Please sign in to post.

Rick Steves light luggage

We have received confirmation for our tour next year and want to get a new piece of light luggage to take. My 2 wheeled carryon from ebags is heavy so was looking at the Rick Steves convertible backpacks. One is on sale now for $70. They are both about half of the weight or less of what my suitcase is now.
Any suggestions or thoughts since they don’t have wheels? I have used duffel bags in the past, but want something a little more structured than that.

Posted by
892 posts

My wife has the Classic backdoor bag and loves it. It weighs 2lbs, and when she loads it for a 2 week trip she can get the total weight down to 18-20 lbs. which helps since some of the low cost airlines in Europe have weight restrictions on carry on luggage. The Key to using the Classic backdoor bag is to use a Eagle Creek folder packit and packing cubes, with these you can keep the shape of the bag to where it fits nicely on your back when carrying it backpack style. The tie-down straps on the sides also helps keep the bag within the 21x14x9 size restrictions for carry on. Also, it is easier for her to put the bag in overhead bins because of the lower weight when packed.

Posted by
184 posts

I used the convertible carry on for a couple of trips. I didn’t find it to have enough structure for me. I would load it very carefully and organized and as soon as I picked it up everything shifted to the bottom. Unless you pack it to the gills, I think there will be a lot of movement inside the bag. I’ve since switched to an Osprey pack when I’m not using my rolling bag and find that it stays more organized.

Posted by
10939 posts

I hope you bought it because it is no longer on sale.

The RS convertible is not very structured. Empty is will lay flat. Structure will add weight. You'll find it's pretty much like a duffel bag. You can give the bag some structure with the use of packing cubes.

The Ebags Mother Lode backpack has a bit more structure but weighs a pound more than the RS bag. Most colors are on sale now for $70.

Posted by
255 posts

I use the backdoor backpack weighing 2 pounds. The convertible backpack is expandable by 2” and weighs 3 pounds. Same bag just an option to carry more stuff and check the bag. Like an earlier response, I use packing cubes and the straps to hold everything in place. My packed bag weighs just over ten pounds and there is plenty of extra space. strapping the cubes in place keeps everything from piling in the bottom of the bag. See Sarah Murdoch’s packing lite videos. Just started using the backpack at age 73-female and like it much better than my rolling bag which weighs 7 pounds by itself. The key is to pack a bag no heavier than what you can lift into an overhead compartment. That gets more challenging as I age.

Posted by
59 posts

Thanks for the info and thoughts. I do have lots of packing cubes so maybe by using the bag for clothes only and a backpack for sundries I’ll be ok
I can’t believe the sale is gone now! I checked just before I posted my question.

Posted by
6508 posts

I've used the Classic backpack for several trips. I think its a bargain, especially at the sale price. The light weight is certainly a benefit, as I have no trouble meeting airline weight limits. I only pack clothes in it, so don't have heavy objects that might shift. On our last RSE tour, I noted that about half the folks had the RSE convertible wheeled bags.

Posted by
4749 posts

I love the eBag version. Somehow I have 3 of them…. Sigh, luggage and office supplies on sale are my downfall.

Posted by
1892 posts

Regarding backpacks, it is a good idea to load it up and practice wearing it beforehand, [while shopping or dog walking,] for example. My age 60 husband, who's very athletic , loved the backpack idea, but just couldn't handle it for the actual travel, so the backpack ended up on top of my 2-wheel suitcase for most of our trip. This was NOT the RS backpack, and no, he didn't practice beforehand.
Safe travels!

Another backpack option: enwild.com - Deuter duffel pro 40 liters - about $90 - 95.
A light-weight wheeled bag is a good option. Weight range 5 - 6 lb.s.
There are reasonably priced options other than RS. Just watch out for the total dimensions - especially with wheeled bags.

Eagle Creek Migrate duffel backpack - about $80. Eagle Creek cargo hauler.
Take your time and get something you like. Look at straps and back padding. If a pack has no back padding, then simply place a large packing cube filled with soft clothes on the base/back area to press against your back.

