Nothing goes with the best eco-friendly personal item bag like the best eco-friendly carry-on luggage. Here are my top 10 picks to support eco-friendly and sustainable brands while reducing your impact on the environment in your over 40 solo travel.
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Difference Between Personal Item and Carry-On
Most airline carriers will allow you two items to carry on a plane: a personal item and a piece carry-on luggage. The carry-on luggage must either fit under your seat (or the seat in front of you) or the overhead bin. However, if you have a personal item, your carry-on luggage will more than likely go in the overhead bin.
Confirm with your airline before purchasing your ticket how many items you will be allowed to carry on to the plane.
What Can I Bring as Carry-On?
Can duffel bags be carry-ons?
Yes! Basically, any type of bag or luggage that you carry on can be considered a carry-on. Carry-on luggage can include, but is not limited to, a backpack, laptop bag, garment bag, camera bag, tote, luggage on wheels, etc.
What size can your carry-on be?
Every airline carrier has its own size and weight restrictions for carry-on luggage Airlines also carry a common theme that baggage restrictions are higher for Economy seating than Business or First Class seating. If you don’t meet the airline’s baggage guidelines, this could cause you to have to check your bags.
Below is a list of popular airline carriers. Click on each to direct to their baggage guidelines.
How to Choose the Best Carry-On Luggage
Base your carry-on bag purchase from at least the following categories:
Size and Weight
Always check your airline’s luggage size and weight restrictions in advance, especially if you are flying internationally. U.S. airlines do not employ weight restrictions like other international carriers do. Going over weight can invite baggage fees.
The big question to ask here is, “What kind of trip am I taking?” Will it be international or domestic? Will you be needing to personally handle your luggage a lot? How many flights will you be taking?
The more use your luggage will get, the more luggage features you’ll likely want to make your traveling easier. Such features could include built-in wheels (2 or 4), extendable carry handle or shoulder strap (or both), built in luggage locks, laptop pocket, etc.
If your carry-on luggage will be your only luggage, getting a light-weight bag in the largest size possible, with organizational pockets, may also be best. Again, consider, your most frequented airlines’ size and weight restrictions. Why buy more than one carry-on?
Durability & Quality
Longer flights, or air travel with multiple legs, are more demanding of any luggage. You want luggage that can take a beating and not break. Some travelers love the hard-shell luggage while others prefer soft.
Waterproofing is a nice thought, but please know that chemicals in most waterproofing are considered a “forever chemicals” with not-so-nice human health effects.
Does the manufacture back their product with a warranty for easy replacement or fixing or money-back guarantee?
Additionally, how eco-friendly and/or sustainable is the product? Environmentally, socially ethical and sustainable brands place high value on providing products that meet their core mission. This is probably you, too. After all, you’re reading this.
How to Choose Eco-friendly Luggage
Before you ask, “Yes, eco-friendly is the same as environmentally friendly.” A brand focusing on being eco-friendly is producing products with less negative impacts on the environment.
Please know, however, that some brands focus on being socially ethical or both socially ethical and eco-friendly, which is referred to as focusing on sustainability. If you would like to learn more, read about the difference between the three.
Be aware of those brands claiming to be “green” but really aren’t. This is known as greenwashing and unethical companies use this for marketing purposes. Shame on them.
A lot of eco-friendly travel gear is made with recycled or upcycled materials, non-toxic chemicals or processes, and use minimal natural resources overall to manufacture. Looking for these factors is a great place to start when reading about the brand.
To help you, I’ve pointed out brand’s environmental (or ethical or sustainable) efforts, with links, in my list of top carry-on luggage below to make your research easier.
What is Allowed in a Carry-on?
It is always best to check with your country’s travel and security sites for what to bring, or not to bring, in your personal item bag and carry-on. If you are traveling within the U.S. see the TSA’s What Can I Bring for the most up-to-date travel guidelines.
How to Pack Eco-Friendly
Believe it or not, it’s not just what you bring that makes your packing eco-friendly, it’s also how much you bring. The less the total luggage weight, the less fuel the plane has to use making your lighter bag more eco-friendly. Look here for more eco-friendly travel tips.
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When measuring your carry-on, ensure to include the wheels, pockets, and handles in the overall measurement. The airlines will.
That said, if you take international flights regularly, you’d be doing well to purchase a carry-on bag that is no more than 21” x 15” x 7” (53cm x 38cm x 18cm) to 22” x 14” x 9” (56cm x 36cm x 23cm).
