MONOS CARRY-ON LUGGAGE REVIEW 2024: OUR THOUGHTS ON 3 BAGS

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A good carry-on bag should be durable, highly maneuverable, and easy to pack. Of course, size is also a key factor. If your suitcase doesn't fit in the allotted overhead bin space, it quickly goes from a carry-on to a dreaded last-minute checked bag. 

Monos is a newer luggage brand that has quickly risen up the ranks to become one of the best luggage brands — we even named the Carry-On Pro Plus model the best for extra space in our guide to the best carry-on suitcases. The company makes simple yet sleek bags in chic colors that stand out at the airport and are worthy of posting on your Instagram feed.

Monos' carry-on options come in two sizes: standard and "plus," with the plus being slightly larger. Both sizes have the option to add a front pocket; a feature that upgrades the model to "Pro". Once you mix and match the available features and sizes, you end up with four carry-on models to choose from: the Carry-On, Carry-On Plus, Carry-On Pro, and Carry-On Pro Plus. 

Former travel editor Hannah Freedman first tested the Carry-On Pro and the Carry-On Pro Plus in 2021. This year, we revisited the Carry-On Pro and also tested the Carry-On Plus. You can find my thoughts, combined with Freedman's original review, below.

Our favorite Monos suitcase: the Carry-On Pro Plus

Freedman first tried out the Carry-On Pro Plus and was immediately impressed with the extra organization and room it provided. However, the Pro Plus comes in at 23 inches when measured from wheels to fixed handle, which puts it slightly over many airlines' regulation size limit for a carry-on bag. It also weighs 8.38 pounds, which is quite heavy for a carry-on suitcase. While our tester didn't have an issue with this, those who have a hard time lifting bags into the overhead bins may find the extra couple of pounds really make a difference. If you frequently take flights with very strict weight limits for carry-ons (like some budget and European airlines), the extra weight of the bags will cut into how much you can pack. 

That said, it holds a whopping 46 liters, and Freedman was easily able to pack a week's worth of clothes in it, plus use the front pocket for items that she typically had to put in her purse or under-seat bag. The handy front pocket is great for organizing smaller essentials and holding a laptop. Even when packed, the pocket doesn't add any additional inches to the carry-on once it's zipped back up.

The Carry-On Pro Plus has an elegant exterior with simple horizontal lines that add some dimension. It comes in eight standard colors ranging from midnight black to olive green, and also features four smooth, multi-directional wheels, an adjustable handle, and YKK zippers. 

When Freedman originally tested this suitcase during the pandemic, she used it for weekend driving trips rather than on planes. She notes that she still rigorously tested the Pro Plus (and its smaller counterpart, the Carry-On Pro) to mimic a typical airport trip, including wheeling them across multiple surfaces, lifting them overhead when fully packed, and even using them to help move apartments.

Overall, the bag held up remarkably well and was incredibly easy to use. It wheeled well on surfaces from concrete to carpet, and the zippers were smooth and didn't catch. The adjustable handle was fairly sturdy, though it did wobble just slightly. Freedman also noticed several white marks on the suitcases' colorful surface after just a few uses. The company includes an eraser sponge with the bag and Freedman was pleasantly surprised to find most of the marks came off when she used it on the exterior.

Freedman was also a big fan of the zippered front pocket made out of the same polycarbonate shell as the rest of the bag's exterior. Unlike the front pocket of a soft-sided carry-on that usually protrudes and adds significant size to a bag when fully packed, the Monos front pocket zips right back to its standard size unless you really cram it to the gills, in which case zipping it also becomes a challenge. It was easy to fit her 15-inch laptop, headphones, charging cords, lip gloss, and a lotion tin into its multiple smaller pockets.

The Pro Plus interior opens to reveal two packing spaces — one that can be secured by a zippered flap and the other by two strong buckles. The Pro Plus is larger than the Carry-On Pro by a little over an inch each way. While this may not sound like a lot, it adds up to 10 extra liters of packable space. Freedman was impressed by the Pro Plus's packing space, noting that it was roomy enough weeklong trip. However, as previously noted, that extra space comes at the cost of fitting in many standard overhead compartments. That said, if you were taking a longer trip on a cross-country or transatlantic flight where overhead bins are larger, that extra space would be a serious boon.

