Winfield 2 Fashion HS Spinner 20
Driver 8-Wheeled Backpack
22 Inch 8-Pocket Rolling Duffel
Kenneth Cole Reaction
Out of Bounds
Helium Aero Carry On Spinner Trolley
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100% polycarbonate outer shell protects contents better than soft polyester. Four wheels for stability and a telescoping handle for convenience.

Hidden shoulder straps convert this wheeled carry on into a backpack. Holds laptops up to 15 inches. Rugged nylon and polyester shell.

Telescoping handle and rugged wheels make airport commuting easier. Malleable duffle bag design. Durable 1200D polyester.

Rugged but flexible ABS outer shell w/reinforced corners. Spacious interior holds more clothing and personal items than expected.

100% polycarbonate outer shell w/ fashionable metallic finish. Spinner wheels are doubled, improving mobility. Main compartment expands up to 2 inches.


Pricey. Exterior shell scratches easily, and zipper can be compromised.

Some users say the telescopic arm can fail unexpectedly. Material is not waterproof; contents can get wet.

Exceeds some carry on limits if packed to max capacity. Difficult to keep in an upright position. Seam strength needs improvement.

No external pockets for easy access to travel papers or electronics. Dimensions may not meet all airline requirements.

Overall dimensions can exceed carry on limits if not closed correctly. No external pockets for travel papers or other items.

Bottom Line

Those who seek the security and durability of a hard-shell carry on will appreciate this product. We like its traditional look and feel.

A great multipurpose bag that functions as carry on, book bag, or backpack. Maneuverable and stable. Its greatest strength is roominess.

Has a generous supply of zippered pockets and room for a week of clothing and essentials. Great entry-level price.

This stylish carry on is made well, but its wheels and handle are best for short distances, not long walks through town.

We like this bag's sleek metallic look, but depending on regulations, it may have to be checked at the airport.

How we test
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Products received from manufacturers
We purchase every product we review with our own funds - we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Models Considered
Models Tested
Hours Spent
Experts Interviewed
Consumers Consulted


Whether you fly twice a year or twice a week, you want a carry on bag that’s perfect for you – one that’s durable, functional, and compliant with all airline requirements and restrictions.

In our quest to find the perfect carry on, we examined bags with every possible characteristic. We looked at hard-shell, soft-shell, and duffel bags. We examined bags with two wheels, four wheels, and spinners. We looked at bags with various zipper and handle types. But a carry on’s specs tell only part of the story. They don’t tell if the wheels will fall off the first time you hit a pothole or if the contents would survive a tumble down the escalator unscathed.

To ensure an accurate review, we evaluated a selection of the market’s best carry ons, then loaded them up and introduced them to the harsh realities of the real world — on the streets of San Francisco.

We do not accept products directly from manufacturers; we use our own funds to purchase the same “off-the-shelf” products that you do. And when we've finished our testing and consumer reviews, we donate all these products to charities and other non-profit organizations.


In the lab, we weighed each piece of luggage for comparison purposes. We looked at the number of compartments and assessed the practicalities of packing and unpacking them.

We examined every zip, buckle, wheel, and handle in order to identify features that might make your life easier, as well as those which might complicate your travels.

Next, we filled each piece with one pair of shoes, two pair of underwear, two pair of shorts, and one pair of jeans.

We then started adding BestReviews shirts, thinking we would stop when each case couldn’t hold anymore.

But we stopped at a dozen shirts when it became clear that space wasn’t an issue; every carry on we tested offered great capacity.

(That said, there are weight restrictions imposed by airlines which you need to know about when you’re packing. A handy luggage scale could be a wise investment!)

We had all pieces sent to our office to put them through our scientific and subjective tests.
We tested the capacity of each carry on bag.
Test parameters

Road Test

After a thorough in-house inspection, our testers took the carry ons for a one-mile endurance test through San Francisco.

Each bag passed through an assault course of steep gradients, cobblestones, curbs, and tracks.

Airports are a cakewalk by comparison, but we took the bags there, too.

We wanted to see how well each bag would fare during its obstacle course and if there were any areas of strength or weakness we should know about.

We tested the durability of all products on the streets of San Francisco, from cobblestones to wooded docks.
Test parameters

Expert Advice

To avoid any chance of bias, we brought some experts in the mix.

First, we consulted travel professionals to find out what they look for in carry on luggage.

Next, we talked to people who already own the carry on brands in question.

See our Professionals Weigh In and Consumers Weigh In sections for more info.

We took to the skies with one of our products to make sure it passed the regulations of two different airlines.

A Word About Airline Requirements

It would be nice to think that every piece of carry on luggage complies with every airline’s criteria. Sadly, there’s no guarantee of that. The frames used to determine whether a bag fits an airline’s overhead bins vary from one terminal the next.

One of the first things we did was ensure that our picks would fit the most stringent of airline requirements. We strongly suggest that you do the same before buying new luggage. Additional charges for checking oversize bags can be exorbitant!

We measured each carry on to make sure they all met the required dimensions of several airlines.
Kenneth Cole Reaction
Carry On Luggage: Ease of Use (Subjective 1-10)



Two-wheel Carry Ons

Two wheels or four? The answer to that question depends on your preference. Four-wheel spinners and simple two-wheel cases are two of the most common structures you’ll find on today’s market.

Each type offers its own pros and cons.

Two-wheel carry ons cannot be pushed; they must be pulled. Furthermore, they have a tendency to capsize. This is especially true of cases that are unevenly loaded.

Some travelers are tempted to cram items into their case, but an unbalanced two-wheel bag is a nuisance to pull for any distance. It won’t stand upright, and it may pull left-right or twist uncomfortably in your hand.

