Rolling Backpack for Seniors

Aloha, I'm trying to find the lightest rolling backpack carry on for seniors. I'm 78 and need to be able to pick up my luggage at stairs etc. or when I need free hands. (A few years ago I learned my lesson with wheeled luggage on the stairs up and down to train stations in China - I'm too short to be able to pick up luggage and carry it up or down stairs - really difficult to do that with your elbow bent to hold up the luggage.) I was also looking for a rolling backpack that had covers for the wheels so I don't get my clothes dirty when it's on my back. I may be asking for too much. (I've never used a backpack so I guess it will take some "getting used to" ;) I've done so much research but can't find anything that is light enough. Is there such a thing? I would like to be able to travel for 2 weeks in Europe with it, if possible.
I bought a Jansport Driver 8, TN89KQ yesterday but now it looks too small but claims to have a 2,175 cu in/35.61 capacity. The biggest problem is that you must load and unload all your "stuff" from the top opening. I thought I should probably try Rick Steves rolling backpack (for Europe)to see how the weight corresponds to this one before I return it - it is still in the bag with all tags etc. so I have 30 days from yesterday to return it if I choose. I just wish there was a luggage store here on Oahu to see/lift/look at Rick Steves' items before ordering it online. I would really appreciate any comments or suggestions and thank you in advance for your time and thought in responding. Mahalo, Jean

Posted by Pam
Troy, Idaho, USA
471 posts

No suggestions on a bag, altho I agree that the top loading aspect would be a pain to deal with. But, you might want to see if your local AAA has RS bags. Before it closed :-( my local one did have the RS convertible. It is not the one with wheels, but does have the backpack straps as well as handles.

Posted by Jean
Honolulu, Hawaii, US
9 posts

Aloha Troy, Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my dilemma. I never thought of checking with AAA - but I definitely will ask them. I appreciate your help. Mahalo,
Jean

Posted by Stephen
Fort Mill, SC, USA
159 posts

Jean, I have the RS rolling back pack (two of them actually). It is pretty light and holds enough clothing/accessories for at least a week. It is the bag that I use regularly for all of my business and leisure travel. I have used it for two week trips to Europe in July and in November of last year. I did laundry once during each trip. The bag rolls nicely and is still fairly light even fully loaded. The wheels are further apart than most bags, so you don't have to worry as much about dirty wheels soiling your clothing. I'm 6'1 and weigh a little over 200 lbs and the wheels don't hit my hips when I am using it as a backpack. You can always wear dark clothing to avoid the dirt! I really like this bag. http://travelstore.ricksteves.com/catalog/index.cfm?fuseaction=product&theParentId=8&id=507 p.s. - FWIW...I'm 52 years old.

Posted by Jean
Honolulu, Hawaii, US
9 posts

Aloha Stephen, How very kind of you to take the time to respond to my troubling question. Thank you for explaining your experience with RS rolling backpack carry-on. Your advice has helped tremendously! Today I will order the RS (Europe) version, fill it, walk around with it, and "get the hang of it" - in reality, I don't expect to use it as a "backpack" very often - but "just in case" it would be nice to have that capability. Thank you SO much Stephen - your success with such a bag has convinced me. I truly appreciate your help and your thoughtfulness. Mahalo,
Jean

Posted by Jean
Honolulu, Hawaii, US
9 posts

Aloha Pam, Thank you so much for your response. I did check AAA here in Hawai'i but no such luck :( They don't have anything similar - no help at all. I think I may just order the RS rolling backpack carry on (European version) and see what it's like. I don't know why it isn't sold in any "store" or somewhere so it can be viewed. I would think RS would make a lot more sales if consumers could look, feel, see exactly what it is like. I hope RS had a "return" policy - - - The RS website also doesn't mention the weight of this backpack, so maybe I can email the company for the information - but what a hassle. Thank you Pam and happy traveling ;) (Personally, I don't know where I'm going - but I do have a "list" if the world stays in tact long enough - - ) Mahalo,
Jean

Posted by donna
roswell, ga, usa
1008 posts

I have this same problem -- and often travel with my girlfriends (60 years old). This back pack weighs 5 1/2 lbs empty! I was surprised by that. It's no lighter than my current TravelPro suitcase.

Posted by Jean
Honolulu, Hawaii, US
9 posts

Thank you Donna - that seems to be "low" compared to most wheeled backpacks I've seen online. I guess if not hauling on my back too often (or for too long a period) it wouldn't be too bad. (The "backpack" part for me is just for situations re stairs or other situation when I need to "throw it over my shoulder" to use my hands - Thank you for the weight information - that really helps!!! Mahalo,
Jean

Posted by Sherry
Campbell River, Canada
198 posts

Hi Jean, I live on an island too and yes sometimes it is difficult to find things that you might want to purchase in my area. I would email the Europe Through the Back Door office and ask them to investigate if any travel store carries them on Oahu. They might be able to contact the manufacturer Kiva (or you could contact Kiva yourself) and see if they supply any stores on your island. I have seen them in travel stores in Vancouver so who knows? Hope that you find your answers. BTW, I have the convertible carry-on and plan on getting the wheeled Europe-size bag in the future. Cheers, Sherry

Posted by Paul
Weston, MA, USA
61 posts

I have a rolling backpack that I bought at Brookstone many years ago. As I think of it I haven't seen it in their stores so I'm not sure if they still carry it. If they don't it is too bad because it is great and wears like iron.

