The Road Warrior's Lament: In Search Of The Perfect Carry-On

With the role of a security vendor comes the inevitable travel requirement. As an employee for Akamai Technologies and a board member for (ISC)2 I find myself traveling a lot these days. I have quickly learned that there is little I dislike more than having to check my bags at the airport. The uncomfortable feeling of never knowing if your luggage would be there on the carousel waiting for me at the end of the flight.

Then, it happened on January of 2013. I had my carry-on luggage in hand. I was rather amused with myself that I was able to beat the airline by not having to check my bag. I thought that I wasn't holding a ticket in the heinous "will my bag be there when I arrive in $destination" lottery.

This day, I met my match in Tampa, Florida. A ticket clerk named...let's call her Jill shall we? Jill told me that I would have to check my bag for my flight to Toronto. I was livid. I tried in vain to repack my bag so that everything would fit in the "bag sizer" but, no such luck. I had purchased this bag exactly as a solution to the check your bag anathema of all business travelers.

Oh, how wrong I was.

Turns out that my bag was in fact 1 inch too wide. I was outraged. Mostly at myself for not being aware that the airline had strict sizing for carry-on luggage. This failure caused me to go a touch overboard. Once I got home I launched into an extensive search of many of the airlines that I typically use or are otherwise well traveled. I compared the sizing and tried to arrive at a common set of criteria for the perfect carry-on bag.

Next, the bag weight. The bag weight is 10 kg or 22 lbs for the airline that I use the most. So, the weight of the carry-on luggage was of paramount importance. Some bags I looked at were 12 lbs or more in some cases and this left little room for clothes. A bit of an issue really.

I had my requirements. A bag that had the dimensions of 9 in x 15.5 in x 21.5 in and weighed as little as humanly possible. The size was meant to factor in international carry-on as well as domestic. Another aspect was that this new bag needed was it had to be tough. It would be little utility to me if I had to replace it every year.

I tried out MANY bags from Samsonite, American Tourister and others. I even went so far as to check out Pelican cases. They had a great case that was almost the right size. Alas, it was half an inch too long and 13.5 lbs. That put it on the heavy side. As cool as that would be, I was in no mood to relive my annoyance that I had endured in Tampa.

As a result of my digging I found the following information for a host of airlines regarding their carry-on policies. Please note that these are subject to change and may not necessarily be accurate when you read this so, double check. Each link will open a new browser instance. 

Airline                           

Bag Size                              

Bag Weight    

Airline Carry-on Info

Air Canada

21.5 x 15.5 x 9 in

22 lbs

Link

American Airlines

22 x 14 x 9 in

N/A

Link

Lufthansa

21.75 x 15.75 x 8 in

17.6 lbs

Link

Cathay Pacific

22 x 14 x 9 in

15 -33 lbs 

Link

British Airways

22 x 18 x 10 in

51 lbs

Link

Air China

21 x 15 x 7 in

11-17 lbs

Link

Air New Zealand

22 x 14.5 x 9 in

15 lbs

Link

United Airlines

22 x 14 x 9 in

N/A

Link

US Airways

22 x 14 x 9 in

40 lbs

Link

KLM

21.5 x 13.5 x 10 in

26 lbs

Link

Turkish Airlines

21.5 x 15.5 x 9 in

17.6 lbs

Link

Arida Airlines

21.5 x 15.5 x 9 in

17.6 lbs

Link

Sinagpore Airlines

22 x 16 x 8 in

15 lbs

Link

Asiana Airlines

21.5 x 15.5 x 9 in

22 lbs

Link

Austrian Airlines

21.75 x 15.75 x 8 in

17.6 lbs

Link

Quantas

22 x 14 x 9 in

15 lbs

Link

Delta

22 x 14 x 9 in

N/A

Link

Southwest

24 x 16 x 10 in

N/A

Link

Virgin Atlantic

22 x 14 x 9 in

22 lbs

Link

Jet Blue

24 x 16 x 10 in

N/A

Link

Westjet

21 x 15 x 9 in

N/A

Link

Thai Airways

22 x 18 x 10 in

15 lbs

Link

Aeroflot

21.5 x 15.5 x 9 in

22 lbs

Link

Alaska Airlines

24 x 17 x 10 in

N/A

Link

Ryanair

21.5 x 15.5 x 9 in

22 lbs

Link

LOT Polish Airlines

21.5 x 15.5 x 9 in

N/A

Link

In the end the winner was a bag from Tumi. Specifically, the Tumi Vapor. For my needs it hit almost all the bells and whistles. It had a body size of H x W x D= 21.5" x 14" x 9" and a bag weight (while empty) of roughly just under 5 lbs. It has a hard shell which helps and the quad wheels are a very handy.

The only downsides that I found were that they hard shell scuffs easily and there is no external laptop pocket which would have been a nice touch. But, for my purposes this bag fit the bill. I have taken several trips around the world this year with this bag with the longest being 8 days with no problem at all. Protip: use Ziploc bags to pack your clothes. You're welcome. 

For the sake of clarity I should point out that I received no compensation from Tumi for this post but, I would not be offended if they wanted to show some love ;) 

So, if you're an Infosec traveler or a road warrior in general I hope this post has helped you in some way.

Safe travels!

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