Looking for a convertible carry-on bag.
June 17, 2012 10:44 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a carry-on bag that meets the following criteria: convertible, small enough to carry on a plane legally (US), all black, compression straps of some sort, and no wheels. Lower or reasonably priced options are preferred (~$80 or less is ideal). I'm considering the Rick Steves convertible carry-on, but am open to other options.

I'm planning to use the bag for car trips and domestic flights. I don't want anything hard sided, colorful, or wheeled. I probably won't use the backpack straps much, as I prefer a handle or shoulder strap, so super-padded backpack straps aren't a concern.

This Rick Steves convertible carry-on has good reviews, and is probably my favorite option so far, though I'll consider others. I like that it has both internal and external compression straps and quite a few pockets for smaller items. The GoLite TraveLite seems nice, but has fewer pockets. It also lacks compression straps of any kind. The Patagonia MLC bag is a little more costly than I'd like, though I'm curious about whether it would be more durable than other options.

What convertible carry-on bag would be best for me? Have you tried the Rick Steves bag?
posted by cp311 to Shopping (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I love this Osprey bag. I bought it in 2011 and used it traveling for a year recently. Before that I used an old, similar sized Jansport for trips up to 2.5 years. The Osprey is categorized as a weekend/short trip bag but I travel light. It has load-lifter straps which are unusual for this type of bag. The main compartment is great and opens wide like a duffel. It does not come with a shoulder strap but you can purchase one separately I believe - and the handles are robust. It compresses GREAT- I often had it half-full on my journey(12-14 lbs).

The Jansport I mentioned above took me to dozens countries and I took a looooong time to find a replacement. This bag was at an REI store for about $100 but I managed to find it online for $78 with no tax and free shipping. Note that is does not come in all black, but there is a black/charcoal option. The thick foam sides are weird at first but I like them since they give the bag some form. The bag also has good backpack straps for why it is- I don't use the waist strap but it gets tucked in nicely. Backpack straps zip away cleanly.
posted by maya at 11:42 PM on June 17, 2012

The eBags Weekender. Well built. No shoulder strap.
posted by evalunatik at 11:45 PM on June 17, 2012

Seconding the Osprey bag (Porter 46). I only got mine recently and I've used it only a few times, but I like it a lot, find it a huge improvement over a wheeled carry on, love how it compresses, and I'm happy with how much fits into it and how it fits into tiny overhead spaces on buses and trains. It has a long outer pocket on the front and a decent-sized 'waterproof' pocket at the top (also exterior), as well as an internal mesh zipped pocket and a sort of mesh pouch along the side of the interior that has an elasticated top but doesn't zip shut. Good handles. I got it for $80 with a coupon.
posted by magdalenstreetladies at 12:15 AM on June 18, 2012

I have the Steves bag, and really like it. It's four years old, has been with me on dozens of trips, and shows no wear at all in the zippers or seams. I use it with his packing cubes for max effect, and it works out great.

Main drawback is that if you stuff the hell out of it, shoulder/handle carry isn't comfortable. Backpack straps are the way to go.
posted by GamblingBlues at 12:23 AM on June 18, 2012

MEI Voyageur.
posted by caek at 2:01 AM on June 18, 2012

Chiming in with another vote for the Osprey Porter 46 (which I think I actually bought based on advice that I found here). Very versatile, and I've used it for months of international travel with zero signs of wear and tear.
posted by sparrow89 at 2:31 AM on June 18, 2012

Less cheap but I've never looked back after buying the Red Oxx Air Boss (available in all black despite the picture here.)
posted by oliverburkeman at 3:03 AM on June 18, 2012

(Sky Train is the version with backpack straps, sorry.)
posted by oliverburkeman at 3:04 AM on June 18, 2012

Seconding MEI. Great bag.
posted by notsnot at 3:58 AM on June 18, 2012

I've had an older version of the Rick Steves bag for about 15 years, have used it on countless trips, and it's still as good as new. They are (or were) well built, no nonsense bags.
posted by another zebra at 4:55 AM on June 18, 2012

I have this: eBags Mother Lode TLS Weekender Convertible

I don't remember why I got it over the one that evalunatik linked to - I think it was on sale though so probably there wasn't the $30 price difference. They have it in all black.

I've been happy with it. If I had to do it over again, I might have gone for a lighter bag (this one is almost 4 pounds), but I knew I would carry it as a backpack a lot so I was looking for padded shoulders and this was the best compromise I found at the time. I really like all the compartments and pockets.

But hey, that GoLite bag looks awesome! Barely over 2 pounds! I think that might be my next one if I ever have an excuse/$ to replace the one I've got.
posted by Salamandrous at 5:08 AM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have the eBags Weekender and I've been using it for years, on trips up to three weeks. Mine does have a shoulder strap (or at least it did until I lost it) - it's detachable and hooks onto the rings, which still appear to be part of the bag, so even if it doesn't come with a strap anymore you could just buy a strap.
posted by mskyle at 7:31 AM on June 18, 2012

I have a 3 year old version of the Rick Steves bag and think it is awesome. I would absolutely buy it again.
posted by mjcon at 7:57 AM on June 18, 2012

I use an Osprey Porter 46 ($100) with a Tom Bihn Absolute Strap ($30).

The backpack straps/waist belt might not work on a shorter person (I'm a 5'11" guy). No all black version, the closest is charcoal. If stuffed full, it can be larger than allowed for carry-on.
posted by fief at 9:33 AM on June 18, 2012

I have the Patagonia MLC bag, and while I can't say exactly that the current version will be the same, mine has held up amazingly well and is very well made.
posted by belau at 5:21 PM on June 18, 2012

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