeve. I like this move – and would buy this version if I were to buy another carry-on.
The July Carry-On Pro is the best 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 travellers who take longer, 3-7 day trips but want to travel with one bag.
It also doubles up as a great weekender that will fit everything you and your spouse* need during a getaway.
Yes, it is heavier than most hardshell bags (and much heavier than softshells), but workarounds are possible. You have to pack smart and, if you overload, accept the small risk of having to check it in.
It’d be the perfect bag if the SnapSleeve’s attachment mechanism was less fiddly.
✔ Huge 42L internal volume
✔ Onboard removable battery with USB and FastCharge USB-C
✔ 100-day trial with free returns
✔ Top-of-the-range YKK zippers
✘ Modest payload due to strong build
* Depends on the spouse.
At $425, the July Carry On Pro represents outstanding value for money. Its premium construction and high attention to detail make it look and feel like a $600+ bag.
I suspect this pricing is intentionally lowballed to help the company achieve market penetration. I will not be surprised if July increases the price of its bags by about 30% in about a year or two.
|How Does The July Carry On Pro Stack Up?||Score|
|Warranty & Returns||5|
➤ Size: 55cm H x 38cm W x 22/24cm D (excl/incl Snapsleeve)
➤ Weight: 3.6kg
➤ Capacity: 42L
2. Antler Prestwick.
Best carry-on for corporate road warriors.
Above: Prestwick’s durable soft outer layer. The Antler logo on the front is a nice design touch.
I’ll be the first to admit that the Prestwick isn’t the most exciting carry-on. It doesn’t look ostentatious and isn’t brimming with features. But that’s exactly why corporate road warriors love it.
Australian middle management and executive types want a carry-on that is light, durable, smart-looking and secure.
The Prestwick delivers all in spades.
First, you get an astonishing 45 litres of internal volume in a bag that weighs 2.2 kilograms. This is 3 litres more volume than you get with July’, with a 1.7 kg weight reduction.
The lack of an internal battery will be a pro to business types with lounge privileges, who can charge their devices at the airport and would rather trade the battery for extra payload and internal space.
Above: The bag’s aesthetic is smart and uncomplicated.
Softshell carry-on bags are more prone to damage than hardshells, but Antler mitigates the issue with subtle corner guards that run across the entire perimeter of the bag.
On the inside, the Preswick also punches well above its price point. You get elastic X-straps to prevent your belongings from falling out and two more separate zipped compartments in the lid.
Last but not least, the price is outstanding. At $279, it’s almost half the price of the July Carry On Pro and almost 10% of the price of the Rimowa (below).
This Antler Prestwick isn’t exactly a work of art. It’s designed to look smart, professional and safe – not to be obnoxiously loud.
If loud is what you want, go with the Rimowa.
I could point out that the bag doesn’t have an included laundry bag or the option to personalise it, but the criticisms would not be fair in the context of its rock-bottom price tag.
Apart from the boring aesthetic, this bag doesn’t have any other flaws.
The Antler Prestwick is the best carry-on in Australia if you frequent domestic airline business lounges more frequently than the coffee shop near your house.
Australian business travellers will appreciate its no-nonsense focus on durability, payload and security. It won’t withstand five years of abuse like the Rimowa will, but at $279, can you expect it to?
|How Does The Antler Prestwick Stack Up?||Score|
|Warranty & Returns||5|
➤ Size: 55 x 34 x 23.5 cm
➤ Weight: 2.23kg
➤ Capacity: 45L
Best premium hardshell cabin bag.
Above: Victorinox Spectra’s classic lines will look great with casual attire or a business suit.
The #3 on my list of best carry-on luggage bags is the stylish Victorinox Spectra 3.0. I love this thing. If it weren’t for the bag’s $800-plus price tag, I’d be in the #1 position on this list.
The Victorinox Spectra 3.0 is the best carry-on bag if you travel with multiple airlines and never want to worry about checking in your luggage.
Keep it unexpanded, and it will fit within the size limits of most airlines. Only ultra-low budget carriers that typically service Europe, Southeast Asia and South America may raise an eyebrow.
This is great for scenarios where you fly somewhere light but return heavy after buying some duty-free presents for the family.
A fully expanded internal volume of 47 litres is huge for a carry-on bag.
Above: This cabin bag looks like it belongs in a first-class lounge or a boardroom. The front pocket is the best of all cabin bags in this review.
Additionally, each Spectra 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 at no cost.
