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Spinners -- The Four-Wheel Fantasy

I've notice recently that the only roller boards available at discount outlets are four-wheeled spinners. Now the last thing I need in a roller board is the capacity to spin. What I do need is a rugged suitcase that can be trundled day after day over miles of cobblestone streets. And my experience with four-wheeled bags is that they are too delicate for this kind of use. I suppose they're good for fashionable young ladies whose treks take place solely in airport terminals, but they are going to fall apart on a European street.

Just curious whether anyone else is noticing this phenomenon? I noticed that Rick Steve's bags all have a two-wheeled design, but I'm a bit concerned that the two-wheeled bag may soon disappear; another victim of a fashion trend.

Posted by
544 posts

Check out the Eagle Creek sale. 2-wheeled or 4-wheeled they have a great repair service if something happens to your bag. You send in the bag and they fix it and return it. I think I paid to mail it in, but they paid the return shipping and wouldn't charge me anything even though I fully admitted that I dropped the bag and that's how it was damaged.

My concern about 4-wheel bags is that they might roll around on their own if the ground is not level. On the other hand, they could be really nice to slide sideways down the aisile on a train or airplane.

Posted by
192 posts

I purchased a Travelpro carry on this year that I will be trying out in Europe in 2016. It has 2 nice sized wheels. So far, on my trips, I have really liked it. By the way, turning it sideways to go down the airplane aisle will work (even with 2 wheels) until you come accross people with their feet in the aisle! In 2014, I used my spinner in Europe, and it was a nightmare when it wasn't on a smooth surface.

Posted by
2047 posts

I purchased a spinner. Used it once. Sold it at a yard sale. Hated the thing.

Posted by
4599 posts

I wouldn't worry about the 2-wheelers disappearing compared to the 4-wheeled bags. Four wheels appears to be a temporary trend. Their wheels are less rugged, and the clearance to go over bumpy terrain makes them less adequate for "Backdoor Travel".

Posted by
3714 posts

As always, I'm 3 sigmas off the mean on this.

I love my 22" Lipault spinner. I like the way it stands on its own 4 feet and can be wheeled on them when the terrain is even. I like the way I can tilt it on 2 wheels just like a 2-wheeled bag to go over cobbles or uneven terrain.

I like the simple handles on the top and side that make it easier to put it in an overhead bin or lift and carry it when needed. I like the way I can slip a tote with the right kind of openable zipper pocket over the extended handle and not have the bag be top heavy and fall over. I like the way I can turn it and push it in front of me in tight situations.

I put a dog slip lead through both the bag and the tote and around my wrist if I'm concerned about it deciding to go on an adventure without me.

I think for many people, spinners are practical and not a fashion statement. There must be a reason why so many people use them. Somewhere in the back of my mind I seem to remember similar resistance to 2-wheeled bags a few years ago...

Posted by
127 posts

I guess I'll be the contrarian here and say that I hate wheeled suitcases of the two and four-wheeled varieties. The structure required for the handle and wheels takes up too much cargo space. And don't get me started on watching people try to cram those things into overhead bins on a plane.

Posted by
1068 posts

No one will mind you being a "contrarian" as there is no right way to travel or one piece of luggage suited to everyone. In a slightly different slant than cramming luggage into overheads, it irks me no end when people with luggage on their backs hog aisles, block doorways and turn sideways slamming into you. I guess they forget their extra width with a suitcase strapped to them. In fact, I traveled with a backpack for years before I tried 2 wheeled luggage and can't imagine going back to the old suitcase. As of yet, I have not been tempted by 4 wheels as they do seem flimsier than 2 wheeled models. I have no trouble pulling my suitcase along cobblestones or up fairly rough or muddy streets although I fear I might with the smaller wheels I have seen on 4 wheeled models. Mine also comes with a handle and shoulder strap, so true mud or stairs are no big deal. At the moment, I am more than content with my 2 wheeled model and doubt they will disappear in the near future.

Posted by
9363 posts

I wouldn't worry about 2-wheeled bags disappearing. I have one RS bag and one from eBags, both of which are very sturdy and spacious. Perhaps there are so many 4-wheeled bags at discounters because they aren't as popular as they were.

Posted by
13701 posts

Our 10 year-old Travel Pro 24 " two-wheelers have been through half a dozen trips abroad and twice as many domestic trips and are still going strong. Love 'em!

