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Ricksteves own bags

Has anyone used Ricksteves convertible carryon bag? Is there enough structure to it to keep from sagging when packed? Does the hipbelt take any of the weight off your shoulders? Would you recommend that bag or what other non-wheeled carry-on backpack would you suggest? The sale price seems like a great deal.
I have a few different carryon backpacks already, and I must have some kind of mental problem where I want to keep buying more bags. I have an old LLBean with hipbelt, Osprey Porter 46, and a Gregory Praxus 45, which I haven't used yet. I think the hipbelt on the Osprey is kind of useless and is hard to tuck in or take out when bag is packed full. It does compress down really well so you can fit a lot of stuff into an overhead bin.

For me, back/torso length matters. I am under 5'5" and stick with 38-40 liter bag, under 20" long. If you can handle a 45 liter bag - up to 22" long - consider - Etech pack. Often on sale for less than $75. Eagle creek has the smaller migrate pack. For more money - red Oxx lil' hombre.
Many like Tom Bihn products. I prefer simpler bags. Patagonia may have something you like.
Except for the large "Patagonia" label - I think the Patagonia/black hole/40 liter/travel duffle could be a solid option. It's a lot like the eagle creek migrate. Because of my body size - my vote is for the eagle creek migrate due to the dimensions.

Posted by
31 posts

I have and MEI backpack and I love it. Hip belt, light weight internal frame and hide away shoulder steps. 45 liter.

Posted by
976 posts

I have the Rick Steves convertible back pack. The one with no wheels. It does have straps to tighten it up, but it doesn’t have structure. Things do tend to sag in it. The one problem I have with it is the sagging. Other than that, I really like it. It’s well organized and light. I have taken it on three trips and so far it’s holding up well. The waist strap does help. I wish it also had a sternum strap. I also have a weekender junior convertible backpack and I like it because it’s a little stiffer so holds together without sagging better. However the weekender junior is heavier and I don’t like it’s organizational features as well.

Posted by
531 posts

I also have the convertible bag and used it for two weeks in Europe last year. I also wish it had sternum straps, but it still was absolutely fine, and using packing cubes and strapping them in well on the inside definitely helped. I'd recommend this over a regular suitcase or wheeled bag.

Posted by
9953 posts

Packing cubes are the key to providing some structure with the RS Convertible Carry-on. My hubby has been using his for over 10 years and he refuses to consider anything else. I have one and have used it a few times, but I have back problems and prefer wheels.

Posted by
101 posts

I would echo Brenda’s Recommendation for MEI, specifically the Voyageur. 45 liters and has a real hip belt. It has compression straps to keep the load from sagging or shifting. The empty bag only weighs 3.5 lbs. it’s very well made.

Posted by
9953 posts

I love packing cubes for any bag, but they are very necessary for a backpack IMO. I never pack any suitcase without them. I will be taking my elderly uncle to Germany in October to visit his family. He has Alzheimer's and I will have to keep a very close eye on him. We will check our bags so I don't have to juggle too much, but I'll have a change of clothes, etc. in my personal item sized backpack and make sure he has the same. I'll put those things in packing cubes to keep them separate from medications and other necessities.

Posted by
1259 posts

3dd: >> Has anyone used Ricksteves convertible carryon bag? Is there enough structure to it to keep from sagging when packed? Does the hipbelt take any of the weight off your shoulders? Would you recommend that bag or what other non-wheeled carry-on backpack would you suggest? <<

  1. Thousands use the RS bags. Thousands. Mostly very happy customers. The malcontents did not ask these questions.
  2. There is no structure. Zero. It’s a nylon bag, some zippers, some straps. The wheelies in the RS series have a stiff rear panel where the frame and transmission are attached.
  3. The hipbelt is largely cosmetic and provides some stability but it has no weight bearing function. If you need a serious suspension system, look at Osprey products.
  4. Recommendations I would make rather depend on your specific needs, not mine. If you require suspension: Osprey. If you just want cheap: RS or eBags. If you want bombproof, buy it for life, way too much functionality, and huge capacity: Tom Bihn Aeronaut 45 or Patagonia MLC45. Smaller: Bihn Aeronaut 30. Absolutely no frills: REI Big Haul 40 liter.

There are literally hundreds of great traveling backpacks. Most of the have devoted fans. They are roughly divided into carryon legal, check-only, serious backpacks, convertible backpacks, duffles, wheelies, convertible wheelies, softside, and hardside. You can spend $50 or $800. A quick search of travel gear review sites will turn up Wirecutter’s recommendations and PackHacker’s. Try to have fun shopping.

Just a note about belts on bags ... (You can probably tell that I am just sitting here waiting for Dorian to make landfall and looking for light, friendly conversation.)
There are waist belts, hip belts, and no belts. For smaller travel bags - belts may not be necessary. Waist belts don't transfer bag weight to your hips. The purpose of waist belts is to just keep the bag centered on your back - which can be helpful. (Decreases snagging and bumping into others.)
Hip belts transfer some of the weight load to your hips. This feature is more important on larger, heavier bags. You can tell a hip-belt by looking at it. There is a wide strip of padding that wraps from your back to around the hip area. The rest of the belt is a nylon web type that buckles in front.

Posted by
1315 posts

Sun Baked, be safe
I took an old model of the Rick steves backpack to Hawaii, them Mexico and home.... ended up buying a turquoise colored weight lifting belt off of Amazon for 8.99 that protected my lumbar region and made the whole thing tolerable, bag only weighed 21 pounds packed, but it hit me just wrong, I'm 5'2". Just loosened belt on plane, and of course put in bin for screening.

Posted by
39 posts

I'm a little late to the post, but I thought I would add my thoughts. We went on out first RS trip (Italy) and choose the non wheeled convertible carryon. I really liked it and felt it was very roomy. We are scheduled for the GAS tour next year and have decided to go with the rolling carry on this time. I felt it was pretty awkward getting on and off. I felt rushed when we were setting off from the bus to the hotel and vice versa. (Also, it was kind of a pain getting it back on after going through security at the airport.) We were the only two that had the backpack on our tour. Virtually everyone else had roller luggage and did just fine. That is really the only complaint I had on the backpack.

Posted by
269 posts

We have Rick Steves' Rolling Backpacks. We really like them. Last summer, the telescoping handle jammed. It was kind of a pain on the way back home, because instead of rolling it, I had to backpack it. Anyway, the people at the Rick Steves' Customer Service Dept. offered to send me a new one at no charge. I was really impressed. I never did take them up on their offer, because while I was waiting for a response (it wasn't a long time), I looked at You Tube videos and I took it apart and adjusted the spring. That seemed to work.

Posted by
32107 posts


Although some of the Rick Steves packs are provided with a hip belt, this is not adjustable for torso length and therefore may not provide support for all people. When buying a backpack, adjustable torso length is very important as that allows most of the weight to be carried by the hips, and not the shoulders. The RS pack is soft sided and has little structure, so depending on how tightly it's packed, there could be some sagging.

A couple of brands you could look at are Eagle Creek and Osprey. If you have an REI or similar store in your area, the staff there should be able to measure you for torso length.

Posted by
1284 posts

I use the RS Classic back pack and that works for me, because I only pack about 8 kg (17 pounds) and don't carry long distances (mainly train to bus, bus to hotel, etc) - I prefer the back pack over a rolling bag because I like to have my hands free.

If you want to pack more or if you expect to carry longer distances you need more structure and a hip belt (see the very thorough description of the difference between hip belt and waist belt above).

When we hike (i.e. walk longer distances) I carry a day pack with structure and hip belt and have somebody else transport our luggage.