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Briggs & Riley Essential 22” Carry-On: Tested by a Pilot

Imagine this: you buy the last carry-on suitcase you’ll ever need. It may seem hard to believe, but that’s the promise Briggs & Riley makes; pay a bit more, but only pay once.

And as an airline pilot traveling 300 days a year and to over 100 countries, that’s a promise I fully put to the test when I switched out my heavy-duty Luggageworks Stealth 22″ for a Briggs & Riley Essential 22″ Expandable Carryon.

3 reasons I switched to a Briggs & Riley Suitcase for my job as a Pilot

I now travel everywhere, for work and for pleasure, with my Briggs & Riley 22” Essential Spinner. This was taken in Barreirinhas, Brazil. ​
I now travel everywhere, for work and for pleasure, with my Briggs & Riley 22” Essential Spinner. This was taken in Barreirinhas, Brazil.

The top 3 reasons I switched to a Briggs & Riley suitcase for my duties as an airline pilot and non-stop travel around the world are:

  1. The lifetime warranty – by far the #1 reason, Briggs & Riley suitcases pay themselves off over time
  2. Best quality suitcases – which is why Briggs & Riley can offer a lifetime warranty
  3. Lower weight – this highly reduces the chance of injury and wear and tear of your back and shoulders

Ever since becoming flight crew, I’ve depended on a 22” Luggageworks carry-on for my intense travels. If you’re not familiar, it’s basically the de facto suitcase for crewmembers, and you’ll typically see pilots lugging it around with a J-hook and a flight case attached to it.

But after my second Luggageworks bag fell apart in only 8 years with repair costs nearly equal to the cost of a new suitcase, I decided to make the plunge. That’s where my new Briggs & Riley’s Essential 22” carry-on comes in.

At this rate of going through bags, the lifetime warranty Briggs & Riley offers means I would break even in less than 10 years. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy much better quality, features, and a HUGE bonus: LESS weight.

That’s the premise of a Briggs & Riley suitcase: pay more one time, reap the benefits for life. And I’m all for it.

The Briggs and Riley Essential 22″ Expandable Carry-On: Basic Features (Size, Weight, Durability)

Here are some basic stats you should know before purchasing your bag;

Size: 10/10 – absolutely the most space you can get from a carry-on spinner

A short video test review of the Briggs & Riley Essential 22”

Briggs & Riley does a phenomenal job maximizing the interior room of its 22″ Essential Expandable Carry-on while still meeting American carry-on suitcase requirements. In the two-wheel version, the size of the case itself is:

  • Dimensions: 21 x 14 x 7.875 in. / 53.34 x 35.5 x 20 cm
  • Storage Space: 2352 – 3087 cu. in. / 39 – 51 liters (Expandable)

(Note that the spinner version – the one I use – has about 1″ less height on the inside)

Even with the spinner model, there is more than enough room for most folded garments. In fact, I have easily traveled for over a month with only a Briggs & Riley carryon and a high-quality backpack, including both work and personal travels. That means packing for multiple climates and taking my pilot uniform with me.

A slightly smaller 21″ model is available that meets most European and global airline carry-on size criteria.

Weight: 9/10 – very light

At only 9.7 lbs / 4.4kg for the 2-wheel model or 10 lbs / 4.6 kg for the spinner, the Briggs & Riley expandable is one of the lighter suitcases on the market. And this is fantastic news for your back and your shoulders.

For reference, most carry-on suitcases weigh around 11-12 lb. This might not seem like a lot, but when you travel frequently you really do notice the difference.

Durability and Attention to Detail: 10/10 – As good as it gets

Inside the suitcase, Briggs & Riley showcases strong attention to detail with a special plaque.
I love the attention to detail – like the “Briggs & Riley Wishes You Bon Voyage!” plate located inside the front pocket. So cool!

I’ve used Briggs & Riley products since I was a kid (thanks dad!), and they’re still in great shape. In fact, those exact bags are what inspired me to dump my ol’ heavy-duty Luggageworks and go for the best of the best.

If you’re not convinced by words, I know something that will win you over – a lifetime warranty. This means Briggs & Riley literally can’t afford to skimp on quality control.

Price: 7/10 – Very expensive, but totally worth it. Briggs & Riley is the last suitcase you’ll ever need.

Briggs & Riley offers its expandable 2-wheel model for $659 and it expandable spinner for $699. I’ve tracked this suitcase over the years, and have noticed that the price is increasing as these bags become more and more popular.

Which is better: the 2-Wheel Roller Bag or 4-Wheel Spinner?

This might surprise you, but before switching to Briggs & Riley, I wasn’t sold on a using 4 wheel spinner as my primary suitcase. I know this is unconventional, but I do love a perfectly balanced 2-wheel suitcase with a J-Hook. You can read more about that on my Top 5 Suitcases Pilots Use article.

But I must admit – after using the 4-wheel spinner from Briggs & Riley for some time now, I’m starting to change my mind. For one, the spinner takes up way less room in the airports, on buses, and in this way it’s actually more convenient than a 2-wheel suitcase. Another vividly better reason: my second piece of luggage (usually a backpack) no longer touches the ground. That always bothered me, especially in airports – not known as particularly clean places.

For those reasons, I am now recommending the 4-wheel spinner over the 2-wheel roller version of the Briggs & Riley Essentials bag. But either way you go, you will love your new suitcase.

Pros of the 2-Wheel SuitcasePros of the 4-Wheel Spinner
With a J-Hook, can be perfectly balancedOn most surfaces, reduces loads on your wrist
Slightly more room inside the suitcaseMore convenient access to your accessory bag
More rugged for rough surfacesMuch easier to move through tight spaces

10 Reasons to Love the Briggs & Riley Essential Suitcase

Though I’ve used many suitcases in my 12 years as a pilot, the Briggs & Riley stands out now as my favorite. I’ve had my eye on it for many years, and I’ve spoken to many travelers and crewmembers about their experiences. Foreshadowing: none of them were bad.

After a few months of using it, I’ve really grown to enjoy the many excellent features of my new suitcase. Here are the top 10 things that make the Briggs & Riley Essential Expandable Suitcase the best piece of luggage money can buy.

1. It’s Truly Expandable

The expandability of the Briggs & Riley Essential 22” automatically makes this the best carry-on money can by for those who pack heavy (like me).
The expandability of the Briggs & Riley Essential 22” automatically makes this the best carry-on money can by for those who pack heavy (like me).

Unlike the suitcases that claim to be expandable simply because the fabric is stretchy, the Briggs & Riley Essential Expandable Carry-On literally does expand, using proprietary ratcheting “CX” technology.

The bag literally can accommodate 2-3 inches more of stuff in height – which is huge, especially when trying to avoid needing to take a check-in bag.

The best part? Once you close your suitcase and zip up the zippers, you can compress it back down if needed. This is so much easier than trying to close an overstretched suitcase while zipping it up.

I smile smugly as I watch my girlfriend struggle to close her $1000+ Rimowa suitcase. Then I proceed to try and help her. I mean, I’m not evil.

2. The excellent outside laptop compartment is fantastic

The front compartment of the Briggs & Riley 22” essential has ample storage for even the largest of laptops.
The front compartment of the Briggs & Riley Essential 22” has an enormous amount of room and can accommodate even 17” laptops and larger.

I never knew having a laptop compartment on the outside could be so convenient. It accommodates even a 17″ laptop with ease, and the laptop slides in and out so easily.

There’s even extra room left over in case you’re in a pinch (perhaps going through TSA security!)

3. The included suiter really protects your suit/clothing

The suiter of the Briggs & Riley Essential 22” is excellent at protecting garments and keeping them from wrinkling.

I never used suiters in suitcases before my Briggs & Riley. I always thought they were a gimmick, and they didn’t really work.

Luckily, the suiter in the Essential Carry-On actually does a fine job. In fact, it’s where I keep my pilot uniform between work trips. I find that I don’t even have to iron anything on arrival!

4. It’s very low weight and extremely high quality

As I mentioned previously, the reduced weight after switching to Briggs & Riley has significantly improved my quality of life, especially traveling so frequently.

