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Rolling luggage vs backpack?

Just want to hear some pros and cons. Kind of leaning towards roller and here is why; biggest fear (and i have read you pack your fears) is not being late to the gate, it has happened but not often. My biggest fear is being stuck at the airport for 8 hours or so (it has happened, actually worse has happened as I have spend a couple nights there. A rolling bag seems a lot easer managing and a lot less weight on the back. Second reason, I often hike, so that hiking I enjoy a little more structure than the wobbly no frame feeling (and like water bottle pockets).

Factors for a backpack for me are that they weigh less to pick up.
I have an IT two wheel roller bag. It is light and been thru 2 times as checked, but they look like they went thru a war zone when you pick them up all scuffed and dirty. So I may need to replace. Saving that discussion for later though. Thanks.

Posted by
11294 posts

Everyone has a different take on this subject. Besides rolling vs backpack, there's the issue of spinners (4 wheels) vs 2 wheels. And, some bags have both wheels and back straps.

So, your options are 4 wheels, 2 wheels, and no wheels, as well as convertible that can be used more than one way. People have VERY strong feelings on which works best for them - which may or may not be what works for you.

I'm not being evasive - it really is personal. I love my two wheel carry-on bag, but others would rather swim the English Channel before taking it on their trip.

Posted by
208 posts

I am a 59 year old going on a 5 week Eastern Europe trip in May with about 10 transfers. While I like both kinds of bags, I will be taking the Rick Steves no wheel backpack I bought direct from him in the mid 80s. (As well as the Cpap I am now unfortunately forced to take with me everywhere). And I am going to do my very best to ensure it is only at most about 2/3 full.

Posted by
16 posts

Harold, thanks for your comments. Just wanted to hear some pros and cons people experience. And I have a few opinions. I don't see the point of a convertible backpack-- way way too heavy. And no wheels I think is out, just too hard to carry and I am not a fan of spinners due to all the mechanism to hold the front wheel, though they are more stable upright. Jay

Posted by
7156 posts

pleiades3, if you do a Search (gray box at top of this page) for "rollers" or "backpacks" or some combination of that, you will find hours of vigorous and entertaining debate on the subject. People have strong opinions on all sides. I just point out two things: your fears are based on handling bags at the airport, which is a small part of your trip. You probably will spend more time getting on and off trains, down cobblestoned streets, and up and down stairs, than in the airport. My main reason for preferring backpacks is that it lets you have both arms free. But thats just my opinion. Back issues make a strong argument the other way.

Posted by
1086 posts

I tried the RS backpack on one of our trips, and did not like it. The weight caused discomfort in my shoulders, and it also caused uncomfortable sweating on my back. In addition, the lack of shape in the backpack made it hard to pack.

Posted by
368 posts

I have a roller (2 wheel only) and a good backpack. I haven't decided which to use on my next trip. Last trip was the backpack, but I'm considering switching over to the roller.

I often check my bag back home, full of dirty clothes (and maybe a well-padded bottle of wine!) and use a tinier pack to bring home important things and treasures. If I tuck in a bottle of wine, it feels more protected in a roller with some shape to it, though I must admit, it survived in a soft pack too - I was just worried.

And then there's also the idea that on public transport, the backpack feels more awkward to me - if I wear it normally, I can't keep my eye on it or sit down easily, so it seems like I always have to swing it off and on... By the end of a trip, it always feels heavy...

Pros for the backpack is that it is much quieter to move around - I don't like the sound of the roller on cobbles... It's lighter on it's own as you have noted, and I feel younger and stronger when I commit to the backpack - a throwback to my college days of traveling around on a Eurail Youthpass….

Posted by
1124 posts

You might want to watch the video clips on Rick Steves’ channel about how to pack light, why you want to learn how to pack light, and how to pack a single bag efficiently. While one bagging is not appropriate for everyone, I think most folks who embrace the practice don’t revert to schlepping multiple overstuffed bags.

Reviewing the many lengthy and often highly charged discussions/arguments about suitcases and luggage might help you by illustrating the options in colorful terms.

Just my opinion, of course, I use my 40 liter PacSafe backpack most of the time. I still have a superbly heavy duty North Face 22” rolling carryon for car trips or travel where limits are not imposed.

Posted by
16 posts

Didn't really do a search but read a bunch of the archive. Strangely not a lot of direct comparison. I found that a bit odd. I find comparing directly helpful though i realize everyone has their own opinions. Some people have brought up factors I hadn't thought of.

BTW, not about any particular product. I am not interested in RS bags. The backpack has no support and no hip belt, wouldn't want to carry everything completely on shoulders. I have used a real backpack (though only with 15 or so pounds). Found how important carrying on hips is. But for some people it might work.

Posted by
7201 posts

The backpack is fine for the really strong traveler. My wife and I prefer ultralightweight 21" rolling carry on's with swivel wheels because you can easily roll them down the aisles of airplanes sideways.
My wife was in a wheelchair on our last European trip, and I pushed her in the chair while towing a rolling suitcase and I had a backpack carryon bag. No problem handling it all without assistance from any porter. She's since had a knee replacement and will be hauling her own bag this year.

