Travel bags

I'm thinking go buying either rick's convertible carry-on or MEI voyager both are about 3000 cu inches expanded I'd appreciate comments from those with experience with either or both Thanks for your help Tom

Posted by Monte
Genesee, ID
1759 posts

I'll be one of dozens. These comments stem from my experience as a light weight carry-on convertible bag traveler. Measurements should be no more than 21 x 14 x 7 inches. No zipper extenders, they only get you in trouble. Try to stay under 18 pounds total for the bag and contents. It helps if the bag has outside cinch straps or the ability to accomodate them. Aim for between 2600 and 2700 inches capacity. I think 3000 is a little too much. If you are really interested in light weight travel the basic Steves bag is a good way to start. We have been using the same bags for thirteen years and they haven't worn out, Borneo Bags from Magellan's. Its too bad they aren't made any more. The other week I saw an Eagle Creek Adventure Weekender Bag and I I needed a new one that would be it. You will also need a shoulder/under the seat bag. There are lots to choose from. Mine is a Duluth Pack Portfolio Bag. It is cotton camvas with leather trim. I don't like flop over tops because you have to diddle with them everytime you open your bag. Double zippeers across the top are good and so is a shoulder strap. It is not the most light weight but it has gone the distance and it is innocuous. Again, the basic Steves bag with no zipper expansion is a god start. You don't want to overload weight-wise or exceed dimension limits.

Posted by Sarah
Here and there
87 posts

I have an Osprey Porter 46 and it's worked like a charm for me. It doesn't have a ton of pockets like the two bags you mention, but I really like its design and have used different combinations of packing cubes and ziplock bags to organize my stuff, depending on the trip. I've packed for several multi-day work and personal trips and it's been great and had plenty of room for my stuff. The Porter's sides are stiff, so it's more structured and provides some protection for your stuff. It's got cinch straps, so you can cinch it down if the bag's not full and keep your stuff from bumping around in a large, open space. The backpack straps have been plenty comfortable for walking around airports, from stations to hotels, etc. It's actually a smidge lighter than the two bags that you mentioned.

Posted by James E.
4484 posts

You should get several dozen responses for this. I've got a couple of Ricks convertible bags. Used them several times with decent enough results. Younger folks probably will appreciate them more than me. They are well made and do hold a lot. I just reached the point where their conveniences were not required for the way I travel. I use a Brookstone hardside wheeled bag now. Yes, the scourge of p.c. traveling. They are a tiny bit larger than the published max size for airline carry on but no one has ever stopped us in dozens and dozens of trips. They hold everything I need for an indefinite trip (thanks to laundry service, light weight clothes and bathroom sinks). Souvenirs return home in one piece, I don't have to lift them and carry them and it doesn't snag when putting it into the overhead or pulling it out.

Posted by Ellen
Centennial, CO, USA
1617 posts

OMG, I've stopped using my Eagle Creek convertible carry on ( ORV trunk) and used my cheap High Sierra Elevate carry on wheeled bag on our last trip. How easy was that? I was determined to keep using my smaller soft sided bag forever, I loved the daypack strap feature to free up my hands. That being said, I LOVED the wheels on the last trip. Even carrying the bag up steps wasn't a big deal. The ease of getting through the airport and train station more than made up my mind that I'll retire the ORV trunk and use the wheeled bag from now on for travels to Europe. I brought a tote bag for my camera, ipad, etc and that strap went right over the handle on the wheeled bag so I had no weight on my shoulders,and still had a free hand for my ticket or gelato. IMO....

Posted by Laura
Virginia, USA
3410 posts

I've had an MEI bag for more than 20 years. I have a slightly different model. I stopped using it about 5 years ago as I now prefer a rollaboard to a backpack, but it is a good bag and held up well for many years. The MEI has good padding in the straps and hip belt with multiple adjustments and also lumbar padding. Because I am short, this was really important to me so that I could get as much weight as possible off my shoulders. From what I've seen the RS bag is not as good in this area. Compare the two bags in this area.

