Unless you were the type lucky enough to take a socially distanced weekend trip with friends this summer, your best travel bags are probably doing the same thing as ours: sitting on a shelf, gathering dust. But reopen the world will, and before it does, you might want to take a look at those dusty old bags. Tons of miles on them, sure, but are they the best bags for the job?
Here at SPY, we love a good bag. Carry-ons, weekenders, duffles, backpacks — you’re sure to need an upgrade on at least one of those must-own pieces of luggage. To help you indulge your wanderlust, we’ve got options for every type of travel bag. Whether you’re going to be hitting the road again for work, for play, or just for the hell of it, we’ve got you covered.
While technically any bag can be a travel bag, for this list, we’ve focused on the best travel bags that meet carry-on limits and TSA rules and regulations, and they’re all outstanding in different ways. So before you pack your bags, make sure you’re packing the right ones that can handle all of your travel gear.
1. Victorinox Spectra 2.0 Dual-Access Global Carry-On
BEST CARRY-ON FOR BUSINESS
If you’re a frequent business traveler, your carry-on takes an even greater beating than you do. The sleek, roomy, and exceptionally tough Victorinox Spectra will accept pretty any abuse that you, the luggage handlers, or the TSA can dole out. It’s light — a mere 6.6 pounds — and the dual-caster wheels with 360-degree maneuverability roll beautifully. The interior is divided by a split-case design for ideal organization. And the Travel Sentry Approved lock allows TSA screeners to open the suitcase without destroying the lock, and relock it when they’re done. The exterior is scratch- and break-resistant Bayer polycarbonate. We tried long and hard to find something to knock this suitcase about, and other than the slightly elevated price, came up empty. But you pay for quality, and this is a carry-on which may well last as long as your traveling career does.
Looking for more carry-on roller bags, like the famed Rimowa suitcase? Check out more of our favorite hard-shell carry-on bags.
2. Samsonite Centric Hardside Expandable Luggage with Spinner Wheels
BEST BUDGET CARRY-ON
The Samsonite Centric Hardside is maybe a half-step down from the Victorinox in terms of toughness and quality construction, but a full hop and a leap down in price, which earns it a spot on the best-of list. It also has the scratch-resistant polycarbonate body, the TSA-friendly locks, and the roomy shell which expands by an inch if you’re an over-packer. The wheels, while not the terminal-sprinting wonders of the Victorinox, still give you a smooth ride. With 10 different colors to choose from and backed by Samsonite’s well-earned reputation for quality luggage, the Centric Hardside is a surefire winner at a great price.
3. Samsonite Winfield 2 Hardside Expandable Luggage with Spinner Wheels
BEST HARDSIDE LUGGAGE
The hard-shell Samsonite Winfield 2 has it all — the hard polycarbonate outer shell which looks great, the TSA locks, the multi-directional wheels, roomy interior, and the Samsonite quality backed by a 10-year warranty. It weighs under 7 pounds, which makes those treks thru the terminals and hoisting into overhead compartments so much easier. And yet it still comes in at under a hundred bucks, which is genuinely shocking. Over 6,000 Amazon buyers have taken the time to rate the Winfield 2 and their reviews average 4.4 stars. We’re sold. For the money, this is the best hardside carry-on you can find.
4. Away Bigger Carry-On
BEST CARRY-ON WITH LOCK
We get it — traveling can be scary. From bumpy plane rides to rainy road trips to wobbly trains, you never know what could happen while in transportation. One thing you should never worry about is the fear of your bag being stolen. With Away’s Bigger Carry-On, that won’t happen. This bag is built with a TSA-approved locking system and super hard exterior shell to make sure nobody (aside from you) can get inside. The bag is made to be the last carry-on you’ll ever have to buy and comes in a ton of cool colors. That’s not all, though. If you need to charge your phone on the road, this carry-on comes with an exterior portable charger to make sure your devices are juiced up at all times.
5. ROAM Jaunt XL
MOST CUSTOMIZABLE LUGGAGE
The ROAM came to our attention a few months ago because of completely customizable. It’s the world’s first fully customizable premium luggage, and the idea of replacing your generic-looking black suitcase with something utterly and uniquely yours is really appealing. Every last bit of the ROAM is whatever color you choose — front and back shells (separately), binding, zipper (even the zipper pull), wheels, you name it. It’s a guarantee you’ll never miss the ROAM coming off the luggage carousel. Even past the novelty of being able to make your bag look like a kaleidoscope, the ROAM is a quality bag. The Jaunt XL model is the largest carry-on option in the extensive ROAM line. While this is an expensive suitcase, you’re paying extra to get a customized suitcase that will last you for decades to come.
6. Everlane Mover Pack
BEST DUFFLE BAG
We love the Mover Pack from Everlane for so many reasons, we don’t even know where to start. This bag is the perfect size. It’s big, roomy and has a separate pocket for you to fit your dirty shoes (so they won’t have to touch your clothes). There are three ways to carry, featuring the classic two top handle carry, top and bottom haul handles and backpack straps. Normally, there’s also a green option to choose from, but the bag is so popular that it’s currently sold out. This black Mover Pack is just as handsome-looking as the green and is such a perfect way for getting anything you need to and from your next destination.