Enwild.com has several osprey travel bags in the 38 - 45 liter range like the transporter and daylite duffel that would be good choices at reasonable prices. Caution: the osprey bag called the “global transporter” does NOT have backpack straps like the other ones. It only has a shoulder strap and grab handles. For a 40 - 45 liter bag - I strongly recommend backpack straps. (Weight distribution and comfort, easier on the back).

Let me see if I can get all the osprey pack names for travel packs. Here I go: various transporters (just avoid “global carry on”), porters, farpoint, Fairview, daylite duffel, and tropos. All built for travel, all reasonably priced, all durable and light-weight. Again, stay in the 40 - 45 liter range.

Posted by
781 posts

Top brands like Osprey, Patagonia, Tom Bihn, and North Face make great travel products including carryon backpacks but you will pay for bombproof durability you may not need. The RS tour I was on in 2019 included maybe a dozen users of various RS bags, several were five to ten years old and still going. I am a carryon-only guy so I asked some of the RS backpack owners if there was anything they didn’t like about their bags. The only complaint? they were too big. As the owners had gotten into the lightweight travel groove, the bags held less stuff with each tour. No one complained about the quality of the units.

My bag of choice now is a Tom Bihn Aeronaut 45L. My first RS trip was completely outfitted in an REI 40L backpack/duffle, less than $100, supplemented with a 28L backpack as personal item.

Bogiesan,
Osprey is very competitively priced at enwild.com. Maybe enwild.com has some lower prices due to colors and close outs. It’s still osprey quality. The Deuter aviant duffel is worth a look as well.
Tom Bihn is great quality and colors, but more expensive and more complex bag designs.

Patagonia is as you call it - Patagucci. I don’t like Patagonia’s website. It’s kind of a pain to use.

North Face seems targeted toward college students. Bold colors, book/computer bags, etc.. Not much in the 40 - 45 liter travel bag size. Some are expedition sized. I have stopped looking at North Face bags.

Posted by
298 posts

I have just bought the osprey porter 46 for myself (backpack -but some structure tot it. My partner has the osprey ozone 38l carry on - which is wheeled. I'd strongly suggest you buy either wheels or a backpack -the convertibles do neither job well - the wheels are heavy and ruin the balance of the backpack.

Posted by
59 posts

You have all given me lots to consider. Is there any store that actually carries some of these brands/ styles to actually look at?

Ncangelose,
Here’s a tip. Torso length is important to me. But, this needs to be balanced against volume needed for packing. So, here’s my personal rule. For people 5’6” or shorter, limit the pack length to 19 - 20” and 38 - 40 liters. Even if it means packing lighter than desired.

Over 5’6” - can go up to 45 liters and 20 -22” in length. If flying in European airlines - try to stay at 20” in length. Soft luggage can be compressed.

I second the above recommendation about using either a rolling bag or a backpack and not a hybrid “convertible” bag. You don’t want wheels against your back.

Posted by
59 posts

You guys have been so helpful. So here’s me being totally honest with my concerns. I am 67, female, more of a couch potato than athlete. I’ve had two shoulder surgeries on my rotator cuff ( both sides) Totally recovered now. When traveling with my regular rolling bag my husband will have to lift it into the overhead bin and I generally handle his duffle bag. So in looking at everyone’s backpack type bag recommendations , I am really not sure how I would handle a backpack without help getting it on and off. I did see the Osprey type bag that had a shoulder strap and looked more or less like a regular sized carryon size, but was less than 3 lbs. I think by having the shoulder strap and carrying by the handles I would be able to handle it myself. Thoughts?

Posted by
2879 posts

I am your age. I'm neither a couch potato nor athlete. I do not have shoulder issues. I often travel without my husband. The last thing I want to do is use a backpack as my carryon as it is just too heavy in the longterm. I do have an Ebags Mother lode Jr backpack. I love it and use it weekly, but I only use it for carrying from car to house and back, and I just use the side handle like a suitcase. I find I do not want 18-20 lbs on my back. HOWEVER, if I ever do travel with the backpack, I have already determined I would do it like this: I have a small EC wheeled tote (13X13) in which I'd put all my heavy items. I would then just put my clothes in the backpack. I would wheel the tote with the backpack sitting on top of it. Then, I would put the backpack in the overhead bin and the small wheeled tote under the seat in front of me.