Posted by Sylvia
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
331 posts

We bought 4 of the RS Convertibles in 2008 for a 5 week trip and we all loved them. My daughters (13+14) at the time had no problem carrying their own stuff or converting it to a bag. No problem getting on planes carry-on. I havn't tried the other bag you mentioned, but these were way better than the huge backpack I used 25 years ago.

Posted by Jim
Bern, Switzerland
520 posts

I have not used either so I can't comment on them, but I would recommend that you pick up some Packing Cubes when you make your purchase. I discovered them recently and I think they are the greatest thing since sliced loafs!

Posted by Sylvia
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
331 posts

I agree with Jim, the Packing Cubes are amazing. They keep everything organized which helps you Find what you are looking for without having to dump your bag.

Posted by Larry
Pearland, Texas, USA
423 posts

I only have two convertible bags at present, an L.L. Bean Quickload and the Outdoor Products Essential Carry-on (the original without the huge logo). I've had one from REI and the TLS motherlode from Ebags. The Voyager has much better straps and padding but the question is this: do you plan on carrying the bag for long distances? The RS bag is much lighter than the Voyager and,if you aren't hiking,would be a better choice in my opinion. Whichever you choose, keep it light.

Posted by Lo
1682 posts

The RS convertible carry-on is very light weight at about 2.5 pounds, but it will not meet carry-on requirements if stuffed and expanded. I use a spinner now. It fits perfectly with the wheels in first and the handle outside. The disadvantage of anything with wheels is that the wheels count in the sizing, so you lose a couple of inches of packing space for them. The advantages are the obvious one of not having to carry it on your back and the forced requirement to pack light. On our trips to Europe over the past 4 years, we have rarely seen any "locals" with backpacks of any type, only with wheeled luggage. My husband still uses his RS convertible carry-on and he still has difficulty putting it in the overhead bin, even if he doesn't expand it. He just takes too much stuff. I will also recommend packing cubes. We used plastic bags for years, but I switched to mesh packing cubes for our last trip, and I will never go back. They are great for organizing, the sizes are perfect for carry-ons, they don't slide around like plastic does, they are easily removed for TSA inspection and I like to put the ones with things that don't require hanging in drawers just as they are when we get settled into our lodgings.

Posted by Tom
Oak Brook, IL
160 posts

My thanks to all for responding. It appears that many people are leaning towards wheeled bags versus carrying the weight on their shoulders! While I have used wheeled bags before, I thought a convertible carry-on would be more helpful as it would avoid cobblestones, curbs, and walking up the stairs of B&Bs. It seems as though many are sold on wheeling the luggage. Thanks to all for your comments.

Posted by Monte
Genesee, ID
1759 posts

One last word, my wife and I will not use wheelies. I have said I will get a wheelie when I need a trailer behind my wheel chair.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
6030 posts

One potential problem with stacking a convertible bag on top of a regular wheeled bag could be that the handle on the wheeled bag may not extend far enough to keep it secure. My tote bag handle extends further because its lower to the ground. Try it out.

Posted by Larry
Pearland, Texas, USA
423 posts

It's interesting that most travel gurus recommend bags without wheels. Read or RS advice on bags. I once got caught by a strike in Italy (they just quit work for a couple of hours) and had to run to make a train connection. If I had wheeled luggage I don't think I would have made it. Wheels are great in an airport or hotel corridor but into and out of the subway they're a pain. I'm with Monte on this.

