Best Carry On Bag?
May 31, 2018 12:49 PM   Subscribe

What is the best carry on bag for air travel?

Any packing tips / accessories / particular clothes that make living out of a single carry on for a week a reasonable thing?
posted by Nonce to Travel & Transportation (53 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I don't have much context to provide, but one thing just occurred to me. Are hiking backpacks a good choice? Which ones?

Walking with the luggage for up to a mile between public transportation sites is part of my typical travel pattern.
posted by Nonce at 12:54 PM on May 31, 2018

I happily live out of this Herschel backpack for a week at a time. It has a 15" laptop sleeve and easily fits my L.L. Bean toiletry bag and clothes for a week. Depends on how much clothing you bring with you and if you like to bring spare shoes (this is plenty for my toiletry bag, plenty of spare undies/socks, 5 tops, a spare pair of jeans/pants/skirt/dress, device cords, and spare flats (wearing bulkier jeans, hoodie/coat/sweater, & sneakers).
posted by pammeke at 1:01 PM on May 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

A hiking backpack has a shape that is not suited to what you want here.

You want a Maximum Legal Carryon type bag, and you can definitely get a week in one, no problem. I like my Tom Bihn Aeronaut (the 30 liter variety is fine for any length of travel in warm weather, I have a 45 for cold weather travel). They both fit fine under the seats of all or almost all planes if the overhead is full or inconvenient. There are other expensive options, and there are cheaper options from Patagonia and Amazonbasics. I like my Bihn though.

My packing tip would be to learn to bundle pack.

Bundle packing
Wirecutter's carry-on reviews
posted by ftm at 1:03 PM on May 31, 2018 [8 favorites]

Tom Bihn's "Aeronaut 45" is perfect for anything from a weekend to two weeks abroad, have used it almost exclusively for five years. It can turn into a backpack with integrated straps.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 1:03 PM on May 31, 2018 [6 favorites]

I love my eBags Weekender backpack. It's "maximum carry-on" size, but its depth expands when you don't need to carry it on. It's a backpack -- so, doesn't roll -- but the straps are very comfortable and the organization bits inside really do make packing easier. This was the only bag I carried on a 14-day trip some years ago, and it was no problem at all. You could get away with a week or more without doing laundry easily.
posted by uncleozzy at 1:10 PM on May 31, 2018 [5 favorites]

There's a million options to go with, so it will be up to you. I have two main carry-on's that I personally use, and would buy again.

1. Travelpro carry-ons. I have a Max Lite 2 from five years ago and it looks like I've hardly used it, even though I've taken on dozens of trips. It takes abuse, and the brand is highly rated on the flight attendant forums. The Max Lite 4 International will fit virtually every airline's carry-on requirements (check the dimensions). These typically cost around $90-120.

2. Osprey backpacks. I own a Farpoint 55 that I bought for a recent two-week trip to Europe. It's durable and comfortable to use and wear. It's really two packs in one; there's a 40L main pack, 15L day pack. They have the Fairview line which is the Farpoint, but in women's sizes. They also have some varying sizes. Only gripe is that the Farpoint 55 is slightly long for overhead compartments, but I can always get it to fit. You'll also need to split off the daypack to put in the seat in front of you. Again, highly rated, but a bit pricey (expect $100-180 depending on size).

Packing tip: Get packing cubes. You can organize better and shove more stuff in. Don't get Amazon's black packing cubes; reviews say that the black dye leeches into your clothes. No bueno.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 1:10 PM on May 31, 2018 [3 favorites]

I forgot to add that both my wife and I tend to walk long distances where necessary rather than cabbing/ubering and the Bihn is suited to this just fine, although your back will be sweaty as it's not ventilated like a hiking pack might be. There's a (strong but unpadded) waist belt which I don't use and comfortable shoulder straps which can be stowed. The shoulder strap compartment is padded against your back and makes a fantastic laptop sleeve for a thin laptop, provided you're careful about not turning the bag upside down.
posted by ftm at 1:11 PM on May 31, 2018

If I had more money to play with, I would get myself this Knomo backpack and I've been eyeing smart backpacks like this one.
posted by pammeke at 1:11 PM on May 31, 2018

I have an earlier version of the eBays Weekender and can vouch for it--it's my go-to conference bag.
posted by thomas j wise at 1:12 PM on May 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

These days, I always use a duffle bag rather than a wheelie bag. This one, to be specific, though it's out of stock. Somehow it just seems to have way more capacity than the maximum-sized rectangular carry-ons.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:14 PM on May 31, 2018

There is a whole internet subculture dedicated to this question. Search for ‘onebag travel’.

