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Carry-On Travel: How To Choose The Right Bag

Carry-On Travel: How To Choose The Right Bag

Last Updated on November 20, 2023

rise gearAfter over half a decade of full-time travel, I am ready to put my backpack to rest for a while and go on shorter trips instead of globetrotting nonstop. I started a trial for that last summer with a five-week trip around Europe: Berlin, Iceland, Amsterdam, London, Italy and Oktoberfest were on my itinerary, and one thing I realized quickly was that I was in desperate need of a decent carry-on bag. I’ve been traveling with a giant 65 liter backpack for years now, which is great for a notorious overpacker like me but impractical for shorter trips. The duffel bag I chose for my Euro trip last year, which spanned Iceland’s cold glaciers and Italy’s glorious summer temperatures, meaning I had to pack for summer and winter, turned out to be absolutely impractical. That’s when the search for an adequate carry-on bag began.

Luckily the search didn’t last long because soon after I was introduced to Rise Gear, a Canadian luggage company that focuses on efficient packing. More on that in a minute – let’s talk first about the factors you should consider when you’re in the market for a new piece of carry-on luggage, because there are so many different kinds and brands now that choosing one can be overwhelming. Here are the things you should pay attention to:

Price vs quality

You pay what you get for – and that definitely holds true for luggage. I have three (!) suitcases where the handle broke off, and had to throw out several cheapie rolling suitcases where the wheels or the handle broke after only a few times of using it. Now I am more interested in a piece of luggage that lasts for a decade or longer, rather than going for the cheapest one.

Type & Style

Are you looking for a backpack suitable for a rugged Northern Lights tour, or a trolley suitcase for more conventional travel? Are two wheels enough or are you looking for four wheels? Hard case or soft case? Duffel bag or a stylish flight briefcase? There are hundreds of variations. You’ll have to find out what works best for you – I for example dislike always having to pull a trolley and prefer a backpack or a duffel bag that has wheels.


There are some stylish pieces of luggage out there these days, but when I observe other travelers in airports, I sometimes wonder how practical their luggage is. More important than optics should be things like: storage capability, durance, the stability and length of the handle, the durability and performance of the wheels. If you are looking to buy a convertible bag, try out how easy it is to convert the bag. Extra features such as internal and external compartments and organizer pockets, an expansion system and integrated locks are also important.rise transform

Weight & dimensions

With airline restrictions becoming stricter and stricter when it comes to carry-ons, especially on low budget carriers, you have to make sure that the dimensions of your luggage match these restrictions. If you are like me traveling with lots of electronics, I say: the lighter the better! To check carry-on restrictions (by weight and dimensions) for every airline, I highly recommend this practical luggage size chart.

How to travel with carry-on only, even on long trips

As I said before, I am not very good at restricting myself when it comes to what I bring on a trip, especially a long one. I think I could fill up a carry-on with shoes alone (but I’ve learned to downsize!), and I like having choices. The only reason why I am finally able to travel with carry-on only is the book The Carry-On Traveller: The Ultimate Guide to Packing Light by Erin McNeaney which I read earlier this year. I highly recommend it to anyone who also struggles to travel with carry-on only – the book is filled with invaluable on how to pack for trips spanning different climate zones and even long-term trips (the author has been traveling with carry-on only for over six years now), it taught me how to deal with airline restrictions such as liquids, and has plenty of tips from long-term travelers on how to pack practically – from families to make-up fanatics to photographers who travel with lots of gear. And not only that – for less than $5, you also get advice on things like travel insurance, bank accounts that are suitable for overseas travel, super useful travel apps and sample packing lists. Erin’s advice on how to find the right carry-on for you has also been indispensable for me.
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Introducing the Rise Glider

When I was introduced to Rise Gear, I found the RISE Glider carry-on bag in their range, which I thought was perfect for me since it wasn’t only a rolling suitcase but it also came with backpack straps so that I could use it as a backpack. And since my number one recommendation for most places usually is to travel with a backpack instead of rolling suitcases, I thought this combination of backpack and suitcase couldn’t get any better. I could pull the luggage in places like airports, but strap it on my bag in places where it’s inconvenient to have luggage on rolls, such as train or subway stations where I find myself running up and down stairs all the time. Or cobble stones – especially in Europe it’s just hugely inconvenient to drag around a rolling suitcase, so having the option to wear it on my back seemed ideal.
rise gear gliderBut that’s not what makes the Rise Glider special – what makes it stand out of the ever-growing range of practical luggage is its collapsible shelving system. When I tried it, I had to ask myself why nobody else has come up with it.
You basically pack everything in the compartment you assign for it – there are compartments for clothes, but also for shoes and toiletries, laundry and a padded 15″ laptop compartment. And when you arrive, you simply pull out the shelving system and hang it in your hotel room or in the apartment you’re staying. The shelves are detachable, by the way, so you can store your suitcase in a different place, but you could also just leave it hanging underneath the shelves. I really don’t think you could pack in a more efficient way – during a Europe trip like the one I did last year, with lots of moving around and several stops, this packing system is perfect.
rise glider shelf systemYou always find your stuff right away. And also: with lots of cobble-stone streets everywhere in Europe, I love that I can unpack the straps (they can be stowed away in a pocket on the outside of the bag) within seconds and carry the suitcase on my back. I always prefer a backpack over a rolling suitcase and I have found it to be very comfortable when I carry it on my back since the front side of the Glider, to which the straps are attached, is padded. And because the suitcase is carry-on sized, it can’t get too heavy either – so far, I haven’t been missing the extra waist support that comes with a proper backpack.

I have also used the trolley function of the Glider, I am able to easily pull it with its solid metal telescoping extension handle, and find the rolling wheels to be sturdy and robust.
rise gear rollingThe only downsides of the luggage – or let’s say room for improvement: I like having a large outside pocket on my bag for travel documents and a magazine, but because of the backpack straps, there are only two small outside compartments on each side. The suitcase is also pretty heavy, so I am not sure if I’d get into trouble boarding a plane with it, which I have yet to try.

rise gear shelf systemPractical information

The luggage I am using is the Rise Glider rolling carry-on with a blue shelving system and detachable backpack straps. You can buy it via, and if you sign up for the Rise newsletter, you’ll get 10 % off!

  • Dimensions: 22″ x 14″ x 9″ inches (56cm – 36cm – 23cm); the hooks of the shelving system fit comfortably around 1.5″diameter bars
  • Weight: 11 lbs (5kg)
  • Materials: Polyester, nylon, metal, and rubberized strength steel hooks
  • Volume: 45l
  • Price: $323.00 (free shipping in the U.S. and Canada)

Note: If you are looking for a smaller bag, check out Rise Gear’s overnight jumper ($99) and Weekender ($139) duffel bags. Both come with the collapsible shelving system that makes Rise Gear so unique.
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Wednesday 29th of June 2016

Thanks for mentioning my carry-on chart! Looks like quite an interesting bag, great for someone who really wants to stay organized. And I love going carry-on only! Definitely makes traveling a lot easier and less stressful.


Wednesday 29th of June 2016

I love the chart, Ali, am surprised I haven't come across it before last week :) And I've used it already to find out if I my new bag meets all airlines' dimension requirements for carry-on or if there are some where I have to check it in :D Really cool chart!!

Katie C.

Tuesday 28th of June 2016

What an awesome travel bag! However, there's no way to enter your giveaway. It's blank after "here:" :(


Wednesday 29th of June 2016

Epic blogger fail!! :O I fixed it - you can enter the giveaway via the pop-up on the article now, Katie, which should've popped up from the beginning.