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- A lightweight carry-on is a must for flights with strict weight limits.
- Rimowa is a premium luggage brand perhaps best known for its aluminium carry-ons.
- But at just under five pounds, the Rimowa Essential Lite is one of the brand’s best luggage options.
Premium luggage brand Rimowa is probably best known for its eye-catching aluminum suitcases that you may have seen celebrities from Julianne Moore to the Kardashians sporting. However, it’s Rimowa’s polycarbonate Essential Lite carry-on that’s a true standout.
Ultra-lightweight, durable, and available in glossy, eye-catching colors, the suitcase features plenty of packing space while making it much easier to meet strict airline weight limits.
After testing this bag out for several months, it will likely become my go-to carry-on for many international trips or trips with interconnecting flights on small planes.
Here’s why I was so impressed with the Rimowa Essential Lite suitcase.
Design and specs
True to its name, the Rimowa Essential Lite is ultra-lightweight. It will fit in just about any standard overhead bin, including smaller jumper planes and international flights. It also has enough space that packing for four to five days is a breeze.
Made of a thin but durable polycarbonate, the Rimowa Essential Lite doesn’t sacrifice quality or durability to achieve its light weight. The carry-on features ball-bearing mounted spinner wheels with cushioned axles that ensure the suitcase is easy to maneuver and incredibly quiet. It also boasts KK metal zippers, an adjustable telescopic handle, and a TSA-approved lock. The suitcase is scratch- and scuff-resistant.
With a shiny finish and elegant vertical lines, the carry-on is more subtle than Rimowa’s famed aluminum suitcases. It also doesn’t come with any extras or premium features, and some might be surprised that details are plastic rather than leather given that it’s from a luxury travel brand. However, all that is to be expected from a carry-on that’s main goal is to be as light as possible.
In addition to the carry-on size, the Rimowa Lite collection also includes a medium and large checked size, as well as a kids carry-on. The suitcase also comes with a five-year manufacturer warranty, once registered online.
What it’s like to use
When the Rimowa Essential Lite was first delivered to my apartment, I actually assumed a vase I had ordered around the same time had come in an inexplicably large box because it never dawned on me that a suitcase could be that light. Suffice it to say I was immediately impressed.
The polycarbonate material has some give at the top when pressed and doesn’t feel as thick as other hard-sided bags I own. However, this suitcase is plenty sturdy. In fact, its glossy coating keeps it from scratching or marking up as easily as similar matte-finished suitcases. Over the passed six months, I’ve used it on road trips, flights, and even to move when it got tossed around in the back of a moving van and it still looks pristine.
The wheels are easy to maneuver on every surface I’ve tested from hardwood to carpet, and they’re also whisper quiet. While the carry-on is fairly bare-bones and doesn’t come with any extras like a charger or laundry bag, it does come with a chic leather luggage tag.
Of course, the most important part of any carry-on is packability. I like that both sides of the suitcase’s interior have a mesh zipper. I find that this makes it easier to keep my belongings secured and organized than the typical one-sided buckle, one-sided zip system most hard-sided carry-ons use. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised to find that the suitcase holds more than I was first expecting. However, I do wish it had a divider with a separate pocket for items like socks and underwear.
Due to the pandemic, I’ve only used this bag on two flights so far, but lifting into the overhead bin was a breeze, even when it was stuffed full.
What makes the Rimowa Essential Lite standout
The standout feature of the Essential Lite is its weight. While your typical carry-on generally clocks in somewhere around seven pounds, the Essential light is under five pounds. When you’re taking flights with strict weight limits, that is a major perk. Not only can you pack more since you’re not sacrificing extra weight to your bag, but it can also save you from having to pay hefty baggage fees.
The Essential Lite especially stands out among Rimowa’s other offerings. The brand is largely known for its shiny, eye-catching aluminum suitcases, but many of Rimowa’s other suitcases are extremely heavy.
In fact, the Essential Lite is almost half the weight of Rimowa’s classic Original Cabin aluminium carry-on, and still over two pounds lighter than the standard Essential carry-on, the brand’s other polycarbonate offering. Shockingly, the Lite is also able to hold more than either of those two suitcases, making the Essential Lite one of Rimowa’s best offerings – especially when you take into account that it’s also significantly cheaper (the Original Cabin and Essential come in at $1,080 and $650 respectively).
Despite being significantly cheaper than many of Rimowa’s other suitcases, the Essential Lite carry-on is still an expensive suitcase. It also doesn’t come with many high-end features or extras that one might expect for the steep price. There’s no perks like a battery pocket, laundry bag, or garment bag included, and many of the details are plastic as opposed to leather.
However, all of that is also largely how it’s able to achieve being one of the lightest hard-sided carry-ons available.
Bottom line: Is the Rimowa Essential Lite worth it?
There’s no getting around the fact that the Rimowa Essential Lite is an expensive carry-on, even though it’s cheaper than many of Rimowa’s other luggage options. However, it’s a highly durable bag, especially given how lightweight it is. There are few suitcases on the market that come in under five pounds and are able to hold as much as the Essential Lite. If you frequently take flights on airlines with low or strict weight limits, this bag is absolutely worth it, especially when you consider the potential baggage fees savings.
Pros: Super lightweight, durable, chic
Cons: Expensive, doesn’t come with many extras