Just how light is “ultra-light luggage,” anyway?

I opened my inbox this morning and discovered email from travel supplier Magellan’s (one of my favorite) with the following subject:

“Ultra-Light Luggage! Check it in, or carry it on.”

Ooooooh, I thought. Just what me and Virgin Atlantic check-in crew were looking for! I excitedly went to read the mailer, and I see that the luggage they are promoting is from Eagle Creek. Hmmm…. a new item, perhaps?

I click the link in the email.

The $149.00 Eagle Creek Hovercraft Wheeled Underseat Tote from the Magellan’s travel supplies online store. Photo from Magellan’s.

Kachow! It takes me to a page describing the Eagle Creek Hovercraft Wheeled Underseat Tote. Basically a MiniMe version of the rolling upright. At 13.5″ by 13.5″ by 9.5″, it’s definitely within carry-on limits. But then I check its weight:

Five and a half pounds!

Let me tell you, even with a gnome-sized carry-on, the wheel and handlebar mechanism just adds so much weight. And I guess we all have different ideas of how light “ultra light” should be. Thanks to a reminder from Skip, we’ll probably travel with a couple of Outdoor Products Essential Carryon travelpacks. Well made enough, light as a feather (under two pounds), and only $29.99 from Campmor. How can you lose?

The “Essential Carryon” travelpack by Outdoor Products. One of the most plain travelpacks on the market, this one is also one of the lighest, at under two pounds. Photo from OutdoorProducts.com

My plan to pack my carry-on lightly enough to fit Virgin’s strict 13-pound limit (for our upcoming trip to Europe) is going well! Once I finalize my list, I plan on packing everything and putting it on a scale, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be OK. The challenge is in seeing if we can do the same for my husband, who is considerably taller and larger than I am. However, over the years he’s devised his own carry-on system; he already has the concept down pat, so he will just need to make a few adjustments in his wardrobe to lighten his bag. His biggest challenge will be his camera gear, since he wants to take his digital SLR with him. Depending on how much spare room I have, I may carry some of his clothes just for the Virgin Atlantic segments.

Edited to add:

I’ve gotten some requests to provide links for those retailers who carry this product:

Note: Although prices vary widely, check each site to see which is the best deal for you. Some sites, like LetMom, had a promotion (50 cents shipping for backpacks) that may be worth shopping around. Some sites carry a lot of other good merchandise you might want to buy, and in most cases you save on shipping if you shop for more goods from one place rather than a few items from a number of different vendors.


  1. I ordered the Essential Carry-On a month ago and I’m waiting for strap #4 to arrive today. It seems Campmor got a bunch of bags in with bad straps. Campmor customer service is great and the last person I spoke to said he would personally inspect the strap before sending it out. So, if you have to order them, don’t wait until the last minute.

    The bag seems great and weighs less than what they claim. Even though I’m waiting for the new strap, I’ll probably use my Tom Bihn Absolute Strap on it–the most comfortable strap I’ve ever used.

    As far as Heathrow goes, you may want to check their website again. They say if your airline allows it, you may take more than one piece of hand baggage.

  2. Hey Buzz — Can you tell me what was wrong with the strap?

    Fortunately for me I have a ton of straps at home so I’ll be able to dig around for one. I do hope Campmor gets you a nondefective strap, but in the meantime, you might wanna just use your Tom Bihn Absolute Strap. We have one that we use on our Aeronaut, and it’s definitely quite comfortable. The only drawback to the strap we ran into was when my husband extended it out and wore the Aeronaut like a cross-body messenger bag. The plastic piece that attaches to the end of the main neoprene padding would dig into his collar bone, so he had to keep moving the strap out toward his shoulder.

    I’m pretty partial to the old deluxe strap from Eagle Creek. They still have a similar one with the wedge design, although it doesn’t feel quite as comfortable as the ones they used to make–and unfortunately you can’t find their older design anymore. Oh well.

    Thanks for the heads-up about Heathrow. My friend who went through there went a year ago, so it sounds like they might have changed things since then. Airport rules seem to change with the wind, don’t they?

  3. Hi Lani…The new strap came today and it’s fine. Campmor really does come through in the end. The first strap they sent had a broken plastic connector so you couldn’t attach it to the bag on one end. The second one they sent was missing one sizer and had the plastic connector on backwards and it couldn’t be turned around. They then sent me a separate Outdoor Products strap but it was inferior to the one that comes with the bag–no shoulder pad, no swiveling connector.

    After trying the one today, I’m definitely going to use the TB Absolute. (It’s strange that the strap costs as much as the bag.)

    Heathrow changed its rule back in January. But they are strict about the size.

    If you take the Essential Carry-on later this year, don’t forget to report back on how it worked.

  4. Hey Lani, I love your travel blog! Here is a tip for your husband and his Camera gear. He can wear a Scott eVest or fleece, or even a photographers vest, on the flight. The camera, mp3 player, phone, etc. can all go in the pockets, not in the carry-on. Weight problem solved. They can even be added back to the carry-on once you get through security. Here is where I got this idea:http://www.flickr.com/photos/59326548@N00/2442602576/in/pool-travel-light/
    I was so impressed I did a post on his annotated packing photo. Have a great trip to Europe.

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