Want to be eco-friendly while you travel? Using eco-friendly luggage is a good place to start. To help you, here are my top 10 picks for best eco-friendly personal item bag for planes to choose from to reduce your impact on the environment while supporting eco-friendly and sustainable brands.
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Difference Between Personal Item and Carry-On
The long and the short of it for practically all airline carriers is the personal item bag must be able to fit under your seat (or the seat in front of you). Yes, you can put it in the overhead bin, but that is really where your carry-on bag should go, should you be allowed one.
What Can I Bring as a Personal Item on a Plane?
Can a backpack count as a personal item?
Yes! In fact, there are many types of bags that can be considered a personal item by airlines. Personal Items can include:
- Handbag / Purse / Pocketbook
- Laptop bag / Laptop (with or without a bag)
- Food Containers
- Pet carriers
- Diaper bag
- Or a similar item such as a tote
What size can your personal item be on a plane?
The answer comes down to the airline carrier. Airline carriers also carry a common theme that baggage restrictions are higher for Economy seating than Business or First Class seating. If you don’t meet the airline’s baggage guidelines, this could cause you to have to check your bags.
Below is a list of popular airline carriers. Click on each to direct to their baggage guidelines.
How to Choose the Best Personal Item Bag
Base your personal item bag purchase from the following categories:
Size and Weight
Always check your airline’s luggage size and weight restrictions, especially if you are flying internationally. U.S. airlines do not employ weight restrictions like other international carriers do. Going over weight can invite baggage fees.
Longer flights are more demanding of a personal item. It’s not ideal to wake people up on an overnight flight just to access your carry-on bag. Therefore, it is ideal to be able to have all necessities at your fingertips in your personal item bag.
Easy storage and organized pockets are preferable. This also helps when navigating through an unfamiliar airport or security lines where you need your ID, tickets and mobile device at the ready.
Today’s personal item bags come with multiple features. Most important to consider is if your other luggage gets lost. Will your personal item bag hold enough travel essentials, including clothes, to last you a day in case of an emergency?
Will your personal item bag fit your needed laptop? Is it versatile to act as a backpack and a briefcase?
Minimal layovers or no access to an outlet may also prove device charging be a handy feature. This is not mandatory, of course. You can always bring your own portable charging device.
Waterproofing is a nice thought, but please know that chemicals in most waterproofing are considered a “forever chemicals” with not-so-nice human health effects.
When we think quality, we wonder if the bag will last. Is it durable? The last thing you want is it to break on your vacation.
Does the manufacture back their product with a warranty for easy replacement or fixing or money-back guarantee?
Some may argue, including me, that quality also includes being eco-friendly and/or sustainable and made by a brand that has these values at the core of their mission. This is probably you, too. After all, you’re reading this.
How to Choose an Eco-friendly Bag
Before you ask, “Yes, eco-friendly is the same as environmentally friendly.” A brand focusing on being eco-friendly is producing products with less negative impacts on the environment. Please know, however, that some brands focus on being socially ethical or both socially ethical and eco-friendly, which is referred to as focusing on sustainability.
It helps to do a little digging into each brand to make sure they’re not greenwashing. In other words, they don’t just claim to be “green” – they are actually backing the talk with the walk.
To help you, I’ve pointed out brand’s environmental (or ethical or sustainable) efforts, with links, in my list of top personal item bags below to make your research easier.
What Should I Put in My Personal Item Bag?
It is always best to check with your country’s travel and security sites for what to bring, or not to bring, in your personal item bag and carry-on. If you are traveling within the U.S. see the TSA’s What Can I Bring for the most up-to-date travel guidelines.
How to Pack Eco-Friendly
Believe it or not, it’s not just what you bring that makes your packing eco-friendly, it’s also how much you bring. The less the total luggage weight, the less fuel the plane has to use making your lighter bag more eco-friendly. Look here for more eco-friendly travel tips.
Since you’re trying to be eco-friendly while you travel, try to buy your personal item bag right the first time by having it meet your favorite airline carrier’s size regulations.
