News flash (particularly for those who associate Thule primarily with ski boxes) – Thule does a mean side line in cabin bags, too. The aion weighs slightly more than some of the bags we tested, but it’s also the toughest, thanks to a polycarbonate panel at the rear and a 600-denier waxed canvas shell. For us though, the highlight is the clamshell opening.
One thing’s for sure – the humble cabin bag has evolved beyond all recognition. Although we’ve still got a soft spot for the compact simplicity of a hard-sided cabin case, we’ve also got plenty of time for other types of hand luggage.
When it comes to packing before you travel, there are ample options to choose from. There are duffel-style bags with removable straps as well as over-the-shoulder types which offer the perfect combination of style and what we refer to as stuffability – in other words, easy access and room for pretty much everything barring the kitchen sink.
Wondering how you’ll find the right one? With so many styles on offer, we recommend writing down your priorities, along with a list of the items you’re most likely to be transporting.
For example, travellers with an abundance of tech should consider tougher builds. We’d recommend opting for cases with waxed fabric (as this will provide brilliant protection against wear and tear) and plenty of pockets (ideally ones accessible from the interior and exterior) for cables and power packs.
Adrenaline junkies and backpackers, meanwhile, are more likely to value bags with multiple interior compartments, which are a lifesaver when it comes to separating sand or sweat-covered gear from other items. On the other hand, soft-sided bags – especially ones with exterior compression straps – can be useful when space is at a premium, allowing you to customise the space available depending on the contents.
How we tested
Whether it’s for work or pleasure, we travel a lot. And while we might have a few favourite luggage brands, we’re always open to experimenting with new ones. As keen scuba divers, snowboarders and mountain bikers, we demand a lot from the bags we use, and we’re also pretty good at identifying the features which will come in handy – along with the ones which simply aren’t worth the extra cash.
These particular bags were put through their paces on visits to Singapore, Indonesia and Manchester, and we used them to transport everything from computers and cameras to the dive gear we needed for a visit to one of Indonesia’s most remote archipelagos.
The best cabin bags for 2023 are:
- Best overall – Thule aion carry on spinner: £285, Thule.com
- Best lightweight suitcase – Marks and Spencer Oslo 4 wheel hard shell cabin suitcase: £95, Marksandspencer.com
- Best budget cabin bag – Vango shuttle 25, £55, Vango.co.uk
- Best over-the-shoulder cabin bag – Scamp and Dude silver lightning bolt quilted overnight bag: £68, Scampanddude.com