Carl Friedrik The Carry-On X review: super stylish cabin luggage

The Carry-On X case could be the best-looking case on the market, but is it practical?

T3 Platinum Award
Car Friedrik The Carry-On X
(Image credit: Future)
T3 Verdict

The Carl Friedrik Carry-On X is a beautiful piece of cabin luggage that is perfect for making a statement when you travel. It's well made and has lots of room inside, even sporting a laptop sleeve. However, it's potentially a bit big and heavy for budget airlines.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Stunning design

  • +

    Laptop section means you can take one bag

  • +

    Lots of space inside

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    No zip compartment for top section

  • -

    Laptop sleeve takes up inner bag space

  • -

    On the heavy side at 4.3kg

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Carl Friedrik produces some incredibly stylish luggage, from backpacks and briefcases to full size check-in cases. The piece that really interested me though, was its carry-on collection. When I’m away for a few days, either with work or on a city break, I like to avoid checking in a bag, so finding the perfect carry-on case has become somewhat of a mission for me. 

Does the perfect case exist? My strict criteria means that it needs to have enough space for at least a two-night trip (including gym gear) and easily fit in the overhead compartment of your standard Airbus A320. It should also be lightweight, have two clear sections (including compression straps) and have strong and secure locks to keep it closed. 

I normally take a second bag for my laptop on longer trips, but having a laptop section on the carry-on is a game changer, as it means I can keep to just one bag. That’s why I really loved the July Carry-on Pro

The Carl Friedrick Carry-On X fulfilled all of my criteria, on paper at least. This case has loads of room inside, and measuring 38 x 55 x 25cm, it’s well within those airline restrictions. Perhaps the biggest selling point though was how it looks. With an industrial feel, the grey case features thick groves to create a ribbed texture and rivets around the opening. It also sports contrasting orange details for the handles and in a band across the front. 

There are different colour combinations where the secondary colour is less extreme but I think the grey and cognac finish is by far the nicest. This X version also includes a front laptop sleeve with a hard shell to protect it. A perfect combination so far. 

Car Friedrik The Carry-On X

(Image credit: Future)

Price and availability

A good carry-on doesn’t come cheap, and the Carl Friedrick Carry-On X is certainly no economy ticket. It retails at £465 / $595 / AU$1150, which brings it into a rather exclusive set of bags. One advantage is that you’re unlikely to see too many of them around – so you’ll always be able to spot your case. 

Car Friedrik The Carry-On X

(Image credit: Future)

Features and design

Aside from being a great-looking case, the Carry-On X is made from premium materials. It combines a German-engineered Makrolon polycarbonate shell with Vachetta leather detailing and aluminium locks. The lining inside is made from recycled polyester. 

The case comes in a number of different finishes. The grey version comes in either smooth or dotted finishes, with a choice of a dusky orange (cognac), brown (chocolate) or black band and handles. You can also get the Carry-On X in all black, which is super stylish. 

The main case is split 50-50 at the opening, with compression straps on both sides to hold your clothes in place. There’s also a compression pad which can be placed on either the top or bottom section to help flatten your clothes down, or hold in smaller items – and has a zipped pocket inside it for even smaller bits. Personally, I’m a fan of a zipped top section of the case, as it’s easier to hold things in when you open the case, so I was a little disappointed not to have one here. 

In the bottom section, there are two small zip pockets at the back and the lining can be easily unzipped, should you need to. The handle padding doesn’t take up too much space from the main section and the wheels sit externally, so you don’t lose space to them either. This means that you can really maximise packing in both sections. 

The front laptop pocket is generous in size and will easily hold a 16-inch MacBook Pro, with secure padding and a strap to hold it in place. There’s also a netted pocket and smaller pen and accessory pockets on the back of the lid. I do like the fact that the lid is toughened, rather than a fabric material. The only problem is that this front pocket recesses down into the main case. So, if you overfill the main top section, it reduces the room in the laptop sleeve – so that it will fit little more than your laptop. 

Car Friedrik The Carry-On X

(Image credit: Future)

In use

Packing with the Carry-On X is really easy, though I like to put some softer items in first to smooth out the bumps from the periscopic handle. Using both top and bottom sections, I find there’s plenty of room for two to four days of clothes, including a pair of formal shoes and by running gear. 

By placing the compression pad on the top section, I was still able to hold in smaller items, like my wash bag and chargers. Plus, with two sets of compression straps, I can really tighten them to hold everything in place. 

The case closes using two large clasp locks each with its combination lock (three numbers on each) and TSA key. With a full case, it’s sometimes difficult to line the locks up and close the case properly – at least in a hurry. So, you have to make sure the edges are fully lined up all the way around first. 

The laptop sleeve on the front does allow me to travel with just one bag, though it would be nice if there was room to extend the top section to fit my headphones and wash bag. This could either go further into the case or extend outwards. 

There are two features that should not be overlooked on a carry on case, and they are the wheels and the extendable handle. Luckily these are both great on this case. The four wheels are sturdy with rubber grip and spin freely to quickly change direction through the airport. The handle extends freely without sticking (even when the bag is pretty full) and locks firmly into place.

Despite being fractionally bigger than some of my other bags, it still fits easily into the overhead compartment – certainly on the short and long-haul flights I’ve taken it on so far. However, it may struggle on the little Embraer 190 city hoppers. 

Another factor to consider if you’re planning to use this case for cabin baggage is its weight. At 4.3kg the Carry-On X is not the lightest option, so if you’re limited to 10kg, you won’t need to put much in it to go over. 

Car Friedrik The Carry-On X

(Image credit: Future)

Should I buy the Carl Friedrik Carry-On X?

If you’re looking for a statement cabin bag, the Carl Friedrik Carry-On X is a great option. The case looks incredible and looks right at home in business-class lounges and in the back of fancy sports cars. 

Despite the rather high price, it’s also fairly practical, in that you can fit a lot in it, and avoid having to take a second laptop bag with you. Though remember, if you’re placing a 16-inch laptop and headphones in here as well as your luggage, it’s going to get heavy, fast. 

Of course, you can always go for the slightly cheaper Carry-On, without the laptop sleeve and keep your second bag. Carl Friedrik does do some stunning briefcases (like the Palissy Briefcase, in Cognac) that would look perfect alongside this. I also like the fact that there’s a matching Check-In bag to the Carry-On X, so you can have the set. 

For an overnight stay, I’d probably opt for something smaller and lighter than this – like the Monos Carry-on hybrid or the July Carry-on Light – but for longer stays in fancy locations, the Carl Friedrik Carry-On X is ideal. 

Mat Gallagher

As T3's Editor-in-Chief, Mat Gallagher has his finger on the pulse for the latest advances in technology. He has written about technology since 2003 and after stints in Beijing, Hong Kong and Chicago is now based in the UK. He’s a true lover of gadgets, but especially anything that involves cameras, Apple, electric cars, musical instruments or travel.