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My sister and I are traveling for a month in Italy. We are in our late 60's and are debating between backpacks and luggage with rollers. We will be traveling via bus and train with a week with a car. What are your suggestions?

Posted by
7786 posts

We use TravelPro ultra light 21" carry on's with swivel wheels. The swivel wheels make getting the bag down an airliner aisle easier. My wife has a oversized purse for meds, etc. and I use a day backpack that fits under a seat.

Posted by
1660 posts

My preference: A tote carry on and luggage with wheels. I have used a 22" TravelPro or my Kipling Discover 22" rolling duffle. Each one weighs about 5 lbs - maybe the TravelPro a little more weight by 1/2 a lb.

I don't use backpacks.

My travels to Italy have been to one place at a time - Northern or Southern Italy or Rome (the last couple of times.) I stay in one hotel.

British Air, my favorite airline, affords one free checked bag - up to 51 lbs! That's a lot. Also, on board, they allow a carry on - 22" and up to 51 lbs as well as a tote or lap top or similar - 16 x 12 x 8. Coats, hats, assisted devices do not count against your onboard carry on.

Posted by
3961 posts

We have been using the same TravelPro 22" expandable 2 wheeled since 2006. It's light weight, about 6 lbs., & durable. Perfect for a months travel and beyond!

Posted by
826 posts

I prefer luggage with rollers. I use my luggage for both domestic and international travel and travel primarily with United and the Star Alliance providers. My luggage is a 22-inch, lightweight TravelPro with non-swivel wheels. I chose the non-swivel wheels based on reviews of durability of the swivel wheels after extensive travel.

As you evaluate your travel, look at the luggage requirements for the airlines that you are flying, many have size (usually 21-inch) and weight limits (not always enforced). I purchased the Ravenna rolling luggage from RS for my niece and friend for our trip to Italy in June. The side handle and zipper (expansion zipper) broke a week into the trip for my niece, my friend's Ravenna worked well, no damage. Each of them traveled easily with the 21-inch luggage.

I also travel with a day pack (old Civita one from RS) on the plane and carry a small cross-body for daily travel. The cross-body fits into the Civita day pack.

Some travelers prefer backpacks (I have traveled with these in the past), but I prefer to have the weight off my back and if you get good luggage the wheels should hold up on cobblestones and other uneven surface.

Have a great trip.

Posted by
402 posts

Having sold luggage in the past, a 22" roller, should weigh no more than 7lbs empty, the lighter the roller, the more you can pack. Balance that with how robust the roller needs to be with how much abuse you plan on exposing it to. Rollers = 4-wheels, Upright = 2-wheels. I personally prefer an upright but, rollers are hands-down the most popular, particularly amongst older travelers, given their ease of movement.

Brands to consider:

  • Briggs & Riley my favorite, I have a 22" roller from their original BRX collection, their Baseline series is their most popular. Spendy but, if you plan on traveling more and/or, ok with making an investment, well worth the quality and industry best warranty. Solid features.
  • Eagle Creek, very good, well made, warranty very good. I have a 19" Tarmac roller, which is my favorite, like all the features.
  • TravelPro, very good value, has multiple collections, can be found in nearly every large retailer/department store. Should not pay full-price given their sizable distribution.
  • Tumi, used to be the hot luggage brand with some innovative designs that went away from the black/brown color pallet.
  • Victorinox, somewhat stylish and sophisticated, I think their hard sides are better than their soft-sides.
  • eBags, popular online travel store that has their own house brand, popular with flight attendants given their features and pricing.
  • Luggage Works, designed by pilots for aircrew usage, very robust, very heavy. Unofficial luggage of pilots.
Posted by
295 posts

Something to keep in mind if considering a more expensive product. The airlines change their approved carryon sizes quite often. If buying something great quality but pricy to use as a carry-on for years, thinking it will be a good investment, it may be obsolete quite quickly. Remember 24" and 22" carry-ons? They no longer work as carry-on for many airlines.

I have a Travelpro maxlite 21" international 2 wheel and it has worked great for several years. (But the actual height is 21.5"). It looks like new. I bought it online for about $80. Make sure of real world dimensions before purchasing anything. The labels aren't accurate on many.

