Carrying your heavy backpack further than you anticipated (because plans always change when you’re traveling!) can put a real dampener on your experience, right?
This is especially the case if you suffer from back, neck or shoulder pain!
Enter: the wheeled backpack. A genius hybrid of rolling luggage and a regular backpack.
This might just be the solution!
I’ve explored the options available and come up with a list of the best wheeled carry-on backpacks of 2021. If you’re not sure how to choose, I’ve included a few pointers and things to look for at the end as well.
Hopefully, you’ll find a wheeled backpack solution to save your shoulders in time for your next trip!
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- TOP 9 Best Wheeled Backpacks of 2021
- Victorinox Vx Touring Wheeled Carry-On Backpack
- High Sierra Powerglide Wheeled Backpack
- Racini Nylon Waterproof Rolling Backpack
- Tumi Merge Wheeled Backpack
- Osprey Meridian Wheeled Luggage
- Osprey Packs Sojourn Wheeled Luggage
- Osprey Ozone Wheeled Carry-on Backpack
- High Sierra AT7 Rolling Upright Duffel Bag
- Samsonite Wheeled Backpack
- What is a Wheeled Backpack?
- What Should You Look for When Choosing the Best Wheeled Backpack?
TOP 9 Best Wheeled Backpacks of 2021
Victorinox Vx Touring Wheeled Carry-On Backpack
Review: Though a little at the pricier end of things, Victorinox pulled out all the stops with its Vx Touring wheeled backpack.
It comes with a number of great features like a large padded sleeve compartment that is ideal for a laptop, a wheel cover for when you’re in backpack mode, and multiple handles for different carrying styles.
- It is made of rugged abrasion-resistant and water-resistant fabrics.
- The zipper is also water-resistant.
- It comes with padded compartments to keep your gadgets scratch-free.
- The back panel transforms into a backpack that comes with fully padded shoulder straps.
- The breathable mesh straps come with load adjusters for a customized fit.
- The bag’s monopole comes with three adjustable points, which slides smoothly.
- Though solid, the monopole has the tendency to wiggle.
High Sierra Powerglide Wheeled Backpack
Review: If you are looking for a multifunctional bag that doesn’t look like a business travel backpack, then the High Sierra Powerglide wheeled backpack is for you.
Designed for students with heavy books, it’s ideal for travel if you have heavy gear and don’t want to lug everything on your back.
- The bag comes with different pockets and compartments including a padded sleeve for your laptop.
- All terrain wheels will handle bumps and rough surfaces.
- Includes a headphone port so you can listen to your tunes while you’re wearing it as a backpack.
- The telescope handle has multiple locking heights.
- Durable and sturdy.
- Like most carry-on backpacks, if overfilled, this bag may not fit within an airline regulation.
- Not waterproof – you will need to use rain cover to protect it from the rain.
Racini Nylon Waterproof Rolling Backpack
Review: Like the previous bag, the Racini nylon waterproof rolling backpack is a multifunctional backpack that you can easily convert into a wheeled bag when you want to give your back a break, but with 4 wheels instead of 2 which means it can be free-standing.
It is ideal for business trips but it’s also good for outdoor usage.
- Waterproof backpack that uses nylon water-resistant and tear-resistant fabric.
- It comes with multiple pockets for better organization.
- The straps make it a comfortable carry-on backpack.
- Four durable wheels instead of the usual two.
- Lockable zips for added security.
- Wheels are removable.
- It is light but not as lightweight as other bags.
- The wheels are not ideal for bumpy roads and require regular lubrication.
Tumi Merge Wheeled Backpack
Review: Tumi’s 4-wheeled backpack is the perfect travel buddy for those looking for a long-lasting and very high-quality option.
Created by a trusted bag manufacturer, this bag comes with the Tumi Tracer, an exclusive, complimentary program that helps customers reunite with bags in case the bags get lost or stolen.
- High quality, durable and long lasting.
- Durable ballistic nylon outer.
- The retractable fabric panel keeps your back clean when the bag is used as a backpack.
- It is small and ideal as a carry-on.
- It is expensive.
- The bag only comes with a few color options.
Osprey Meridian Wheeled Luggage
Review: The Osprey Meridian Wheeled Backpack could be the ultimate travel backpack.
With this bag, you get a fully functioning, removable daypack with its own mesh back panel, so it’s like having two bags in one.
You also get very comfortable shoulder straps when wearing the main bag as a backpack, and they can be completely removed if you go on a trip where you know you’ll only be wheeling your bag.
- Two durable wheels and a very durable frame.
- Larger wheels provides more ground clearance.
- The shoulder straps are nicely contoured and well-padded to keep you comfortable.
- Included detachable day pack.
