Best carry-on suitcase for domestic travel?
December 25, 2011 10:20 AM   Subscribe

Help me pick the best carry-on suitcase that will meet my domestic traveling needs!

I will be traveling two times a week, domestically, for the next year or so. Here are some points to consider:

- Will be carrying a 15" Macbook Air and a 15" work computer (much bulkier than my MBA) with me. I'd like to be able to take them both out easily for security scanning

- Don't want a bag that will topple over when standing upright

- Wheels (2 or 4) necessary

- 21" or less

- I'm 6'1" and most of the suitcases I've lugged around have extended arms that are too short, thus straining MY arms when I pull them

- Lightweight highly preferable (less than 8 lbs?)

- I like the look and idea of hardshell suitcases, but I feel it would be a pain to open it completely to take out my laptops. Then again, if I had to stuff both my laptops into an outside pocket of a cloth suitcase, wouldn't the weight imbalance cause the suitcase to topple over?

- Warranty isn't that big of a concern for me.. so, I'm not willing to spend the premium for a B&R just to get the lifetime warranty. BUT, that being said, a nice(r) warranty is always a plus; it's just nearer the bottom of my criteria list

- Willing to spend around $200-$250 tops.

Any links to SPECIFIC suitcases would be helpful. I also like the color blue :P

As an added plus, if I can get any suggested suitcases in Boston, that would be great. I have to start traveling starting next week so I'm wary of having to pay for expedited shipping this week to have to get it in time.

posted by 6spd to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I'm sorry I don't have any specific suggestions, but I would find out what the best luggage stores are in Boston and go there. They can give you suggestions and also you can try them out. I only have 2-wheeled but I'm super-jealous of the 4-wheelers. Especially when navigating narrow airplane aisles.

I know how annoying it is to scan laptops at security. What about getting a laptop bag just to carry the laptops and a few incidentals as your "personal item" - it would be easier to pop the laptops out of that, I would imagine.
posted by radioamy at 10:38 AM on December 25, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for your input. I actually do not want to carry around a second bag just for my laptops. I want to travel as light and lean as possible (ironic, since I'm carrying two laptops), so the last thing I want is another bag to carry.

I'm starting to wonder whether a hardshell suitcase would actually be easier to transport and take out laptops. I can just pop it open on the metal desk and take the laptops out, pop it shut again. No funny zipper business.

posted by 6spd at 10:42 AM on December 25, 2011

I'm sometimes tempted by Red Oxx's stuff.
posted by box at 11:00 AM on December 25, 2011

Just so you know, the reason many people carry separate laptop bags and place them under the seat in front of them is that putting your laptop in overhead compartment is a easy way for them to get broken screens. And what if you're flying a regional jet that makes you valet check all bags? They toss bags around like basketballs.

I carry a backpack. I fly 100 times a year for work. With two laptops. May not be your style, but works for me.

There are also laptop bags that fit over the handles of your rolling suitcases.
posted by sandmanwv at 11:00 AM on December 25, 2011

Mr bunji also does a lot of domestic travel and got something like this, with a backpack that can be zipped on and off:

It's a couple of years old and thus far holding up fine.
posted by bunji at 11:03 AM on December 25, 2011

I also like Patagonia's MLC (here's a wheeled version). Don't own one. Most of the time I fly somewhere, I just use a big messenger bag.
posted by box at 11:08 AM on December 25, 2011

I spent many (many many many) years claiming that I didn't want to pay extra $$$ for the briggs and riley life guarantee. I was wrong. I now have a fantastic little generic black carryon wheeled suitcase that they have repaired twice for me. I never check luggage, so I figured I would not have to worry about my luggage being damaged, and then the airline industry rolled out RJs and gate check. The first time I got my bag back with the back wheel twisted off and it was repaired for me I realized that realistically the B&R saves you a lot of money. This is like buying more expensive shoes, your lifetime per-use cost goes WAY down.

OK, that said, when I travel with multiple laptops I just use an old EMS backback and stuff the laptops in that. Then I rest it on top of the roller carryon, unzip, extract laptops for the security check, and reverse procedure on the other side.
posted by lyra4 at 11:13 AM on December 25, 2011

OneBag may be relevant to your interests, although the writer there hates wheels and will not recommend bags that have them. There may still be other helpful advice there in terms of what to look for in a bag. For my part, I bought an MEI Voyageur and have been thrilled with it, but it does not meet your qualifications, as it lacks wheels.
posted by contrarian at 2:08 PM on December 25, 2011

Best answer: I just bought this bag from eBags for some upcoming 2-week trips with no checked baggage (both domestic and abroad) and it meets most of your requirements -- wheels, weight, size, room for laptops, however I am shorter than you so you might want to check about the length of the handle. I haven't traveled with it yet, but if you read the reviews on eBags people are way enthusiastic about it.

I also considered this Red Oxx bag but it doesn't have wheels... however since it's around your price range, maybe they have something else that would work well for you.
posted by mokudekiru at 3:49 PM on December 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Wow. That eBags one looks mighty fine (esp. at that price point). Definitely my front-runner as of now but I'm still open to suggestions.

Will order that bag tomorrow if nothing else better comes up.

posted by 6spd at 4:46 PM on December 25, 2011

I travel a lot and recently went through security behind a man whose bag caught my eye. He had a laptop bag that simply unzipped and laid flat to go through the scanner without having to take the laptop out. Since I've been taking my laptop out of the bag to scan, that caught my attention. I've decided that the next bag I look for will allow me that option... but alas, I didn't note the brand on his bag.
posted by summerstorm at 5:46 PM on December 25, 2011

Briggs & Riley is good. So is TravelPro. I use both.

Do not put the laptops in the carryon. Two reasons: One, they'll eat up way too much space. Two, you won't be able to carry the bag on more often than you might think. You will be gate checking the bag on smaller regional aircraft and on larger aircraft when the overhead bins are full (happens all too often). When that happens, your bag, and the laptops, are going to be thrown around pretty roughly.

Even when you do actually carry the bag onboard, some smaller aircraft have overhead bins that are too narrow to accept anything but very small bags. Remember, just because the airline says your bag is small enough to carryon doesn't mean it's actually small enough to fit overhead in any aircraft.

I would look around and find a laptop bag that can accommodate two machines. You can always take that onboard and avoid the risk of damage. Then, get a sturdy carryon and learn to pack minimally and well.

Also, consider if you can replace one or more laptops with an iPad, perhaps an iPad and an external keyboard. Several iPad specific Bluetooth models are on the market.
posted by justcorbly at 6:30 PM on December 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

One upside to an iPad is that you don't have to take it out of the bag--I only recently learned this.
posted by box at 7:33 PM on December 25, 2011

There is huge variability in TravelPro, and it's not always the case that a n+1 version is better than the n version. I loved loved loved my TravelPro Crew v3, and when it eventually died went and got the current version Crew at the time and ABSOLUTELY HATED IT. As you, I cary both a 15" Macbook Pro and a 15" Dell work computer when I travel. I use a Thule Crossover to carry the two laptops, and it does it admirably.
posted by Runes at 9:11 PM on December 25, 2011

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