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Which Carry-on Bag do you use?

The old topic that gets beat to death is which kind/size/type should I buy/use. It comes up in specific threads and it comes up as parts of threads on related subjects. As a result there are dozens of recommendations scattered over dozens of threads.
So, how about we consolidate recommendations here. NOT AN ARGUMENT as to what kind or type or size one should use; just your favorite that people can research and like it or not.

I will start, I have two Carry-on bags that I like depending on the trip:
Most trips I carry about 20lbs of clothes and "stuff" divided between a Carry-on and a Personal item

Rick Steves Classic Back Door Bag
Basically a backpack. I have been carrying this for going on 15 years.
Packing Scenario" Carry-on (2lbs) + Stuff (15.7lbs) = 17.7lbs / Personal Item (1lb) + Stuff (4.3lbs) = 5.3lbs.
Indestructible, light (2lbs) and at 21 x 14 x 9 (if you dont overpack it) a legal carry on for every major european and US carrier.
I am getting a bit old to carry 17.7 pounds on my back.
It becomes a bit difficult to deal with the bag and the "personal item" which is essential for the way i pack as even with a light bag, I still need to put a few things in the Personal Item to keep the bag under 17.7 lbs on most trips.

A hard side spinner and my goto bag for the last four years (about 10 overseas trips and half as many domestic); and it looks new but Carry-on bags don't get the abuse that checked bags do. I think I paid $140 for it (a lot for a basic Economy Light guy)
Packing Scenario" Carry-on (5.8lbs) + Stuff (11.9lbs) = 17.7lbs / Personal Item (1lb) + Stuff (8.1lbs) = 9.1lbs
At 21 x 14 x 9 a legal carry on for every major european and US carrier.
It is almost perfectly rectangular so there is no wasted packing space due to the tapered design many bags have.
The wheels are compact and set up a tiny bit into the bag, again making the storage area larger while keeping the height requirement.
Clam shell design so i dont have to tear everything out of the bag to get the stuff at the bottom.
I can hang my "Personal Item" (a small backpack) over the handle and it doesn't fall over.
The ease of maneuvering spinner bags especially on planes.
Clean smooth sides that slide easily into and out of full airline overhead compartments
Light for a hard shell spinner but still 5.8 lbs
I always pack to the limit of 17.7kg no matter which bag I use, so the starting weight of the bag doesn't make it "heavier" but does limit the amount that I can put in it.
Admittedly this bag only works for me if I use the Personal Item properly to carry the heavy items and only put fabric in the carry-on; then it works perfect.

Posted by
198 posts

Ooh I love reading about what people use! Depending on size limitations, I pick one of the following carryons:

  • Eagle Creek EC Lync International 19" - this 2-wheeled bag also converts to a backpack with or without wheels. I have used it both ways. It holds about 35 liters. It weights about 4.5 pounds with wheels and under 2 as just a backpack. It's about 8 years old and I still love it! And it still looks like new.
  • Eagle Creek 21" 2-wheeled bag - got this on sale from REI about 4 years ago, so can't remember the exact model. It is fairly light, has a couple of outer pockets and holds quite a bit more than my EC Lync.

I am one of the few (apparently) who really doesn't like the 4-wheeled spinners. It feels like wrangling a puppy through the airport to me. I traveled once internationally with the Ebags weekender junior backpack, and it held a lot. But I realized I prefer a light 2-wheeled bag.

For my personal item, if we are hiking, I will bring an Osprey hiking backpack. If it is a non-hiking trip, I use the Tom Bihn Pilot (which is also my work briefcase). For a really short trip, the Pilot could be the only carryon. It's a great bag.

Posted by
6776 posts

My current bags:

Carry On: TravelPro Maxlite 5 carry-on expandable spinner
Overall Dimensions: H: 23 in. W: 14.5 in. D: 9 in.
Case Dimensions: H: 21 in. W: 14 in. D: 9 in.
Weight: 5.4 lbs.
Volume: 46 L

Personal Item:
I'm alternating between two right now: the Rick Steves Euro Travel bag. Pros: I love this bag for its capacity and also the ability to retrieve items without going down a black hole. Has a trolley sleeve. Cons: It is difficult to maneuver while carrying other bags. That said, I'm still keeping it in the running because of its volume and flexibility.
Dimensions: 14" x 12" x 7"
Weight: 1 ½ lbs
Capacity: 1200 cubic inches

I've also used the Rangeland backpack (different one than Frank's). Pros: Holds a lot and has a trolley sleeve and dedicated laptop compartment. Cons: Heavy and not enough inside pockets. Easy to lose items inside. I'm about ready to give up on this one for flying.
Size: 12L x 16.25H x 5.25W inches and weighs about 1 pound.

Day Bag: Right now I'm using the Tom Bihn Side Kick, which works pretty well. Pros: It has lots of inside pockets, a detachable shoulder strap, and fits nicely inside my personal item on the plane. I can then pull it out when on board and keep it handy. It also works well as a crossbody bag while I'm out and about. Cons: Not that big so I can't fit anything large in there (although I can offset that by bringing a packable backpack with me or other packable bag.).
Dimensions: 9.6" (w) x 7.5" (h) x 2.8" (d)
Capacity: 3L
Weight: 8.1 oz.

I also have several packable backpacks (like the G4Free Foldable Hiking Backpack 40L) that I use depending on my need, along with other crossbody bags.

Posted by
913 posts

Tom Bihn Aeronaut 45L or 35L - which one we use depends on the trip.

