Every traveller needs a good piece of carry on luggage. I personally like a versatile and robust cabin bag that suits different purposes and won’t let me down. Check out this review of Thule Subterra Carry On luggage to find out if it met my standards.
Why have carry on luggage?
With most airlines charging for hold luggage, and the price constantly increasing, it is more important than ever to have good carry on luggage. Ideally you want it to be as big as possible, whilst still fitting the airline size standards.
As an adventure travel writer I am a frequent flyer. Most of the time I have hold luggage, often a snowboard bag, so I have plenty of room for all my gear. On these trips I usually take a rucksack on the flight that will fit under the seat in front.
But when I don’t have hold luggage I have to fit everything into carry on luggage. I prefer a backpack, but this gets rather heavy, so a wheeled cabin bag is a better option.
Also the most efficient shape to pack the most gear is a rectangle as per the airlines specifications. While you can get rectangular backpacks they are less comfy for carrying things – their primary purpose. So carry on luggage with wheels is the best option.
Why a versatile and robust cabin bag?
While carry on luggage is normally going to come on the plane with me, it won’t always. Sometimes I may choose to check it in, or be forced to by the airline.
So for the times my luggage will be in the hands of the baggage handlers I like to ensure it is durable and robust. This is also a great feature for any travel luggage. Bags get chucked in and out of car boots, airport transfers, train luggage racks and much more.
I also want a bag that is versatile. My old wheeled cabin bag only had a main compartment, plus a tiny document pocket. Not having a big enough separate pocket for a book, tablet, sunnies, wallet and your clear bag of liquids means you have to open the full bag each time you need something.
But versatility is more than the convenience of travel. What I like about backpacks is having separate main compartments, most carry on luggage doesn’t offer that. So I was looking for a versatile and robust cabin bag with different compartments for more varied packing.
Review of Thule Subterra Carry On luggage
Size of Thule Subterra Carry On
As with many things in life, the size of a cabin bag is very important. Of course how you pack it and what you do with it is vital too… Afterall a big bag that never goes anywhere will be no use to you.
But assuming you will use it, and you will pack it well, then size is all important! And it is an area where the Thule Subterra Carry On does not let you down.
Its exterior dimensions are 55 x 35 x 23 cm. This is pretty much the max allowed by RyanAir and many other airlines. The interior volume is an impressive 36 litres.
There are carry on bags with similar dimensions but larger volume, however they are not robust or very versatile. If I don’t need specialist gear, 36 litres is large enough for a few days in a cold climate or a week somewhere hot.
Review of Thule Subterra Carry On luggage: Versatility
After the size the next most important feature to me is that it is versatile with regards to packing and use. A useful feature I did not use is the piggyback strap attachment that attaches another bag to the Thule Subterra Carry On.
One of the features I liked best was the large easy access pocket at the top. It is easily big enough for all the items I need quick access to – book, liquids in clear bag, sunglasses, wallet etc. Within this there is a useful zippered mesh pocket for documents and a clip for keys.
But what makes this a very versatile cabin bag is the internal dividers and compression system. It not only makes it easy to pack more, but you can keep clean stuff away from dirty, wet from dry, and keep clothing in place so it does not get creased.
Do you prefer not to unpack? Then having both halves of the suitcase with stuff in making everything easier to find.
The compression system is so efficient I found myself with space for clothing between the two enclosed areas. There is also a zipped pocket on the divider that would fit a laptop or paperwork.
A very robust cabin bag with wheels
The oversized wheels are strong and provide smooth transit and good maneuverability. The telescopic handle is similarly durable and made from V-Tubing. Both feel like they will last many years without issues.
During this review of Thule Subterra Carry On luggage I found the durable exoskeleton and moulded polycarbonate back panel to provide excellent support. This is not a bag that will be crushed or damaged by bigger bags or rough handling.
The external 800 denier nylon is water-resistant, this kept the contents dry while waiting for our car in the drizzle at Stansted Airport. The top, side and bottom grab handles feel strong and are very convenient when lifting this versatile and robust cabin bag.
Review of Thule Subterra Carry On luggage: Negatives
Weighing in at 3.18kg it is not a lightweight bag. So if you just a 10kg
weight limit you are using 30% on the bag alone. That said it only weighed 8.5kg fully loaded, and no one checked the weight anyway.
At first, the compression system is not that instinctive to use. Once you know how it loosens it’s simple, but it took some fiddling the first time. I probably should have read the instructions. However, it does a great job!
Also if you need something out of the middle of the bag part way through a journey it is more hassle to get then with traditional non segmented luggage. That said if you know where everything is you only open section and don’t mess up your packing.
It’s RRP of £230 is expensive for a piece of carry on luggage. But I have got through two cheap (£30-50) wheelie bags in the last few years. So the Thule Subterra Carry On is an investment in a durable bit of luggage that will last.
Conclusion: Versatile and robust cabin bag
The Subterra Carry On is a very good piece of carry on luggage. It is strong, well made and well thought out. There are plenty of packing options offering very good versatility.
The compression helps you pack more and avoids creasing your clothing. I love having different sections, although some people may not like it. If you are organised and know where everything is, it’s a much better system than putting everything in one section.
To conclude this review of Thule Subterra Carry On luggage I thoroughly recommend it. It is a huge step up in quality compared to cheap wheelie bags that only last a few trips. It is a piece of luggage that will get a lot of use and I expect it to last many years.
The Thule Subterra Carry On costs £230 and it comes in grey, navy or dark red: www.thule.com/thule-subterra-carry-on