With the arrival of Basic Economy fares at United and American Airlines, you have two new carriers not allowing carry-on luggage – just like at low-cost carriers like Spirit, Allegiant or Frontier in the US and international carriers Wow Air and Wizz Air! All you get now is a “Personal Item” that fits under the seat in front of you. If you don’t want to pay for luggage, you will need a bag that can hold all your clothes, toiletries and gadgets for your trip – and the CabinZero 28L is the right bag for the job!
Luggage Facts: The CabinZero mini is designed as a personal item for air travel with measurements of 39x30x20cm that will fit the limitations of all the airlines listed above, while giving you a good volume of 28 liter (or 1,700 cubic inches) for all your stuff. It is very lightweight at only 0.6kg (1.3lbs) – important when more and more airlines set a limit of 5-8kg for your personal item! And if you think your current laptop bag or backpack will work, you should get out the measuring tape to avoid surprises at the airport. Most laptop bags/backpacks are actually too tall, exceeding the 40cm height limit and won’t fit the “sizer” the airlines are installing to police the carry-on and personal item restrictions. The price of $60 is comparable to other backpacks, but you do pay a little extra for the unique size! Below is a photo in comparison to a carry-on size backpack like the eBags TLS Weekender:
Design & Features: The CabinZero mini works better as personal item than other backpacks not only for the correct size, but for the design. While most backpacks are top-loaders, the CabinZero is a front-loader: It opens clamshell-style like a suitcase, making it easier to load or find things. The main compartment zipper goes all the way around (instead of just half-way like most backpacks) giving you better access to the compartment.
In the back of the main compartment, you have a thin laptop sleeve that holds my Apple MacBook Air 13in perfectly. When carrying it, your back and your clothes will protect it, but it’s a little difficult to get the laptop out of the inside sleeve at airport security.
The lid has two slim zipper compartments, one lined and one mesh and big enough for a passport cash or other smaller items. On the outside is another pocket over the full front of the bag with the zipper on the side. Surprisingly for a personal item, there is no organizer for keys, business cards, phone, pens, etc and the side-zipper will make it more difficult to keep smaller things there without falling out.
The bag has four compression straps on the outside to tighten your pack down, one handle each on the top and the side and two backpack carrying straps. The straps and the back of the pack have little padding, comfortable enough for the way to the plane, but I wouldn’t recommend a longer hike with it!
Materials & Quality: The backpack is made of waterproof polyester and is a good compromise between lightweight and sturdy, similar to the CabinMax Metz carry-on, maybe a little thicker. The zipper for the main compartment is solid and can be locked. The carrying and compression straps are also of good quality.
What can you bring? The unique size close to the personal item limit and the front-loading design of the CabinZero mini make it feasible as your only bag for a few days. I was able to pack 2 pairs of pants, 2 pairs of shorts, 9 shirts (1 long buttoned, 2 short buttoned, 2 polo shirts, 4 T-shirts), 8 pairs of socks & underwear, a pair of sandals/sneakers, a 1-quart toiletry bag, my 13inch AppleMacBook Air, compact camera, cables and assorted personal items into the bag – and there was still room left. Check out the photos below to see how it works (or check my Top 10 Tips to Pack Light for more). The full weight is just under 6kg, good for all the airlines listed above and most others.
Bottomline: I looked at more than 100 backpacks – online and in stores – to find a backpack that matches the size limitations, is lightweight and front-loading, with enough space for a laptop, clothes and personal stuff. The CabinZero 28L is the perfect personal item to meet airline’s size restrictions and is well designed as your only luggage to fit a laptop as well as a week’s worth of clothes, shoes and toiletries! It’s well built and uses quality materials, so it doesn’t fall apart on your first trip. At $60 it’s not cheap, but the first time you don’t have to check luggage, it pays for itself.
The only improvements I’d want is an organizer on the front with a top-opening for all the little things. Whether it’s a weekend trip on United’s Basic Economy or a $69 trip on Wow to Europe for a week – the CabinZero mini is the right companion that’ll save you time at check-in and money on baggage!