Tom Bihn Daylight 20L Daylight Backpack or Matador Freefly 16 Packable backpack - again depends on the trip.

Miscellaneous: Delsey 21" roller bag and Tom Bihn Co-pilot bag if my wife or I decide we no longer want to carry much onour backs.

Posted by
2134 posts

My usual carryon is the Rick Steve's 21" rolling bag. I have plenty of room leftover to bring things home in this. Last trip to my moms I even managed to bring a soup pot, large skillet and large saucepan back in it, lol.

For 1-3 night trips I use one of two bags. One is a 19" bag that is kid size. We bought them for the kids back in 1998 for $10 each at Job Lot or something like that back east. They are still going strong, so we definitely got our moneys worth;). The other bag I use is a 20" American Tourister, that I have had for years. It is smaller than most other 20" bags as it is again more narrow and not as deep. This one looks much nicer than the kids bags and has one outside pocket that I use for my laptop.

For my personal item, that is always one of my Longchamp bags. Those are what I use here at home for my daily purse as well as when we are traveling.

Posted by
436 posts

I've been using the TravelPro Maxlite Soft Side spinner for about two years now. I am 95% carry on only (I check on the way home if I buy something I can't take through security). I like this bag a lot. It's VERY light. No issues ever fitting into an overhead compartment. One thing I don't like is that the lining of the bag has a zipper in it. I have no idea why. I guess if you needed to get to the hardware for the extending handle? Anyway, the zipper has broken so the lining just flaps open. Not really a huge deal, doesn't affect the use of the bag at all, but it's annoying.

My carryon is a North Face backback that's about ten years old. It has lots of pockets and a computer sleeve. I keep looking at other backpacks but keep coming back to this.

I have an ebags backpack whose name I don't remember - it's a computer bag that holds enough for a weekend. I don't use it much except for domestic travel because it's bigger than a standard backpack but too small for more than a weekend. I had the Motherlode Jr. backpack but fully loaded it was too heavy. Fortunately, one of the straps broke on a luggage carousel, and when I contacted eBags about replacement or repair, they told me to choose a new backpack, so I was able to choose a smaller replacement.

If I check a bag on the way home, I have a packable tote that I use to put things in it that I would be sorry to be without if my checked bag were lost. This is my favorite travel item - I use it for carrying groceries or other shopping, carrying recycling, dirty laundry etc. and it's small enough to toss in my cross body bag. I bought it in 2017 and it still looks like new.

and my bag for daily use is a Sherpani crossbody bag - typically I pack it into my suitcase and use it at my destination, since I already have two items in the cabin with me. They don't seem to sell it anymore, but it's similar to this:

Posted by
86 posts

Overseas, I use the RS Convertible Carry-on, but when travelling lighter and wanting something a little more polished, I use my Osprey Arcane Duffel Travel Backpack.

For my personal item, my new favorite is the Tom Bihn Pop Tote.

Posted by
6352 posts

We still like backpacks. I've used the RS Appenzell for probably 12 or 13 years:
Dimensions: 18" x 13" x 6 ½", Weight: 1 ½ lbs, Capacity: 1400 cubic inches, about 23 liters.

Stan used to carry a smaller backpack left over from our student days (!), but he likes mine so well he bought one last year. The top front pocket on his is much deeper than the one on mine; I don't consider that an improvement.

For personal items, he uses a laptop case, without the laptop. (This causes no end of confusion at airport security: "Sir, please remove your laptop. Sir, your laptop!, SIR!" while he is blissfully wondering who they're talking to.)

Since my beloved 50 year old Polish leather bag died, I've been using a freebie we got from Sierra club as a sign-up gift. It's about 11"x13"x3"¸ made of light canvas. It works well enough, although I'm not averse to upgrading a bit.

I do have an older version of the Euro Flight Bag which I'm considering using as a personal item, but honestly, I think it's too big. I have used it for domestic travel. It works well with packing cubes, or without as a general carry-all.

Posted by
8582 posts

Overseas carryon only: I also use the Rick Steves Classic Backdoor bag. I like that it only weighs a bit over 2 pounds, which helps greatly when there's a weight limit. Second choice is a Cotopaxi Allpa 35L backpack if I will also be checking a bag.
Personal Item is a RS Civita bag, or if I want something more sturdy, a small REI or Outdoor Research backpack.

Domestic: I check a REI Wheely Beast 22inch 2 wheeler. It's a carryon size, but I'll check it rather than a bigger bag. I have an assortment of Tom Bihn, RedOxx, REI and other carryon-sized bags. Plus a variety of different-sized shapeless duffles I can use as needed.

Posted by
8200 posts

I carry a Travel Pro ultra light 21" swivel wheel carry on soft side bag. My wife usually carries one too.

But my wife's recently been mobility challenged, and she's riding a small Luggie portable personal scooter that folds down--48 lbs. She rides it up to the airplane door and gate checks it. The scooter is faster than I can walk and has a 10 mile range. It's allowed her to go on 2 European trips and a trip to Las Vegas in the last year.

Since I'm handling all the luggage, I'm using a backpack carry on bag and towing her Travel Pro. We require no assistance of any kind in airports or getting on trains, etc.

Note that a 21" carry on bag with wheels will be 22" in size, and some budget European airlines will try to make you check them--for profit maximation. But we know they'll fit in the overhead bins since they're flying Boeing and AIrbus jets. I've only had to check them one time on Norwegian Air Shuttle where the flight attendant was having a bad day.

