underscored BOTB_lead_Amazon vs Away

It’s funny when you think about how far travel gear has come in a few decades. Whereas our elders relied on back-breaking garment bags and handheld leather suitcases sans wheels, today we have a treasure trove of luggage options at our virtual fingertips, most of which are lightweight, durable and extremely portable.

When it comes to carry-ons, Away is a perennial Underscored favorite, most recently topping our list of best hard-shell luggage. Making waves in the travel arena since it launched in 2015, Away has redefined the hard-shell luggage game by maximizing capacity and combining luxury materials with extreme durability — all in a way that’s sleek and stylish too. Available in seven size formats, Away’s cult-favorite Carry-On suitcase can nowadays be spotted by the dozen at pretty much every airport in the country. The downside? Price. While it’s not the most expensive on the market, $275 is still on the higher end of the spectrum.

There are a slew of very good hard-shell competitors out there — Delsey, Calpak and Samsonite among them — but it’s impossible to ignore the legions of Amazon shoppers who stan the brand’s Amazon Basics 21-Inch Hardside Spinner. Boasting an astounding 40,000 reviews and 4.6-star rating, the suitcase is a standout for multiple reasons — high on that list is the sub-$100 price tag. Currently priced at $82.06, the carry-on is roughly the same size as the Away Carry-On, and it has spinner wheels, a hard outer shell and a zip expansion system that allows for a 15% capacity increase.

Which hard-shell carry-on option is the one worth spending your money on? To find out, I took both on cross-country flights, putting the suitcases through packing (and repacking), security lines, layovers, baggage claims and more.

Away vs. Amazon Basics at a glance

Quick comparison

Exterior measurements

22 inches x 14.9 inches x 10 inches

21.7 inches x 13.7 inches x 9 inches

Interior measurements

18.5 inches x 13.3 inches x 9.6 inches

20 inches x 13.5 inches

Weight (empty)

7.34 pounds

7.1 pounds


Not listed

39.8 liters

360-degree spinner wheels



Interior compression system



Telescopic handle



USB charger & ejectable battery


Optional for an additional $20


Black, Blue, Navy Blue, Orange

Black, Navy, Coast, Green, Asphalt, Petal


1 year

Limited lifetime warranty

Number of customer reviews



Customer star rating



Price $82 $275

Ultimately, the Away Carry-On and the Amazon Basics 21-Inch Hardside Spinner are both carry-on suitcases with clamshell openings and hard exteriors. Both offer similar dimensions and likely the same — or similar — capacity. The chief selling point of both pieces is that they’re durable enough to withstand the trials and tribulations of travel and that they can provide enough space to accommodate all your stuff while still being small enough to fit in an airplane’s overhead bin.


Let’s be vain and discuss attractiveness first. To be honest, both bags look great and are similar in that they feature horizontal ridges alongside their exterior. Even so, Away wins here for us.

The brand’s signature polycarbonate hard-shell oozes with sleek, minimalist vibes. Available in six colorways (plus a few more in other sizes), the shell has a matte glow to it that whispers understated elegance. The Amazon Basics bag has a nubby, rougher texture that results in a more utilitarian look. Available in four colors — black, navy, bright blue and orange — the Amazon Basics Spinner just doesn’t stand out in the same elevated way that the Away Carry-On does.

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Also of note is that regardless of which Away hue you choose, the bag will feature two colors — the one you chose, plus black details. Amazon Basics, however, combines three colors: the main exterior color you choose, plus black and silver details on the telescopic handle, which leads to a busier overall aesthetic.

I also like how Away’s spinner wheels hug the frame of the suitcase, making them less pronounced than the Amazon Basics’ feet, which feature a connector piece that is longer, making them more visible from afar.


This is the category where I found the two bags to have the starkest differences. Yes, their capacity and size are very similar, but the Away Carry-On was easier to pack and it could accommodate more, thanks to its thoughtful interior design.

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For instance, one side of the Amazon Basics Spinner compression system is fully enclosed via a zipper, but the zipper is placed needlessly low — roughly 2.75 inches below the luggage opening — making that compartment shallower than it needs to be. I was only able to fit one layer of shoes in this section, which I then zipped and placed more clothes on top to maximize the remaining space available above it.

The one design element that the Amazon Basics bag excels in is the fact that it can be expanded by up to 15% to offer more packing space. Heading away on an overnight trip? No need to expand. But if you’re traveling for a few days, having the option to expand the bag to accommodate more is a nice choice. However, the expandable side is also the side with a full zipper divider, an odd design choice that I found made packing less efficient.

