True to its name, the Patagonia MLC (Maximum Legal Carry-On) stretches to fit the maximum dimensions of most airline carry-on allowances, including European and African carriers. Quite a few reviewers say they've used it for multi-week excursions, although more casual travelers limit themselves to about five days. Carry options include stowable backpack straps, a padded shoulder strap or a single suitcase handle.
Strikes a happy balance. Reviewers love having choices -- in this case, carrying the Patagonia MLC by its stowable backpack straps, over the shoulder or by the single suitcase-style handle. Most also love its internal organization -- a medium-sized main compartment houses a floating internal divider and a laptop sleeve, large enough to fix most 17-inch laptops, which also doubles as a "compression" clothing organizer. The main compartment opens flat like a book, but a few reviewers are vexed by a front, flat compartment which has a zipper that covers only a fraction of its width.
Withstands the elements. The Patagonia MLC's exterior is crafted of 100% recycled 1200D polyester; the interior is 200D polyester. Both inside and outside have a polyurethane coating and Patagonia's proprietary "Deluge" DWR finish. Travel editor John Flinn of the San Francisco Chronicle praises the MLC for its durability, writing, "The folks at Patagonia got their start making equipment for mountain climbers ... this ballistics-nylon bag is both bombproof and filled with thoughtful refinements, like rounded corners to avoid abrasion." The zipper draws some concern from one eBags reviewer, but nobody actually complains about it; the whole thing is backed by Patagonia's "Ironclad Guarantee."
Sporty and versatile. Although the Patagonia MLC claims an impressive 2,746 cubic inches of carry capacity, reviewers rave that it still fits into the overhead or under-seat compartments on international airliners. Aggressive ultralight travelers can pack several weeks' worth of clothing in the MLC; more casual travelers tend to rate it as three to five days. In an article for Fodor's, countryside and adventure editor Salwa Jabado describes the MLC as "sporty but nice," praising its water-repellent coating and eco-friendly, recycled materials. A user at eBags.com describes the MLC's appearance as "easily suitable for business or casual." The Patagonia MLC is available in three colors: black, light balsamic and teal.
1. Outside Magazine
Luggage expert Ted Alan Stedman names the Patagonia MLC his runner up for best luggage, coming in second to the Tumi Ducati Evoluzione. He notes that it's "enough bag for a 14-day trip to Africa," that it's ideal for rugged trips, and that is will always fit into the overhead compartment.
Review: 2012 Outside Travel Awards: Best Luggage, Stephanie Pearson and Kate Siber, March 13, 2012
2. Backpacker Magazine
The editors of Backpacker magazine logged more than a thousand miles of abuse on test luggage, ultimately selecting the Patagonia MLC as one of the best carry-ons; one of their testers even took it hiking.
Review: Gear Review: Patagonia MLC Bag, Editors of Backpacker magazine, March 2012
Although the carry-ons in the "best of" roundup don't receive comparative scores, the travel editors at Fodor's designate each for its best purpose. Their call on the Patagonia MLC: "Best for condensing clothes for a sporty weekend away," thanks to an internal compression pocket and many organizers in the main compartment.
Review: Fodor's Approved: Best Carry-On Bags, Carrie Seim, Sept. 24, 2012
4. San Francisco Chronicle
John Flinn, a travel editor with the San Francisco Chronicle, recommends several carry-on bags, including the Patagonia MLC, based on his hands-on experience. He notes that the MLC is best for those who are "tough-going-on-sadistic" with their luggage.
Review: Rating Carry-On Luggage, John Flinn, May 4, 2008
About four dozens reviewers give the Patagonia MLC a high overall rating of 4.6 stars. Most rave about how it fits into the overhead or under-seat compartments for international airliners yet is still capable of holding several days -- or even several weeks -- of supplies.
Review: Patagonia MLC (Maximum Legal Carry-on), Contributors to eBags.com, As of September 2013