Cabin Bags

At Xplore Luggage, we know more and more people are travelling with only cabin bags these days. That’s why we have dedicated a category of Cabin Bags, and cabin-friendly suitcases. Whether you are looking for hard-sided luggage or soft-sided suitcases. with 2, 4 or 8 wheels, find your perfect cabin bag to bring on board or for your next trip away. Hand luggage, cabin baggage, carry-on. Don’t get confused, they are all the same bit of kit. They are Cabin Bags you take into the passenger compartment of a vehicle. Mostly an aeroplane, but also a train at times. Store it in the space available, for easy access to essentials on your journey. Usually under the seat in front of you or overhead in a rack or locker. As for the case itself, go hard or soft, depending on your needs and preferences. Before you pack it, different travel providers equal different weight and size rules and what is contained within your luggage (security is an airline’s top priority). We will explain it all in this one handy guide to Cabin Luggage. Starting with a brief history of cabin luggage. You’re gonna be an expert in ten minutes' time.

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Cabin Introduction

Cabin Bags, A History

We could go into all sorts of detail regarding the history of luggage (a word that was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 1596, defined as ‘inconveniently heavy baggage’. But we are just going to focus on Cabin Bags below.

The ‘suit case’ became a ‘thing’ in the 19th Century when people started to travel in their masses via train. The need arose for something to hold essentials (like suits) for frequent and shorter (predominantly business) trips.

The first commercial flight took off in 1914, growing momentum until people were travelling in their masses via air in the 1930’s. The cabin bag evolved around the 1950’s in repose to a need for cheaper, lighter, more convenient luggage for manoeuvring around an airport as well as the plane’s cabin itself. Mass production made this possible in synthetic and plastic handled versions of what they once were.

Handles. Yes, cabin bags were still being struggled around in hands until around 1972, when Bernard Sadow patented the first commercially successful rolling luggage design (the ‘Rollaboard’), which was set upon four castors for conveniently rolling your cabin bag alongside you right up until the moment you pick it up to board your flight. Pilot Robert Plath changed the orientation of the suitcase to upright and sideways (patenting this in 1989); designer Don Ku patenting the pull up handle in 1993.

Technology (you could have guessed) was the next step in the evolution of cabin bags. RFID protection and robotic suitcases driving this category of luggage into the future (literally). Cabin bags are going to get more and more essential in everyone’s lives, as we try and avoid those ‘unnecessary’ airport queues and fees, and lead a more conscious and minimal life (far from the first-class 19th Century cruise ship passengers’ common luggage count of 20 pieces each!). Watch this space as their journey continues.

Different Types of Cabin Bags

There are two clear types of cabin bags. Hard and soft. There is a strong argument for each, and just like the great taco debate (hard vs. soft shell), it all comes down to personal needs and preferences.

Picking the perfect cabin bag for you has a world of benefits. Whether that’s being able to spot it a mile away (or at the other side of the conveyor belt) with just one glance or protect your souveniraholic tendencies (including that fancy tequila bottle you picked up in Mexico City).

Factor’s like weight and durability depend on the quality of the case’s materials, not the type of exterior. Cheap hard shells can crack and cheap soft shells can tear. Hard shells, but also soft shells can be heavy. A long standing cabin bag is really an investment for everyone.
Hard Cabin, Soft Cabin

Hard Cabin Bags

A cabin bag with a rigid outer shell.

Scenario. You are sardine-crammed into the train heading for Manchester Airport, and have had to give up your fatherly arm of protection for your cabin bag and leave it on the luggage rack at the other side of the carriage. Not even in view. Thankfully you’ve got a nice little padlock on your bag keeping you sane (man, you’ve got your expensive work devices inside that bag). You hear other people really throw their luggage in that rack, and oh, someone’s been soaked in that torrential rain outside and put their bag right on top of yours, dripping muddy water all over the place. A hard cabin bag was definitely the one for you. Your really expensive work electronics protected from other people’s carelessness and rain, and with a wipe of a wet wipe in the airport loos, you can roll onto that plane as smart as you wish to convey yourself to the guy at the other end, waiting to shake your hand and start discussing business.

Invest In A Hard Cabin Bag If:

  • You want a bag that can stand up to wear and tear, trip after trip.
  • You don’t want to spend a lot of time or effort cleaning it.
  • Near water resistance eases your mind when taking your belongings out of the safety of your own home.
  • Your breakables within will be most likely protected, in the likelihood that your case falls over or is impacted by another in the mayhem of travel.
  • There are no outer pockets making your case easy prey for theft. Padlock it up, and you’re all set.
  • Hard cabin bags are most likely to have 4 wheels, making them easy to manoeuvre around.

Soft Cabin Bags

A cabin bag with a flexible outer shell.

Here’s another scenario for you. You fly on 48-hour work trips at least once a month, and now you have gotten over the novelty of working away. Now you just want them to be easy and comfortable. You’re only there for a couple of days, so you want to maximise your time there. You get to your hotel room, open up your suitcase and everything is there, organised with the greatest precision with the soft case’s multiple slip and zip pockets and compartments. A soft cabin bag was definitely the one for you. It allowed you to be in an out of that plane with no trouble (it easily squished under the seat in front of you, and into the taxi’s car boot post airport), and it has kept your surroundings (and mass of stuff) as tidy as you’d like your mind to be. You even got an extra hour in bed without the need to trawl through your cabin bag for all of your conference essentials both mornings you were away.

Invest In A Soft Cabin Bag If:

  • You want an easy life. Flexible fabric shells make soft cabin bags easier to store and squeeze under seats, in your car boot…in that last slither of space in your overhead compartment.
  • You’re concerned about weight restrictions: you can usually find a super lightweight soft cabin bag.
  • You want a bag that can fit that oddly shaped bottle of tequila in. The flexible outer can be manipulated around last minute adds to your bag.
  • You like to be organised. Soft cabin bags usually feature a mass of pockets, compartments and organisational features making both packing and unpacking a treat.

Key Factors In Choosing A Cabin Bag.

  • A sturdy handle for maximum durability – check to see if the handle wiggles or rattles when you pull the bag.
  • Examine the stitching on the luggage – the more stitches per inch the better constructed the bag.
  • Look at the zippers and other hardware – ensure that they sit even and are easy to open and close.
  • Wheels – check to see if they are flexible, durable and of high quality.
  • Pay attention to price – generally, the more you pay the higher quality.
  • Safety features – are your belongings going to be protected?
  • Comfort – is the luggage easy to manoeuvre around? Does the handle extend to the correct height for you?

Cabin Bag Height And Size.

Before checking into your flight, save yourself any unnecessary stress or money by checking the size and weight restrictions of your cabin bag, as it varies airline to airline. Here are Europe’s major airlines weight and size restrictions in one easy to digest table. It really does vary, sometimes by as little as 1cm.

What Not To Pack In Your Cabin Bag.

When travelling through UK airports, there are a number of restrictions for not only your cabin (hand) luggage, but your hold luggage too. The best UK airport guide to cabin bag restrictions we could find can be found here. Hand luggage alone, the main restriction you already know is liquids. You know the drill: fill a resealable clear plastic bag with all liquids you’ve got in your cabin and hand bags (maximum of 10 x 100ml liquids usually) to pass through security. Complicated, right? And this is just the UK. Countries outside the UK may have different restrictions to bear in mind when packing your cabin bag so you’ll have to do your research before travelling through an airport overseas.

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