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21" Rolling Carry-on Bag is actually 18", Smaller than Advertised

I purchased the 21" rolling carry-on and found it to be much smaller than advertised. I bought this to replace my 21" Roll Aboard bag which actually measures 21". I can easily fit the Rolling Carry-On bag right inside my old bag. Side-by-side, the size difference is really stunning.

Here are photos comparing the two bags: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/gfi5waqw8ko8ozm/AAAriFwTdshnDM_TjGqoz5Vea?dl=0

When I contacted customer service, they sent a photo of how you can get a 21" measurement by really stretching the fabric of the bag just right and they won't cover returns. Return shipping was nearly $50 so I'm stuck with the bag for now. I just really don't want other people to end up in this same situation.

If you're happy with an 18" bag, this bag should be great. If you're hoping to replace you're old 21" bag, look elsewhere.

Posted by
8216 posts

Thank you for the warning.
I stoped buying RS luggage when I realized they were way over priced and I would have to pay to return if I didn’t like it.
I have the 21” carry-on and don’t like it, wanted to return it but with the high cost to return it wasn’t worth it.

Posted by
5 posts

Your new 21” bag may seem small because of the dimension you are comparing. The 21” measurement will include wheels and handles, which results in a much smaller compartment measurement. If you were to measure your old suitcase, you would probably find that it’s much bigger than 21” when you add the wheels and handle. The newer, more restrictive international carryon size is 21” with wheels and handle.

All airlines provide their baggage restriction measurements that include the wheels and handle, and your bag could be required to place it within a rigid box of those allowed dimensions to prove it is not oversized. If it does not fit entirely into the bag sizer, you will have to check it, which may be an additional cost. This is why they are sold as a 21” bag, while the container portion of the bag is much smaller. If you choose a 2-wheeled bag it will have more carrying capacity than a spinner bag with 4 wheels. Hope this helps. Sorry for your troubles.

Posted by
2 posts

If you look at my photos, you can see that the measurement including the wheels is 19" while with the original bag, it is exactly 21"

Posted by
10998 posts

In the past, I have brought inaccurate dimensions to their attention.

You have to also realize that RS has not raised the price of their bags for years. Costs go up. The only way you keep the pricepoint is to make cuts. I'm not saying that is what's happening here but it is a thought.

You are also not taking the measurements from the highest point which would be more from the center.

Posted by
72 posts

Wow! That’s a huge difference! How disappointing when you think you are buying the exact same bag as you had before and it has changed substantially! Even more disappointing when the company does nothing to keep a long time customer happy.

Posted by
83 posts

Given that I always associate integrity with anything to do with Rick Steves and crew, this is not only surprising but very disappointing as well. I think it ridiculous to tell a customer that they have to stretch the fabric of a suitcase "just right" to get it to the advertised size!

Posted by
796 posts

When I contacted customer service, they sent a photo of how you can get a 21" measurement by really stretching the fabric of the bag just right and they won't cover returns. Return shipping was nearly $50 so I'm stuck with the bag for now. I just really don't want other people to end up in this same situation.

Thanks for the alert on the bag. Seems truly freaky to make an error that large in the product specification that is obviously an error as reflected in your photos. Looks like it starts out as a serious and maybe innocent typo that slipped through reviews and never got corrected. And now it is too late.

Not the first time we’ve seen the RS no-paid-returns policy turn out to be more of a rip-off than a reasonable business reality. The product is clearly misrepresented. Maybe you can write a letter to Rick, include your photos.

Posted by
37 posts

Got my curiosity up. We bought Classic Back Door bags preparing for pre-pandemic BOE. Now 2 years later and DH says wheels would be better than a backpack. New Rolling Carry On arrived last week

Just measured outside dimensions of both--21"x14"x9" Same for both. Laid both bags on paper and used a carpenters square to make certain same playing field (measured top to bottom/width/depth were accurate)

I didn't measure inside of bags but volume tells the tale.

Classic inside is 2500 sq in
Rolling Carry On is 2430 sq in

Posted by
796 posts

New Rolling Carry On arrived last week
Just measured outside dimensions of both--21"x14"x9" Same for both.

