Airline Carry-On Suitcases

Pelican is at the top end for cost. In general, prices range from about $140 for bags like Rick Steves’ utilitarian 21-Inch Roll-Aboard up to nearly $300 for the svelte Thule bag or the backpack-equipped Osprey.

Pelican 1510 Laptop Overnight Case

After a year of travel, my favorite bags ended up being the most simple ones. I rarely needed the extras like backpack straps, removable daypacks, or special pockets. The Rick Steves Roll-Aboard, for example, though simple in design has served me well. Thule’s TCRU-1 is a nice option and my new favorite. It has extra features if needed, but its design is simple and the craftsmanship of the bag — from its solid retractable handle to the tactile blue-rubber zipper pulls — is slick.

In truth, each case in this review is set for the job. In airports around the world this past year, my primary concern was capacity and airline allowance. Stuff it with gear, roll it on the plane, hoist the bag away, and let’s fly!

—Stephen Regenold, founder and editor of www.gearjunkie.com, is also a travel junkie. He has a ticket to fly to South America for the Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race on February 3.