Backpacks with wheels used to suck, there’s no denying that. They were big, heavy and downright uncomfortable when worn. But in the modern era of backpacking, they’ve improved no end. They’re now pretty comfy to wear, easy to pull along behind you and even easier to pack.
So if you’ve decided it’s time to invest in a backpack with wheels, or you want to see what they’re all about, keep reading as we demystify the wheeled backpack!
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The Best Backpacks with Wheels: Quick Answers!
Best Osprey Backpack With Wheels
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Best Large Backpack With Wheels
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Excellent Carry-On Backpack With Wheels
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Good Variation in Size Options
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Best Backpack With Wheels/Daypack Combo
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Best Budget Backpack With Wheels
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Best Suitcase With Straps
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A Rucksack With Wheels – The Pros and Cons
- You'll be able to use the wheels more than you think.
- You can walk further without getting so hot and sweaty.
- When the going gets tough, use backpack mode!
- If you've had a back injury, a backpack with wheels could be your new best friend!
- No sweaty back!
- They are heavier.
- They tend to be less comfortable than an actual backpack.
- They're just not as 'cool' as regular backpacks!
The 7 Best Rolling Backpacks for Travel
Osprey Farpoint/Fairview Wheels — Best Osprey Backpack With Wheels
- Part of the Farpoint/Fairview range
- Easy to pack and organise
- Limited adjustability
- Single stem handle
- Limited colour options
- The Model — Osprey’s original Farpoint and Fairview are among the best travel backpacks ever made. It’s no surprise that the Farpoint and Fairview wheels are excellent bags too! The Farpoint is designed for men while the Fairview has been built for women. To achieve this, Osprey utilise different shaped hip belts, shoulder straps and suspension systems for each.
- Sizes — Both the Farpoint and Fairview Wheels are available in 65 and 36-litre models. The 36-litre version is carry-on compliant, making it a great choice for light-packing travellers. The 65-litre versions will need to be checked when travelling by air.
- Wheels — The rolling Farpoint/Fairview features large-diameter wheels. They’re durable, roll well and handle uneven paving with ease. While they’re not made to go off-road, the wheels are more than enough for navigating most towns and cities! The single stem ‘T-handle’ is lightweight but lacks control and manoeuvrability compared to twin stem handles.
- Straps — When the going gets too rough for your wheels, it’s time to carry the Farpoint or Fairview. The stowable straps are quick to set up. They’re nicely padded using edgeless mesh. They’re breathable and distribute the weight of your gear nicely across your body.
- Packing — These rolling rucksacks have a clamshell opening style, making them super easy to pack and organise. The main compartment is deep and the square shape makes it easy to maximise all the space. There are internal compression straps to keep all your gear in place as you transit from A to B!
- Price Range: $$$$
- Best Feature: Easy to pack and organise your gear
- Feature To Improve: The mesh water bottle pockets are hard to use the bag is full
Osprey Sojourn — Best Large Backpack With Wheels
- Range of size options
- Compatible with Osprey's Daylite range
- No laptop sleeve
- No external pockets
- Size — Available in 45, 60 and 80-litre models, the Osprey Sojourn is a large rolling backpack. It’s well suited to life on wheels but if you need to carry it for extended periods, you’ll know about it. The 80-litre model weighs almost 4kg, while the 45-litre version clocks in at 3.4kg – and that’s before you add any of your gear into the mix!
- Rolling — When pulled along, the Sojourn is excellent. The HighRoad Chassis and large wheels offer plenty of ground clearance and exceptional stability – only the roughest of cobbled streets will cause a problem! The bag features a double-stem ErgoGrip retractable handle which makes even the heaviest loads easy to manoeuvre.
- Convertible — When you want to use the backpack straps and hip belt, unzip the back panel to release them. The straps are well-ventilated but feature little padding. They’re fine for short stints but get uncomfortable quickly – especially over more challenging terrain. If you’re certain you won’t use the straps, they can be removed to save a little weight.
- Compression — Inside the Sojourn’s huge main compartment, compression straps keep your gear in place, allowing you to make the most efficient use of space. On the outside, Osprey’s impressive StraightJacket compression system keeps your bag as streamlined as possible and protects your belongings thanks to the padded wings.
- Price Range: $$$$$
- Best Feature: The 45-litre model can be taken as carry-on
- Feature To Improve: The weight
Jansport Driver 8 — Excellent Carry-On Backpack With Wheels
- Carry on size
- Loads of organisation
- Laptop sleeve placement
- Can be hard to pack bulky gear
- No hip belt
- Carry-On — With its 36-litre capacity, the Jansport Driver 8 is an excellent carry-on backpack with wheels. It fits neatly within carry-on specifications for most airlines but you should always check before flying! The downside is the weight. At two kilograms, it can be difficult to keep the Driver 8 below the carry-on weight limits!