Posted by
1625 posts

Kipling Sherpa tote. It has one large compartment with a large inside zippered pocket. One outside zippered pocket on the outside that runs the length of the bag (My tablet, passport and boarding pass live in there) and two large outside zippered pockets (all during flight needs are in there, snacks, ear pods, book, lip balm, medication that needs to be taken during flight, tylenol, antacids).
It also has a sleeve to fit over my carry on handle.
This bag has been pulled, tugged at, crammed into spaces, spilled on and it holds it's shape, the lining still looks perfect and it is not designer, so no worry about it being flashy.
It has fit under the seat of every airplane I have been on and is light weight.

Posted by
1301 posts

I use a venerable, and now sadly no longer available, Lowe Alpine TT40 Carry On, a durable and versatile bit of kit. They may still make a version of this - Julie has a more recent model, but it’s not as tough and not as well thought out even though it’s a good bit of kit in its own right.

Posted by
2844 posts

Great ideas from everyone.

Carry-On: I use a RS Rolling Carry-on. It's six years old now but I haven't travelled enough to wear it out. It's got many more trips left in it's life. I carry it on outbound and expand and check it inbound. I wish the tow handle felt a little sturdier but no problems with it. The challenge is not to overstuff it outbound which is easy to do and keep weight down to under 20 lbs. No matter how hard I try, I can't pack less than 9 1/2 ins deep, but United and Delta don't seem to mind so I quit stressing about it.

Personal Item: I use a packable RuMe cFold tote as a personal item. The company is sadly out of business but I stocked up and gifted lots of their close-out items. The tote weighs 7 oz, is lightweight doubled nylon, surprisingly durable and has a trolley strap. My only complaint is there are no interior pockets. I also use an assortment of zippered RuMe Baggies to pack all my miscellaneous things. I used a PakSafe tote prior but had to sew on a trolley strap and it's heavy (2 lbs).

Day Bag and Purse: I also take a packable backpack from Eddie Bauer as a day bag. The current colors would not be my choice (mine is gray). I take a very small (tiny) Travelon purse which holds enough for exploring city streets (phone, money, aspirin, kleenex). I need the backpack for day trips and changeable weather (sweater on, sweater off) and if I want to carry a camera. A larger purse causes my neck to cramp.

Posted by
18477 posts

The Personal Item, as i alluded to earlier, its as important to my packing as the carry-on bag. Interesting that a few of us use the same bag, especially when it appears to be a no-name chinese import sold almost exclusively on Amazon along with 300 similar bags.

Anyway: Rangeland New Business Trip Backpack. They have renamed it since I bought mine, but the price is still under $30 and it didn't change any.

Do be careful as it is 1" thicker than what most airlines allow for a personal item, so pack it light so it will scrunch down to the 6" maximum.

The beauty of the thing is I can fit a pair of hip waders, wading boots and all the necessary tools for fly fishing in it (except the 7 piece rod and the folding net which go in the carry-on). But once there the bag has cinch straps on both sides that the rod and net fit nicely into so its one easy back pack on the hike to the river. Packed as described fits nicely under the seat:!Ai7Zk-szxfTJidJjYaDjGJqXIWVbWQ?e=ieK6Cv (but not stylish)

Posted by
7377 posts

For all international & most domestic trips, I use the 2-wheel Eddie Bauer 21 Expedition carry on that fits within the suitcase sizer. My bag plus packed contents come in a little less than 18 pounds. Eddie Bauer “upgraded” it to a 22 Expedition now, and I wouldn’t recommend it from the changes I see on-line.

I like mine that it’s a soft-side for half of the suitcase, so it’s flexible in the top section but also has some protection in the bottom half if I purchase something breakable. There’s handles on the top, front and bottom so easy to place & pull out of the overhead compartment on trains & plane. Good solid in-line skate wheels and heavy duty YKK zippers.

For my extra daybag - I use the small LLBean Stowaway Pack that weighs 14 oz.

There’s nice padding on the shoulders, and it’s not thick or cumbersome to rotate to a front pack when I’m in a crowd. It has side spots that hold a bottle of water.

And my purse is a Baggalini crossbody that’s inside my daypack while I’m transitioning to my next location. Otherwise, it’s the only thing I carry during the day.

I selected the blue color for all of them.

Posted by
697 posts

Carryon: Rick Steves Rolling Backpack. I love this bag. It is pretty lightweight for a roller (5.5 lbs) and small enough to fit under the airplane seat if I need to. It holds plenty for a 2-week or longer vacation. I never backpack mine (in fact, I cut off the straps to get rid of a little weight and bulk), but my daughter does occasionally and it works well for her.

I also carry my disabled son's suitcase, which is an eBags Mother Lode. I like the organization of this bag (top pouch for liquids, big zip compartment in front for easy access in transit, nice zip-open main compartment in which I use packing cubes). However, I don't love that it is a little on the heavy side for a backpack. And, for my purposes, I'd love to have a trolley strap to hang it on my rolling backpack sometimes, but that's not a dealbreaker. I can kind of stack it on top and hold the top webbing handle of the backpack along with my roller handle.

Personal bag: Tom Bihn Maker's Bag. I love, love, love this bag. It goes with me every time I travel. My kids call it my magic blue bag, because it can hold anything I put in it -- I feel a little like Mary Poppins when we go places. It is small but somehow magically expands to fit as much as I need to carry. I use lots of organizer pouches and leashes to keep everything organized and attached inside, so the big flap with no zipper on top is not a worry for me; nothing is loose inside and nothing can fall out.

