Recommended carry-on bags

This item appears on page 37 of the January 2020 issue.

My wife, Sue, and I travel often, and we only use carry-ons. We each own a Briggs & Riley ( International Carry-On Expandable [$569 for 2-wheeled or $599 for 4-wheeled] and one backpack or laptop-size roller bag. 

The B&R is unique in that the handle is mounted on the outside, so the interior space is completely available for storage. 

Another great feature is that the main body of the bag expands, giving you 25% more space, if needed (from 2,620 cubic inches to 3,390). Fill up your bag while it’s expanded, zip it up, then press down on the sides and it will compress back to the smaller size.

Our last trip was five weeks in Ireland in June 2019, with a cruise in the middle. Temperatures ranged from 50°F to 90°F, and we were able to pack everything we needed for cold and hot days.  

There is only one zippered pocket, on a separator for suits or dresses, on the inside. The material is ballistic nylon, with heavy-duty self-repairing zippers. 

We like the 4-wheeler over the 2-wheeler, as it rolls so smoothly that I can use one finger to move it on smooth surfaces.

We went through three other brands of carry-ons before deciding to look for bags that would hold up or be repairable at no cost to us, as dragging bags on cobbled European streets will quickly damage less sturdy wheels. All Briggs & Riley products are guaranteed for life, for ANY reason, even damage caused by an airline.

While these are our carry-on bags, we often check them, as some airlines have weight limits. The limit on Luft­hansa, for example, is 8 kilograms. On our last trip, my bag weighed in at 15kg, or about 33 pounds.

• The backpack I use is from Camelbak (, purchased five-plus years ago for about $100 and no longer available. 

It has three compartments: one for a water bladder, a second main compartment that is expandable, and a third outside compartment with well-organized pockets. However, I remove the water bladder from its compartment so that I can store documents, money, passport, etc., closer to my body, where it’s harder to pickpocket. 

Even with the bladder in place, my Camelbak can hold a change of clothes plus a jacket and more. 

Emmett Lee
Irvine, CA


Evenyl, don’t ditch your Healthy Back Bag from AmeriBag (! I bought mine in 2003 and it’s still going strong. I’ve tried many other combinations for daily lugging, but I always come back to it. It’s weightless, rain-repellent, incredibly stuffable, easy to access, and not wearing on precious neck and back anatomy. What more can you want?!

• As for a wheeled carry-on, I’m presently using a 2-wheeled Travel­pro ( that’s lightweight — about 5 pounds empty. Above all, anything I need to lift has to be light. 

Carol Anderson
Delray Beach, FL 



I absolutely love my 22-inch Roncato ( Venice 2.0 spinner [$220]. I have used it for domestic 6–day trips with no checked bags and also as a carry-on on international trips when my husband and I also check a bag or two.

Perhaps five years ago, when we went to our local luggage store, H. Savinar (6931 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Canoga Park, CA 91303; 818/703-1313,, to buy some packing cubes, the person who usually helps us with luggage strongly suggested we try the Roncato. We used it for one trip and then returned to buy second one.

We like that the Venice 2.0 weighs only 2.2 kilograms. We’re finding that more and more airlines are weighing carry-ons, so the lighter weight of the Venice helps. 

The rectangular shape inside allows for more to be packed.  The downside is there is little in the way of interior organizing, which we solved by getting packing cubes. 

Another downside is that the front exterior pockets don’t have a place to lock them, so nothing of value can go on the outside. As we’ve heard about thefts from carry-ons, we are careful to place any important items inside.

Four wheels is the absolute best way to go. For example, we were able to easily wheel the bags across a cobblestone square in Madrid. The way my husband recommends handling the bag is to handle it as if you were walking a dog; it’s more like guiding than pushing. The only time I have a bit of trouble is on some carpets, and then I tilt the back so it’s functioning on just two wheels.

• For a personal bag, it’s helpful to get one that will slide over the handles of the carry-on, so I use the Baggallini ( Avenue [$119.95] tote that I purchased on Amazon. It is very stable riding on the handles of my carry-on, which especially helps when taking an escalator.

