If you have itchy feet, chances are that you have specific requirements of your luggage too, and resent hauling around a bunch of enormous suitcases. After all, only a snail carries its entire home on its back, right? As a rule of thumb, less stuff is always better, so today we take a look at the most common kinds of carry on luggage, as well as their pros and cons.
Backpacks are an adventurer’s best friends, with superior organization capacities and easy handling. They tend to feature lots of specifically geared pockets and compartments, such as padded places for devices, nets for water bottles on the side, or concealed pockets for your valuables hidden in the straps or waistband. Digital nomads with lots of cables, data storage utilities, and spare parts love them for the exact same reason.
Moreover, backpacks always allow for some wiggle room if you are smart – you can always find a nook to stash your hoodie of the weather gets warm, and if you have all of your stuff with you, there is less of a chance that you will misplace anything on your journey.
If you follow the “travel light” principle, triple check to make sure that you got a backpack within the standard carry on size. Although these regulations vary widely, you can still draw an average of the airlines you mostly use and get a universal enough pack. Be careful as backpacks usually have a shape which is tricky to measure accurately. You do not want to get to the airport and only then discover that you have two excess inches of luggage which you therefore have to check.
The good sides: Your hands are free. No handles means more convenience and more freedom of movement, not to mention less discomfort when waiting in lines.
The bad sides: All the load goes on your back, which can be a challenge. Your space is relatively limited, and you can kiss neatly kept clothes goodbye.
Duffel bags can sometimes look way too basic and way too clunky, like something our grandmothers may have been using to carry their stuff when going to a festival in the neighboring village. Let us tell you, this kind of misconception is totally your loss. This extreme simplicity is the strongest point of this bag model, because you are presented with free space that you can fill up in whichever way suits you best.
A duffle bag typically costs a lot less than any “standard” luggage options. They are rather lightweight, so they are easy to carry around and lift into overhead luggage compartments. The most important thing about these beauties is their versatility – you can pack for a flight to a weekend getaway, or carry your gym stuff or sports equipment in it, or use it to transport cameras, tripods etc. to an outback spot for your aesthetics hunts.
The good sides: They are much less susceptible to the constantly changing regulations imposed by various airlines. Since you never know what kinds of new dimensional and weight restrictions might pop up at you in the long run, you should invest in a duffel if you want to be able to easily adjust. It is surprisingly compatible with light packing. Click here to get some genius tips on how to go about that.
The bad sides: Zero organization potential. After all, it is all free packing space. There are few, if any, zippers, pockets, holders, or extra compartments. You will have to hack it to keep clean and dirty clothes separated and to know at a glance where what is.
Roll-aboard: The soft-roll type
This is the most popular type of carry on luggage, and for very good reason. It offers a lot of packing space with medical-level neat organization. You will not get shoe marks on your clothes, you can avoid crinkling your suits to horror, and the wheels are a great help when you are in a rush.
The good sides: The biggest pro here is the level of efficiency with regards to space. These bags put a big accent on organization, so there are smart pockets for anything you could ever bring. The next big plus are the wheels, and some models are expandable, too.
The bad sides: Once you make your purchase, you are stuck in those dimensions for good. Most of these models reach the max allowed size requirements, so when those change, you are pickled. Moreover, they typically cannot feat under seats, so you may have to check it after all. For a closer look at how much under-seat space you get with different airlines, check out this handy article: https://www.travelandleisure.com/airlines-airports/airplane-under-seat-storage-space
Roll-aboard: The hard plastic type
Despite what commercial promotion might make you believe, very few travelers actually have a genuine need of this kind of carry on luggage. These bags are designed to be resistant to impact and the elements, and are therefore excellently suited to transporting valuable technology and sensitive equipment.
Photography equipment is a standard example, but also specific items for sports or martial arts which may be sensitive to moisture and such (e.g. traditional or archaic longbows). The hard plastic roll-aboard is basically a plastic trunk with a handle and wheels.
The good sides: Excellent protection, including waterproofing and float ability. Wherever you go, whatever happens, your stuff is safe.
The bad sides: These bags are not expandable, and are noticeably heavier than their soft-sided cousins. Again, you would be facing permanent dimensions in a changing overhead bin landscape. And finally, they are rather costly – around double the price of the soft-sided variants.
Roll-aboard: The aluminum type
Finally, luggage made form aluminum grants your possessions infinitely better protection than any soft bag ever will, but they are actually not as good as plastic ones. Shocker, we know, but remember that aluminum is classified as a soft metal. In a way, these are the shiny middle ground between the two kinds of roll-aboard bags we discussed above.
One distinct edge that they have, though, is the weight, or lack thereof. Aluminum luggage is remarkably light, and therefore easy to handle, lift up, and carry around. In terms of relative weight, they compare pretty closely to the soft materials we already mentioned.
The good sides: Aluminum bags and cases are light, comparably strong, and fairly durable. Many have integrated locks, too, approved by the TSA, for an extra level of security.
Bonus: their shiny metallic aesthetic can easily work with whatever travel outfit you have going, if that is important to you. You can get a crash course on working metallics at this link.
The bad sides: Price. They are even more expensive than hard plastic bags, averaging at three times the price of a soft-sided model. Moreover, some of the hip brands actually do not match size restrictions. And just like previously, you are stuck with one size bag no matter what you do.
Aside from these, other things can serve as carry on luggage too, like school bags, laptop cases, even a burlap sack (if you are that retro). What is your favorite? Leave a comment!
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