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We're going to Italy for the first time next fall for 20 days and planning an itinerary that includes Rome, Florence, Tuscany and, time permitting, the Dolomites. We anticipate using trains and buses and a few days with a rental car. We've used High Sierra duffles for 20+ years for everything from urban vacations to skiing and they've been great but now we need something with wheels. There are obviously an abundance of choices and so far we've looked at High Sierra, RS, and REI as well as traditional brands such as TravelPro, Samsonite, etc. The big question we get is whether we want wheels or spinners. The spinner bags look great going through an airport on marble floors but how are they on sidewalks, streets, hotels, B&B's, etc? Is there a real advantage one way or another or is it truly personal preference?

Thanks in advance for your time and input.

Posted by
5792 posts

My LL Bean "Adventure Rolling Duffle" size large meets checked bag dimensions and can carry 50 pounds of gear over cobbles. Wheels are robust and top and end straps facilitate stairs and boarding trains. The 30" length is adequate for linear gear like trekking poles or collapsible 2 piece ski poles and back packs.

Added note. Bean Duffles available in larger and smaller sizes but the extra large exceeds airline linear dimension limit. The medium size is too small to fit trekking poles or full size backpacks. Large size noted I'd my Goldilocks size.

Posted by
11458 posts

If you're just going from airport to taxi to hotel and back, then either one will be fine.

If you plan to take it onto sidewalks and streets, then I'd suggest two wheels. Two wheeled bags have wheels that are usually larger and stronger and can take the extra punishment.

Are you looking for carry-on size or do you want larger, checked bags?

Do you want a backpack option or is that not necessary?

Posted by
333 posts

I've used both and definitely prefer wheels over spinners- as it gives you more control and speed- especially if you need to "fly" through the airport to get to a connection. (pardon the pun) My spinner wheel suitcase often had a mind of its own and while it worked well on smooth airport floors, any attempt to tilt the suitcase to hustle towards a destination quickly became awkward and irritating. Then it got manhandled somewhere between the states and europe, damaging a wheel and the whole case became a thorn in my side for the rest of the trip. That's my two cents. For my upcoming Europe trip I bought the High sierra rolling backpack carry-on with detachable day pack. On my practice runs with it, I've been very happy. I can tell you more once I return in June!

Happy trip planning!

Posted by
5792 posts

Single axle roller wheels vs multi axle spinners. As Frank II suggest, the surface and terrain will drive selection. Anything works on cultured marble floor.

The Old Port Course Luggage Test was designed 10 years ago. It's a
one-mile course and it goes all the way through the Old Port in
downtown Portland, Maine. Each part of the course is specific to a
certain area in the luggage – cobblestones test the wheels, granite
curbs to test the frames, stairways to test the handles – everything
is basically pass or fail. If it falls apart, breaks, rips, tears or
just basically breaks down, it's time to redesign it and make it so
that our customer will be 100 percent satisfied when they use this
product in the real world.

Posted by
3185 posts

We have and use all 3 types (jandd backpacks, 2 wheel and spinner) of luggage. I still prefer to use my backpack but my husband had a back injury last year and now almost exclusively uses one of our spinners. What we really like about them vs the 2 wheeled style luggage is how easy they are to maneuver in aisles on planes and trains. We tend to push ours along side of us or directly in front of us if we are in a crowed aisle or situation. It actually offers some support when maneuvered in this way rather than draging lopsided weight behind you with one arm.

Posted by
776 posts

I have both. The wheeled appears to have more space; it is a RS 20" expandable. I love it. My spinner has less space, as it is a rectangle sitting above 4 wheels. The wheeled has packing space in front of & between the wheels. My spinner is a 20" Samsonite, very light.

For Europe, I use the wheeled. I need the extra space, though I do carry on only to Europe. I check my expanded bag on the way home. If I am travelling for less than a week and have a washing machine access, I use the spinner.

Have a great trip.

Posted by
192 posts

I have used a spinner for a few years, but I just replaced it with a 2 wheel carry on. As others have stated, it works great on smooth surfaces, but I had it in Europe this past summer, and it was not working well on the sidewalks, cobble stones, etc. My husband finally took pity on me, and switched with me. The Travelpro that I just purchased has much larger wheels. I will be taking it on a trip next month, so I will see how well it works for me.

Posted by
2765 posts

My wife was very excited and bought a spinner to take to Europe. From what I could tell, she had a helluva time getting it to go where she wanted, when she wanted. And every time she got on an escalator I thought she was going to die. She complained about hills (up and down) and cobblestones, and didn't do well with curbs either. It seems like the only place you get some benefit from spinners is in the airport itself. I prefer a 2 wheeler because you pull it, plain and simple. And in almost every situation, that's all you're going to be doing anyway.

Check out Consumer Reports for this sort of thing, and suitcases are ALWAYS on sale at department stores on holiday weekends.

Posted by
3714 posts

I'm in the spinner minority, I guess. I find it much easier than a 2-wheel bag in every situation that others criticize spinners for, and I definitely don't baby it. I'm hard on bags, and don't like a bunch of zippers and side pockets.

Perhaps it works well because it is a French made bag. It is 22", but that includes the wheels and handles, so the capacity is more like a 20" one. One of my favorite things is that, no matter where I put it, it actually stands on it's own 4 feet and doesn't tip over like the 2-wheeled bags I have tried.

