No Frills Carry-on luggage that still fits
January 3, 2017 2:46 PM   Subscribe

I'm in the market for a no-frills carry-on luggage (definitely wheeled, prefer soft-sided, in the 20-22 inch range) in the $1-200 price range (would go higher up to $300 for extremely good materials / durability). I've been hearing that recently airlines are cracking down much more rigorously on roller carry ons that are just outside the 22 inch limits, which is making a lot of the guides available from >1 year pretty useless to me. Any recommendations for a relatively cheap carry-on that you've flown with recently (past 6 months) and passed the size limit tests?
posted by permiechickie to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
This is your guide. I use the Travelpro that is recommended and it is great.
posted by Mid at 3:00 PM on January 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

The TravelPro Crew 10 (wirecutter summary of the category, including this bag) is pretty damn awesome. I have the 22" model and have never had any problems with bringing it on-board as a carry on. However there is also a 21" if you are concerned about that possibility, and if the slightly smaller garment bag is sufficient for you.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 3:00 PM on January 3, 2017

More detail: I use the Travelpro Platinum Magna 2 that is recommended by Wirecutter and have not had any issues with it on multiple airlines. My last TravelPro lasted for more than 10 years with moderate business travel.
posted by Mid at 3:01 PM on January 3, 2017

I have two that still qualify. Both are older models, purchased on sale, that fit your rules, but because they're older citing actual models probably won't help you.

The newer one is an Osprey I got for half price at REI. It's VERY soft-sided-- like, it has no structure except the "L" shape that defines the part-with-wheels and the part-with-handle. It's kinda like a hybrid of a soft duffle and a traditional road-warrior rollaboard. Great bag, though.

The older one is an Eagle Creek I think I paid $200 for. It's more structured, but softer than, say, a TravelPro. I used it every week for a couple years, and it shows only minimal wear, so I can't say enough nice things about EC on that front.
posted by uberchet at 3:02 PM on January 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

The newer one is an Osprey I got for half price at REI. It's VERY soft-sided-- like, it has no structure except the "L" shape that defines the part-with-wheels and the part-with-handle. It's kinda like a hybrid of a soft duffle and a traditional road-warrior rollaboard.

I think this is probably an Osprey Ozone 46L, which I got recently and like a lot. No problems with size yet, though it's in the exactly 22" camp if that concerns you. It doesn't visually appear big though so I don't think it sets off their alarms (even though it holds more stuff than the larger bag I replaced).
posted by advil at 3:22 PM on January 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have the Biaggi ZipSak 22". It has wheels, multiple ways to carry it, it fits overhead, and it folds down super tiny when you're done using it.

However, if you're tall, it might not be the best one for you as you use a strap, not a bar to roll it around, but check it out.
posted by vivzan at 3:29 PM on January 3, 2017

I have owned the Athalon 21'" Hybrid Travelers Carryon for several years, flew with it most recently just last week, and I love it. It's wheeled and soft-sided, cheap ($99), and it comes in both a standard black and in more interesting colors that help you recognize it easily off the luggage belt when you do have to gate-check it.
posted by phoenixy at 5:20 PM on January 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

(My Osprey is indeed the Ozone advil helpfully linked above, though mine is in a shocking shade of green.)
posted by uberchet at 5:58 PM on January 3, 2017

I got a Lucas-brand suitcase from TJ Maxx last year that I enjoy. It's an expandable four-way roller. I've had to gate-check it a couple of times, but only on flights where the overhead bins are smaller than regulation, or when I was in the final boarding group of a packed flight. I suspect literally any bag would have been checked in those circumstances. It was a gift, so I don't know how much it cost, but my wife and I have a pretty low limit on gifts to each other, and she got me other gifts, so it couldn't have been too expensive.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:23 PM on January 3, 2017

I also have an Osprey Ozone 22" (technically this one which has extra features and a daypack and is therefore more expensive) and like it a lot. I have flown with it a bunch this year, including budget airlines (Porter and Frontier in the US and Wizz Air in Europe), and have had zero problems. I think it's only been checked for size once (it passed). I once snuck it onto a budget flight with the stuffed-full daypack attached; very non-regulation, but as advil says it doesn't visually appear big. It is also a dream to carry.

Osprey's not particularly affordable so I realize this comment may be useless, but I really love my bag so I am writing it anyway.
posted by snorkmaiden at 7:54 PM on January 3, 2017

I got the TravelPro Crew 21" mentioned above. It's been great, I just flew with it a day before Thanksgiving on a full flight as carry on with no issues. Would recommend.
posted by Red Desk at 10:31 PM on January 3, 2017

I have had great luck with Samsonite suitcases. Nothing fancy at all, but check all of your boxes (have successfully taken them on domestic and international flights--even the ultra-strict budget European lines)--and at about $30 each from TJ Maxx/Ross, impossible to beat for the price. They are very good quality and I have a couple that I've slogged for years without difficulty.

Shopping at TJ Maxx or Ross can be kind of hit or miss, though, so if you need the suitcase today, might be better to pay more at another retailer.
posted by stillmoving at 11:22 PM on January 3, 2017

I just returned from an overseas trip with pretty strict luggage requirements. I adore my eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible. I filled it with an assortment of their packing cubes, and I was super pleased with it. I used to be a staunch wheeled luggage user, but the room you gain by ditching the frame and wheels is worth it. The shoulder strap did the job well, and I took advantage of the backpack straps for a longer gate-change. Highly recommended!
posted by ReginaHart at 5:16 PM on January 7, 2017

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