Last updated: October 17th, 2023
TL;DR: The best wheeled backpacks are the High Sierra Freewheel Backpack and the Osprey Sojourn because of their combination of high-clearance wheels and comfortable carrying options that make it easier to breeze through an airport or across cobblestone. The Freewheeler is a perfect budget carry-on bag while the Sojourn comes in larger sizes that would be a good checked bag option.
I used to be one of those travelers who scoffed at wheeled backpacks.
They just seemed impractical for my style of travel, which was usually off-the-cuff, adventurous backpacking.
And to be fair, that was probably the case when I used to only do that type of travel.
When you’re only spending a few days in each location, constantly on the move, and needing to carry your bag for long distances along dusty roads, a wheeled backpack doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Now that I’m no longer a full-time backpacker and I take a variety of different types of trips, I finally understand the draw of wheeled backpacks.
Not to mention, after turning 30 and having off-and-on lower back pain as a tall human, a wheeled backpack allows my back to take a break when I don’t necessarily need a regular backpack.
And the great thing about rolling backpacks is they’re still much more convenient and versatile than traditional rolling luggage.
They’re easy to convert either into a backpack or a rolling piece of luggage, depending on what I need in the moment.
So, without rambling further, these are my picks for the best wheeled backpacks for travel, work, commuters, and even students.
Note: this article contains affiliate links, which help run this site at no extra cost to you so I can keep providing free travel advice and tips.
Short on time? Here’s a quick look at the top 12 best wheeled backpacks.
|Osprey Sojourn||Large carry-on or checked checked bag|
Removable mesh hip belt
|Osprey Fairview (Women’s)|
Osprey Farpoint (Men’s)
|Meets most carry-on airlines requirements|
|Hynes Eagle 2 in 1 Travel Backpack||Detachable daypack|
|Everki Atlas||Read Review|
|Matein Wheeled Backpack||Read Review|
|Kroser Rolling Backpack||Read Review|
|High Sierra Freewheel Wheeled Laptop Backpack||Read Review|
|Think Tank Airport Takeoff V3.0||Read Review|
|Samsonite Wheeled Backpack||Read Review|
|Victorinox Vx Sport||Read Review|
|Gonex Rolling Duffel Bag||Read Review|
|Jansport Driver 8||Read Review|
12 Best Rolling Backpacks
#1 Osprey Sojourn
Best Backpack for Checked Luggage
Dimensions: 22 x 14 x 9 in
Weight: 7lb 15 oz
Capacity: 45L – also offered in 60L and 80L
Best for: Travel (carry-on and checked)
If you’re looking for the best rolling backpack for travel, look no further than the Osprey Sojourn.
I’m a big fan of Osprey, I’ve been using their packs for over a decade and they’ve never let me down.
And this Osprey travel backpack with wheels is no exception in terms of a quality piece of gear that’s long-lasting.
If you’re looking for a large travel backpack with wheels, this Osprey pack is a good-sized option.
It’s not too big but big enough to fit a decent amount of clothes and gear for a weekend trip or something longer.
It’s also a versatile wheeled backpack since the size of this bag fits most airline carry-on dimensions.
Besides its size, its durability (especially its large high clearance wheels) makes it the best wheeled backpack for Europe travel when you’re navigating those uneven cobblestones.
Other features of this Osprey backpack with wheels include extra padding to protect your gear, compression straps, and a well-ventilated suspension system to keep you comfortable when you’re carrying the bag as a backpack.
It also has a zippered top pocket for easy access to liquids or your passport, which I love on a carry-on travel pack.
This pack acts as a convertible backpack suitcase with a clamshell opening for the main compartment to easily pack and unpack your things.
Lastly, it has a removable hip belt and harness if you need more room or if you don’t want to carry the extra weight.
And if you’re looking for an even larger backpack with wheels, there’s a larger size in the Sojourn series—the Osprey Sojourn 80L pack.
- Versatile enough for carry-on and checked luggage
- Compression straps
- Ventilated suspension system
- Large, high clearance wheels for navigating rough terrain
- Zippered top pocket for easy access to toiletries and passport when you’re going through security
- Clamshell opening for easy packing and unpacking
- Extended handle for extra control of heavier loads
- Mesh hip belt for extra stability when carrying it like a backpack
- Removable hip belt and harness if you need more room
- Sometimes doesn’t fit strict carry-on requirements. If you fill it to the brim, you might have to check it.
