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Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall - Taipei, Taiwan
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Selecting the best carryon bag

Page Summary
  • Selecting a carryon bag
  • Carryon bag comparison
  • Selecting a bag that minimizes the chance you will be forced to it at check at the gate
  • Selecting a bag that is easy to move around
Selecting a carryon bag should consist of more than just picking one that looks pretty and passes the size requirements. With so many different styles available including hard case, soft case, briefcase, backpack and with or without wheels, can there really be a "best" answer? Maybe not. I do believe some traits are better than others though. This will certainly be a subjective post and you might come to a different conclusion. If you're looking to purchase a bag hopefully this will at least give you some items to ponder so you will select a great bag the first time. With that being said, I recommend a backpack style bag with wheels and a handle. All the bags pictured in this post are mine and my wife's. I wish I had a guide like this earlier because I would have saved a lot of money. To understand why I recommend the backpack style, please read on.
My Recommendation
Backpack style
backpack
More pictures and details
can be seen in the text
Not Recommended
Hard side style
hard side
Increased chance that it will be
required to be checked at the gate
Not Recommended
Laptop style
laptop style
Not enough space
Not Recommended
Duffle bag style without
wheels or telescoping handle
duffle bag
No wheels or telescoping handle

At least I can still use this
one for workout clothes and such


Some things to consider are:
Hard sided carryon
I used to use a hard sided carryon bag. I never had a problem bringing it on the plane with me, until I did. Even though it passed the size check, one time I was surprised when I was required to check it at the gate at the very last minute. The flight attendant said, "I understand it passes the size check but the flight is too full so you'll have to check it." Unfortunately, I wasn't using the Eagle Creek Pack-It cubes yet so the contents were unorganized. I tried to quickly grab the important and valuable things from my bag but the entire flight I was worried I may have missed something and what would happen if that bag was lost or stolen. That was a feeling I didn't want to experience again so I knew I was going to have to change the type of bag.

Since then, I started to pay attention to the people that were required to check their bag at the gate. I can't tell you how many times I witnessed it but it was a lot and it looked to me like they all passed the size check. The flight attendants always said something similar about the plane being too full. I also noticed that that hard sided bags were then ones that were targeted the most often.

Laptop style
The second bag I tried was the laptop style. It was a great bag except it didn't hold enough. Since this bag didn't hold much, I had to pack more essentials in my main checked bag. I paid the price when I had a layover. That was a waste of money.

Duffle bag
The third bag was a soft sided duffle bag style. It worked well and I even had a flight attendant tell me I would have to check the bag before. I just squished the sides together to show it was soft sided and I was allowed to bring it on. The problem was it didn't have wheels so it got heavy and was difficult to carry for too long, even with the shoulder strap. So much for the third time being the charm. Next.

Backpack style with wheels and telescoping handle
The fourth bag I tried was a backpack style with wheels and a handle. Even though the back and bottom are hard, I never had a problem with it. I suspect that might be because it resembles a normal backpack and backpacks are soft sided.

My wife liked mine so much she ended up switching to the backpack style as well. We thought hers was really close to mine but there are a few notable differences that we didn't notice when we bought it. Bad for us, good for you. I have a few pointers for the backpack style as well. Both mine and my wife's bag came with backpack straps. I knew I would never use the straps so I cut mine off so I could use the pocket they were kept in. My wife left her straps on because she thinks she might use them sometime.

Here are a few differences:
backpack 1
My bag
backpack 2
My wife's bag

A - Handle fully collapses
B - Backpack straps get tucked into a pocket here
C - Backpack straps would attach here
D - Handle doesn't fully collapse
E - Backpack straps are in a zippered pouch
F - To use the backpack straps, the zippered pouch must be fully unzipped.

As you can see, there are a lot of things to consider when selecting a great carryon bag. I hope this page helps you select a bag the first time that works great and suits your needs.

Happy travels.