7. TUMI Alpha 3 Double Expansion Satchel
BEST WEEKEND BAG
TUMI has been combining gorgeous aesthetics and superior quality from its South Plainfield, NJ base since 1975. So the Alpha 3 Double Expansion Travel Satchel taking the top honors for best weekender is hardly shocking. Hard to say what we like the most — TUMI’s signature FXT ballistic nylon construction, the generous 13 inches of expanded depth, the leather handles, the inside media pocket, the magnetic-snapping outside pocket, or the really cool TUMI Tracer program. Each bag comes with a unique 20-digit registration engraved onto a metal plate, and once registered, you’re in TUMI’s database and able to be reunited with your bag should it be lost. Looks, function, rugged construction, and insurance in one bag make this one hard to ignore.
8. Patagonia Black Hole Recycled 70-Liter Convertible Duffle Bag
BEST RECYCLED DUFFLE BAG
Our assistant editor Taylor Galla specifically says that this is the best duffle she’s ever owned. Since middle school, Taylor’s been lugging this thing around on weekend-long vacations, camping trips and sleepovers and it’s lasted her all this time. It’s completely water repellant which makes it an excellent and made from super durable ripstop fabric. The colors are quite fun yet also quite muted, which makes for a nice mix. It’s made also from 100% post-consumer recycled polyester, so you’ll look great and feel even better about carrying this around with you on your next journey.
9. Herschel Supply Co. Duffle Bag
BEST NO-FRILLS DUFFLE BAG
You’re headed on a weekend trip, why go the extra mile and splurge on a bag you barely use? For just $90, this classic duffle from Herschel will get you to and fro any and all weekend trips for essentially the rest of your life. It has a no-frills, easy-looking design that stays both modern and handsome in its facade. Like the Everlane option, there is a section to place your dirty shoes so they don’t touch the rest of your clean clothes. It has two carrying handles so you can haul your load wherever life takes you and a removable, adjustable strap that works as a second way to carry.
10. Knack Pack 2.0 Large Expandable Backpack
BEST OVERALL BACKPACK
The Knack Pack 2.0 is another of our recent picks, and our only regret is that ours arrived just as travel was pretty much being shut down. What makes it the best overall backpack? It does everything equally well — it’s a weekender, a carry-on, an office backpack, or the bag that carries your laptop and tech gear to the local bookstore or coffeehouse for a day of writing or side hustling. It has a trolley sleeve if you’re using it as a carry-on, and as many pockets as you could possibly need. Yet those pockets aren’t completely obvious, because the clean design lines obscure so many of them, along with the side pocket for your water bottle. It’s roomy — you can fit four outfits and a pair of flat shoes — and still, you have room for your laptop and all those pockets at your disposal, including the RFID one. Once we’re back to traveling, the Knack Pack 2.0 is going to be a permanent appendage.
11. Carhartt Legacy Deluxe Work Backpack
BEST WORK BACKPACK
Headed on a business trip? Bring yourself a backpack that can hold all of your work accessories. This massive backpack has the number one thing you need when traveling for work: a padded laptop sleeve. Trust us, you do NOT want to head on an airplane without one of these. Any unexpected turbulence could turn into a shattered laptop screen you’ll likely have to pay out of pocket yourself, and nobody wants to do that. We suggest bringing this backpack along on trips where less is more. Meaning, if you’re headed to a location for work for solely one night, bring this backpack along and ditch the carry-on entirely.
12. Fjallraven Kanken Laptop 15-Inch Backpack
BEST CARRY-ON BACKPACK
You’ve seen the Fjallraven Kanken logo all over airports or out in the world, usually on cute little backpacks that make you scratch your head about just how much they could possibly hold. But don’t be surprised to see the Swedish brand making this list, because the Laptop 15-Inch model backpack is not that twee little bag you see everywhere. Same variety of bright colors, but this one easily holds your 15-inch laptop along with your other travel essentials, and it still slides under the airplane seat in front of you, or into the overhead compartment. It’s compact and well-built, the ideal grab-and-go backpack for a flight, especially for college students. Turns out those little bags have a big brother!
13. Pacsafe Metrosafe LS350 Anti-Theft 15L Backpack
BEST ANTI-THEFT BACKPACK
When your travel plans go back online, maybe some of your journeys will take you to some less-than-safe locales, or perhaps you’re exceptionally concerned about security. Can’t say we blame you, and the Pacsafe Metrosafe L350 Anti-Theft 15L Backpack has your name all over it. The Lockabout security clips keep your zipper battened down and almost totally impervious to pickpockets. The bag also has an interior pocket for your laptop, and RFIDsafe technology to keep you free from having your credit cards and other personal information scanned while you’re on the go. Combine these great security measures with a comfortable and well-built design, and this is a great bag for the safety-concerned, or anyone else.
14. Epperson Mountaineering Medium Climb Pack
BEST ACTIVE BACKPACK
Why is such an obvious outdoor backpack like the Epperson Mountaineering Medium Climb Pack showing up on a list of travel bags? Well, you have to get to the mountain or the trails somehow, right? Why buy two bags when this one is as well suited for travel as it is for outdoor life? The Daisy chain webbing cinches down and keeps your contents secure, and the Cordura nylon fabric is tough and battle-ready for the airports and taxis as well as the great outdoors. The seam-sealed inner compartments are great for toting home your dirty laundry, and there’s also a dedicated laptop sleeve inside. The cool and colorful design makes you hard to lose in a crowd, should you be traveling with a companion. Built for the outdoors, the Epperson Mountaineering Medium Climb Pack is also a great option for getting there.