There are suitcases that have power banks built in, that you can ride on when you get tired, that follow you automatically around the airport, that convert into backpacks and duffels and probably into tiny standing desks for the indefatigable business traveler.
But every piece of luggage, no matter how fancy, has one thing in common: at some point, you’ll have to lift it.
For a twig-armed, chronically indecisive overthinker like me who can’t even do a single pushup, I insist on taking three different pairs of chunky black boots for a four-day trip. Many cabin-sized suitcases I have owned in my lifetime have promised cloud-like lightness that would allow me to edge ever closer to the airline’s weight limit in wardrobe changes alone. And yet I always end up grimacing gratefully at the taller, stronger travelers who inevitably have to shove my carry-on into the overhead compartments for me on almost every flight. (And never once have any of these strapping folks found my girlish frailty endearing enough to flirt with me while they’re doing it.)
When I picked up the cardboard box it arrived in, my initial thought was “Did they forget to put it in?”
The absolute lightest carry-on cases available online tend to clock in at just under four pounds, and more than one lay claim to the title of “world’s lightest” overall or hardshell, including the newest product from Melbourne luggage company July. At a claimed 1.8 kilograms (3.9 pounds), the Carry On Light may be a mascara tube or two heavier than at least one other product claiming to be the least-heavy double-wheel case, but it’s undeniably, well, light. When I picked up the cardboard box it arrived in, my initial thought was “Did they forget to put it in?”
It looks pretty good and is customizable
July’s designs are closer to the millennial-aesthetic direct-to-consumer-startup vibe of similar companies like Away than your standard zipper-riddled nylon luggage. The Carry On Light has a hard-case polycarbonate shell that comes in a range of sensible shades, from muted grey and navy to the slightly less moody pastel blue and terracotta.
You can also choose to have your case printed on the top, side, or back with your name, initials, a selection of emojis, or whatever you like. (I didn’t test whether they would censor my personalization, but I didn’t get an Apple-style error or pop-up when I entered “Fuck”, so you do you.)
I considered the black (to match all my boots, obviously) but ended up going with the dark forest green, with my initials in sky blue and white below the handle in the Block font. I would have chosen the playful serif option Retro if it had been available when I ordered.
Even after being bashed around on a couple of flights (and harried Uber rides), the printed design hasn’t been damaged.
Credit: Caitlin welsh / mashable
While the Light looks pretty standard when you first pull it out of its drawstring bag, it looked positively aerodynamic next to my older and very standard carry-on.
Obviously losing an inch or two of overall thickness might help with keeping the weight down, but it also looks pleasingly sleek. And the printed initials are clean-edged and bright — and made me feel a little fancy.
The interior is surprisingly roomy, but leave bulkier items out
On the inside, the lining is an unremarkable black nylon that claims to be stain-proof — I’ve been spared having to test this through any beauty-bag spills so far, but then I also don’t really care if the inside of my suitcase stains. Both halves of the shell, equally sized, have internal mesh covers that zip all the way around with enough give that I could pack my meticulously rolled T-shirts and bulkier denim and skirts, zip them into place, and then move the double zips around to poke socks and other forgotten small items into the gaps around the edges without unzipping it completely. The mesh sections compress the clothes fairly effectively.
While the netted parts looked a little shallow at first — i.e. the placement of the zips looked low — once full, the space is easily filled by the clothes in their bulging nets, and there was room for my laptop to slide into the middle and be cushioned fairly safely between them. July claims the 38L internal volume is among “the largest in its class.” You’ll want to wear your Doc Martens on the plane and pack your Chuck Taylors away, though — that slimline design means chunky shoes do take up a lot of interior real estate (and might negate the device-padding bonus).
Smooth wheels are a huge bonus
July makes much of their wheel design and as you can see in the comparison photo below, the four wheels protrude from the overall profile a bit. But this seems to help with stability, and oh boy, are they a dream to drive. Again, my old faithful case suffered by comparison — the July traveled smoothly over all surfaces, including a brick-paved driveway.
While the hard outer has no handy pockets or hidden sections, having everything kept safe and secure by the mesh while I unzipped it to remove the laptop at airport security made that annoying step a bit easier. Items are fairly visible behind the mesh, though, so tuck your sex toys out of sight if you’ll be unzipping at security and prefer to not show everyone around you.
Right to left: the July, my older (and chunkier) case, and Bruce the pug mix, guarding his snacks.
Credit: caitlin welsh / mashable
Miraculously, the case was even slim enough to be wedged into the front basket of the airport luggage carts, so I didn’t have to spare a hand to roll it while also balancing a guitar case and two huge-as-it-gets suitcases.
And yes, when we made it onto the plane, I got it into the overhead compartment by myself. Was it mostly full of T-shirts? Yes. Was I proud anyway? Also yes.
Of course, the trade-off for lightness is often the loss of the satisfying heft of a luxury item. The dual-bar tow handle feels cheaply made and doesn’t always respond well when you push the release button to raise or lower it.
Hardshell cases aren’t for everyone
My partner, who travels much more often than I do for work, and also much lighter (i.e. no suits required), took it on an overnight trip to put it through its paces a little more. His verdict? “It’s fine.”
In fact, he said, “it’s made me realize that for uses where ‘light and mobile’ is the need, I actually just want a backpack or overnight bag.” (I took the hint and found him this Everlane backpack, which has now replaced both his branded everyday work tote and his carry-on case for overnight trips.)
Add to cart?
This is a straightforward and fairly handsome modern case, with a tiny splash of optional personality, and it’s serving me well. If you’re just after something for one- or two-night trips with minimal costume changes required, even a case as simple as this might be more than you require. But if you’re an over-packer trying to make the switch to the carry-on-only lifestyle when regular vacations become a thing again, or often have to make multi-day business trips, you could do much worse than this sleek and simple option.