Posted by
18527 posts

I don't see the point of a convertible backpack-- way way too heavy.

So the rationale for a wheeled backpack is that you don't have the discipline to pack light - admit it.

Strangely not a lot of direct comparison.

I'll give you a direct comparison. I've used a backpack since 2000 (11 trips, 24 weeks). On our second trip together (3 weeks), my partner, who is mobility challenged, brought her 2-wheeled roller. We used trains and buses; I ended up handling both bags. When we got to a station, I put on my backpack. When we stopped, I deployed the handle and rolled her bag to the stairs, collapsed the handle, picked it up and carried it down the stairs to the vestibule, then lifted it onto the platform. I deployed the handle, rolled it to the stairs, again collapsed the handle, and carried it down the stair to the tunnel. There I deployed the handle, rolled it to the next stair, collapse the handle and carried it up the stairs to the next platform. On the platform I deployed the handle, rolled it to the train, then lifted it into the vestibule and carried it up the stairs to our seats. Then I took off my own bag.

That is no exaggeration. Literally all of my attention from the time I put my convertible bag on when the train stopped until I took it off on the next train was taken handling her rolling bag. So here is your direct comparison. Handling a rolling bag is a lot more effort than handling a backpack.

So, if you find a backpack too heavy, try packing lighter. If you can't do that, get a backpack with a waist belt. Waist belts transfer all of the weight to you hips. I don't use one, because I pack light enough that I don't need one, but my last backpack came with a waist belt, and I found that with it, I was able to loosen the shoulder straps so that there was no weight at all on my shoulders.

Posted by
16 posts

Lee your comment: " So the rationale for a wheeled backpack is that you don't have the discipline to pack light - admit it" No I don't admit it because your comment is unfair. How do you know?

In fact,I was commenting specifically about the concept of a wheeled backpack. You are carrying the backpack plus the wheeled system which in itself is quite heavy. However, that said, I have no experience with them. But it does make sense that the weight of the bag is, in fact, a factor. If a bag weighs 10 pounds for an extreme, the carry with 15 lbs, is 25 lbs. If the bag is 3 pounds it is only 18. I appreciate most of your comments, but wonder why someone would attack someone they don't even know for no apparent reason.
Jay

Posted by
11450 posts

No lee,I think you may making some assumptions .
We pack light , but carrying more than 10-15 pounds makes my back ache / I’m weak - dragging my 22 inch ultra light roller bag is much easier for me .

And the hot sweaty back thing doesn’t work for me .

So it’s not about packing a lot more ( or less , I’ve seen some huge backpacks ) it’s about each persons comfoet preferences .

Posted by
1179 posts

I don't see the point of a convertible backpack-- way way too heavy.

I’m going to challenge your statement. Many who travel with convertible backpacks take less than 15-20 lb total and that includes the weight of the bag.

I have found that those who complain about the weight of the backpack tend to overpack. They have pack weights of 20-25+ pounds.

Many convertible bags are 2 lb or so. The MEI Voyageur is at 3.5 lb but has a complete backpack suspension, including internal aluminum stays and a lovely padded hip belt. It all stows away for travel. Let me assure you as someone that has backpacked many places that the MEI is one sturdy pack! I had some extra customization when I ordered mine. One of the things I added was a water bottle pocket.

In short, I believe you are making several assumptions that aren’t true. That is biasing your selection process.

One thing to point out. Wheelie bags are easier in the airport but harder to use outside the airport. Backpacks are harder in the airport and easier to use outside the airport.

I’ve traveled with wheels and backpacks. I almost always take the backpack. The only time I use wheels is when I have to carry multiple pounds (reams) of notebooks and paper for work. Even then the bag is the RS rolling backpack. Because there’s stairs and hip deep snow.

Posted by
1146 posts

I think you should study Doug Dyment's comments about bags. I think he has some good arguments, but he is biased towards back packs.
So am I, and the biggest advantages for me (may not be for you) is that my hands are free.

I often hike

I don't think I understand this. Do you intend to hike with a two wheel bag?

Posted by
124 posts

I prefer backpack (Osprey Porter 46) so that leaves my hands free to look at maps, books, phone, help others with bags, etc.

If i need another bag for more room, i bring a small duffel type bag, that i can also put over my shoulders if needed.

For US trips (work trips that are 3-4 days) i bring my travelpro 2 wheel bag and a bag for my laptop.

I will add that i'm 31 and in decent shape, so the backpack does not bother me once the straps are broken in and not so hard.

Posted by
16 posts

LP, the comment re: hiking was this. I would carry a backpack as my personal item and I prefer a real but small hiking backpack (probably an Osprey Daylite) that has a sturdy back and waist strap and water bottle pockets. So how do you carry two backpacks? I've seen the one in front and one in back thing, but that seems ridiculous.