If you take international flights regularly, you’d be doing well to purchase a personal item bag that is no more than 12” x 16” x 4” (30 cm x 40 cm x 10 cm) to 18” x 14” x 8” (45cm x 36cm x 20cm), so your one bag is apt to meet all carriers’ regulations and you don’t have to buy multiple bags.
Plus, you won’t be tempted to go over the weight restriction. If you fly internationally, you know how strict they are on baggage weight.
Best Eco-Friendly Personal Item Bag for Planes: Top 10 Picks
Personal item bags can come in a variety of styles: backpacks, brief cases, totes, or a hybrid of two, for example a backpack and briefcase in one. Here are my picks for 10 best eco-friendly personal item bags for planes sure to meet your travel needs.
1 – United By Blue
Personal Item 25L Convertible Carryall
Dimensions 13.25″ x 15.5″ x 5.25″
Type Hybrid Tote / Backpack
Features Padded interior; interior zipper pocket; dual functionality as tote or backpack; and lifetime guarantee.
Product Eco Benefits Made with sustainably sources materials.
Brand Mission United By Blue is B Corp certified, uses sustainable materials in their supply chain, and employs ethical manufacturing practices globally. For every product you purchase, they remove one pound of ocean and waterway trash. Read more about United By Blue’s sustainability mission.
2 – Solgaard
Personal Item Shore-Tex™ Daypack
Dimensions 8.6″ x 11.6″ x 6″
Features Carries laptops up to 15 inches; secret pockets to secure passport and cards; back support; expandable pockets; and water-resistant bottom. This bag is bound to meet most airline personal item size restrictions, if not all.
Product Eco Benefits Made of recycled ocean plastics.
Brand Mission Solgaard’s goal is to help cut ocean plastic in half by 2025 and partners with The Plastic Bank for ocean clean-up projects that create jobs in the Philippines. Read more about Solgaard’s environmental mission.
3 – Cotopaxi
Personal Item Taal Convertible Tote – Del Día
Dimensions 14″ x 5″ x 12.5”
Type Hybrid Tote / Backpack
Features Lightweight, Nylon body with lots of storage; zippered organizational pockets; internal water bottle pouch; and convertible to backpack. Personalize your combination of colors for a one-of-a-kind, unique looking bag.
Product Eco Benefits Made with 100% repurposed nylon materials from other companies’ production runs to keep waste out of landfills.
Brand Mission Cotopaxi’s “Do Good” mission as a B Corp certified organization is to promote community development and improving human conditions while reducing environmental impact by using recycled materials. Read more about Cotopaxi’s sustainability mission and its foundation.
4 – Terra Thread
Personal Item Earth Backpack
Dimensions 16″ x 12″ x 5”
Type Hybrid Tote / Backpack
Features Heavy-duty canvas; large exterior pocket, one small interior pocket, and a 15” laptop compartment; long zipper double-side pulls and lead-free zippers; and, 2 water bottle side pockets.
Product Eco Benefits Made with 100% Organic and Fairtrade cotton and low impact, GOTS certified dyes.
Brand Mission Terra Thread is B Corp certified, and GOTS and Fair Trade certified. Terra Thread uses sustainable materials in their supply chain, and employs ethical manufacturing practices globally. For every product you purchase, they contribute 20 meals to families through United States through Feeding America. Read more about Terra Thread’s sustainability efforts.
5 – Solo NY
Personal Item Duane Hybrid Briefcase Backpack
Dimensions 12.5″ x 17″ x 5″
Type Hybrid Briefcase / Backpack
Features Dual functionality as briefcase and backpack with hideaway padded backpack straps and removable shoulder strap; padded 15” laptop compartment; internal organizational pockets; and two outside pockets. This bag is bound to meet most airline personal item size restrictions, if not all.
Product Eco Benefits Made with discarded plastic water bottles transformed into lightweight, recycled PET polyester yarn in a process that uses 50% less energy, 20% less water an 60% less air pollution.
Brand Mission Solo NY is committed to removing 40 million plastic bottles from landfills by 2024 while reducing energy and water use and eliminating plastic packaging. Read more about Solo NY’s environmental efforts.