Since you’re trying to be eco-friendly while you travel, try to purchase carry-on gear right the first time by having it meet your favorite airline carrier’s size regulations. Using international carriers’ regulations will likely keep you from having to buy multiple carry-on bags.
Plus, you won’t be tempted to go over the weight restriction. If you fly internationally, you know how strict they are on baggage weight.
Best Eco-friendly Carry-on Luggage: Top 10 Picks
Carry-on bags can come in different styles, but the most popular on those with wheels included. Here are CORR Travel’s 10 picks for the best eco-friendly carry-on luggage sure to meet your travel needs.
1 – Solgaard
Carry-On Carry-On Closet
Dimensions 20″ x 13.5″ x 7.5″
Weight 8.3 lbs
Type Hard shell on wheels
Features Accepted by all airlines with TSA-approved locks; 10 year warranty; packs for 3 to 6 days; and USB charging port; and built-in six shelf closet system.
Product Eco Benefits Made of five pounds of recycled ocean plastics.
Brand Mission Solgaard’s goal is to help cut ocean plastic in half by 2025 and partners with The Plastic Bank for ocean clean-up projects that create jobs in the Philippines. Read more about Solgaard’s environmental mission.
2 – United By Blue
Carry-On 55L Carry-On Duffle
Dimensions 19″ x 13.5 x 13″
Type Duffle Bag
Features Padded, removable shoulder strap; front slant pockets; back slide pocket; padded handle closure; exterior side handle; and Interior compartments on side pockets.
Product Eco Benefits Made from 100% recycled 600D polyester with DWR finish, 100% recycled 200D polyester lining, 100% recycled nylon webbing straps, 60% recycled nylon, 40% recycled polyester air mesh padding, and YKK Zipper with 100% recycled nylon paracord pulls.
Brand Mission United By Blue is B Corp certified, uses sustainable materials in their supply chain, and employs ethical manufacturing practices globally. For every product you purchase, they remove one pound of ocean and waterway trash. Read more about United By Blue’s sustainability mission.
3 – Terra Thread
Carry-On BUMI Duffel
Dimensions 13″ x 22″ x 12″
Type Duffel Bag
Features Front pocket, inside hanging pocket, outside pocket, long zipper double-sided pulls, and YKK lead-free antique finish metal zippers.
Product Eco Benefits Made with 100% Organic and Fairtrade Cotton, processed and manufactured per GOTS standards and certified dyes, lead-free zippers and fasteners, and made in a Fair Trade Certified factory.
Brand Mission Terra Thread is B Corp certified, and GOTS and Fair Trade certified. Terra Thread uses sustainable materials in their supply chain, and employs ethical manufacturing practices globally. For every product you purchase, they contribute 20 meals to families through United States through Feeding America. Read more about Terra Thread’s sustainability efforts.
4 – Cotopaxi
Carry-On Allpa 35L Travel Pack
Dimensions 20” x 12” x 8”
Weight 3lb 8oz (4lb 10oz with accessories)
Features Multiple carry options with tuck-away shoulder straps and side handle; weight-distributing, low-profile harness system; removable waist belt; suitcase-style, full-wrap zipper opening for main compartment; subdivided zippered mesh side compartments; padded laptop and tablet sleeve; and security YKK zippers.
Product Eco Benefits Made in a Philippines factory committed to fair social labor and environmentally sound practices, and made with 100% repurposed nylon materials from other companies’ production runs to keep waste out of landfills with a percentage of earnings allocated to the Cotopaxi Foundation.
Brand Mission Cotopaxi’s “Do Good” mission as a B Corp certified organization is to promote community development and improving human conditions while reducing environmental impact by using recycled materials. Read more about Cotopaxi’s sustainability mission and its foundation.
5 – Paravel
Carry-On Aviator Carry-On
Dimensions 22″ x 14″ x 9″
Type Hard shell on wheels
Features Sized for 4-7 days’ worth of clothes and 2-4 pairs of shoes; 360° frictionless carbon steel bearing wheels; vegan leather-wrapped steel side handles; interior compression board; TSA-approved lock; removable accessories pouch; telescopic handle; and 5 year warranty.
Product Eco Benefits The Aviator has a lightweight and durable recycled polycarbonate shell with Telescopic handle made from recycled, aircraft-grade aluminum, recycled zippers, and a recycled lining made from 15 plastic bottles.
Brand Mission Paravel products are made with upcycled and 100% post-consumer recycled plastics reducing negative environmental impact on land and in waterways. Read more about Paravel’s environmental efforts.
