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Where carry-ons are concerned, thin is in, and you’ll do well to avoid the wide-body rollers that can be cumbersome on smaller planes. If you’re looking for a larger bag to check, look for a balance of durability and weight: every pound off the bag means another pound of stuff you can squeeze in and still meet the 50-pound rule.

Outside reviews the best gear in the 2011 Summer Buyers Guide, including the GoLite TraveLite wheeled carry-on.

Outside reviews the best gear in the 2011 Summer Buyers Guide, including the Patagonia Black Hole Duffel 60L.

Outside reviews the best gear in the 2011 Summer Buyers Guide, including the Eagle Creek ORV Trunk 30 rolling luggage.

Outside reviews the best gear in the 2011 Summer Buyers Guide, including the Victorinox WT Hardside Trolley 20 rolling luggage.

Outside reviews the best gear in the 2011 Summer Buyers Guide, including the Osprey Shuttle 32 rolling luggage.

Outside reviews the best gear in the 2011 Summer Buyers Guide, including the REI Grand Tour 85M backpack.

Outside reviews the best gear in the 2011 Summer Buyers Guide, including the Thule TCRU-2 60 Liter Upright rolling luggage.

Minimalist Nomad The beauty of the 3,050-cubic-inch Backtrack is its versatility—it’s a shoulder bag, a suitcase-style hauler, and a backpack with a detachable daypack—which we enjoyed on backroad rambles in Colorado. Deploy the adjustable suspension and head out with a week’s worth of goods bundled with dual compression straps. The…

It looks urbane, but it’s a tough guy on the road. This rolling duffel’s cross-woven monofilament fabric and beefy zippers shrugged off punishing loads and transits on a surf-and-turf ramble in Mexico. Though I regularly threw my 200 pounds on the brute to zip it up after overstuffing…

Off-Roader After 18,000 air miles and transits to mucky Thai elephant camps, this agile 3,965-cube convertible sustained only negligible knicks. The drop door’s main compartment easily assimilates ten days of garb and gear, while side exterior pockets can hold camera lenses and H2O. We stashed maps, documents, and a netbook…

From Big Agnes’s outdoor-inspired travel line comes the redesigned Stagecoach, a virtual amphibian and, of the bags tested, hands-down the best hauler in the muck, slush, and rain. The 3,300-cube small is pictured, but it comes in medium and large as well. Thanks to its nylon-laminated membrane and welded…

Slick Packaholic Scads of apparel, triathlon gear, souvenirs for the family…this wide-body, 6,447-cube roller rocked for weekend warrioring. A shiny vinyl sheath gives this tank a clean urban aesthetic that also toughens its skin, all wrapped in external load-cinching straps. We loved the voluminous, 18-inch-wide main compartment and mesh compression…

Leave it to messenger monarch Timbuk2 to devise an ingenious shoulder-bag-cum-suitcase. I toted this 1,521-cube carry-on for a month in the Philippines, where it functioned as my ad hoc office while holding backup clothing in case my checked luggage went missing. Three organizational compartments have various zippered sleeves,…

DOUBLE-DUTY HAULER Mountaineering boots, crampons, ice ax, backpack, and so much more gear for a climb on Mexico’s El Pico de Orizaba were gobbled up by this simple yet ingenious two-for-one luggage solution. Fully loaded, the 7,300-cube monster rig rolls like a stalwart SUV with a cargo box up top.

Long, trim, well-built, and without an ounce of excess flab, the Swerve manages large loads elegantly. Inside is 5,800 cubic inches of uninterrupted space, which was more than enough to cram all my dive gear, clothing, and personals for a month in the Philippines. Exterior compression straps ratcheted the…

1. If there’s parity in reincarnation, this two-in-one trunk will be reborn as a tank. It easily passes dress code at luxe hotels, but its 420- and 1,680-denier fabrics, brawny wheels and housings, and beefy bumper guards and kick plate are meant for rough stuff. A ten-day tour of…

