The Best Carry-On Luggage for Men of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

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TripSavvy luggage test group shot

TripSavvy / Jhett Thompson

TripSavvy's Pick

Samsonite's Freeform Hardside Expandable Carry-On 21-Inch checks all the boxes thanks to its sleek design and features like an integrated ID tag and a TSA-friendly three-dial combo lock. Amazon's Basic 21-Inch Hardside Spinner is an excellent option for a budget pick.

Arguably the least exciting part of traveling is actually getting to your destination via planes, trains, subways, and/or automobiles, which is why finding the right carry-on luggage is essential to remove as many pain points as possible. The best luggage—like our top pick, the Samsonite Freeform Hardside Expandable Carry-On 21-inch—holds plenty of stuff in a smartly organized way, moves well and maneuvers easily, can stand up to a serious beating, provide solid value, and, yes, looks stylish as well.

Digging into the options, we looked at hard and softside rollers, backpacks, duffels, and suitcases that cater to business travelers. We narrowed the wide field of options to the nine best products across various categories. Then each piece of luggage was scored by our team of testers using a five-point scale, focusing on the bag’s overall storage capacity, specific design features, organizational logic, durability, and maneuverability, and whether or not the product’s quality justified the price. In addition to packing exercises, we also pressure-tested the luggage by dropping the bag several times and hitting them several times with a baseball bat.

Here are the carry-on luggage items we tested.

Best Overall

Samsonite Freeform Hardside Expandable with Double Spinner Wheels Carry-On

5
samsonite-freeform-hardside-expandable-carry-on-21-inch

Amazon

What We Like
  • The sleek design

  • A perfect mix of internal organization

  • Top-of-class maneuverability

  • The ability to expand makes the Freeform hard to beat

What We Don't Like
  • A separate zippered storage area for dirty clothes would be nice

Samsonite's Freeform Hardside Expandable Carry-On 21-Inch checks all the boxes. Four lightweight 360-degree double spinner wheels assured maneuverability, gliding smoothly on hard surfaces and carpet, and our tester loved how easily they could transition from four to two wheels to handle bumpy terrain. The push-button handle provides multi-stage positioning to accommodate different-height travelers. The Polypro hard shell stood up to our damage tests without incident, so it'll handle rough handling by baggage carriers if you have to check it—and other details like an integrated ID tag and a TSA-friendly three-dial combo lock provide comfort when you do check the bag. Our testers also loved the color options, which make the bag stand out from the masses at luggage claim.

With just shy of 50 liters of storage space and the ability to expand the pack, the Freeform can carry a lot of clothes, with a cross ribbon and a divider to keep things organized, along with a handful of zippered pockets for things like your dirty shoes, though the tester did wish there was a separate section for dirty clothes. The sleek profile will appeal to those with a modern aesthetic, and the outer material is hard enough to protect your gear but not so hard that it'd hurt if you hit your legs with the suitcase while rushing to catch a plane.

Dimensions: 21.25 x 15.25 x 10 inches | Weight: 6.5 pounds | Capacity: 49.5 liters | Materials: Polypro Hardside

Samsonite Freeform Carry-On Suitcase

TripSavvy / Tamara Staples

Best Budget

Amazon Basics 21-Inch Hardside Spinner

5
Amazon Basics 21-Inch Hardside Spinner

Amazon

What We Like
  • Easy on the wallet

  • Just the right degree of storage, protection, and smooth maneuverability

What We Don't Like
  • It has a slightly bulky profile

  • The handle only has one lock position

The term basic may carry a negative connotation, but Amazon is all-in on challenging that perception. Their Basic 21-Inch Hardside Spinner won accolades from our tester based on its value, durability, and storage capacity. The suitcase uses an extra-thick ABS hardshell that stood up to our impact tests, protecting your gear, and the four double-spinner wheels let the suitcase glide smoothly on the carpet and flat surfaces. Inside, you get a main storage area with an X-shaped compression strap, along with a 150D polyester divider that’s equipped with three zippered pockets to keep things organized and to help you separate your dirty laundry or footwear from your clean clothes—and if you need more space, it can expand to provide an additional 15 percent of extra capacity. Our tester also appreciated that the telescoping handle locks into place, and the side handle made lifting the bag pretty easy.