BTW, I'll put convertibles back on my list to think about. Can't recall who mentioned them.

About myself, I am 70 but active. I always carry art materials and my trips always include large amounts of sketching on location. I have, in fact, done one (and will be doing a second) 10 day trip in the US packing light. I had my Osprey daylite and an IT bag which I mentioned.

Thanks for (most) everybody's great comments.

Posted by
7156 posts

pleiades3, re: two backpacks. If you're taking a second one as your "personal item" and it truly is "personal item sized" (i.e., more of a daypack), then you can carry it over one shoulder, or by the sling in one hand, while the other is on your back. Or one over each shoulder. You're really only going to have both of them in hand while in the airport, and getting to transportation, not walking around every day. I use the RS Classic bag for my carryon, which has straps for your back so is technically a backpack, but no frame, and has handles so you can carry by hand as well. If you're taking two real hiking/camping backpacks, then that is a different story.

Posted by
1124 posts

Yeah, this is going about the same way most previous discussions on the topic have gone.
1. Your fear of begin stuck in the airport implies you are using a carryon bag only so it’s going to stay with you. A rolling bag won’t help you deal with your fear and, by definition, it’s a lot less weight on the back. My PacSafe is easy to “manage” because of the security features built into the straps — although I’ve never noticed they were actually necessary, just comforting.
2. Are you saying that you “often hike” on your travels and need luggage that does both jobs? Hiking backpacks are designed and built to satisfy different situations than most travelers require. A sturdy harness, external pockets, and a comfy hip belt are readily available from many mfrs like Osprey, North Face, LowePro, REI. Two tradeoffs when buying a travel pack from a company with backpacking DNA: usually overbuilt and heavy, and the harnesses may not safely stow away. My PacSafe is just a bag. It has no frame structure at all and the hip belt is for stabilization only. I will not replace it with another PacSafe product (it was on deep discount) but the Vibe40 does the job at the moment.
3. A backpack suitcase is going to weigh MUCH less than a wheelie. And you can find ultralight backpacks but they won’t satisfy your need for structural beef. The thing about ultralight gear is you give up bombproof construction and mass for minimum features and light materials at the expense of being required to pay close attention to your gear.

4. Baggage handling is totally unpredictable. Your bag may not arrive. It might be opened or damaged beyond use. If you want to keep track of your bag, you’re going to be using a carryon. They come as backpacks, wheelies, and convertible wheeled backpacks. Osprey’s Meridian (which I took on four domestic flights) is a 40L two-wheeled bag that converts to a backpack with a hidden harness. It also has a matching snap-on personal sized backpack. Remarkable device. Just not my style so I took it back to REI and got the PacSafe, which masses less than half and has zero extraneous and luxurious features.
Shopping for the right bag is fun but can be frustrating because of the huge variety.

These “which bag?” discussions/arguments never lead to enlightened conversions. Similarly, I could never convince you that go is a superior game to chess without playing a hundred games. Experience is your only teacher.

You could try onebagging on a short trip by borrowing someone’s 25-40 liter backpack style bag. Most airlines impose a 7kg/15# carryon mass limit so you must pack lightly. (Packing light is an entirely different discussion. Lots of folks can get by with two or three days of layered clothing, doing laundry every other night. Other folks require a fresh and complete change of outfit every day.)

Posted by
16 posts

I was talking a day pack type as a personal item. I have used the Osprey Daylite in the past. I don't think a 40 L backpack makes a good day pack regardless of weight or style unless there is a way to cinch it down to pretty much nothing.

Posted by
11990 posts

You have found the subject with the biggest arguments. There are some here who believe there are two ways to travel.....their way and the wrong way. You will learn who to ignore.

I will give you a direct comparison. For years I traveled with a convertible backpack. Then as I got older and my back started to bother me after having the weight on my back. I switched to a two wheeled carry on bag. I had many different ones. For my last trip, I used a four wheeled carry on sized spinner.

There is no one perfect bag but pros and cons to each.

The backpack goes on your back, keeps your hands free, and in some cases will make it easier to carry on with the very restricitve airlines. On the down side, if you are not used to it your back may hurt and you may become sweaty after carrying it for a long time.

The two wheeled bag will take the weight off your back and shoulders but may add some strain to your arm and shoulder from dragging it. For long distances you will probably not feel as sweaty or tired. You will have to pick it up for stairs but it should roll easily on most surfaces. It will allow you to take a little bit more--no sin by the way except to a few people here--without having to worry that it may cause pain.

Four wheeled bags makes wheeling on smooth surfaces effort free. They may not roll as well on rougher surfaces but many just tip them on their side and use them like a two wheeled roller. The extra wheels do take away some packing room.

According to the Travel Goods Association--about 90% of travelers use wheels. (This also includes checked bags.) Spinners are now the most popular type of bags.