I personally have an Osprey Farpoint 40 that I love, plus Eagle Creek packing cubes.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:23 PM on May 31, 2018 [4 favorites]

I have the Osprey Farpoint 40 and my wife has the Tom Bihn Aeronaut 45. I quite like the backpack-ability of both, it's nice if you are combining flying + transit or walking in situations where a rolling bag might be a bit in the way. We have had them for almost 3 years and they have both held up fine. Between those two I would say the Tom Bihn looks better, seems more rugged, and organizes a little better, but is way more expensive. The Osprey probably has slightly better backpack setup.

As far as the size, I think 40-ish is good for a week if you pack pretty light.
posted by ghharr at 1:24 PM on May 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

If I'll be walking long distances, I do prefer to use a hiking backpack, as roller bags can be annoying on sidewalks even if they do have the four-way spinners, and duffles hurt my shoulder and make my shirt ride up.

I have traveled for up to 2 weeks at a time with my Kelty Redwing daypack. Mine is 10 years old and no longer being made, but the link is to something similar. It has a great laptop sleeve and a waist strap, both of which I find make a big difference for longer walks with work-type stuff. I have a 40 and it's plenty big without getting too heavy and unwieldy. I'm female and 5'5" for reference.

As far as packing tips: roll, don't fold, to prevent wrinkles and make things fit together more nicely. I don't use packing cubes as I find making rolls out of clothing and stacking those works just as well and feels less funny on my back. I have small zipper pouches for things like travel sized toiletries, chargers, headphones, etc. and I keep these in my backpack all the time--they are duplicates, just for travel, so that I can't forget anything at home. You can buy specialized ones, but I just use makeup bags that I get as gifts with purchase, until they fall apart, then replace with the next GWP or white elephant gift.

If you're bringing extra shoes, put them in a shoe bag or at least wrap them in a plastic bag (also useful for putting dirty clothes/anything that might be mildly yucky in) so they don't transfer dirt and smell to your other belongings.
posted by assenav at 1:35 PM on May 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'll give another vote for packing cubes. They have really helped me keep things tidy and compact. Also, Eagle Creek has these "Clean/Dirty" cubes where you put clean clothes in on one side and then as they get dirty you can move them over to the sealed up dirty side. I found this really helpful for socks & underwear.
posted by mhum at 1:38 PM on May 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

Deffo Tom Bihn. We replaced all of our luggage with Tom Bihn and travel is so much better.
posted by terrapin at 1:47 PM on May 31, 2018

Tom Bihn Aeronaut. You cannot go wrong with it. The amount of effort and hassle that this bag has saved me is real.
posted by incolorinred at 2:05 PM on May 31, 2018

It's shockingly easy to live out of a carry-on for a week. I know someone who just spent two weeks in Morocco with a single carry-on. I overpack for everything (as in, 2-3 shirts per day, multiple pajamas, extra pants, slippers, a pillow), and I just did two five-day trips with my carry-on with enough space to pack things I bought during the trip in the bag on the way home.

How much you're able to pare down depends on how comfortable you are with re-wearing or going without. Me, I don't like wearing dirty clothes, and I feel weird without an undershirt or socks, so I pack more than most people. But if you're cool re-wearing pants, you shouldn't need more than 3-4 pairs of pants for a week, for example. If you're cool going sockless, all the more space.

The biggest problem, for me, is when you'll be encountering multiple dress codes. So, when I went to Florida, I had to pack for the beach (swim trunks, flip flops), for normal casual hanging around (t-shirt, cargo shorts, sneakers), and for the possibility of going out to a nice dinner with my father-in-law (buttondown, khakis, nice shoes). The more you're able to simplify your dress code, the easier packing will be. (Although, even with all that extra stuff, I did fit everything in a single carry-on bag.)

Another way to cut back on the number of items you pack is to pack some powdered laundry detergent and wash your clothes by hand in your hotel sink. You could theoretically get away with two pairs of pants for a week this way.