Inside the main compartment, you’ll find a divider that creates a separate area for smaller items.
The lockable front compartment of the Spectra 3.0 is outstanding. It unzips to reveal an organisational panel and provides rapid access to your laptop and other travel essentials.
Above: A USB socket can charge devices from an internally mounted battery. Unlike July, Victorinox doesn’t include the battery.
The carry-on’s outer shell is crafted from hard, matt, scratch-resistant polycarbonate that looks and feels like it will last a lifetime.
Corner guards are a nice touch for minimising damage from rough handling.
As you’d expect from a Swiss brand that makes locks, the Victorinox Spectra has a proprietary, TSA-approved combination lock.
I’ve had a couple of travel bags go mouldy while stored (plus my wife is allergic to mould), so I love that the Spectra’s internals are made from microorganism-resistant fabric.
The Victorinox Spectra has one downside – price. Not everyone has almost $900 to blow on a carry-on, but don’t think twice if you do.
This is a sophisticated yet practical and versatile piece of luggage that will last for many years.
When shopping at this price point, your main dilemma is whether to add a few hundred dollars to your budget and go with a Rimowa (below).
Above: Classic lines of the Victorinox have an unmistakable vintage feel.
The Victorinox 3.0 Expandable Global is fancy 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
✘ Too expensive for most of us
Between $800 and $900, depending on the retailer and season. It’s a premium product aimed at style-conscious, affluent travellers.
|How Does The Victorinox Global Stack Up?||Score|
|Warranty & Returns||4|
➤ Size: 55cm H x 40cm W x 20/23cm D
➤ Weight: 3.5kg
➤ Capacity: 39/47L
Best ultra-premium carry-on bag.
Ah, Rimowa. When pesky activists spraypainted your mink fur coat, but you refuse to stop signalling to fellow travellers (and Qantas staff) that you’ve made it.
Or at least plan to make it.
However, a number of boutiques have popped up across Sydney and Melbourne in recent years, which may signal that the brand is going on the offensive to protect its market share from direct-to-consumer brands like July.
Let’s see how its best carry-on fares against the competition.
Rimowa has a number of carry-ons in this range. For me, the Original model offers the best balance of style, cost and practicality.
On paper, this is the worst-performing carry-on bag I’ve reviewed so far.
But analysing the Rimowa Original using facts alone is not unlike assessing a Ferrari Testarossa via its fuel consumption figures.
Above: Rimowa’s interior compartment design is a work of art.
The classic lines immediately reveal the bag’s pedigree, and the aluminium construction makes it stand out in the sea of plasticky nightmares in the overhead compartment.
This carry-on bag will withstand years of abuse.
And even when it does start to wear, its aluminium finish starts to look charismatic rather than old (painted finishes are a different story – I’ll talk about them in a moment).
I’ve spotted a fair share of Rimowas in airports that look like they’ve been around since the Vietnam War. Or perhaps to the Vietnam War.
The locks are rock-solid and latch with satisfying precision, while the internal compartments are organised in a way that’s not only intelligent, but attractive.
Mentioning price as Rimowa’s con is trite, so I’ll skip straight to the weight. Besides, price-conscious people don’t buy these bags.
Above: Classic lines are a nod to 1960s-era cars, rock’n’roll and drive-in cinemas.
The 3.8 kg weight is a downside, but it will matter much more to people who don’t fly business or first class.
The bag will turn heads (especially if you spec it in a loud colour). If you value privacy and like to fly under the radar, you may want to opt for the Victorinox Spectra instead.
The Rimowa Original is available in four colours, including the aluminium (aka Silver) you see here.
The Silver will be quite resistant to scratches, but if you get any other colours, be prepared to collect regular paint scuffs.
Some people view them as badges of honour, but you may feel that a ding in your $1300 carry-on ruins it for you. If you’re unsure, get the Silver version.
Rimowa’s aluminium construction means you can’t overfill the bag.
Unlike plastic hardshells, the aluminium Rimowa will not stretch the slightest bit to accommodate your extra pair of pants.
If you’re used to always fitting in “one more thing”, owning one of these bags may come with a shock.
Rimowa Original is the quintessential luxury carry-on bag.
It’s the last carry-on you’ll ever buy. The thing will last a decade due to its rock-solid build, and you’ll feel stylish with this iconic nugget of history rolling by your side.
|How Does The Rimowa Carry On Stack Up?||Score|
|Warranty & Returns||5|
➤ Size: 55 X 40 X 23
➤ Weight: 3.8 kg
➤ Capacity: 37 L
Best if you want to flex but can’t afford a Rimowa.