Regardless of which way you go, packing lighter will make handling of these bags easier. Remember, no one here is you, has your likes or dislikes, or knows what you can handle physically. I would suggest trying each type before your trip. Borrow a convertible backpack or any larger backpack, pack it like you would for a trip, and take a walk. Borrow two and four wheeled bags and do the same. It may not be a perfect test but you will get an idea which you prefer.

Posted by
16 posts

Frank, this is an excellent replay. I can find a backpack and try this for a trip perhaps. I have a 6 day trip coming up. I have already packed in carry on wheeled bag so I know how this is.

This is my second post, I had no idea this was such a crazy topic! :)

Posted by
2778 posts

We use spinners with 4 wheels. We travel anywhere between 2-8 weeks and multiple cities, never had a problem. A backpack was never an option FOR US. In my opinion, we pack light. Not 18 lbs light, but light, again, FOR US. I find the best way to decide is good old fashion trial and error. Years ago I purchased a fancy, name brand, tote for the plane. It was awful. It was too heavy to start with, didn't hold as much as I thought, was difficult to zip close, etc. but it was fashionable. Haven't used it since. I now use a lightweight tote that slips onto the handle of the spinner. Trial and error.

Posted by
1179 posts

I prefer a real but small hiking backpack (probably an Osprey Daylite) that has a sturdy back and waist strap and water bottle pockets.

I took a very outdoorsy trip to the Middle East. My Osprey Daylite easily packed inside my MEI Voyageur. I also had some camping equipment etc. everything fit in the single bag.

As an alternative, you could also bring some packable daybags that store in the larger bag. I have the Patagonia Travel Tote. Other good bags are the Deuter Speedlite 20 and the Eddie Bauer Stowaway pack. All of these packs are comfortable on the trail. There’s lots of options in that category.

BTW I used the Sea to Summit Sling Bag as my seatside bag. I pulled it out of my main bag right before boarding. It stores fairly easily and a keychain bag is very versatile for shopping, beach, etc. People ignore it.

Posted by
101 posts

We prefer travel packs for a few reasons. First, the bag itself weighs less and has more capacity because there are no wheels or handle mechanism. Second, they allow us to move around with our hands free over any type of terrain. Cobblestones, stairs, grass, mud, whatever, we can move right along. We pack pretty light; for a typical trip each of our packed bags weighs just about 20 lbs. The key to a comfortable travel pack is a good hip belt. We have both older Eagle Creek Continental Journey bags and MEI Voyageurs which are very similar. They both have aluminum frames and substantial hip belts that make carrying them very comfortable, even longer distances and/or for longer periods of time. I certainly don't mean to imply that this is the best approach for everyone, but it works for us.

Posted by
75 posts

I travel a lot and have too much luggage. But my "too much luggage" means I have a bag for every conceivable situation. I'm a woman in my early seventies and travel solo.

My preferred combo for Europe trips of 5+ weeks is my TravelPro Maxlite 4 soft-side 22-inch roller and my Pacsafe 28L backpack not packed full (ultra secure, no worries about slashers or zippers-being-opened thievery). The backpack holds my computer, charger, toiletries, one quick-dry change of clothing, sleeping togs, and a pair of flip-slop sandals (used as room slippers). The roller holds everything else (one pair of shoes only) and I leave home with room to spare for souvenirs and gifts.

I generally walk from a few blocks up to a mile from train station or subway/metro when arriving or departing a town or city. I do prefer a spinner for domestic trips, but European cobbles are too much for spinner wheels. I roll slowly on my TravelPro's two sturdy wheels and never have issues.

For you, I recommend a lightweight "international size" roller (better quality than your existing IT brand) plus a small backpack (within the personal item limits for your airlines).

Posted by
16 posts

Thanks for the recent responses.
This wasn't really about my packing light, I think I had established I took a recent trip and packed quite light but in a rolling bag, not backpack.
I ended up buying a backpack. I'm going on a trip in a few days so I'll see what I think.
BTW, contrary to some snarky comments, I did, in fact, find the discussion useful (in most cases).

Jay

Posted by
610 posts

Frank II hit on the head. We travel depending on the trip with either back pack or rolling bag and a small personal item. Our thought is to travel with half the stuff and twice as much money.

