My Three Top Choices For Carry-on Luggage

Is this you at an airport? This post might help...

Is this you at an airport? This post might help...

I'm working on an intense blog post, and my recent essays have been quite heavy, so here's a break: luggage!

I've been traveling long haul for almost as long as I've been a working professional, in other words since the Middle Ages. Thanks to my focus on getting global that's not going to change anytime soon. I've been through more gear than I can recount in a quest to maximize capacity and minimize weight.

Here's my top three list for carry-on luggage. None of these can be found on sites such as The Wirecutter -- the kind of thing that makes me wonder about the walls between editorial and advertising at some of the review sites. 

  • OGIO Newt 13: if you know me, you know I am the Imelda Marcos of backpacks. It's reached the point where I think about handing out a backpack in meetings. I keep coming back to this one -- lined pocket with separate opening for my 13 inch Mac, loads of inside pockets and organization, a rather magical side pocket for passport, boarding card and Kindle that is directly accessible, and so, so light.


Beyond the lightness of the bag itself, the straps balance the load unlike any other backpack I've used. I find myself taking the bag off my shoulders at least once on every trip to check that I have my laptop, as it feels so light.

I'm not sure why the review sites tend to pick things you can climb Everest with when all you're doing is heading to the office (or getting on a 22 hour flight to Asia where every ounce counts). These for example are The Wirecutter's picks. I've concluded that these sites are focused on urban hipsters who carry four laptops, a DSLR, climbing boots and two Patagonia vests, whilst also needing a pouch for their supersized biodegradable water bottle. For the rest of us the OGIO Newt 13 is the champion backpack. 

It appears to be available on Amazon from third party sellers at an exorbitant price, but you can pluck it from eBay as of this writing for $65 or less here.

  • IT Luggage 21 Inch Rollaboard: easily the lightest rollaboard -- but ALSO the most capacious because of the way the handle wraps around the outside of the bag. This means the inside compartment is fully available for storage. I can pack two weeks worth with ease (including, on a recent trip, two suits, loads of everyday clothing, and gym clothes/shoes).

Online reviews express concerns about flimsiness, but my oldest model is five years old and still going strong after dozens of intercontinental flights. I definitely wouldn't check it in, but beyond that minor caveat -- after all you want this as a roll*aboard* -- it blows every single other rollaboard out of the water on the two most important metrics (weight and usable capacity).

The company that makes this bag is rather mysterious. There are many variants -- I have three of these and each one is slightly different from the other -- and the company seems to be promoting the four wheel spinner variant. I recommend the two wheeler, and as of this writing it can be found at for $39 (!).

  • Eagle Creek Garment Sleeve: For some trips I need to carry a suit or two -- always a tough transition for me since my daily uniform in Silicon Valley is best characterized as "casual slob". This garment sleeve trifolds and fits right into the rollaboard. Suits and dress shirts automagically come out 20 hours later with barely any wrinkles. I'm not sure why. But it is so. You can find it on eBags as of this writing for $36.95.

I have learned the hard way with luggage that when you pay up for brand you get very little for it other than making your stuff more likely to be stolen ("Look! This clown is traveling with a bag worth $$$ so there must be valuable stuff in there!"). If you're a brand kinda person, there's always Tumi and Coach, but true grandmaster-of-silliness status can be achieved by procuring this fine item for $1,375. Extra points for figuring out why it's "stealth". 

But if you're more interested in functionality than brand, I unhesitatingly recommend these three items.