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Carry-on suitcase reviews

Onboard suitcases are convenient, but price isn't always an indicator of quality.
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Row of suitcases

Test results for 10 small suitcases priced from $40 to $299.

Price is not always an indicator of quality when it comes to carry-on luggage. The cheapest model tested by CHOICE was slightly better for performance and better for ease of use than the most expensive case.

CHOICE purchased 10 suitcases that can be used as either check-in or carry-on luggage.

No one knows what can go wrong with a piece of carry-on luggage better than someone who spends their working lives using them. So CHOICE asked three airline cabin crew to help out in our test. They scored the suitcases on all aspects, such as:

  • Packing
  • Balance
  • Manoeuvring
  • Ease of using the zipper
  • Ease of expanding the handle
  • Feel of the handle

Then, loaded with 5kg, each suitcase was taken around a course that included stairs, carpet, grass, smooth road and a rough surface. Our tester also subjected them to a stability, drop and puncture test to assess their performance.

While all the suitcases on test are suitable for carry-on, two have total dimensions that exceed airline requirements (see what to look for). These slightly larger bags may still be acceptable as often you’ll find cabin baggage isn’t checked by airline staff. However if you’re in doubt it’s always a good idea to check with your airline before departure.

Generally the total dimensions range from 105cm to 115cm and this is measured by adding together the length, height and depth of the bag.

Models tested

  • Antler Duolite Small Roller Case 1340755
  • Australian Luggage Co. Ultra Light Range LW201 45cm
  • Catherine Manuell Design Lightweight Suitcase SB1001RP
  • Delsey Fiber Lite 53cm 4-Wheel Cabin Trolley Case
  • Getaway 45cm Trolley Case GET1045-1
  • Lanza Windermere III 3088170 3.3kg
  • Park Avenue Skywalker Range HY203 50cm Trolley Case
  • Samsonite Duralite Upright 52/18Exp CO9*052-52cm
  • Skyway No Weight 3083541 International Carry-on Vertical Case
  • Tosca Orbit Collection TOR 1048-7 48cm Trolley Case

How we test

Performance: Our tester, Peter Horvath, conducts three technical tests to assess each suitcases performance:

  • Drop test: our testers packed the cases with 5kg of clothing then dropped them from a height of 500mm a total of 300 times or until they suffered fatal damage. They then assessed the damage.
  • Puncture test: this involved dropping a pointed 1kg brass cone at five different places onto the case, from a height of 25cm. The damage was then evaluated.
  • Stability test: our testers packed the cases with 5kg of clothing and placed them on a tilting platform. The suitcases were tilted until they tipped. We then recorded the angle the cases were at when they tipped over.

Ease of use: Was assessed by three experienced airline cabin crew. They scored each suitcase on aspects like:

  • The zips, locks and expandable handle.
  • How easy the luggage was to pack.
  • The balance and manouverability.
  • They also wheeled the cases with a 5kg load over a range of surfaces. 
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