Posted by
2788 posts

I would have typed what Girasoli typed. I have taken 16 RS tours and have always used a RS roller suitcase and have never had a problem using it.

Posted by
2526 posts

With no experience with backpacks, probably a bag with wheels might be your best bet. Minority opinion: we prefer backpacks.

Posted by
1259 posts

Amazing how often this topic comes up. Our recommendations should in no way sway your decision between backpack-style carryon luggage and wheelies. You’ve got to do the research and make an informed decision.

My personal choice is a backpack. The benefits are numerous but folks who prefer wheelies will have a similar list of reasons why they like that style. You can scroll back through a few months’ worth of posts and see the whole, sometimes emotional, debate, pro and con, laid out in all its glorious nakedness.

If you are an experienced lightweight packer and are comfortable with that method of traveling, you should be able to objectively evaluate the two styles of luggage. Backpack Nutshell: My single compartment, clamshell bag weighs less than a kg, two pounds; sturdy, simple, can be toted like a duffle or backpack; harness disappears, it’s always with me as carryon, and it was cheap enough (<$100) that I won’t mind replacing it if it is damaged.

Posted by
2325 posts

I like my RS Rolling Carry-on. My sister-in-law got one for Christmas. I also like my Pacsafe tote although I had to sew on a trolley strap to make it easier to use. When SIL and I go to Italy in May I’ll also take an Eddie Bauer packable backpack for everyday use along with my small crossbody purse.
Some will say this is too much to take but it works for me. You have to experiment to find the best combination for you.
You’ll see an on-going debate on the forum —backpack vs rolling carry-on. The only right answer is use what you are comfortable with and can manage carrying and lifting.

Posted by
18860 posts

On our last trip to Germany, my partner used a rolling suitcase; I used a convertible backpack. Because of her mobility issues, I handled both. Handling two rollers or two convertible would have been a real challenge. We used exclusively public transportation.

The effort required to handle the roller was easily orders of magnitude times the effort required to handle my convertible. When we arrived at a station for a change of train, I would put on my backpack. When the train stopped, I would carry her roller to the door and over the gap. Usually the trains we used had stairs somewhere (many were double deck) so rolling was not a viable option in the train. I deployed the handle and rolled her bag to the stairs, and, most of the time, picked it up to carry it down the stairs to the tunnel. Carrying it usually necessitated collapsing the handle. I rolled it to the next stairs and carried it up the stairs to the next platform, deployed the handle and rolled it to the train, then collapsed the handle and carried it onto the next train, up the stairs, and to our seats.

Then I took off my backpack.

The effort I expended handling my convertible was no different than it would be normally, while the effort I expended handling her roller was no different than it would be for someone with just a roller, and yet 95% of my effort was due to the roller.

If carrying a convertible backpack on your back is too strenuous, consider packing lighter.

Posted by
13821 posts

As stated previously, this question comes up quite a bit.

The people who use backpacks will tell you to use a backpack. The people who use wheels will tell you to use wheels.

The correct answer is the one that will make you happiest.

Borrow a backpack from someone, fill it with about 20 lbs and for a walk. Then get hold of a roller, fill it with an equal amount stuff and go take a walk with it. Then ask yourself which you prefer.

Posted by
2526 posts

20 pounds? Way past my load limit in a backpack. Practical testing the two theories is a great idea...use real world examples to the extent possible.

Posted by
18860 posts

But make sure your test simulates the actual conditions you will see (how can you do that in the US with our limited public transportation?). Make sure you go up and down plenty of stairs and on and off buses. Don't just roll the bag around on even surfaces.

As I found out by actual experience, you will carry your bag a lot more than you expect to.

Posted by
1193 posts

20 pounds is also way past my load limit for a backpack. More like 15-17 pounds.

I’d suggest a test pack. The weight of your test pack will determine backpack or roller. If you can’t get to under 17 lb then consider a roller. The problem at some point self perpetuates - packing heavy means heavier luggage, which makes it heavier...

