I'm shopping for a new backpack. I like the features and especially the price of IKEA FÖRENKLA, and there are two versions:

  • 903.135.63 — 11cm×28cm×39cm, for a total of 12 litres (12012cm³) or 3 gallons

  • 303.292.08 — 11cm×28cm×48cm, for a total of 15 litres (14784cm³) or 4 gallons

As I am 190cm tall (6'3"), I'm thinking that perhaps the taller version would suit me better, however, according to https://www.united.com/CMS/en-US/travel/Pages/BaggageCarry-On.aspx:

Personal item

The maximum dimensions for your personal item, such as a shoulder bag, backpack, laptop bag or other small item, are 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches (22 cm x 25 cm x 43 cm).

If we multiply 22cm×25cm×43cm, we get 23650cm³, which is close to 24 litres. However, the 15 litre IKEA backpack above may be a couple of inches longer in width and height (looks like even the smaller one is technically about an inch longer in width than what is allowed).

The questions:

  • Will anyone care if I get and carry on the 15L backpack, or will it be an issue?

  • Will it fit into the sizing apparatus? (I recall that the last time I travelled by air, which was many months ago, they had those only for the rolling-wheel carry-on bags, not for the personal items.)

  • Will I have to pack it in such a way as for it to fit into any sort of a sizing apparatus, for showing it off, or would that make no difference either way?

  • 3
    Does it squish? That usually will get you by.
    – miltonaut
    Aug 28, 2016 at 5:34

3 Answers 3


Depends, but you're probably OK. I always travel with a rollaboard and a largish backpack, and I've never had any questions from a legacy carrier, much less attempts to measure it. Instead of measuring racks, I think the intuitive measure is "will it fit under your seat", and if it looks like it will, you're golden.

Now LCCs tend to be a lot more strict and may define personal items a lot more strictly or ban them outright, so I wouldn't try this on (say) Ryanair, but that's another story.

  • 1
    +1 for the "will it fit under the seat" check; plus I would add a note that even if it does fit, you may be required to gate-check the item if the flight is particularly full. Aug 28, 2016 at 20:46
  • Re: low-cost carriers, Southwest doesn't care either (source: I fly Southwest).
    – Vikki
    Oct 12, 2019 at 21:34

United supposedly cancelled my flight and/or reservation, so, I flew Delta and Southwest. They didn't seem to care at all, and noone even bothered to weigh, count or measure anyone's carry-ons.

I did see the same measuring device at United as depicted on their web-site, which lets one measure both the personal item, as well as carry-on bag; however, I haven't seen anyone actually using it.


Let me emphasize: noone cares about volumes. Gate agents might force you to put your luggage in the sizer which is a bit bigger than the published dimensions, for the personal item it's 9" x 11" x 18". Your bag won't fit so I would not risk it.

  • 2
    FYI: it's been a while since I've seen a gate agent doing anything like that; empirical evidence seems to suggest that noone cares about these dimensions, as long as the personal item is small enough
    – cnst
    Oct 21, 2016 at 22:23

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