11 Best Carry-On Luggage and Travel Bags of 2023, From Duffels to Spinners


Fabric luggage does have one other advantage over hard shells, though. Thanks to their stretchiness, soft suitcases tend to be a little bit more accommodating to over-packers, while still maintaining the same carry-on size. You’ll find it a little bit easier to actually zip them shut, even when they’re filled to the brim with extra pairs of clothes. Hard shell suitcases offer a lot less give in terms of packing space, which makes them less than ideal if you tend to accumulate endless tchotchkes while you’re traveling. It might not be a dealbreaker, but still something to consider.

How We Tested

We here at GQ have been scanning the wild world of luggage retailers to find the carry-on bags you can comfortably roll up the cobblestone steps of Lisbon, zip-line with through the canopies of Belize, or begrudgingly leave at the gate on the way home for your nephew’s “graduation” from elementary school. We’ve combined our knowledge of the best luggage across a range of prices, styles, and construction types—ones that we’ve taken on planes, trains, and automobiles—to figure out which offer the best combination of solid construction, useful features, and magnificent looks. 

We also added some runner-ups that we haven’t had the pleasure of testing, but think combine the right features, price point, and reputation to go toe-to-toe with other contenders in their price range. Not so into the Away? Spring for a slightly more innocuous Horizn. Want a heritage bag without blowing more than a grand? Tumi’s got your back. After all that, here are our top picks that we’d be happy to drag behind and beside us on every single one of our upcoming trips. 

The Best Softside Luggage: TravelPro MaxLite 5 Expandable Spinner

Travelpro Maxlite 5 softside expandable spinner

Big on practicality and low on cost, the Travelpro Maxlite 5 offers the best value of any softside bag out there. It’s the brand’s lightest four-wheel spinner suitcase at five pounds, maximizing on maneuverability for when you’re sprinting to catch your flight. The cavernous, expandable interior includes tons of weird little zippered sections and mesh pockets for you to cordon off your toiletries, small items, dirty clothes, and shoes from your clothes without busting out the packing cubes. And after you’ve racked up plenty of miles on those wheels, the Platinum Elite comes with a limited lifetime warranty for repairs and replacements. 

The only ding against the TravelPro is its humdrum looks, which evoke the dated carpeting of one of the airports it’ll be dragged through. But that hasn’t kept it from becoming a favorite of frequent flyers. If the TravelPro logo looks familiar, it’s probably because you’ve spotted it on the luggage of the flight attendants and pilots that spend most of their lives in the sky.

The Best Hard Shell Luggage: Away Carry-On

There are plenty of good reasons why the Away team has just about upended the luggage industry since it launched. Instagram-ready looks? Check. Durable shell? Check. Smooth Hinomoto spinner wheels, top and side handles, clothes straps, a mesh zip pocket, a laundry bag, sturdy YKK zippers, and—maybe most game-changing of all—a built-in USB charger so you don’t have to screw around with airport outlets? Yeah, check. At just under three hundred bucks and spanning a range of handsome, low-key colorways, Away’s carry-on means you don’t have to choose between getting something cheap and ugly and spending a rent check on something luxe. For an industry that never really did the low-to-mid-tier thing well, that’s a very welcome change of pace. Our testers have taken theirs on planes across the country and halfway across the world, and never run into issues. Provided you do, there’s a limited lifetime warranty that’ll cover any functional damage. 

