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Road Tests

Carl Friedrik Carry-on Pro

TRAVEL

Carl Friedrik Carry-on Pro Review

by , October 20, 2022
7.3
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Even if we’re not traveling first class, we all deserve to feel like we’re traveling in first class. Here at Carryology, we know that the best way to do that is by upping the class of your carry game. While we’re big proponents of one-bag travel, we know that’s not always the best case for every scenario or every person.

Enter the Carl Friedrik Carry-on Pro. We’ve tested this carry-on roller over the past year, over several trips, over many more flight legs and layovers. It’s held up spectacularly and performed admirably. Even better, we got compliments on it and another traveler in an AMEX Lounge even bought one while we were chatting with them about it. Let’s get into the details.

Specifications

  • Name: Carry-on Pro
  • Brand: Carl Friedrik
  • Format: Carry-on roller
  • Measurement: W: 38cm (15 inches); H: 55cm (21.7 inches); D: 25cm (9.6 inches), 27cm expanded (10.6 inches)
  • Capacity: 43L
  • Weight: 4.3kg (9.5lbs)
  • Zippers: YKK nylon
  • Material: Polycarbonate shell; vegetable-tanned Vachetta leather details
  • Price$545 ($590 with compression pad)

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Who It Suits

You’re an experienced traveler who needs to look professional on your way to and from your destination, whether for business or for pleasure. Premium materials are important to you, as well as a premium aesthetic. You may be a part-time one-bag traveler, but you know that sometimes four wheels are a better way to get the job done. 

Who It Doesn’t

If you’re looking for a gear hauler to beat around, this isn’t it. At over $500 the Carry-on Pro is not a budget option either, and while this is a premium product, the price-conscious among us may find a better fit elsewhere. It may go without saying, but if you’re focused on one-bag travel, you probably already know that a suitcase isn’t for you.

Carl Friedrik Carry-on Pro


Design

The Carl Friedrik Carry-on Pro may be as svelte as suitcases come. The gunmetal polycarbonate shell looks great and functions even better. While we do have some favorite aluminum-bodied suitcases, those get significantly beat up over time, and aluminum just doesn’t bounce back quite the same. You’ll often end up with dings and dents over a relatively short period of time. In the case of the Carry-on Pro, this was never the case. Did we get some scrapes and scratches? Yep, but the shell as a whole is in better shape than any aluminum roller would be in after a year of baggage handling.

Carl Friedrik Carry-on Pro

While the shell is nice, the leather accents are the real eye-catcher – available in black, chocolate, or cognac. I opted for the cognac for the highest contrast against the gunmetal. The handles, a strip across the top-front, and a few other bits are all matched to whichever leather finish you choose, and while they don’t affect the overall functionality of the roller, it’s touches of luxury like this that can really elevate a product to the next level.

Carl Friedrik Carry-on Pro

While the leather looks great, we do wish the handles were fully wrapped or finished softer around the edges. The edges are a bit sharper than we’d like. The handles are also spring-loaded against the shell, so that when they’re not in use they can sit somewhat flush. While this keeps the handles from potentially catching on things, they were a little too tight. Getting your fingers underneath the handles isn’t a super pleasant experience, at least at first. This issue did alleviate itself over the last year, but you’ll probably be dragging your knuckles across the textured shell for the first few trips.

Another thing that, at first, we wanted to change was the weight of the polycarbonate used for the shell. It’s a bit flexible, which isn’t usually something I want in a suitcase. However, this really didn’t show itself as an actual problem. I’d compare it to how 500D nylon feels versus 1000D nylon. If you’re used to 1000D, you may at first see 500D as less durable, or even downright fragile, but in reality you’ll never wear it out through normal use. The shell on the Carry-on Pro is sort of like that. Maybe you’ll feel like you want a thicker shell, but in reality, it’s way more durable than it even needs to be.


Features

The Carry-on Pro comes with all of the accouterments you’d expect on a modern carry-on. A quick-access laptop compartment, interior compression straps and one included compression panel, and a handy USB pass-through for charging your devices on the move. The bag itself offers good security without it being overbearing.

The laptop panel is great for those who are traveling with only their roller as their primary travel hauler. Otherwise, we typically keep our laptop in our backpack or shoulder bag that’s accompanying us. The sleeve easily fits a 16″ device, and the other pockets are great for accessories, like chargers, or even your e-reader. Since the entire case is hard-sided the protection is superb. We had no issues tossing this in the overhead or when we needed to check it at the gate with our laptop still inside. 

