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I’m a destroyer of carry-on bags (5 in 5 years!). These are tips to keep in mind when buying a carry-on bag based on my mistakes, including a review of the Cabinzero Classic 44L Ultralight Carry-On Bag.
DISCLOSURE: I received this bag for free in exchange for a review and a share on social media. I did not send the review to CabinZero prior to publication. Please click for my disclosure policy.
Six month update:
The top handle of my CabinZero bag ripped off while traveling in Romania and within 1 week, I received a brand new CabinZero bag sent to me in Paris with free expedited shipping under their 25 year warranty terms after sending two photos. It was easy enough, however I really don’t like when things break on me.
My previous experiences with carry-on luggage
It’s been seven years since I got my first passport and went on my first trip solo. I’m on my second passport and my sixth carry-on bag. Most trips that I’ve taken have been carry-on only. Since then, I’ve learned a lot in terms of things to look for in a good travel backpack and packing more effectively.
Carry-on bag #1: Cheap carry on luggage from Amazon
When I bought a small travel duffel-bag, I got what I paid for: a cheap duffel bag that actually hurt my shoulder due to the thin plastic strap that did not distribute the weight equally. Definitely not the best carry on duffel bag for Europe to carry around for over a month.
Lesson 1: A good thick strap that distributes the weight equally and/or backpack straps with cushioning are important, otherwise your back/shoulders will hurt! Invest in a good bag that will last and that you don’t mind carrying with you.
Carry-on bag #2: A weekend tote bag (Grand Tote) from Vera Bradley
A friend gave me a large Vera Bradley weekend bag to use as a lightweight carry-on bag. Although it was a great carry on tote bag for car trips with friends, the inability to close the bag drove me crazy as my clothes/electronics would spill out at the worst times and I’d lose things in what seemed like a never-ending bucket.
Lesson 2: Zippers are important. Obvious, but important.
Lesson 3: Packing cubes are a lifesaver in terms of packing neatly and not losing your stuff in a larger carry-on bag! Packing cubes are a way of separating your items from each other, so you can set aside clothes that you’ll need for one day (in its entirety) without needing to dig through your bag! Perfect for not needing to unpack over and over.
Carry-on bag #3: A conventional rolling carry-on suitcase
Don’t get rolling carry-on luggage if you’re planning on backpacking through small Italian towns in Tuscany/Umbria…or simply anywhere in Europe that has cobblestone streets.
Almost a month of “backpacking” through Italy and Hungary with dragging my rolling suitcase around killed my suitcase. I also ended up paying extra baggage fees after as my carry-on would not fit the size requirements for Ryanair.
Lesson 4: Rolling carry-on bags don’t work well with cobblestones. Small travel backpacks work better for European cities.
Lesson 5: Avoid baggage fees on budget airlines by getting a carry-on bag that fits size requirements from the most restrictive airlines.
Carry-on bag #4: Army backpack
My husband swears by Army bags. It attracts unwanted attention as people assume that we’re American soldiers and/or really broke backpackers.
When I attended a work conference in Prague, I brought an army backpack, but I was the only one in a suit with a non-professional backpack and a couple people made negative comments about it. My laptop kept moving around as there was no padded pocket.
Lesson 6: If you travel for work, a professional looking backpack can go a long way and a padded laptop sleeve is useful for protecting your belongings.
Carry-on bag #5: CabinZero Classic 44L Ultra-Light Cabin Bag.
I felt it was time to invest in a carry-on bag that had good reviews, looked professional, included a good warranty, and was comfortable. I ended up reading about CabinZero’s bags and wanted to see how it measured up.
CabinZero is a British producer of lightweight, ethically produced carry-on bags that are sized for budget airlines and those who love to travel without checking a bag. The Classic 44L costs 70 Euros.
No extra cabin fees, even on restrictive budget airlines.
I brought my CabinZero bag to Romania where I road tripped, went climbing, and had the worst luck that I’ve ever had during traveling, including getting denied boarding for a flight.
After hours of stress, I managed to buy two separate budget flights on Europe’s most restrictive budget airlines in terms of carry-on size limits on the following morning in order to get home. I didn’t end up paying ANY baggage fee.(My aunt who had a standard carry-on luggage that was okay for a different airline had to pay an extra baggage fees.)
Soft and Squishable
It’s squishable (and fits on Ryanair!), so when the flight attendant asks you if it will fit in the bin; it will. This aspect drove my husband crazy as things often moved around in the bag.
What I fit inside my CabinZero bag for a 7 day trip. I used 3 CabinZero packing cubes.
- Travel Adapter.
- Camera Charger.
- Sneakers and a pair of flats.
- 2 Pairs of Jeans.
- Rock climbing helmet (clipped to exterior)
- Water bottle (clipped to exterior)
- Climbing Harness.
- DSLR Camera.
- Fleece jacket.
- 1 Workout Outfit (Shirt/Sweatpants).
- 5 shirts.
25 Year Warranty.
It comes with a
he Okoban tracker is already used by thousands of airports, so if you leave your bag at the airport or on a plane, it will be very easy to get your bag back. I had to use my warranty as the bag broke after six months of usage.
The minimalistic exterior does not give away that you’re carrying your valuables inside the bag.
Other Things to Know
Colors of the CabinZero bags: The CabinZero Classic 44L comes in over 18 colors, so if you’re not fond of the original grey CabinZero as shown above, you can buy a CabinZero bag in pink, red, green, or black! There are different styles, including a Military style 44L, a vintage style 44L, and an urban style 42L meant for commuters.
Dimensions: Fits 55 x 40 x 20 cm [Same size as Ryanair’s maximum carry-on size!]
Composition, Outer: Waterproof polyester, Lining: Polyester
What I didn’t like about the CabinZero bag
It lacked a strap across the chest for trekking. We took our CabinZero bag on a rock climbing and hiking adventure in Turda Gorge (Romania). It was a bit difficult as it moved as there wasn’t a hip-strap to keep the bag in place.
It did hold our gear at least, but I tend to use an army backpack/day pack for hiking/climbing as it wasn’t ideal. I only use this bag for city day trips as it’s not intended for hiking. My husband’s biggest issue with the bag is that things move around too much within the bag.
Click to purchase your CabinZero backpack.