Also, some airlines limit the weight of your carry on bag. That will influence your choice of luggage.

Posted by
1259 posts

I’ve been assuming from the original post that they were looking for carryon luggage, Published mass limits for many airlines in Europe is 7kg, about 15 pounds, and the measurements are easily researched. Keep in ,ind that many of the smaller and budget airlines change their carryon specifications often . Most carryon bags, wheeled Orr backpacks, are 30 to 40 liters capacity. I have a 40l backpack style carryon bag that masses about 1kg leaving me roughly 6kg, about 13# for everything that I don’t have in my personal item, a compact, bright red , 18L Patagonia backpack. The 40L backpack is far lighter and smaller than a 40L wheelie because there is no frame or Transmission. The same sized wheelie is usually only about 32L capacity and masses Three to four kg empty.

Posted by
5827 posts

Are you looking for carry-on luggage? If yes, some of the European carriers like Lufthansa and SAS allow a maximum size of 55 x 40 x 23 cm (21 x 15 x 9 inches) and 8 kg mass (17.6 pounds). Max dimensions are the out-to-out dimensions including wheels and handles, not the inside space dimensions. Note that "advertised dimensions" may exclude wheels and handles such that the 21 inch becomes 23 inches and will not fit into bag sizers. Bring a tape and check for yourself.

Posted by
5697 posts

I'm with horsewoofie and Frank II -- whatever works for you. My husband and I (both 70+) each use one carry-on-size roller bag -- almost always checked -- and one personal item for 4-6 week trips mostly on public transit. My personal item is a RS Euro tote which has a strap for attaching to the roller bag or a shoulder strap for carrying cross-body. Plus an empty Civita daypack in case I want to carry lunch on the train. We don't spend a lot of time worrying about the roller bags being stolen from trains even if they're stored at the other end of the car -- personal items carry the important stuff (meds) and are always at/ above/ below our seats.

Posted by
4012 posts

In case you haven't explored other parts of this RS website, here's a packing link from the Travel Tips section that might be useful for you and your sister: Packing Light.

This Travel Talk on packing light by Sarah Murdoch video is also very enlightening.

The emphasis on packing light and using smaller and lighter weight luggage is because doing that will make it easier for you to get around by bus, train and car. It's also because you may encounter steep slopes and definitely will meet up with lots of stairs.

When researching roller bags, the most important things for me are: exterior measurements including wheels and handles, empty bag weight and capacity or volume in cubic inches or liters.

If you want a normal carry-on spinner bag, I can recommend the overall dimensioned 21.6" x 14.9" x 9.4" Lipault spinner, but it does have to be gate checked on smaller planes. It is not expandable. The link says it weighs 4.9 pounds empty, but I have an older one which actually weighs 6.1 pounds using my luggage scale.

I avoided bags with T-shaped handles for years, but I recently bought this International Carry-on Eagle Creek Warrior. 36 liters, 20.25 x 14 x 8 in overall dimensions, 2 wheels, 4.5 pounds by my luggage scale.

Both these bags are available online from multiple vendors and both seem to be at discounted prices now. Eagle Creek has a "no matter what" warranty.

Posted by
87 posts

It's not the walking. It's the stairs. As an earlier comment indicated, you have to carry your roller bag up and down a flight or two of stairs at either end of nearly any train ride. And you have to hoist it onto and off of the train. That said, my 12-year-old does this, sometimes not happily, of course. He'd be a lot more miserable carrying his stuff in a backpack. Same for me but for different reasons (occasional, non-serious back issues). And for me, going up and down stairs with a 15- to 20-pound backpack would be challenging unless it fit me very well and had a padded hip belt (this tends to bring the weight up to roller bag weights). Sarah Murdoch's demonstration of holding the bag above your head is a pretty good test of what type of luggage you can handle.