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
3279 posts

The wheels add weight, but can save on back and shoulders. I traveled with backpack until a few years ago (I'm a "senior citizen"); I liked the mobility of it. However, I got to the point where the off and on of the pack when using public transport began to be hard on my shoulders. I switched to wheels and have traveled that way ever since. I am having knee problems, so carrying the bag up/down stairs strains my body. Now, I take more taxis when hauling luggage. I've been on a number of tours and even when I was carrying a backpack, noticed that almost everybody else was using wheels. If you want to know what the backpack experience is, put any backpack on with 20-40 pounds in it (according to how much stuff you intend to take), cinch up the waist strap and walk around for half an hour. If you like it, I recommend you "train" for a few weeks before your trip so your body will be used to carrying the weight. The backpack is more comfortable if you can keep the weight down.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
6030 posts

I have done wheels and I have done no wheels. My last trip I decided to try something I had never seen done before. I took my convertible bag, but as my personal bag I took a wheeled tote bag. I could set my convertible bag on top of the tote bag for ease of wheeling it through airports, down the street or whatever. When I needed to go up or down stairs, on and off trains and whatnot, I just put my bag over my shoulder and carried the much smaller and lighter tote bag. It worked out great!

Posted by Lo
1682 posts

I think it all depends on what is most comfortable for the traveler. I could not have made it through that train station in Italy with my RS convertible, even with it weighing less than 20 pounds. I'm not in a wheelchair yet, but my 67-year-old bone-spurred kneecaps and my back just can't take those extra pounds anymore, even with the weight training I do 3 times a week. I checked the information on wheeled luggage and it all is credible, but the major reference is almost 13 years old now, so it may be a little out of date. I recently bought a 6 pound spinner which is almost the lightest on the market. I test-packed it for an upcoming trip. With clothes and shoes for the Netherlands and Belgium in April, the weight was 22 pounds. Now I'm looking at things to cut to get that weight down, because I will have to pick it up by the handle occasionally. As for B&B or any lodging stairs, we found that backpacks usually have to be removed anyway to get up and down them due to how narrow they often are. My husband swears by the backpack and won't switch. RS admits that many of his staff and his family prefer wheelies. As recommended previously, trying out different options and comparing the results is always a good idea.

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
1118 posts

The RS Convertible Carry-on bag is very good- recommended. We travel light and fast and this bag works well for us. Another vote for Monte's comment.

Posted by Tom
Oak Brook, IL
160 posts

Thanks all, I will be travelling with my wife for 35 days in May/June. Andrea brings up an interesting comment. When it is an option, I could put the convertible carry on on my wife's wheeled bag while travelling through airports etc for longer distances. Having one of each may be a good test.

Posted by Suz
Denver, USA
223 posts

Andrea, that's a great idea. I'm going to look into it for my next trip. Thank you!!

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
8186 posts

Years ago I bought another brand (can't recall the brand, it has a bright orange interior) of convertible carry-on because it was about half the price of the RS bag. I liked it a lot and used it for years, it still looks almost new. A couple of years ago I started looking for something about 75 percent the size because I don't fill my bag up any longer (I keep packing lighter). I didn't find exactly what I was looking for but did end up buying this: It's even cheaper than the first one I bought, stands up fine to wear and tear, and weighs less than anything I've found before - which can be important when flying Lufthansa, SAS or other carriers who enforce strict weight limits on your carry-on. The campmor bag has less built-in pockets than the RS bag but otherwise substitutes well. The things I don't like about this bag are the same that I don't like about other convertibles. They really aren't backpacks. Their lack of structure makes them uncomfortable to carry more than a couple of miles - I wouldn't consider them something to hike with. My wife (and kids) also prefer wheeled bags. Bags with wheels are much easier in airports but you lose quite a bit due to the added weight. My bag is under 2 lbs, the lightest bag with wheels I could find was closer to 5 lbs. and many are double that.

