Shopping for the best carry-on bag that suits your travel needs and fits your budget can be quite an intimidating task. The perfect bag should certainly be both good looking and practical. A bag can make or break your travel experience when it comes to its design and build. However, there isn’t much a bag can do to reduce the number of things you carry. The next time you go bag-shopping, here are a few key aspects that you should not ignore.
Investing in a bag crafted from high-quality materials will pay for itself over the next few years. This is a bag that you will be carrying around on your countless journeys and has to sustain the wear and tear that comes along. The way the checked baggage is handled is even worse and quality of your bag isn’t something you would want to compromise with.
Soft-sided bags are much favored over their hard-shelled counterparts, the major advantage being their flexible structure that conforms to the contours of the contents as well as the storage compartments. Let’s take a look at the different materials that are currently being used to manufacture bags.
Most top-quality luggage manufacturers use either Ballistic Nylon or Cordura, which are the types of high-denier industrial nylon fabrics, denier being the measurement of weight. There are minor differences between the weight and structural composition of the two nylons. Nevertheless, be it ballistic or Cordura, the bags crafted from the high-denier nylon are lightweight, durable and look very stylish and pleasing to the eye.
Our recommendation: Look for bag that are made from 1080, 1680, or Cordura Brand fabric when choosing a soft-shelled bag.
Leather ages gloriously, which is why opting for leather bags is a wise decision on most occasions. It smells wonderful and has an air of bulk and quality to it. But leather is heavier than most modern luggage materials. Besides, it runs a significant risk of getting infested with mildew upon coming in prolonged contact with water.
Now let’s talk about the part of the bags that is highly susceptible to breakdowns – the fasteners AKA the zippers. The performance of the zippers is like the litmus test of a bag’s finesse. While shopping for a new bag, upon inspection if you notice the zipper going astray, you know it’s not quality luggage.
Zippers can be classified into 2 basic designs – Chain and coil. Attached directly onto the zipper tapes, the chain zippers are extremely resilient to sand and grime, robust and safer. On the other hand, the coil zippers are cheaper yet more flexible than the chain zippers. For being sewn onto the zipper tapes, they can be installed/repaired/changed with greater ease, which is why you see most luggage these days having coil zippers.
Zippers are perhaps the most ubiquitous materials ever. Do not let this fact cause you to undermine the work that goes into making zippers. They are very complex and comprise of numerous components. A privately owned conglomerate of 80 companies that goes by the name of YKK Group is the leading manufacturers of the best zippers around the world. You can be sure about the luggage being a quality product if it has YKK zippers on it.
Our recommendation: Look for manufacturers that use YKK brand zippers in the construction of their bags. YKK is a good indication that manufacturer is not compromising cost over quality in their products.
The holding ability of the bag you pick should be in line with the amount of stuff you usually carry. There should be enough room to pack your belongings without distorting the structure of the bag or making the inside look cluttered.
Don’t let the fancy styling on the exterior push you into buying the bag that really doesn’t coincide with your needs. External pouches add to the bag’s dimensions without adding to its volume. Choose a bag with a rectilinear design for maximum room, comfortable carrying and ease of maneuvering even in the most crowded places.
For example, a cylindrical duffel bag is easy to manufacture because of its minimized seam length. However, its storage volume isn’t impressive and the packing efficiency is terrible. On the other hand, the rectilinear duffel bag with the same width, height and length is 27 percent more spacious and easy-to-pack than its cylindrical variant.
Our recommendation: In order to maximize the amount of capacity, look for bags with the greatest volume conforming to a rectilinear shape.
Although the degree of utility within that a bag has to offer often hinders with its capacity, it is an important feature to gain mobility. Once when you eventually get the hang of traveling with a carry-on, fitting all your belongings into a carry-on sized bag will be a cakewalk.
Apart from these essentials, there are some miscellany features we recommend you take into account such as:
- The weight of the bag
- The materials it is crafted from
- Its silhouette and balance
- Number and arrangement of sections
- Ease of accessing the sections of the bag under various stowage circumstances
- Ease of storage when the bag is not in use
- Type and design of the fasteners
- The bag’s ability to sustain ruggedness of terrain during transportation
While hunting for the bag best suited for your needs, the trade-off between functionality, dependability and cost-efficiency is inevitable. Bags can turn into a lifetime investment if they are extremely purposeful and long-lasting. Such bags don’t come cheap, but they don’t need to be exorbitantly priced either. Buying the luggage directly from the manufacturer instead of the retailer/reseller is a very smart move that will save you several hundred dollars. However, if price is the restraining factor, as a smart lightweight traveler you should pick functionality over resilience and longevity.
While we suggest traveling light, we do not intend to encourage you to not get your bags checked-in. Just that it is so much better to be in charge of your own belongings. Not only it prevents mishandling but also entails safety, economy and above all, the peace of mind.