The Ideal Bags For Cruising The Airport Lobby
In Summary: I took a look at a few different models and picked the Chester Minima as the best spinner carry on luggage. It’s attractive, lightweight, and perfectly proportioned.
I usually prefer soft-tops to hard-tops because they are lighter and have a squeezability that helps fitting them into tight spaces.
The same thing that is great about a spinner carry on can be it’s weakness.
Those 4 wheels are great in the smooth surfaces of the airport but they can be vulnerable to breaking when exposed to the rough and tumble of city streets.
So because spinners can often have wheel issues I wouldn’t like to spend top dollar on a spinner bag. It’s probably not going to last forever.
While not cheap the Chester Minima isn’t super expensive so it fits the bill perfectly.
It won because:
- The wheels and handle are included in the size measurement (no wheels sticking out to make it over regulation carry-on size
- You could use this internationally
- Smart and stylish looks
The Chester might not suit someone who likes to pack heavy. At 38 litres it’s about 8% smaller capacity that the maximum a 22x14x9 inch case would get you.
However, those 22x14x9 inch cases have protruding wheels and handles that might mean you can’t take them into the cabin.
This highlights the general problem with spinner luggage.
My advice would be to go for something this size and learn how to pack lighter!
If you are not concerned about cost and simply want the best carry on spinner for mostly US travel then check out the Briggs & Riley Baseline Spinner.
All You Need To Know About Choosing A Carry-On Spinner
Cast your mind back to 1969 when Apollo 11 landed on the moon. It was an arduous journey and extremely dangerous involving the most sophisticated technology available to mankind at the time.
Now… I don’t know what type of luggage Neil Armstong took with him…. but I’m sure he would have been very glad of the reduced gravity.
That’s because back in 1969 — when we went to the friggin moon — we still hadn’t invented wheeled carry on luggage!
On planet earth we traveled with large cumbersome suitcases… and we couldn’t just bounce around like Neil could. Back in the 60’s our parents and grandparents actually had to carry their bags!
So mankind went to the moon in 1969 but it would take until 1970 until modern day wheeled luggage was invented. Go figure!
Of course times change… low cost aviation has made air travel extremely affordable.
And you probably know by now large bags are airlines’ favorite way of squeezing extra money out of passengers.
So many of us now try to stuff all the things we need into a single small carry on bag to keep the cost of flying down.
But there is no standard size of carry on bag.
And manufacturers sometimes claim that bags are carry on size when in fact they don’t meet stricter regulations. This is something you need to be especially careful with when buying spinner carry on luggage because of the wheels. More on that later ))
Why Spinner Luggage?
If you look at any airline boarding queue you’ll see people flying with smaller hand-held bags like backpacks or duffel bags to get around the size limits. But carrying a bag can be hard work and even painful if you need to do it for a long time.
And backpacks and duffels aren’t the best choice for travelers that already have back problems or mobility issues.
So thanks to a little invention called the wheel you don’t need to carry your carry-on if you don’t want to! Even it took us rather a long time to get around to it!
Wheeled carry-on bags are the answer to some these problems. Wheels offer travelers additional mobility. Users can pull their bags along instead of carrying the weight on their backs.
If you are a packaholic then you should definitely look into getting some wheels or get with the program.
So rolling luggage can help prevent painful experiences. Rollers can also keep users from knocking into things with their cumbersome packs. And wheeled carry-ons have frames that keep their contents from being crushed.
For some people the problem with two-wheel bags is that they tip over easily. They are harder to drive… Having four wheels provides suitcases with greater balance and even more maneuverability. But they’re not exactly compatible with stairs.
Some people think that spinners offer the best of both worlds. Because spinners can be tilted and pulled behind you on 2 wheels if you want… just like 2-wheeler luggage. But that’s not the whole story…
Spinner carry on luggage starts to show its main advantages when you are in tight spaces, on the concrete, and driving with 4 wheels on the ground. Take a look at the space requirements in this graphic to illustrate:
King Of The Concrete
Four wheeled bags really start to shine inside airport lobbys. They are great in long airport lines and on train platforms.
You can see from the graphic above that being able to roll on 4 wheels and keep the carry-on closer to you means you require much less space to move freely. This can really help in tight public spaces and actually help to take some of the stress out of busy places like airports or train stations.
Good spinners only need the slightest touch to put them in motion. By comparison, two wheel bags can require a bit of force to get them in going.
A 2-wheels bag only moves when you tilt it and drag it behind you. You and the bag take up a greater surface area and that makes it harder to move freely.
In contrast you can keep a 4-wheeled bag close to your side and move it while it is still vertical on 4-wheels.
The downsides are that the four wheel models are a bit more expensive and heavier.
Because there are four wheels instead of two, they’re naturally more vulnerable to wheel-related damage. They also tend to roll downhill on slopes if you are not looking and they don’t always fit well in overhead lockers.
In addition those protruding wheels that you see on spinners count to the length of the bag. Sticky-out wheels means you are losing valuable packings space.