Posted by
14 posts

I was lucky enough to travel when I was a kid and have done a few different styles. A few things I'd discovered.
1. Whatever you choose, pack it up full like you would on a trip. Then take about a mile walk around your neighborhood and see if it works for you. If it doesn't, then return it and try another option.
2. Backpacks - I've done a number of different ones. You really have to try them out and wear them for at least an hour straight while doing what i said in point 1. If you have an uncomfortable one, it's a disaster. It can be anything from the strap placement or the back will make your back a soaking mess on a hot day.
3. Spinner bags - My wife has one (actually on her second). She cranks out lots of miles every year in Europe and thus hers wore out the wheels in 3 years. The main issue ends up becoming the set that are on the side of the handle. This is because they get the most wear. The bag is handy and works great in airports. Trains, planes and bad streets it's OK and I would never get one bigger than the 21" or 22" size unless you are on business and going from airport to train then to motel and camped out for two weeks. As for the wheels when they wear out, the bag is then useless. If you are handy, Amazon sells a whole assortment of replacement wheels that are much better than the OEM ones. I salvaged one bag and now my kids use it.
4. Two Wheel bags - That's what I have and they are great but you just got to know how to maneuver them successfully and understand that you can easily cut off others in an airport. Plus, if you know how to use a wheel truck, you can push it down in front of you in an airplane and train. Stop and get it in an overhead bin right away.
5. Soft or hard - A personal preference. I did find out that when using soft wide, that there are two things with helps. 1. Spray the fabric down with a waterproof spray you use for shoes. It works and there will be a time you are in the rain and it at least keeps most of it from getting soaked. 2. Take a paper towel and soak it with Armor All. Wipe this all over the zippers when they are open. Then do it when closed. Operate the zippers a few times and they will operate better than new. The company used to advertise this back in the 70's but they stopped. I do it today on many zippers and it is a night and day difference. Even on new zippers.

For me, I have a two wheel hard case (Nanuck 935). It's bright orange and sticks out like a sore thumb. It's more than waterproof, it'll float in a swimming pool when full of clothes. It's not the best when it comes to space but i pack around it. i then have a 10 year old backpack that I use for hauling my laptop for work. When not working, no laptop and plenty of easy space. It's some old Swissgear unit. When I went to Amsterdam for 3 days a while back, all I needed was the backpack. Anything longer (if I'm going to do something that needs more stuff) then the luggage goes with me.

Posted by
121 posts

For the first 3 or 4 times that we traveled to Europe I used a roll-aboard bag; however, I switched to the Rick Steve Convertible Bag on my last two trips. My preference over the two...the Rick Steves' Convertible bag. Let me address one of the issues you brought up; 'the fear of being stuck at the airport for 8 hours' and having to lug the wheelless bag around. Not an issue because every airport I've been in has carts (usually free of charge in Europe). A lot of the cities and villages we travel in Europe have cobblestone streets, making it quite awkward and difficult to pull a roll-aboard bag. Over time, screws came loose and/or wheels broke off. I haven't had that problem nor concern with the convertible carry-on bag. Once you learn how to properly pack for a trip (watch RS's video on packing), the convertible bag is perfect. I'm not a young college student. I'll be 70 years old in May and am currently planning our next trip to Europe for next year. I find the convertible bag perfect for our travels and we usually stay overseas for up to 3 weeks to a month. My wife still uses a wheeled bag when we travel.

Posted by
1801 posts

john said "Take a paper towel and soak it with Armor All. Wipe this all over the zippers when they are open. Then do it when closed. Operate the zippers a few times and they will operate better than new. The company used to advertise this back in the 70's but they stopped. I do it today on many zippers and it is a night and day difference. Even on new zippers."

I beg to differ with you. Anything you put on zippers will attract dust. Amor All is a silicone therefore it will attract dust and gum up the zipper like any other cleaner. Just look at your car tires if you Amor All them; they are dusty. I hear that's not recommended anymore either. I work parttime in an English Riding shop, have worked there for 26 years one to two days a week. All the riding boots we sell now have zippers. The best local boot/shoe repair shop who specializes in replacing and adding zippers to boots told me to use a soft brush to brush the dirt out of zippers and never use cleaners on zippers.

Posted by
101 posts

" beg to differ with you. Anything you put on zippers will attract dust. Amor All is a silicone therefore it will attract dust and gum up the zipper like any other cleaner. Just look at your car tires if you Amor All them; they are dusty. I hear that's not recommended anymore either. I work parttime in an English Riding shop, have worked there for 27 years one to two days a week. All the riding boots we sell now have zippers. The best local boot/shoe repair shop who specializes in replacing and adding zippers to boots told me to use a soft brush to brush the dirt out of zippers and never use cleaners on zippers."

I agree with one possible exception. If for some reason a zipper needs to be lubricated I would recommend a dry teflon type lubricant. The one I use is McLube Sailkote. It's intended purpose is lubricating sailboat equipment that can't get gummed up. It sprays on as a liquid and dries in a few seconds with no sticky or oily residue. Personally, I would never use Armour All on anything. In my experience it just makes a mess.

Posted by
52 posts

I'm 62 and am planning my first big trip to England, Scotland and Wales next year. I'm planning on more trips with RS following. I am embracing the carry on packing light concept but have concerns about my ability to carry the back pack on my back. I'm thinking of the Convertible non rolling backpack as it does have a waist belt. Will that help? I haven't back packed for over 40 years and want to be able to keep up with everyone. Your thoughts would be helpful. I might add that I'm torn between the rolling bag and the convertible with the belt. Hmmmm. Help!

Posted by
31622 posts

sweetshell1956,

" I'm thinking of the Convertible non rolling backpack as it does have a waist belt. Will that help?"

IMHO, NO that will not help. A few thoughts.....