- Organisation — Jansport’s Driver 8 rolling backpack features four separate compartments for keeping your gear organised. There’s a small pocket for quick-grab items and a larger compartment full of small internal pockets. The two main compartments are big and easy to access. If you pack light, they’ll hold the bulk of your gear. Between the two main compartments is the 15-inch laptop sleeve. This keeps your computer protected but means you have to pack carefully so nothing hard or sharp is pressing against it.
- Durability — Made from a combination of 420D nylon and 600D polyester, the Drive 8 can handle the rigours of travel. The materials also possess a good level of water resistance. Sure, the bag won’t stand up to a real soaking but it’ll keep your gear safe in the odd downpour. Jansport are well known for their impressive warranty. If anything goes wrong with your bag, contact them to see if they can help you out!
- Backpack Mode — Swapping between rolling and carrying this bag is easy; pull out the lightly padded shoulder straps and clip them to the correct mount points. The back panel is padded but nowhere near the most comfortable on this list. The same is true of the shoulder straps. They’re very thin and the lack of hip belt means you really feel the weight of your gear!
- Price Range: $$
- Best Feature: Rolls well and is easy to manoeuvre
- Feature To Improve: The comfort and durability of the straps, as well as the laptop sleeve placement
Kathmandu Hybrid — Good Variation in Size Options
- Range of sizes available
- Suitcase-style opening
- Wheels are very exposed
- Single stem handle
- Not comfortable in backpack mode
- Size Options — Kathmandu’s Hybrid backpack with wheels comes in three different sizes. The carry-on friendly 32-litre model, as well as larger 50 and 70-litre models.
- Easy To Pack — All versions of the Kathmandu Hybrid open like a suitcase and feature a bright internal lining. This helps you find what you’re looking for without having to pull everything out. They feature internal compression straps and a mesh pocket to prevent your gear moving around as you travel.
- Rolling — The Hybrid backpack from Kathmandu features large wheels which roll smoothly across various surfaces. The downside is that they’re quite exposed and at risk of getting knocked and damaged, especially when you consider you’ll have to trust the larger models to airport baggage handlers! The single-stem T-handle saves weight but limits control over the bag. It’s most noticeable when the bag is full.
- Backpack — The smaller 32-litre model has thin shoulder straps. They’re easy to set up, taking under a minute! There’s no hip belt or sternum strap, so you’ll feel the strain on your shoulders if you carry the bag over longer distances. However, both the 50 and 70-litre models feature padded shoulder straps, a thick hip belt and cushioned back panel. While this sounds promising, neither is particularly comfortable to carry for long distances. They’re designed to be on wheels most of the time, with backpack features being a last resort.
- Price Range: $$$$
- Best Feature: Getting the straps out or putting them away is super simple
- Feature To Improve: No specific laptop sleeve
Eagle Creek Caldera Convertible Carry-On — Best Backpack With Wheels/Daypack Combo
- Two bag setup
- Carry on size
- Made using recycled materials
- The cost
- Single stem handle
- No water bottle pockets
- Two Bags — Eagle Creek’s Caldera Convertible Carry-On backpack with wheels is actually two bags; the main pack and a zip-off day pack. It’s advertised as carry-on with both bags attached but for many budget and international airlines, it’s just a little too big. However, you can often take the daypack on board as a personal item and the main pack as hand luggage.
- Capacity — The Caldera Convertible backpack has a total volume of 56 litres. The main pack is 37 litres while the daypack makes up the other 19. It offers plenty of room for almost all travellers!
- Wheels — Eagle Creek’s Convertible Carry-On bag features chunky wheels that roll well over most terrain. They have a chunky tread pattern to ensure they keep rolling. When using the wheels, the bag relies on a single stem, crush-proof T-handle. It’s not the most manoeuvrable but the bag’s smaller size and low centre of gravity mean this doesn’t matter too much.
- Materials — The bag is made from 100% recycled Cordura material. It’s abrasion and tear resistant and has an eco-friendly water-repellent coating. All materials and chemicals used in the construction of this bag are Bluesign-approved.
- TripSync — Eagle Creek are pioneering TripSync. By tapping the NFC (Near Field Communication) chip in the bag, you can open the TripSync app. It allows you to log and track your trip, check Eagle Creek products, register your bag, learn about the bag’s features and make a warranty claim if necessary.