Above: Available in Titanium and Black, the Spectra looks and feels like premium carry-on luggage.
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.
- Elon Musk with it, on Mars, in 2060.
- A corporate CEO with it today.
Works in all three scenarios, right?
Above: Clean, classic lines continue to the rear of the cabin bag. The bag’s unique identified ID is visible between the handles.
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 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.
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.
Above: The Lexicon’s internals leave little to be desired. Compression cross-straps, separate small pouches and a zip-away main compartment will meet the demands of most discerning road warriors.
Cool? Somewhat. Useful? Not really. An integrated battery back would have been much better.
The integrated USB port is USB 2.0 and 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 minor glitches, the Victorinox Lexicon is a stunningly attractive and useful cabin bag built well enough to withstand years of business travel.
At 3.08kg in weight, it does an excellent job of walking the tightrope between build quality and payload.
Above: One more shot of the Lexicon in Black, just because it’s so pretty.
✔ 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 between $600 and $800, depending on season and retailer. Definitely not a cheap, throwaway piece of travel gear.
|How Does The Victorinox Lexicon Stack Up?||Score|
|Warranty & Returns||4|
➤ Size: 55cm H x 35cm W x 23cm D
➤ Weight: 3.08kg
➤ Capacity: 34L
Good hardshell carry-on bag for corporate types.
Above: Professional and sleek without screaming for attention, the Oc2Lite will appeal to corporate travellers.
The Oc2Lite Hardside Spinner is best for buyers who want the protection of a hardshell cabin bag, but don’t want to pay a huge weight penalty.
If the July Carry On Pro is too heavy for your needs, this lightweight bag is a great alternative.
The Samsonite Oc2Lite Hardside‘s most important feature is its incredibly light empty weight. At 2.6kg, the bag is one of the lightest hardshell carry-on bags I’ve reviewed.
This feature translates into a huge payload capacity – 7.4kg with Qantas and 4.9kg with Virgin, to be exact.
To help you pack everything you need, it can expand from 37 to 43 litres, edging out the voluminous July Carry On Pro by one litre in the process.
Above: Polished contrast handle is a very welcome and unexpected detail at this price point.
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.
The Samsonite OC2 is not a statement piece, and – while very modern-looking – it will not win design awards.
It’s simply a very smart-looking carry-on bag designed to look like it belongs on a business trip, and not draw attention to itself.
Above: The thin hardshell saves weight, but doesn’t feel as rigid as some of the other cabin bags in this review.
The construction is very good, but it’s obvious that the bag was put on a severe diet to make it lose weight.
The shell, for example, feels noticeably more floppy and thin than that of the July Carry On. You also won’t get any “nice-to-have” features like a battery and laundry bag.
The Samsonite OC2Lite is the best lightweight hardshell carry on bag for people who need a high payload, but are unwilling 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 doesn’t have the same “built like a tank” feel as you get from July Carry On Pro, but this is exactly what allows the bag to remain lightweight and relatively inexpensive.
✔ Very lightweight for a hardshell
✔ Modern exterior
✔ Has every feature you’d expect from a Samsonite
✘ Too corporate-looking for advertising and creative types
The Oc2Lite Hardside’s RRP is about $335, but can often be found on special for about $250. It’s a steal at that price.
➤ Size: 55cm H x 36cm W x 24/26cm D
➤ Weight: 2.6kg
➤ Capacity: 37/43L
Good for startup and creative types.
Above: Front-facing quick-access laptop section on Cordura versions of the bag are a must for business travellers.
The Herschel Highland is my #3 overall best carry-on bag and our #1 small carry-on because of one major factor: its low weight.
The Herschel’s softshell construction keeps its weight down to 2.81 kg. This translates into a 7.19 kg payload with Qantas and 4.19 kg with Virgin.
This carry-on’s lightweight, yet durable outer softshell is available in four different colours: 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.
Above: Reinforced edges improve the longevity of the bag, while subtle stitched patches add visual appeal.
Herschell’s design balances urban sophistication with retro chic. It does a great job of this, but in terms of vibe it tilts more towards “contemporary/modern” than “traditional/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 #4.)
The Herschel Highland‘s internal volume is 34 litres, about 20% less than the July Carry-On Pro’s 42 litres.
Portable size, combined with its soft shell, are the keys to Herschel’s remarkably low weight.