That being said, some consumers believe they can get more packing space out of a two-wheeler.

Of course, that depends on the overall dimensions and structure of the case. Spinner wheels may also be more vulnerable to damage than the inset wheels you find on many two-wheel cases.

The number of wheels doesn't make a difference when the weight within the bag isn't distributed evenly.
The two-wheel carry ons we tested performed well even when rolled up and down stairs.

Four-Wheel Spinners

You would think that a four-wheel spinner carry on suitcase would be ideal. A set of four wheels certainly lends stability, and spinners are found on almost all hard-shell luggage and some soft-shell pieces, too. But testing in San Francisco gave us a different view.

Put a four-wheel spinner on a hill, and it has a nasty habit of wandering off! And frustratingly, none of the bags we tested offered a way to lock the wheels. What’s more, spinners seem to have a mind of their own when pushed. Sometimes they go perfectly straight, but other times, they roll where they please.

Four-wheeled bags worked well on flat surfaces, but when given the opportunity, they did their best to escape!

None of these concerns are major, but after running our San Francisco obstacle course, we’re not convinced that four-wheel spinners are as advantageous as they might sound.

Of course, there’s always the option of placing a spinner on its side. The models we tested all included supportive feet and a side handle that would enable this. And, conveniently, these handles provide a helpful “second option” for when you encounter stairs, escalators, and other obstacles


Our testers were by no means gentle, but no axles snapped and no wheels broke during our obstacle course.

In fact, every carry on coped extremely well with the physical demands of our test route. We think that’s admirable, as each carry on in our test rig traveled over cement and cobblestone areas, and climbed 20 curbs.

Back in the lab, we checked handle anchor points, examined zippers and closures, strained the straps, and generally gave each item a good workout.

Despite a few scuffs and scratches endured on our trial run, all items remained sturdy and intact.

If you search for owner feedback online, you'll undoubtedly find complaints about wheel/handle breakage, stitch unraveling, and zipper failure. However, we experienced no such problems during our test run. Product quality was stellar across the board.

Notably, most of our testers preferred the four-wheel spinners on a flat surface due to the flexible movement they provided.

However, those same people were annoyed when they had to chase the spinners down a slope. The fact of the matter is, not everyone lives in hilly San Francisco. For folks in many parts of the world, slopes would pose no problem.

The most important question when considering carry ons: Can you actually carry it on your flight?
The extended handle on these products made them much easier to control when out on the course.


Charlie Leeper is a baggage handler at Dallas Airport. He deals with more suitcases in a day than most of us do in a lifetime. As a frequent flyer, Charlie prefers a soft bag. "The number one rule is to avoid checking your bag. I can cinch a rucksack down to fit just about any bin." He recommends buying a carry on with as few zippers as possible. "If you do have to check your bag, they [zippers] get caught and ripped off all the time."

Jessica Dinn is a flight attendant who travels two to four days a week. She uses a basic, two-wheel carry on with one main compartment and a couple of external pockets in its soft shell. "If packed strategically, I can fit two to three pairs of shoes and five to seven outfits — at least seven days of clothing." Jessica admits that she might buy a bag with spinner wheels some day, as her current bag does have a habit of capsizing.

Todd Liss is a brand manager who flies two or three times a month. He only ever takes a carry on, in which he typically packs three to four days’ worth of clothing. He's another fan of soft-shell luggage, with no particular preference for two or four wheels. As far as he's concerned, his carry on just needs to "fit in the overhead bin, have enough room for clothing, and have easy access outside pockets for travel necessities."

Our time at the airport had our staff speaking with both frequent fliers and airline crew members.


We spoke to a number of travelers, both frequent and infrequent, to get their opinions about carry on luggage. Between them, they use almost every type of carry on conceivable. Their comments reveal some interesting points:

  • People who frequently travel in poor weather like hard-shell cases for the protection they provide against rain and snow.
  • Some dislike flashy colors and designs because they feel it makes them look “touristy.” Others love a stand-out bag because it’s easier to spot on the carousel.
  • A carry on with an extending handle is convenient, but it must be long enough so that when dragged behind, it doesn’t clip the owner’s heels.
  • A carry on with a versatile handle is even better. You can grab it like a “traditional” suitcase, or you can pull it like a dog on a leash.
  • Flexible netting and external pockets save space and allow rapid access to valuables.
  • Hard-shell carry ons rarely feature outside pockets. A lack of exterior pockets could become a hassle when you pass through airport security; your valuables are less secure and they may fall out. Also, the ribbing on a hard-shell case may make it more difficult to pack efficiently.
  • On a full flight, airline staff may check a hard-shell carry-on to save space. Owners of duffel and soft-shell carry ons are far less likely to experience this inconvenience, however.
"I mainly notice people who bring bags that are too big to be considered 'carry on' and try to jam them into the overhead bins unsuccessfully. My advice: make sure your bag is regulation sized after packing so you don't have to check it at the gate." – Jessica Dinn, Flight Attendant


Many people love soft-shell carry ons for their useful outer pockets. But there's no doubt that hard-shell cases offer excellent protection. Business travelers in particular favor them for their ease of packing and durability over time.

What’s more, casual travelers often find that their duffel carry ons are subject to less airline scrutiny than their hard- and soft-shell counterparts.

As for wheels, many people prefer the mobility of a carry on with four spinners, but two-wheel cases receive their fair share of accolades, too.

So while there may be no “one size fits all” solution, you could certainly find the right carry on for your needs with a little forethought. The number of options on today’s market is staggering, but we believe that any of the five well-researched options on our shortlist would serve today’s consumers very well.

The team that worked on this review
  • Melissa
  • Bob
  • Anton
    Director of Engineering
  • Ben
  • Devangana
    Web Producer