- Carry Comfort — When wheels aren’t enough, the Caldera converts into a backpack. It takes a little longer to convert than other rolling backpacks but it’s still a quick job. Once set up, the padded shoulder straps and hip belt distribute weight across your back and hips. You can also carry the daypack on your front, using the Koala attachment points, if you prefer to have your valuable items away from your back.
- Price Range: $$$$$$$$$
- Best Feature: The zip-off daypack
- Feature To Improve: The price
Cabin Max Lyon Cabin Trolley — Best Budget Backpack With Wheels
- The price
- Carry-on compatible
- No hip belt
- Minimalist strap system
- Single stem handle
- Size — The Lyon Cabin Trolley by Cabin Max fits just within carry-on specifications for most airlines. However, for some budget flights, it exceeds the limits slightly. Thankfully, the bag doesn’t look big or bulky, so you might be able to sneak it on. Not that we’d recommend breaking the rules… ?
- Capacity — At 44 litres, the Lyon Cabin Trolley maximises carry-on capacity. Plus, it weighs just 1.7kg. It’s heavier than most regular travel backpacks but light compared to the other wheeled backpacks on our list!
- Backpack Carry — The Lyon features a very simple backpack mode; just two shoulder straps. They’re padded and relatively comfortable but there’s no hip belt, so your shoulders take all the weight. The bag also features an interesting cover for the wheels. It prevents the wheels rubbing any dirt or grime onto your clothes while you wear the bag.
- Rolling — Simple rubber casters mean this Cabin Max bag rolls smoothly and is easy to manoeuvre. The single-stem handle lacks some control when compared to a double-stem but the trade-off is price and weight. Regardless, this bag still feels agile when used on smooth surfaces like good pavements and airport floors!
- Durability — Early versions of this bag featured several durability concerns. There were a number of places where abrasion caused holes in the fabric. However, newer models have reinforced plates over areas of high wear.
- The Price — If you’re looking for a bargain, this is the bag for you. Sure, even with the improvements it’s not as durable as other bags on this list (and the warranty is nowhere near as good) but for the price, you won’t find a better rolling backpack!
- Price Range: $
- Best Feature: The price
- Feature To Improve: It's not the most comfortable carry experience
Eastpak Strapverz S — Best Suitcase With Straps
- Square shape
- Maximises space
- Double stem handle
- Not always within carry-on specs
- No hip belt or sternum strap
- Suitcase With Straps — Rather than a backpack with wheels, the Eastpak Strapverz S is more of a soft-sided suitcase with straps. It opens butterfly-style with compartments on both the top and bottom sections. This makes packing and organising your gear a cinch but can mean storing bulky items like jumpers or coats is more challenging than in other bags.
👉 Check Out: Backpacks vs Suitcases! 👈
- Size and Weight — The Strapverz S is carry-on size for most airlines. It has a 42-litre capacity and weighs in at 2.5kg when empty. The square shape means it effectively maximises packability because there are no small corners or weird shaped sections that are difficult to use. However, as previously stated, the double-deck storage compartments make packing larger items a challenge.
- Wheels — It’s clear this wheeled backpack is built to be rolled as much as possible. The double stem handle and rubber wheels make the bag easy to pull and manoeuvre through tight spaces. It excels in airports and on smooth city pavements!
- Backpack Straps — When the terrain gets unsuitable for wheels, Eastpak’s backpack straps are quick to set up. Simply pull them from their zippered compartment and attach them to the D-ring mounting points. However, they’re not very well padded and lack comfort compared to the competition. There is no hip belt or sternum strap so carrying the bag over long distances can prove uncomfortable.
- Price Range: $$
- Best Feature: Holds a lot of stuff
- Feature To Improve: Overall carry comfort
What to Consider When Buying a Backpack With Wheels
There’s no point buying a backpack with wheels if it’s only going to last a few months.
Ensure the stitching looks clean and well done. Visible problems with the sewing are a sure indicator that more problems are hiding out of sight.
It’s also worth looking at the zips, clips and buckles to make sure they’re high quality.
YKK zippers are the most common high-quality zips — if you see these, you’re onto a winner.
Even if the zips aren’t branded, it’s easy to check their quality. Just use them. Open and close the zips a few times. Do they slide smoothly or get stuck on anything? Do they feel robust or a bit flimsy?
Plastic buckles and clips should feel tough too. You want to be able to close and undo them easily. If they get caught or stuck, reconsider your choice. Make sure they’re rugged enough that they won’t break at the first sign of stress.
