Sterling Pacific – Better than Rimowa?: Tested by an Airline Pilot

As an airline pilot, my carryon luggage is used and abused day in and day out. I had been on a long search to find a carryon suitcase that can handle the stresses of my job when I finally stumbled upon this travel case.

After years and years of trying all sorts of suitcases – cheap ones, big ones, carbon fiber, plastic, steel, crew-specific bags, and more, I still wasn’t content.

Every bag seemed to be a compromise, especially when it comes to weight, size, and durability.

Until now.

Why did it take so long to find the perfect carryon suitcase as an airline pilot?

It took me a long time to find the perfect carryon suitcase for my job as an airline pilot.
Here I am preparing for a flight in 2020. A professional pilot always does his research before embarking on his next journey.

Why did it take so much time and effort to find the perfect carryon? Because every suitcase airline pilots and flight attendants use needs to meet strict requirements:

  • Squeezing in a weeks worth of warm and cold weather clothes on top of uniform accessories, flip flops and swimwear, jackets, make-up, work and street shoes
  • Handling the brutal stress of being dragged across rough roads and sidewalks, being loaded under a pile of other suitcases, rolling through snow and sleet and dirty streets
  • Being easy and unique so that other passengers don’t accidentally confuse it for their bag

On top of that, heavy suitcases can cause damage to joints in shoulders. Many older pilots I fly with have back issues stemming from picking up or placing a heavy suitcase.

So while you may be able to find a sturdy carryon suitcase, such as the one airline pilots typically use, you’ll be hurting yourself – literally – in the long run with how heavy it is.

And even the sturdiest, heaviest suitcases still fall prey to damage over time. My traditional airline crew heavy steel Luggageworks pilot case cracked after a car accident, and its replacement cracked on the bottom too!

Seeing that I had been lugging around a heavy, rugged suitcase for no reason – even that was prone to damage during routine use – is when I decided that was it. I needed a change.

When I found out about the new Sterling Pacific 35L Carryon Travel Case, I knew it was the perfect time to try it out.

So is the Sterling Pacific bag a viable option for the strenuous position of dependable luggage that can handle even my life? I’ll let you be the judge.

What makes the Sterling Pacific 35L Carryon Travel Case so good?

The best carryon suitcase I could ever ask for as an airline pilot.
You cannot find a suitcase better suited to the elegant, beautiful design of the TWA Hotel at JFK airport.

At risk of sounding like the brochure, I’ll start out by saying one thing: I’m extremely happy with Sterling Pacific’s carryon bag.

Sure, it’s expensive. But you get what you pay for.

So far, I’ve received compliments, questions, and curiosity from passengers, flight attendants, and other pilots nearly everyday. It’s truly a work of art, and gleams with impeccable beauty everywhere you take it.

In a sea of boring, plain suitcases that are designed to last only a couple years, the Sterling Pacific Carryon stands apart by leagues.

Size (Carryon)

The Sterling Pacific 35L travel case features a lot more room than you would think!
I tried to take my girlfriend with me, but TSA security didn’t let me.

At 22.5″ x 14″ x 8.5″, the Sterling Pacific Travel Case maximizes the room you can squeeze into a carryon bag – without exceeding major airline carryon limits. This allows for 35L of space, which is enough for 4-7 days of stuff, less if you throw a winter coat in there.

If you’re worried about room, Sterling Pacific also offers the even more impressive 80L Check-in Travel Case.

I really like the size of the 35L Travel Case.

  • Fits perfectly into the overhead straight in
  • Doesn’t provoke questioning about size
  • Slightly too long to fit underneath the seat in front (unless you’re in first class)


The Sterling Pacific 35L Travel Case is such a joy to carry around as an airline pilot.
This bag speaks for itself. Just look at how impressively beautiful it is. I love taking this bag with me on trips.

Perhaps the most impressive quality of the Sterling Pacific products is, well, the quality.

You can see quality oozing out of these bags. I’m tempted to keep my bag on a trophy stand as a centerpiece in my house, but that might defeat the purpose….

The straps, zipper, locks, aluminum, rivets, leather are all top-notch, and Sterling Pacific even includes some leather care wax to maintain it.