Going through security, taking public transportation, sliding my bag into the overhead compartment – all of it is made so much easier by the lightness of the bag.

5. The rugged, high quality zippers can take a beating

Very minor scratching after checking in my suitcase - showcasing the reliability and durability of Briggs & Riley carryons.
After checking in my suitcase 5 times, the only noticeable impact is some scratching. These zippers are built to last – and I know I can count on them.

Gone are the days of stuck and broken zippers. The XYZ zippers featured on Briggs & Riley bags are super solid and can take a beating.

I’ve already checked in my bag several times without any of the zipper pulls falling off – whereas on my previous bags, they would come off immediately.

6. There are many extra little storage compartments

The extra pockets and storage space of the Briggs & Riley Essential 22 make it a phenomenal carry-on bag.
The Powerpocket is a clear example of how Briggs & Riley has found innovative places to add compartments and maximize luggage space.

From a perfectly sized external charger compartment in the back to a hidden compartment in the front, I keep finding new places to store things. I’m honestly surprised by how many places there are to stash different things.

7. It rolls smoothly – especially in comparison to the TravelPro spinners

Obviously, this is a super important point. Even when heavily loaded, the Briggs & Riley Essential 22″ glides with minimal effort, even on carpeted surfaces. This is rare when you consider spinners, which naturally have smaller wheels.

I did a direct comparison with a TravelPro 21″ spinner and found that they were worlds apart. The TravelPro felt heavy and strenuous to pull in comparison to the luxury glide of the Briggs & Riley with its proprietary shock absorbing wheels.

You can see my Instagram Stories showcasing what life on the road is like with the Briggs & Riley Essential 22″ Carry-On here.

8. Briggs & Riley suitcases look pretty without sticking out like a sore thumb

Briggs & Riley makes one of the best looking suitcases on the market.
I brought my personal Briggs & Riley Essential 22” (you can see the ‘PSB’ inscription, my initials) to my favorite place at JFK – the TWA Hotel.

I’m a fan of aluminum bags – in fact, I tested and reviewed a Sterling Pacific Carry-On Suitcase and loved it.

The problem is that they’re attention getters. They stick out, and when you travel a lot, especially in big cities, you sometimes don’t want to stick out.

I find the Briggs & Riley suitcases look fantastic, elegant, but at the same time don’t stick out if you don’t look at them. Understated, yet aesthetic. The best of both worlds.

9. The aircraft-grade aluminum telescoping handle offers so many height settings

I have never experienced a suitcase with so many available height settings on such a high-quality handle.

It’s great because I can lengthen or shorten the handle in response to the situation – e.g. rolling down an airplane alley, carrying a smaller or bigger accessory bag, or pulling the bag alone with nothing attached.


10. And of course, the lifetime warranty means you’ll never have to buy another suitcase.

It’s inevitable that some day, something will go wrong with the suitcase. It always does, and it’s just something that comes with frequent travel. But I’m reassured by Briggs & Riley’s Lifetime Guarantee.

According to their website, “if your bag is ever broken or damaged, we will repair it free of charge, no proof of purchase needed, no questions asked.”

With repair centers around the world, the lifetime guarantee is an absolutely incredible offer, and it alone makes purchasing a Briggs & Riley suitcase absolutely worth it.

Summary: the Briggs & Riley Essential is the best suitcase you can buy right now

Briggs & Riley Essential 22” Carry-On review - rated by a pilot. Here the suitcase sits at the TWA Hotel next to the desk of Howard Hughes.
The Briggs & Riley Essential 22” is understated, yet quite the looker. It’s a suitcase I’m proud to own.

No suitcase is better suited to every kind of travel – whether luxury, off the beaten path, business, backpacking, or traversing the globe. The Briggs & Riley Essential 22” is the best suitcase you can buy, and I prefer it even over aluminum cases like Rimowa.

The quality is unparalleled – and no other company (that I’m aware of) backs up their luggage with a comprehensive, no questions asked lifetime warranty like Briggs & Riley does.

I’m happy I switched – and even happier that I will never have to switch again.

Disclaimer: I may receive commissions from some of the links provided in the article, at zero cost to you.

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