Best Lightweight Carry on Luggage (Under 5 lbs)

If you are shopping for lightweight carry-on luggage, there is no shortage of options.  But when picking your next carry on its important to be aware of the airline rules – the size and weight are a big consideration. In order to avoid additional airline fees, many people look for cabin luggage under 5 lbs.  To help you narrow down your options, I put together a list of my favorite lightweight carry-on bags of 2019.  I also added my own travel tips for picking cabin baggage including how to avoid involuntary bag check and additional fees.

Two giant mountains on the horizon, everything is covered in thick grass.  Between the moountains runs a thin river through a valley. The sky is cloudy and overcast.  Best lightweight luggage carryon - UK.
Glencoe, Highlands, Scotland

Carry On Luggage Options:

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DELSEY Paris Luggage Chatelet


  • Weights just 4.3 lbs
  • Hard Case, TSA Lock, Four Wheels, Additional Handles
  • Aesthetically Pleasing


  • Higher price range

This hand luggage is perhaps one of my personal favorites on the list, and arguably the best lightweight carry on luggage. This bag is a full 21 inches, but light. It includes features like TSA lock, four wheels, and additional handles. It also happens to be gorgeous. There are not many downsides to the Delsey Paris Luggage, and its price, although a bit higher than some other bags is still really reasonable.

IT Luggage Stitched Squares


  • Weights only 4.65 lbs
  • Inexpensive, Four Wheels
  • Features an extended warranty


  • Doesn’t have a TSA Lock, soft shell

This practical and economical choice is a great option if weight and price are your primary concerns. Although it doesn’t feature some major bells and whistles like a TSA lock, the IT luggage is still a great value.

AmazonBasics Softside Spinner Luggage


  • One of the least expensive options on the list
  • Four wheels spin in any direction
  • Expands up to 25%


  • 18 inches – smaller than competitors
  • Doesn’t have a TSA lock, soft shell

This very inexpensive ultralight carry on luggage option is ideal for an occasional traveler. At 18 inches it is smaller than the other options on the list, but also cheaper than many competitors. This is great luggage if price and weight are your primary concern.

5 Cities Ultra Light ABS Hard Shell


  • One of the least expensive options on the list
  • Lock, 5-year warranty, hard shell
  • Four wheels spin in any direction


  • 5.5 lbs

Perhaps the best hand luggage option on the list for budget frequent fliers, the Ultra Light ABS offers the best of all worlds. This ultralight bag is a good sized 21 inches and features a hard shell and a lock. It also comes with a 5-year warranty – and at the lowest price on the list. This is a bargain – there are practically no downsides.

Eagle Creek Expanse AWD International


  • Sturdy, attractive design and great reputation for quality
  • 21 inches but can compress to be slightly smaller if needed
  • Four all direction wheels, lock, self repairing zippers


  • Soft shell
  • Higher price range
  • 5.9 lbs

The sturdy and attractive Eagle Creek Expanse hand luggage are well known for quality and fine craftsmanship. However, there are some trade-offs. It is one of the more expensive bags on the list and is a bit over 5 lbs. However, if you are a frequent flier and looking for style, this ultralight is a great bag.

a swarm of blooming flowers in the foreground, the ocean in the background.  Towards the horizon stretches a long but narrow bridge. Best lightweight carry-on luggage - California
The California Coast

What Factors Should You Consider When Selecting a Carry on?

Size of the Carry on Bag

One important thing to think about when picking cabin luggage is the size of the bag. If you want to carry your bag on board, buy a bag 22 inches and under. Although this sounds pretty straight forward airlines do have different rules which can be confusing. Most American airlines allow bags 22 inches and over in length to be carried on board. However, a few small airlines, especially in Asia, place the limit on 21.5 inches and even 21 inches. My advice is to buy a 22 or a 21-inch bag – doesn’t make much difference. I’ve found that if the clerk at check in actually starts to measure your bag, they already decided they will check it in.

My bag is 22 inches and I routinely bring it on board on all airlines. All the bags in my guide are 22 inches and under and a few are 21.

Weight – Look for Luggage Under 5 lbs and slightly over

Weight is a bit more complicated, and here the luggage specs really do make a big difference. Airlines are becoming more strict with the weight of cabin bags, especially overseas. Additionally, discount airlines often charge additional fees if your bag is over a certain weight. For instance, Norwegian, a popular discount carrier that offers cheap flights to Europe, allows carry on luggage under 22 lbs for free. If your bag is even half a pound over you’ll likely be charged a fee – as much as $60 each way. So aim for a bag that weighs as little as possible – you never know when that half an extra pound will come in handy. On my list of best luggage of 2019, I only include ultralight bags under 5 lbs and slightly over.