Posted by
11447 posts

Since I write about bags and follow the luggage industry, let me pipe in.

I hate to tell you this, but the vast majority of travelers are not buying Rick Steves book and traveling around Europe. (Most travelers think everyone else travels the way they do.) The majority of travelers are:

--business folks going from airport to hotel and back
--people headed for cruises, tours and resorts and go from airport to destination via taxi or shuttle bus
--people visiting family (in which case the bag won't be hauled all over a city or town.)

And for all of these, spinners will work fine. (None really have to worry about cobblestone streets.)

Spinners are not a fad. They are currently the most popular type of bags being sold. People like the ease of use. And the market is growing bigger and bigger. (The ones you see at the discount stores are either discontinued lines or very inexpensive bags that sell best there. The majority or people buying bags there are usually not big time travelers but those who travel once a year in the latter two categories I mentioned above. )

But there is still a market for two wheeled bags. They are not going away in the near future. There just aren't as many models available. (One trend I do see is the move to lighter weight wheeled bags.)

Lastly, non wheeled bags, including the convertible type. are the least popular option. Less than 10% of travelers use a non-wheeled bag.

Posted by
107 posts

Thanks to everyone for the lively discussion.

Since this is a Rick Steves' forum, the topic of four-wheeled spinners isn't geared towards the majority of travelers, that is, the folks who travel from airport to airport and rarely need to move their luggage in an urban landscape. Regardless, thanks to the last commenter for the well-informed views.

Posted by
2349 posts

I agree that there are a lot of awful spinners out there that wouldn't hold up if you looked at them funny. But last year I bought a Travelpro one for a relative. It seemed very sturdy, and you could easily pull it on two wheels if needed. Since this relative is unlikely to be abusing it much, I bought it. I'll look at that same line when I need a new one, although I'm not yet sure I want 4 wheels.

Posted by
3174 posts

We purchased 2 spinners to use for our domestic travels and Europe about 6 years ago. We purchased them primarily for train/plane travel so we could move them more easily down the aisles. An added bonus was that you didn't have any weight on your back or pulling at yout back like we experienced with our backpacks and 2 wheelers (husband crushed a vertebrae in his back 2 years ago).

One 21" spinner is a Travelpro and the other is a Samsonite. We don't always each take a spinner but so far they've held up very well over all kinds of terrain. When we get to a place that's too bumpy to have it glide along slightly beside us, we shift it to the 2 wheel, pull behind mode. So far they are versatile and sturdy enough for us.

Posted by
6950 posts

I have one big trip under my belt with a 21" TravelPro with spinners. It handled the cobblestone streets in Copenhagen, Oslo and Bergen, Norway just great. Liked it so well that I got my wife a set of TravelPro's for Christmas. And they're much better at hauling thru the tight aisles on planes. Amazon prices are just great on TravelPro

Posted by
2047 posts

"Since I write about bags and follow the luggage industry, let me pipe in.

I hate to tell you this, but the vast majority of travelers are not buying Rick Steves book and traveling around Europe. (Most travelers think everyone else travels the way they do.) The majority of travelers are:

--business folks going from airport to hotel and back
--people headed for cruises, tours and resorts and go from airport to destination via taxi or shuttle bus
--people visiting family (in which case the bag won't be hauled all over a city or town.)

And for all of these, spinners will work fine. (None really have to worry about cobblestone streets.)"

Fraink,

I bought mine as the "business folks going from airport to hotel and back" and it did not "work fine". It was a giant PIA. If you put your computer bag on top of it, it becomes unsteady and hard to steer. Thing was horrid! Never again!

And I am not alone. Several of my coworkers also ran away from these things. We had decent brands but all felt the ablity to roll sideways down an aisle was far less useful then adverstised LOL! And if you take public transport to the airport you have to basically sit on the things because they just roll around the subway car... SIGH!

Posted by
11447 posts

Well, Carol, the the luggage industry sees differently.

The vast majority of new bags are spinners. The market for them is growing. Look at any of the major luggage manufacturers and you will see more spinners than rollaboards.

You will always find exceptions to the rule, but I only report what is going on industry wise and not personal preference.

As for me, I don't own any spinners. I don't want the extra weight or loss of space.

Posted by
1337 posts

I don't know what kind of 4 wheeled bag you purchased that "was too delicate" or would "fall apart in Europe", this is where you need to do some serious research and read reviews on Amazon and Ebags, read the good and the bad before you make a purchase! Many of the reviews will state exactly where the bag was taken and how it held up.