Nested inside my Maker's Bag is my Tom Bihn Sidekick, which I use as my day bag when I'm at my destination. I like this bag a lot; it has great organization that suits what I need to carry. But, like I think a previous poster mentioned, it's really small, so I'm looking around for a slightly roomier option so that I can throw in a long sleeve shirt or similar kinda bulky items when I'm out and about. Some great suggestions here -- I'll have fun checking out other people's choices!

Posted by
1501 posts

Carry-On: Osprey Porter 46L in neon green. If packed full, it is technically too big for carry-on. I don't carry more than 20 pounds. It has great tortoise-looking cinch straps. I like that it has more structure and is easier to pack that the 40L Fairview/Farpoint bags and when cinched, takes up the same amount of room.

Personal Item: Tom Bihn medium cafe bag.

Posted by
4010 posts

I can’t use a backpack because I have a disability that centers around my spine. I avoid spinners because those dangling wheels are cheap and brake off when people pull the spinner when they walk thereby putting the weight of the bag on two of the 4 or 8 dangling wheels. I use a two wheel soft upright made of ballistic nylon by LL Bean. That thing is a workhorse that I’ve owned for over 10 years. It’s the carry-on that doesn’t require an additional bag to be checked and potentially lost by an airline.

Posted by
6776 posts

Mister E, I have that same Rangeland that you and Frank have plus the one I mentioned. Interestingly, I ordered the one you have but there was a special promotion on Amazon and I got the one I use for free. I might try the one you have, though, and see how I like it. I'm really stuck on a personal item.

Posted by
14150 posts

Fun to see what everyone is using!

Carryon suitcase:

  • Osprey Ozone 21 inch 2 wheeler. Purchased last Fall when I was obsessing about one leg of my flights being on Air France and having a weight/size limitation. Pro: Weighs 4.5# (weighed 16.1 when I walked out the door for the airport last Fall), Pulls and pushes well over cobbles, broken Roman sidewalks, dirt and of course airplane aisles, lol. Con: Wildly over priced Neither here nor there: Has a T-handle so you can't really use a bag with a trolley sleeve which makes no difference to me. It also packs a bit matter how you do it there are always odd gaps that show up but I just move things around and it doesn't bother me. It might some. I did not check it but I think it is sturdy enough to withstand checking

  • Old RS 21 inch 2 wheeler. A Bit battered with scuff marks from baggage handlers. Weighs 6# which if I am carrying on and taking a lot of trains is too heavy

  • Travel Pro 22" 2 wheeler. Weighs just under 6# but is longer than allowed on most European-based airlines. The last couple of trips the handle has stopped extending to the longer set point,

  • Had an old RS convertible. Gave it away to someone in our old Moscow Travel Group who is young and has a strong back.

Personal Item

  • Was enabled by the group to purchase a Longchamp Le Pliage Large tote. Gave it to myself for Christmas so have not used it on a trip. It's 10 oz.

  • Previous personal item was a Baggallini Any Day Tote which I like a lot but is 1.5# empty. Has great organizational pockets.

Day bag

  • Downized to a Baggallini Town Bagg last Fall for Italy and it worked great.

  • Previous day bag was a Le Sportsac EveryDay purse but in Belgium last Spring TWO museums said it was "too big" and I had to check it. It's barely bigger than 8x11.

Posted by
6352 posts

Was enabled by the group to purchase a Longchamp Le Pliage Large tote. Gave it to myself for Christmas

Pam, Lol.

Posted by
95 posts

We are heavily invested over the years in various 2-wheeled LL Bean bags and RS convertible backpacks. However, they’re all showing a little age - as am I - so it was time for something different. I splurge ordered myself the Monos spinner carryon, handed it to my DH, and asked him to wrap it for me for Christmas. I’ve never found the right personal item for myself, though I’ve tried many. Baggalini to Longchamp to small Osprey daypacks. But, I may have found the perfect fit for me, the Away Everywhere bag. Haven’t used it yet, but it seems like the perfect size. Small enough to put under the seat yet big enough to carry just what I need for a long haul flight. With pass thru sleeve, it fits perfectly on top of my Monos spinner. I also carry some sort of smallish Baggalini crossbody purse for everyday wandering. Can’t wait to try them all out in May when we head to Portugal!

Posted by
102 posts

4-weeks of international travel in late-spring, with 1 carry-on:

Timbuk2 32L Command backpack: 18.9" x 13.0" x 5.5" / 48cm x 33cm x 14cm
- Discontinued, but closest available product could be their Authority Pack

Inside my Command backpack were:

  • Peak Design Field Pouch V2: useful for small electronics; also, daytime bag at destination
  • Tenba Tools BYOB/Packlite Flatpack Bundle 7: camera and wide-lens (discontinued)
  • small(est) Eagle Creek packing cube
Posted by
4278 posts
  • 19” Travelpro Maxlite 5 International Carry-On Hardside Spinner (non-expandable):
    8.75 x 15 x 21.5 inches,
    5.48 lb.
    I use this for trips 2-2 1/2 weeks or less.

  • 21” Travel Pro Expandable Maxlight 5 Carry On Hardsided Spinner (I feel like I am doing a Starbucks order….):
    9 x 14.75 x 23 inches,
    6.61 lb. (I see a new model advertised that says it has 8 wheels and weighs 6.3 lb.)
    So far its longest trip is 6 weeks and I had plenty of room.

I bought the 19” first and made a 3 week, mixed travel-clothing type trip, and it was a tight squeeze coming home. If it were expandable, it would have been perfect. However the 19” does not have a handle on the side - I am not a fan of this. But it went on my 10 day Christmas Markets trip and was great.