- No external pockets for carrying a water bottle
- No padded laptop sleeve
- A little bulkier and heavier than other packs on this list due to its heavy-duty nature and large wheels
#2 Osprey Fairview & Farpoint
Best Carry-On Backpack With Wheels
Dimensions: 22 x 14 x 9 in
Weight: 5 lbs 5 oz
Capacity: 36 L – also offered in 65L
Best for: Travel (carry-on)
As you can probably tell from this article, Osprey is one of the best brands for travel backpacks and wheeled backpack luggage.
This is the better option if you’re going for carry-on-only travel since the Fairview and Farpoint are more compact and lightweight.
At 36L, this could easily be your go-to piece of luggage with wheels and backpack straps for those long weekends or week-long trips.
The Osprey Farpoint and Fairview backpacks are made from durable, abrasion-resistant nylon material and have a lightweight aluminum frame and ergonomic handle.
They also feature dual compression straps, a padded hip belt for better balance, an easily accessible front zippered pocket to hold toiletries or a passport, and an easy-to-maneuver frame that’s comfortable to roll or wear.
This rolling travel backpack also has oversized wheels for easier transport and with how they’re designed, they’re easy to tuck out of the way when wearing it as a backpack.
Similar to the Sojourn, this is a backpack suitcase with wheels, with a clamshell opening that allows you to grab your items like you would in a suitcase.
Or, if you’re looking for a good alternative carry-on wheeled backpack that looks a little sleeker and less like an Osprey backpack, I’d recommend going for the 40L Osprey Ozone.
The Osprey Ozone doesn’t have external compression straps but still feels spacious inside.
All up, if you’re looking for a backpacker’s backpack with wheels, the Farpoint or Fairview packs are some of the best options out there.
Plus, you really can’t go wrong with an Osprey bag.
- Compact and meets carry-on dimensions for most airlines—especially for domestic US airlines
- Made from durable materials that are abrasion-resistant
- Handle has an ergonomic grip
- Dual compression straps
- Comfortable to wear as a backpack for longer durations
- Easily accessible top pocket for liquids or passport
- Padded hip belt for more balance and to help distribute the weight
- Sturdy, oversized wheels
- Wheels aren’t covered in backpack mode
- Large interior pocket isn’t completely flat because the handle goes through it
SHOP WOMEN’S ON:
SHOP MEN’S ON:
#3 Hynes Eagle 2-in-1 Travel Backpack
Best Wheeled Backpack With a Daypack
Dimensions: 22 x 14.2 x 15.7 in
Weight: 8.31 lb
Best for: Checked luggage and longer trips
If you’re looking for rolling backpacks for travel that include a detachable daypack, the Hynes Eagle 2-in-1 Travel Backpack is an ideal option.
This Hynes Eagle 2-in-1 backpack with wheels features a large main compartment with four zippered pockets and an easy-to-access zippered top pocket for toiletries.
It also has a dual retractable tube handle for better control, lockable zippers, and durable high-clearance wheels.
Instead of fully removable backpack straps like the now discontinued Osprey Meridian, the Hynes Eagle has a compartment for tucking the straps out of the way.
This means there’s no chance of forgetting them at home, only to realize when you want to use the backpack feature on a trip.
The detachable daypack has a few different pockets and good internal organization.
There’s a 15.6″ padded laptop sleeve, plus a pocket for an iPad and other electronics. At the front, there’s a scratch-free pouch that’s perfect for sunglasses or a phone.
And this is another backpack-suitcase combo. The front compartment has a clamshell opening similar to a suitcase to make it easier to pack and unpack.
This is one of the most versatile wheeled backpacks on this list since it can technically be turned into three different bags—a wheely backpack, a regular backpack, and a detachable daypack.
If you’re looking for a portable and versatile large travel pack with wheels that’s perfect for checked luggage, and you liked the Osprey Meridian, the Hynes Eagle is the newest, best option on the market.