If you decide on a rolling bag, take a look at the Osprey Ozone 22" (making sure, of course, to measure it against the limits posted by your airline and weighing it as needed). It packs up well with packing cubes (ultralight, of course) and weighs a little over 4lbs empty. We love ours. The 12-year-old has the matching 24L day pack, which fits over the handle. There's also a courier-style day bag that fits the handle. The Eagle Creek Load Warrior is virtually identical in terms of dimensions, weight, capacity, and I looked closely at it, as well. If I remember right, there are more (and better placed) grab handles on the Load Warrior. You don't say when you're going or what your plans are, so it's very possible you can get away with a smaller bag. I think the Ozone comes in a 20" model, as well. I know the Load Warrior does. I think an earlier comment mentioned it.

Have a great trip!

Posted by
2676 posts

If you haven’t spent a lot of time with backpacks then going to Italy with them is not a place to start. While you may not have back and other joint problems that are evident, you have degenerative joint disease. It comes with the territory at this age. The way to have it show it’s ugly face is to do prolonged weight bearing in a way you are not accustomed to, such as loading a pack on your back. Yes, you will have to occasionally carry a wheeled suitcase but the time is brief compared to having a pack on your back each time you are in transit. We prefer spinner bags ( I am 69, my wife is 67) as even a two wheeled roll aboard tweeks my shoulder and lower back. Yes, they don’t glide smoothly on cobblestones. We then just haul them on two wheels. If you settle on a spinner spend a little more on quality and you’ll be glad when the wheels don’t fail. For the price I think Travel Pro makes a good product, particularly the higher end models. If money is no object, Briggs & Riley make terrific but pricey luggage.

Posted by
3961 posts

I agree with previous statement regarding quality of TravelPro and Briggs & Riley. We have been using TravelPro for years. We recently did a comparison at our local Travel Store. Both were the same size, & expandable. The one con for us was weight. The B & R weighed 8.9 pounds. Our current TP model weighs less than 7 lbs. Our total goal weight with clothing is 20 lbs. or less. We check our bags.

Posted by
1193 posts

I’d like to make a request that we stop spreading these fallacies:

20 pounds is NOT a reasonable weight for a backpack carry on. Please stop using this number! Most of us go around 15 pounds or less.

Carrying a travel pack is NOT the same as backpacking. You are not carrying sleeping bag, tent, and food. You are not hiking 10 miles over mountain passes. A 15 pound load is not the same as a 35-40 pound load.

Please, let’s represent things accurately so people can make informed choices.

Posted by
5827 posts

20 pounds is NOT a reasonable weight for a backpack carry on.

A good target weigh limit for your carry-on is 8 kg = 17.6 lbs, the Lufthansa weight limit. But that said, advisable luggage weight is somewhat dependent on the person's physical capabilites/limitations, and the distance and terrain that one is carrying the luggage. Airport to taxi and taxi to hotel room is different than a one or two Km or longer walk over cobbles then up the stairs to a hotel room without a lift.

The backpack suspension system also affects desirable weight limits. A carry-on bag without a suspension system places the full load on ones shoulders while a pack with suspension system and load-carrying hip belt shares weight between shoulders and hip.

Here is the REI "backpack" expert advice on packpack weight:

Pack Weight for Backpacking and Hiking:

When determining your pack weight, follow these very general

A loaded backpacking pack should not weigh more than about 20 percent
of your body weight. (If you weigh 150 pounds, your pack should not
exceed 30 pounds for backpacking.)

A loaded day hiking pack should not weigh more than about 10 percent
of your body weight. (If you weigh 150 pounds, your pack should not
exceed 15 pounds for hiking.)

So, for example, a hiker who weighs 150 pounds should strive to carry
30 pounds or less while backpacking and 15 pounds or less while day
hiking. Using these body weight percentages as a guide will help you
keep your pack at a manageable weight. However, they don’t work in
every situation.

Posted by
3976 posts

It depends on the state of your body(which parts of your body ache and your overall fitness) , how light you pack, and how many stairs you will encounter. I have a very lightweight backpack that only holds 15 lbs, and shoulder issues that make carrying my rolling bag up stairs a concern. I'm in the backpack crowd and I'm 65. We always stay in hotels with elevators and take taxis from airport or train station to hotel when we have luggage. I always carry my own luggage because my husband is usually working and refuses to sink wash, so he always has way too much luggage to be of any help to me.