Carry-on is the frequent traveler’s best friend, keeping personal items close at hand and eliminating the need to linger on carousels long after your flight.
But, as everyone knows, not all bags are created equal – and the Wrong bag adds unwanted hassles to every trip you take.
A well-designed, functional, and durable case that doesn’t tip the scales on its own can save time and money. It also means you can get on with your business or activate vacation mode without hassle or stress.
In this spirit, the Executive Traveler The team road-tested six premium carry-on models – rolling, packing, spinning and hoisting in real-life environments – to see which cases are up to the demands of rigorous travel.
Antler Clifton Cabin with Pocket
Founded in London in 1914, Antler is widely hailed as one of the most durable luggage brands available today. The Clifton range is its best seller, with the ribbed polycarbonate exterior able to withstand whatever your travels throw at them.
The Clifton cabin with pocket is an “upgraded” version of the classic carry-on. The main difference, and it’s very practical, is the lockable front pocket containing pockets for a tablet and a 15.6-inch laptop, as well as space for noise-cancelling headphones or a book.
A lot of thought has gone into this case, and it shows. From the two-way locking mechanism to the smooth rotating handle, the bag is well made and feels like it could easily withstand the demands of frequent travel.
The front pocket slightly compromises storage. Not a big deal for those who travel light, but the version without pocket might be a better option for those traveling with a secondary tote or backpack.
Weight 3.3 kg; 38L capacity
$349 from antler
Carl Friedrik Hand luggage
Carl Friedrik isn’t a big name in the luggage landscape, and in a sea of bags that look alike, that might be a good thing: you’ll probably be the only one in the airport lounge with the handsome luggage to hand of the Swedish firm. model.
Dressed in a gunmetal shell with cognac, chocolate or black accents and leather handles (we opted for the eye-catching cognac contrast), this mid-sized 40-litre bag is just too stylish to show off as luggage. registered and at risk of scuffs, scratches and battle scars spoiling its good looks.
This cognac trim is the only standout element of Carl Friedrik’s thoughtful design. Even though the bag glides with ninja-like stealth on four pairs of Japanese wheels, it seems destined not to draw attention to itself in a screaming “look at me” way – but the Carry-on is an eye-catching travel companion in its own right.
The aluminum frame and lightweight polycarbonate body barely push the scales at 3.5kg, and every inch of available space inside is yours to fill. (A slightly larger “Carry-on Pro” model adds an extra-large front pocket inside for quick and easy access to your laptop or tablet, cables, and other travel essentials.)
One of the two smartphone-sized zipped interior pockets can hold an external battery, with an integrated cable connecting to a pair of USB ports protected by a rubber flap and hidden under the telescoping handle.
Weight 3.5 kg; 40L capacity
$720 from Carl Friedrick
Delsey Châtelet Air 2
The Parisian luggage store Delsey has existed since 1946, born from the merger of two brands specializing in cases for cameras and record players. A frequent sight at airports across Europe, particularly in France, the brand’s chic aesthetic is hard to miss.
Chatelet Air is one of Delsey’s most striking ranges – like something Brigitte Bardot may have worn in the 50s.
Available in blue, brown, pink or angora with vegan leather trim, smooth double wheels, premium polycarbonate shell and well-organized interior make this a welcome meeting of style and function.
Several zippered storage compartments, including one for you to insert your own power supply for the USB outlet, make it especially easy to store and locate your items, rather than rummaging around inside. It even comes with a handy shoe bag.
Although the USB port next to the lock looks a bit gimmicky and its plastic cover may degrade over time, it’s still nice to have.
Weight 2.9kg; 38L capacity
$549, from Delsey
Original Rimowa Plus cabin
Rimowa is a brand that needs no introduction. The German luggage brand is the ultimate carry-on purchase, backed by a worldwide reputation for quality.
The Cabin Plus is part of Rimowa’s original collection, its aluminum chassis available in silver, black and titanium champagne gold, all sporting this iconic grooved design.
And it’s a big Bag: The huge 49 liter capacity embraces the new era of carry-on only travel, pushing the boundaries of carry-on and annexing the overhead compartment above your business class seat.
At 4.7kg empty, the Rimowa Cabin Plus is also the heaviest bag in this roundup. But no doubt its visual appeal or physical robustness that will keep your belongings safe in all circumstances.
And yes, this pretty case will be scratches and scuffs, but treat it well and it develops a wonderful patina over the years.
Weight 4.7kg; 49L capacity
$1,990 from Rimowa
Samsonite sits comfortably among the top luggage brands in the world. Whenever you travel with one, a deep confidence that your belongings are well protected is practically a given.
Made with Samsonite’s Curv technology, the C-Lite Spinner’s sturdy and expertly crafted outer shell helps it withstand the bumps and bumps of travel, whether it’s hoisting it into the overhead locker or checking it in. .
Incredibly lightweight considering the toughness of its outer shell, the C-Lite’s internal fabrics are also durable, made from 100% recycled bottles while maintaining the structural integrity to prevent tearing.
A smooth, fluid rise in the double-length handle ensures there’s no need to slouch to comfortably roll the pack as you walk, with a satisfying click when fully retracted.
Like any decent carry-on bag, the TSA-approved padlock comes in handy when subjected to the tough checks of US security officials.
Weight 1.9kg; 36L capacity
$489 from Samsonite
Victorinox Spectra 3.0 Frequent Flyer Hand Luggage
Makers of the Swiss army knife, Victornox brings similar “everything and the kitchen sink” ingenuity to its Spectra 3.0 – a versatile case with multiple compartments, an easy-access lockable door, hidden SIM key and pen, load and more.
The recycled polycarbonate shell is incredibly lightweight, and the eight-wheel design makes for a smooth, maneuverable ride. Plus, the bag can be expanded by up to 20% if you find yourself stocking up on souvenirs or extra clothes.
Although more expensive than some competitors, Spectra is very well made, with smooth zippers and quiet wheels. Interior pockets and stitching are also quality, and the Victorinox red color stands out among the more common black and silver.
Its quick-access front door is great, meaning you don’t have to air out your dirty laundry every time you need to access something (although the pouch eats into the main compartment a bit). The double bar telescoping handle also allows you to put a backpack on top without it spinning around a single handle like on some competitors.
Weight 3.3 kg; 37L capacity
$829 from Victorinox
Price correct at time of publication.