Often 2-wheeled designs have more compact wheels that don’t stick out so much. This means within the constraints of the carry on luggage size regulations you have more bag and less wheel.
If you are someone looking to maximize the volume of your carry-on so you can pack it full with as many things as possible then consider a 2-wheeled carry on.
- Great when you are in line
- Easy to roll forward with 1 finger
- You can keep your bag close by your side but still walk
- Wheel issues
- They can try to escape if you leave them alone on slopes
- Inefficient use of space, you can’t pack anything in the space under the wheels.
2 WHEELS CARRY-ON vs 4 WHEELS CARRY-ON
The typical spinner carry on luggage wastes a lot of space underneath the wheels.
The Baseline spinner has less packing volume for the same height. That’s not just the case with Briggs & Riley it’s pretty much standard with all spinner carry on’s.
And while manufacturers often don’t always count the wheels when reporting carry on dimensions airlines definitely DO count the wheels.
In the worst case scenario your carry on spinner might actually be outwith the carry on size regulations because of those protruding wheels. If your wheels are sticking out the carry on sizer then that’s a fail! You might be forced to check your bag and pay extra money.
How To Pick Your Spinner: Typical Similarities & Differences
Hardcase or Softcase?
When it comes to design, travelers can select either a soft or hardtop suitcase. I tend to prefer the softer models because they’re easier to compress in tight spaces. Try squashing a hardtop into an unusually small suitcase measuring device! But their internal frames keep my belongings from being completely crushed if I leave them in a luggage storage area.
The downside here is that this fact leaves the contents a bit more vulnerable to things like rain or snow. However, my pack only needs to get me from the airport or train station to my hotel so this isn’t as much of an issue as it might be for someone who planning to hike and camp for long periods of time. Meanwhile the soft top products also less likely to become visibly dirty or worn because they can be laundered more easily than hard surfaces, which can only be wiped off. However, if I was the sort of person to keep electronic devices such as computers and tablets in my carry-on bag, I might be inclined to go with a hardtop model so that they had more protection from the elements.
Softer suitcases have better ventilation than hardtops. This keeps clothes from smelling like unwashed socks or plastic halfway through the trip. This aspect also makes the contents vulnerable to things like rain or snow. But my pack only needs to get me from the airport or train station to my hotel. If I was going on a long hiking or camping trip, my needs might be different. The same is true if I carried a computer or tablet in my carry-on bag. I would get a hardtop model so that my electronics had more protection from the elements.
Colors & Designs
Most products do come in a variety of colors and styles. Which one that travelers pick is often a matter of personal choice. Practical folks tend to go for dark or muted colors that don’t show grime as easily. Yet bright hues are far easier to spot among a crowd of suitcases.
Now that you know what to look for let’s move on to some spinner carry-on reviews.
Samsonite Silhouette Xv Softside Spinner
The Samsonite Silhouette measures 21 x 15 x 8 inches, not including the wheels or handle. It can be used as a carry-on bag for most airlines. I’ve heard that it is accepted on American Airlines, United, Southwest, US Airways, and Spirit flights without any difficulty.
This bag is very maneuverable and the wheels roll smoothly over most surfaces. It has a sturdy, comfortable handle that makes it easy to move.
It is well designed. The outer pockets are suitable for holding stuff that travelers need to access quickly. And the inside is roomy so that you have plenty of space for your things if you pack sensibly.
A garment bag is included for wrapping up special outfits and it comes in three colors: black, twilight blue, and cypress green.
This suitcase is made of soft material not hard plastic so it can be squeezed to fit into tight spaces.
It weighs 10.1 pounds which is relatively lightweight, but some users may find that it gets heavy after a while.
But be aware that international carriers often have strict weight limits. For example Air China allows 10 lbs for a carry on, so that would only leave 1 lb for your belongings.
The Samsonite is not the most expensive option on the market. But it is the priciest one listed here.
This bag is not accepted as a carry-on for British Airways flights or airlines that have narrow width requirements.
The actual real-world measurement including the wheels is 23 inches. This is too high for many airlines including airlines in the US. However they may turn a blind eye at the checking gate.
Having too much stuff in the side pockets causes the suitcase to fall over. This can be annoying if you need the bag to stand on its own four wheels for a moment.
Caribbean Joe 20 Inch 8 Wheel Spinner Carry-On
The Caribbean Joe is a comparatively affordable option. But it is not the cheapest product I reviewed.
It’s not a hardtop but it’s made of durable material and has sturdy zippers.
This product measures 20 x 9.5 x 14 inches, making it suitable as a carry-on for most airlines. I’ve received reports that it works fine on United, Jet Blue, and Southwest flights.
It weighs less than 10 pounds, has an easy-to-use retractable handle, and rolls along nicely.
It contains a removable pouch that works great for holding liquids. There are also a number of useful pockets on this bag.
The design makes it easy to spot in situations where ordinary luggage would blend in. However, the tasteful style doesn’t stand out too much either. It’s also harder for would be thieves to pull a switcheroo because the case is less common.