Shoes are the thing that take up the most room in a bag, so cut those first. Wear your bulkiest shoes on the plane, and try to only pack shoes that are flat (like flip flops) or crushable (like certain minimalist sneakers or, for women, cloth flats). Toiletry bags are another big space-eater. Especially since so many travel-size toiletries only last a couple of uses (e.g., I generally only get three days out of travel-size toothpaste), I generally find it better to stop at a Target or CVS at my destination and buy travel-size toiletries there, rather than packing them.

Packing cubes are great, but if you don't want to spend $50 (or more), you can get the same effect by using two-gallon Ziploc bags. They're available at your local grocery for about $2.

If you get a wheelie bag, make sure it's a swiveling wheel so that you can change directions easily as you walk. Your local TJ Maxx probably has a nice selection for fairly cheap prices. How much you spend will depend on how much you travel. Yeah, Tom Bihn bags have a great reputation, but if you're only taking one or two trips a year, it's probably overkill.

Rick Steves has a lot of information about packing.
posted by kevinbelt at 2:07 PM on May 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've had the Red Oxx Airboss and now the Tom Bihn Aeronaut. The Red Oxx is fine, but the Bihn is fantastic. It's been on multiple trips to many countries and still looks new. If you go with the Bihn, I'd pay the money for the strap too. It's well worth it.

(the "large" gallon-size and "xtra-large" two gallon freezer bags work pretty well as "packing cubes")
posted by bonehead at 2:27 PM on May 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

In the last 10 or so years, I've only checked a bag once, for a 7-week behemoth trip (and that's only because I didn't want to have to buy contact lens solution or shampoo overseas). My usual carry-on is either a 22-inch softside wheelie bag, or a 20-inch non-wheeled duffle. Both which hold enough for about 10 days. I just got back from a 4-day trip with only a 10-inch underseat-size duffle.

One of the biggest things to packing light is to be comfortable wearing the same outfit more than once, or to have some way to do laundry on your trip. I don't use packing cubes, but I do take along a plastic bag to stash dirty laundry.

Knitwear wrinkles less than cotton/poly. To get wrinkles out of nicer garments, like a fancy dress or a suit, hang it up in the bathroom while you shower, voilà instant-steam press.

Plan your outfits along the lines of a capsule wardrobe. For a 7-day trip, excluding planewear, I would pack 2 pairs of shoes, two pants, a skirt, 3 shirts, a dress, two cardigans, pajamas, and the requisite number of undergarments. All the clothes are in solid colors, or a very light print; I use earrings and necklaces to liven things up. Of course, the heaviest/bulkiest things are worn on the plane.
posted by basalganglia at 2:32 PM on May 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm another fan of the Tom Bihn Aeronaut 45 - I've done 7 weeks with it (obviously there was laundry) and it's dandy.
posted by janell at 2:41 PM on May 31, 2018

Just FYI: If you fly Alaska they are as of the 4th of June reducing the allowable max dimensions of a carry-on the from 24″ x 17″ x 10″ to 22″ x 14″ x 9″. This is significant. The Aeronaut 45 measures 21.9" x 14" x 9.1". Not sure if Alaska will ding you on that 0.1 inch or not.
posted by bz at 2:42 PM on May 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

Goruck GR2 -- big enough to live out of for a week (or more), small enough to use as a daypack. GR1 works too, depending on your packing style.
posted by so fucking future at 2:45 PM on May 31, 2018

I also have the Aeronaut 45. A few weeks ago I used it for a weekend trip; this summer I’ll use it for a six-week trip. It’s a perfect bag for carry-on only travel and it is basically indestructible. I think the backpack straps are fine for the kind of walking you mention, but I also pack pretty light.

My husband uses the Patagonia MLC, which is the same size, a bit cheaper. I feel like it’s kind of bulky-looking when stuffed, but he’s been happy with it.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 2:53 PM on May 31, 2018

Oh and re: bz’s comment: the Aeronaut is squishy, so I’ve never had an issue fitting it into sizers even a full inch smaller than the bag’s dimensions. It’s really with hard-sided bags that the extra (fraction of an) inch matters.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 2:55 PM on May 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm currently doing a 6 week international trip out of a single carry-on and a small backpack; one week is very doable. Some tips I haven't seen posted yet:

1. Wear your bulkiest clothing & shoes on your travel days; airports & planes tend to be chilly so you'll be reasonably comfortable.

