- Buyer's Guide
Buying Tips:: Carry On
Airlines suck. They are not your friend, no matter how much they smile at you in their ads. With their escalating checked bag fees, the battle for carry on is getting gnarly. Everyone wants to carry on, but there’s only so much overhead space. So a carry-on needs to swallow lots, but still fit the test space.
Your biggest choice is whether to wheel or carry. Then if you carry, is it one strap or two. This mostly comes down to how much weight you’ll carry, and whether you want to actually carry it, or just roll it behind. There are hybrids that let you wheel or carry, but these have a weight penalty which means they generally work better in larger check-in bags.
3 things to look for:
Squashability for tight spaces:
While hard-case spinners have their place in check-in luggage, we generally don’t like them for carry-on. They are hard to fit overhead or under-seat, and the wheels end up so small they are almost useless. For carry-on, we recommend soft cases for 96% of the population (photographers and beauty therapists are the exception).
Computers determine lots:
If you want to carry a laptop, fast in and out makes life much more enjoyable. This means you generally need a separate vertical section designated for your laptop. Go TSA compliant flip-downs if you’re a seriously frequent traveller.
Looks your mother would be proud of:
At some point or another, most carry-on bags end up in front of a client. If your flight is delayed and you have to go direct to the presentation, make sure you look smart and organised. Avoid crazy colors. Mean business instead.
3 things to avoid:
While the US is more lenient with carry-on weight, most European and Asian airlines limit your weight to around 7kg. That’s not much, so if your bag is heavy, you’re not getting much more than underwear onboard.
Limited pocketing options are limiting:
Lots of carry-on doesn’t provide a solution for bulky headphones, a drink bottle, or anything else not square and book shaped. Having some quick access external pocketing makes life much easier with security lines and train trips.
Single strap carry for heavy loads hurts:
Lots of carry-on works only as single strap carry. While single straps are great for a light computer bag, if you try to haul a week’s worth of gear on one shoulder, you’re going to hurt. Lots of great carry-on lets you engage a second strap for backpack carry. We rate this.