Travel startup Monos makes some of the best carry-on suitcases we've tried — here's what sets them apart from other luggage brands like Away

Travel startup Monos makes some of the best carry-on suitcases we've tried — here's what sets them apart from other luggage brands like Away

January 22, 2021

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  • Monos luggage makes two sizes of its hard-sided carry-on that come with a handy front pocket.
  • The Monos Carry-On Pro Plus is the best for extra space on bigger flights, while the Carry-On Pro will fit in almost all overhead bins.
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The front pocket of the Monos Carry-On Pro and Pro Plus feature several easy-access organizational pockets.Hannah Freedman / Business InsiderThe interiors of the Pro and Pro Plus bags are nearly identical. Each opens to reveal two packing spaces — one that can be secured by a zippered flap and the other by two strong buckles. The main difference between the two bags is that the Pro Plus is larger 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.

I'm a notoriously light packer, and I still found it tough to fit more than about four or five days worth of clothes in the Pro, making it better for shorter weekend trips. I was able to pack for a week-long trip in the Pro Plus. However, as previously noted, that extra space comes at the cost of it fitting in many standard overhead compartments. That said, if I were taking a longer trip on a cross-country or trans-Atlantic flight where I knew overhead bins would be larger, that extra space would be a serious boon.    

What makes the Monos Carry-On stand out

What makes the Carry-On Pro and Carry-On Pro Plus unique is a highly useful hard front pocket that unzips on the front of the bag. The pocket has a place for 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 hard front pockets, but they will set you back $375 and a whopping $710, respectively. On the flip side, I find the overall suitcase to be superior to lower-cost options like Delsey ($125) or CoolLife ($80).   

Additionally, the bag is guaranteed for life and has a 100-day trial period. 

The cons

The obvious con of the Pro Plus is the fact that it doesn't meet a lot of standard airline regulations for carry-on sizing. The Pro meets these requirements, but you do lose vital packing space. 

Additionally, both bags are on the heavy end of carry-ons at 8.38 and 7.8 pounds respectively. While I didn't have an issue with this, those who have a hard time lifting bags into the overhead bins may find the extra couple pounds really make a difference. And, if you frequently take flights with very strict weight limits, the extra weight of the bags will cut into how much you can pack. 

The bottom line

With the Pro currently coming in at $258 and the Pro Plus at $277, 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 I have continued to be impressed every time I use either bag. I particularly love the smart front pocket feature that's easily accessible and makes organizing a breeze.  

Their stylish exteriors in fun yet chic colors will surely draw comparisons to Away, another buzzy luggage brand popular with millennials. And, in fact, the Away carry-ons that feature a front pocket are priced identically. However, I find the Monos bags to be the superior option. I also prefer the sleeker look of the Monos front pocket, as well as the fact that the pocket includes more zippered compartments than the Away options for wrangling all those extras you inevitably throw in last minute. The polycarbonate construction of the Monos front pocket also provides superior protection and durability compared to Away's nylon counterpart. Similarly, the Monos bag wins out for me on the overall construction of the bag and the price when compared to other luggage brands that do offer a carry-on with a hard front pocket.

Whether you prefer extra packing space or want to ensure your bag fits in all overhead bins will determine if you want the Pro or Pro Plus, but you can't go wrong with either option.  

Pros: Sturdy and reliable, chic look, significantly more packable space in the Pro Plus, smart front pocket that doesn't protrude when packed on both options

Cons: Heavy, Pro Plus doesn't meet all airline sizing requirements, handle wobbles slightly

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