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Luggage choice

We’re considering which travel bag to buy: roller, backpack, or combo. We’re wondering for those of you who have the combo bag did you wind up using the wheels or backpack style?

Posted by
2159 posts

It may not be what works for others, but my main suitcase is a 22" roller that I usually check, and I also use a smaller rolling backpack that I can wear while rolling my main bag. After I check my 22" bag, I can roll the backpack the miles to my airport gate.

Posted by
1259 posts

EDIT: SORRY, Post is much longer than it needed to be and I didn’t answer your question at all. Since I don’t have a combo bag, umm, I don’t use the rollers.

The topic comes up at least monthly, lots of discussion, plenty of surprisingly emotional attachments to our luggage choices and the associated traveling style. If you can search this Packing forum for “luggage” you will find an hour or two of uncomfortable reading.

One of the more interesting convertible-combo bags on the market is Osprey Meridian which is a roller/backpack with a detachable daypack.

For myself, at 65, I’m using softside suitcases (legal carryon size) that have storable minimal backpack-style shoulder straps. I pack light and never check my bags. That is just me. Dear wife has a wheelie but she doesn’t travel much.

Finding a brand you trust at a price you want to pay is not really much fun but try to enjoy shopping. Be sure to hunt for bargains at local stores before buying online. For instance, one of Boise’s locally owned outdoor shops recently had last year’s Patagonia travel bags on 50% clearance. Too bad I didn’t need ANOTHER bag.
My bags:
Patagonia MLC45
Tom Bihn Aeronaut 30
North Face 22” rolling thunder wheelie

Posted by
22977 posts

This is frequently discussed with no firm answer other than it depends -- on many factors. Each approach has advantages and disadvantages. It just depends on what your preferences are or the compromises you are prepared to make. At 77 I still prefer the back pack style of bag for Europe -- But my back can handle it. I like being able to move smoothly through crowds with my hands free. On the street or a crowded train platform I don't cause a problem dragging a bag. I don't like the spinners (4 wheels) because they are miserable on cobble stones and the broken concrete common in Europe. And the wheels are more subject to damage if checked. If I need a rolling bag (and I do sometimes) in Europe then I will use a two wheel bag that had the larger, roller blade style of wheel that is more durable, and because of size rolls better over rough surfaces.

People with rolling bags tend to pack more weight because the bag is a little easier to handle. When it is on your back you are aware of the five pounds that you decided to pack at the last minute. I think a combo just add extra weight to you back. But any bag will work in Europe.

Posted by
7885 posts

We have TravelPro 22" rolling carry on bags. But after being questioned about carrying them onto European airlines for size & weight, we switched to TravelPro 21" swivel wheel Ultra Lite carry on bags. Even with them, we sometimes get questioned by overly zealous budget airline personnel because their wheels make them 1" taller than their limit.
The more we travel, the less we're taking with us. I do limit myself to 10 kg. (22 lbs.) without any problem. Since we try to stay at apartments with laundry facilities, we can take 1/2 what we originally carried.
And we NEVER allow the airlines to check a bag.
I do also have a backpack carry on suitcase that I use when we take our 8 year granddaughter with us. I use it when I know that I will have to help her and my wife up stairs and onto trains, etc.

Posted by
4079 posts

Although I love my Travel Pro Ultralight the smaller European size spinner, I find it difficult to carry it up the steps to get on European planes that don't use gates. I definitely need a backpack as my personal item in that situation.

I have a Tom Bihn TriStar backpack which I love, and it solves the above problem, but it doesn't always hold enough(only 33 L) and my husband doesn't like me to use it because I have to be careful not to run into people with it. And it takes time and is sometimes cumbersome to put a backpack on and off in bathroom and when deplaning, etc.

Posted by
6391 posts

This is a religious question, not one that anyone else can answer for you.

Personally, I swear by my trusty MEI Trekker I. Best bag I've ever owned. I am in the camp that believes wheels and frames and other heavy stuff is the problem, not the solution. My MEI bag has been with me to 6 continents and I love it. It's as close to perfect as any I've ever found.

I look at travel backpacks from the perspective of body size. I am under 5'5." For that reason - I find that I need to stay with a pack under 20" (about 40 liters or slightly less). If I need a larger bag - I go to a rolling (non-backpack) two-wheel style at 22." Taller folks (5'7" and taller) can use a bag up to 22" (about 45 liters) - rolling, backpack, or convertible.
Advantages of 40 liter bag is that its size dictates less stuff - lighter packing.

Posted by
1194 posts

We’re wondering for those of you who have the combo bag did you wind up using the wheels or backpack style?

I have the Rick Steves Rolling Backpack that I used for work. I was carrying several reams of test papers and it was heavy! Hence the roller.

To answer your question: Yes. I usually used it in roller mode but would use the backpack mode for stairs and also postholing through hip deep snow.

The hybrid has its uses under specific conditions. I usually use a backpack under other conditions.

