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10 best cabin bags

Invest in a well made bag with handles and wheels – and do check the size with the airline before you fly

Taking carry-on luggage can remove (some of) the stress of travelling ( Getty )

Cabin bags are designed to fit in as much as possible while letting you breeze through check-in. We’ve reviewed both soft and hard cases: the former are easier to store and often have external pockets; the latter are tougher and will protect fragile belongings.

All of our best bags have wheels and pull handles, although beware: they’re also the features that are most likely to break on flimsy models. It’s worth investing in a decent bag – expect to pay at least £50 for a long lasting case.

The definition of “cabin bag size” varies according to the airline, but most comply to a maximum of 56cm x 45cm x 25cm. Check with your airline before you travel. Many cabin bags on sale are now approved by specific airlines, which helps if you often travel with a particular airline.

Consider weight, too: hard shells tend to be heavier than soft bags, but we found that bags weighing 2.5kg and under were light enough to be portable and easy to carry even when full. Happy travels.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent. 

Spectra 2.0 Global Carry-On: £245, Amazon

Capacity: 31l 
Weight: 2.8kg

This bag might be pricey, but it has lots of brilliant features. The external polycarbonate shell is so hard-wearing and durable that you may well be able to sit down on it. We found the fully rotating wheels were some of the best quality on test.

The Spectra is designed for frequent travellers, and is lockable and registered with Victorinox’s Swiss Tracker bag tracking system.

The bag has plenty of pockets – ideal for tickets and passports – and we loved the slim design, which made it easy to store. We also liked the rubber handles and the luggage tag. It looks and feels luxurious.

Buy now 

Basin Harbour 29-inch Suitcase in Navy: £250, Timberland 

Capacity: N/A
Weight: 6kg

The solid exterior of this bag will withstand the bumpiest of rides, while the gold inner is roomy, can be zipped into two compartments and easily takes enough stuff for a long weekend. A leather trim finishes it all off, giving it a nice touch. Two bigger versions are available if you can’t resist matching luggage. It was the heaviest bag we tested.

Horizon 32l: £105, Quiksilver

Capacity: 32l
Weight: 2.25kg

The soft, rucksack style to the front of the Horizon and solid wheeled suitcase side on the back mean belongings are protected but it’s also easy to pack to the brim and to store when empty.

The large, skate-style wheels are fun and functional and there are plenty of pockets and compression straps. We like the comfy padded carrying strap, making it easy to pick up the Horizon on airport dashes, the mesh zipped compartments and the sturdy handle.

Buy now

Jack Wolfskin TRT Trail 40 Bag: from £149, Amazon

Capacity: 40l
Weight: N/A

This is a great bag for the adventurous traveller. It has four carry handles as well as rucksack straps. You might not want to wear it as a rucksack for hours on end, but for short sprints the straps are surprisingly comfortable.

Inside, 40 litres of capacity gives a generous amount of room for all your gear and the outer material is reliably water resistant.

Buy now

Spurrier Carry On Roller Bag, Deep Port Marl: £60, Tog 24

Capacity: 40l
Weight: N/A

The Spurrier offers great value for money. A larger rolling bag in matching colours is available, too. We loved the roomy internal laptop sleeve and front pocket for organising travel documents.

We also found it easy to carry, with a sturdy handle and a wide padded top strap. It looks smart, too, in a soft plum or grey fabric that is fully waterproof.

Buy now

Ozone 42: £115, Amazon

Capacity: 42l
Weight: 2.16kg

Osprey is best known for its trekking rucksacks, and its wheelie bags are just as good.

The Ozone looks rather small when empty, but its 42 litres of space takes a surprising amount of kit – we even fitted a weekend’s worth of climbing gear into it without a fuss – while it has plenty of inner pockets for toiletries. Meanwhile, its small size makes it easy to store.

The ergonomic handle is also one of the best we tested and looks like it would last for years.

Buy now

Caumartin Plus: £132.49, Amazon

Capacity: 37l
Weight: 2.3kg

Lightweight, tough and lockable, this smart suitcase is carry-on sized but fits a surprising amount, and the sturdy material can take years of battering wherever you go exploring. Its combination lock is also one of the easiest to use that we tried out.

One of the lightest hard shell cases we tested, it’s easy to pull along, even when stuffed to its 37-litre capacity. It has been approved by Ryanair, which makes it ideal if you love heading off on European city breaks.

Buy now

Travel Hack Pro Cabin Case with Handbag Compartment: £76, Amazon

Capacity: 28l
Weight: 2.7kg

This roomy bag is compatible with 20 airlines, and a steal at just £50. We particularly like the external zipped compartments, which are big enough for a handbag and all the toiletries you have to whip out for security checks.

There are also sections for a water bottle and laptop. The main compartment easily fits a weekend’s worth of clothes. It looks smart, too.

Buy now

American Tourister Funshine, £39.81, Amazon

Capacity: 39l
Weight: 2.5kg

This bag is easy to spot at baggage reclaim. Our top pick under £50, this soft rolling bag takes plenty of stuff in its 39-litre belly, with a zipped pocket inside and one outside for getting your essentials quickly.

American Tourister says it complies with Norwegian Air, easyJet and Ryanair’s regulations. It comes in five bright colours and is perfect if you’re looking for a cheap bag for an occasional weekend away.

Buy now

Subterra Carry-On, 55cm/22in: £200, Amazon

Capacity: 36l
Weight: 3.18kg

Slick and minimalist, the Subterra looks like it’s designed to transport delicate technology, but it’s just as good for packing a long weekend’s worth of belongings.

The internal zipped panels are the best we tested, making it easy to separate your clothes – if you need to pack a suit or something smart, the Subterra will keep it neat and pressed.

The big wheels glide very well and we liked the zipped mesh pocket that allows you to grab a passport or travel documents quickly. It’s ideal for business meetings abroad.

Buy now

The Verdict: Best cabin bags

The Spectra 2.0 Global Carry-On stands out for its good looks and usefulness, while American Tourister’s Funshine is cheap and cheerful.

Sian Anna Lewis is the author of The Girl Outdoors

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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