Another Solid Hardside Spinner: Arlo Skye The Zipper Carry-On Max

Arlo Skye “The Zipper” carry-on max

The Arlo Skye Zipper carry-on is a winner for a couple reasons. The bag’s polycarbonate shell isn’t as hearty as the fabric on the TravelPro or the aluminum of a Rimowa, say, but we found the suitcase a bit more capable of withstanding regular use than many other hard-shelled suitcases we’ve tested. (It’s also much cheaper.) All of Arlo Skye’s carry-on sized suitcases boast internal pockets for organizing your travel gear, including a few zippered areas for separating out dirty clothes and shoes. The company also makes a version with an easy-access front pocket, presumably for a laptop or magazines, but we’d imagine you’d rather store those things in a backpack or tote rather than in the suitcase you’re hauling into an overhead bin. Arlo Skye’s luggage features a removable external charger, but unlike the USB port from Away that can only juice up your phone, it comes with a USB-C connection for keeping your laptop charged up, too. Still, the five-year warranty that Arlo Skye offers doesn’t compare to Away’s limited lifetime warranty, which is why the latter is still our top choice for long-hauler luggage that you’ll want to keep dragging around a decade from now.

The Ultimate Travel Flex: Rimowa Classic Carry-On

Rimowa classic cabin suitcase

Rimowa, the storied German luggage company founded in the late 1800s, has been a powerhouse in the luggage space for over a century, with a litany of perks to its name: A single-stage telescoping handle, a hinged double latch lock by the main compartment, elastic compression straps with magnetic pull-release fastenings, its signature ridged exteriors, the works. Couple that with some choice collabs with the likes of Dior, Off-White, Moncler, and beyond, and you’ll see why Rimowa’s become a status symbol among elite travelers and celebs like Rihanna and LeBron James. Each bag will set you back at least a grand, but if you’ve ever been stuck traveling with a lackluster piece of luggage and thought, Man, I wish my suitcase could do that, chances are Rimowa’s can, and masterfully. We went deep on the legacy brand’s signature bag here in case you want to hear more about the intricacies of how it maneuvers and exactly how it compares to something more pedestrian like the Away. 

The Best Luxury Duffle Bag: Lotuff No.12 Weekender

Lotuff’s handsome, all-American No. 12 duffle bag is our favorite of the genre, with all the details that matter (or matter enough to justify this $1,200 price tag). Take the zipper closure for one, which runs from end to end for extra security, and a wide opening that allows you to shove in a glut of your equally fancy sweaters and toiletries without breaking a sweat. Unlike other cheaply-made and poorly-designed duffles, the vegetable-tanned leather also gives it a first-class patina that only gets better with every trip. But should the leather break or that zipper snag, Lotuff will repair it for a fee, so this bag will stay in your family for many, many flights to come. The interior of the bag features a zip pocket for corralling your loose miscellanea, and the bottom of the bag is also reinforced with double leather for durability. With this bag, you’re looking at an investment piece that, if you’re treating it right, won’t ever need to be replaced. 

The Best Travel Backpack: Goruck Slick GR2

Goruck x Huckberry Slick GR2 travel backpack

Goruck bills itself as the “hell and back” travel bag, and this bag pulls out all the stops for true gearheads. This 40-liter trekker can fit a bunch of equipment, or a couple days’ worth of clothes in its innards if you’re enjoying a weekend in the wilderness. The exterior is water-resistant, padded for comfort, and includes top-of-the-line YKK zippers (designed to self-lubricate the more you use ‘em) so you can keep it in rotation for many backpacking trips to come. We like that the bag opens flat so that’s almost like packing and unpacking an actual suitcase, and if you ever happen to find yourself in a war zone, there’s a bombproof compartment meant for storing laptops up to 17 inches.

The Best Convertible Travel Bag: Patagonia Black Hole Duffel Bag

Patagonia black hole duffel bag

Remember that hapless kid in fifth grade the whole class mocked for showing up with a rolling backpack the first day of school? (People don’t forget!) Well, if you still holding onto some secondhand trauma from the incident, Patagonia’s streamlined duffel might be good enough to risk straining your back to carry. The body fabric, lining, and webbing are all made out of water-resistant recycled materials designed to keep your valuables dry, while two padded straps make for an easy switch if you’d rather sling it over your shoulders like a carry-on backpack. Jokes aside, the bag’s handles are also specially reinforced to make for comfortable hand-carrying so your lower vertebrae will hold up fine no matter how far your terminal is from the gate. With all due respect to your childhood classmate (who you definitely owe an apology), sometimes carrying your bag just looks cooler than wheeling it around.