- Internal and external compression straps.
- When fully loaded, the bag can be pretty heavy.
- Daypack is pretty small.
Osprey Packs Sojourn Wheeled Luggage
Review: Another top-rated convertible backpack from Osprey is the Sojourn. It’s another pricey option, but it’s worth it for the longevity you get, and like the Meridian, it has a solid, reliable frame and chassis to keep your back comfortable.
- It comes in different sizes, but the 22”/45L size is the perfect size for carry-on.
- The wheels are bigger and provide better clearance than other bags.
- Detachable suspension system includes a padded mesh hip belt for extra comfort.
- Padded grab handles on the top and side.
- Multiple pockets, both inside and out.
- Interior and exterior compression straps.
- It is expensive.
- No dedicated laptop sleeve.
Osprey Ozone Wheeled Carry-on Backpack
Review: Osprey’s Ozone wheeled carry-on is a great lightweight option, weighing in at just 4.5 lbs empty so you have more weight allowance for the stuff you actually want to pack.
But it still features Osprey’s great design points such as the higher clearance wheels and an easy access liquids pocket for airport security.
- Though carry-on sizes vary per airline, this bag hits most US carry-on requirements.
- It comes with reliable wheels that you can use on challenging terrain and surfaces.
- The bag is durable and water-resistant.
- The handle of the bag extends smoothly and the zippers are lockable.
- The side padded handles make it easy for you to re-position the bag.
- Bag can be freestanding.
- Not everyone’s going to love the ‘T’ shaped handle.
High Sierra AT7 Rolling Upright Duffel Bag
Review: High Sierra AT comes in different sizes to fit your need, and instead of just being either a wheeled bag or backpack, it can also convert into a duffel bag for even more versatility.
Another great feature of this bag is the fact that its main compartment expands in case you need to add more travel essentials.
- Multiple grab handles for easy transport.
- It is not two, but three bags in one – backpack, wheeled bag, and a duffle bag.
- It has easy smooth-running rolling wheels.
- Several compartments for organization.
- The straps can be easily hidden if used as a duffle bag or a wheeled bag.
- The zipper could stick when frequently used and may break easily.
- Too big to comfortably wear as a backpack.
- Not as durable as the Ospreys at the same price point.
Samsonite Wheeled Backpack
Review: This Samsonite wheeled backpack is a smaller and more affordable option for people who travel light but want the option of being able wheel their carry-on around the airport instead of carry it.
It doesn’t have quite the same functionality as the Osprey bags, but it’s a good choice if you’re on a tighter budget and don’t mind the smaller capacity.
- Its mesh pocket is ideal to store candies and snacks.
- The bag has a laptop compartment (best suited to smaller laptops).
- Small enough to easily comply with all carry-on restrictions.
- It is lightweight and reasonably affordable.
- There is not much clearance between the ground and the bag.
- The handle is not meant for very heavy luggage.
What is a Wheeled Backpack?
A wheeled backpack (also known as a rolling backpack) is just that – a hybrid of a backpack and wheeled carry-on luggage.
It is designed so that it can be easily converted between the two styles so that when your shoulders need a break, you can wheel your luggage behind you, or when you hit cobbled steps or a flight of stairs, you can transfer it to your back.
The novelty of having both wheels and backpack straps at your disposal isn’t going to be a massive draw-card for everyone. But if you have a bad back, neck or shoulders and get sore after carrying a backpack, having the option of wheeling it instead is life-changing.
Even if you don’t have a problem back, anyone who traveled will be able to relate at least one experience of having to walk further than they anticipated with their overloaded bags and not enjoying it!
Whether you went to the wrong bus stop or your hostel turned out to be further than you thought, it’s no fun!
So, if a wheeled carry-on is something you’re interested in, what should you look for?
What Should You Look for When Choosing the Best Wheeled Backpack?
Weight and Size
This is the first deciding factor, especially if you’re specifically looking for something you can use as carry-on baggage.
The weight of the bag will determine how much you can pack and still be within carry-on restrictions or still be able to carry the bag comfortably on your back.
The size will determine whether you can use it as carry-on, or whether it’s even practical to wear as a backpack.
You’ll also want to think about how much stuff you need to fit in your bag. This will depend on how long you’re traveling for, whether you have checked-in baggage as well, and what climate you’re traveling to.
If you will be traveling with checked-in baggage, you might want to consider a carry-on bag that can fit under the seat in front of you. This will allow you easier access to your things during the flight and the added security of keeping all your things in one place, where you can see them.
Have a read of our guide to the best carry-on bags for women for more great options.
Different climates and environments call for different styles of luggage. Going to Europe? You’ll want to be able to handle cobble stones and old buildings with lots of stairs but no elevators.
