In search of... the perfect rolling carry-on bag
March 13, 2014 11:32 PM   Subscribe

Help me find a rolling carry-on bag that meets all of the following conditions: A) lightweight (under 8 lbs.); B) conforms to European carry-on standards (so 21" max, including wheels); C) has outside handles, so that the interior is flat, and D) is under $200, and preferably under $150.

I've been luggage shopping for the first time in about 15 years, and I've been surprised to find that most affordable roller bags appear to have the handle bars set so that they protrude into packing interior. My existing carry-on -- a cheapish Olympia bag from the late '90s -- has outside handles and a flat interior, and so I would be perfectly happy to take it, but it's a couple of inches too long to reliably fit in the overhead compartments of European carriers. I find it hard to believe that fancy-schmancy Briggs & Riley bags are the only ones that still retain this feature. I've been looking exclusively at soft-side luggage up to this point, but I guess I would consider a hard-shell piece if they're my only affordable option on this score. Help?
posted by scody to Travel & Transportation (17 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
I have one of these (actually an older model) and it's pretty fucking great. The 20 inch model should fit European carryon requirements without issues. The handles are technically on the outside, though they do protrude through bumps a little bit on the interior.
posted by modernnomad at 2:04 AM on March 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

(sorry, i just noticed the 22inch is US$225, but the smaller one is $209).
posted by modernnomad at 2:04 AM on March 14, 2014

this one from muji looks pretty good. just a tad too long but only by .3"

21.3 (including wheel) x 14.0 x 9.8 / 6.4 lbs
posted by mlo at 5:41 AM on March 14, 2014

I have an earlier-generation version of the REI Inside Passage. The interior has straps and mesh pouches but is not compartmented. The wheels and posts are low profile which buys you a few more square inches of storage space while conforming to airline requirements. I've used it as a carry-on on international and (US) domestic flights with no problems.

The photos don't illustrate it well but the handles are sewn into the container wall, and lay flat most of the time.

Also hey, looks like it's on sale right now, marked down from $190 to $132. Lifetime warranty.
posted by ardgedee at 6:00 AM on March 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you're searching, it probably helps to search for luggage that will fit the size standards of the notoriously hard-assed Ryan Air.

Here's a recommendation for a pair of bags from an experienced traveller.
posted by empath at 6:05 AM on March 14, 2014

I actually came here and didn't see the comment about Briggs until after preview!! Regardless I'll carry on with my regularly scheduled comment now:

Briggs is only a little out of your price range BUT for an extra $100-125 its the LAST bag you'll buy. Their lifetime no questions asked warranty just simply is that good.I've used it a dozen times, to the point I'm actually going today to buy Briggs bags 3 and 4...

If your willing to look again at them:
Brx 19" roll on is $300... They also have a brx wide body 20" roll on same price

Discontinued from their verb/fuse line they have a 20" for $320....

Now the GOOD news. They have started a trial thing were they will give you $50 off ANY wheeled bag if you trade in ANY wheeled pos bag you have lying around!!! So now you are JUST off the price range.

Use this tool for a fast shop and compare.

I'll just add this: luggage is the ONE thing g you should spend as much as you can afford on. Some things are NOT to be budget bought. When your close are splayed all over lax terminal 3 you'll wish you'd spent another $100... I speak from a deep personal experience on this one...

Safe travels.
posted by chasles at 6:07 AM on March 14, 2014 [4 favorites]

Just adding food for thought. There are very few good warranty's out there that cover anything including airline damage: aka NO QUESTIONS ASKED.

Here's a list from flyertalk:
Lifetime warranty including airline damage (repair or replace)

Boyt Mach 5
Briggs & Riley
Eagle Creek (ES, Velocity, HC2)
Eddie Bauer
Norm Thompson
Osprey "Almighty" warranty
Red Oxx (No Bull warranty covers everything)
Titan (in USA)
Victorinox (upper level lines)
Zero Halliburton Z-Flex

Lifetime to five years manufacturer defect (not airline damage)

Patagonia (will "repair reasonably" for wear, tear and damage)
Rimowa (5 yrs, not breakage or "improper use)
Stahlsac (manufactuer warranty; "reasonable replacement or repair" damage or wear)
Tom Bihn
TravelPro Platinum
Zero Halliburton other than Z-Flex

Limited warranty manufacturer defect or one year or less

posted by chasles at 6:10 AM on March 14, 2014 [5 favorites]

The eBags Mother Lode TLS 21" Wheeled Duffel does not have a flat interior and it weighs in closer to 9 lbs. but it's a great bag. I just got back from a 10 day trip with it. My husband and I requested another one for Christmas because we're happy with it.