However, what I really mostly do is check my carryon and bring only essentials onto the flight so I'm probably not your best source. I much prefer not schlepping my belongings on my person or lifting it into the overhead bin. ;)

The problem with shoulder straps. Shoulder straps are fine on small, purse like bags. A 40 liter bag is large and “boxy.” A shoulder strap with the bag on one side (with or without grab handles) will require the traveler to lean to the side to balance the weight and bag. This gets uncomfortable fast. Hard on the spine.
A backpack with grab handles centers the bag on the back with a much more comfortable weight distribution.

Great ideas Wray! Use two smaller stacked bags in place of 1 larger bag. (Underseat rolling tote with a bag (duffel or pack with a trolley sleeve) stacked on top.). Checking a bag has pro.s and con.s.

Posted by
60 posts

I have the convertible carry on and really like it. I can fit a lot (even without expanding it) and it’s very lightweight to begin with. As others have noted, I’ve found that packing cubes are essential to keep it well-organized and to keep the bag from ‘slumping’ (I have the set from the RS Store, and they fit well). One thing to note though, is that it’s not as comfortable as a regular backpack you’d use for hiking or similar (but it does have a hip belt). It works well for me for short jaunts like airport to transport to hotel and back again. I like having my hands free.

Posted by
4341 posts

I’m in the ballpark of your age, too. I use the ebag Motherlode Jr. when traveling domestic where I am walking much less with it on my back then what I’m doing in Europe. Even then, I’m always happy to take it off, and I do pack very light. For Europe, I take an Eddie Bauer medium Expedition, so the weight is off my back when I’m walking so much.

Whatever choice you select, be sure to do a trial walk with it for a good distance.

Posted by
781 posts

So in looking at everyone’s backpack type bag recommendations , I am really not sure how I would handle a backpack without help getting it on and off. I did see the Osprey type bag that had a shoulder strap and looked more or less like a regular sized carryon size, but was less than 3 lbs. I think by having the shoulder strap and carrying by the handles I would be able to handle it myself. Thoughts?

Choosing luggage is a nearly religious experience around here. No one else's solutions are going to be perfect for you until you have had a chance to try them out, fully loaded. All of the Rick Steves bags are terrific bargains as long as you are ware of what you are getting. You cannot return an RS bag so you must be confident in your selection.

It is poor manners to spend an hour at a store just to buy online. Unless you find an unusual bargain, most prices are going to be within 20%. Your local merchants, even the big chains, can use your dollars in the nearby economy.

If you have an REI in your market area, go there. Other outdoor shops will have a selection of travel gear and some department stores will have Eagle Creek, Osprey, and North Face, among other brands of more traditional, hard-side and wheelie luggage. Costco has excellent prices on traditional luggage.

REI has a wide selection of wheelies, duffles, convertibles, and backpack units from five or more brands. See the online catalog, make some preliminary selections, check local inventory on the website, and be prepared to change your mind.

If you go to REI, get there early, and, because you have done your research, let the staff know what styles and brands of luggage you are looking for and that you are going to need some help, especially with the fully loaded bag. A typical 35-45L travel bag is going to mass 20 pounds.

Posted by
4749 posts

I really wonder if looking for a light weight roller bag might be the best choice in light of some of your health concerns. It is going to be easier to pull a bag than wear a bag. Sometimes, you just can't (or shouldn't) wear a backpack such as public transportation and you will need to take it off your back and hold it.

Bogiesan,
My 40 liter backpack typically weighs 13 - 15 lb.s total (bag + contents). I think Wray’s suggestions may work best for this traveler given the health considerations.
Carol’s idea is good also for someone with shoulder issues.

Posted by
59 posts

Lots to consider and since I have more than 6 months before our tour, lots of time too. We have an REI store in our area so I will stop by and keep an eye out for sales. I also read the description of RS convertible carry one and saw that it has D rings for a strap. I don’t know how I-missed that. I think that would give me options. Either backpack or carry using the strap. I signed up for the sale notification email and feel hopeful I can find one before our trip….

Posted by
154 posts

I’ve tried both he RS convertible as well as eBags Mother Lode models. I too found the RS bag too unstructured to be of use unless I packed it full; off it went to Goodwill after a while.