The waist belt on that model does not allow for torso range adjustment, which is an import consideration. Without that feature, you'll be carrying most of the load on your shoulders, which can become very tiring (although on the tours, you likely won't be carrying the pack for long periods).

If you want to use a Backpack instead of rolling luggage, I'd suggest having a look at travel models from Eagle Creek or Osprey Packs among others. Their designs provide an adjustment for individual torso ranges, and they have a few models specially designed for women. If you have an REI store in your area, have a chat with them as their staff will be experienced in measuring torso range.

Some of the EC or Osprey models also have a detachable daypack, fold-out rain hoods or other features.

Posted by
3763 posts

Sweetshell, don't think you have to use a backpack. You only need to be able to manage your luggage on your own.

You will find that most people traveling in Europe, including those on RS tours, use rolling bags of some kind. If you cannot comfortably carry a backpack weighing about 20 pounds fully packed, go for something with wheels or pack much lighter.

A couple of years ago I got the RS Appenzell backpack. I tried my best, but I couldn't get the weight down to <15 pounds, and even that was too heavy. I do use this pack for short domestic trips where the weight is <10 pounds.

Ten years ago I got an RS convertible carry-on backpack and used it on 2 European trips for a total of 3 months. By 2012, I was 66 and I was done with carrying that much weight on my back. My husband still uses his, loads it way too heavy, whines and looks for a luggage cart.

With a good, lightweight (<6 pounds) roller bag of carry-on size, that has a U-shaped handle, you can put a cross-body tote with a sleeve over the handle and roll them together at the same time.

No matter what bag you use, you need to stay within the carry-on size requirements which are the exterior dimensions including wheels and handles. Depending on the airline, the carry-on size could be smaller and have a maximim weight.

Next trip I'll be using this 2-wheel Eagle Creek Load Warrior 20 International Carry-on. At about 4.5 pounds, it's the lightest rolling bag I found that I could afford, on sale if course. Scroll down the page to see a comparison of it to the similar 22x14x9 one.

I'd resisted buying a bag with a T-shaped handle because of the inability to slip a sleeved tote over the handle and have it be stable. However, this bag has an "Equipment Keeper" that can secure a jacket to the top and I can wear my cross-body bag. At 2.2 oz, this year's cross-body tote is very light indeed.

I'm more concerned about weight this year because I'll be flying on 3 different intra-European airlines with different carry-on weight limits and I'm targeting the most restrictive of those.

Packing light usually concentrates on the number of garments. I also obsess over the weight of the garments. It sounds silly, but I weigh everything, pack the lightest things I have for my limited but coordinated travel wardrobe and weigh the packed bag when it's ready to go. Too heavy? I Ieave something at home.

Posted by
11990 posts

I have been on three RS tours. On all three there were only one or two people who DID NOT have wheels. Feel free to go with wheels if it will make your trip easier.

On this forum, you will find some very vocal/militant anti-wheel people. But even RS himself says whels are fine.

Posted by
141 posts

I find rolling bags more difficult to walk with. The angle of my pulling arm starts to hurt after a while. Then my hands go numb if it’s on a bumpy surface or concrete. I used a rolling bag for years, and finally broke down and bought a very nice osprey backpack that had a detachable daypack built in. I took that on 2 trips to Central America and it was super comfy but I hated how awkward it was to maneuver between people with it on my back in tight spaces, and how safari-ish I felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb. So my next purchase was a black shapeless $30 pack from Campmor that has backpack straps and a convertible shoulder strap. It would be terrible to actually hike with since there is no structure ( packing cubes help), but it’s great for running through the airport or to catch a train, and squishing into tight spots. I wear it as a messenger bag in crowded areas, and my husband prefers to just sling his over one shoulder. It’s light enough that I have no issues carrying it along with a small messenger bag as my day bag/purse.

Posted by
6008 posts

I personally don’t care if someone uses a roller bag vs. backpack, but I am very tired of being “hit” by people and their backpacks as they attempt to walk down train,plane, bus, or subway aisles while wearing their backpacks.

If you choose a backpack, take it off your back when boarding a confined space. I know it isn’t on purpose but a lack of awareness means people just smack those around them with even a small turn. I’m tired of being hurt by people wearing backpacks while boarding.

Posted by
52 posts

Thank you so much for the advice, I have an REI near me and I'll go to take a look at the packs. Your discussions are great!

Posted by
1124 posts

I’m on my second trial f backpack-style bag. REI offers an interesting 40 liter duffle for US$90. Absolutely no frills but it is spacious and well made; a good and practical duffle design with good materials and craft. It’s basically a rectangular cube with light shoulder straps. The harness does not include a sternum strap or waist/hip belt so it is not comfortable when fully loaded and carried long distances. I had no trouble humping it around airports and then marching to my hotels in Edinburgh, probably half mile slogs in the rain, but I was very glad to have it off my back.

REI’s expandable packing cubes fit into it perfectly.