Posted by
10505 posts

What have you been using? Why do you want to replace it?

A common suggestion I have seen in the past is, if you are new to back pack type, is give it a 'test drive' in your home town, so you can see how it works for you and be in the return period of the seller.

Some places to find luggage (just to drive you bonkers):
1). Marshall's. Take a tape ruler with you. Set the luggage upright/vertical on the floor. Measure from the floor to maximum height (top handle - with handle retracted). Measure width and thickness. Comply with your airlines luggage size rules.
4) (great luggage)
6) Eddie
Honestly, I could leave a list of at least ten luggage stores. I'll stop here. Have some criteria to help pare down luggage selection.

Posted by
14 posts

I bought the Rick Steves Rolling Backpack because I was looking for a rolling bag smaller than the Rick Steves Rolling Carry-On, not because I was looking for a combination backpack-rolling bag. As anticipated, on my travels, I have only used it as a rolling bag (which is fine, since that's what I bought it for).

On stairs, I just use the handle. I find it more of a hassle if, say, I'm at a train station where I want to go up or down some stairs, to stop and attach the backpack straps. (Though pulling out and attaching the straps to the D-rings on the RS bag is actually very simple.) That said, I didn't have to go up a huge number of stairs or through long stretches of rocky terrain; if I did, I'd probably use the backpack straps.

Posted by
101 posts

On a recent tour in Venice, our guide told us that an elderly local gentleman had been knocked into the canal by a tourist wearing a large backpack. The tourist kept going unaware of what had occurred. Sadly, the elderly man hit his head on the fall and died as a result.
I know that’s a rare event but truth be told I’ve been knocked into with a backpack once or twice myself! My point is this...if you choose a backpack, be aware of your surroundings.

Posted by
1259 posts

doofus wearing a backpack knocked an elderly man into the canal. Sadly, the elderly man hit his head on the fall and died as a result. <<

Well, there it is, incontrovertible anti-backack, pro-wheelie rationalization:: “Backpacks kill.”

Posted by
42 posts

I am a fit 40 year old woman. I don't do anything over a 30L backpack, any larger/heavier is not my idea of fun. If I am packing light for Europe I take a 25L backpack that will fit under the seat w/ 5 outfits and do laundry.

If I need to take more than that, even on cobblestones, I would rather have wheels than all the weight on my back. Venice and the Greek Islands where there are tons of stairs are the only two places I have been where I was really glad for a backpack and might consider a combo bag.

Posted by
1194 posts

My point is this...if you choose a backpack, be aware of your surroundings.

Your argument is a slippery slope logical fallacy. Wearing a backpack does not guarantee you’ll run around hitting people.

Roller bags also trip people.

Each type has pros and cons. There is none superior to the other, hence the endless arguments.

Posted by
847 posts

For years I've been happy with my 21" light weight roller bag. I have both a 2 wheel and a 4 wheel and while I prefer the bag itself that is 4 wheeled, and it's great in airports, it's a pain on streets so I almost always use the 2 wheel. My husband always used a backpack (no wheels, it's the Rick Steves one) but last year he decided it was a bit tough on his back and there weren't that many occasions when a wheeled bag wasn't just as good or better, so this year he used a wheeled bag and was happier.

But despite the fact that I have two perfectly great bags, I was in Marshalls the other day and saw an 'under the seat' wheeled bag that I bought (I think I have a 'bag problem'). It looked like it would hold almost as much as the other bags, weighed a bit less, and would be less likely to have them try to gate check it when the 'plane is full' and they are trying to make people 'check it for free'. My problem is usually getting under the 10K weight restriction more than fitting stuff in. So once I got it home of course I had to go online and see what else is out there and I discovered what I think may be a brilliant idea. An under the seat (rolling) bag that expands to 22". The top unzips upwards. Haven't used it on a trip. Has anyone else seen/had one of these?

Posted by
101 posts

Relax people, I didn’t say backpacks kill people or are a definite bad choice. I retold some info I received on a recent tour. I use a small backpack sometimes dependent on needs and location.
I have to say the sarcasm that sometimes come through on this forum can be tiresome...isn’t this a forum for sharing info?

Posted by
156 posts

As has been mentioned often, it can come down to the bag's weight and your age and physical condition. Convertible backpacks are convenient, but the added weight of the wheel assembly can make them too heavy unless you really pack strategically and/or primarily use them as a wheeled bag.

Personally, I use a travel backpack for short trips only. I'm not in the best of shape and don't want to haul a backpack over long distances, so I pack as light as possible. My preferred system is an overhead-compliant wheeled bag with a small to mid-sized backpack that fits under the seat. And ideally, a trolley strap that goes over the handle of the wheeled bag.

As for the "killer backpacks", while so far I've cheated death by not breaking my head open, I have been bumped into in crowded airports occasionally. No big deal, but carrying those big packs requires careful navigation in crowded spots.

And yes, I caught the sarcasm. Pretty funny, actually;)