Curiouser &c. The OP's photos are irrefutable; the new bag is not as large as the previous model. But now we have a bit of a mystery. Perhaps there was a supply chain or packaging mishap at the contractor? Maybe you could post some photos of your bag for comparison because you appear to have received a different unit than what was shipped to OP.

Your photos with ruler measurements were quite informative. RS company needs to update its dimensions. An 19” bag is good for about 3 - 4 days worth of clothes, minimal packers, travelers using highly restrictive airlines. It’s still a worthy bag - just needs to be marketed correctly.

Thanks for sharing this.

Posted by
21671 posts

classic inside is 2500 sq in
Rolling Carry On is 2430 sq in

That is cubic inches, not sq in. A difference of 70 cubic inches is hardly significant. It is basically a hair bigger than a 4" cube. Maybe one pair of rolled socks difference.

Posted by
499 posts

I have the same classic green 21 inch 2 wheeled rolling bag that is seen in jonahwy's photos. I have had it for years and in the last year or so the wheels have dryrotted and broken, but it saw many years of wear. This past year I purchased the 21 “ Roll Aboard as a gift for my adult son. It was sent directly to him so I never saw it until now in December when he came for a visit. It was, just as jonahwy described, notably smaller than expected and smaller than my old 21 inch bag. I also suspect that it would fit inside of my older bag just as in the photos, although I did not try that. I was surprised at its smaller size when I saw it and commented about it to my son. The new bag my son received was expandable and I actually preferred the smaller size because when traveling in Europe I often use discount airlines with stricter carry on size requirements. I actually liked his bag and will probably buy myself one but agree with the OP that it was not the expected size.

Posted by
41 posts

The dimension differences pointed out are interesting and do seem odd. However, I pay more attention to the overall cubic inch capacity. I prefer a bag that is lightweight and a maximum of 2,500 cubic inches, or even a bit less. The rolling carry-on fits that bill. I never use the expansion feature for air travel, only for car trips. I have an 18 inch rolling bag purchased from another company and I believe that particular bag was marketed as having about 1,850 cubic inches. That is my 3-5 day trip bag.

Posted by
4372 posts

I would send your photos to the Rick Steves store. Your photos, especially the ones with the measurement tape and the one bag fitting inside the other clearly show that the newer bag is not the same size.

Thanks for the warning! I found when I purchased a new bag several years ago (ended up with the Eddie Bauer Medium Expedition) for tighter carry-on requirements, that I had to take a measuring tape to all of the stores which quickly removed several contenders from my list that had on-line stated measurements that simply weren’t true.

Posted by
796 posts

That is cubic inches, not sq in. A difference of 70 cubic inches is hardly significant. It is basically a hair bigger than a 4" cube. Maybe one pair of rolled socks difference.

The OP's bag is roughly 18x14x9 or 2270 cubic inches. The stated dimensions on the RS catalog are 21x14x9 or 2650 cu.in., a difference of roughly 400 cubes, a bit smaller than an 8-inch cube, which is 8 times the volume of a 4-inch cube -- a darned big space, roughly a medium compression cube that might be 5x16x10 and squished down to 3x14x9.

Useless minutia, sorry. Main point of the thread is the bag delivered to the OP is not the one indicated in the product description. Gross misrepresentation, even if it's an innocent mistake.

Posted by
37 posts

Frank Thanks for catching my error. Definitely CUBIC inches and about one pair of socks. I was good at math 50 years ago.

OK, I measured again and got 21" on our old bag. My measurement for the rolling bag was 21" again. Difference in measurement was top (handle end) to steadying knobs behind the wheels. I get 19" when I measure to bottom of wheels.

The issue should not focus on the 50 cubic inches but that jonahwy is an upset customer! Clearly, good customer service would have been rewarded and RSE should have handled the complaint differently. By the way, I'm going into the travel luggage business. Sale price with FREE shipping was $127.99. The markup ($50 free shipping) must be huge!

Posted by
21671 posts

I don't know what people are measuring but just prior to Christmas I bought the same bag as a replacement for an earlier 21", 2 wheeled, bag. It measured exactly as specified -- 21,14,9. I sit it against the wall, used a carpenter's square to measure from the top -- 21" if I pressed down, I could get it to 20 and half. The other two measurements are fixed because it has a rigid back --13.5 and 9. And with the solid back shell there is no way to get it to measure less 20.5. So I view it as a true 21" case.