While the Motherlode packs are heavier than the RS bag, they’re more practical, though I’d never buy another one unless it’s on sale. I settled on the Junior size; with careful packing, I can pack for a week. The only downside is that it doesn’t have clips for a shoulder strap. And no trolley strap. Other than those aspects, it’s a pretty useful bag.

Posted by
781 posts

My 2 wheeled carryon from ebags is heavy so was looking at the Rick Steves convertible backpacks … I have used duffel bags in the past, but want something a little more structured than that.

Structure has a direct relationship to mass and wheeled bags have slightly less internal capacity.

I’ve had two shoulder surgeries on my rotator cuff ( both sides) … When traveling with my regular rolling bag my husband will have to lift it into the overhead bin and I generally handle his duffle bag. … I am really not sure how I would handle a backpack without help getting it on and off. … Thoughts?

Ah, well, your original inquiry was about wheeled backpacks and this additional information perhaps changes things. As I said earlier, luggage is a near-religious topic here and any recommendations can be based on both our experiences and our prejudices. For instance, I am a carryon-only guy (at least until I can no longer for what will likely be similar reasons to yours) so my perspective is skewed that direction. However, I've been watching luggage conversations for a couple of years and I've watched dozens of yootoob clips from real people who have documented their positive and negative real world experiences. When you narrow your selection down to a few models and brands, be sure to check the whole Web for well written and honest reviews (it's pretty easy to see through the shills, the ignorant, and the outright lies). There are several travel sites dedicated to the concerns of women: what to pack, what NOT to pack, how to shop for luggage, how to travel alone, &c. Excellent perspectives from a wide array of female-centric experiences, could besome useful information for you. Try herpacklinglist.com

Seasoned travelers like Wray, Sun-baked, Pam, and others are going to have some great advice to offer; maybe contact them offline.

Try to have fun shopping. You have plenty of time.

Posted by
59 posts

Thanks Boglesan, the website you mentioned looks fantastic. And probably expensive since it has so many things I didn’t know I have to have!

Posted by
781 posts

Thanks Boglesan, the website you mentioned looks fantastic. And probably expensive since it has so many things I didn’t know I have to have!

You need clothing that is easy to care for and dries quickly, true, but all the other toys are discretionary. There are dozens of travel and lightweight travel sites and blogs, most are curated by experienced and savvy folks. However, some of them are click bait nests.

Posted by
31 posts

I have been reading this thread with personal interest. I am 65 years old, could stand to lose a few pounds, and have osteoporosis . I have never claimed to be a light packer. For about 30 years I have traveled with an LL Bean backpack which measures approximately 24" x 15". Records show it typically weighs 22-25 pounds after I've packed it. The bag is equipped with two removable aluminum reinforcing bars. It also has a wide padded waist belt that clips together in front. I carry it comfortably on public transport to/from airports and train stations to hotels. Sometimes up to .6 miles. And up and down flights of stairs. In my opinion, the waist belt makes all the difference. Many concerned friend and relatives have been dismayed about the size and weight given that I have osteoporosis. Adjusted properly, I feel no pressure on my spine. I think it would work as a carry on if I left out the reinforcing bars because I could squish it. However the reinforcing bars add greatly to my comfort, so it has always traveled as checked luggage. My point is, the right backpack properly adjusted to one's back can be comfortable to women with challenges similar to mine. Unfortunately my backpack seems to be no longer available. I look at the packs recommended here with interest because I could easily be a luggage junkie. However, my backpack has worked so well for me for so many years, and has held up wonderfully well. So far I have resisted any temptations to replace it. And it remains comfortable. It was even comfortable when I traveled to Europe from the States a couple months after surgery to repair a compression fracture. I wish all of you searching for the perfect backpack for you the best of luck. And happy travels.

Posted by
59 posts

The bag went on sale today so I went ahead and ordered it as well as the strap. If it doesn’t work for me I think my husband will like it. He uses duffle bags and they are getting pretty beat up. I can’t remember the last time we bought a new bag. I have a million packing cubes so can distract myself playing with them in different arrangements.

Posted by
59 posts

Got the convertible backpack today. Looks perfect for me and husband likes it too. He just wants the regular backpack one so hopefully it will go on sale again. He gave it his highest marks….looks well made.