Carl Friedrik Carry-on Pro

Part of me wishes that the closure method, which is a smooth #10 style zipper, was instead the same aluminum locking mechanism used on the side of the main case. The zipper provides some back-and-forth flex to the compartment, which you may see as good or bad, but it’s definitely worth calling out. The zipper also does not have any built-in locking or security mechanism, which we would have liked to have seen.

Carl Friedrik Carry-on Pro

The interior is simple yet spacious, as you’d expect from a roller like this. The only notable addition is a small center zip pocket that stores the pass-through to the top-facing USB ports. The sleeve isn’t huge, so your massive >10,000 mAh battery may not fit, but there’s no reason you couldn’t just keep it in the main compartment if necessary. I actually found myself using this feature quite a bit. It was nice to be able to charge right from my suitcase rather than holding my battery in one hand and my phone in another, or trying to find an outlet. I think for future iterations, Carl Friedrik could probably standardize on USB-C rather than USB-A, as I did need to keep an adapter around just for the case.

Carl Friedrik Carry-on Pro

Carl Friedrik Carry-on Pro

The interior compression straps and compression panel are well-designed, easy to use, and easy to remove. Personally, I found using the compression panel a must, as without it one side of the suitcase always spilled into the other depending on how I was packing that day. But, if you don’t want it, it’s very easy to remove it and just use the interior Y-shaped compression straps. It was nice that the panel itself is a fully zippable pocket for stashing smaller items of clothing.

Carl Friedrik Carry-on Pro

The aluminum locking mechanisms on the main compartment were really a joy to use. I never found them difficult to latch or unlatch, even when the Carry-on Pro was stuffed to the max. And the internal numeric locks make sure that nothing opens by accident. It’s a very satisfying “click” whenever they’re used. Honestly, I’ve been more used to semi-rigid luggage and zippers, but the Carry-on Pro has converted me.

Carl Friedrik Carry-on Pro


Performance

It might seem odd to wax poetic about luggage wheels, but the four Japanese-made Hinomoto wheels are a pleasure to send rolling through the terminal. If you’re going to run a suitcase, then four wheels are the way to go. It’s a much more pleasing experience to just push or hold the luggage next to you while walking rather than having to pull it behind you. Especially if you’ve got a bag stacked on top of the collapsible handle.

Carl Friedrik Carry-on Pro

Speaking of which, the collapsible handle is pretty standard. The grip is plastic, though at this price point, and with all of the other accents and handles, we’d have liked to have seen this be leather wrapped since this is the main point of contact you’ll have with the Carry-on Pro. The collapsible rods easily adjust to a number of pre-set heights, so you’ll have no problem rolling it no matter how tall or short you are. We do wish the rods were just a bit tighter though. While it doesn’t affect overall function, the handle does wobble just a bit. This is common on almost all roller luggage, but we’d like to have seen the Carry-on Pro on the other side of that almost-all.

Carl Friedrik Carry-on Pro


The Good

  • Professional and stylish aesthetic with superb build quality and materials
  • Tech panel is great for quick access to your gear on the go
  • USB pass-through is useful and lets you bring any battery you want
  • Wheels are as smooth as butter

The Not So Good

  • No locking zippers on the tech panel, where your potentially most valuable items reside
  • Slightly thicker or denser polycarbonate would give a better overall feel
  • A leather wrap on the roller handle would have added a nicer touch point

Verdict

Personally, I’ve never thought of myself as the target customer for high-end roller luggage. I do some business travel, but not a lot, so I had always been pretty happy with my semi-soft luggage when I wasn’t one-bagging it. But I’m a convert. I loved every second of rolling this piece of luggage through the airport. It looks great and it’s a pleasure to use; both when packing and en route. The compliments are a nice bonus as well.

Carl Friedrik Carry-on Pro

If you’ve ever even thought of upgrading your luggage game, add Carl Friedrik to your list. The pricing is premium but on par, and the polycarbonate construction will look great throughout most of its long life – if not all of it.

The Breakdown

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Geek (Performance)

Space & Access
8
Organization
7
Comfort
6

Style (Design)

Look & Feel
9
Build, Materials & Hardware
9
Features
7

Stoke (Experience)

Warranty & Support
8
Brand experience
6
Value
6
X Factor
7

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