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Which Travel Bag to Buy

I am going on a three week trip to Germany, Chech Republic, Austria and Amsterdam in Sept/Oct. I have been reading all of the advice on this forum about packing light which I will do my best to accomplish. My husband's bag is an Osprey Convertible Rolling Bag that is too big for Carry-On so we will likely check our bags. That being said, we will be taking trains from place to place and he has already told me that he is not planning to help me with my luggage. What I am trying to figure out is whether it is smarter to get the Rolling Convertible Bag from RS so I have option to put on my back to walk from trains to hotels, up stairs, etc or if I should get the convertible bag without the wheels for more packing space. I am 56 and in reasonably good shape, so I could probably carry the bag on my back pretty easily, but will I be wishing I had wheels some of the time? Will the bag with the wheels limit my packing too much. I just can't decide. I am thinking about buying both and returning one after I see what fits. Not sure if RS allows that. Does anyone know the return policy on undamaged merchandise? Any assistance would be appreciated.

Posted by
1486 posts

I'm close to your age, and I have done several trips with the RS convertible carry-on. Yes, there were times when I wished I had wheels, but overall, the advantage of carrying it on my back was paramount. And wheels on a convertible make it quite a bit heavier for carrying on your back.

Do you have a backpack you can use to simulate the weight you might have in your travel bag? Even if it's smaller, load it with heavy stuff to simulate the weight you expect, walk around town a bit, and see how it works for you.

Posted by
79 posts

Unless you are able to carry 18 plus pounds on your back almost everyday for 3 weeks I would go with the wheels. At least you have the option to roll if needed. I took a 22' inch carry on with wheels onto the trains last summer with no issues. One thing to consider; are you going to be carrying a purse or a larger personal tote bag. My husband checked his carry on bag and carried the tote bag (which could slip over the luggage handles) for his carry on with our meds and flight needs. I took my carry on luggage onto the plane with extra clothing for my husband in case something happened to his checked bag. I also carried a travel purse. Enjoy your trip.

Posted by
1203 posts

I am 61 and 5 feet 2 inches. For years, I used the RS Rolling suitcase. When my husband purchased a new RS backpack (he uses the Classic), I decided to try his old one. I love it and have used it on my last 4 trips. I can get more in it, and I much prefer wearing it than pulling my suitcase behind me. Like you, I thought it might get to be too heavy and I would tire of wearing it. That has not happened.

Posted by
1179 posts

The return policy is here:
https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-help/shop-online-[faq][1]

I have traveled with the rolling backpack for 3 weeks in the winter, no problem. It works great on stairs.

My only concern is that you are a first time one-bagger. In general, newbies pack bulkier and heavier (they don't know what they don't need yet). You may be challenged by the slightly smaller size of the bag.

My advice to you

  • decant toiletries into small bottles. You usually only need 1 oz bottles, not 3 oz
  • take a small and light toiletry kit. Reduce contents as much as possible. Swap out hard containers for zip locks to reduce weight and bulk.
  • Take lighter thinner clothing and layer for warmth.
  • avoid "kits" that add bulk and weight
  • avoid thick bulky materials
Posted by
41 posts

After numerous years of traveling with various types of luggage, I've found that a 22" rolling bag with two wheels and a tote bag with decent cross body strap work best for me. This allows me to put my small travel purse and any other important items in the tote bag and then pull the rolling bag behind me very easily. I try to keep everything light so I can maneuver the bags myself including lifting the rolling bag into the overhead compartment. This, of course, means doing laundry on a trip of several weeks duration. I'm currently using the Eagle Creek Load Warrior. I like it because it's study but I am eyeing other options, haha.