Dimensions: 22 x 14.9 x 10 inches | Weight: 7.34 pounds | Capacity: 38.7 liters | Materials: ABS hard shell and 150D polyester liner

Amazon Basics 21-Inch Carry-On Spinner

TripSavvy / Tamara Staples

Best Hardside

Travelpro Platinum Elite Carry-on Expandable Hardside Spinner

4.8
Travelpro Platinum Elite Carry-on Expandable Hardside Spinner

Amazon

What We Like
  • The outer shell material flexes upon impact, extending the Platinum Elite's life and protective value

What We Don't Like
  • It’s expensive, and when using the expanded storage area, it makes it hard to fit into the overhead

Constructed of an ultra-strong polycarbonate shell that flexes on impact to prevent cracking, TravelPro’s Platinum Elite Carry-On Expandable Hardside Spinner will protect the contents of your suitcase in practically any situation. The 8-pound bag sits on four self-aligning magnetic spinner wheels that are integrated into Travelpro’s PrecisionGlide System, moving smoothly across all surfaces, while the contoured grip and the telescoping handle make it easy to move the suitcase around, whether rolling it across the bumpy tarmac or placing it in the overhead.

It also comes with external USB A and C ports, which works with an exterior battery pocket hidden in the expansion feature for easy access (and FAA compliance), though it doesn’t come with a power bank. Inside, you’ll find two separate sections on both sides of the suitcase, each with a few zippered compartments for smaller items, though our tester did wish there were some larger zippered pockets integrated into the design.

Dimensions: 23 x 14.5 x 9.5 inches | Weight: 8.1 pounds | Capacity: 45 liters | Materials: Polycarbonate hard shell with aluminum corner guards

Travelpro Platinum Elite

TripSavvy / Jhett Thompson

Best Softside

Travelpro Luggage Platinum Elite 21-inch Expandable Carry-on Spinner Suiter

4.7
Luggage Platinum Elite 21” Expandable Carry-on

Amazon

What We Like
  • Smartly designed with features that keep your toiletries separated and your clothes wrinkle-free, the softside Platinum Elite moves smoothly and will protect your kit from damage

What We Don't Like
  • It’s a bit pricey, and while the expansion adds lots of extra storage capacity, it may be too big for some airline overhead sections

Unlike hard-sided suitcases, which typically divide the storage space into two equal sections, the Travelpro Platinum Elite 21-Inch Expandable Carry-On Spinner utilizes one large storage section, outfitted with a panel compression system and a removable quart-sized wet pocket, along with zippered storage in the fold-back lid. This lets the suitcase accommodate a drop-in fold-out suiter section, designed to work with clothes on a hanger to prevent wrinkling.

The polyester outer has been treated with DuraGuard to help combat dirt and stains, and it stood up well to our impact tests. It also has an FAA-approved USB port (along with a dedicated power bank pocket), though it doesn’t come with the power bank. Though our tester noted that moving the Platinum Elite at an angle was slightly cumbersome, the total of eight self-aligning spinner wheels flowed smoothly on all types of surfaces, and the multiple heights of the telescoping handle allow for intelligent customization.

Dimensions: 23.5 x 14.5 x 9 inches | Weight: 7.8 pounds | Capacity: 46 liters | Materials: Polyester with DuraGuard coating

Travelpro Platinum Elite Softside 21-inch

TripSavvy / Conor Ralph

Best Backpack

Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack

5
Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack

Amazon

What We Like
  • Blessed with a smartly designed internal organization, the Allpa 35L Travel Pack is sizable enough to carry a weekend’s worth of gear (at least), comes with four reinforced grab handles, and includes a rain cover

What We Don't Like
  • Some may value a more structured backpack

Some travelers may question why you'd want to carry your luggage on your back when you can roll it, but for those who like the freedom afforded by a backpack-style carry-on, which lets you move across any sort of terrain with ease, carrying the weight of the pack and its contents is a worthy sacrifice. The unstructured Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack makes loading the pack a breeze thanks to the overall shape of the bag, which, as our tester noted, helps tuck things in the corner to help fill it out.

The 35-liter storage capacity has an innovative organizational structure—one side of the pack has a few different zippered compartments, while the other has a zippered mesh panel that makes it easy to see the bag's interior, and a padded laptop/tablet sleeve protects your electronics. Our tester also loved how the YKK side zips make it easy to access the bag's contents quickly. The 840D ballistic nylon outer stood up to our impact tests and will also stand up to the elements and wipes clean with a wet towel. And comfort – an essential aspect of a backpack-style carry-on—is assured thanks to a weight-distributing low-profile harness and a breathable mesh back panel.

One potential issue we've had over years of testing this bag is that its outer shell might tend to flake off. This doesn't impact the bag's functionality, but we thought it best to note it.