- Made from durable, water-repellent polyester that can withstand wear and tear
- Versatile—can be turned into three different types of backpacks
- Wheel cover to protect your clothing from getting dirty
- Dual tube retractable handle for easier maneuverability
- Opens like a suitcase for easy packing and unpacking
- Trolley strap
- Good interior organization with a decent amount of pockets
- No hip straps
- Has a tendency to fall over and not stand up on its own when packed fully
#4 Everki Atlas
Best Professional Wheeled Backpack
Dimensions: 21.3 x 15.7 x 8.1 in
Weight: 6.7 lb
Best for: Business travel and meetings, college, gaming
By far the best backpack with wheels for business trips is the Everki Atlas. It’s a great professional backpack with wheels that’s sleek, lightweight, and well-organized.
This carry-on backpack with wheels has top-notch organization and dedicated sleeves for your tech gear, including a padded laptop sleeve that fits up to a 17.3″ laptop.
And if you’re not carrying a laptop, you can remove the laptop pouch to make extra room for clothes or other items.
The main compartment unzips fully into a clamshell opening for easy packing and accessibility.
The Everki Atlas business backpack with wheels also features a tablet pocket and an RFID-blocking pocket for your credit cards and passport, as well as spaces for keys, water bottles, books, and more.
In terms of comfort, this bag is comfortable to wear for long durations, featuring extra-wide and padded straps and a weight-balancing chest strap.
It’s seamless to turn this versatile backpack into a wheeled bag and vice versa.
The backpack straps can be tucked away in the back flap when you’re not using them.
And the same flap protects your clothes and covers the wheels when you’re carrying it as a backpack.
There’s also a pass-through strap on the back of the bag to make it easy to pair with a larger piece of rolling luggage.
Simply put the handle of the larger bag through the pass-through strap for a secure fit to carry two bags at once.
Finally, the Everki Atlas is made from durable materials, including good zippers and metal pulls.
If you’re looking for a stylish and quality carry-on for upcoming business trips, or if you’re looking for a more professional backpack for school, the Everki Atlas is an ideal option.
- Carry-on compliant for both domestic and international airlines
- Good organization, especially for tech gear
- Removable laptop sleeve to make more room for clothes and other items
- Ability to hide wheels or backpack straps for a fully convertible backpack
- Comfortable to wear for long durations
- Has a pass-through strap to carry it on top of larger rolling luggage securely
- Clamshell opening for easy packing and unpacking
- Sleek and professional for business travel
- The handle can be a bit short for anyone over 6′
- Weight distribution makes it slightly slower to roll compared to other bags on this list
- Wheels are small and not good for rough terrain
#5 Matein Wheeled Backpack
Best Waterproof Wheeled Backpack
Dimensions: 19.5 x 9 x 13 in
Weight: 4.8 lb
Best for: Business travel, college/school, carry-on travel
It’s hard to find good waterproof rolling backpacks these days, most are water-resistant.
That’s why I was excited to discover the Matein Wheeled Backpack, especially at its affordable price point.
This convertible rolling backpack is ideal for college or business trips with an organization that’s geared toward tech gadgets.
Inside the pack, you’ll find a laptop pouch that holds up to a 15.6″ laptop and a main compartment that can hold 36L of books, papers, clothes, or a combination of things.
The smaller front compartment has various pockets to keep items organized and accessible.
For such an affordable price, this pack is also surprisingly durable.
It has a waterproof bottom panel and corner guards to protect the bag from wear, lockable zippers, rubber wheels, and a durable telescoping handle that can be adjusted to two different heights.
When you’re not using it as a backpack, you can tuck the backpack straps away in a zippered pocket.
The handle can also be tucked away in a zippered top pocket when not in use.
Although this bag doesn’t have the ergonomic design that some of the other backpacks on this list have, it still has breathable, adjustable, and padded shoulder straps for comfortable wear.
If you’re looking for a waterproof carry-on rolling bag for work or a backpack with wheels for college, the Matein Wheeled Backpack is a good choice.
- Carry-on compliant for domestic and international airlines
- Somewhat durable, although made from cheaper materials
- Handle has two different heights
- Backpack straps or handle can be tucked away in zippered pockets
- Breathable and adjustable shoulder straps
- Laptop pouch that can hold up to a 15.6″ laptop
- Various pockets and good organization
- Although it’s waterproof, it probably wouldn’t do well in really heavy rain
- Wheels are small and not good for rough terrain
- Not as good of an ergonomic design as other backpacks on this list, not as comfortable to wear as a backpack for long durations
- No exterior compression straps to make the bag more compact when fully packed
- Wheels don’t spin
#6 Kroser Rolling Backpack
Best Wheeled Backpack Under $100
Dimensions: 19.8 x 13.7 x 10.2 in
Weight: 5.5 lbs
Best for: College/school, commuting to work, short business trips
Another affordable small rolling backpack, the Kroser Laptop Backpack is an inexpensive option for school, commuting, and the odd business trip.