Posted by Jean
Honolulu, Hawaii, US
9 posts

Thank you Sherry - that's a fabulous idea :) But with your recommendation, I think I'll go ahead and order the RS wheeled backpack carry on (European one ;) I did try Kiva.com but got a very different company, but I'll "google" it and see what happens. It can be frustrating needing something here when I know exactly where I could find it in CA - but they say here "that's the price for living in Paradise" ;) But you know that already - Canada is SO beautiful - haven't been there though in years but do plan to return. Thank you so much for your help - I surely do appreciate your time, thoughts and effort to let me know your experience with one of these. Mahalo nui loa Sherry,
Jean

Posted by Jean
Honolulu, Hawaii, US
9 posts

Paul - THANK YOU for your suggestion - I will check and see if Brookstone is still open here on Oahu - I never would have thought of them! GREAT IDEA :) Thank you too for your time and effort to email me with your suggestion. I do appreciate your help. I've never done anything like this online before and what a wealth of information I've been missing - about "everything" ;) Mahalo Paul
Jean

Posted by donna
roswell, ga, usa
1008 posts

Aloha, Jean, RS people are awesome! Some can even give you explicit walking directions, like exit the train station, turn left, walk two blocks and there is a taxi stand, bus stop, gelato, etc... We're a hoot!

Posted by Jean
Honolulu, Hawaii, US
9 posts

WOW Donna - that's fantastic!! I'm about to get a Google Nexus 10 since I heard it has a GPS and Skype is also available - but knowing I may contact RS for such questions makes traveling alone much less scary. Seems like the older I get the more hesitant I feel about such things, so the more "gadgets" I can use, the more "safe" I feel ;) Thank you so much for this information - I thought RS was just a seller of luggage and DVD's (which I try to catch when on TV and will probably purchase when I know where I'm going.) I really appreciate your help - and thank you SO much. Mahalo nui loa,
Jean

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17776 posts

Jean, If you're concerned about weight, a Rolling Backpack is probably not the best choice. Both the frame and wheel assemblies add weight, making them somewhat heavier to carry in "backpack mode" when fully loaded. In addition, I've seen several comments from users who report that they're not too comfortable, as the wheels and frame can irritate the back or hips. Finally, rolling backpacks may not allow for torso length adjustment, which means the majority of the weight will rest on the shoulders, rather than the hips which is the preferred method. I normally travel with a Backpack, but would never use a wheeled model for the above reasons. It sounds like you may have already made a decision to buy one, but I wanted to add my comments anyway. Happy travels!

Posted by Jean
Honolulu, Hawaii, US
9 posts

Aloha Ken, What invaluable information. THANK YOU! No, still deciding. I've never used a backpack before so I really appreciate your input - conditions I never thought of before. Since I'm 5' 3" and 115 lbs, although strong, I don't want to be bent over trying to carry something that irritates, that would really make me not a very happy traveler. I don't expect to have to literally pick up the wheeled backpack, but would definitely appreciate such ability if necessary. I even thought of trying to add some kind of belt to my other wheeled carry-on luggage (which I can't pick up to go up and down stairs because I'm too short and to keep my elbow bent to hold it off the stairs is truly awful). That's why the idea of a rolling backpack seemed a good solution. I truly appreciate your knowledge and time in responsing to my question and I thank you very much. Mahalo,
Jean

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2499 posts

Jean, I'm 5'2" and bought a rolling backpack for the same reasons you mention. I never used it as a backpack and eventually cut the straps off to save weight on a return trip. I carry an RS 21" rolling bag, which has a side handle that helps for my height. I also take a Civita day bag which I do use as a backpack when necessary. Packing light and using two smaller bags may make the difference for you. Oh, and for daily sightseeing I use a lightweight Mandarina Duck messenger bag, so in cities I don't have a backpack to worry about. The messenger bag or Civita bag stay in the suitcase when I am not using one or the other.

Posted by Lesley
Sidney, BC, Canada
335 posts

I too have the RS 21" rolling suitcase and have used it for many trips to Europe, Asia and even Hawaii!! Its great; it is reasonably light, and the handle on top and on the side makes it easy to carry when changing train platforms (steps down and up). Most of my trips are two to three weeks and it carries everything I need and I can even use it as a carry-on. RS has a good return policy. I also have a amall travel-pro but it doesn't have the side handle which makes it harder to carry. We are lucky in that Air Canada is not yet charging for baggage so I am happy to check my suitcase. I just wish they would make sure that my fellow passengers stick to the one piece of carry-on baggage rule!!

