As I’ve discovered recently, there are a lot of seriously cool carry-on bags on the market right now. So here are my top five.
1. The Best Bud: Timbuk2 Copilot
The Copilot is just a great bag; there’s no other way to describe it. I could see it as being my trusty travel buddy (it is called the Copilot, after all), helping me out in many ways while I’m away.
Before anything else, the Copilot looks great. I could actually see myself walking around a city with this and not looking like totally like a full-on tourist.
The Copilot does have some extremely handy features for use during your travels. The top pocket is positioned so that you can take stuff out of it even when the bag is in the overhead bin onboard a plane. There’s also a slim front pocket for a laptop or tablet. The main pocket opens like a clamshell and is divided into two sides, like many other bags. But the Copilot has mesh dividers that keep clothes in all pockets separate (so your dirty laundry doesn’t have to infect your other clothes). There are smaller pockets on the other side of the clamshell that can hold your toiletries or socks/underwear.
The handle provides a frame for the whole back of the suitcase, and it actually looks cool turned around. But the coolest part, I think, is the fact that you can zip open the entire front of the bag when the main pocket is closed and access the top clamshell pocket. It’s a really clever feature that makes sense if you see it. There’s also a handle on every side of the Copilot, making it easy to heave into those overhead bins.
The only problem is that the Copilot doesn’t have four bottom wheels (something that I think all bags should definitely have nowadays), but its other features really make it a great pick.
2. The Inspector Gadget: Bluesmart
Bluesmart is advertised as the “World’s First Smart, Connected Carry-On,” but to be honest, I’d feel more like a secret agent if I had it.
Bluesmart is the tech-enthusiast’s dream when it comes to travel- it goes hand-in-hand with an app you can download on your phone. From there you can access all the super cool features, like a built in luggage scale: just lift the bag by its top handle and your phone tells you how much it weighs. You can unlock the bag from your phone and charge it from the bag’s built in battery, too. There’s also location tracking, which notifies you whenever your phone gets too far away from your bag (so you don’t leave it behind) and tells you where the bag is on a map if it gets stolen or lost. There’s also trip data tracking, which logs your travels (which, let’s be real, gives you an excuse to travel more).
There’s also a pocket for all your electronics in the front, which you can easily open with your phone and take out for security in seconds. The Bluesmart itself is a hybrid of hard-shell casing and soft pockets. It has sturdy, Tron-like hubless wheels (four of them) and waterproof zippers, and it’s about the same weight as most other carry-ons (about 8 and a half pounds), even with all of the gadgets.
The only problem is that it’s not for sale yet! It’s been over 1900% funded on Indiegogo, and is expected to be ready for delivery by July of next year. So we’ve got a little ways until we can all act like James Bond while strolling to our gates.
3. The Organizer: ZÜCA Flyer
The OCD part of my brain, which is most of it, wants to give this bag a Nobel Prize. It’s like a dresser in the sky.
The Flyer consists of a soft bag reinforced with a sturdy metal frame. It’s got a super long handle and two big wheels, as well as a few auxiliary pockets outside. But it’s what’s inside that counts, and the Flyer doesn’t disappoint. You unzip the front of the bag and inside you see little packing cube-esque ‘drawers’ that you can pull out and pack your clothes into. Each drawer pouch is soft and flexible, so you can pack whatever you want in it. But it will save you a lot more time at your destination now that your clothes are organized into individual compartments.
Despite its strange, square shape, the Flyer does fit into overhead bins. And one thing I really love about it is that it’s even advertised as having a ‘built-in seat.’ It’s no secret that great luggage doubles as a great seat, and the fact that ZÜCA advertises this (and even offers cushions to fit onto the top of the bag!) is just fantastic.
But what’s with these bags not having four wheels? That, and the fact that it isn’t cheap, is my only complaint.
4. The Toughie: Briggs & Riley Torq International Spinner
Personally, I’m not one for those all hard-shell bags because they aren’t that flexible- they don’t expand and they can’t be stored easily- but this is the one exception I’d make.
The Torq’s 80/20 zipper system means that it opens in that ratio, so there’s a distinguishable difference between the two pockets of the clamshell- a rarity on these kinds of bags. Inside, it looks just like a softer bag, with a flexible interior wall and a mesh divider over the top pocket. There’s a privacy pocket at the back of the main compartment, as well as a garment panel to keep your clothes from getting tossed around in transit. And it has four wheels!
There’s also a strap you can use to connect another rolling bag, to essentially form a giant carry-on for transporting through the terminal. And nobody’s going to be able to get into the Torq, either- there’s a ‘control panel’ on the top with a combination lock and a handy TSA-only keyhole so they don’t destroy your personal lock if they decide to randomly search your bag. Finally, there’s a neat laptop pocket on the very front, so you can have easy access when you’re trekking through security.
The only con with the Torq is its price- upwards of 500 bucks! But if you can afford it, it’s a great bag.
5. The Foldaway: Lipault Paris 22″ Carry-On
This is nothing less than ingenious- a carry-on bag that folds away. Simply perfect if you want to free up some space in your home (and make room for all those souvenirs you brought back from your trip), this bag is super lightweight (around 6 pounds), made out of durable-yet-soft nylon fabric, and folds into a neat plastic pouch when you get back home.
It’s not just great for storage, though- having a compressible bag makes it easy when you don’t bring a ton of stuff- your clothes don’t jostle around inside the Lipault like they might in a more rigid carry-on. The bag comes with two zippers- a front one and a main one- as well as straps to secure your clothes just in case they do move a little.
Lipault makes a bunch of folding bags, so whether or not you want large or small, four wheels or two wheels, is up to you. The only problem with a foldable bag is functionality- there are only two pockets on the Lipault and no secret pockets or cool gadgets hidden inside.