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
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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.
Spectra 2.0 Global Carry-On: £245, Amazon
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.
Basin Harbour 29-inch Suitcase in Navy: £250, Timberland
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
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.
Jack Wolfskin TRT Trail 40 Bag: from £149, Amazon
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.
Spurrier Carry On Roller Bag, Deep Port Marl: £60, Tog 24
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.
Ozone 42: £115, Amazon
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.
Caumartin Plus: £132.49, Amazon
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.
Travel Hack Pro Cabin Case with Handbag Compartment: £76, Amazon
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.
American Tourister Funshine, £39.81, Amazon
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.
Subterra Carry-On, 55cm/22in: £200, Amazon
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.
The Verdict: Best cabin bags
Sian Anna Lewis is the author of The Girl Outdoors