Smart organization, cush protection, lightweight but durable construction, agile road manners, and a mod aesthetic—this one’s a greatest-hits compilation. We love its over-and-under footlocker design: fancy duds and unmentionables in the basement; in the roomy loft, footwear, bulky outdoor apparel, and camera gear (secured with a zippered mesh divider…

EVERYTHING AT HAND The 2,610-cube Maximum Legal Carry-On is overly tough, with 1,680-denier ballistics nylon and a DWR finish. It multitasks as a shoulder bag, soft-sided suitcase, or convertible backpack, handling mad airport dashes and civilized check-ins with equal ease. In the water-resistant main compartment, an internal compression panel/divider cinches…

The 6,700-cube Black Hole is the U-Haul of travel packs, aimed at itinerant gear junkies and purists who don’t need no stinkin’ wheels. Ski boots, collapsible poles, climbing rope, tent, football, 12-pack—go ahead, load ‘er up. Packing and unloading the cavernous gullet is blissfully simple. And the bag’s padded…

BOMBER VAGABOND What looks like a techy backpack splits into a 1,340-cube daypack and a 4,400-cube main hauler, carried as shoulder or side bag. In Iquitos, Peru, it all behaved like a comfortable 40-pound backpack, with load-adjuster straps and stiff back panel, as I traveled by boat and navigated muddy…

Explosive underwear, full-body scans, luggage fees? Welcome to the friendly skies. To subdue some of travel’s travails, shop smart for luggage; no one wants a finicky travel companion. With airlines’ checked-luggage charges, carry-ons have renewed appeal. The newest batch strives for lightness—generally good but not if shaved ounces compromise…

MULTISPORT MAW This rolling expedition duffel could eat two pony kegs. I dumped loads of gear into the 6,100-cube behemoth for kayaking and glacier tromping in Alaska and still had plenty of room. Osprey’s inventive exoskeleton design features a flexible Delrin rod that acts as a shield while forming the…

Gearhead Enabler Bulky equipment disappeared in this 8,769-cubic-inch dump bin. The over-under design means there are two cargo holds sporting Burton’s stretchy zippers, which invite overstuffing. Bust the 50-pound mark at check-in and a quick zip splits the monster into two scale-cheaters. We dragged, pushed, and tossed this brute during…

ROUGH-AND-TUMBLE MINIMALIST This 3,150-cube carry-on’s built like a wolverine: compact, rugged, and toothy—colossal five-inch wheels bite into most any surface and prevent payload rollovers. During a rain-racked week in Chiapas, Mexico, the water-resistant boot bin sequestered dank footwear while the muck-shirking polyurethane exterior was easy to wipe off. Inside, uncomplicated…

Recon Artist Brawny and balanced, the TLS is a 4,976-cubic-inch beefcake that shuns bling for practicality—perfect for a Thailand traverse where rain, muck, and brusque Bangkok cabbies failed to breach the 900-denier fabric and stout compression-molded bottom. No rummaging, thanks to the straightforward suitcase-style design, which splays open to reveal…

SLICK AND UTILITARIAN Fully rotating handle for ergonomic towing; adjustable, ventilated, zip-away backpack suspension for off-road jaunts; detachable day bag with shoulder strap for town tours? Check. This carry-on-legal, 3,200-cube convertible provided all and more during five days in Belize. Sliding the surprisingly svelte main bag—compressed via four straps—into overhead…

Cyclotourist The lightweight, waterproof Classic Messenger XL is an ode to efficient, simple transport, yawning open with a 3,313-cube maw that’ll consume enough gear for week-plus jaunts. One tester made it his primary carry-on, which morphed into a daily shoulder bag while exploring foreign destinations by bike. Under-the-flap pockets equal…

1. Remarkable for its smart blend of features, capacity, ergonomics, and durability, this 9.9-pound duffel hits the sweet spot for most travelers. Its shell—420- and 630-denier nylon, with 1,680-denier ballistic-nylon reinforcements at crucial wear points— is a suit of armor. Add a tough back panel, bumper, and wheel…