Above: Stylish, modern, well-built and lightweight, the Herschel Highland is as cool as it is capable.
The Herschel Highland is the best carry-on luggage option for business people who mostly do day trips and overnighters – and want to travel with one bag.
Its compact size combines with a high payload to ensure you can fill it to the brim and not worry about exceeding the airline’s carry-on baggage weight limits.
Above: Attention to detail matters. Leather tabs on zippers are a nice touch.
Compared with the July Carry On, 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 will depend 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 make 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?
Above: The Herschel Highland’s interior helps you stay organised with separate zippable sections and an abundance of pockets.
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 not a cheap cabin bag, but it offers a mountain of value to the right person.
➤ Size: 54cm H x 33cm W x 21cm D
➤ Weight: 2.8kg
➤ Capacity: 34L
8. Delsey Paris Montrouge.
Good carry-on luggage for women who like bling.
Above: The gold details are limited to the cabin bag’s telescopic handles and zippers.
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 tacky but is moderately blingy, thanks to the gold plating on the handle and zippers. Very Paris, c. 1995.
Above: Softside construction saves weight, while two handles improve maneuverability.
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 like this feature because it adds another grab point for maneuvering the bag into the overhead locker.
Being a softside bag, it’s very light, which translates into healthy payload capacity. You get 7.4kg with Qantas and 4.4kg with Virgin, and this is backed up by a very cavernous 45 litres of internal volume.
While the outside zippers are sturdy, the interior compartments are secured with flimsy, plastic zippers.
Above: TSA locks are a welcome addition at this price point.
Additionally, the outside pockets only provide minimal expansion room.
Then there’s the “love it or hate it” design. People who want to fly under the radar will flinch at the sight of gold-plated zippers and arm handles.
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 at 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.
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
9. Samsonite 72 Hours Deluxe Spinner.
Good cabin bag if you’re on a budget but need a high payload.
Above: Ridiculously high payload is made possible by the carry on bag’s ultra-lightweight construction.
This carry-on is ideal if you want a lightweight, inexpensive, unpretentious bag.
This Samsonite’s party trick is its ultra-low weight that matches 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.
Above: Practical and uncomplicated, this Samsonite carry-on is a workhorse of hand luggage.
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).
The Samsonite 72-hour 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
10. American Tourister Frontec.
Good all-around hardshell cabin bag.
Above: Frontec keeps you organised with its zip-away front panel.
The American Tourister Frontec is the unsung hero of this luggage review because it is well-designed, robust, highly organised and stylish.
A lot of thought has gone into the design of the Frontec. First, it has 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.
Above: The waffle-inspired design looks quite smart in the flesh.
There are three additional pouches in there that can hold a tablet, 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.
But be aware that this is just a port – not a dedicated, ejectable battery pack as you get on July Carry On.
Like most mid-tier American Tourister and Samsonite bags, 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 Rimowa options above.
The Frontec is one of the best carry-on bags for corporate travellers. It’s modest yet professional in appearance.
Above: The waffle-inspired design looks quite smart in the flesh.
✔ 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
What Carry On Luggage Size And Weight Limits Do You Need To Know About?
The world of airline cabin bag limits is frustratingly inconsistent. Each airline imposes its own rules and limits, and you better obey them to avoid checking in your luggage.
See the table below to ensure your cabin bag works 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.
- 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 concrete maximum dimensions for each side of your bag.
In almost all cases, you’ll get away with bringing on a laptop sleeve or a small handbag in addition to the above items.
Which Factors To Consider When Choosing A Carry-On Bag?
Road warriors care about privacy, security, weight and style.
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 payload is mediated by its build quality.
- Robust hard shell bags with plenty of features, like the July Carry On Pro and the Victorinox Lexicon featured in this review, usually weigh between 3.1 and 3.6kg.
- Less robust hardshell bags, like the Samsonite Oc2lite featured here, weigh about 2.6kg.
But if the maximum payload is what you need, you’ll need to sacrifice the durability of a hardshell by opting for a soft-sided 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 hardshells in this review.
But the Herschell is an outlier.
You won’t have trouble finding quality softshell carry-on bags that weigh between 2kg and 2.5kg. For example, the Samsonite 72 Hours Deluxe Spinner, which made our list of best carry-on luggage, weighs 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 – you’re better off prioritising 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.
3. How Long Is The Warranty?
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.
4. What Size Limits Do I Need To Abide By?
I’ve already covered carry-on luggage sizes in detail, in the section above. The easiest option is to fly with one airline and 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.