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Rolling Suitcase or Backpack?

I will be spending 21 days in Italy in June. No tour, just 3 girls seeing as much as they can. Which is easier, quicker, safer?

Posted by
223 posts

Darci,
I use a carry-on size rolling backpack. I roll it most of the time, but when the cobblestones get too rough I sling it on my back.

Posted by
15560 posts

Let the games begin...This is one of the most contentious issues on these boards...

but I agree with Carole, get a bag that has both. Ebags has a good one. Eagle Creek and Eddie Bauer also make them.

All are carry-on size and lightweight (for wheeled bags--7-8 pounds)

Other posters will yell about the extra weight of wheels. Well, if you get a lightweight wheeled bag, the difference in weight with the average convertible bag is about 3 1/2 pounds.

Posted by
1889 posts

Quicker, easier and safer? A backpack or convertable pack. No wheels, less weight, easier to get on and off trains/buses. Easier on all public transport, and walking along sidewalks and up stairs in hotels/hostels.

Skip the wheels if you want to be mobile and go lightweight. Wheeled suitcases add at least 8 pounds to the bag...you can use that 8 pounds to either bring a bit more clothing (not necessary of course) or fill that weight with stuff you buy on your trip.

Keep in mind that the bag should be carry on size!

Posted by
223 posts

My rolling back pack is by Travelpro. It weighs just 7 pounds.

Posted by
316 posts

If you check the travel store here, Rick's wheeled bag is just 7lbs. I bought one about 3 trips back and love it. Maybe I've got the magic touch but I haven't had many problems with rolling over cobblestones. I think the best way to decide is by taking your age and physical condition into account. Whichever you choose, be sure it's carry on size and don't check it on the trip over.

Posted by
4 posts

EASIER: Backpack |
SAFER: Rolling Suitcase |
BEST OPTION: A combination pack

I've used combination packs for years (after using only one type or the other) and likely wouldn't travel without one.

The ease of having wheels in airports and on longer walks to hotels when you don't want to carry a heavy load on your back or jostle people and vendor displays with your pack is wonderful. Yet, for navigating three flights of steep stairs or hands free travel without having to watch your bag a backpack (or rather not having to lift heavy luggage by hand) is equally fantastic.

Having a frame that carries the wheels does make the bag a bit heavier, but it also provides a frame and support to an otherwise shapeless bag (and IMO easier to stow). Having versatility when you need it is nearly priceless as you never know which might be better for each location you visit.

Unfortunately, the RS store doesn't carry a combination bag (yet), maybe with enough requests he'll see the light.

Posted by
23431 posts

Ah !!!! the endless question. Maybe we should cut and paste our answers for those too lazy to use the search box. It is a PERSONAL PREFERENCE !!!! We roll in the states and carry in Europe. From observation of traveling companions over the years, rollers tend to pack heavier and carriers have a strong incentive to pack lighter. Have never been forced to check our carryon bags but have watch many angry rollers forced to check bags because the wheels and handle would not fit inside the sizing box. A combo bag is a compromise -- now you get to carry the wheels. Steves is smart not to offer one. Someone posted that a wheeled bag was safer. Have no idea how that is possible. I would argue in the other direction BUT don't think either is unsafe. SO keeps her bag around 18 lb and mine is closer to 24 lb. I get to carry the guide books and water. We are in our 60s so it is not a youth thing. Obviously back and shoulder problems will limit the options for some people.

Posted by
23431 posts

PS -- It is also great exercise and helps to offset all of those wonderful, Italian pasta dinners. Maybe that is why we always return five to ten pounds lighter. This is no perfect answer -- do what you think is best for you.

Posted by
255 posts

I like wheels but they are a pain in Venice. Most of the darn bridges have stairs at either end!

Posted by
4 posts

I'll amend my comment about rolling bags being safer...

I highly doubt there is much of a difference in physical safety factors or features, but situations I've been in with backpacks (escalators, elevators, and a pottery stall I was passing by to name a few) would NEVER have happened with rolling luggage. Then again, broken handles and wheels aren't likely to be safe on rolling bags and on hills and cobblestone streets, just be careful not to run over anyone, such as yourself, if you lose control.

Frank is right in bag selection being a personal preference, however, past travel experience and accident prone behavior (and whatever else you can think of) would factor in as well. Your needs in/from a bag and where you'll likely be using it, now and in the future, are likely the most important factors as bags can cost quite a bit. Take your time, shop around, and make certain you like the bag you get. :)

Posted by
479 posts

Darci, the one thing to consider that most people don't is the added weight of the wheels and handle of the roller bag. Just be prepared to be FORCED to check your luggage if you have the wheeled bag, because most wheels will make your empty suitcase weigh half of what is allowed for carry-on luggage in Europe.

Not telling you what to do, just making sure you're considering everything.

Posted by
15560 posts

My wheeled bag with backpack straps weights 3.5 pounds more than the RS Convertible bag. Not exaclty the tonnage it's made out to be.

But also be aware there are some airlines where a convertible bag is over the size limits allowed for carry-on. This whole argument about weight restrictions on short flights is crazy. What percentage of your trip will be on short flights and what percentage will be moving through train stations, streets, etc?

Find a friend who has a convertible bag or backpack. Fill it with the things you would take to Europe. then go for a walk for at least 30-60 minutes. If you have no problem with it...and remember Italy in June will be hot so think about how you would feel in the heat...then think about a backpack.

Then find someone who has a wheeled bag. Also fill it like you would take to Europe. And repeat the walk.

Ask yourself which you preferred.

If you can't decide, get a bag that has both.

Posted by
131 posts

I have the perfect solution. The brand is by EagleCreek. I've had it for three years and after many trips abroad and within the states, it still looks new. It's awesome. It cost $150 and totally worth it. It is a bit larger than a backpack with rollers. It converts to a backpack in just seconds. It has enough room for three weeks in Europe. It's my trusty companion. Love it!

Posted by
359 posts

And when you're following Frank's very wise advice, hold a map to your hotel/train or bus station in one hand (or a guide book), climb the highest flight of stairs you can find in SLC with both options of luggage (and then descend the stairs), have your train/subway/bus ticket (or a facsimile) clenched in your teeth, negotiate a turnstyle that allows you about 3 seconds to get through, and do the trip where there's a curb, flagstone or cobble pathway every 100 paces. I did rollers for years before retirement, back in the days where I wore a suit and tie every day and only passed through airports, into a taxi and across a hotel lobby. Now that I'm retired and poor, there's few taxis, no suits, lots of walking, and an Eagle Creek Backpack, together with an Eagle Creek combo with wheels, and a day bag each, which will easily do the missus and I for a month in Europe. Really, Darci, do Frank's dry run and decide for yourself -I recommend backpack or backpack w/wheels combo.

Posted by
7 posts

You all have been soooo helpful! Thank you!