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Expandable 35L Standard Luggage Carry-on Backpack Review (2019 update)

standard's expandable carry-on backpack review

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Are you looking for a backpack that is carry-on sized, yet expandable for times of unavoidable luggage growth?

Are you after a bag that looks sophisticated and unobtrusive like a professional suitcase, yet wears and transports like a backpack? Perhaps something you can use for business trips?

If so, you may find the Carry-on Backpack by Standard Luggage Co. to be a good option for you.

The lovely Kathryn has provided us with her honest review of this expandable carry-on backpack. Read on to find out why she chose this bag for her travels, and also why she recommends it mainly for short-term business travelers (rather than big trip adventurers).

Review: Standard’s Carry-on Backpack

Standard's carry-on backpack review by Kathryn
Kathryn wanted a bag that is less of a hiking backpack and chose the Standard Luggage Carry-On Backpack.

I’m a globe-trotting romance writer with no fixed address. I’ve spent a significant amount of time in Eastern Europe and Asia. Tokyo is like a second home.

Since travel is a regular part of my life, I don’t dress or pack specifically for travel but make my luggage work for me and my personal style. I love vintage style dresses and cute shoes, and would never wear travel clothing!

My bag is the Standard Luggage Carry-On Backpack which I’ve been using for nearly a year now.

Why I Chose Standard’s Carry-on Backpack

I wanted a bag that looked a bit more sophisticated than a ‘gap year backpacker’ or hiking bag. I felt that all the straps and other bits you get with a lot of backpacks were unnecessary and looked grungy.

I mainly stay at Airbnbs, but if I’m treating myself to a nice hotel, I wanted a bag that would fit in.

I also wanted something that converted from a backpack to a shoulder bag. I travel mainly in cities so I’m constantly taking my backpack on and off, especially when using public transport and things like that.

I have a real dislike of people who seem oblivious to having this massive bag on their back (especially when they swing around and thump me with it) so I didn’t want to be that person.

One of the other important factors was that the Standard backpack was significantly cheaper than its competitors. The Standard Luggage Carry-on Backpack retails for $179.

Standard’s Carry-on Backpack Features

Standard Luggage Carry-On Backpack
The Standard Luggage Carry-On Backpack front and back

Size: Because the backpack is expandable (from 35L to 45L), I’ve found it to be pretty much the perfect size. I can fit everything I need for long term travel into the bag without any issue.

Carry-on Friendly: Barring weight restrictions, it’s made as a carry-on for any airline, even the stricter European ones (e.g. EasyJet and Ryan Air).

The features as listed on the Standard Luggage Co site:

  • Clam-shell opening
  • Built-in compression straps
  • Concealable backpack straps
  • Expandable up to 10L (from 35L to 45L)
  • Separate laptop pocket
  • Padded top and side speed handles
  • Built-in safety whistle
  • Water resistant exterior fabrics
  • Universal sleeve integrates the bag with any rolling luggage handle
  • Rain cover
  • Shoulder strap for carrying as a shoulder bag
  • Included: Lifetime warranty and Satisfaction Guarantee

Top Backpack Feature: Expandable by 10L

The thing that won me on the Standard Backpack was that it’s expandable from 35L to 45L. When I got the backpack, I’d planned travel to cold places (e.g. Sapporo in Japan) then to hot climates. I could’ve worn my cold weather clothes on the plane to save space, but who wants to step off a plane in Phnom Phen wearing a thick winter coat!

Backpack Fit and Comfort Level

I thought the shoulder strap option on this bag would be great but, when I tried to carry it as a shoulder bag, the strap pressed down really uncomfortably on my collarbone. I have very narrow shoulders and wonder if maybe it’s been designed more for guys with much broader shoulders than me.

I’m 5’6”/167cm tall and have a long torso so the bag is fine for me, but the bag length could be an issue for shorter girls.

This backpack is very comfortable to carry when I pack up to 12kg (~26lbs), but anything over that makes it difficult to manage.

Standard Luggage Carry-On Backpack review
Kathryn likes that this bag can easily convert from a backpack to a shoulder bag.

Backpack Testing Period

I’ve had this backpack for about a year now (at the time of this review). I was mid-journey and my suitcase got a broken wheel so I requested this backpack as a birthday present and tossed the suitcase in the rubbish.

At the time, I was in Japan for a longish stay (3 months). I subsequently went to Hong Kong, back to Japan then to Thailand, Cambodia and South Korea before returning home to Australia.

Backpack Drawbacks

There are some downsides to the bag though. For starters, it opens length-wise. It’s already a long bag (21.5 inches) so that means, when I’m packing it, I need a lot of space to have it opened out fully. If I’m in a tiny studio apartment or small hotel room, sometimes it’s a tight squeeze!

Also, the sides are really squishy so you really have to use packing cubes to stop all your stuff from spilling out. Because of the way the bag opens, I can’t see anyway to pack without them. It’s very difficult to maximise the space in the pack.

One of the features I thought would be great is that it has a separate, padded laptop section. But, because I mainly fly on budget airlines with weight rather than size restrictions on carry on bags, I always end up checking my backpack and the laptop section is kind of wasted (I do use it for shoes).

Standard Luggage Carry-On Backpack
The bag opening lengthwise isn’t Kathryn’s favorite feature, so she uses packing cubes to stay organized.

Overall Backpack Recommendation

Because of the issues I’ve mentioned, I’m reluctant to give it two thumbs up. I think it’d be a fantastic option for someone who does shorter term business travel. You’d never feel unprofessional going straight from the airport to the office with this bag.

About the author: Kathryn O’Halloran is an introverted, polka dot loving romance writer travelling the world. Seeking adventures – mostly quiet adventures that allow for nap time. Actually, mostly just seeking coffee. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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Gear We Use


Packing Cubes – Organize your luggage with the lightweight, durable and compressible Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes.

Backpacks + Daypacks

Pacsafe – Since they come with extra theft-resisting features, Pacsafe bags make you a more confident traveler. We especially love this bag.

Sea to Summit – Of all the Sea to Summit products, our most recommended is the fits-in-your-palm, super packable Ultra-Sil Daypack.

Personal Care

Nalgene Toiletry Bottles – These leak-free toiletry bottles and tubs come in all sizes – even super tiny, helping minimalists pack it all without bulk.

Turkish Towels – They’re thinner than most travel towels, and they actually cover your body! We can’t get enough of Turkish towels for travel.


Speakeasy Supply Co. – They make the awesome hidden pocket infinity scarves that are perfect for stashing secret cash, lip balms, and passports.

Anatomie – Anatomie travel pants come with luxury prices, but they offer many benefits for travelers. See our review of the famous Skyler pants.

Travel Resources

Booking Airfare

Dollar Flight Club – Get flight deal alerts for your preferred departure airport. There is both a free and premium version (recommended for more sweet deals). Members save on average $500 USD per flight!

Skyscanner – Skyscanner is our preferred site for searching flights. They offer unbiased search results and are free from hidden fees. You can also book your hotels and rental cars.


Airbnb – Airbnb is the best place to book out apartments around the world. Sign up using this link to get $37 USD off your first stay booking + $14 USD towards an experience booking! – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Hostelworld – For hostels, Hostelworld remains our number one source for booking stays. Choose from straight up hostels, budget hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

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