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- The carry-on suitcases from new travel startup Tiko are spacious, durably built, and easy to maneuver – and they cost less than $250.
- They feature a soft, weatherproof, and abrasion-resistant waxed canvas fabric made from a mix of cotton and polyester. They look and feel good, while being tough enough for the realities of travel.
- It packed so much and traveled so smoothly that my Tiko Carry-On was the last thing I thought about as I made my way through the airport, and that’s a good thing.
Here’s my dream travel scenario: I get to JFK via a delay-free subway ride. After standing in the security line for a maximum wait of five minutes, I, along with my suitcase, pass through the scanners without being stopped. I stroll smoothly through the terminal, grab some Shake Shack, then shuffle through the airplane aisle and effortlessly launch my carry-on into the overhead bin. I slide into my seat and promptly fall asleep for the duration of the flight. End scene.
Unfortunately, it will remain a pipe dream because I can’t control many parts of the journey, like the state of the MTA or how picky the TSA agent is about the fact that I didn’t take my Kindle out of my bag. But everything I can control to make traveling as least stressful as possible, I do, and the type of suitcase I bring makes a big difference.
Tiko, an Austin, Texas-based travel startup, makes a carry-on that does everything right to make you (almost) forget about all the other stresses of traveling. The Tiko Carry-On ($245) is a soft-sided spinner suitcase that packs a lot into a seemingly small space, is easy to maneuver, and looks a little different from most other suitcases out there.
Read more: The best carry-on bags you can buy
It measures 22.7″x 9.5″ x 14.5″ and weighs just 7.2 pounds, with a 49-liter capacity. The organizational design is simple. Inside, there’s one large main compartment and one zippered compartment. Outside by the handle, there’s a zippered pocket to stash quick-grab essentials like your passport. If you’re using a carry-on in the first place, you probably don’t need anything fancier anyways, and you can always use packing cubes if you want to be more organized.
As an over-packer (it’s possible I’d wear those two extra outfits, who knows! This time will be different!), I was surprised to have some room leftover after packing my usual amount of things. Because the frame is flexible and the canvas fabric also has give, I could tuck my clothes, shoes, and toiletries into every inch of space possible.
While hard-shelled suitcases offer more structure, you should go with a soft-sided one if you’re really trying to pack things in and maximize space. Knowing the Tiko Carry-On had space to spare, I wasn’t shy about stocking up on pastries to bring home, and I packed away my heavier jacket instead of wearing it on my flight.
The suitcase’s waxed canvas, available in three colors (charcoal, light gray, and navy), is a blend of natural cotton and synthetic polyester fibers, giving it the casual look and soft feel of cotton but the strength of synthetic materials. The fabric is abrasion-, tear-, and weather-resistant as a result. In case it does get tagged for check-in due to lack of overhead bin space, it’s tough enough to withstand being thrown around by luggage handlers.
While the suitcase isn’t entirely waterproof, it’s safe to carry out for short periods of time in the rain. I wheeled the suitcase home from the office on a rainy night – a walk of about 10 minutes total – and everything inside and out emerged fine, the rain splatters drying up without a trace within a half hour.
Walking with and transporting the Tiko Carry-On is close to effortless. The spinner wheels always roll smoothly, and the handle is tight but extends and retracts smoothly as well. With reinforced handles on all four sides, it’s not difficult to get a strong, comfortable grip on the suitcase, no matter its configuration. Its light frame and fabric construction means you can lift it into the overhead bin quickly and avoid backing up the entire line of impatient passengers behind you.
My one point of contention is that I can’t rest my purse or duffel bag on top as easily as I can on a hard-shelled suitcase – it takes a little extra finagling to ensure my second bag stays put.
Other than that one compromise, I like using the suitcase because of its no-fuss reliability and durability. No, it doesn’t come with a battery pack or a built-in lock, but its under-$200 price tag, quality construction, and host of other useful features make it a great carry-on regardless.