I don't think the "spinner" part is about actually spinning your bag (who would do that?) but about having the capacity to roll the bag along side you or in front of you (VERY handy up and down airplane isles). We purchased two 4 wheeled 20 inch hardshelled bags (Samsonite Fiero) for our Italy/France trip and loved them! Very study. There was a few instances where my husband had to carry both by the extended handle (backpacks strung over the extended handle) up and down staircases in train stations and they held up great. No problem over cobblestone streets, train stations, thicker carpet, dirt, street surface... really any surface they just rolled right along. And because they were a hard case we did not worry if it rained. They also extended an inch and we really stuffed them on our way home and the zipper held up great.

Posted by
107 posts

I started this topic to test the waters, just to see what others were experiencing. Last spring we had a four-wheeled spinner bag disintegrate after about a week of use. The wheels were just too small and they didn't pivot correctly so whenever the bag was pulled the wheels were crooked and caused a lot of friction, which made the bag difficult to use. Eventually, the wheels just fell apart.

Fortunately, we were able to buy a replacement bag (two-wheeler) at a reasonable price, and that one has worked just fine. Although others report that they've had no problems with four-wheelers, it's highly unlikely that we will ever buy another.

It's interesting that there is such a wide range of opinion (and experience) on this topic. Best wishes to all.

Posted by
3714 posts

It would be helpful to know, based on personal experiences, what spinner brands have not been sturdy enough for European travel and exactly how they failed.

Posted by
11447 posts

To add to Lo's question....if would be good to know which brands did work.

Posted by
18380 posts

"Less than 10% of travelers use a non-wheeled bag."

Which tells me that 90% of travelers over-pack to the point that they can't carry their bags. Schade!

Just because they do, doesn't mean that I have to.

In 2001, I went to Europe with a carryon bag that weighed just under the Lufthansa limit of 17.6#. While there I picked up 9# of travel literature including two glossy magazine style resort town brochures and a hard cover book. At 26#, I did find my carryon rather heavy on my back. Instead of going to a roller, I learned to pack lighter and to avoid the temptation to acquire too much stuff while there.

Posted by
31522 posts

The increased proliferation of four-wheel spinners may have nothing to do with the fact that they're better than the two-wheel variety. Manufacturers and retailers make and sell things that are in demand by consumers, whether they're "better" or not. Those who buy the cheaper versions may find that they break more quickly, as the wheels and construction won't be as robust as on the more expensive versions. While "wheelie bags" may be the preferred luggage with most travellers, I too feel that these probably encourage people to pack heavier since they don't have to carry it.

I'm one of the ""10%" and prefer a Backpack, although I haven't yet mastered the art of packing as light as Lee. I also share the views that Sean articulated earlier, but I don't get me started on that or I'll embark on a rant.

Posted by
107 posts

There's another topic somewhere in this forum about traveling light and traveling thin. So, if you're looking for some advice on how to get by with a backpack or small, wheeless bag, you can look there.

What I recall from that conversation is:

  • Avoid cotton and most wools, use synthetics and silks instead.
  • Use superwool socks which have a lot of merino. Very expensive, but lightweight and easy to wash.
  • Plan on doing your laundry frequently, either once a day at your hotel room or once every five days at a laundromat
  • Wear layers of clothing, not bulky items
  • Get by with one pair of shoes
  • Pack clothes that look good together and give you multiple options
  • Avoid heavy or bulky electronics. For example, lots of hotels have hair dryers, and you can live for a few weeks without your electric toothbrush.
  • Travel like a Boy Scout, not an heiress.
Posted by
2349 posts

Manufacturers and retailers make and sell things that are in demand by consumers, whether they're "better" or not.

Wait-are we talking about spinners or RFID blocking wallets? ;)

Posted by
18380 posts

"it irks me no end when people with luggage on their backs hog aisles, block doorways and turn sideways slamming into you."

Sound more like an excuse to me than a reason.

People with rolling bags beside them hog aisles and block doorways more than those with backpacks. A backpack only extends about 8" beyond a persons back. If someone turns sideways and slams into you, you were probably invading their personal space to start with. That has never happened to me. I can see their backpack because it's just below eye level, but the roller, dragged just above the ground level, is easy to trip on.

