Carry-On Comparison: What’s the Best Bag for Packing?

Sympatico Backpack

When it comes to packing for a trip, you want to find a bag that can house the essentials for a trip and leave room for any goodies you pick up along the way. An ideal bag will have pockets for the essentials to help keep you organized.

For frequent fliers, finding the best bag to carry-on all too often comes down to trial and error. Often luggage reviews focus on what’s new and exciting. But for most travelers, it’s not about marketing and hype. It’s about finding a bag that travels well and holds everything you need to have on hand.

Today we’re focusing on the packing process to determine what’s the most efficient carry-on to carry on. We tested out three bags: a stylish hard shell from Antler, a standard soft sided carry-on from Victorinox Swiss Army and a more creative pocket heavy pack from Genius Pack.

For the sake of fair comparison, we used the Universal Packing List website to put together a standard list for what we would aim to pack inside the bag. Each bag would be packed in the same style (rolling instead of folding) and would contain the following:

Screen Shot 2013-09-07 at 12.47.59 PMSo how did the packing experience compare?

Antler Liquis

Screen Shot 2013-09-10 at 8.09.31 AMAfter adding two pairs of men’s shoes to the suitcase, it felt like a quarter of the space was gone. Though the hard shell had no give in terms of overpacking, the suitcase was able to hold a fair amount. The case had a clam shell design with 50/50 distribution between the right and the left. The left zip pocket was able to hold all undergarments, socks, belt tie charger and dress shoes.  Pants and shirts and the other pair of shoes filled the right compartment.

photo 2 copyUnable to fit were a blazer, sweater and jacket. Additionally, there was no room for anything that might be purchased on the road. Upon closing, the case did has small issues with proper center of gravity and would tip over if the handle was out.

Genius Packer 22′ Carry On

photo 4With the Genius pack, once again all the undergarments (this time excluding undershirts were once again packed on the left side of the case. However, the left side of the pack is not for free form packing; there were labeled containers for undergarments, chargers, socks and toiletries. We opted out of the genius pack for speakers and instead used that compartment for a belt. The right side of the case was deep and able to fit two stacks of rolled garments. This time both jacket and blazer fit within the case. There was little room left for incidental purchases. However, we didn’t use the three exterior pockets or the laundry compression pockets. We suspect with creative repacking there could be a slight amount of additional room.

Once again up closing we encountered significant weight issues and noticed the bag tipping consistently.

Victorinox WT 20

Screen Shot 2013-09-10 at 8.25.58 AMLike the Genius Packer and the Liquis, the Victorinox also had a creative left right distribution. The right side had straps and pockets and the majority of the packing room. More than two rows deep of that had been clothing could fit in. On the left was a removable garment suit bag. It was ideal for packing shirts and blazers. This time around all the clothes fit in the case with additional room leftover for the trip. And the weight was evenly distributed, so there were no tipping issues.

What is your carry-on of choice? Do you pack with hard-side or soft?

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By Lily J. Kosner for