There’s not a ton to this backpack, its features are kept simple and streamlined.
Its most prominent feature is its large laptop pouch that can hold up to a 17″ laptop.
The backpack also includes a tablet pocket and additional organization pockets for pens, keys, and other small items.
If you’re using this backpack to commute to work, there’s room in the back of the bag for an extra outfit and bulkier things.
In addition to the standard interior features, there are two mesh side pockets and hidable padded backpack straps.
The wheels can also be hidden when wearing it as a backpack with a velcro cover.
As a bonus, the wheels are in a comfortable position when packed away so they don’t dig into your back when you’re wearing it as a backpack.
With that said, this bag is fairly simple in terms of ergonomic design so it’s not as comfortable to wear for long periods if you’re carrying a lot of weight.
If you want to use this small pack for a short trip, it’s carry-on friendly and can fit in most overhead bins.
Lastly, even though the materials used in this pack are somewhat cheap—which is unsurprising with the price point—it’s water-resistant and does a decent job of keeping things dry.
This is one of the best backpacks with wheels under $100 on the market and it’s versatile enough for school or work.
The Kroser Backpack is perfect for someone who just wants the basics and is looking for an inexpensive rolling backpack.
- Carry-on compliant, can fit in most overhead bins
- 17″ laptop pocket
- Easy to hide straps or wheels when converting it
- Area for clothes and bulkier items in the back
- Padded backpack straps
- Plenty of organization pockets
- Wheels are pretty quiet
- Made from cheap materials
- Not very ergonomic
- Basic design, not too many extra features
- Small wheels that aren’t good for rough terrain
#7 High Sierra Freewheel Wheeled Laptop Backpack
Best Wheeled Backpack With Laptop Compartment
Dimensions: 20 x 13.5 x 8 in
Weight: 4.65 lb
Best for: Carry-on travel, business trips, gamers, college
If you’re looking for good quality rolling backpacks with a laptop compartment, look no further than the High Sierra Freewheel Wheeled Laptop Backpack.
This is one of the best rolling laptop backpacks, and unlike most of the previous packs on this list that have a laptop compartment, this backpack is designed specifically with travel in mind.
One of the best aspects of this bag is its maneuverability.
Whether you’re flying through an airport or rolling across cobblestones in a foreign land, this backpack has a telescoping handle and durably designed wheels that are easy to direct.
Additional features of this backpack with wheels include a media pocket with a headphone port, padded and ergonomically designed backpack straps that can be easily hidden, and zippered side pockets.
You can also hide the handle when you convert it into a backpack with the zippered top pouch.
Add on to this its large multi-compartment design, extra padded laptop pouch that fits up to a 17″ laptop, front organizer compartment with various pockets, and durable wheels that can roll over pretty much any terrain, and it’s easy to see why this is one of the best wheeled laptop backpacks right now.
If you’re looking for one of the best travel backpacks with wheels that’s relatively small and affordable, the High Sierra Powerglide is a great option.
This is also an ideal option if you’re looking for a slightly heftier wheeled laptop backpack that can hold a decent amount of weight comfortably.
- Mostly carry-on compliant for domestic and international airlines, although can be a stretch if it’s packed to the brim
- Protected laptop pouch with plenty of cushion that can hold up to a 17″ laptop
- Easy to maneuver
- Durable wheels that can handle most terrain
- Front organizer compartment
- Good for carrying a decent amount of weight
- Ergonomically-designed straps
- Zippered side pockets
- Looks professional
- Versatile enough for business or leisure travel
- Relatively heavy and bulky for its size
- Wheels can be noisy
- Made from somewhat cheap materials
- Not very water-resistant
- Could have more organization pockets, especially in the main compartment
- Media pocket could be designed better—it’s upside down so things fall out when you open it
#8 Think Tank Airport Takeoff V3.0
Best Wheeled Camera Backpack
Dimensions: 14 x 21 x 8 in
Weight: 8.7 lb
Capacity: Holds a 600mm f/2.8 lense, two standard bodies, and various other lenses
Best for: Photographers
If you’re a photographer and you’re looking for wheeled luggage to protect your camera gear, the Think Tank Airport Takeoff V3.0 is hands down the best rolling camera bag on the market right now.