Libby Hollombe
Sherman Oaks, CA



About 35 years ago, I came across an inexpensive, 17-inch, soft-sided, expandable carry-on from Olympia ( As I’m not getting any younger, taller or stronger, it’s the only piece I take (along with a small day pack or waist pack), whether I’m packing for three weeks or three months. 

It usually ends up weighing 12 to 14 pounds. To answer your next question, it carries one pair of shoes, one pair of pants, panties, bra, thin socks, sleep tee, three to five tops of varying weights, cosmetic bag, walking stick, emergency meds, umbrella, electronics charger and scarf. 

That does mean I have to periodically wash my clothes. Big deal.

I’ve never found any bag that’s better, and I wish Olympia would start making it again!

Bobbi Benson
Burlingame, CA



After having the experience of having to check a rollaboard bag a few years ago due to its weight (it weighed over 7 pounds empty), I looked for a lighter-weight bag. Online, I found a 22-inch rolling duffel, the Adventure, made by Travelers Club (La Palma, CA; I have used it for about three years, and I can travel with just it and a backpack for three weeks. (I’ve never tried longer.)

This rolling duffel has two wheels, a large single compartment, an extending handle, and a small pocket on one end. It is made of 600D polyester and weighs only 5 pounds. It has held up well. 

It cost less than $25, which I consider a bargain. There is a nylon cover over the handle rails on the inside, with a full-length zipper, and it’s possible to add items under and between the rails, plus gloves, socks, etc. (I recently put two copies of ITN in that spot to leave in a small expedition ship’s library.)

• My personal item is a High Sierra backpack with 2,015 cubic inches of space, in which I carry my camera, prescription drugs, book, glasses, other small items and any purchases I might make. 

Made of 600D Duralite, it has five zippered pockets, padded shoulder straps, and two mesh bottle-holders on the sides.

Between the two carry-ons, I have everything I need. I travel light and avoid checking bags.

Rosemary McDaniel
Trenton, FL



On those occasions where I cannot take any chances of the airline losing my luggage or when I know that bag size and my movement throughout the trip dictates a carry-on, I use my dependable 2-tiered High Sierra ( Grip. They don’t seem to make this exact model anymore, but one model, called Sportour [$151], comes in a 22-inch size and is 2-tiered, just like mine.

The Grip fits easily in overhead bins. It’s 2-wheeled, and I’ve found that two wheels are easier than four.

I’ve had mine through many trips over the years, going back at least to 2011, when I used it through Bali, Borneo, Brunei and Singapore. Most recently, in 2017, I took it on a trip to five of the ‘Stans, where we literally had to walk at least 200 to 300 yards across every border, so having this durable roller was a godsend. 

Each of the tiers holds a lot of clothing, plus there’s a half-zipper circle pocket on the outside readily available for use and for airport inspections if necessary, so I put my allowed quart-size zip-lock of creams and lotions, etc., there.

I don’t know how much longer my bag will last, but it’s still in great shape at least nine years after I bought it. I LOVE it and will be using it again in January when we travel to Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa.

• When I travel to places where I feel comfortable that the airlines probably won’t lose my luggage or if I need to check a bag because I have a lot, I use my tried-and-true Briggs & Riley ( roller duffle, because it’s practically bulletproof and guaranteed for life. It’s 30 inches long so not allowed for carry-on.

I hope these comments help more than just Evenyl, because I know a LOT of readers like to be able to use just a carry-on for many trips, to be sure their belongings arrive with them rather than have an exciting trip ruined right at the start. I would be glad to answer any questions via my email:

Rick Vogel
Tucson, AZ



Airlines worldwide each determine the maximum dimensions of hand luggage allowed. There are no standard size limits of carry-ons on US domestic flights or on international flights. For a list of more than 170 airlines' size restrictions on carry-on luggage, visit But always check with your airline(s) before departure, as limits can change.