Whether it is a weekend away, a short business trip, or a plane-hopping adventure, a trustworthy piece of carry-on luggage means you can bring all your essentials, and maybe more, while avoiding the extra hassle and cost of checking in a large suitcase.
Before investing in a new case, it’s worth considering what your key requirements are. Some suitcases, such as those made using aluminium and polypropylene, are extremely strong and hard-wearing, great for transporting delicate items, although they rarely have any exterior pockets. Softer cases are often more practically arranged for carrying documents, laptops and easily accessing other personal belongings. And then there are also ranges of feather-light cases weighing in at under 2kg – ideal if you want to travel light and every gram counts.
For ease of manoeuvrability, all the suitcases we reviewed had wheels and pull handles. Cabin luggage allowances vary from airline to airline, though most major airlines like British Airways and easyJet allow up to dimensions of 56cm x 45cm x 25cm, so this is the maximum sized case we have reviewed. However, always check with the specific airline before travelling.
1. Samsonite Copper Blush Cosmolite 55cm Spinner Cabin Case: £299, Samsonite
Samsonite has updated its iconic fishbone design and recreated the Cosmolite suitcase in a high-tech, polypropylene material with a fun new colour range. We particularly liked this striking copper version. The lightest of all the suitcases we tested (1.7kg), and with a clean divider and pocket, it rated highly for style and ease of use, part in thanks to the four-wheeled design. Like many of the cases we reviewed, it features a TSA lock – this means that authorities, such as those in the US, can search your bag without damaging it and then later re-secure it. For £20 extra, you can even get it personalised.
2. Eastpak Tranverz S Knit Beige Carry On: £100, Eastpak
Popular among weekend travellers, this sturdy wheeled holdall from Eastpak provides loads of packing space, and weighs 2.5kg. Created with two main compartments, secure zipper closures and straps, it houses an impressive 42L when packed to the brim – perfect for those who struggle to travel light. Created in soft but strong polyester, it has the bonus of folding flat for storage at home. Shown here in “Knit Beige”, there are more than 35 patterned finishes to choose from.
3. Antler Atom Cabin Suitcase: £159, Amazon
It may not be the most visually elegant of the cases we tested, but when it comes to practicality this 44L, British-made suitcase by Antler ticks all the boxes. Weighing in at just 1.9kg, it’s one of the lightest on the market, and thanks to its self-reinforcing honey-comb design it is almost as strong as more heavyweight aluminium. A well-priced, hard-wearing, water-resistant suitcase, it scored highly with our testers, who were also impressed with the four smooth-gliding wheels and ease of manoeuvrability. Go for the smallest size if you want it to be cabin-ready. Available in blue, charcoal or silver.
4. IT Luggage World’s Lightest Small Four-Wheel Suitcase: £34.99, Argos
Despite this suitcase’s featherweight (1.75kg) fibreglass frame, strictly speaking, its claim to fame has been usurped by Samsonite’s Cosmolite case, which is 50g lighter. That said, no other lightweight case competes when it comes to price. This is a great budget design for those planning plane-hopping adventures. With a 31L capacity, four internal and two external pockets, it’s intelligently organised for carrying travel documents and dividing up belongings. We also particularly liked the inclusion of clear plastic travel bags for cosmetics.
5. Rimowa Topas Four-Wheel Cabin Suitcase: £620, Selfridges
Rimowa’s stylish silver cabin suitcase is a favourite among those who travel regularly for work. A heavy-duty, contoured aluminium case, it’s designed to withstand strong humidity and extremes in temperature. Highly secure, it is great for protecting delicate possessions and comes with TSA combination lock closures, and a five-year guarantee. It’s worth keeping in mind that although incredibly hard-wearing, all aluminium cases tend to collect small dents over time and take on a world travelled appearance. This one has a 32L capacity and weighs 4.6kg.
6. Briggs and Riley Rolling Cabin Bag: £269, John Lewis
This is a great, small, soft nylon case for business trips. It is on the smaller size – 35cm high with a 27L capacity and weight of 2.8kg – so unless you’re only away for the night, or an extremely efficient packer, you’ll probably need to check-in a case too. It features a handy front pocket with sections for a laptop, tablet, phone and documents as well as side pockets. A sturdy and dependable investment, Briggs and Riley offers a lifetime guarantee.
7. Tesco London 2 Wheel Black Cabin Case: £15, Tesco
If you’re looking for a bargain, here it is. Fuss-free and practical, it won’t last forever. Still, despite this simple black cabin case being by far the cheapest we reviewed, it was just as good as many budget bags twice its price. It has a practical mesh zip section and front pocket for storing travel documents, and a spacious interior (23L). The straightforward two-wheeled design pulled along perfectly adequately and for a suitcase under £30, you really won’t find better. It weighs 2.4kg.
8. Tumi 19 Degree Aluminium International Carry On: £855, Tumi
Tumi’s sleekly designed International carry-on is a great choice for frequent travellers. Crafted from durable aluminium, it’s not the lightest case, weighing in at just under 5kg, however it is practically indestructible and perfect for transporting fragile items or equipment, with the added bonus of TSA locks. It also has one of most spacious interiors with several elegantly organised mesh compartments, and a 32L capacity. With a telescoping handle and four swivelling wheels, it was, as you’d expect for the price, extremely smooth to transport. Available in silver, blue or matte black.
9. Maxwell Scott The Piazzale Wheeled Leather Trolley: £645, Maxwell Scott Bags
Maxwell Scott originally created bags specifically for business purposes, and although it has since branched out into other leather goods, its sophisticated cabin luggage is still a firm favourite. Ideal for business, or pleasure, this smart dark brown leather case is ideal for those looking for a high quality traditional holdall. Surprisingly robust, beautifully lined in soft tan leather, with a capacity of up to 47L, it is a great investment that will look just as good as it ages. You can get it subtly monogrammed with up to six characters. Available in tan, brown or black.
10. Globe-Trotter Safari Trolley Case: £1,260, Globe Trotter
Our testers swooned over the aesthetic appeal of this hand-crafted case. If you’ve got £1,260 burning a hole in your pocket, you could do far worse than splashing out on this stunning holdall. With a natural leather trim, brass details and a soft linen lining, it’s inspired by the elegant luggage of the 1920s. And, weighing in at the higher end of the scale at 4.2kg, it’s not one for dragging across pavements for hours on end. However, if style is key, this really is a dream purchase.
Samsonite’s Cosmolite is a great mid-range suitcase that measures up extremely well against far more expensive models. Its size means it is both spacious and fits the guidelines for 90 per cent of airlines. Its tough, feather-light composition also won points with our testers, allowing for an extra 3kgs of holiday shopping compared with many similar cases. We also loved the classic retro design and fun new range of colours.
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