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Since I live out of suitcases for weeks at a time, I tend to be pretty picky when it comes to luggage. My gear has to be rugged enough to suffer the occasional tumble off the roof rack of an SUV yet simple enough that I can quickly pick out the item I need without having to spend ages searching for it. And since I hate checking bags, even my roller bags tend to be crisp and compact enough to slide easily into an overhead bin. Here are some of my favorites.
Osprey Meridian 60L ($350)
I fell in love with this bag almost as soon as I bought it at an REI garage sale. The detachable daypack is perfect for day trips, and the padded laptop sleeve gives my MacBook Pro a bit of extra security. The zippered top pocket is a convenient place to store my headphones or passport. If I’m traveling in rough or tight environs, I can carry the bag by its comfy padded handle or attach the accompanying shoulder straps to convert it into a backpack.
Timbuk2 Co-Pilot Luggage Roller ($225)
Ultra-organized travelers will love the clamshell design with multiple mesh compartments of this carry-on. I especially like the top pocket, which offers quick and easy access to needed items after the bag’s been stashed in the overhead bin.
Thule Crossover Rolling Duffel 87L ($300)
I can easily stash gear for a week or two inside this bag, and its clamshell design allows me to separate and air out my dirty clothes. Despite taking years of abuse from baggage handlers all over the world, the thick, durable nylon exterior looks none the worse for wear, and the no-crush zipper pocket provides plenty of protection for goggles, sunglasses, and other breakables.
Away Bigger Carry-On ($245)
Thanks to a built-in battery pack and two USB ports under its handle, you can easily use your luggage to charge a phone or tablet while sipping a beer at the airport bar. (Be warned: Charge time can take up to eight hours. For best results, leave this bag plugged in the night before your flight.) Many travelers are also drawn to the hard-shell exterior, which offers a bit more protection than similar soft cases.
Eagle Creek Gear Warrior AWD 29-Inch ($329)
At just over eight pounds, the Gear Warrior is as light and tough as a champion featherweight. Multiple handles make it easier to move the case around when fully loaded, and exterior straps allow you to strap on helmets or other bulky gear. When not in use, the handle slides down into a zippered compartment for greater protection.