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17776 posts

Jean, Aole pilikia (I think that's the correct response?) Since you haven't reached a decision yet, you might want to expand your search beyond Rolling Backpacks. I'll confuse the issue by providing a few more choices.... > Backpack - regardless of your size and weight, you could easily use a conventional Backpack. Some of the features I like are a detachable Daypack (good for carry-on), stowable harness system (prevents damage from baggage handling equipment) and a panel load design (uses zippers so the main compartment is easily accessed, unlike a top-loader). The MOST IMPORTANT CRITERIA is to be properly fitted according to your torso length, so that most of the weight rests on the hips and not the shoulders. Any competent salesperson should be able to do the fitting. Two brands you could look at are Eagle Creek or Osprey. > Travel Bag - these are available in various sizes and configurations, and some models provide multiple carrying options - side or end handles, shoulder strap or backpack straps. Some manufacturers of these also provide backpacks, but from what I've seen they don't adjust for torso length. Some brands that you could look at are Tom Bihn or Red Oxx. With Tom Bihn, you could look at the Western Flyer, Tri-Star or Aeronaut and with Red Oxx you could look at the Air Boss or Tres Hombres. One caveat regarding the Air Boss - it can be heavy when it's fully loaded! Both manufacturers have a variety of other products as well. They're both on the "pricey" side but the quality is superb! I use a Backpack for trips to Europe and a Travel Bag for domestic trips. This is a "work in progress" though, and I'm always fine tuning my travel methods. Cheers!

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17776 posts

Jean, One final comment (ran out of room in the previous reply)..... Whichever option you choose (and especially with a Backpack), it's a really good idea to try it out for an hour or so fully loaded, so that you have some idea what it will be like during travel. Try it on pavement, on stairs or whatever just to get how it works with weight. There are at least two Eagle Creek retailers shown on Oahu (listed on their website) There appears to be at least one Osprey dealer in Hawaii Soul Trex Windward Mall Upstairs in the Theater Wing 46-056 Kamehameha Hwy #N02 / 202
Kaneohe, HI 96744 Both Tom Bihn and Red Oxx only sell from from their factories in Seattle and Montana respectively, so no options to check out the products locally. Be sure to check online reviews for any products you're considering. Cheers!

Posted by Pam
Troy, Idaho, USA
471 posts

So I will also throw in if you are going to expand your search past rolling bags, to take a look at the Campmor site. They have their essential carryon on sale for $30, down from $60. It does have back pack straps and is a very sturdy.and well-made bag. It does have a big Campmor logo on it which can be blacked out with a sharpie. It weighs 1# 12 oz, so is very light. It is just a bag...no bells and whistles, but does have interior compression straps. I wondered about the offerings at AAA. I realized when you posted yours doesn't carry the RS stuff that the N. Idaho AAA offices are actually a part of Washington AAA and are located in Edmonds, where RS is headquartered. That may be why they carry that line. Rick's shipping cost is kind of high as far as I am concerned. Also keep in mind that if you carry on you will need to be able to lift your bag over your head to get it in the bins on the airplanes. You might be traveling with someone who can help you. I am able to manage the RS convertible on my own. When I traveled in May, the packed bag weighed 18# and was very manageable in backpack mode even when climbing up to the 4th floor (5th floor American)of our Rome hotel. If I had had the choice I would not have gotten the convertible, I would have gotten the Classic Back Door bag as it is a touch lighter. The Convertible has an extra zipper that allows it to expand so the zipper adds weight. I got the one I did because it was available and on sale for an excellent price!!! Thanks for the happy travels wishes. Heading to UK in Sept and can't wait! (PS, FWIW I am a senior, lol)

Posted by Rebecca
Nashville, TN, USA
645 posts

I am looking at the Appenzell Day Pack (Rick Steves largest day pack) and also Velocé Shoulder Bag for an upcoming trip. I will not get both; I am trying to decide between the two. I only take one bag. I agree with Ken's first post, that the frame, handle, and wheels of a rolling suitcase add weight I don't need. I have tried to take less and less to Europe every time. I don't need a different change of clothes every day for two weeks. It really is doing yourself a favor to travel light. I like the cross body shoulder strap on the RS Velocé Shoulder Bag.

Posted by Pam
Troy, Idaho, USA
471 posts

Rebecca, were you going to try and use the Veloce for you carry on or for your purse? My SIL has the Veloce and it is pretty small. Someone from our local Rick Steves meet up packed for a trip to Italy in the Civita Day pack which just amazed me. It is small, but much bigger than the Veloce which is more purse-sized. Sorry to the OP for diverting your thread. I'm a senior and I divert a lot, lol!