Your best travel bags are probably doing the same thing as ours these days: Sitting on a shelf, gathering dust, and reminding you that your travel days are behind you until the world fully reopens for business. But reopen it 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.
Victorinox Spectra 2.0 Dual-Access Global Carry-On
BEST 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 7 pounds — and the dual-caster wheels with 360-degree maneuverability roll beautifully. The interior is divided in 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.
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.
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 6000 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.
ROAM Jaunt XL
MOST CUSTOMIZABLE LUGGAGE
Killspencer Korean War Era Waxed Canvas Duffle
Killspencer has made a great name for itself in barely over a decade, creating a line of super-high-quality bags, briefcases, tech accessories, and more — all handmade in Los Angeles. It all has a timeless appearance, which is what drew us to their Korean War Era Waxed Canvas Duffle. It has that rugged, nostalgic look of the classic G.I. duffle, but with modern and luxe upgrades like bulhide leather handles and accents, Swiss-made Riri zippers in an antique finish, and a removable and adjustable bullhide and webbing shoulder strap with durable black hardware. It has all the looks of a high-end piece of luggage, but it’s hearty and well-built enough to go to war with you. Or (preferably) the gym, a weekend jaunt, or basically anywhere you need a tough bag.
This duffle also comes in leather, nylon, or black canvas, but we can’t look away from the army green, which is being offered at $100 off right now. You can also have your initials added to a leather patch on the bag. This is a great bag for short trips and weekend adventures, although you might need something bigger for week-long trips.
TUMI Alpha 3 Double Expansion Travel Satchel
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 is hard to say no to.
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.
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!
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.
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.