I am a 50ish female. I have traveled in Europe with a variety of luggage sizes and styles. Here are my thoughts. If you are a rather light packer - no extra shoes, no heavy jacket, not many cosmetics, casual - easy to roll clothing (packing cubes/folder): then, go with a travel backpack with no wheels. It will be lighter and your total bag weight will be around 15 lb.s total or less when packed. I am a big fan of Ebags brand etech 2.0 JUNIOR pack. I am around 5'5" and cannot carry a pack more than 20" long. Ebags sometimes temporarily runs out of the Junior pack. If you don't need it right away - you can wait for it.
If I need a larger bag - then I use a rolling carry on bag (I have used eagle creek and Rick Steves). I don't use the backpack convertible. Just a two-wheel roller. I can easily manage this bag on a train. If I need extra storage - I will combine this with a small backpack (I.e. Merrell rouge or Eagle Creek packable tote or similar).
I have traveled on trains with a 26". But, I will not do this anymore. It's a chore. Easy on trains in Scotland where the train doors open flat even with platform; much harder on Italian trains with steep steps upward and crowded trains.
I hope this helps you. Check out Travelpro T-Pro bold rolling carry-on or Maxlite 4 two wheel roller.

Posted by
367 posts

I am a 58 year old woman. My trips to Europe have been from 10 days to 28. On all but one I have used a 22 inch rolling suitcase. On my last two trips I have used an Eagle Creek spinner. I love it. I have had no isssues with the wheels, and it can be pulled on two wheels if you are going over uneven services. I particularly like the fact is does not hurt my wrist. Unfortunately two wheelers do.

One thing that is really nice about the Eagle Creek one I have is that it has a built in system for securing a bog on top of the suitcase.

If you pack lightly you should not have any issues handling your own luggage. Take a look at the RS packing list. It is a good way to decide what to take.

Posted by
1068 posts

No right way to travel (IMHO) and many people on this forum have ended up using several bags before they found the one or combo they liked. I started out with the "you must not use wheels if you are a real traveler" camp and have amended my ways. I now use the RS Rolling Carry On. The extremely few times (and generally short distances) I have to carry it (the thing has handles) are not a problem and the wheels make it easy most of the time (yes yes, even on cobble stones....drop the cobble stone thing already.) For now, I would say get what "makes sense." If it works, keep it. If it doesn't try another bag.... on this forum you will be in good company!!!

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you all so much for your replies. This is my first time to post on RS Forum. It is great to get support from other world travelers. You have all given me good food for thought. We aren't going to be moving every day. Most of our stays will be 2-4 days at a time, so I am not worried about having to carry 18lbs on my back every few days. I do like the idea of having both options, I just hope I can fit everything into the Convertible Carry on with Wheels. I guess I won't know for sure until I do a packing dry run. I plan to do this a couple of weeks early so I will not be stuck if my bag of choice doesn't work quite right. I will take a look at some of the other bags that were recommended by members of this forum before making a purchase. If anyone else feels like sharing their experiences with luggage I am all ears :-)

Posted by
2576 posts

I've been on many RS tours and the backpack folks were in the minority. They all were very good light packers (one gal had two tops for two weeks as far as we could tell) and they all had used their bags for some time, so they were used to them. As a 68 year old man with a bad back it's not an option for me. We have 21" spinners and it's easy on the back, shoulders, and with two handles easy to get on and off the trains. If price is not an issue check out the Briggs & Riley international expandable wide body spinner. The rails are on the outside so lots of space. The expansion feature really compresses. And it meets most international carry on requirements.

Posted by
2526 posts

No one needs affirmation as to their choice in a travel bag. Try all sorts in advance and find what works for you.

Posted by
3259 posts

63 yr old 5'5" woman here. A year ago, I used a backpack and a large crossbody Travelon for a 5 day trip to England because it's easier for Tube and trains. It weighed 15 lbs and I loved it-very freeing and no problems walking 1 mile from train station to hotels. My choice was the Tom Bihn Tristar in the lightweight fabric. On longer trips I am OCD about handwashing clothes anytime I spend 2 nights in the same hotel and am always looking for quick drying clothes. You are really smart to try out the luggage weeks in advance to see if everything fits.