I am so far very happy with the 21”, which qualifies as carry on for U.S. airlines. I have only had it a year, but it’s been on a lot of trips and on many street surfaces. I actually almost always check my suitcase, though. A smaller suitcase just helps me pack less. My previous suitcase was perfectly fine but it was a 22” - and I just find I want to manage less.

Both are blue (I have a weakness) and clamshell, which was new for me, and I had to learn to pack efficiently. But packing cubes and the mesh zippered enclosure for one side really work well, now that I have a system worked out.

  • Personal item: I use either an inexpensive Amazon beach bag like this or a Rangeland backpack (what can I say, it came in blue); or a smaller backpack. It depends on where I am going and what I might need it for. The Rangeland is a little big for most of my trip needs - and the over-the-shoulder bag will go with me on this trip.
  • Very small cross body bag for daily use, that will fit inside the personal item if needed.

I am feeling a very strong urge to go pack now…..

Posted by
14150 posts

"I feel like I am doing a Starbucks order…"

Hahaha...TexanTravelMom, did you want that with whip?

I like the little crossbody and it comes in leopard, hahaha! Yikes I do not need another thing.

Yes, go pack!

Posted by
11364 posts

I have a older Travelpro Platinum 2 wheeler. The closest current product is this ---

Wife uses an older version, but very similar, of this --

Have never had a desire to look for anything else, and I doubt we will wear them out.

Posted by
1250 posts

SOC Bugout Bag, 20" x 14" x 9", 4.0 lbs. The specs (22 x 15.5 x 9, 5.5 lbs) on their official website and Amazon makes it look bigger and heavier than it really is. I have verified my measurements and weight. I would think that SOC would want to correct their specs to market to the light travellers. They have sold over a million of these bags, mostly to the US military and survivalists, so I guess they don't care. It is a soft pack. There are compression straps inside and outside so you can squish it down to fit any airline sizer.

I like that it has a wide and padded hipbelt for putting all the weight on my hip and not on my shoulders or back. The straps can all be stowed away behind the padded back panel if I need to check in the bag. It has two removable aluminum stays for support and weight transfer to the hip belt. If i remove the stays, I can get the weight down to about 3 lbs. Lots of zippered compartments and technical features for camping or military manoeuvers, if you are into that kinds of thing. It can also zip out and expand by another 3-4 inches if you need to haul alot of stuff. If I over pack, it will puff out and look like a Sherpa expedition pack. It is made of rugged 600 denier polyester.

It still looks good after 8 years. When I bought it, the price was only $69. With the current price of about USD$150, I would probably opt for the latest Osprey Farpoint 40 for a few dollars more. It has similar features, is much lighter, with more superior materials and looks more sleek and modern, imo. As long as my aging body can handle it, I will prefer to use a backpack.

For my personal item, I carry an Adidas sackpack, which I also use as my day pack. It can hold a lot, but can compress down to fit any airline dimension requirement. I put my electronics and heavy items in the sackpack so that my Bugout Bag can meet the lightest 8 kg limit. Once I get past the check-in and gate, I transfer everything to my Bugout Bag. The sackpack folds and packs down flat.

Posted by
154 posts

If my dh and I travel together, I will often bring my Travelpro (21' or 22"-not sure). That's because dh can lift it up and into the overhead space. Then I either take my Kipling backpack or Kipling Sasha (which used to be called the Sherpa).

If I travel on my own, I often take a Hynes 38L backpack (
Its slightly shorter in length than the Rick Steve's backpack, as well as slightly less wide and the depth is not quite as deep. It's good for someone shorter.

Then I take a small over the shoulder tote which has my small crossbody purse and maybe snacks for the plane and my iPad. I then have a little space for leeway.

I use the eBags ultralight packing cubes whatever bag I take ( I only use the slim and small cubes.

Posted by
713 posts

This is a fun discussion. So far, I've not managed to travel carry-on-only on international trips - but I may yet achieve it. I prefer to carry as much as I can onboard, including electronics, camera gear, medications, and as much clothing as will fit. My attitude is that the checked bag will have whatever isn't allowed or won't fit in the carry-on, but my ability to enjoy my trip wouldn't be impaired much if my checked bag goes astray or is delayed. And, I need wheels for my carry-ons, as I get older and airports get even bigger. I came home from a trip with sore shoulders from hauling non-wheeled carry-on bags inside airports, which led to getting the small wheeled tote described below.

Carry-on: One of these:

TravelPro Maxlite 4 International Carry-on Rollaboard (2 wheels); external dimensions 21.75 x 15.75 x 7.75 inches; 5.4 pounds, 45L. I've used it on BA as a carry-on. The only time I wish for a spinner is when I'm taking this thing down the aircraft aisle. And it was a steal at a TJ Maxx a few years ago, at $60 or $70.

