The best carry-ons, according to the CNET staff who use them

It has been almost three years since traveling became almost impossible. The pandemic made flying reckless and even traveling by road seemed dangerous. With many mask mandates lifted and vaccinations spreading around the world, people are starting to travel again.

If you plan to travel, especially by plane, you may need new luggage, but you don’t know what to buy. Much of the CNET team are professional travelers, often traveling to conventions, conferences and exhibitions to bring you the latest news. These trips don’t always last a week, which is why our team tends to travel light. A good carry-on or backpack is often all you need for a weekend getaway.

We’ve rounded up some of our favorite carry-ons from all the CNET teams to give you an idea of ​​what might work for you. These aren’t the products “tested in CNET Labs,” – that list is coming soon – but the ones we use in our day-to-day lives.

State-of-the-art design

OK, it’s not – strictly speaking – a piece of luggage, but it’s a backpack big enough to handle overnight trips on its own or as a secondary clutch bag to handle electronics and anything that doesn’t fit not in your main suitcase. Although large, it fits under every airplane seat I’ve flown on and is so durable I can throw it or leave it in the rain without worry. Most Peak Design fans recommend the smaller 20L, but I opted for the 30L so I could take it on the go. It has padded, Velcro-secured dividers for cameras and other fragile gear, with plenty of pockets and space for phones, tablets and laptops.

Side zippers make it easy to grab items from the bottom of the main compartment, while the abundance of exterior handles makes it easy to remove the bag from car trunks and luggage bins. Finally, there are small hooks and anchor points to attach even more luggage if you need it. Really versatile!

-David Lumb

Horizon

I’m not a big traveler, but I keep a pretty basic carry-on for when I need to pack a few things for a quick trip. I use this carry-on, the smaller piece of a larger set I bought at Target for my recent trips, and I really couldn’t ask for more from a bag. It has a sturdy enough handle to roll the bag to your destination and four wheels to guide it easily.

Inside there is a large compartment with a zippered pocket at the top. There are straps at the bottom to secure your items, and the exterior of the bag also has two zipped areas. You can expand it by unzipping one of the sections, in case you are one of those people who packs a lot and likes to push the limits of their suitcases. It’s not a hard-shell suitcase, and it might not be built to last forever, but at this price it’s perfect for anyone who doesn’t travel often or needs something expensive. .

Kenneth Cole

This Kenneth Cole carry-on suitcase has lasted for several years and many trips have been pushed to the top bin or thrown out with other suitcases checked at the door at the last minute. It’s lightweight with a hard shell and its four wheels spin in all directions, making it easy to navigate around the airport. It has a sleek design and comes in 14 different colors. I don’t use its internal organization system often, but my husband loves the zippered panel and the straps that can fit in your clothes.

The suitcase comes with a 10-year warranty, but it only covers manufacturing and workmanship defects. But in my experience, it should hold up pretty well.

–Alison DeNisco Rayome

Company

When I go on a short trip, I don’t want to lug around a lot of luggage. This is where the Bellroy Venture travel bag comes in handy. It’s not only durable, but also fashionable and practical in design, just what I need to keep my travels stress-free.

It has a huge main compartment capable of holding a week’s worth of clothes (if you roll them up) and two pairs of shoes when using the complementary storage bag. This bag is water resistant, leather free and has a minimalist design. I thought that after packing everything in my bag I would have a hard time carrying it, but the strap padding made it a breeze to move it around. I can even install a laptop and other necessary accessories safely. Although I would like a thicker strap all around, when I go on short trips, bringing this Venture duffle bag just makes it easier to get up and go.

–Robin Mosley

Unique premises

As an avid sneaker fan, I like to have more than one pair of shoes with me on my travels. I usually have a comfy pair for walking around, that’s what I wear at the airport too, another pair that goes well with multiple outfits, and a third pair to show off a bit. That’s why I bought the Sole Premise commuter bag earlier in the year.

The bag consists of two compartments for sneakers, although you can also store clothes there. Then it has the rest of the standard spacing for a laptop, tablets, other accessories, etc. On my last trip, I was able to pack three pairs of shoes and my multiple devices, including my Nintendo Switch, while still being able to slide it under the seat in front of me.

–Oscar Gonzalez

Chill

I usually only buy brand name luggage so when my partner bought this suitcase on Amazon I shrugged it off and thought it might not hold up. However, it has been a great little carry-on that has served us well in the more than eight months we’ve had it.

I just took it on a four day trip and managed to fit more clothes in it than I thought it could ever fit. Not only that, but it was lightweight and easy to lift into an overhead bin. The handle extends easily, the wheels work well. For the price, don’t expect the highest quality, but I have no complaints.

It has all the basics you need: zippered compartments, an interior strap to compress clothes, and a built-in TSA lock.

–Sarah Mitroff

Josh Goldman/CNET

If you want a backpack that will work for your daily commute, day trip or weekend getaway or as carry-on on a plane, this is the one. I continue to be amazed at the build quality of this bag every time I use it, and I really feel like the company has thought of everything.

The main compartment gives you plenty of room for your lunch, jacket, books and anything else you might take, including a hard case for sunglasses. Like many travel bags, however, there’s a zipper around the outside (all zippers are weather-sealed, by the way) that expands the size to give you room for shoes and clothes for a day or two. What’s unique is that when you expand the bag, it reveals another zipper that opens the backpack like a clamshell for easy storage.

At nearly $300, it’s expensive to use as a simple carry-on. But given the bag’s design flexibility, this might be the only bag you need.

–Josh Goldman

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