After lots of research I found a carry-on and checked luggage that’s durable, well-designed, and affordable
Note to U.S. shoppers: Some Monos luggage items are now available from Nordstrom. Buying from Nordstrom allows you to try the bag at home and return your item in-store for free, as opposed to having to pay $40+ to ship it back to Monos, something I’ve understandably heard complaints about. Nordstrom has a limited selection of styles and colors however. Some links in this post will take you to items sold by Monos while others will take you to items available at Nordstrom. I recommend checking prices at both as they do vary.
I am a frequent traveler who hates packing, and this Monos luggage review explains why I chose the Vancouver-based brand as my new favorite. There are lots of pros as well as a few cons. Read on.
Off the top, I will say that my priorities were lightweight luggage that rolled like a dream. I was willing to invest but didn’t have the budget for a luxury luggage brand like Tumi or Rimowa.
I was initially shopping for carry-on luggage and ordered several bags online and returned them all. One didn’t have enough compartments. Another had a clever design but was too heavy. There were sticky zippers, wobbly handles and awkward layouts. And then one day, I found Monos.
The carry-on bag I was replacing was a Samsonite that I had owned for many years. It had held up well but was too heavy at over 10 pounds. I often travel solo, so wanted to be able to lift my carry-on bag into the overhead bin on my own. Something a little more stylish would be welcome as well. And I hoped to do a lot of traveling over the next ten years, so it had to be durable and easy to move around, (i.e. four wheels).
Like me, Monos is Canadian; I live in Denver but am from Toronto. Monos was launched in 2018 by Vincent Tam. His vision for the company was to make premium luggage affordable by selling direct-to-consumers. It is a similar model to competitor Away. More on that comparison below. That said, some Monos luggage items are now available through Nordstrom in the U.S.
Monos Luggage - the Options
Monos Carry-On Bags - Three Sizes
Monos makes three sizes of carry-on luggage: The Carry-On, Carry-On Plus and Carry-On Pro. The Carry-On Pro comes with a front compartment that can accommodate a 15” laptop. (Note that reviewers have said the compartment won’t fit larger laptops so be sure and check the dimensions of your laptop.)
For many travelers accessing a laptop without opening your roller bag, is a great feature. I usually keep my laptop in my tote bag at my seat, but if you prefer to travel with a small personal item, the Carry-On Plus might be the way to go.
So my decision was the Carry-On or the Carry-On Plus (same bag, two sizes). I went with the smaller Carry-On because I wanted a lighter bag. The Carry-On weighs 7 pounds and the Carry-On Plus is 7.38 pounds. That’s a small difference, but the volume is considerably more — 48 liters for the Carry-On Plus versus 39 liters for the Carry-On.
I knew I would inevitably pack more with a bigger bag so it would be heavier. Even a few extra pounds make a difference when I am lifting it into an overhead bin or carrying it up the stairs of the Metro in Paris.
In addition, I do sometimes fly within Europe, and European airlines usually have smaller size limits. They also sometimes weigh carry-on bags to check if you are within weight limits — bonjour Air France.
That said, if you mostly travel in North America, the larger Carry-On Plus might be preferable. And it would be more doable as luggage for a week-long trip. If you are flying within Europe, you may be required to check it.
Monos Luggage Carry-On Dimensions
Standard size for many airlines in the U.S. is 22” x 14” x 9”, the exact dimensions of the Monos Carry-On. The Carry-On Plus has an extra 1/2 to 1 inch in each dimension (see the comparison image above).
Monos Checked Bag Review
Monos luggage has two larger hard-sided roller bags: the Check-In Medium and Check-In Large. Since writing this review, I have added the Check-In Medium to my collection and taken it on a dream trip to Africa and to Canada over the holidays.
Like Santa’s sac, I was able to stuff it with gifts for my Canadian relatives, thanks to a clever design and internal compression pad (more on that below). On both trips it performed beautifully. The style is similar to the Carry-On bag, but it features two additional interior pockets. It is lightweight, attractive, and a dream to roll – one of my favorite features of Monos luggage. It weighs 9.6 pounds has a 70 L volume and measures: 26.5″ × 18.5″ × 10.5″. It is recommended for trips between 7 and 21 days. The Check-In Large is only slightly heavier at 10.6 pounds and it gives you 90 L of interior space. It measures 30″ × 21″ × 11″.
My mediuim bag is the desert taupe color, and it does show scuffs. (More on cleaning it below). In hindsight, I wish I had chosen a dark color, the gorgeous olive green or black. Other than the scuffing, it has held up well: two trips to Europe, one trip to Africa and one trip to Canada. I am been very happy with it and do recommend it, with some caveats explained below.
Monos Luggage Durability
Monos bags are made with German Makrolon polycarbonate – an aerospace-grade material that is both light and nearly impossible to break. Because of its flexibility, it can take rough handling in case you need to check it. It is supposed to be resistant to dents because the material has some flex. Monos says they use the same grade of material as luxury luggage brands but because they sell direct, rather than through retailers, they can sell it for hundreds less.
The extendable handle is often the weak point with luggage. If you want to see durability in action, check out their page on quality testing, specifically the “telescopic handle jerk test, on the Monos website. I was strangely mesmerized by the sight of the bag hanging by the handle.
Packing my Monos Luggage
One of the reasons I returned several other bags was the interior design just didn’t lend itself to me keeping my things in place and organized. The Monos website claims a thoughtfully designed interior and I have found that to be true.