Should You Buy Carry On Luggage with a Charger?

Lots of new and expensive carry on bags include a charger. This is a nice feature to have, especially if like me you drain your batteries quickly. But keep in mind that a build in suitcase charger will add at least 3 lbs to your bag. In addition, if the bag has to be checked in (the plane lockers are too small or its overly full) in most of Asia they will not accept your suitcase unless you remove the battery. So, if you do get a lightweight carry on luggage with a battery make sure it’s easily removable. Having owned luggage with a build in battery, I decided to fly with my lighter, more flexible bag instead. I bought an external battery source like this, it gives me more flexibility and I won’t need to replace the whole bag if my battery breaks.

What Features Should You Look for in Carry on Luggage?

Most modern cabin suitcases offer a range of build in features. I find many of them unnecessary and bulky. However, it is important that your carry on bag has a TSA approved lock. If you ever have to check in your bag, you want to be able to lock it – and for TSA to be able to open the bag without breaking it.

Another feature I find very useful is four wheels (vs. two). Yes, it makes your luggage a bit heavier, but it also makes the bag much more stable and easy to navigate.

Soft vs. Hard Carry on Luggage – Picking the right one for you

This too is a trade-off. Hard carry on luggage is usually heavier than the soft version. I opt for the hard case because to me the little extra weight is worth the added peace of mind. Consider what you are packing as well. If its mostly clothes or shoes, even in a softer bag you probably won’t have an issue. If on the other hand its souvenirs or even heavy equipment (like a tripod) you may be better off with a hard case. Additionally, if you tend to fly business or first you are unlikely to be forced to check in your bag. If you are in basic economy – the chances are pretty good.

Carry on Luggage Price

The final factor to consider is price. There is often a direct correlation between the price of a bag and its reliability. The most expensive bags come with the best warranties and are less likely to break. If you are looking for luggage under 5 lbs and are hoping for a great performance, you may need to pay a higher price. On the other hand, a bag like this will likely last you for many years, and so be relatively inexpensive in the long run.

The city of Rio shot from far above.  In the valley white buildings appear and they are surrounded by mountains with blooming trees.  In the foreground, rises the statue of Christ the redeemer.  Lightweight carry on luggage - travel tips.
Rio de Janeiro at Dawn

Cabin Luggage Travel Tips

Sometimes, even if you are flying with a carry on compliant bag, the airline will still make you check in your bag. You can often minimize your chances of being forced to check in, with the following travel tips.

Get a Frequent Flyer Number

One of the best ways to avoid checking in your luggage (if you are flying economy) is to be registered as a frequent flyer. Even if you never fly, you should register on the airline’s website, before you come to the airport. A frequent flyer number is free and can earn you plenty of perks. If you have the airline’s co-branded credit card, that will get you even better treatment.

Show Up for Early Check In

If you have the time to spare, show up at the start of check-in – usually three hours before the flight. I have found that the earlier you show up, the less likely they are to ask you to check in your carry on.

Try to Board Early

If you have a carry-on, the earlier you board, the better your chances of getting to bring it with you. That probably means you’ll have to wait online and try to be one of the first in your group to board, but its the best way to guarantee you won’t be forced to check in your bag.

Lightweight Carry on Luggage options under 5 lbs.  Best hand luggage for international and domestic travel, pros and cons of ultralight bags.  Includes Cabin luggage travel tips and what factors to consider when you purchase a lightweight carry on bag.
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27 Responses

  1. This is very helpful information to have especially in this day and age of additional baggage fees.

  2. Such a great selection of lightweight carry-on bags, I love the Delsey one the most! Such a useful cabin luggage travel tips – thanks for sharing!

  3. Really need something small like the bags you’ve been writing about! There’s nothing better than traveling with just a carry on.

  4. Yes, there was one time that my size was fine but the weight was not. These are all amazing options to consider!

  5. These seem to be some reasonable options for carry on luggage. Of them all, I think the first is the most stylish m!

  6. I have always checked size of a carryon and never weight and have not had a problem. I also prefer having four wheels.

  7. YES! Thank you for sharing these options with me! I always get scared when I take a carry on that they’re going to make me check it – and I really don’t want to cause any problems or confrontation!

    1. I hear you, its always better to double-check before you get there. No need to make travel even more stressful…

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