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5 of the Best-Looking, Lightest Carry-on Luggage for Business Travel

I had my carry-on luggage for 15 years and repaired it twice. Last month, I finally decided that it was beyond repair and that it was time to get a new one.

Here were my requirements:

Not ugly

Buying carry-on bags doesn't fill me with the same joy as buying other kinds of bags, like handbags. Why is that? Maybe it's because functionality gets top priority. Given that, the best you can hope for is "not ugly".

22 x 14 x 9 inches

These are the luggage requirements for United, Delta and American Airlines. Many international airlines like Qantas also require 45 combined inches or less (22 + 14 + 9 = 45). You can see a list of international carry-on requirements on worldtraveler.com. To be very sure, check the airline website because this list may not be up to date.

Actually finding luggage that fits these dimensions is strangely hard. For example, only two of the bags that I've listed below meet these requirements. I assume this is because airlines in the U.S. are so relaxed about carry-on sizes. On the other hand, my carry-on size was checked a few times flying internationally.

And another thing: make sure your laptop, in it's laptop sleeve, fits these dimensions.

Under 8 pounds (3.5 kg)

Once I lost control of my heavy carry-on bag getting it down from overhead storage, and hit a man in the head. Oops.

Other than not braining your fellow passengers, there are many reasons to get light luggage: (1) you'll look strong and capable when you hoist the bag effortlessly into the overhead bin (2) some international airlines are very strict on weight - I have had my carry-on weighed and denied!

4 wheels

Three years ago I swore by 2 wheels, not 4, but now I've changed my mind. I know I am late to the 4 wheel party. If you are too, then let me persuade you: 4 wheels lets you push your bag very slightly to make it glide across a flat floor (like those found in many airports). In this situation it is almost weightless in your hands. Doesn't that sound wonderful?

Under USD$500

If you have much more money than this (say, $2,000), then I like a lot of the bags sold by Mr Porter and the leather bags by Serapain.

Now, I like to jump on an earlier flight if I can. In this situation, often I am the last person to board and I have to check my carry-on at the door. I would never want the beauty / cost of my luggage to stop me from doing this. Life is too short.

Hard-sided

That is, not a completely squish-able exterior like a duffle bag. If you have expensive high-heeled pumps and face lotions in your carry-on, then this is a must.

So now it's finally time to look at...

The five best carry-on bags according to me

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Delsey Bastille Lite

USD$300, 22.75 x 15.25 x 10.75 inches, 6 pounds

I like the look of this one, but the dimensions are not ideal. I also don't know the brad that well, so I don't know if they make good quality bags. This leads me to look at their warranty. Now, Delsey only provide a warranty for defects, not normal wear and tear or damage by third parties.

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Rimowa Salsa Air Ultralight Cabin Multiwheel

USD$500, 21.7 x 15.7 x 7.9 inches, 4.2 pounds

Of all the bags on this list, this one looks the most well-made. Look at how those wheels recess into the base. Very nice. It is also the lightest bag out there - 4.2 pounds is the weight of half a gallon (two litres) of milk. I would have bought this if the dimensions worked better.

It has a 5 year limited warranty in the U.S., where they only provide coverage if the luggage is actually defective.

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Briggs and Riley International Carry-on Spinner

USD$400, 21 x 14.5 x 9 inches, 7.5 pounds

I still have a soft spot for fabric covered luggage. There just aren't that many that are light and have a rigid body. This one is a little too big and a little too heavy. 

I like Briggs and Riley because they have a lifetime repair guarantee on all their bags on any damage at all (not just defects). I think this is wonderful - I don't like waste and plan to keep my bags for decades. This guarantee is the number 1 reason that I got my check-in bag from Briggs and Riley.

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Raden A22 Carry-on Suitcase

USD$300, 22 x 14 x 9 inches, 8.4 pounds

Raden make "smart" luggage - it has bluetooth sensors to locate your luggage, and it can charge your phone. This luggage also complies with U.S. airline dimensions. I really like the minimalist design and color. I'm guessing the "smart" part has added to the weight which I could have done without.

I cannot find any warranty information on the site.

Tumi V3 International Carry-on

USD$475, 22 x 14 x 9 inches, 6.4 pounds

This Tumi carry-on is the one I bought. It has the right dimensions with the lowest weight.

I love it. My only annoyance is the clam-shell design, which is impossible to avoid if you want a light bag. Why don't I like clam-shells? Well, try taking off your coat while in line for the plane and then unzipping your bag slightly to stuff the coat into your luggage. It is very hard.

Tumi's provides a one year warranty that covers all damage not matter what. Then, from years 2 to 5 I get confused. They say they cover normal wear and tear but then go on to exclude all situations that would result in normal wear and tear. Hmm.

I'm looking forward to 15 years of adventure with the Tumi!


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