When we got married, we registered for and received a set of Swiss Gear luggage from Target. We took the suitcases on our honeymoon where the cobblestones of Europe destroyed the wheels. The wheels on the Mother Lode are tough plus they'll replace them if necessary. If you go a little crazy on the souvenir shopping, it's expandable. And it rarely tips over. So while it doesn't meet all of your specs, I'd encourage you to consider it.
posted by kat518 at 6:48 AM on March 14, 2014

Strongly encourage you to check out "spinner" rolling bags that have 4 wheels. You feel silly at first but they are so much more comfortable because all the weight is on the wheels rather than on your wrist. And you can roll it like a 2-wheeled bag over particularly rough terrain.
posted by amaire at 7:30 AM on March 14, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions! I'm leaning toward the Timbuk2 model, but also perked up at the sound of $50 off for a Briggs & Riley (which I'm convinced I would love to own, if I could work it into ye olde budgette!) for trading in an older piece. I can't find anything about the trade-in deal on their website, though, chasles -- could you point me in the right direction?

Still open to further suggestions, so keep 'em coming, all!
posted by scody at 8:33 AM on March 14, 2014

Response by poster: Oh, and the REI model looks good, too. So it's nice to have options! Thanks again.
posted by scody at 8:34 AM on March 14, 2014

hi, all i did was call the local store to check on in-stock inventory and after a few minutes social engineering she offered it. she referred to it as a specific briggs promo. fwiw luggage stores in the mall are one of the few remaining places you can usually get a "good guy" discount, so you may be able to get this deal even if its not **this** deal...

i can't find anything official either.
posted by chasles at 11:37 AM on March 14, 2014

I get the feeling you're after something a little more up market but I've been super impressed the IT Luggage "Worlds Lightest" Small case I picked up for £25 in an Argos sale. It totally fits all European carriers carrier on regs, weighs just *3lbs* and all handles are on the outside. The pulling handle goes down the sides rather than down the middle so you basically get all the internal space and it's so light it genuinely feels like a light bag to carry round but acts like a suitcase.

Sure, some of your options above are much better quality and will last forever but a) it never leaves your sight because it's carry on so how much damage can actually occur? and b) that 5lbs makes a big difference to how much you can carry when you're dealing with airlines like Ryan Air and their draconian max carry on weight c) it's so cheap over here it's almost a null purchase.

Also, I recommend non rigid/softer cases as they're a little easier to 'squash' into tight overheads on budget carriers and less likely to slide about when there is space and b) I've got a thing about 4 wheeled cases rolling off downhill all by themselves. Ymmv obviously!

NB. It looks like it's harder to get this size in the USA and significantly more expensive... I can only find the size above on US ebay. I wonder if this size is specifically for the European market?
posted by Mr Ed at 3:23 PM on March 14, 2014

I was coming to recommend the Timbuk2 bag, but saw that it already was! I actually just received the previous model that I ordered from for about a hundred dollars off this year's model. (Only $125)

Haven't flown with it yet, but I will on Monday. Love it so far (used it for a road trip last weekend.)
posted by pyjammy at 6:16 PM on March 14, 2014

American Tourister Luggage Splash 21" Upright Suitcase. $55.99. Light, well made, excellent reviews on Amazon.
posted by nickyskye at 6:17 PM on March 14, 2014

PS If you'd like me to take photos of the interior of the Timbuk2 bag, I'll be happy to.
posted by pyjammy at 6:20 PM on March 14, 2014

Thule does them like that, but I think it's 22" -- you may be able to get away with that on most flights. It would be ideal for international or US flights. It has the roller sticks on the exterior and it's expensive-- but it retails for 2x that price usually and it's good quality. I actually like their bigger ones for small handy checked luggage. The thing that drew me to this is that you can wheel it but also carry it like a backpack; (I have a similar rolling backpack that I always backpack it as I board because it's too fiddly to roll down the plane aisle.)

If you could potentially get over the non-flat back/interior though, I can't recommend Le Sport Sac enough. They are super super lightweight (seriously, they're about half the weight of most cabin bags) and zippy and small, because it's mostly all canvas, which for me is what I wanted. This also makes them very water resistant (my bag suffered 5 hours of Osaka downpour, nothing got wet). They also have a lot of internal space (pics of interior) and are really good about giving you little compartments and such. They are a decent quality; wheels are amazing, pull-out-thingie a little flimsy in my opinion, but I haven't had problems at all in 3+ years. But still, really great. I use the old-model rolling backpack I got shipped for a fortune because I couldn't find any in Aus, and it was the best purchase ever. My friend has the 18" that she uses as a weekly stay bag pretty comfortably; she loves the four wheels as others have said. Also if you check the bag and get a printed print version, you seriously never lose it.

Oh they have 50% off their black pieces right now.
posted by Dimes at 1:51 AM on March 15, 2014

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