It wasn't cheap, but I've used it for many trips, both foreign and domestic, for 3+ years and it's still working well for me. It is a Lipault Paris Plume 22" 4-Wheeled Carry-On exactly like this one --

I'm able to take everything I need for our month-long trips, but we do pack for only a week and do laundry along the way. The bag itself weighs 6 - 6.5 pounds depending on who's listing it. This is what the Zappo's link above says -- Measurements: Width: 14 1⁄5 in. Depth: 7 9⁄10 in. Height: 21 3⁄5 in. Weight: 6 lbs.

I would like something that weighs less, but when I search for lighter weight wheeled bags, they are usually heavier, not lighter, even if they only have 2 wheels.

Posted by
11613 posts

I use a 2-wheel RS bag and it's fine on all terrain I've encountered. I have seen many people have trouble with spinners, even some top name brands, especially on cobblestones and curbs.

Posted by
1831 posts

Well, we'll see. For our upcoming trip in a few weeks to Paris, Lucerne, Florence & Salerno, we decided on these 21" spinner bags:

We went this route after dealing with packed two-wheelers on our previous trip to Italy & Sicily 5 years ago, which was a real P.I.T.A. on the trains, especially. Following the RS credo of 'packing light, packing right' (hopefully), these bags in theory shouldn't be full to the gills. And we assessed when we would be using them--Chicago, CDG & Naples airports (and checking them through), but more importantly numerous train stations from Gare de Lyon-Paris all the way down to Salerno, Italy, and all the train aisles involved, and from that we decided to go with the spinners. The only times we will have to walk these bags in town will be a block from station to hotel in Lucerne, a block from station to apartment in Florence. And look, worse comes to worse in those situations, we use the two-wheel method.

These bags appear to be wide enough to support smaller bags affixed/bungeed to the top, resting against the elongated handle, and we each will have one of those, meaning that if they're not too front-loaded & tippy, they could also provide some support while walking. Got 'em for under $150 apiece online, and they appear to be well-made. You know the old Samsonite TV commercial with the suitcases and the monkeys throwing them around... :)

The proof as they say, will be in the pudding. We'll either be extolling their virtues, or inventing new curse words. Ha!

Posted by
3714 posts


I'm a spinner devotee and have never understood what all the cobblestone fuss was about -- until you mentioned using it like a 2-wheeler over rougher patches.

I've done that from the first day I used a spinner, depending on whether using 2 or 4 wheels is more appropriate or convenient at the time.

It never occurred to me that people would try to roll a spinner on all 4 wheels over cobbles. Or that, 2 wheels or 4, they wouldn't lower the extension handle and use one on the top or side if needed.

I'm looking forward to hearing how the spinners work for you compared to your experience with 2-wheeled luggage.

Posted by
5792 posts

... using it like a 2-wheeler over rougher patches.

I don't use "spinners" but did look at them when my wife was luggage shopping. (She ended up with a RS two wheeler rolling carry-on.)

The problem I saw with the "spinners" is the ruggedness (or lack) of the spinner wheels. The spinner wheels I saw had two axis of rotation and the wheel diameters were small and just did not look very rugged. Test will be dragging them over curbs, down steps and across cobbles.

Even with small wheels, the spinners I saw used up more of the height dimension of the 20" max length. The two wheelers set the axles higher and don't waste length.

All that said, if you pack light and treat it gentle you can get away with less robust wheels.

Posted by
648 posts

We have an Eagle Creek 20 inch Load Warrior that we like a lot. It has 2 sturdy wheels. Our son has an Eagle Creek No Matter What 22 inch Rolling Duffle that he likes. On our next Europe trip we are considering going wheel-less, so we took advice from here and bought a Tom Bihn Aeronaut 45. I may end up letting my husband take that and I may end up with our EC Load Warrior - I'm not sure I can give up the wheels.

Posted by
8515 posts

FYI, all the lightweight Lipault luggage that Lo writes about is on sale for a couple of days at Luggage Pros, 30% off. I'm thinking of indulging.

Posted by
1831 posts

OK folks. Back from our trip described in a post of mine upthread. And the verdict on spinners is...

...a resounding YES! In Paris, at CDG no problem. Only used the spinners from the taxi to hotel, then vice versa for the taxi to Gare du Lyon train. Taxi area into Gare du Lyon, had to two-wheel it. Cobblestones & spinners kind of clash! In Gare du Lyon great, on all the trains fantastic down the aisles. In Switzerland I think cobblestones are outlawed (!), but seriously we were in downtown Lucerne, with the hotel right across the street from the station, so it was perfect.

Once we got down into Italy, there were more cobblestones, and somewhat more two-wheeling. And also, with more accumulated crap as we went along, the spinners got a little more bloated, as did the bags on top, lending to a little tippiness, or occasionally the spinners trying to escape. The walk from Florence's Santa Maria Novella train station to our apartment on Piazza Santa Maria Novella--in a driving rain--was not the height of vacation fun. We two-wheeled it basically the entire quarter-mile. But that was the worst of it. And if we had to walk the almost half-mile from the Salerno train station to the B&B at which we were staying, it was ALL cobblestones and would not have been fun, even for two-wheeling. But we were picked up at the station, thank goodness.

Coming home, at Naples airport, the beautiful Munich airport, and then O'Hare/Chicago, having the spinners were a pleasure.

Make your final decisions as you will, but I am very glad overall that we had the four-wheelies!

Posted by
16883 posts

You can probably get from train station to hotel by flat, paved roads and sidewalks in Florence and Rome (not without a few cracks and potholes), but less likely in Tuscany. If you're driving, then you might choose a hotel with its own parking on the edge of Tuscan towns. If you stay in the center of a historic hill town, you will often have to park outside and then get yourself up a variety of stairs and cobblestones, unless your hotel arranges permission for you to drive into the Zona Traffico Limitato.