Write out your luggage criteria before searching for a bag. Cost? features? etc.. This will help you A LOT. Check your particular airline's website first and look up carry-on baggage allowance. This is important and could make a difference to you. Check on dimensions and weight allowed for carry-on. For easy research, go to ebags.com site and click on bag, then details. Even if you don't buy from ebags - you can get good info. about bags easily from them. Eagle creek, Rick Steves, Tom Bihn, Samsonite, etc. are all good brands. Some of these are not on ebags' site and need to be looked up individually. There are multiple companies that make "hybrid" bags that are wheeled luggage with backpack straps. Personally, I am not a fan of these hybrid bags. Have Fun Shopping!

Posted by
92 posts

I am a 54 year old woman who travels to Europe once or twice a year. I started off years ago with a 20 inch backpack , then switched to a 2 wheeled 20 inch and now finally a 4 wheel spinner 20 inch bag. My reasons for the bag change are simple...those very very long hikes from one terminal to the other. I have always found a 20 inch carryon is fine for space, and I use a medium size crossbody purse as my personal item. I almost always travel in the winter and still do fine with the 20 inch size. I find for me it is more manageable to get on and off trains and overhead bins. The 2 wheeled bag made the long hikes uncomfortable on my neck and shoulder with the bag behind me, the 4 wheeled spinner gets rid of that as it rolls right beside me. Ultimately whatever you feel most comfortable with will work best for you. I loved the flexibility of my 20 inch backpack but it started feeling way too heavy after those long treks from one terminal to another!

Posted by
11455 posts

It really doesn't matter what anyone else does. What matters is what you prefer.

Go to a local camping store like REI and buy a convertible bag, a rolling bag and if you can find one, a rolling backpack. You might have to go to a luggage store or big box store for the rolling bag. (No,, you won't get an RS bag but there are many out there besides RS and you might find one you like better. )

Make sure they will allow you to return the bags. Don't take off the tags since most require the bag to be in an unused condition.

Fill each bag with the appoximate amount of weight you would take on your trip. (No, it doesn't have to be packed with the actual items.) And then go out with each one, separately, for an hour. Take a walk, go up and down stairs, roll the rolling bags over different terrain (cement, tile, carpeting, etc.) Do whatever you might do with luggage.

After using each one. ask yourself which you preferred. There is no right or wrong. Each type of bag has its own pros and cons.

Your idea of test packing is a good one. Remember, just because a non-wheeled bag holds more, doesn't mean you want to fill it. More stuff means more weight.

If local stores don't have what you want, look at ebags. They offer free returns. RS doesn't unless the bag is damaged in manufacturing or breaks under the warranty period.

Posted by
2746 posts

I've used both. I prefer wheels but do the backpack when faced with strict carry on weight limits (Alitalia 8kg I'm looking at you!). Wheels are nice in train stations and airports but you NEED to be able to carry the bag upstairs and lift it over your head for luggage racks. Stairs will be in hotels, but also on some pedestrian streets or bridges, and in many train/subway stations

Usually a wheel bag will roll on stone streets, but not smoothly. If you can keep your wheeled bag at a low weight it may be the best of both worlds.

Posted by
3789 posts

FrankII has good advise. Personally, luggage is not something to buy sight unseen and needs to be tried on then test driven....though a mile might be suffice.
Remember that men and women carry their strength in different parts of their body. Men - shoulders and upper body; women - hips....so if considering any back pack, you want a padded and fitted waist belt otherwise it all drags on your shoulders. Regardless of how strong your back is, it is your neck and shoulders that suffer with an ill fitting or too heavy back pack. Also, we tend to have a more protruding bum than men, and a convertible wheel bag is going to be uncomfortable with wheels hitting your lower back or top of bum - even with the flap that protects from dirt.
Personally, my body is not holding up at 60 to what it was at 56, so what is the intent of this bag? For this trip only or for longer term use?
Some other thoughts, consider how the straps are designed? Are they stored in a slot and you have to assemble them? Is there a zip cover that conceals them so it looks like luggage and is easy to check? Sometimes these concepts are more a hassle than we want in reality? If the pack is not worn properly, then you do your body no service. Will you end up carrying it by a handle, or just over one shoulder instead of taking the time to wear it properly? Often the reality is that there isn't enough time to set it up to wear correctly. I have a closet full of bags I thought were 'perfect' but take time to set up properly.

