Last updated on April 8, 2023
I’m always on the hunt for new luggage for my travels. Since I almost never check-in luggage, I look for carry-on-size bags – backpacks, duffle bags, and roller bags – that are comfrotable, spacious, and all-around convenient. This review is for the Cabin Zero 36L, a trusty backpack I’ve been using for most of my travels over the past five years. I first received the backpack as a gifted offer for an influencer marketing campaign. I liked it so much that I have since purchased two more backpacks from Cabin Zero. I believe that the Cabin Zero 36L backpack is the best carry-on for long trips I’ve used so far. Read on to see the pros and cons and decide if this is the right bag for your travels.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links as explained in my disclosure policy.
What should you look for in a carry-on bag?
Before we dive into the details of the Cabin Zero 36L backpack, let’s establish some criteria that we will use to evaluate the quality of this backpack. These are five things you should look for when purchasing a backpack to use for international trips.
How much should you spend on a backpack? I’d say $100 or less. Of course, you can always spend more, but you can get a high-quality, durable backpack that will last you for years at a price in the $60-$80 range. Save your money for experiences.
You definitely want a backpack that includes a padded back panel and shoulder straps, especially if you will be on the move constantly. Let’s say you’re backpacking through Central America. The pads and cushion will save you from back pain. You also want to ensure that the backpack is easy to carry overall.
Simplicity is key. You can’t go wrong with a classic, functional design. You really don’t need all the bells and whistles that some backpacks come with – a bajillion compartments, pen holders, and random pockets. A simple design makes it super easy to pack and unpack your belongings and find what you’re looking for in seconds.
Your backpack should be big enough to fit everything you need for a long trip, let’s say one week or more, but small enough to be allowed as a carry-on. If you travel light, that’s ideal. Even if you pack your entire closet and the kitchen sink, you should still be able to reasonably fit a large number of items in your backpack.
Chances are you’ll be editing photos on Lightroom or catching up on some work at some point during your trip. That’s why a designated laptop compartment is a feature to look for when choosing a backpack. A laptop section with a cushion makes it so much easier to transport your laptop without worrying about it getting damaged.
The Cabin Zero 36L Bag checks off all those boxes.
What is Cabin Zero?
Cabin Zero is a British luggage brand that specializes in cabin-sized, lightweight luggage for adventure seekers. I came across Cabin Zero on the Instagram page of another travel blogger. I liked the design and functionality of their bags so I did some more research. That’s how I learned about the 36L Bag Cabin Bag. Right away, I knew I had to have it!
I immediately reached out to the Cabin Zero marketing team, and they were kind enough to send me the bag for free. I got the one in the color Naga Red because I just love how the color pops. The bag also comes in 14 other colors, including absolute black, navy, and orange chill. It measures 45 x 31 x 20cm and retails for $75 at the time of writing this.
The best things about the Cabin Zero 36L backpack
1. It’s Water Resistant
Cabin Zero makes its backpacks with waterproof polyester material. If you get caught in the rain, you don’t have to worry about your belongings getting wet. The water-resistant material can withstand even harsh weather conditions. This gives you peace of mind as you travel to any type of destination, knowing that your belongings will be protected from the elements.
2. It’s Spacious
With a capacity to fit 36 liters of items as the name implies, the Cabin Zero 36L can accommodate enough belongings for a month of international travel. I’ve used mine for three 1-month solo trips so far and couldn’t be happier. Cabin Zero bags meet most airline carry-on specifications so you can travel light. You can pack all your essentials into the backpack without it getting bulky. So far, I haven’t been using packing cubes, but I’d imagine they would make the load even easier to carry.
3. You Can Track Your Bag if It is Lost or Stolen
I think this is probably the best feature. Cabin Zero bags have lost and found tags built in so you can trace your bag if it’s lost or even stolen. How much peace of mind would that give you? Also, every bag comes with a 10-year warranty – the company will cover the cost of fixing any defects or send you a new bag. I didn’t even know backpacks could come with a warranty! Good to know.