I can't count how many times have I had to go into incoming traffic on a crowded airport concourse to get around several people walking slowly with their rollers out to their sides?

Rollers, frames, and handles occupy space. Just think of how much more space there would be in the overhead bins if they weren't occupied by all of this superfluous stuff.

Posted by
541 posts

Ok. I'll bite! I have a spinner I absolutely love. It's a Bric's Life 21" spinner. I'm fortune my company has progressed to the point I don't have to carry a computer bag any more. If I did, there's no way a spinner would work. Bad points: expensive. Good points: light weight (for me anyway), looks great, extremely durable (survived being checked at CDG, JFK, FCO multiple times), wheels like a champ across most city surfaces. If not, I grab the top strap and pick it up. Great bag. Had it for a few years and love it.

Posted by
107 posts

For Lee from Lakewood,

Not sure where the quote came from. I scanned all the comments in this topic and couldn't locate your reference.

Regardless, no one needs to tolerate boorish behavior, e.g. blocking aisles, no matter what type of luggage is involved.

Best Wishes.

Posted by
11613 posts

I have been slammed into by a backpack carrier, when the person suddenly decided to take two steps backward (I try to leave turning room for the person ahead of me). I have also almost tripped over someone's wheeled luggage (fully extended and dragged beside them). People just forget what obstacles they may present to others, especially when everyone is walking at a different pace, with more on their minds - like veering toward the suddenly-spotted ATM at the airport or trying to get to the bus or taxi queue.

I have noticed that people who have trouble with their rolling luggage have luggage with small wheels, not enough base height, but mainly they have packed incorrectly and the bag is not stable.

Posted by
1068 posts

"Which tells me that 90% of travelers over-pack to the point that they can't carry their bags."

Sounds like spurious reasoning to me. I: a) can carry my luggage if I wish (used to all the time before I tried wheeled luggage) and b) have done the math.

Posted by
18380 posts

bodo, the quote was posted by Ray on 11/28/15.

Posted by
107 posts

Lee of Lakewood,

OK, thanks for pointing that out.

==bodo==

Posted by
3714 posts

What Zoe just said.

My favorites are the folks with backpacks or shoulder bags who stand beside me in crowded situations, then turn and whack me, or wear their bags/packs inside the plane and then struggle getting them off and into the overhead bins. Fellow passengers beware!

Similarly there are the people with roller bags who have the handle fully extended so that the (usually black) bag is almost laying flat on the floor and sticking out a good 3 feet behind them. I can't control their behavior, but I can at least be aware and try to avoid them. Defensive transportation hub walking and airplane loading?

But full disclosure here. Although I prefer spinners and have defended them many times, I decided yesterday to try an Eagle Creek Load Warrior 20" Wheeled Duffel with 2 wheels. It was on sale (as the first responder to bodo's post said) and the Eagle Creek website had the lowest price I could find online. Of course I got a Cactus Green one. I love the color, and I hope it will be bright enough for other people to see it.

I checked Frank's website for a review, but I think it's too old for that. It is about a pound lighter than the spinner I have and has a smaller capacity, both of which were features I wanted. The link above includes packing advice and a video about the bags in this line.

I will be flying British Airways, RT Seattle-London. Their baggage allowance is 22x18x10. Even extended (20x14x10) falls well within those limits. My intention is to not extend it. The 20" height includes the wheels.

I will test pack it when it gets here and give it a trial run on a driving trip in January. I've found it comforting that so many people have more than one bag they use depending on the trip application. I also find it comforting that any bag mistakes I make are easily passed on to the kids and grand-kids!

Posted by
11447 posts

Lo, I've never reviwed that particular Eagle Creek bag but I have reviewed three other EC rolling bags. All were very good. (I am trying to find new homes for two of them since I don't use them.)

I just got a Lipault Folding two wheeled bag that is 55 x 36 x 20 (21.7" x 14.2" x 7.8") and weighs less than 5 lbs. I should have a review in a couple of weeks.

I am trying to find a lightweight (under 6 lb), carry-on size spinner to review because many of my readers are not RS type travelers. They are business people who would benefit from a spinner or those who want the convenience but still want to pack light.

Posted by
28127 posts

Just what you want - a suitcase that can be hacked.

Next it will have little motors and you can control it like a drone. And when it detects cobblestones it levitates 6 inches to clear.... sign me up.

