Best Carry-On Luggage for SuitsBy Jeanne Hopkins
A breakdown of all the best carry-on luggage options for suits.
Experienced business travelers always use carry-on suitcases unless that’s just not possible given the scope of their trip. But business travel often requires packing one or more suits. Can you possibly fit suits as well as the rest of your clothes and sundries in a carry-on garment bag – and have everything arrive in ready-to-wear, wrinkle-free condition?
Yes! Business travel is big business these days, so suitcase manufacturers offer many great carry-on garment bags designed specifically for efficiency-minded business travelers who need to look their professional best.
Best carry-on garment bags
Carry-on luggage makes for much easier business travel. You can skip the time and fees for baggage check and retrieval, and no one will lose your suitcase. Any travel garment bag will protect your clothing and fit neatly in the overhead bin, but beyond that you’ll find an amazing array of options. You can choose a simple, few-frills bag or one that comes with a wealth of interior and exterior extras.
To find the best bag for suits and other clothing, you can look in stores, search online, read ratings and reviews, and ask for recommendations from your road warrior colleagues.
What to look for in a carry-on garment bag
Unlike a standard carry-on suitcase, travel garment bags have an integrated compartment specifically for clothing such as suits and dresses. They fold or roll for travel, then hang in the closet without unpacking. Some hold not only your clothes but all your other business travel needs – laptop and accessories, travel wallet and docs, etc. But will you need access to any of those items in-flight? Best to pack them in your personal bag/backpack instead, so they will be right at hand under the seat in front of you.
- Size. Overhead bin dimensions vary, but an airline carry-on is usually defined as no larger than 22 x 14 x 9 inches (after folding/rolling). Some hold a single suit, some can hold multiple suits plus the clothing that goes with them.
- Weight. Garment bags that hold more weigh more, before and after they’re packed. Weight also depends on the bag’s construction.
- Organization. For travel, a garment bag should be more than a slip-cover for your suit. Zippered pockets and mesh bags are handy for separating toiletries, ties/accessories, and underwear. Look for dedicated spaces for shoes and wet/dirty items. Larger external pockets can hold rolled clothing, packing cubes, or even documents.
- Durability. The bag should be lightweight but tough enough to resist the realities of travel. Most carry-on garment bags are constructed of ballistic nylon or polyester, and many have leather reinforcements at key stress points. Some high-end bags are made entirely of leather.
- Format. Travel garment bags come in bi-fold or tri-fold design, or roll into a duffel shape for transport. Some even have wheels, especially larger-capacity styles.
Tri-fold bags are popular because they are compact yet protect against wrinkles better than a roll-up bag. A spinner suitcase with telescoping handle can be easier to haul through the airport than one with a shoulder strap or traditional handle.
Some of the most popular carry-on garment bags are:
- Briggs & Riley Baseline Domestic
- Samsonite Lineate Duet Garment Bag
- Travelpro Crew Versapack Carry-On
- Victorinox Luggage Unisex Werks Garment Sleeve 6.0
- Zegur 40-inch 3-Suit Carry-On
Benefits of a quality carry-on for suits
Even if you don’t check your bag, travel is tough on luggage. You need a carry-on suitcase that is durable enough to keep looking good on the outside while protecting your clothes on the inside. Suits (not to mention the rest of your clothes) are costly, so quality counts in an airline carry-on. But that doesn’t necessarily mean a sky-high price tag. Samsonite, American Tourister and numerous other brands make good quality affordable carry-on garment bags.
You can define quality in two ways
There is no question that quality depends on materials and workmanship. An ultra-lightweight bag may seem like a great idea, but if it’s too flimsy to stand up (or worse, rips and allows damage to your clothes), it’s no bargain. Fabrics such as 1680D ballistic nylon or similar materials commonly used for travel duffels, backpacks and laptop bags are highly resistant to wear and tear. And, of course, it’s hard to beat leather for toughness. It can show wear with age, but not everyone finds this “road warrior patina” to be a negative.
Little things often can cause the most trouble, so look for big, sturdy zippers (and pulls), handles that are comfortable in hand or extend far enough for easy towing, padded straps, and spinner style wheels. On the inside, sealable pockets or compartments that hold wet clothes or liquids such as toiletries can be a real plus to prevent messy accidents.
Quality is also subjective. Convenience and versatility are invaluable for business travelers, so the highest quality carry-on is the one that has right features for your business travel needs. We’re talking about zippered compartments and pockets, inside and out. And folding options that feel most comfortable when you carry the bag and hike it into the overhead compartment. Many better quality bags have polyethylene foam padding on the exterior (or as part of the garment sleeve) to give your clothes extra anti-wrinkle protection when the bag is stowed in the overhead bin.
If you’re a business professional who likes to travel in style, a carry-on garment bag from an obvious luxury brand can set you apart, showing you have a discerning eye when it comes to quality.
Why not pack your suits in a checked bag?
You don’t want to look like you slept in your suit, and who has time to iron clothes on a business trip? No matter how you pack your clothes, you can’t control the positioning of your suitcase once it’s checked. Wrinkles will happen.
Pick the size that matches your travel needs
There is no such thing as a “standard” capacity garment bag. They come in sizes to fit 1, 2, or 3 suits, all compact enough to fit in the overhead compartment. (Styles that hold as many as 6-10 suits are too bulky for the overhead bin and heavier than you want to carry around anyway.) Since larger capacity bags will be heavier, consider one with a telescoping handle or straps that let you carry the suitcase like a backpack.
Most affordable carry-on luggage for suits
We mentioned earlier that high quality doesn’t necessarily mean high price for carry-on garment bags (especially if you do some online research, which can reveal some fabulous bargains). That said, while you can pay under $50 for a suitable suitcase, you can also spend more than $1500 for a luxury brand. There are many excellent choices along this vast price spectrum, so there is a carry-on to fit your business travel style and budget.