The expandable suitcase has a spacious interior, which is great for holding lots of clothes.
There are only two style choices: olive green or chocolate brown.
Its handle and wheels may not stand up to extensive journeys. But they should be fine for ordinary vacations or business trips.
The bags can get visibly dirty after long trips. Travelers who find this problematic may want to clean their luggage after each vacation.
- Unusual design mean it would be harder for thieves to pull the old carry-on switcheroo trick
- Dirt can show when your suitcase is not black
- 9.5 inches is too deep for some airlines
Rockland 20 Inch Polycarbonate Carry On
The Rockland is available in 9 different hard side designs. Most of the designs feature vibrant colors that make them highly visible.
These suitcases weigh about 7.5 pounds each and the bright colors and lightweight design make them a great option for kids.
The Rockland is cheapest option that was reviewed. It’s got good sized wheels making it easy to maneuver.
This product has numerous interior compartments that make it easy to organize things.
This model can hold a bit more than a week’s worth of clothes.
In some instance, this bag may be a bit too large to be considered a carry-on.
There are not many classic style options. This would not be a good suitcase choice for people that don’t want anyone to notice that they’re tourists. You really will stand out from the crowd with this case but sometimes it’s better to blend in.
Durability could be a concern. This is especially true on long, eventful trips where suitcases have to be able to take a lot of abuse. The zippers, wheels, and the handle on this model don’t seem to be well-made. In fact, these features tend to fall apart without much provocation. The outer shell is not particularly sturdy either.
Even after one trip, the prints started to show dirt and grime.
- Funky styles
- Some build quality concerns
- Be careful not every color variety is the same size
Travel Pro Maxlite 5 International Carry-On Spinner
It’s the lightest model that we reviewed. It weighs less than 7 pounds that’s great if you are traveling abroad where airlines often have weight limits.
The product is made of squishy polyester. This is good for making it fit in the overhead bins.
Using it on most United States airlines will probably be fine. This is particularly true if the bag has been strapped down to keep it compact. Or if the bag hasn’t been packed too full. I know people that have used it as a carry-on bag during international flights without any problem.
It is very maneuverable and rolls well across uneven surfaces. I really liked how the wheels are inset so there is not a large unused space under the wheels.
A bit more than a week’s worth of clothes can fit in this bag and it’s got plenty of pockets for all your bits and pieces.
The dark colors hide dirt and grime well.
The product has several handles in various places. This makes it easier to manage.
This would be a good midrange option pricewise.
The dimensions including the handles are 21.75″ x 15.75″ x 7.75″ , excluding the wheels and handle. The bag is too large to qualify as a carry-on during some flights. This is especially true if it has been expanded or overstuffed with belongings.
Delsey Helium Aero International Carry-On Expandable Spinner Trolley
The Delsey Helium Aero comes with an extendable handles and rotates with ease.
The wheels on this model roll with a smooth gait.
Hardtop luggage doesn’t often have a front pocket. It’s one of the big drawbacks of hardshell designs. But this model does. This space comes in handy for storing items that need extra protection such as laptops. It’s also a good place to put things that need to be accessed quickly.
There are also several interior pockets so it’s a good organizer.
The bag expands for more storage.
It comes many colors including midnight blue or titanium (silver). I really liked the silver option!
It’s a polycarbonate hardtop model. This makes it hard to squash it into tight spaces.
It weighs over 10 pounds. This is the heaviest model I reviewed. It could be uncomfortable to carry for that reason alone.
The dimensions are 21.75″ x 13.75″ x 9.75″ inches. It might not meet the carry-on requirements for some flights or even fit in the overhead bins. This is even truer if the expandable feature has been used.
It’s not the most durable model available. This means it is better suited for short trips instead of extensive journeys. The wheels occasionally have problems. In addition, it quickly starts to show scuff marks, scratches, and other forms of wear.
Some people have trouble fitting more than a few days’ worth of clothes in this suitcase.
These models had a lot of similar features: four maneuverable wheels, a handle, and plenty of pockets. Both soft and hardtop models were readily available. Although I prefer to buy bags that can be easily compressed to save space, the hardtops might be better options for travelers that worry about their belongings. Most suitcases were available in a few different designs, but the Rockland model offered the most variety in style.
There were plenty of other differences. Prices ranged from the Samsonite Silhouette Sphere, which was the most expensive, to the Rockland one, which was the cheapest. Weights naturally varied between suitcases. The Rockland and the Travel Pro models were each under 7.5 pounds. But the Samsonite and Delsey models were both over 10 pounds.
Size tended to be problematic for a few models. The Delsey Helium Aero and the Travelpro Maxlite 5 didn’t fit the carry-on requirements for some airlines. Most of the suitcases were fairly durable except for the cheaper Rockland model. It does have trouble staying in one piece. But there were some minor concerns with the Caribbean Joe bag and Delsey Helium Aero as well.