I use this most often on international flights: Eagle Creek Adventure Wheeled Tote (small), now discontinued: 14 x 15 x 9.5 inches; 5.5 lbs., 21 L; trolley strap to stack on larger bag. This is big enough to be useful as more than just a "trolley" to carry my personal item and save my shoulders, but small enough to slip onto the handles of my checked bag once I'm at my destination. It's at least 8 years old and still looks like new. Here's a YT video showing its size etc:

Personal Item: Two standbys, I'm spoiled for choice. It comes down to the details of the trip, which one I choose:

Eagle Creek Tarmac Flight Bag (Small): bought in 2007, now discontinued. Absolute champ. Has squished down to go under aircraft seats, has been checked many times and come through unscathed. It has carry handles, detachable shoulder strap, and a sturdy back slip panel to stack on a roller bag. 17 x 11 x 8 inches; 2.3 lbs. 22.9L capacity. Also a go-to for car trips. I swear, it looks like new at 16 years old! Here's an old YT video showing it; mine's the small green and gray one:

Eagle Creek Getaway Tote bag, probably 10 years old, also discontinued. Nylon fabric, 15 x 13 x 5 inches; 20 oz,; 16L capacity; back panel to slip over roller bag handle. Shoulder straps; squishes down to go under any airplane seat. Still looks like new after lots of use. I've sometimes folded it down flat and put it inside a checked bag for day use during a trip.


I've checked this one for international travel: TravelPro Maxlite 4 22" Rollaboard (2 wheels); external dimensions 23 x 15 x 9.25 inches; 6 lbs., 51L. Another steal found at TJ Maxx, about $70. When I'm on the ground, taking trains, etc., I've found this easy to navigate with. Usually the EC Wheeled Tote sits on top and I have my "personal item" bag in hand or on my shoulder. Sometimes, if I have a long walk ahead and I'm not on a crowded sidewalk, I use the EC wheeled tote to carry the non-wheeled bag, and wheel both it and the 22" bag along behind me. (I haven't done this yet, but someday I may check the smaller TravelPro International Carry-on listed above, instead of this 22", just to have an even smaller set of luggage to handle during the trip.)

Posted by
288 posts

Any backpack style bag should have a good padded hipbelt unless you are under 30 with a good back. Everyone I personally know who has complained about a carryon backpack has had in with just shoulder straps. The pushes all of the weight down in you spine rather than allowing it to be balanced on your hips. A well fitted backpack should be comfortable to wear for at least an hour. Without a hipbelt and five minutes has me ready to shed it.

Also, look at HOW to put on a pack properly. Even people like me with shoulder issues can easily get one on and off by placing a bag on a table or rail at waist height and backing yourself into the straps. Lifting and swing the bag around is asking for trouble.

I use an Osprey Farpoint with confidence knowing i am not going to have any trouble walking a couple of miles or up many flights of stairs

Posted by
7050 posts

Last trip - 9 days to Yucatan, Mexico (all clothes were super lightweight cotton/ linen "summer clothes" and no pills to carry, so this may not work for most people)
Patagonia Black Hole Duffel 40L - fits easily in carry-on compartment; I carried it on my back

Posted by
12 posts

I bought the Classic Backdoor bag for a recent 26 day trip to South America. My hope was that at 40 liters it would be big enough to pack my hiking boots. It wasn’t, but otherwise did the job. I got lots of compliments on it, which I found odd because I think of it as being pretty plain. It fit well in all of the overhead bins. (I didn’t over stuff it, at all.) My bag was about 20lbs which was fine for going to and from the airport. But, without hip belts or anyway to adjust it at the shoulders, I wouldn’t want to have to wear it for an extended walk.
I would give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Posted by
15 posts

I bought the Veloce shoulder bag for a recent trip and absolutely LOVED it. The versatility of the bag is perfect.

I have several different bags that I use for my carry on. So depending on whether I'm using my Rick Steves Classic Backdoor backpack which I can then use the Veloce shoulder bag as a shoulder bag or a cross body bag or my spinner bag which I can then use my Veloce shoulder bag as a backpack or slide it over the handle of my roller bag. It's PERFECT!! I felt like the size was perfect for my personal item on the plane since it is expandable and then perfect for a day pack zipped back up to the smaller size.

During my recent trip I was able to pack my RS Classic Backdoor backpack with 2 full sized packing cubes which I some how managed to get 30 pounds of "stuff" stuffed into those cubes (it was a little bit crazy of me, and I definitely overpacked) but that Classic backdoor backpack is amazing too.

I had almost decided against purchasing the Veloce shoulder bag based on some previous reviews. But I'm so glad I got it. It's an AMAZING bag!!

Posted by
52 posts

Agnes. Where did you find your lightweight cotton and linen clothes? Thank you!

Posted by
32237 posts

My luggage mix varies slightly according to the specifics of each trip. This is the luggage I used on more recent trips....

  • Carry on: Red Oxx Duffle (with camera insert) - . It has lots of pockets and can hold a fair amount of gear.

  • Personal Item: Often the small detachable backpack that attaches to my main pack. I'll also have to pack a CPAP machine on future trips, which I didn't have on past trips, but I understand that's usually exempt from the rules.

  • Main luggage: An Eagle Creek backpack. I'll probably have to buy a spinner for the next trip, as I'm getting a bit old to be packing around a heavy backpack.

Posted by
26 posts

My basic carry-on luggage is a small, lightweight Kenneth Cole Reaction spinner

I bought mine years ago at an outlet sale for $35 and about four years ago, purchased one for my husband at TJMaxx for about $60. They have worked very well for us for a number of trips and my husband regularly uses his for business travel. I don’t think that the handle is very sturdy but we haven’t had any problems with it yet. I like the inside organization.

For my personal item, I carry a Patagonia Chacabuco 28L backpack. It seems that is is no longer made which is a shame. It’s got great organizational pockets. If we are flying on to a specific, nice event, I have a wonderful, leather tote bag that I use.

Posted by
483 posts

I used to have the predecessor of the RS Convertible Carry-On, but it had started to fray after a few trips. Once my wife embraced single bag packing, having bought a TLS Motherload from EBags, as my RS CCO bag had frayed to where I was nervous about it, I got one too. Wife's is green, mine is blue.