Dimensions: 20 x 12 x 8 inches | Weight: 3.5 pounds | Capacity: 35 liters | Materials: 840D Ballistic nylon

Cotopaxi Allpa 35L lab testing

TripSavvy / Jhett Thompson

Best Duffel

Yeti Crossroads 40L Duffel

yeti-crossroads-40l-duffel

Amazon

What We Like
  • The Crossroads 40L Duffel proves to be durable, highly customizable, and tailor-made to carry the heaviest of loads

What We Don't Like
  • The structured nature means the bag doesn’t pack down small for storage

After Yeti popularized the concept of high-end coolers, they turned their design expertise to luggage, and the Crossroads 40L Duffel is the result. Built to hold a hefty cache of gear for road trips, camping, and flying, the duffel has a structured build that lets the bag's walls stand up when empty to make it easy to pack. This convenience also has two divider panels that can help separate your gear (or can be stashed under a bottom flap when not needed), and—as our tester noted—it also has small top pockets for items like tools or your cell phone. TuffSkin Nylon, an expedition-grade 700D fabric inspired by motorcycle gear, can take a beating without incident and is both water- and abrasion-resistant, and all the straps lining the bag have reinforced stitching and internal anchors, so it'll stand up to the heaviest of loads, though our tester noted that the detachable shoulder strap is only padded in one section, so it may be uncomfortable or awkward if you really pack a lot. That said, the compression straps are removable, so you can use them on the inside or outside, which helps keep things secure.

Dimensions: 21 x 12.5 x 9.8 inches | Weight: 3.8 pounds | Capacity: 40 liters | Materials: TuffSkin 700D Nyon, GroundControl PU-coated base

YETI Crossroads 60L Duffel

TripSavvy / Nick Kova

Best Expandable

Away The Bigger Carry-On Flex

4.8
The Bigger Carry-On Flex

Away

What We Like
  • The Bigger Carry-on Flex employs an easy-to-use zipper expansion to provide extra storage space without sacrificing all the function and comfort of a rolling carry-on

What We Don't Like
  • The price is a bit high, though our tester said it felt like the suitcase would last for years

Away took their classic suitcase design and added a built-in zipper expansion that provides an additional 2.25 inches of extra storage in their The Bigger Carry-On Flex suitcase so that you can haul all those mid-trip purchases comfortably and confidently. The carry-on glides effortlessly on four 360-degree spinning wheels, and ample organization inside—including two main compartments, a layered second compartment, a laundry bag, and netted storage—will appeal to travelers who haul lots of gear.

Our tester liked how the compression straps made clothing with thicker fabric smaller and said it could easily handle everything you’d need for a long weekend. During the impact tests, our tester noted that the polycarbonate shell scratched up a bit, but the suitcase comes with a cleaning sponge, which wiped away any damage. A TSA-approved combo lock adds a touch of security if you have to check the suitcase, and an underside grab handle makes it easy to maneuver it into the overhead.

Dimensions: 22.7 x 14.7 x 9.6 inches | Weight: 8.55 pounds | Capacity: 47.9 liters, 55.7 expanded | Materials: Polycarbonate shell, leather details

Away The Bigger Carry-On

TripSavvy / Tamara Staples

Best for Business Travel

Beis The Carry-on Roller

4.7
Beis The Carry On Roller

Nordstrom

What We Like
  • With ample storage—and a sizable expansion feature—The Carry-On Roller will please the most discerning business traveler, and its modern aesthetic will be at home in the boardroom as it is on the tarmac

What We Don't Like
  • Our tester found the bag to be a bit unwieldy when rolling in terms of how it orientated itself, though it was still easy to maneuver

Designed to accommodate the most demanding business traveler, BEIS’s The Carry-On Roller leans heavily on maximum organization. It has compartments on both sides of the inside and includes drawstrings sections for storing dirty clothes, two zippered bags built into the divider, and an additional cushioned divider that our tester says could easily accommodate a laptop, a rarity in carry-on luggage. The hardside virgin PolyCarbonate assures ample protection, which handled our impact tests without issues, and it also gets the little details and features right, including padding at the extendable trolly handle, a retractable bag attach strap that can carry up to 15 pounds, TSA-approved locks, and a zippered expansion feature to boost storage up to 61 liters.

Four Hinomoto 360-degree wheels glided smoothly on all surfaces, though our tester found that the bag did tend to orient itself onto the wider edge while pushing. Our tester also loved the look of The Carry-On Roller with its gradient 3D stripe design, slim profile, and six colorways, from traditional black to beige and pink.