So I am now more inclined to just look at a wheeled bag, or just a backpack - no convertible anything. I really envied the young girl who was traveling for months with just an Osprey 30 litre pack. Small enough to fit on your lap in the Ecuador buses (where you need to always have your bag in sight or hand).

Posted by
315 posts

At times, I travel with RS original non-wheeled, convertible backpack suitcase that is 30 years old. I have never found the perfect bag! Size is small and it gets smaller every time I am faced with others with carry ons that are very, very big and heavy. Wheels plus convertible backpack for long wheeled transfers. Another consideration is how the bag is accessed.

Size, weight, backpack, wheels or no wheels (wt is added and slight loss of space) and access. Yesterday, my friend said "I need to try a new bag for travel." And I said "Come to my house for a trial of all most all options. If you find one, I am willing to lend."

Posted by
2526 posts

My wife and I use Rick's convertible carry-on. As we possibly become smarter with each trip, we pack lighter. I can't recall when we've ever used the included waist belt. Also, I tend to utilize Rick's classic bag now and then. Simple and functional.

Posted by
3580 posts

I was happy with the backpack until my late 60s. Then the whole thing started feeling too heavy and cumbersome. I switched to two wheels and have never looked back. Getting on and off public transportation proved to be the deciding point. Taking that darned thing off and on several times a day was wearing me out and felt like a strain on my shoulders. I do notice my back can get tired when I am pulling the bag along; it's good to get in some practice for a few weeks before departure. I keep the overall weight at under 20#. That way I can usually lift it into the overhead bins on planes and handle it ok on trains.

Posted by
1787 posts

I'm 72 and travel with a very old Eagle Creek backpack-type bag which weighs 3 lbs. We're about to leave on our second European trip of the year. We travel only by public transportation. So far, I am unwilling to add another 3 lbs. for wheels. We'll see how long this lasts!

Posted by
396 posts

I'm 77 and 5ft 2". Travelling overseas from Australia, I have to keep my main cabin bag under 7kg. I usually go for 5-6 weeks, but the last 10 days are a visit to my sister, whose clothes I can borrow while mine are washed. I travel by train and bus, not car, and usually start with a group tour but follow it with solo travel.
I have an Antler Urbanite convertible. Found myself not using it as a backpack at all on my last trip, as all the French rail stations I was using had lifts to access platforms, and I took a taxi across Paris to the Eurostar. Usually I have to cope with long steps up and down at my destination station in Wales, and have got out the straps then, but this time my sister took over and insisted on carrying my bag for me. Carrying up a couple of floors at a hotel I can manage, and on flights there has always been some kind person who will lift it into the overhead lockers for me, as I'd have to stand on a seat to reach.

Posted by
154 posts

At age 60 and 5'8", I've found that traveling with only a large backpack is getting a little hard on my back, which is why I prefer a small rolling carryon (21" for domestic airlines) and a small to medium size backpack as my "personal item". The advantage of having a backpack is that it can be stuffed under the seat in front of you, unless it's really large or overstuffed. (I've tried the so-called "underseat carryon" bags, and they're questionable due to the varying dimensions of various airline seats.)

Basically, I pack as carefully as I can, with clothes in my rolling bag and Dopp and 3-1-1 kits in the backpack along with my electronics and a sweater if appropriate. If you don't mind doing laundry once in a while, you should be fine for a long trip. Check out Rick's packing videos on YouTube--they're really good!

As for brands/merchants, I'm a big eBags fan, though Amazon can save you a few bucks on the same item at times. I'm partial to Travelpro and Eagle Creek, as in my opinion their quality and medium range prices are a good alternative to, say, Tumi, which I think is overpriced.

As with everything in life, it all comes down to what works for you. Good luck!