After lots of research I found a carry-on bag that’s durable, well-designed, affordable and chic
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This Monos luggage review basically wrote itself – that’s how much I love my new Monos Carry-On bag. I spent months searching for new luggage, and an afternoon writing this ode to my new favorite luggage brand.
As mentioned, it was a bit of an ordeal to get to this happy ending. I checked discount stores, hoping to find a deal on high-end luggage that was otherwise out of my budget. I ordered several carry-on bags online, and returned them all. One didn’t have enough compartments. Another was nice quality but too heavy – I wanted a lightweight bag. There were sticky zippers, wobbly handles and awkward designs. And then one happy day, I found Monos.
I had owned a Samsonite carry-on bag for many years. It had held up well but was too heavy at over 10 pounds. I needed cabin luggage that I could actually lift into the overhead bin. 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). As for the budget, I wanted to keep it under $300.
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 is based in Vancouver. The name Monos is inspired by the concept of “mono no aware” – the appreciation of beauty in fleeting moments. They believe that travel can be about more than enjoyment; it can be a chance to grow and learn. I feel the same way.
Monos was launched in 2018 by Vincent Tam who also believes that things should be thoughtfully designed and made to last. His vision for the company was to make premium luggage that was affordable, by selling direct to consumers.
Also, Monos has a 100-day return policy; try it out *at home and return it if you don’t like it. (This means packing it, lifting it, rolling ta round indoors. As soon as you take it on a trip, that return is void. I wish it was an option to return after your first trip, but for now that’s the policy.)
If you keep your Monos luggage, as I did, Monos bags have a limited lifetime warranty. (see more about the warranty coverage at the end of this story)
Monos Luggage - the Options
Monos makes three sizes of “Carry-On luggage; if cabin luggage is what you are after, which of these to get may be your toughest decision (picking a colour may be tough as well).
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 pack more with a bigger bag. Even a few extra pounds is more than I want 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. That said, the larger Carry-On Plus would be more doable for a week in Europe, so it will likely be my next purchase.
Monos Luggage Review
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 built-in front compartment that can accommodate a 15” laptop. I like that travel essentials can be accessed without opening your bag; it’s an attractive benefit but again, this bag is heavier. And I usually keep my laptop in a tote bag, 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.
In the checked baggage category, there are two sizes: “Medium” and “Large”. The medium may be in my future.
Monos Luggage Review - 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 Carry-On
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. This carry-on bag has a thoughtfully-designed interior. 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”. Imagine Spanx for your clothes. Just place your piles in, and try not to concern yourself that that they are three inches higher than the side of the bag. The compression pad will squish everything down and keep it nicely confined.
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 Carry-On Goes to L.A.
My first trip with my Monos was to L.A. One of the first things I noticed was how quiet the wheels were and how easily it moved along and changed direction as I moved. Also, although I fit even more than I expected with the compression pad, it was light enough. And all of the compartments were great for keeping everything organized.
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. The nice lady rolled it away with me trailing behind so she could get me a bike at the same time she put it in storage. As she rolled the bag she commented on it, how nice it looked and how well it moved. She even asked what brand it was. She hadn’t heard of it, but I’m pretty sure she has ordered one by now. Since she works in a hotel I think she knows a great piece of luggage when she meets it.
I’ve since been to New York with my Monos luggage. I was able to pack all I needed for four days in New York and easily lift it into the overhead bin on my own. All while looking suitably stylish in the big apple – I even matched my bag one day.
My Monos and I had such wonderful success on our domestic adventures that in September 2021 we traveled to Paris. This time I took two small rollers, the Monos and a second heavier bag which I checked. I was travelling solo and I find two smaller bags easier to manage that one that weighs 50 pounds.
I had a marvelous time in Paris and then went on to Spain – a trip which included planes, trains and automobiles, and my Monos bag performed beautifully. After all of the Covid lockdowns you might say it felt like a fairytale. And after all the searching I did for the ideal piece of carry-on luggage you might also say that if I were Goldilocks, Monos was my just right. I’ve since taken it on several more domestic and international trips. It is certainly becoming scuffed. And one issue I’ve noticed is if I overpack it, the handle is difficult to pull up. But that’s if I really overdo it. Otherwise the performance has been great.
Susan in New York City, matching her new Monos Carry-On.
What does the Monos Lifetime Warranty Cover?
I have had a couple of 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.
Monos Luggage Review - Final Thoughts
In case I haven’t made it clear, Monos gets 5-stars from me. There is nothing I don’t like. While it is not the lightest carry-on bag on the market, it’s light enough at 7 pounds; the lightest bags I’ve found are 5 pounds. You can read my comparison of those in: Ultra Lightweight: Delsey Vs. Samsonite.
If you are wondering about the competition by 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. If you are set on having a built-in charger, Away is a solid option. But I would go with Monos, hands down, and just bring an extra charger along.
A quick disclosure. This is not a sponsored post and I paid for my Monos bag. That said, after I purchased it, used it and was 100% delighted, I joined the Monos affiliate program. That means that if you purchase your own Monos bag, after clicking a link in this story, I could earn a commission – but it is at no cost to you. I only ever promote products that I personally use and love. (That said, I have received a couple of comments from people who have had issues with their bags and not been thrilled with Monos customer service, mostly due to lack of coverage for wear and tear of their bags.
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