Dimensions: 15.7 x 21 x 9.8 inches | Weight: 8.3 pounds | Capacity: 49 to 61 liters | Materials: Polycarbonate body, PVC and polyester liner, metal hardware, nylon zipper

Beis The Carry-On Roller

TripSavvy / Jhett Thompson

Best Multi-Use Backpack

Peak Designs Travel Pack 45L

peak-designs-travel-pack-45l

REI

What We Like
  • Easily one of the most versatile options available, the Travel Pack 45L allows for compression and expansion, loads of easy ways to access the pack’s insides, plenty of quick-grab zippered pockets, and serious durability

What We Don't Like
  • All those features come at a price

Built on the premise that the storage needs of trips vary greatly, Peak Designs’ Travel Pack 45L may be the most versatile carry-on available. You can access the insides from the side, top, front, and rear, along with quick-access pockets for keys, sunglasses, and passports, two expandable side pockets for water bottles and tripods, and a padded laptop/tablet sleeve. Inside, the main cavity divides into two sections with a zippered mesh sleeve, which helps separate and organize your gear, as our tester noted, which provides options for different packing strategies. They also loved the ample grab handles (one on each side)—it made placing the bag in the overhead a breeze.

The shoulder straps and the waist belt can also be stored in the bag, reducing tangles when sliding the pack under a seat. It’s also very weather-resistant, thanks to weatherproof Ultra Zips, the recycled 400D nylon canvas shell, and a 900D bottom liner, all of which handled our impact tests without issue. But perhaps best of all, the Travel Pack can be compressed for smaller loads, affording a more streamlined fit, or expanded to 45 liters of maximum storage.

Dimensions:  22 x 13 x 9.5 inches standard, 22 x 13 x 9.5 compressed, 22 x 12 x 11 expanded | Weight: 4.5 pounds | Capacity: 35 liters standard, 30 liters compressed, 45 liters expanded | Materials: Weatherproof recycled 400D nylon shell with DWR, 900D waterproof bottom liner, anodized aluminum hardware

Peak Design Travel Pack

TripSavvy / Jhett Thompson

How We Tested

The overall capacity of each bag was evaluated by how well the suitcase could store everything you’d need for a four-day trip, including loads of apparel, two pairs of shoes, jackets and midweight layers, and two toiletry bags. This helped understand the storage capacity of each bag, as well as the organizational logic. In the process, we evaluated the durability of the zippers, clips, and buckles and the utility of the carry-ons’ many internal and external pockets.

Once packed full, we then test the maneuverability by pushing (and pulling) the rolling suitcases on both two and four wheels across a smooth surface, on a rug, and a rough and uneven surface to evaluate whether or not the suitcases rolled smoothly, became top-heavy, or if the handle didn’t smoothly telescope. We also simulated placing the luggage through security and the overhead bin to judge whether the bags were too heavy when fully packed. This also allowed us to evaluate the overall fit of the bag, how handles or excess straps either helped or hindered storage, and whether or not compression straps helped streamline the suitcases profiles.

Durability—a key feature for all carry-ons—was tested by tossing it off a high shelf three times, and then we hit the suitcase several times (and in several different places) with a baseball bat. Then we thoroughly examined each suitcase for scrapes, dents, or other signs of damage and re-did the rolling/maneuverability tests to ensure that we recorded any impacts to the wheels or handles.

Carry-on luggage testing

TripSavvy / Jhett Thompson

What to Look for in Carry-On Luggage for Men

Price

You can find a high-quality carry-on for less than $100, but higher-cost luggage benefits from more durable materials, copious organization systems, and other nice-to-have features like places for a battery bank, which connects with an integrated USB port so you can charge your devices on the fly. When evaluating a suitcase, make sure the materials are robust. Softside luggage should be made of woven nylons like Cordura, ballistic, or ripstop, while hardside carry-ons should feature high-tech plastic like ABS or polycarbonate.

Size

The size of a carry-on breaks out into two metrics: the storage capacity and the overall dimensions of the suitcase itself. This latter stat will indicate whether or not the suitcase will qualify as a carry-on, a designation dictated by the dimensions of an airplane’s overhead bin space. This sizing varies by airline, but generally, a suitcase that measures around 22 x 14 x 9 inches will pass. Storage size, measured in liters, dictates the amount of space inside the suitcase you have to carry your kit. Our testing focused on suitcases with enough room for a four-day trip to ensure they provide the storage you’d need for a long weekend. Some suitcases also include expandable sections (typically via a zippered opening), which can afford more storage space, though using that can sometimes push the carry-on beyond the dimensions allowed. Compression straps (inside and sometimes outside) can help streamline the profile/dimensions of some softside luggage.