  • Extremely sturdy and trustworthy
  • You could use this travel case as a safety case to protect your most important valuables at home.
  • According to the website, it’s a “full 5052 aluminum case with impact bearing ridges and reinforced A380 aluminum corners. Over 50,000 tons of hydraulic pressure is used to bend and corrugate the aluminum sheets.”


Sterling Pacific ultimate carryon features: travel pouch and shoe pockets
As one of the many selling points listed on the Sterling Pacific website, I find the travel pouch super useful.

Overall, the Sterling Pacific Travel Case is relatively simple. Functionality and maximizing room was clearly key in the development of the carryon.

  • High quality buckle straps to keep content from shifting
  • Internal ring spun twill weave lining bag mesh and travel pouch
  • Some of the best rolling wheels you can find on any suitcase. They’re extra large which makes moving around super easy. This also prevents the bag from getting scratched on sidewalks and curbs.
  • High quality Italian full-grain leather and even some leather care wax included


Ah, this is my favorite part. Despite how amazingly sturdy this travel case is , there’s finally no compromise on weight! At just over 11 pounds, and with some of the smoothest rolling wheels I’ve ever used, this travel case feels super strong and lightweight. I love it!

  • No compromise; it’s light AND it’s sturdy.
  • 11.5 pounds

Price (Carryon)

I went to the TWA Hotel with my Sterling Pacific 35L Travel case to show just how well it fits in.
Even Howard Hughes would love this carryon.

At $1295, the Sterling Pacific 35L Travel Case is one of the most expensive products out there. But it’s the best. There simply is no comparison.

There just aren’t any other carryon suitcases as elegant, capable, or of such high quality. The nearest competitor is Rimowa, but their bags are plain and boring compared to the Sterling Pacific products. Not to mention that the quality of their mass-produced bags is just not the same. At just $150 of difference, it seems like a no-brainer to go for Sterling Pacific.

  • Expensive – but you get what you pay for
  • Can save money over the long run by eliminating the need to replace suitcases every couple years


The carryon bag with the most space?
Sterling Pacific did a phenomenal job maximizing the room you can get out of a carryon suitcase. This is about a weeks worth of clothing, including my uniform.

Ultimately, the Sterling Pacific 35L Travel Case isn’t for everyone. It’s for those who, like me, are done compromising between weight, durability, usability, and quality.

All aluminum bags, especially full aluminum – not ‘hybrids’, are costly. That comes with the territory. But none carry the workmanship and excellence that Sterling Pacific does.

I’m hoping that because of my new carryon I will no longer need to replace a $300 bag every couple years and I won’t throw my shoulders out because of a heavy suitcase. This means that over the long run, this bag pays for itself.

And that’s exactly what I’ve been looking for.

Looking for other useful guides from an airline pilot?

5 Suitcases Airline Pilots Use: Why You Need One
Ultimate Packing Guide You Need for Your Next Trip
The Ultimate Guide to Staying Fit and Healthy While Traveling (by a Pilot)

You will occasionally find links of my website for affiliated brands. As a result, I may receive commission if you make a purchase after clinking on the link. There are no ads on my website – this is my only method for funding the yearly subscriptions I maintain to keep the website running. Thanks for your continued support and make sure to subscribe above!

Keep Exploring the World


  1. Ok, this review, (plus the sterling pacific website and two online review videos) have sold me. I ordered the carryon 35L version. I usually just check bags and carryon a nice Tumi Briefcase. If this is the correct size to put it up into the overhead bin, then this is the one I want when I need the onboard case. I think the word case seems more appropriate than bag here, but I digress. I might get the larger one too, the 80L, but I have a great Tumi expandable that expands even bigger than that for check in. Also, the Globe Trotter cases, wow, those are great too. I might go for that as a checked bag? Well, first world problems…

  2. I personally would stick to the Tumi for the checked bag, as it’s expandable. The Sterling Pacific bags are apt to get scratches on the outside. But you will love the case either way!!

  3. The 25% discount they offer to pilots is what is making me strongly consider purchasing this instead of a Rimowa cabin +!!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: