Your choice of carry-on luggage has all the power to make or break your next adventure.
A badly designed or low-quality bag can create an emergency at the worst time, replacing whatever event you had scheduled with frantic stitching, taping or shopping for replacements.
Savvy travelers don’t let that happen, particularly when it comes to the bags that are going to go everywhere with them—even if it’s just to avoid baggage fees.
There are a lot of fine pieces of luggage out there. No one is ever going to agree on the best carry-on luggage for international travel, or the best carry-on luggage for men or women, so this list was created with a different angle—the kind of adventure you have ahead of you.
We’ve worked to find something for everyone, and created a list that includes some of the best luggage of 2018.
1. Osprey Farpoint 40
The best affordable carry-on luggage for long casual treks through nature
Planning some long walks through light foliage? Hoping to get through three airports without paying airline bag fees or hating the weight of your bag?
The Osprey Farpoint 40 is a rugged, affordable backpack with an attractive minimalist look and wonderful features that are far outsize to its cost.
Those features include a massive center compartment that is easily organized with its interior compression straps. On the outside, a pleasantly thick harness makes for comfortable movement in the airport terminal or through the jungle.
2. Tortuga Outbreaker
A smart, organized, enthusiast’s backpack that’s perfect for urban adventures
Looking forward to some city sights? Whether you’re taking on London or Tokyo, the Tortuga Outbreaker is ready to serve as your chic command center.
It’s all here for experienced travelers: Padding for tablets, sturdy lockable zippers and the delightfully-innovative hip belt pocket that makes it easy to move wallets and passports around.
On top of all that, it’s entirely waterproof (that should make London more pleasant!). It’s definitely a fitting piece for those who care how they look while wearing a bag.
3. Away Carry-On
A tough, practical hardside that will come in handy for adventures into low-tech areas
For what it does, the Away Carry-On is one of the best pieces of carry-on luggage for international travel.
The hardsides will come in handy when you want to compress in as many clothes as you can without losing carry-on flexibility. It’s also tough enough to handle being tossed around when you have to check it.
It comes equipped with a TSA-approved battery so that you can power your USB devices anywhere in the world as long as you have access to an outlet.
4. Briggs & Riley International Carry-On
The best carry on luggage for business travel with some planned adventures
Designed for international business travelers, the Briggs & Riley International Carry-On is an excellent option for work travelers who still want the features to have some fun wherever they’re traveling.
The bag is tightly sized for international carry-on requirements, but can also expand to a much larger capacity when needed.
Unlike some business luggage, this one comes equipped with a fabric that is aggressively resistant to tears, water and fading, and supported by a strong warranty. All that, and it still looks good next to a suit.
5. Eagle Creek Load Warrior International
The best rated carry-on luggage for the traveler with gear
The cheekily-named “Load Warrior” lives up to its name with both look and features.
The Eagle Creek comes in adventurous colors that match the canvas construction well. The outside (and inside) of the piece is crisscrossed with straps and compartments designed to tightly tote everything from bicycle helmets and water bottles to delicate electronics.
It’s also an incredibly light pack that can be effortlessly carried or rolled to any distant destination.
6. Barbour Wax Cotton Holdall
For the stylish, sentimental adventurer taking a weekend getaway
Nearly every seasoned traveler has a duffel with a special place in their heart—one that’s attractively aged and soft in the way that only well-used luggage can be, often covered in faded patches and stickers.
Every cherished duffel starts with one that has the quality to survive adventure after adventure. The Holdall is an excellent, lightweight option with a timeless natural look.
It should be noted that this bag is even more compact than most of the options on this list, so it’s better for weekend trips than longer jaunts.
7. Gregory Alpaca
The best international carry-on luggage for extreme climates
This is a bag built almost entirely around toughness. If you want a bag that’s light, resistant and ready to be hefted around to the Himalayas, consider the Gregory Alpaca.
Though classically styled as a duffel with two sturdy hand straps, this piece is also equipped with two shoulder straps so that it can be worn like a backpack.
The fabric is lined on either side with thick daisy chains that make this otherwise low-tech backpack easy to fit with more advanced straps and mounts.
Which of these carry-on bags would be your top choice? Let us know in the comments!