As with all travel gear, the material your backpack is made from will have a big effect on the usability of the product. If the fabric is too thin, you’re likely to get rips and tears. Too thick and you’ll be dragging a load of extra weight – rolling backpacks are heavy enough!
Look out for bags that use ripstop fabrics. These prevent any small holes growing and becoming a big problem.
This one is down to you. What size backpack to buy comes down to personal preference, how long you’re travelling for and where you’re travelling to.
If you like to take a ton of stuff with you while travelling, a rolling backpack means you can go from A to B without having to carry 80 litres on your back!
But if you prefer to travel light, there are plenty of wheeled backpacks small enough to take as hand luggage!
In theory, you’ll spend most of your time pulling your backpack with wheels behind you. Make sure it’s got a comfy handle that doesn’t dig into your hand.
There will also be times that you need to wear the bag as a backpack. Ensure you try it on before you go travelling! Some rolling backpacks have a fully adjustable back system and hip belt, while others come with little more than a couple of thin shoulder straps.
With poor-quality bags, the wheels and frame can be uncomfortable – or even painful when wearing the pack. They can dig into your hips and back, leaving rub marks, bruises and even cuts. Avoid these bags!
If your rolling backpack is hard to manoeuvre, uncomfortable to carry or difficult to pack, you’ll get fed up with it quickly.
Test the backpack before committing to taking it travelling – make sure you pack it full for the test! Often, you’ll only notice the bag’s weird quirks when it’s fully packed.
Backpacks that open like suitcases are great because they’re easy to pack and even easier to unpack. You don’t need to pull everything out just to get to the bottom.
When it comes to manoeuvrability, a handle with a double stem tends to be the best option. This gives you more control over the bag. It’s also a more durable option as the forces are being split between the two stems. However, double-stem rolling packs tend to be more expensive and heavier than their single-stem siblings.
Why Our Readers Use Backpacks With Wheels!
“I prefer a backpack with wheels when I travel. Not the most comfortable to wear, and I do prefer to use the wheels, but it’s easy to pop on your back when walking through sand or mud. I bought mine from Kathmandu about four years ago. It was quite pricey but has been on so many trips and hopefully, I will get another few years out of it!” – Fiona.
“The first couple of times I went travelling, I went with a backpack, then I realised that I need very little, so all my following trips I’ve been taking a small cabin bag with wheels that I can easily lift when I need to. I can’t stand the sweaty back, and everything is tidier – it’s like putting things in a drawer.” – Ilaria.
“Wheels forever (spine problems).” – Cler.
“I prefer a backpack (that opens flat) with wheels. Straps are covered and when you need them just unzip the cover and hey presto! Mine was a Berghaus.” – Monica.
Wheeled Backpacks FAQs
What is the lightest backpack with wheels?
One of the lightest backpacks with wheels we’ve come across is the Cabin Max Lyon Cabin Trolley. It weighs in at 1.7kg, which is still heavier than a standard travel backpack but light compared to other rolling bags!
Can I bring a backpack with wheels onto a plane?
Yes, you can take a backpack with wheels onto a plane. But as with all luggage, it depends on the weight and size of your bag. Many rolling backpacks are built for carry-on and fit well within hand luggage specifications.
Are wheeled backpacks any good?
Wheeled backpacks are an excellent choice if you’ve got health issues that prevent you carrying heavy loads. They can be rolled along most of the time but leave you with the option of using backpack mode if the terrain proves unsuitable for wheels.
What’s the best rolling backpack brand?
Many great brands are creating rolling backpacks. Our favourites come from the well-known backpack manufacturer, Osprey. They create high-quality gear and have excellent warranties.
Does Osprey make a wheeled backpack?
Yes, Osprey make several wheeled backpacks. The Farpoint/Fairview Wheels are our favourite but models like the Sojourn or Daylite Wheeled Carry-On are exceptional too!
A Round-Up of the Best Backpacks With Wheels
When it comes to choosing the best backpack with wheels, there’s a fair amount to consider. The capacity, how often you’ll be carrying it and whether you want to travel hand luggage only all play a part.
Our overall favourite wheeled backpack is the Osprey Farpoint/Fairview Wheels, while the Osprey Sojourn is also an excellent option. The Kathmandu Hybrid has an impressive number of size options while the Jansport Driver 8 is a solid carry-on choice.
Finally, if you’re more interested in a suitcase with backpack straps that you’ll only use occasionally, Eastpak’s Strapverz S could just be the bag for you!
Do you travel with a rolling backpack? Let us know which is your favourite in the comments below!