Field-Tested: The Best Carry-on Bags

TravelAge West staff members test out the best bags for lugging onboard

By: By TravelAge West Staff

Packing lightly is not only an art but a necessity these days, thanks to hefty airline baggage fees for checked luggage. At TravelAge West, our staff knows this firsthand, racking up countless air miles and lugging around many a suitcase on a regular basis. So, we decided to field test some of the best carry-on luggage in the market to see which ones stack up and which ones are better left in baggage claim.

Oh My, Ogio!

Ogio Layover bag // © 2009 Ogio

Ogio Layover bag // © 2009 Ogio

I’ve never been one to use a carry-on bag but, once I started using my Ogio Layover bag, that all changed. I’ve used it on several trips now, and I’m still amazed at how much I can fit in it. The Layover has a really well-crafted, curved shell that has a good amount of give, yet still protects the contents, and there are zippered, mesh compartments inside that are remarkably large. It has great outside pockets, a two-stage Pullman handle, smooth urethane wheels and grab handles in various spots for easy lifting. The Layover fits easily in the overhead bin, but you can also expand it and check it on the way home. (It won’t fit the overhead bins when expanded.) My only concern is that the handle sometimes feels a little loose. But I’ve already decided that if something happens to my bag, I’m running right out and replacing it with another one. The Ogio Layover comes in black, brown plaid, Bruno Plaid and Icon Army. $159. (Dimensions: 22 inches by 14 inches by 10 inches; Weight: 8 lbs.)
Kenneth Shapiro, Editor-in-Chief

Smooth Operator

L.L. Bean Carryall Rolling Pullman, Medium // © L.L. Bean

L.L. Bean Carryall Rolling Pullman, Medium // © L.L. Bean

I’ll admit that when I first saw my L.L. Bean Carryall Rolling Pullman, Medium, I didn’t think it would hold very much (I’m a notorious over-packer). But after using it for a 10-day summer trip to Europe, I’ve been converted. Its soft, yet tough, nylon material expanded effortlessly to accommodate my clothes and toiletries — my beer stein souvenir included — and there was even a deep side pocket to store my dirty laundry and shoes. The suitcase is also very light, making it easy to lift into the overhead bin. And the Smooth-Glide inline wheels roll like a dream. If I could change anything about it, however, I would love to have had a small plastic compartment, rather than mesh, for storing toiletries, in the event that they spill or leak out in flight. The bag comes in black, Carbon, Forest Moss, Molten Red, Royal (blue) and Wild Iris. $129. (Dimensions: 22 inches by 14 inches by 9 inches; Weight: 6 lbs., 3 oz.)
Deanna Ting, Associate Editor

Vintage Valise

Dakine’s wheeled Valise bag // © Dakine

Dakine’s Valise bag // © Dakine

Dakine’s wheeled Valise bag is the perfect complement to a larger suitcase when traveling on a long journey. The 2,600-cubic-inch bag has a retractable handle and is maneuverable in tight spaces. It slides right under an airplane seat or easily fits into overhead compartments. The Valise is great for carrying toiletries, an extra set of clothes, books and an MP3 player, and its side pockets make for simple organization. At times, I wished the bag was slightly larger or could expand a bit more but, overall, it was great for carrying personal items onboard.The bag comes in two different patterns, as well as in black. $95. (Dimensions: 21 inches by 11 inches by 16 inches; Weight: 4 lbs.)
Janeen Christoff, Managing Editor

Overnight Sensation

Northface Longhaul 21 // (c) 2009

 The North Face Longhaul 21 // © The North Face 

For more than 40 years, The North Face has been has been a trusted retailer of high-performance backpacking equipment, and its new Longhaul 21 roller duffle is strong enough to bear the elements — no matter how extreme. However, only the most professional of packers will find this bag ideal for an extended weekend trip outdoors. Because of its size and its internal mesh pocket which, when packed to the brim, can make accessing your reading material or travel documents a bit awkward, the Longhaul 21 is best suited for a quick overnighter. The main compartment, with its X-bungee gear compression, will keep your bulky items intact, and the selection of carry handles — located on the bottom, top and front of the bag — make it easy to lift your belongings out of the overhead bin as you dash to your next stop. The Longhaul 21 is available in cardinal red and black. $229. (Dimensions: 21 inches by 12 inches by 8 inches; Weight: 7 lbs. 5 oz.)
Skye Mayring, Assistant Editor

Up for Adventure

Timberland Adventure Trekker // (c) 2009

Timberland's Adventure Trekker // © Photo by Deborah Dimond 2009 

The Timberland Adventure Trekker 18-inch Wheeled Backpack was a welcome addition to my luggage portfolio. In a crowded airport, I have often yearned to be able to pick up my rolling carry-on and sling it on my back. The Trekker is large for a backpack, but without making you look like you’re about to scale the Himalayas. The materials are rugged and are slow to show dirt and wear. After dragging it along with me on a safari in South Africa, it still looked new. When using it as a wheelie, the push button locking telescope handle was strong and sturdy, while the inline skate wheels were smooth, never locking or skipping like those on other carry-on bags. My only criticism is that, while using the bag on carry-on flights, it was too large to fit under the chair in front of me and needed to go into the overhead compartment. The Adventure Trekker Wheeled Backpack is available in gray. $100. (Dimensions: 18 inches by 9 inches by 13 inches; Weight: 9 lbs.)
Deborah Dimond, Art Director