Amazon Basics Carry-On

The Away Carry-On has a similar concept at play here, but instead, the zipper is placed only 1 inch below the luggage opening, thus maximizing the available space and allowing me to pack more clothes in the underneath compartment.

More about the compression system: Opposite from the zippered compartment, Away has a “compression pad” with one large built-in pocket that spans the interior length of the luggage that works to flatten clothing and minimize the space it takes up. This design is smarter and more enjoyable to use versus Amazon Basics’ stretchy strap that felt flimsier and cheaper in comparison and resulted in clothing slipping and sliding underneath it.

Away The Carry-On

On the design of both, I love that both suitcases were an exact fit for an escalator stair. When hopping onto an escalator with luggage, I’m always a bit anxious because when a suitcase is too big it gets pushed off the step and you must not only catch it but also reposition and balance it for the duration of your ride.

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Away offers three additional perks that Amazon Basics lacked. For one, the Away Carry-On comes with a water-resistant laundry bag that is super helpful when keeping dirty laundry separated from clean clothes — and it can be rolled up and tucked away inside a built-in pouch when not in use. Could you buy your own bag with the Amazon Basics Spinner and still come out saving? Yep. But still, I like that it’s thrown into the overall Away package.

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Secondly, for an extra $20, you can upgrade the Away to include a removable battery pack and USB ports. Again, you could purchase your own TSA-approved portable battery, but it’s handy to have one built into your suitcase.

Lastly, the Away Carry-On comes with a built-in TSA-approved combination lock that provides extra security for all your stuff. Oh, and the Away Carry-On comes with a scuff eraser, which is gimmicky but also, ya know, cute too.


When it comes to the hard-shell exterior, I found Away’s polycarbonate to be the most durable in that it was strong yet flexible and incredibly scratch-resistant. Amazon Basic’s shell consists of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), which is cheaper than polycarbonate but also weaker and thus more prone to scratches and nicks. Both suitcases suffered from scuffs that I was able to wipe or rub off, but the Amazon Basics Spinner had a few deep scratches after one round trip. Did this affect its efficacy? Nope. But it didn’t look great either.

Back to inside the bags. In addition to finding some flaws in the Amazon Basic’s compression system design wherein clothes can easily slip through the elastic straps, I also didn’t love the polyester fabric and other materials that were used, which felt cheaper in comparison to Away. Both suitcases have mesh components, for example, and whereas Away’s are soft and silky, those in the Amazon Basics bag are rougher and more likely to catch on clothing.


Both carry-on bags did great in this category. The Away’s 360-degree spinner wheels delivered a smoother journey, but the Amazon Basics wheels were reliable and super easy to push and spin as I raced from one terminal to another during a layover.

Like most rolling luggage, both bags feature a telescoping handle. Away wins this category, as its handle is wrapped in a comfortable, textured material that is grip-friendly, and the coordinating extension/retraction poles are strong, sturdy and quiet. The Amazon Basics’ handle is a not-so-grip-friendly hard plastic, and the poles felt ricketier and were noisier when pulling them in and out. I also like that Away’s handle is a monochromatic black, while Amazon Basics’ handle is a mix of silver and black materials. Both handles were able to accommodate a bag with a trolley sleeve slipped over it, but Away did so with less adjusting required to make sure the bags didn’t tip over and fall.

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Bottom line

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the Amazon Basics Carry-On Spinner. But there’s also nothing wildly impressive about it either. Whereas the Away Carry-On is chock-full of bells and whistles — a tough-as-nails polycarbonate shell, high-quality interior materials, a sleeker exterior design, a luxe telescopic handle and more — the Amazon Basics Spinner meets the bare minimum of luggage must-haves. Truly the best thing about it is the price, which is a big deal since it’s more than one-third of Away’s price. If you’re looking for a straightforward bag and a place to simply store your belongings, the Amazon Basics carry-on is a good option for just around $80.

That said, every Away Carry-On comes with a limited lifetime warranty that covers cracks in the shell and any broken hardware like wheels, handles or zippers. Amazon Basics, however, only comes with a one-year warranty. I’d rather spend triple the amount on a high-quality product that is backed by a lifetime warranty than save roughly $185 and have my “new” luggage break down on me a year later with nary a warranty to cover a replacement.

Yes, you’ll be spending more, but after having thoroughly tested these two hard-shell options, the Away Carry-On is well worth the investment and the better buy.

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