VS: "I can't imagine being so set on not checking a bag that I would choose to pack that light"
Am I set on not checking a bag? You bet. For good reason.
On my first business trip to Belgium in 1987, my bags almost stayed in Boston. On my second trip, on a flight from Frankfurt to Paris, my bags almost went to So. America, never, I'm sure, to be seen again. When, in around 2000, I first read of Rick's idea of carrying on, I realized that it was the solution to the problems of lost bags.
On my first trip with a carry-on bag, I had a one hour connection in an eastern city, but we left Denver an hour late due to aircraft deicing. I mentioned it to the FA and they met us (13) at the gate with a van and took us to the connecting flight in the international terminal, where we just made the flight. I doubt that any checked luggage could have made that connection. I was sure glad to have my carry-on bag sitting on my lap in the van.
Since then, I have always made sure I was under the 17.6# limit for carry-on. Then, after accepting that I didn't need to pack clean clothes for the entire trip, that I could wash as I go, I limited myself to only 3-4 days of clothes, and I got my load down to 9-10 #, plus bag. It's so liberating to carry a bag that only weighs 10-12 #.
You pack a carry-on bag with the things you "absolutely" have to have. You can live with just what you put in your carry-on bag. You put every thing else that you might want in a second bag, to check. Then, assuming that the checked bag will be lost anyway, you leave it at home.