I have a black Civita Day Pack to use as a personal item, and use as a day bag, but I vaguely hate it. It's great if I have to carry a sweater or a jacket, but once the item is deployed, it's lack of structure makes it be a pain to wear. But I love it's packability, so, despite vaguely hating walking around with it, it's been with me for well over a decade. I swear I'm gonna replace it before my next trip, but my goals of packability and structure to carry when 25% full, while having capacity to hold a sweater, maybe a guide book, and some picnic supplies or a kilo of cheese (maybe the largest item I needed to stash in it... that Fontina was SOOO GOOD), seem to be in conflict. Stated simply, enough structure to carry while mostly empty, easy to pack, and space enough for a sweater and goodies. Anyone?

Posted by
6776 posts

Max, are you looking for a rec for a day bag or personal item (as opposed to a carry-on)? If so, you might want to start a separate post in the Packing Forum. Believe me, you will get plenty of suggestions!

Posted by
6352 posts

Max, my husband uses his Civita as his day bag, He carries our maps and guidebooks, a bottle or two of water, and often a sweater or jacket.

If we buy more than fits in my fold-into-a-tiny-packet shopping bag, whatever we buy goes into his Civita. I think he'd be lost without it.

I've toyed with the idea of using my Civita as my main bag, instead of my Appenzell, but decided that that would just be showing off. It could be done, though.... Maybe one as a "carry on" and another as a "personal item..." Hmmm....

Posted by
1420 posts

Speaking of enabling.....
Thanks to Pam I got the now discontinued model of the Osprey Ozone 2-wheeler for my birthday late last year. I've only used it once, for a 2 week domestic trip for Thanksgiving. It's the first carry-on sized wheeled bag I've owned. My typical go-to bag is the Osprey Fairview 40 backpack but mine is a XS/S which has also been discontinued. It holds 38 liters. On a whim I bought a 27 liter Sierra Litmus backpack which I'll probably use for an upcoming long weekend to Sonoma. I'll probably use that as my personal item when using the Ozone. Otherwise my personal item is either a canvas cross-body I got years ago in Florence or a canvas tote bag I received as a gift.

Posted by
483 posts

@Jane: So, in an earlier time, I used to carry it every day, put the guidebooks and maps in it, a couple water bottles. As time has passed, I don't carry maps anymore, as I download them to my phone for offline use. I do a reread of the guidebooks before bed the night before, keep notes on my phone, etc, so I don't generally lug the books, or torn sections anymore. And, I tend to wear the sweater more. So, it never really stands up, and it's just a largely empty sack that I don't like carrying around.

After writing my post, I think I found the answer directly in front of me last night. My daily work bag is a Timbuk2 Commute Messenger Bag. It replaced a bag that I loved, a Timbuk2 Commander, which they don't make anymore. Any rate, my need for work is a bit different, as I bring a laptop back and forth. I always think of bringing it, and then I always think about unpacking work/EDC stuff from it, so I think the ultimate solution (for me) is to get a separate messenger style bag for the travel. The Civita will remain on the pack list (or a more packable replacement), for times when I have to check my Motherload, and need extra pack space. I could even get a mess bag that's a bit more built/anti-theft.

Just needed to write it all out and my brain kicked into gear.

Posted by
6352 posts

Max, that looks like a nice bag. Stan uses a laptop bag for his "personal item," and is well pleased with it. The messenger bag you show looks great.

Posted by
483 posts

Seriously kicking myself that I didn't think of this like three trips ago.

They even have bags that will fit on Aer Lingus under seat, which seems to be the most restrictive I can find at 31 linear inches. My Command (which seems to be discontinued), which might be the bag I'm still using, had a TSA compliant zip on the laptop portion, where you could keep it attached but lay the laptop out flat, which was supposedly TSA compliant when they made the bag. Don't think TSA allows that anymore, as no one seems to make a bag that does it.

But problem solved, just have to wait for some kind of sale or something.

Posted by
344 posts

We stopped using backpacks after my husband received a bionic hip, and spinners are just not for us!

We love our Timbuk2 Copilot bags! They use skateboard wheels which are much easier to roll up and over curbs, steps, and cobblestones. Plus, the wheels can be easily changed out. They are modular on the inside and can be used in a variety of ways. They fit international standards (so far) the handle is nice and long!

We use a Pacsafe day pack for our personal item. The one we have is several years old and I don't think they carry it anymore. It's something like this, but with straps across the chest. I'm editing this post to add that the back is padded and it has an internal laptop sleeve, with the usual locks, RFID, etc. I like that the outside pockets will easily hold umbrellas and waterbottles without risk of them falling out.

Posted by
160 posts

I tend to go low budget. I was very happy with my carry on backpack and my personal item, which was also my everyday purse/backpack. Sadly, both have been discontinued. My carry on was a Hynes Eagle 40L Travel Backpack. It is lightweight and roomy. I like it because it opens like a clamshell, and is a roomy rectangular shape, that really holds allot.
My personal item and everyday purse was a Mfeo 3 Uses Multi Pockets Womens Nylon CrossBody Shoulder Bag. This is my soul purse. It has lots of zippered compartments. It can be worn as a backpack although I generally wore it cross body. It is big enough to hold a small ipad.

Posted by
2 posts

Is anyone able to confirm that the RS Appenzell Day Pack comes with rear strap that slips over a suitcase handle? 