The layout of the carry-on and checked bags are similar. Pictured above and below are the carry-on. One side of the bag is enclosed with a zipped panel; it is perfect for shoes and other bulky items. For me, the real magic is the other side which has a compression pad. Place your piles in, and try not to concern yourself that they are three inches higher than the side of the bag. The compression pad will work its magic and hold everything in. Imagine a pair of Spanx, for your clothes.
There are also interior pockets, which I appreciate when I am trying to give everything a place. The panels that enclose the sides each have large zip pockets and there’s a small zip pocket as well. It comes with bags for shoes and laundry, a cute luggage tag and a dust jacket for storage.
My Monos Luggage Around the World
My first trip with my Monos Carry-On luggage was to L.A. One of the things I noticed immediately was how quiet the wheels were and how easily it moved along and changed direction as I did. Also, although I fit even more than I expected with the compression pad, it was light enough. I could easily lift it into the overhead bin; you might say I was a bit of a luggage ninja. Several people moved to offer help and then realized I didn’t need it.
I found the design of the compartments were great for keeping everything organized. It was a short trip so I didn’t unpack everything. On the day I was leaving L.A., I left my luggage with the concierge at the hotel while I went for a bike ride in Venice Beach. The concierge rolled it away with me trailing behind as she was retrieving a bike from storage at the same time. She commented on how attractive it was and how well it moved and asked the brand name. I’m guessing she has since ordered one.
In addition to my domestic travels, my Monos carry-on luggage has traveled with me to France, Spain, Greece, and Africa. My Europe travel included planes, trains and automobiles, and my Monos bag performed beautifully. One thing to keep in mind with Europe travel is that it can be awkward to travel on trains with large bags. For this reason, I prefer two smaller roller bags, to one large bag. If I need one than a small roller.
Cleaning Monos Luggage
My Monos luggage has held up well with no damage or dents but they definitely do show scuffs. The lighter the color the more they show. After returning from a recent trip to Canada my Monos checked bag (which I have in the light beige called desert taupe) was covered in dirty scuffs. I used a solution of baking soda mixed with dish soap, a rag and some elbow grease and was able to get the scuffs out. Pictured below are a before and after.
What does the Monos Lifetime Warranty Cover?
I have had several people comment about the lack of coverage in the lifetime warranty, so wanted to add some clarifying details. The Monos lifetime warranty covers some things, but not everything. The following are covered:
- Cracks or breaks in the shell
- Wheels, handles, or telescoping handles that break off or are no longer usable
- Broken zippers
Not covered are: scratches, dents, dings, scuffs, stains, color changes, and normal wear and tear, including of the inner fabric. Non-functional changes in the appearance of the product, if they do not impair the functionality of the luggage, aren’t covered. I repeat, dents aren’t covered. This seems to be a contentious issue for people. Dents are cosmetic so typically don’t affect the functioning of the bag. Yet, I do understand why some people would be unhappy with a dent after their first trip.
Susan in New York City, matching her Monos Carry-On luggage.
A Note About Monos' 100-day Return Policy
A note about Monos 100-day return policy: this allows you to try it out *at home* and return it if you don’t like it. FYI: This means packing it, lifting it, rolling it around, all at home. As soon as you take it on a trip, the return option becomes void. I wish there was an option to try it out in the world on a trip and then decide, but for now that’s the policy. Away Luggage has the same policy, FYI.
Monos Luggage Review - Final Thoughts
Overall, I am thrilled with my Monos luggage, that said, there are some cons: It becomes easily scuffed, especially light colors, and I’ve noticed that if it’s overpacked, the handle is difficult to pull up. But that’s if I really overdo it. And I wish their 100-day return policy allowed you to take a trip. While it is not the lightest carry-on bag on the market, it’s lighter than most competitors. (If you want ultra-lightweight luggage, you can read my comparison of those in: Ultra Lightweight: Delsey Vs. Samsonite. )
If you are wondering about a comparison with other luggage brands that sell direct, I can share a little about Away’s Carry-On bag. My son owns an Away bag and likes it very much. I’ve used it on a couple of trips, and on the surface they are similar, but I think the Monos quality is slightly superior and I prefer its design. Also, Monos seem to have better sales if budget is an issue. That said, Away is a good option. My son has traveled extensively with his and it has held up well. He is very happy with it. *I plan to travel with his Away bag and write a comparison article, coming soon.
The name Monos is inspired by the Japanese concept “mono no aware” – the appreciation of beauty in fleeting moments. Tam’s philosophy is that travel can be about more than enjoyment; it can be a chance to grow and learn. I feel the same way. And after all of the lockdowns, you might say that returning to travel with Monos luggage as my companion has felt like a fairy tale, and that if I were Goldilocks, Monos is my just right.
A note about ordering your Monos luggage from Nordstrom. The benefit of ordering from Nordstrom is you can return it in-store for free. If you order from Monos online they will charge you the cost to ship it back. I believe it’s around $40. That said, do compare prices at both as their sales can differ. See the complete line at Monos.com and a selection of the most popular bags at Nordstrom.com.
A note regarding the comments section below. Some people have shared issues they have had with their luggage pieces and are not thrilled with Monos’ warranty, in terms of what it covers and what it doesn’t. For clarification, please refer back to the above section that outlines the warranty and the Monos 100-day return policy.
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