Also great: the Carry-On Plus

One con of the Carry-On Pro Plus is that the exterior pocket cuts into the interior packing space. The Carry-On Plus without the pocket is actually Monos' most spacious bag, with an astounding 48 liters of room to pack your belongings. I was easily able to pack a week's worth of clothes in this bag with room to spare. If you're an overpacker like I am, you know that extra space is hard to come by in a carry-on bag. 

Like Monos' other larger model, though, the Carry-On Plus is 23 inches long, meaning that it is too big for some airlines. This bag is technically too large for Delta, American, or United's sizers, but you'll likely be able to get away with carrying it on. You'll be just fine on Southwest and some larger international airlines. Keep in mind, too, that this bag weighs 7.38 pounds empty, so it is a little hefty when compared to its competitors. I had no problems lifting it overhead or carrying it up stairs, but its size could pose a problem for some travelers. 

If you can handle a larger bag, though, the Carry-On Plus is a great option. In both the interior and exterior, you'll find all of the typical Monos features: YKK zippers, interior compression, integrated locks, and an adjustable handle. It comes in the same color range as other Monos bags, too, so you can match your luggage for a truly aesthetically pleasing set. When not in use, you can easily nest this bag inside any of Monos' Check-In sizes. 

The Carry-On Plus held up remarkably well in our testing. Most scratches were easily wiped away with the included sponge, and there were no major dents or dings. The bag's handles, locks, and zippers still functioned as good as new.

What we'd skip: the Carry-On Pro

Based on several reviews and feedback similar to Freedman's issues with the size of the Pro Plus, the company came out with the Carry-On Pro. This suitcase has the same useful front pocket but measures 22 inches instead, which means it will fit in almost all standard overhead bins. However, you do lose 10 liters of packable space, so this bag is best for shorter trips of three or four days. It's also still on the heavier side at 7.8 pounds.

The Carry-On Pro includes the typical high-quality Monos features like smooth YKK zippers, a TSA-approved lock, and a 4-stop telescoping handle. Inside, you'll find compression straps, zippered pockets, and a handy luggage bag. The Carry-On Pro comes in eight standard colors, plus you'll usually be able to find a handful of limited edition colors. I got the bag in Ocean Blue, which is subtle but still stands out from the crowd. 

Like the Carry-On Pro Plus, the Carry-On Pro comes equipped with an extra exterior pocket, which is the perfect size for a 15-inch laptop. Since the exterior pocket is inlaid, it doesn't make the bag any bigger once packed. The tradeoff, though, is that the pocket cuts into the main compartment, so there is less packing room overall. The Carry-On Pro Plus is similarly designed, with the pocket taking away some of the interior space, but the Carry-On Pro is considerably smaller, so it was definitely more noticeable in this bag. Personally, I would rather have the space in the main compartment than the additional exterior pocket. 

What makes Monos stand out

What makes Monos luggage unique is its high-quality materials and the option for a hard front pocket that unzips on the front of the bag. The bags themselves are durable and have features that make packing a breeze. The pocket holds a laptop and is an excellent place to organize other small essentials, from headphones to charging cords. Plus, the fact that the pocket is also made of sturdy polycarbonate helps better protect those accessories.  

To be clear, Monos is not the sole suitcase brand with a hard front pocket option. However, it couples the front pocket with an excellent overall bag at a great price point. Arlo Skye and Rimowa are also excellent luggage brands with carry-ons with front pockets, but they will set you back $375 and a whopping $1,100, respectively. On the flip side, we found the overall suitcase to be superior to lower-cost options like CoolLife ($120).   

The stylish exteriors in fun, chic colors of Monos suitcases will surely draw comparisons to Away, another buzzy luggage brand popular with millennials and Gen Z. Both brands are similar, so preference depends on the person. Freedman said she preferred the sleeker look of the Monos bag and was impressed that the pocket includes zippered compartments — a feature Away bags don't have. However, I personally prefer Away, as I found they Away bags I tested had smoother wheels and more space overall. You can read my full thoughts in my Away Carry On review.

The bottom line

These carry-ons fall squarely in the mid-tier range of luggage. For the price, they are some of the best options on the market, and Freedman and I were both impressed with each bag we tested. Freedman particularly loved the smart front pocket feature, which is easily accessible and makes organizing a breeze, while I am a huge fan of the bag's stylish design and impressive durability.  

Whether you prefer extra packing space or want to ensure your bag fits in all overhead bins will determine whether the Plus or the Pro Plus is the better option for you. However, we recommend skipping the regular Pro in favor of one of Monos' more spacious bags. 

 

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2024-06-24T21:02:50Z dg43tfdfdgfd