Posted by
33 posts

Depending on location and mood



  • LL Bean Ridge Runner Pack, 30 Liter ... this is sold more as a hiking daypack, but I prefer top-opening and it's lighter than most things sold as travel backpacks .... Even though I'm working with a 60-plus-year-old skeleton that has its share of dings, I can still carry a backpack, probably because I pack super light (<12 lbs all in). This can be a source of some raised eyebrows from traveling companions who wonder why I only have 1 pair of shoes and 2 pairs of super-thin pants, and I've committed the Europe faux pas of wearing athleisure in public (can't quit my 32 Degree joggers from Costco and LL Bean Vista pants), but it works for me.

OR if going very minimal




  • No personal item

This response may be too late for you. The Appenzell does NOT have a trolley strap. Trolley strap is the sleeve or strap that slides over and around a suitcase handle to attach a bag.

Posted by
31 posts

The last few trips international, I have used:

Away: Bigger carryon and a backpack. Never thought I would like a hard case, after the first use, I was converted.
Started to use packing cubes, this was a game changer.

This year, I will use a bag that has a trolley sleeve. Not sure what I was thinking not doing this in the first place. I am very fit, BUT.. hanging around the airport with heavy backpack was awful. I have always traveled with my laptop (work thing).

Posted by
31 posts

Thank you Mister E.

I wanted to buy the Victorinox hard shell... but that was just too pricey! I wouldn't want to use it LOL.

I was fortunate to have received an Away gift card... but still had to add $. It has held up pretty good on three international trips, checked in, and while it felt like the wheels may come off during the walk on the cobblestones... it did not.

Posted by
15505 posts

Buster, be careful which airlines you fly as the Away bigger carry on is too big to fit many European sizers.

Posted by
64 posts

Thanks for sharing. Lots of great choices here.
Over the years, we've each settled on a different bag in our household (myself, my wife, and two teen boys) for our international travel.

My old standby is my - Tumi t-tech canvas rolling carry-on

My wife prefers her TravelPro Maxlite spinner

Our oldest prefers his Amazon Basics carry-on travel backpack - he's a scout so he like to carry his stuff

Our youngest uses a Timbuk2 copilot luggage roller because he doesn't like to carry his stuff

Personal day-pack

My wife has a Rick Steves' Civita day pack she's had for years and loves the size

Both boys use their school backpack, which is currently the Swissgear 3598 city backpack

I prefer to use my Timbuk2 Authority laptop backpack

Posted by
1349 posts

Travel Pro Maxlite 5 22” for domestic carriers (carryon, but sometimes check)®-5-22-expandable-carry-on-rollaboard®

Travel Pro Maxlite 5 Underseat bag for International carriers (carryon, place in overhead bin)®-5-rolling-underseat-carry-on?variant=40011627561058

EBags Crew Cooler for personal item (carryon, place under seat)

Posted by
39 posts

@GlennH how does your son find the Timbuk2 Copilot Roller? I've just purchased it in the medium size but nervous that I should exchange for the small as I will be pushing it with carry on size requirements. It seems so perfectly functional to me so I can't wait to try it out.

Posted by
64 posts

@ExcitedTraveller - he loves it! We had initially purchased two for the boys when they were younger because they are effortless to roll (skateboard wheels) and very balanced. It's a carry-on size, so on the small size but very efficient for its size.

Posted by
31 posts


I have always used the Away carry on. The "bigger" carry on for sure won't qualify in the european airlines, like Ryanair.
This trip, I have direct flights. Overall dimensions are within range of Swiss overall max carry on dimensions. BUT- the Away bigger carryon, slightly bigger on length but smaller width.

I am hoping they will allow me, so I can get out of airport quick....but fully prepared to check it in if I have to.

Some airlines "max dimensions", Swiss air does not, so I am thinking they won't like that the length exceeds their max even if overall is the same.

Posted by
100 posts

We picked up two London Fog 20" carryon spinners at Marshall's for around $70 each. Mine is a navy/white houndstooth, and my husband's is brown and tan. They stand out among the masses of dark, solid colored bags when we do check them. Dimensions listed as 9.5x14x20, and 6.6 lbs.

For my personal item, I picked up a Rangeland daypack. I like it for several reasons - It's lightweight, it opens up all the way like a suitcase, so it's easy to organize, it has a trolley strap, padded laptop compartment, mesh pockets on the inside of the flap (one with a zipper), compression straps in the main compartment, and it comes in some fun colors! When I first bought it, I Scotchgarded it, just to make it a little more water resistant and easier to clean. I've dragged it all over the place, including 2 weeks touring around Scotland and London, a Colorado off-roading adventure in a Polaris Rzr, where it was continuously doused in mud, and most recently, a trip to Juarez, Mexico to build a house for a family in need, where it was sandblasted during a few days of heavy wind at the build site. Not bad, considering it cost $21!
Dimensions: 12 x 16 x 7 Weight: 1.3 lbs.

I also use a Travelon crossbody travel purse that I picked up at a thrift store for $7. I love the size, although I don't utilize all the pockets (if I do, I spend way too much time trying to remember which one has my lip balm). The main compartment is very roomy (I actually used it to carry my DSLR camera a few times!) It has a side pouch for a small water bottle on one side, and another smaller pouch with a flap that can hold a compact umbrella or a folding shopping bag (I grabbed a bunch of the RuMe reusable shopping bags when they were going out of business). I generally keep it inside the daypack while traveling, and keep my passport/ID/phone in the outside zippered pocket of my daypack for easy access.