2. Plan out all your outfits & stick to one mix-n-match color scheme & style. Make sure you take layers in case of weather changes.

3. Only pack one extra pair of shoes besides the ones you're wearing; one pair should be more sporty/comfy, the other can be more stylish or specific to your travel activities.

4. Take travel size or large samples of all toiletries & makeup and throw out the containers at the end of your trip to lighten the load on your return flight. Or, if you're staying at AirBnB type places, hosts can keep them for their next guests.

5. Take a lightweight folding/rollable day pack or tote that can be used to hold your dirty clothing, as a grocery or lunch bag, or as hand luggage to bring back souvenirs.

Good luck and happy travels!
posted by lychee at 3:45 PM on May 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

Last time I travelled, there was a difference in carry-on sizes between domestic and international, and my international-sized carry-on was much bigger than the domestic dimensions (Europe). Didn't cause a problem for me then, but now?

Also I note that weight of carry-ons is becoming an issue and weight limits are being imposed.
posted by GeeEmm at 3:54 PM on May 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

I really like my Osprey Porter 45 for a week or two of travel. It holds A LOT and is very intelligently-designed. Just little things, like where the pockets are, and the fact that it has actual sturdy clasps for the straps rather than plastic hooks, like a lot of travel backpacks do. It also distributes the weight nicely, which is great when you're walking a mile over cobblestone streets after a red-eye flight.

I actually have two carry-on week-long travel bags - the other is a wheeled suitcase (I'm not going to recommend it because I just got it and it's only been on one trip, but it's like all the other carry-on wheeled suitcases). I bring the suitcase when: 1. I'm traveling for work and want my clothes to stay relatively wrinkle-free, 2. I know I'll be traveling over smooth surfaces (like, airport to subway to modern-paved sidewalk), and 3. I only have one or maybe two destinations. But if I'm going a bunch of places and I don't know if it'll be easy to wheel a suitcase everywhere, I bring the backpack.

But this is going to be super personal. Someone above recommended the eBags Weekender - I had that bag for a few years and hated it.
posted by lunasol at 3:56 PM on May 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

Oh, and someone mentioned laptop sleeves - those can be nice, but depending on your itinerary, you may want another bag that you can carry a laptop in. Last year in Greece, I assumed I'd just carry my laptop in my backpack, but there were several transits where I had to stow my backpack somewhere not 100% secure (like in the corner of one of the ferry seating areas, or the luggage storage area of a bus) and I wound up having to awkwardly carry my laptop in a bag not really designed for laptops. But it also would have been annoying to have a laptop bag in addition to my backpack. So that's one drawback to backpacks if you travel with a laptop a lot. (This is not so much an issue with suitcases because you just carry the laptop bag on your shoulders while you wheel the suitcase)
posted by lunasol at 4:01 PM on May 31, 2018

Tom Bihn's "Aeronaut 45" is perfect for anything from a weekend to two weeks abroad, have used it almost exclusively for five years. It can turn into a backpack with integrated straps.

I used a Bihn 45 for years but found it too large for carry-on for some Euro airlines. It was fine for Air Canada carry-on. Depends who you're flying with.

It's an excellent bag, but last year I switched to a Freitag Voyager, which I found suitable for carry-on on all airlines. The Freitag is more expensive, but lighter, and, in my opinion, easier to pack. It's one giant compartment that opens on the wide end so you can access almost anything in the bag with ease when fully open.

The Bihn is broken into three compartments (which is useful for separating shoes) which makes the main compartments access panel too small to root around in the bag, in my opinion.

Here's the Voyager (and a video of how it opens). I'm a die-hard Freitag fan (I own 13 of their bags) so am a bit biased (they didn't offer this bag when I bought the Bihn). I find it a more comfortable bag than the Bihn when in the backpack mode and easier to carry by the handle as well as it has two handles whereas the Bihn only has one. Bihn also sells a separate shoulder strap. It's painful and useless. I used it for 10 minutes years ago and haven't touched it since so if you do go with the Bihn, I'd avoid the shoulder strap.
posted by dobbs at 4:03 PM on May 31, 2018

The interior divisions of the Aeronaut can be unzipped and folded down, if needed, to make one big space.