Posted by
31522 posts

Frank II,

LOL! With the Scooter Case in the second weblink, that would never work in this part of the world. The motor vehicle department wouldn't approve it until it was equipped with head/tail lights, signals and a horn. That's the rationale they've used in not allowing Segways in B.C.

Posted by
18380 posts

Note, the Scootercase, at 23"x14"x10", exceeds the carryon limits for almost, if not all, airlines, so it would have to be checked. So how are you going to use it inside airports?

And, 1' cu is only 1728 cu in of packing volume, not much bigger than an Appenzell bag. Most people can't pack that small. And if they can, it won't weigh very much. Might as well use a small convertible bag.

And the Chinese scootercase is electric. Lithium ion? Ops, can't be checked.

Posted by
67 posts

Just an aside - Lee said "... not much bigger than an Appenzell bag"

I still like using my Appenzell bag as my main carryon from time to time. It's packing challenge but definitely doable. haven't smacked any fellow travelers with it yet either. :-)

Posted by
18380 posts

Hoverboards put on no-fly list.

"Announcing its ban, Delta says that part of the airlines' problem with the self-balancing devices is that they're not labeled consistently – particularly when it comes to the power capacity of their lithium-ion batteries.

"The airline notes that federal regulations place a 160 watt-hour limit on such batteries"

Posted by
31522 posts

I figured the ban on Hoverboards would be appearing soon, given the current problems they've been having with "exploding batteries". When these problems first started to occur, my first thought was "poor engineering and design", as there's no way this should be occurring in these numbers with a properly designed product.

Posted by
18380 posts

"there's no way this should be occurring in these numbers with a properly designed product."

Tell that to the designers of the 787. These batteries are just a hazard. I have an extended life Li-ion battery for my netbook. It's 80 kwh. Half of the allowance for each of two batteries. I don't think it would take one of those motorized suitcases very far.

Posted by
31522 posts

Lee,

The problem with Lithium batteries is that they're not manufactured by Boeing or by the Hoverboard manufacturers. Many of the batteries these days are produced in the far east, in factories that are more interested in maximizing profit than they are in making a safe product. As long as the failure rate remains low (and there are no lawsuits), they don't care about a few defects or fires as the shortcuts and savings they've made in the manufacturing process puts money in their pocket.

This is possibly the same mentality as manufacturers who hire brilliant engineers to "reverse engineer" their products to ensure failure of a certain percentage of them. This keeps the customers buying more, and sends more trash to the E-waste pile. As I recall, 60 Minutes did a story on that a few years ago.

Battery fires has also been a problem with Smartphones, as reports of exploding phones show up from time-to-time. I suspect the problem in the Hoverboards is an internal "short" in the batteries, as an external fault is easily covered by a circuit breaker. Once an internal short occurs, a "cascading" effect occurs which produces high temperatures that destroy the entire battery.

Posted by
1 posts

I pull my "spinner" most of the time, but it is really much easier to navigate inside a bookstore, for example, at the airport than a classic roller bag.

Stu

Posted by
1831 posts

Packed way too much for a 2010 trip to Sicily/Florence/Rome. So, for last year's trip, flying to Paris, then train to Lucerne/Milan/Florence/Salerno, then return flight Naples/Munich/Chicago, my wife and I both got the Samsonite 21' Silhouette Spinner as our only bag:

http://www.luggagefactory.com/samsonite-luggage/samsonite-silhouette-sphere-2-spinner-21-63095?color=673

Worked great. Only once, at Gare du Lyon station in Paris, did the thing run away from me--should have just laid it down. But, it holds a ton of stuff, including a 'Don't Tell Rick' auxiliary bag, that I filled up and carried on for the return flights. For the few times walking on cobblestone, you tilt it and use two wheels. But for long walks in smooth-surfaced stations, down aisles of trains or planes, this was it.

Would highly recommend it.

Posted by
107 posts

To Lee from Lakewood,

Thanks for the note about the discounted carry on bag/backpack. I checked it out and also looked at all the comments. Most people were pleased with the product. And, at that price, you can't go wrong. I'd recommend trying the bag on a short trip first, just to make sure you don't want to be burdened with the wrong bag on a three-week tour of the continent.

For me, it's not a solution due to a slipped disk. I know that after a few hours of wearing a backpack my shoulder muscles would be in spasms and my back would be hurting too.

Best wishes, and thanks for commenting.