6 – Paravel
Personal Item Weekender
Dimensions 15″ x 8″ x 15″
Type Tote Bag
Features Packs enough for a 3-day trip; extra wide top zipper; removable woven shoulder strap; deep interior pockets; and, trolley handles. Offered in different colors and personalizing with monogramming.
Product Eco Benefits Made with 12 upcycled plastic water bottles and natural cotton fiber to form its lightweight, Ecocraft canvas. Has eco-certified leather accents.
Brand Mission Paravel products are made with upcycled and 100% post-consumer recycled plastics reducing negative environmental impact on land and in waterways. Read more about Paravel’s environmental efforts.
7 – Osprey
Personal Item Daylight Plus Bag
Dimensions 18” X 11” X 10”
Features Lightweight, simple and durable backpack at a reasonable price. Includes large, main panel loading compartment, side mesh pockets, front pocket with organizer and key clip, removable hip belt, and mesh-covered back panel with slotted foam.
Product Eco Benefits Made from Global Recycled Standard [GRS] and bluesign®-approved recycled, renewable, and non-toxic materials to keep harmful chemicals and waste out of the environment. As with all of its products, it comes with Osprey’s “All Mighty Guarantee” that it will repair any damage or defect for any reason free of charge, no matter when you purchased.
Brand Mission Osprey is committed to making innovative, high performance products designed for a lifetime to leave as little trace possible while keeping materials, chemicals and social responsibility in mind. Read more about Osprey’s sustainability practices.
8 – Everlane
Personal Item ReNew Transit Backpack
Dimensions 12″ x 7.25″ x 17.5″
Features Side-zip padded laptop sleeve; 2 zip-closure pockets; Luggage handle pass-through strap; external water bottle pocket; internal water bottle pocket; and 2 internal slip pockets.
Product Eco Benefits Made with 100% Recycled polyester made from recycled plastic bottles to reduce landfill waste and bluesign®-approved dyes better for the environment.
Brand Mission Everlane tries to incorporate socially ethical manufacturing practices with environmentally friendly products and supply chain efforts to provide products designed to last. Read more about Everlane’s sustainability and transparency practices.
9 – Cabin Zero
Personal Item Classic 28L Cabin Bag
Dimensions 16” x 12” x 8”
Features The original zero-hassle travel bag, it has a main compartment and front pocket; built-in lost and found tags; is ultralight and water resistant; fits a 13” laptop; has side and top handles and air mesh shoulder straps; comes with a 10-year warranty; and available in 30 colors.
Product Eco Benefits Made only from REACH standard and high-quality materials so the product is built to last so you don’t have to buy another bag.
Brand Mission Cabin Zero is committed to enforcing social responsibility in all working conditions and using high quality materials for products for less environmental impact. Read more about Cabin Zero’s social and environmental practices.
10 – Patagonia
Personal Item Tres Backpack 25L
Dimensions 18” x 12” x 6.5”
Type Hybrid Backpack / Shoulder Bag / Briefcase
Features Multiple function, water-resistant bag has large, main compartment; easy access, organizational pockets; airflow mesh back panel; padded laptop sleeve for most 15” laptops; reinforced handles; and, adjustable sternum strap.
Product Eco Benefits Made from recycled materials in a transparent, environmental responsibility supply chain.
Brand Mission Patagonia has been committed to sustainability and tracking its footprint for years. It invests in environmental and social responsibility by being a founding member of the Fair Labor Association, is part of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, partners with Fair Trade USA®, and Verité. Read more about Patagonia’s sustainability history.
Didn’t see an eco-friendly personal item bag for planes you liked? No worries! Check out the CORR Concepts Sustainable Fashion Directory for more eco-friendly and sustainable bag, luggage and accessory brands.
Let Me Hear From You
I would love to hear if any of these 10 eco-friendly personal item bags worked for you. Post me your thoughts or questions in the Comments section below. Thank you!
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Founder, CORR Concepts
Gwen is a Sustainability professional with an MBA in Sustainable Enterprises and LEED AP ID+C accreditation from the GBCI. She is also the Founder of CORR Travel. As a Sustainability professional and Earth Steward, environmental sustainability and biodiversity protection is her “religion”. Travel is her passion.