It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure this out.
posted by bonehead at 4:37 PM on May 31, 2018

+1 for Osprey Porter
posted by starman at 4:38 PM on May 31, 2018

I use the Porter a lot. I also have a TB Tristar for more respectable-looking travel, but it's smaller. Finally, I have a v.2 Tortuga (think they're up to v.3 now), whose advantage over both is real (that is, padded, actually capable of transferring weight, therefore actually functional) waist straps. That's for the heaviest loads.
posted by praemunire at 4:47 PM on May 31, 2018

Yet another +1 for Aeronaut from me. I've taken it to three continents, it's been through snow, dirt, carried on, checked when I absolutely had to (had to transport bottled liquids), dropped, thrown, etc... for over five years. It still looks almost new.

Also, I pack ultralight when I can and even for over a week of minimal dress codes I can live out of a Synapse 19, which is ultimate for carry on since you don't need the overhead bin. Two sets of clothes in packing cubes, toiletries in side pockets, still fits my computer and accessories.

For cases between an Aeronaut and Synapse, I have the (now retired) Smart Alec. Can't totally fit under a seat but less bulky than the Aeronaut.

And yes, I am a Tom Bihn fanatic and I've converted quite a few friends and acquaintances over the years...
posted by xtine at 4:49 PM on May 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

And upon thinking about it, perhaps even Synapse 25 might work for the "in the middle" bag since the retired Smart Alec was 26 liters.

All of this really depends on what dress situation(s) you need to pack for. Dry fit and wool shirts (like Icebreaker/Smart Wool) can be worn for longer periods. Same for wool socks. Pack a puffy jacket instead of bulkier outerwear if you are going into colder weather. And even better if you are less reliant on lots of tech like a tablet instead of a big laptop, not packing DSLR, etc.

I also tend to bring toothbrush powder instead of toothpaste, although this is more applicable for stays of over a week since one of those mini tubes can probably last a week. Domestically it's usually not as much of a problem but some international destinations will make you throw away tubes of toothpaste.

Plus, it helps to lessen the anxiety of not packing a thing because most things are replaceable at a corner store. Of course there are must pack items like if you rely on a specific camera battery that's difficult to find, medicine, etc. But for instance when I was in Peru I realize I ran out of sanitary items that I usually overpack on, but every pharmacia had what I needed in stock.
posted by xtine at 5:00 PM on May 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

Consider where you’ll be walking between transit stops. Rolling bags can be a hassle on bumpy streets and walkways, but backpacks are more attractive to pickpockets in crowded subways, etc.

I recently managed downtown Boston with an unwieldy cheap-ass duffel; it can be done, but it reminded me that short people with generous boobs and sloping shoulders are not natural beasts of burden. Consider your own ergonomics and proportions: would your backpack be at the same height as all those other backpacks on the train, or would it be dangerously level with most people’s heads? Would a cross-body strap adjusted to minimum length still put your duffel bag below knee-level? (Yup. That was me. Might as well have sagged my jeans.) Will the strap give you a friction-hickey you’ll have to explain to someone later? (Ahem.)

All told, I would opt for a rolling bag with the kind of handle that doesn’t cut into your palm when you pick it up to carry. Low-profile and soft-sided is a plus, because lord knows it has to play Tetris with everyone else’s hand luggage. Squishy equals adaptable and adaptable equals successful.

Packing tips: err on the side of more socks, underwear, and base layers; bottoms, shoes, and outer layers should be able to do double-duty. Roll rather than fold.

Meds, corrective lenses, and urgent stay-human grooming implements should get priority otherwise. (For me, that’s my hairbrush, makeup, razor, and deodorant.) Toiletry liquids and other incidentals can almost always be procured at your destination.
posted by armeowda at 5:12 PM on May 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

You want something that fits in the overhead with no hassle from the airline. I use an LL Bean rolling duffle. 1 and 2 gallon zip lock bags for underwear, socks, miscellaneous stuff. It travels well over uneven pavement, has a shoulder strap so I can carry it if needed. Get a bag in a bright color so you can spot it on the carousel if you have to check it. With 2 wheeled bags, the wheels should be wide-set for stability.