Posted by Pam
SF Bay Area, CA, USA
77 posts

Tom, my hubby and I used to backpack with the convertible bags, and they were great when we were younger and our backs could take it. Over the years, my back has gotten worst, but I can still carry a pack for a short distance/time if necessary but I prefer the wheels. I ended up buying an Eagle Creek Switchback, which is a rolling 22" suitcase with sturdy wheels, and it comes with the heavy-duty backpack and waist straps for those times I may want it on my back instead of pulling it behind me. Another advantage is that it has a zip-off backpack which is real handy. I don't have to decide whether to take a convertible bag, a wheeled one, and/or a backpack. I take my one bag and I have it all and can decide how to carry/pull based on where I am and where I'm going.

Posted by Frank II
4845 posts

I review bags for my website. (I'm not allowed to give the URL. Perhaps someone else will post it.) Near the bottom of my list is the current RS bag. There are quite a few design flaws and numerous other bags in the price range that are of better design and construction. Besides the MEI Voyaguer, look at the following: LL Bean Quickload Travel Pack Ebags TLS Motherlode Weekender
Osprey Porter 46 If you are willing to spend a little more for real quality, check out the Tom Bihn Aeronaut. These are the maximum size for carry-on bags that I recommend. Now before the RS mafia attacks me for dare saying something negative about an RS product, I have the original RS bag, circa 1990, and that was a great bag. Unfortunately, the newer materials, placement of external cinch straps, and zipper design has brought the newer models down a bit. YMMV

Posted by Ed
9110 posts

I've always found that has better travel bag information than a bunch of anecdotal remarks.

Posted by Bob
Chicago, IL, USA
1 posts

I personally like wheelies these days. My High Sierra wheelie convertible has been around the globe with me for a few years now. I use the 22" model with the attached daypack. I use the wheels most of the time, separating the daypack when entering the airplane. The wheelie fits in every overhead I've tried it in with room to spare, and that's putting it in the correct way, perpendicular to the aisle. The daypack fits under the seat when necessary. I've also used the hidden shoulder straps to carry it as a backpack when the ground is uneven, as in Venice or Bali.Easier to deal with cobblestone or even dirt streets when required. I've owned two over the last fifteen years or so: the zipper on the first one that held the daypack to the main pack were a little flimsy and broke, but that was much improved with a heavier zipper on the second one (which I've used for over ten years). I also have the larger 26" version, which carries my scuba gear if I'm on a diving trip.

Posted by Mira
630 posts

I like the backpacks...but for a reason that won't apply to a lot of people. I travel with two small kids and the hands free aspect is a lifesaver. When they were little, having backpacks allowed me to push the stroller. Now it allows me to hold on to their hand. Once they are bigger we might switch to wheel bags, but this hands-free aspect is really useful right now.

Posted by Stephen
Huntington, WV, USA
18 posts

I have used a Tom Bihn Aeronaut for several years. Fantastic bag. Still looks and functions as well as the day I purchased it, despite multiple extended trips in the Middle East, Europe, and the US. Extremely durable and well-constructed. The shoulder strap is very comfortable, and the "hide-away" back-pack straps make last-minute airport or train station runs much more bearable. It is a bit pricy, but in this case you definately get what you pay for.

Posted by Janis
Grapevine, TX, USA
873 posts

I have an MEI Voyager bought mainly for trips that include a lot of train travel since it is much easier for me to board a train with a travelpack on my back than trying to lift my heavy carry-on wheeled bag up on to the train. Much easier to maneuver stairs, cobblestones, etc. with the travelpack also.

Posted by Paul
Morrilton, AR, US
74 posts

I was using the RS bag but switched to the e-bags motherlode---lighter and better organized-----I still prefer the RS day bag. Paul

Posted by Bets
3358 posts

Someone digs up a thread from February and makes his first post singing the praises of some bag. Hmmm.

Posted by Rose
922 posts

Maybe he just found the Helpline, used the Search, chanced upon a thread about which he had something to say, and didn't realize he was waking up a long-silent topic. I don't see anything in his post that he could personally benefit from. It's not like he's touting his own brand or anything. Unlike a couple posts I stumbled over recently from a person who was obviously trying to rent her flat. %)