6 – Solo NY
Carry-On Re:Treat Carry-On
Dimensions 22″ x 14″ x 7″
Weight 5.73 lbs
Type Cloth luggage on wheels
Features Black camo lining; two front zippered pockets; interior organizer section with key clip; easy-glide wheels; and push-button telescoping handle. This bag is bound to meet most airline personal item size restrictions, if not all.
Product Eco Benefits Made from recycled PET bottle polyester.
Brand Mission Solo NY is committed to removing 40 million plastic bottles from landfills by 2024 while reducing energy and water use and eliminating plastic packaging. They also partner with the National Forest Foundation to plant trees with Re:cycled Collection products sold. Read more about Solo NY’s environmental efforts.
7 – Everlane
Carry-On The ReNew Transit Weekender
Dimensions 14.2″ x 7.3″ x 19.5″
Features Padded laptop sleeve; two water bottle holders; exterior zip pocket; luggage handle pass-through/pocket); and multiple carry options with adjustable shoulder strap.
Product Eco Benefits Made with 36.6 renewed plastic bottles, 100% Recycled polyester lining, fluorine-free water-resistant finish, and dyed with bluesign®-approved dyes better for the environment.
Brand Mission Everlane tries to incorporate socially ethical manufacturing practices with environmentally friendly products and supply chain efforts to provide products designed to last. Read more about Everlane’s sustainability and transparency practices.
8 – Osprey
Carry-On Transporter Carry-On
Dimensions 21.5” X 14” X 9”
Weight 3.4 lbs
Type Hybrid Backpack / Shoulder Bag
Features Removable shoulder strap and padded, tuck-away shoulder straps; internal compression; front panel organizer; easy-access liquids pocket and padded laptop sleeve; whether wheeled or carry; abrasion- and water-resistant TPU-coated fabrics; and available in both domestic and global carry-on sizes.
Product Eco Benefits Made from Global Recycled Standard [GRS] and bluesign®-approved recycled, renewable, and non-toxic materials to keep harmful chemicals and waste out of the environment. As with all of its products, it comes with Osprey’s “All Mighty Guarantee” that it will repair any damage or defect for any reason free of charge, no matter when you purchased.
Brand Mission Osprey is committed to making innovative, high performance products designed for a lifetime to leave as little trace possible while keeping materials, chemicals and social responsibility in mind. Read more about Osprey’s sustainability practices.
9 – Cabin Zero
Carry-On Classic Pro 32L Absolute
Dimensions 18” x 13.4” x 8”
Features Large front pocket with internal organizer; easy access padded laptop sleeve for 15.5” laptop; air mesh hide-away, padded shoulder and waste straps; real panel air flow system; key clip; elastic pen loops; external water bottle pocket; lockable YKK Zippers; and, OKOBAN tracking tag.
Product Eco Benefits Made only from REACH standard and high-quality materials so the product is built to last so you don’t have to buy another bag.
Brand Mission Cabin Zero is committed to enforcing social responsibility in all working conditions and using high quality materials for products for less environmental impact. Read more about Classic Pro 32L Absolute.
10 – Samsonite
Carry-On Eco-Nu Expandable Spinner
Dimensions 22″ x 14″ x 9″
Type Cloth luggage on wheels
Weight 6.33 lbs
Features Smart Top storage with easy access; Smart Fix buckles; Saguaro wheel system; hidden expansion system with protected zipper; spring-loaded carry handle; easy grip zipper pulls; and hideaway ID tag.
Product Eco Benefits From the ECO-Nu collection it is made from Recyclex® polyester fabric from 100% post-consumer recycled PET bottles and VAC eco-environmental coating.
Brand Mission Samsonite launched its Recyclex™ program in 2018 to use 100% postconsumer recycled plastic bottles in 21 collections worldwide; and, more recently, launched its sustainability strategy, Our Responsible Journey, in 2020 in which it is committed to increasing the amount of recycled materials and sustainably sourced materials for product manufacturing and supporting a transition to a low carbon economy and reduced environmental impact through less energy and water usage and producing less waste. Read more about Samsonite’s sustainability efforts or download their 2019 ESG report.
If you need some other good personal item bag suggestions or other travel resource, check out CORR Travel’s Travel Resources.
Let Me Hear From You
I would love to hear any of these 10 best eco-friendly carry-on luggage ideas worked for you. Post me your thoughts or questions in the Comments section below. Thank you!