I traveled quite a bit with a backpack and find the 2 wheeled bag easier for general travel, including a fair bit of walking. Had a stupid-long layover on my last trip and was walking the terminals just to stay limber; bag was fine. Devise a system for attaching your smaller bag/ purse/ daypack to the top of the rolling bag; this makes life much easier. Small bungies, velcro straps, whatever; test at home.

For a week, a carry-on of this size is fine. I find it quite true that packing light takes more planning, but is worth it.
posted by theora55 at 5:28 PM on May 31, 2018

Re packing cubes, if you're near a Daiso (Japanese dollar store), they have cheap ones. If you happen to wear dresses, my favorite solution for packing light is an old silk dress that I have from Madewell- I can wash it in the sink and it's dry for the next day. If you're in a situation where you don't mind wearing the same thing repeatedly, it's a useful way to save space. I recently took a 10-day trip abroad with few other clothes and a tiny bag, even by carryon standards. I wore jeans and a sweater on the plane, and only took the pair of shoes on my feet.
posted by pinochiette at 5:42 PM on May 31, 2018

That Tom Bihn TriStar looks dandy (bit smaller than the A45); anyone have any experience with it?
posted by notyou at 7:03 PM on May 31, 2018

I love my Tri-Star, and I've used it for up to 2 weeks (packing might). It's fantastic for work travel.
posted by JMOZ at 7:35 PM on May 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've traveled happily with my Tri-Star for years and love it! I strongly prefer it in backpack mode, though.

I recently got a Timbuk2 travel backpack, too, though, because I wanted to be able to bike with my luggage when necessary, and the Tri-Star isn't quite right for that (at least on my body). The Timbuk2 bag is also lower-profile and can often pass as a free personal item on those airlines that charge for oxygen. Even so, I go for mt Tri-Star every time I can.
posted by rhiannonstone at 7:50 PM on May 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

That Tom Bihn TriStar looks dandy (bit smaller than the A45); anyone have any experience with it?

Coming here to holler TRI-STAR. I am a smaller person and needed a smaller bag. I also wanted somethng that looked very professional, like I was someone worth paying a lot of money to come speak to your group. So the Bihn bag does that (I have green with purple lining, so nice!) and I can also use it in backpack mode, though I don't do that very often. It holds SO MUCH. My main axe now is a Falcon-II Maxpedition (holds a lot and I have narrow shoulders) but I'm rarely traveling for more than a few days nowadays.
posted by jessamyn at 8:17 PM on May 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

There's two schools of thought on efficient carry on bags and the first thing you need to do is figure out which kind you want -- one sized to the maximum carry on size to put in an overhead bin, or one sized to the maximum personal item size.

The different fare structures that do or don't allow them, and sometimes the sizes, vary based on airline.

Even more complicated, if the reason you want a carry on that can go in the overhead bin is so you won't be separated from your bag, you'll need to look at your flights to make sure you aren't on any that take the bag from you to put it under the plane, having you wait planeside to pick it up off a cart.
posted by yohko at 10:09 PM on May 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

I regularly do week-long international trips with an Osprey Fairview 40 (the Farpoint is similar). I love it.

However, I do find it easiest to travel with the Fairview as my carry-on and a small bag as my personal item, mainly because the Fairview (and many backpacks like it) isn't really designed to give you fast access to stuff you probably need in the airport, like your passport, wallet, etc. And that's fine for me because I always need a small bag for daily use at my destination. But anyway, ease of accessing your stuff is something to keep in mind as you're looking at options.
posted by neushoorn at 10:25 PM on May 31, 2018

I love my Tortuga.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 10:56 PM on May 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

+1 for the Osprey Porter. Couple of sizes to choose from, comfortable to carry, and the straps on the outside can be used both to cinch the bag tight and to, for example, strap a big jacket to your bag.
posted by yggdrasil at 6:46 AM on June 1, 2018

I have the 22 inch Travelpro that the Wirecutter recommends. It holds about a little more than a weeks worth of clothes.

My "personal item" is a Tom Bihn Synapse 25 and between those two, I can carry a lot of stuff.

Inside the Travelpro I stick a cheap waxed canvas messenger bag that I use as a daily carry bag at my destination.
posted by Gev at 7:22 AM on June 1, 2018

"I stick a cheap waxed canvas messenger bag that I use as a daily carry bag at my destination"

That's a really smart idea.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:08 AM on June 1, 2018

I have the QWSTION weekender bag. I like it pretty well, and I can easily pack for a casual week in it using Eagle Creek packing cubes.