Unlike the airlines, where basic economy is rarely an economic bargain, you can easily find very affordable carry-on suitcase options that are basic, or anything but basic. For less than $50 you might choose:
- Prottoni’s 40-inch Garment Bag costs just $40, yet you can pack multiple suits and all the trimmings.
- For just a few dollars more ($49) the Zegur Suit Carry-On Garment Bag is Amazon’s top-selling travel bag, with multiple pockets for shirts, shoes and accessories.
- At $44, Modoker’s Convertible Garment Bag incorporates a garment section to secure your suit or dress, surrounded by pockets for other clothes and a shoe pouch. It folds into a convenient duffel to carry.
- WallyBags 45” Extra-Capacity Garment Bag is light and durable. Although it is roomy enough for 8 hanging garments plus everything that goes with them, it folds in half to fit in the overhead bin.
For not much more than $100, you should check out:
- Travelpro’s Maxlite 5 22” Lightweight Carry-On Rolling Garment Bag – long on name and long on features as well. It lays flat to pack your suit or dress and sports numerous pockets for packing smaller clothes and shoes. And the exterior? Tough as nails polyester hide to repel water and stains, high-strength zipper pulls, and adjustable handle and inline skate wheels for easy toting.
For a larger investment (not a bad idea for frequent business travelers), a couple of the most popular carry-on suitcase options are:
- Bankroll Garment Bag, which can hold two suits and all the accompaniments. Shoes ride in a hard center compartment that forms the center of the rolled bag.
- Briggs & Riley Baseline series garment bags, which not only protect your suit but provide numerous multi-sized pockets to fit everything from cufflinks to shirts and shoes. The Classic is a bi-fold, its Compact cousin is a tri-fold for easier carry and overhead big fit, and there’s a wheeled version, too.
What are the best affordable but high-quality luggage brands?
Old standbys like Samsonite and American Tourister are still beloved by business travelers. However, with the expanding market for carry-on garment bags, less well-known brands such as those noted above have become popular with business (and leisure) travelers looking for an affordable but high-quality suitcase that will fit into the overhead compartment.
Ultimately, however, “best” depends on you. Your typical travel, if there is such a thing. For example, if you frequent rainy or snowy destinations then a water-repellent bag might be best. And your personal preferences – do you want to roll it or sling it over your shoulder? Do you want a sleek exterior or pockets to hold more clothes, documents or your noise-cancelling headphones and travel pillow? Do you usually need more than one suit? (Before you answer that, have you studied tips on packing light? Road warriors are adept at getting the most from the least, one of the many reasons they prefer carry-on luggage.)
Whatever carry-on suitcase options you’re considering, it is advisable to double check the size regulations for the airlines your company frequents before you purchase the bag. It won’t be affordable if you have to check it after all.
Highest quality carry-on luggage for suits
So, what if affordability isn’t a big issue for you? We’ve already discussed the fact that you can buy a good quality carry-on suitcase for a very reasonable price, but certain travelers want the very best, regardless of cost. It’s a matter of style as well as functionality. And the nicer your clothes, the nicer their surroundings should be when they travel with you on business trips.
Travel garment bags don’t have to come with a hefty price tag to look stylish. But high-end suitcase manufacturers go the extra mile when it comes to materials and detailing that exude sophistication. Brand-famous patterned fabrics (ultra-tough and wear-resistant despite their chic appearance) speak volumes about your choice of bag. And leather is prominent, thanks to its innate durability and handsome good looks. (One business travel expert humorously suggests that if you can’t afford a pricey bag, you can achieve a classier look by adding a leather luggage tag to any bag.)
Outward appearance aside, though, your carry-on still has to fulfill its practical goals. It must protect your suits, dresses and other clothes from wrinkles and potential damage, and it must provide features that facilitate efficient organization and packing. Choosing details such as tri-fold design, inline skate wheels, and a telescoping handle will repay your investment at any cost.
Quality speaks for itself
Especially when you’re making a significant financial investment in a suitcase, you expect it to last. So, one feature to look for in a higher-quality carry-on suitcase is the warranty. If you’re shopping for luggage in person, you can examine zippers and pulls, handles, and protective elements used at key stress points with your own eyes and hands. If you’re shopping online, you can rely on customer reviews to identify potential problems (or confirm lack of problems under high-stress travel conditions). But nothing indicates quality like a warranty.
Manufacturers who use the best materials and workmanship are proud to provide lifetime warranties. A very limited warranty suggests lack of confidence in the product.
Where can you find luxury carry-on garment bags?
Regardless of your price point comfort zone, sources for carry-on garment bags are the same. You can search online, visit brick and mortar stores to see and feel options in person, and ask high-flying business associates for recommendations. And it still pays to read the ratings and reviews, because paying more – or a whole lot more – doesn’t guarantee the quality details that matter most to you.
What is the price range for luxury carry-on luggage for suits?
Hartmann Herringbone runs just $160. On the other hand, carrying the Zero Halliburton Carbon Fiber garment bag will run you around $3250. For a bit more than half of that ($1750), you can pick up a Canali Black Textured Calfskin Garment Bag. Tumi’s Alpha 3 Classic Garment Bag costs about $700. And if you’re looking to drop a name (visually speaking), Louis Vuitton, Montblanc, and Prada all make travel garment bags.
There are so many types of carry-on garment bags, and they come in so many potential configurations! In the end, choosing luggage that will fit in the overhead bin, protect your suits and/or dresses from wrinkles, reflect your style, and fit your budget comes down to personal preference. Now that you know all the factors that can affect quality and convenience, you can investigate the options with a keen eye and pick carry-on luggage for suits that will improve your experience every time you travel for business.