After using this bag nonstop for more than 5 years, this is what I think. I’m going to tell you both the pros and cons because I believe in being transparent.
- You can carry it as both a backpack and a suitcase. I mainly carry this as a backpack, but I like having the option to carry it sideways, too, like when I take it out of the overhead compartment and leave the airplane.
- It has a simple design with lots of space for your belongings. I can’t emphasize how spacious this backpack is! It’s almost like a bottomless pit, which is great for me. While I like to bring only a carry-on, I bring my big makeup bag and at least a couple of shoes on every trip. The spacious interior allows me to accommodate everything I need, without feeling bulky.
- The shoulder straps are padded so it’s super comfortable to carry. This is important for times when I have to stand in line at the airport or ascend some stairs in a country that doesn’t traditionally have elevators. The pads make a huge difference.
- The size is perfect for every day too – I use it regularly to carry my laptop, iPad, camera, and books. They all fit in there with room to spare. I find it to be the perfect carry-on not just for long trips, but also for road trips, and weekend getaways. This is a versatile backpack for different purposes.
- This backpack has staying power. I’m telling you – I’ve been using my 36L Naga Red backpack since 2018. She has served me so well over the years and is still in tip-top shape. I have never used a backpack for this long before. If you’re looking for a backpack that you’ll be using for at least a few years, this is a great choice.
- The main thing I don’t like so much is the front compartment. You have to open the zipper from the side, not the top. Maybe it’s just a personal preference, but I’d rather reach into a bag from the top where I can see everything clearly.
- The main compartment opens from the top so that’s where I put most of my things. That said, it is so spacious that it can become a bottomless pit. You need to organize your things well or you may have to dig for a while to find them. I’d recommend using packing cubes.
I reach for my Cabin Zero 36L all the time so I know it’s definitely a keeper. If you’re looking for a lightweight carry-on that’s comfortable and affordable, the Cabin Zero 36 L is a great choice. I’ve been using mine for over 5 years now and have purchased two more backpacks from Cabin Zero – another 36L in turquoise and a 28L in orange. I highly recommend the 36L and any backpack from Cabin Zero for that matter. You can’t go wrong with this brand.
Browse Cabin Zero’s selection of 36L backpacks and find the perfect one for you!
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does a Cabin Zero 36L weigh?
A Cabin Zero 36L backpack weighs 0.7 kilograms or about 1 pound and 9 ounces.
What are the dimensions of a Cabin Zero military 36L?
A Cabin Zero military 36L backpack has the dimensions of 45 x 31 x 20cm, just like all other 36L backpacks from Cabin Zero.
What is the size of a backpack for cabin luggage?
While there is a slight variation from airline to airline, the standard domestic carry-on luggage size is 22″ x 14″ x 9″, which includes the handle and the wheels. For international flights, the carry-on luggage size is around the same dimensions. You can refer to this Skyscanner cabin luggage guide to see the dimensions allowed based on the airline you’re flying.
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Karis at Don't Dream, Just Travel
This bag sounds great, thanks for the thorough review! I’m a lot like you and travel with only a carry on so I’m always on the lookout for a great bag. Do you think this bag is a good one for hiking, i.e. comfortable enough to carry for hours at a time while possibly sweating profusely? 🙂
Hi Karis, thanks! I’m glad you found the review helpful. I’m actually hiking to the Hollywood sign this weekend and I’m taking the bag. Previously, I’ve walked carrying it for hours on hot days and found it comfortable. The shoulder straps are padded. It also depends on how much stuff you put in it. As long as you don’t stuff it to the brim, it’s comfortable to carry for hours.
Hey, I am looking into one. Does it have a compartment for laptop? Macbook Air 11 inch
Yes, it has a laptop compartment at the back of the main compartment. I have used it to carry my Macbook Air 13″ many times.