After years of traveling, we learned that the best way to travel is with carry-on luggage only. It saves you time, money, stress and overpacking, as well as possibly lost bags. There are a lot of choices out there, so we intensively searched the market and came up with what we believe is the best carry-on luggage.
The reason why finding the best hand luggage is so tricky is not all airlines follow the same standard for dimension. The International Air Transport Association has come up with a general guideline for hand-luggage dimensions (56 x 45 x 25 cm/22 x 18 x 1o in), but when you look at our overview of airline hand luggage allowances you’ll see a lot of variation in regulations by the different airlines.
Most people fly on a wide range of carriers, so the best hand luggage needs to fit within most allowances. To simplify this, we took the average hand luggage dimensions of the major airlines and found out that the most accepted carry-on luggage size is 55 x 40 x 23 cm/22 x 16 x 9 in.
To our surprise, we did not find many hand luggage companies that produce products that match this size limit. However, after a lot of time on the Internet and testing products hands on, we found three products that we would call the best carry-on luggage options on the market. They fit any budget and carry-style (backpack and/or roller), so browse through this post to find your personal favorite.
1. The best carry-on luggage for the small wallet: Malaga by Cabin Max
Cabin Max has become one of the most well known manufacturers of hand luggage. Their most popular model is called Metz and comes in a large variety of different colors and styles. However, for us this bag didn’t make the cut because it does not take full advantage of the size allowance. In addition, the fabric is so thin it doesn’t really protects your belongings. For these reasons, we prefer the Malaga. It’s sturdier and larger, using all the overhead space available in the plane.Specs:
weight: 0.9 kg/ 2 lbs
dimensions: 55 x 40 x 20 cm / 22 x 16 x 8 in
volume: 44 l
- comfortable padded straps that can be hidden away when not needed
- elasticated retaining straps that keep your belongings in place when on the move
- an easy-access pocket for your laptop, phone, passport, books and other things you need handy
- heavy duty fabric and zippers
- padded protective sides and back
- side compression straps — to help make sure the bag fits the airline’s size regulations, even if you packed too much stuff
- 3-year guarantee
The Malaga is definitely one of the best carry-on luggage options on the market for its functionality and style and especially its price!
2. The best carry-on luggage if you want something a little sturdier: Carry-on by Standard Luggage
The Standard Luggage Carry-on is noticeably sturdier but also a little heavier and more expensive than the Cabin Max hand luggage. It serves as a 3-in-1 travel backpack, suitcase and shoulder bag. To create the ultimate travel system, you can buy additional accessories (packing cube set, a backpack packing cube and a leather travel wallet) that fit this bag perfectly.
- a separate pocket for your laptop, phone, documents and other stuff in the back of the bag instead of the front puts the weight more to the center of your body, making it easier to carry
- a zipper expands the depth of the bag increasing the volume from 35-45l
- durable, high-quality exterior fabric
- water resistant, includes an additional rain cover
- built-in compression straps to maximize space and keep your content in place
- several small compartments on the inside of the cover flap
- comes in two leather accent colors (orange and teal) for individual customization (perfect for couples with the same bag)
- concealable backpack straps
- safety whistle on shoulder strap
- optional shoulder strap
- free worldwide shipping and a lifetime warranty
- two shallow front pockets for documents or magazines
If you are looking for a sturdy backpack that will be your trusty companion on many future trips, an investment in the Carry-on by Standard Luggage will give you one of the best carry-on luggage options on the market. Its sleek, professional design also makes it a good choice for business travel.
3. The best carry-on luggage on wheels: Meridian 60l/22″ by Osprey
Wheels and retractable handles not only add overall size to your hand luggage, they also reduce interior space. In addition, they add weight and are one more thing that can break. However, when you’re trekking through large airports like Frankfurt or Los Angeles it’s much nicer to pull your hand luggage instead of carrying it on your back. I realized this painfully last time when I had more than 10 kg photography equipment with me. After trying a wide range of roller carry-on luggage, it turned out that our favorite is Osprey’s Meridian 60l/22″.Specs:
weight: 3.8 kg/ 8.4 lbs (incl. detachable daypack and removable shoulders straps)
dimensions: 56 x 36 x 22 cm / 22 x 14 x 9 in (excl. the daypack)
volume: 44 l (excl. the daypack)
- a detachable daypack for day trip adventures (48 x 32 x 21 cm / 19 x 13 x 8 in, 16 l, 0.8 kg/ 1.8 lbs)
- zippered top pocket with easy access to toiletries and liquids at the security check
- super tough outer fabric
- quick deploy high quality padded backpack shoulder harness for easy carry if needed, the harness system can also be removed to reduce weight and provide more packing space
- sturdy and oversized high traction wheels for pulling your bag over rough surfaces
- internal compressions straps and zippered side pockets keep your stuff organized
Even though Osprey’s Meridian 60l/22″ looks a little heavy to qualify as a best carry-on luggage, we’ve found that most airlines are pretty relaxed about weight limits for hand luggage as long as you meet the size restrictions. When I flew Air Namibia my bag weighed more than 12 kg (their official limit was 8), and even though they weighed it at the check-in counter, they gave me my boarding pass without hesitation.
The detachable daypack is a huge plus. When you are on the go, you can keep all your luggage contained on your roller. When you get ready to board, you just zip it off, and it becomes your hand-held personal item which most airlines allow you in addition to your main hand luggage. And when at your destination, it also serves as a handy back pack for day treks.
The Meridian 60l/22″ is not cheap, but it’s worth every penny and comes with a life-time warranty.
In the old days, we always travelled with huge backpacks. Now that all these versatile hand luggage options are available we have traded up. We especially love the “clam-shell” opening, which all the products in this best carry-on luggage overview offer, as it allows easy access to all the items in your bag. Gone are the backpack days when the only access was from the top of the pack … of course I always needed what was on the bottom!