If you are considering a backpack, there are dozens of practical units at REI. The prices for a good carryon range from $90 to $300. A bit more perhaps for the rolling stocks. Shopping for luggage is easy if you want to spend the big money for a luxury brand. It’s a really hard task if you want more practicality with less glitz.

Posted by
71 posts

Second the REI 40l duffel recommendation. One really nice feature is the compression straps. You can shrink this bag down to look very small. The shoulder straps are positioned so that the pack sits higher on your back, very comfortable. If packed lightly, I don't miss the lack of sternum strap or waist belt at all.
REI Big Haul 40l

Posted by
101 posts

sweetshell1956, My wife and I are about your age. We both use travel packs with no wheels. We have both older Eagle Creek models and MEI Voyageurs that are a very similar design. These packs have more substantial frames and hip belts than most travel packs and as a result are quite comfortable to wear, even for extended walking around. The Eagle Creeks we have are no longer made, but the MEI Voyageur is still available in quite a few different colors. If your load is less than 20 lbs or so I think you'd be happy with one of these. The empty pack weighs 3.5 lbs. We aren't "militant" about travel packs; if you prefer wheels by all means use what works best. https://meipacks.myshopify.com/products/mei-voyageur.

Posted by
52 posts

Thanks so much for all the great responses. I'm looking into the Osprey models of Travel Packs and I'm looking at the Fairview 40 as I think it may work best for me. I have a few rolling back packs and when I think that I may need to carry these packs up several flights of stairs, I'd rather have it on my back. On average, on an RS tour, how many miles a day would I have to actually carry my backpack?

Posted by
1277 posts

Sweet shell, I cant answer yr r s tour question, but I have a Fairview 40 and love it

Posted by
31622 posts

sweetshell,

"On average, on an RS tour, how many miles a day would I have to actually carry my backpack?"

It's difficult to answer that question as that will depend on which tour you take, the specifics of which hotels are booked for the tour and how close the coach can get to the hotel. I've found that in cases where there's a long walk to the hotel, the guide usually arranges a baggage service to take the heavier bags to the hotel using a small truck or whatever. In cases where you might have to walk to the hotel, the distances are generally shorter.

A 40L pack is on the "smaller" side, so you may want to use a small carry-on size bag as well, and to use as a daypack. If you want a small, light and easily carried daypack, you might have a look at the RS Civita bag. It's a light duty pack which can also serve as a pillow if you place a rolled-up coat inside.

Posted by
52 posts

Thank you Ken, great info and that was what I was planning....a daypack or I like the messenger type one but I don't see it holding a bulky sweater or anything... the other day packs seem better now that I think of it. Plenty of time.....Just putting ducks in a row.

Posted by
1179 posts

Packing light usually concentrates on the number of garments.

Actually, this is untrue. If you look at ultra light travel posts you’ll see that most people have problems with the “stuff”, not the clothing. If you only focus on taking less clothing you will never get to a truly light bag. Never.

I suggest the following:

  • Take lighter versions of your clothes. Go for lighter fabrics. Take an unlined jacket instead of a lined one. Take a puff jacket instead of fleece. Think about a couple of travel clothes items to replace heavy items (pants). Stay away from heavy sweaters. Watch out for knit fabrics as they can be quite heavy.
  • Substitute lighter electronics for heavy ones. Focus on USB devices as the chargers are smaller. Double up in sync cords. Substitute a tablet or smartphone for a laptop. I’ve done smartphone only travel for years.
  • Take less paper. Where possible, store reservations and e-tickets on your phone with a cloud backup. Use travel apps to manage your itinerary.
  • Take smaller toiletries. You don’t need 3oz of every product. Instead, take “just enough”’in a smaller container. Use solid products like solid shampoo, hand cream etc. That way you’re not carrying the water around. And for that matter, take a smaller and lighter toiletry kit! Mine is 2.8 oz.
  • Get rid of packaging. You won’t believe the amout of weight each “kit” adds to your bag. Consolidate itty bitty items into a single snack size zip lock. Take things out of plastic and metal containers and put them in a zip lock. Zip locks are less bulky and lighter than soap containers, jewelry containers, razor containers, manicure containers etc.
Posted by
1179 posts

I personally don’t care if someone uses a roller bag vs. backpack, but I am very tired of being “hit” by people and their backpacks as they attempt to walk down train,plane, bus, or subway aisles while wearing their backpacks.

And I am tired of being tripped and having my feet run over by people with roller bags. People swing their bags into the walkways without bothering to see if there is traffic.

If you choose a roller bag, keep it next to you when boarding a confined space. I know it isn’t on purpose but a lack of awareness means people just smack those around them with even a small turn. I’m tired of being hurt by people using roller bags while boarding.

Posted by
3763 posts

Cindy H, you're absolutely right about the "stuff."

These are my favorites from your list with a little editing. All help me to pack lighter:

●Take lighter versions of your clothes. Go for lighter fabrics. Make sure things are lighter by weighing them.