Compared to my wife's older Samsonite 21' spinner it looks smaller (and it is) but when measured my wife's 21" bag becomes 24.5, 10, 15.5. We have flunked the sizing box more than once. Her actually packing compartment does measures 21". But that is the problem that was addressed a couple years back in a Consumers Report articles that measured 21" size carry-ons and all but one or two flunked the test. So, I am sure that the OP's old, original bag 21" probably was 23" even 24". The Rick Steves' bag appears to be exactly as advertised. Or, at least, I one I received was. It certainly is NOT an 18" bag. The rigid back determines the exact size except for depth. I like the design. It should be very functional.

Posted by
369 posts

I got the 21" RS rolling carry-on bag for myself about 4 years ago. My husband has used the Convertible Carry-on for a decade but I don't think he should be carrying all that weight on his back any more so I got him one like mine, as a Christmas gift. I just looked at his, and measured it, and it measures 21". Then lined his bag up next to mine and there's no size difference.

Posted by
10998 posts

While just using the measurements of a bag will give you an estimate of its volume, and it's the way RS measures bags, most manufacturers use a more precise method.

What they do is fill the bag with tiny BB size pellets. The pellets are then put in a tall measuring tube to get the volume. This is usually done in liters and then converted to cubic inches.

Two bags of the same external dimensions may have different volumes due to design, pockets, handles, wheels, etc.

The last I heard, RS rolling bags were being made by Ricardo of Beverly Hills--a company that makes bags under their own name as well. ( A look at the tag inside the bag should tell.) It is possible that a mistake was made in manufacturing in one shipment. I agree you
should send your photos to the RS store.

I spent a number of hours studying and testing to be a "Travel Goods Specialist," a certification bestowed by the Travel Goods Association. Unfortunately, the certification is no longer available as it wasn't very popular.

Posted by
2891 posts

It strikes me that you have a 19” bag versus a 21+” bag. If you don’t pack it too full RS 19” bag seems perfect to me for no worry carryon. I wish that size was easier to find in the US. For your complaint about the size difference, you might pack them up to see how it functions for you in practice and what the packed measurement is. I suspect your older bag will be bigger than international size when packed.

BTW Your caption should read 19” to match your tape measure.

Posted by
2 posts

I purchased the 21" rolling carry-on to replace my previous Rick Steves bag I had had for years. I thought it would be the same product. I was very mistaken. Putting the items side by side you could see the new carry-on is smaller, it does not have protection around the wheels like the older Rick Steves 21" rolling carry-on, and worst of all, the new one kept falling over! The design doesn't line up the wheels and "feet" when the bag is upright, like the previous bag which never fell over. I even packed the new bag to see if that would help. It didn't matter if the bag was packed or not. The new one tipped over. The older one did not. I will be returning this bag and I'm disheartened that I will have to pay shipping costs to return this defective product after already paying shipping to receive the bag. I know now not to purchase items from the Rick Steves store in the future.

Posted by
796 posts

I know now not to purchase items from the Rick Steves store in the future.

This is an unusual case of what appears to be a product fulfillment error from the manufacturer, not necessarily deliberate deception by the RS organization. Their refusal to admit they have screwed up on this bag is weird. And, yes, the RS return shipping policy is egregious but it is up front on the site and is not likely to change. You can register your dissatisfaction directly with the guy whose name is on the building; might help resolve this strange problem for others.

Posted by
796 posts

What they do is fill the bag with tiny BB size pellets. The pellets are then put in a tall measuring tube to get the volume. This is usually done in liters and then converted to cubic inches.
...
I spent a number of hours studying and testing to be a "Travel Goods Specialist," a certification bestowed by the Travel Goods Association. Unfortunately, the certification is no longer available as it wasn't very popular.

Frank, always valuable information.

There's a yootoob guy who tests capacities of travel bags and backpacks using cans of seltzer. I thought it was bit of a joke till I saw clips of bags with which I was familiar. Turns out his evaluations might be helpful. Cans of water represent utilization of available space, closure functionality, likely failure points, effectiveness of padding, and real world capability of the suspension system to handle excessive mass.

You're "fully certifiable" as far as I'm concerned.