I travel by plane a lot and while I own several carry-on bags I always reach for my Mission Workshop Vandal. The reason: it’s absolutely massive, can hold a computer and still somehow fits in overhead compartment.
The main compartment is expandable from 1,800 to 4,000 cubic inches. Expanded, the pack can hold enough clothing for about 5 days, plus clean gear for 3 or so days of riding, and still can be squeezed into the overhead on a large plane (747 or equivalent). However, on smaller planes it’ll need to be gate-checked. If you can get away with running the pack un-expaneded it’ll fit up top (sideways) on three-seated pond-hopper jets.
The smaller, but still deep, two front zip pockets are perfect for holding power cords, headphones (even full-size overhead units) and more toiletries than you’ll ever need. In fact they can be too deep, as I’ve lost my iPod and memory cards in them. This would be my main complaint about the Vandal’s layout, however updated versions of the pack now have two extra smaller-sized zipper pockets for easy access to little items.
The roll-top compartment is about perfect for my 15-inch laptop. The only issue is that there is no padding between it and the main compartment. I doubt the roll-top compartment was designed for computers (the pack is primarily designed for messengers) and I usually have clothing in the main compartment, which acts as self padding.
Finally the pack is comfy. The shoulder pads are wide, and the back is nice and sturdy. The chest strap also make trans-airport sprints much more comfortable, and also prevents the pack from rolling around while on the bike.
I’ve been traveling constantly with this pack for the better part of a year now and it has yet to really let me down.
The price, at $259, is a hard bullet to bite, but the Vandal is made in the USA and comes with a life time warranty. Oh yeah, they claim it can carry a pony keg–almost reason enough to buck up for it.