●Watch out for knit fabrics as they can be quite heavy. "Travel" knits are much heavier than expected.

●Substitute lighter electronics for heavy ones. Limit to a tablet and smartphone at the most.

●Take less paper. Where possible, store reservations and e-tickets on your phone.

●Take smaller toiletries. You don’t need 3oz of every product. Instead, take “just enough”’in a smaller container.

●Get rid of packaging. Take things out of plastic and metal containers and put them in a zip lock.

As for backpacks and roller bags, either can be an unintended weapon in congested situations. I've been hit by backpacks and I've been tripped by roller bags. We all need to be mindful of our luggage, whatever it is.

Posted by
5818 posts

And what hurts more than a backpack bump or roller trip is getting hit in the head by a hard wheelie carry-on bag dropped from an aircraft overhead compartment. Take care when opening the overhead compartment door.

Posted by
1179 posts

Get rid of packaging.

And don’t forget that packaging comes in many forms.

  • luggage
  • toiletry kit
  • packing cubes
  • purses
  • day packs

Going for a lighter version of the same object saves ounces and then pounds. You can eliminate at least 1-2 pounds simply by going with a lighter package.

It’s the just-in-case “stuff” that will sink you.

Posted by
5697 posts

My only concern with the excellent advice given above is storing tickets on your phone to avoid carrying paper -- since I realized at the train station that my phone was missing but the paper copies worked fine. After emailing with my husband's phone I was able to locate mine -- at the prior apartment; so I will get it back, but not before the end of the trip. If you store tickets on a phone AND on a travel companion's phone you should be safe.

Posted by
1179 posts

@Laura B
That’s why you also store it in the cloud. You can also back things up using a flash drive. While many do photo only, some do documents.

You could lose those things but you could also lose the paper.

Posted by
101 posts

I personally don’t care if someone uses a roller bag vs. backpack, but I am very tired of being “hit” by people and their backpacks as they attempt to walk down train,plane, bus, or subway aisles while wearing their backpacks.

My experience is exactly the opposite. When wearing a travel pack it's easy to walk through an aisle on a train or plane without bumping anyone. The travel pack is on my back, behind me. I find it far more difficult to carry or wheel a "wheelie" bag in a narrow aisle without getting it hung up on something or bumping into someone. At any rate, a little bump from someone's bag isn't anything that would bother me very much. We're all just trying to get to our seat and stow our gear. Relax! You're on vacation. ;)

Posted by
156 posts

Good call on the cloud storage. If you're an Office 365 subscriber, you can store up to one TB of data, including photos and documents. And Google Drive has a huge amount of storage space at no cost.

We generally keep a paper copy of our passports just in case, but have found that it's just as easy to download from the cloud if needed (and assuming you didn't lose your phone;).

Posted by
18527 posts

The prices for a good carryon range from $90 to $300.

Probably the best carryon I ever had was my Outdoor Products (now Campmor) Essential Carryon for $30. It's light weight (1.8#) and well enough made for a carryon. I used it for 5 or 6 two-week trips (until it became to big for my reduced packing needs) and it held up very well. I only stopped using it because as my total packing volume got down to 1400 ci, the half full beg sagged badly. I opted for a somewhat heavier eTech bag with cinch straps.

The REI 4.0l duffle appeals to me because it is lighter than my current bag and has cinch straps. With my packing volume, I could cinch it down to about 5 inches thick. However, REI's claim that at 10.3 inches thick it would meet carryon requirements because it's total L+W+H dimension is less than 45 inches is bogus. The airlines don't sit there and measure L, W, and H and add them together. They use a sizing frame and 10.3 inchs thick will not fit into a 9 inch wide frame. As long as you don't pack it to 10 inches it will fit. Actually, since it is less than 14 inches wide, you could probably pack it to 9½ inches and squish it to fit.

Posted by
5818 posts

They use a sizing frame and 10.3 inchs thick will not fit into a 9 inch wide frame. As long as you don't pack it to 10 inches it will fit. Actually, since it is less than 14 inches wide, you could probably pack it to 9½ inches and squish it to fit.

The advantage of soft sided bags with no rigid frame and axle is that the bag can conform to a smaller space if you don't overpack the bag. The soft sided bags are also easier to stuff in to the overhead compartments that are a bit tapered front to back if they are not over packed.

Posted by
60 posts

I did a backpack in the autumn of 2017 in Europe. Fantastic bag and it packed wonderfully, especially with the packing cubes. My only complaint with it was when we had extended periods of the luggage being on our backs - - since I have suffered with back and neck problems off and on following a car accident, that was harder for me. But the bag itself was and is wonderful.

I'm leaving for Europe next month and this time I'm taking a hard sided rolling case with 4 wheels. I figure the majority of the time when I'm moving it from point A to point B will be in airports, train stations and/or likely non-cobblestones so it will probably be easier (at least on my back and neck.) As we are visiting more places this time around, it seemed a smarter choice. Of course, I'll let you know when we get back!