I'd probably get an Aeronaut 30 if I didn't have this bag already.

For a week I usually pack a couple pairs of pants and days+1 number of shirts, underwear, socks (if necessary). I may pack an extra pair of sandals but I usually don't bring extra shoes because those seem to take up the most space.
posted by that girl at 8:58 AM on June 1, 2018

I don't claim that my 33 litre Osprey Talon is the ultimate carry-on, but it's got me through trips of up to 8 weeks (with hand-washing of underwear and T-shirts, and use of laundry whenever available), and I've never met an airline seat that it doesn't fit underneath. To show you what can be done with that amount of space, I present my luggage for a 4-week winter trip to China that ranged from T-shirt weather in Hong Kong to the -30°C of the Harbin Ice Festival: my cold-weather wear (note the bungee cord for subduing my puffy jacket and making it packable); my regular wear, with 5 T-shirts, a thin cashmere jumper, a long-sleeved shirt, and three pairs of trousers in a range of weights - all chosen to coordinate with each other; my waterproof jacket, 2 pairs of shoes and toiletries (with moisturiser in a Carmex pot, Lush solid shampoo, and toothpaste bought on arrival in China); electronics, information, spare glasses, and provisions for hot drinks (the latter very useful for Chinese train travel); sunhat, sleepwear, highly-packable other bags, security pouch, kindle, Yaktrax cleats for icy conditions, and small items always on my person such as lipsalve, mints and earplugs - and finally: everything packed up in the Talon and a daypack (except for the clothes that I picked out after the photo-shoot to travel in that day). When travelling to the airport or train station (or in a city in which I am not yet comfortable), I use the small shoulder bag at the bottom centre of the bag picture since this puts the essentials immediately under my hand, but once I'm settled in I switch to the daypack.

I hardly ever travel for work so don't need to carry a computer or look anything approaching smart, so I can get away with 33 litres of this style of bag (also I am small, with small clothes). At the end of the trip I am glad to get back to a wider range of clothes, but to be honest my style has settled down to "middle-aged frump" anyway, so I don't know if anyone else would notice the difference between me in travelling mode and me at home. As you can tell, I am a big fan of travelling light. I haven't checked luggage in at least 25 years.
posted by kelper at 9:41 AM on June 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

Any packing tips / accessories / particular clothes that make living out of a single carry on for a week a reasonable thing?

Pack less. 45 liters is the maximum allowable for American carriers. International carriers (especially budget European ones) have much smaller allowances.

If you want to go super light, bring three of everything (tops, bottoms, underwear, socks). Every day you're washing one, drying one, wearing one. This can get you into a fairly small daypack, but it's a lot of sink or shower laundry.

Somewhat more reasonably, you can bring five of everything, which basically means laundry twice a week or so. More importantly, it gives you some flexibility if you're too busy to do any laundry for a few days, while not loading you down with so much stuff that it's a hassle. I've done multi-week international trips in an ordinary school bag that was around 25 liters or so - wasn't bad at all.

Avoid duplicates or "just in case" items. Be ruthless in terms of what gets to come with you. Consider leaving it at home if you can replace it easily at your destination. The bag kind of doesn't matter - lighter is WAY better, especially compared to hauling a fully loaded 45 liter bag all over the place.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 1:45 PM on June 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

Briggs and Riley packs flat and has the best spinners. Top of the line if you really want the best.
posted by oceanjesse at 5:12 AM on June 2, 2018

Folks have bags covered above. Clothing wise, travel clothing that is made of good wickable and quick drying material is great. That kind of clothing is made to pack well and dries quickly even in humid conditions and very easily washes in sinks. Another advantage is they are lighter weight clothing and if you do laundry services that use weight it is cheaper.

My personal style is fleece and flip flops so find a style you like and a vendor in mind. My preferred is Royal Robbins just because I can coordinate everything without much thought. Range of colors is not wide but again, I don't have to think too deeply about things. Once you find a vendor you dig then finding them on sale is easy googling.
posted by jadepearl at 1:41 PM on June 2, 2018

Response by poster: Too many great answers to mark any as best. Thanks.
posted by Nonce at 7:44 AM on July 2, 2018

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