5 More High-Quality Spinners, Backpacks, and Duffels to Consider

We’ve also assembled a number of other worthy alternatives that’ll help you jet off in style, even if you’re on a Frontier budget. These may be slightly less accessible or less well-rounded than our top picks—and some of these we haven’t had the luxury of testing ourselves—but they boast many of the same features you’d hope for in a well-traveled suitcase, from easy-gripping telescoping handles to a roomy, organized interior.

Horizn Studios H5 smart cabin case

Listen, we’re all for splurging on some baller luggage when appropriate. (Clearly.) But sometimes you need a suitcase that will securely get you from point A to point B—and look good doing it—but won’t call for you dropping well over a G. Enter this palate-cleansing seafoam carry-on. It’s made out of a scarily durable polycarbonate, lined with water-resistant nylon, and comes with 360-degree spinner wheels, a built-in charging station, and a four-stage telescopic handle—all at a price that belies how methodically designed it is. It doesn’t have quite the same curb appeal as the Away spinners, or the carrying capacity of the massive Arlo Skye Max carry-on, but it’s a very solid alternative in the same budget category. Buy this and save your coins for a better AirBnB.

Tumi 22-Inch 19 Degrees International Expandable Spinner Carry-On

Perhaps no other suitcase brand on the planet has the same name recognition as a Tumi, the workhorse luggage of choice for the business class, and plenty of celebrities, since it first came on the scene in the ‘70s. Beyond the absolute basics—trustworthy zippers, a bevy of pockets and dividers, and locks for keeping everyone else out except the TSA—this shellacked spinner has style in spades. Add to that a Lever Lock system that fully enables your overpacking tendencies, and Tumi’s tracing system (in case you ever lose sight of your bag), and you have hardly any reasons not to scoop one. The polished diagonal ridges on this spinner give it some subtle Rimowa vibes, too, without entreating you spend more than $1,000. 

Help your carry-on stand out in a sea of black nylon by copping a polycarbonate spinner in robin’s egg blue. Floyd’s retro suitcases are inspired by ‘70s skating culture (peep the wheels!), with a breezy, laid-back sensibility that’ll help ease you into the vacation mindset. The glaringly orange, well-apportioned storage section inside only amplifies the brand’s ethos of good vibes and great design. If you want a swervy suitcase that won’t look like everyone else’s in the terminal, this one’s a solid bet that perfectly blends high-vis colorblocking and design chops. 

Away F.A.R. convertible backpack

Beyond the boring black nylon options out there that make up the world of travel backpacks, Away’s come in refreshingly millennial-friendly colors. This one is convertible, like our top pick from Patagonia, but it feels a little less flashy and branded than the above. Removable padded straps smoothly transition the bag from a duffel to a backpack, while a reinforced chest strap adds another cushy element when you wear the bag on your back. It’s also slightly larger than the Black Hole, with a 45-liter capacity and multiple side pockets inside and out for stuffing in all the gear you can think to bring. At about $100 more, it’s not as affordable as the Black Hole, but also not a huge stretch either way.

North Face base camp duffel

Upgrading from the $30 Carhartt duffel you’ve had since college to something slightly more distinguished? North Face’s base camp bag is the next logical progression, with a similar rugged style for outdoorsy folks, plus a water-resistant, recycled exterior that can handle a little dirt and distressing. It’s extremely generous with a 50 liter capacity for tucking in gear, clothes, and beyond. Plus, the price point at under $150 is just right. It’s probably the next best thing if for some reason Patagonia’s high-vis logos aren’t to your liking and you’d prefer something stealthier to haul your stuff into the great outdoors or onto the main ca

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11 Best Carry-On Luggage and Travel Bags of 2023, From Duffels to Spinners

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