After lots of research I found a carry-on and checked luggage that’s durable, well-designed, and affordable
I’m 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 a lightweight bag 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 ordered several carry-on 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 happy 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).
Monos had a lot going for it out of the gate. It’s Canadian like me – 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 below.
Monos Luggage - the Options
Monos Carry-On Bags
Monos makes three sizes of carry-on luggage. I purchased “The Carry-On” rather than the larger Carry-On Plus or the Carry-On Pro. Why? Mostly the weight. The Carry-On weighs 7 pounds, the Carry-On Plus is 7.38 pounds. It might not sound like a lot, but since its volume is considerably more – 39 liters versus 48 for the Carry-On Plus – I knew I would inevitably pack more with a bigger bag. Even a few extra pounds makes a difference when I am traveling on my own and lifting it into an overhead bin or carrying it up the stairs of the Metro in Paris. In addition, I often travel to and within Europe and they require smaller bags and often weigh carry-on bags to check if you are within weight limits: hello my friends at Air France. That said, the larger Carry-On Plus would be more doable for a week in Europe, if you were willing to risk you may have to check it within Europe.
Monos Luggage Carry-On Dimensions
I also wanted a bag that would fit in all airplane overhead bins; 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).
There is another variation of the cabin bag – the Carry-On Pro. It 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 dimensions of your laptop.) I do like that travel essentials can be accessed without opening your bag, but again, this bag is heavier. And I usually keep my laptop in a tote bag at my seat, but if you prefer to travel with a smaller purse or bag, the Carry-On Plus might be the way to go. It comes in the same two sizes mentioned above.
Monos Checked Bag Review
Since initially writing this review, I have added a Monos checked bag to my collection – the Check-In Medium. Monos luggage has two larger bags: Check-In Medium and Check-In Large. They come in eight standard colors as well as two limited edition colors: Terracotta and Terrazzo (the latter mimics a marble finish, very stylish). I took my new checked bag on its first trip – to Toronto just before 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). And it performed beautifully. The style is similar to the Carry-On bag, but it features two additional interior pockets. It is lightweight, attractive, and is a dream to roll – one of my favorite features of Monos luggage. It weighs 9.6 pounds has a 70 L volume and it measures: 26.5″ × 18.5″ × 10.5″. It is recommended for trips between 7 and 21 days. My bag is the desert taupe color.
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″ and comes in the same 10 colors
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. They said it first and I’ll say it second. Monos luggage has a thoughtfully-designed interior.
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 was the other side which is covered by a “compression pad”. Just 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 compress everything and keep it nicely confined – 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 luggage has traveled with me to France, Spain, Greece and Canada. 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 actually prefer two smaller roller bags, to one large bag.
Cleaning Monos Luggage
My Monos luggage has held up well with no damage or dents but they definitely do show scuffs. The lighter color the worse that problem is. After returning from a recent trip to Canada my Monos checked bag (which I have in the light beige called desert taupe) looked worse for wear. I used a solution of baking soda mixed with dish soap, a rough cloth 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, colour 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.
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, that return option becomes void. I wish it was an option to try it out in the world on a trip and then decide, but for now that’s the policy.
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 superior and I prefer its design. Also, Monos seem to have better sales if budget is an issue. If you are set on having a built-in charger, Away is a good option. Otherwise, I prefer Monos.
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 Covid lockdowns, you might say my 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.
Explore Monos luggage
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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