Materials

Softside luggage should feature woven nylons like Cordura, ballistic, or ripstop, while hardside carry-ons should feature high-tech plastic like ABS or polycarbonate. Be sure that any fabric seams are double-stitched, adding durability to those critical parts of a suitcase. The zippers should glide smoothly and feel solid and robust. And the wheels should roll smoothly, and the telescoping handles should glide easily.

Other features

Most travelers love ample storage options afforded by a carry-on with robust organization inside, including mesh or clear zippered pockets for smaller items, dedicated areas for dirty shoes or clothes, garment bags for carrying suits, and dedicated toiletries bags. Pockets on the outside for quick-grab items like your boarding pass, passport, or water bottles are also a big win, as are dedicated pockets for laptops and tablets, smart trackers, and “security” pockets. Some also come with integrated TSA-approved locks.

Telescoping handles that are lockable in various heights add versatility, internal and external compression straps help keep a streamlined profile, and a variety of grab handles make it easier to maneuver the carry-on into the overhead bin. And some layer tech features in, like a dedicated spot for a battery pack, which integrates with an external USB port so you can charge your devices. For non-rolling suitcases like backpacks and duffels, be sure that the strap system will evenly distribute the weight of the packed luggage so you can move easily.

Carry-on testing

TripSavvy / Conor Ralph

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Is hardside or softside luggage better?

    When it comes to luggage, better is slightly subjective. Hardside and softside suitcases both have their benefits and cater to different types of travel. Softside cases are typically lighter than their hard side counterparts, and because the fabric flexes considerably, they’re easier to pack to its limits and will compress and flex when you put the suitcase in an overhead bin or under a seat. They also have exterior storage pockets and store relatively flatly when not used. But you may sacrifice some protection, and the fabric can be prone to ripping or stains, though most high-quality softside carry-ons have pretty durable materials that typically have weatherproof treatments to help block moisture penetration. 

    Today’s hardside suitcases usually have ultra-durable, lightweight materials like ABS or polycarbonate and typically feature a 50/50 split opening so that you can pack the suitcase evenly. They’re great if you’re packing fragile items like camera gear, and most boast loads of organization to help keep everything in its place. The rigidity does make it tough to over-pack, and the fixed dimensions can be a pain to store when not in use. But they really stand up to the elements and the inevitable abuse encountered on the open road or when you’re forced to check the carry-on. They can scuff or scratch more easily than softside luggage, but higher-quality hardside carry-ons should be able to be wiped clean, and the best ones also offer a bit of flex, which helps fend off any damage to the bag or its contents. But they are also often a bit heavier than softside options.

  • How do you pack a suit in carry-on luggage?

    Whether traveling for business or a wedding, the mystery of retaining a wrinkle-free suit post-flight has several solutions. Some suitcases come with a dedicated suit garment bag. But even if your carry-on doesn’t have that feature, you can still fold the suit in a way that should avoid excessive wrinkling. Lay the jacket down, fold the left shoulder back, turn the right shoulder inside out, and tuck the left into the right shoulder. Then fold it in half lengthwise, then fold it horizontally. Then lay the compressed jacket across the length of the pants and fold the pants over to create one compact package, which you then lay flat in your suitcase.

  • How do you clean and care for your carry-on luggage?

    Most carry-ons are durable and can handle the typical bumps and scrapes of travel. But if your suitcase does get dirty or slightly damaged, there are ways to clean them. You can clean softside suitcases with a wet towel, but if you have more stubborn stains, you can use a cleaning product—just be sure that the cleaner won’t remove any sort of DWR weather-resistant treatment. Most suitcase manufacturers should provide some basic guidelines. Hardside carry-ons can typically be wiped clean with a microfiber cloth to remove modest scuffs and scrapes, and the plastic materials will also stand up to more rigorous scrubbing. Minor dents in hardcase suitcases or small tears in the fabric don’t mean that you have to retire the carry-on, but be sure that the suitcase’s wheels roll smoothly and that the telescoping handle has no issues. And if you do suffer a minor tear, you can always use a bit of duct or fabric tape to seal things up. Just be sure that the tear doesn’t grow.

Carry-on luggage testing

TripSavvy / Tamara Staples

Why Trust TripSavvy

Nathan Borchelt has been rating, testing, and reviewing outdoor and travel apparel for decades. In researching this article, he collated the input from the testing team and then layered in additional research, including input from both professional reviews and verified customers to access all the qualities of each carry-on, including durability, packability, mobility, and the overall value-to-price ratio.

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