How To Choose Your Carry-On

In The Wild

How To Choose Your Carry-On

Of all the many decisions you make when traveling, which carry-on you choose might have one of the largest impacts on your travel experience. It’ll affect how much your shoulders hurt by the time you arrive at your gate, how smoothly you go through security, how easy it is to board (or win at trunk tetris), and how well prepared you feel while at your destination. Plus, the prevalence of basic or economy fares these days means more and more people are relying on optimizing their personal items.

With holiday travel on the horizon for many, we thought we’d break down your options. Keep scrolling for a handy flowchart and some seasoned Topo HQ travelers’ advice in choosing which of our bags will work best for how you travel.

Personal Items (2-3 days):

All of these packs will fit tidily under the seat in front of you (and prevent a stern side-eye from the flight attendant while getting ready for take off). But, they’re all pretty different from one another, so how do you choose? We’ve got some ideas:

Global Travel Bag 30L

  • Type: Fully featured, 3-way carry travel bag
  • Key Features: External laptop compartment; removable backpack straps; maximal internal organization; PackFast™ clips
  • Use cases: If you’re looking for a classic travel bag with all the bells and whistles and fits under the seat in front of you, this is your bag. It’s made with super-tough, water-resistant nylon, so it’s still a true outdoor piece...only optimized for smooth transitions from your car, through security, to boarding, to hikes over rough terrain.
  • Don’t get this bag if: You’re looking for something less specifically tailored for travel, or you need unstructured space. The Mountain Pack will suit you better...

Mountain Pack

  • Type: Oversized, mountain-ready day pack
  • Key Features: Side entry; robust harness system and back panel; laptop/hydration sleeve
  • Use cases: You can think of the Mountain Pack as the inverse of the Global Travel Bag 30L. We designed it as an outdoor pack (perfect for long hikes or days at the crag), but its large size and roomy main compartment allow it to accommodate multiple changes of clothes and/or awkwardly shaped gear. Kit it out with our Pack Bags and Accessory Bags, and you have an organized, adventure-optimized weekender.
  • Don’t get this bag if: On the other hand, if you prefer lots of built-in organization or need to bring a lot of tech with you, we’d recommend going with the Global Travel Bag 30L or the Rover Pack Tech.

Overhead Bin Bags (4-7 days):

For longer trips (or maximum fit options while on the go), we’ve got a few different options for you. Learn which one is right for you:

Global Travel Bag Roller

  • Type: Fully featured rolling travel bag
  • Key Features: Wheels + telescoping handle; removable backpack straps; maximal internal organization; PackFast™ clips
  • Use cases: If you’re looking for a super organized roller bag with the ruggedness you expect from an outdoor company and stylish looks, stop. You have arrived. Get the Global Travel Bag Roller if you prefer a rolling carry-on to a backpack style bag. Like our other travel bags, it has three-way carry functionality so you can still wear it as a backpack if the terrain calls for it. You can also attach your Topo day pack to the front, or one of our briefcases to the telescoping handle.
  • Don’t get this bag if: If wheels aren’t how you plan on carrying your pack most of the time, we recommend taking a look at our Global Travel Bag 40L instead. If you prefer less structured space and want to customize how your bag is organized, consider grabbing our Mountain Duffel.

Global Travel Bag 40L

  • Type: Large, fully featured three-way carry travel bag
  • Key Features: Robust, removable harness system; external laptop compartment; maximal internal organization; PackFast™ clips
  • Use cases: This bag is a one bag travel devotee’s dream. Get this bag over the other two if your priority is complete hands-free freedom. If you do decide to bring a second, smaller day pack to use at your destination or as your personal item, you can clip it to the Global Travel Bag 40L rather than doing the whole pack on your back/pack on your front thing. This pack really shines if you have multiple destinations, will be traveling over rough terrain, or have to sprint to make your connecting flight.
  • Don’t get this bag if: Wheels or unstructured space are important to you. Like our other Global Travel Bags, this one features a lot of internal organization, so it might not work if you frequently travel with awkwardly shaped or larger gear that needs to fit in there.

Mountain Duffel

  • Type: Mountain-ready, three-way carry duffel bag
  • Key Features: Padded sides for structure; large main compartment, stowable backpack straps
  • Use cases: All-around gear hauling or travel where having more flexible space is important, either because you use it as a gear hauler in addition to a travel bag or because you frequently travel with awkwardly shaped gear (hiking boots, anyone?). The Mountain Duffel is a great option for people looking for a travel bag that’s designed for travel as well as other uses, or who find built-in internal organization more of a hindrance than a help. Naturally, it also fits our Pack Bags, so you can customize how much organization works best for you. This bag is especially easy to carry in its backpack mode, so it works well for hands-free travel.
  • Don’t get this bag if: If you must have built-in pockets, prefer a bag that rolls, or need to bring your laptop with you and it’s the only bag you’re bringing large enough to hold it.

Carry On Picks

Carry On Picks