Going to South East Asia in Monsoon season? You’ll want a waterproof bag. Going to be using a lot of public transport? Look for multiple, sturdy grab handles. Going to be doing a lot of walking? Prioritize the shoulder straps over the quality of the wheels…. You get the idea!
This is the factor that will decide how well spent your hard earned dollars are. While we’re all looking for a good deal, buying a cheap bag that only lasts one trip is not an example of dollars well spent.
Spending a little more and getting a well-constructed bag that will last many years is hands down the better option.
Look for durable material that ideally has some water resistance, sturdy wheels that will handle bumps in the road, a strong handle that will cope with some torsional stress when it’s extended, and zips and buckles that won’t fail in the middle of your trip.
Wheel Size and Ground Clearance
If you’re fairly sure that you’re only going to wheel your bag inside airport terminals or on smooth pavements, this isn’t so important.
But most travelers will appreciate slightly bigger wheels and a higher clearance for practicality on less smooth (or clean) surfaces.
Comfort and Adjustability of the Straps
There’s no point in getting a wheeled backpack if it’s too uncomfortable to actually wear as a backpack. Unfortunately, there are models that function better as wheeled bags and the backpack straps are a bit of a joke.
Look for well-padded, contoured shoulder straps that have a good adjustability. Bonus points if there are hip straps as well! (FYI – Osprey does this really well – all of their wheeled backpacks are super comfortable!)
Stowing Method for Wheels and Straps
Whether you’re using your bag as a backpack or wheeled bag, the straps or wheels will have to go somewhere to stay safely out of the way while not in use.
Also, make sure the conversion is easy enough so that you don’t end up not doing it at all and just leaving your hybrid as one or the other.
Pockets and Compartments
Traveling for any length of time is made much easier by having different pockets and compartments to organize your things. It makes accessing specific items quicker and easier and you’re less likely to lose things.
If you’re traveling with a laptop, look for a specific padded laptop sleeve that actually fits your laptop as some are too small for larger laptops.
The Round Up
I’m not going to lie, a wheeled backpack is not going to be the best choice for everyone. To get one that functions really well in both forms is going to cost a little more than getting just a backpack, or just a wheeled bag.
So you’ll want to be sure that you’re actually going to use it in both forms and invest in a model that makes it worth your while.
If your budget is too tight, you’re better off choosing one or the other or considering something slightly more forgiving like a rolling duffel bag. Comfort and functionality aren’t such big factors when it comes to carrying a duffel bag so you can afford to spend a little less and still get the versatility of wheeled bag that can be easily carried when you encounter a rocky road.
Alternatively, toughen up and commit to a decent carry-on backpack and don’t pack too much!
The harness will almost definitely be more comfortable and there won’t be any pesky wheels or telescope handles to break on you.
What is the best wheeled backpack?
There are going to be personal preferences to take into account here. But, any of Osprey’s wheeled backpacks are excellent choices that you definitely wouldn’t regret.
What is the lightest rolling backpack?
The lightest rolling backpack on this list worth recommending is the Osprey Ozone – weighing in at just 4.5 lbs.
Bear in mind that while being lightweight is definitely a pro when it comes to luggage, too light could mean a lack of durability (though this is not the case with the Ozone).
Are wheeled backpacks good?
This is going to be a matter of personal preference as not everyone will appreciate the benefit of being able to wheel their backpack.
But for some people the convenience and versatility of a backpack that you can also wheel, is life-changing. So, yes, wheeled backpacks can be very good!
What kind of wheels are the best for luggage?
Inline skate wheels are the best option. But also look for wheels with a larger diameter to give you good ground clearance, and a well-structured lower bag so that your bag doesn’t slouch and end up dragging on the ground.
Are 4 wheeled suitcases better than 2?
This depends on the kinds of surfaces you’ll be rolling your bag on, and your rolling style.
2 wheeled bags are more practical for outside use or bumpier surfaces like cobbled streets, while 4 wheeled bags are best suited to indoor use, like airport terminals, and allow you the option of pushing the bag in front of you or wheeling it beside you rather than just from behind.
Do wheels count for carry-on size?
Yes! They do! Which makes the design of the wheels and their positioning on the bag an important consideration.
If they stick out but aren’t removable, they could push your bag over the size limit.
There you have it, the best wheeled backpacks of 2021. I hope I’ve made it easier for you to pick the one that suits your needs. The best rolling backpack for travel will be durable, lightweight, and perform well as both a backpack and a wheeled bag.
Use the factors above to make your decision and don’t be afraid to invest in good quality – it’ll pay off in the long run!
If you find this article helpful or if you have comments or questions, let us know on the comment section below.
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