This wheely backpack can hold up to a 600mm f/2.8 lens, two standard camera bodies, and various other lenses and camera accessories in smaller pockets.
With this bag, you can rest assured that your expensive camera gear is protected and secure, easily accessible, and organized.
And it’s not just good for photography gear, this backpack has two front pockets that hold up to a 17″ laptop and 10″ tablet.
There’s also a plushy front pocket to hold your smartphone and glasses.
Another bonus is the pocket and side straps to lock in your tripod if you want to carry it on the bag.
This pack also has a comfortable shoulder harness with integrated backpack straps and back panel padding for more comfort.
In terms of security, there’s a cable and combination lock that comes with the bag to lock zippers. And zippers are YKK RC Fuse zippers, meaning they’re durable and waterproof.
Plus, there’s a seam-sealed rain cover included to protect gear fully.
This Think Tank backpack is also made of anti-theft materials such as ballistic nylon, high-density velex, and closed-cell PU foam.
The ballistic strength nylon makes it near impossible to slash with a knife.
This isn’t the lightest backpack with wheels, but if you care more about protecting and organizing expensive camera gear, this is one of the best backpacks you can purchase.
And if the Think Tank backpack is too far out of your budget range, Amazon also offers a basic wheeled camera bag that’s a good alternative for beginner photographers: Deco Gear 3-in-1 Travel Camera Case.
- Carry-on compliant for most domestic and international airlines
- Pockets for all your tech gear, including a 17″ laptop pocket, smaller pockets for camera accessories, and a place to attach a tripod to the bag
- Heavy-duty 80mm wheels that are durable and quiet
- Secure and weatherproof
- Made from high-quality materials
- Lockable zippers that come with locks
- Stylish and looks professional
- Heavy for a carry-on
- Not a versatile bag, can really only be used for photography gear and a few other gadgets
#9 Samsonite Wheeled Backpack
Best Lightweight Backpack With Wheels
Dimensions: 8 x 14 x 21 in
Weight: 5 lb
Best for: Carry-on travel, business trips, college/school, commuting
If you’re looking for a lightweight rolling backpack, it’s good to find one that’s around five pounds or under.
This Samsonite Wheeled Backpack is an affordable option when it comes to lightweight rolling backpacks and is perfect for anyone who just needs the basics.
This pack features ripstop fabric to help protect it from wear and tear.
It’s also designed with contoured straps that have extra padding for more comfort when wearing it as a backpack.
And the straps can be tucked away in a zippered pocket when not in use.
Although the organization of the bag is fairly simple and straightforward, there are a few additional pockets to hold smaller items and a laptop pouch that holds up to a 17″ laptop.
This is the ideal bag for someone who’s looking for a lightweight and inexpensive backpack with wheels for carry-on travel, business trips, or commuting to work or school.
- Carry-on compliant for domestic and international airlines
- Includes a 17″ laptop sleeve
- Made with ripstop fabric to help protect it from wear and tear
- Durable wheels that handle rough terrain well
- Weight distribution is not always even with it’s packed fully
- Made from cheaper materials
- Doesn’t have a ton of pockets for organization
- Cheap zippers—be mindful to close them properly
#10 Victorinox Vx Sport
Best Durable Backpack With Wheels
Dimensions: 14.6 x 10.2 x 21 in
Weight: 5 lb
Best for: Carry-on travel, adventure travel, business trips, commuting
One of the most durable rolling backpacks that’s carry-on friendly, the Victorinox Vx Sport is one of those backpacks that you can take on any adventure.
Inspired by the design of a Swiss army knife, this backpack is all about versatile functionality.
With the Victorinox Vx Sport, you’ll find multiple protected pockets to keep your items organized and secure—including a laptop pocket with an anti-scratch lining that can hold up to a 16″ laptop.
There’s also a 10″ pocket that can hold a tablet, Kindle, or other medium-sized electronics.
Another feature of the Victorinox Vx Sport is the front zippered pockets that are easily accessible and perfect for cruising through TSA lines.
It also has mesh side pockets to hold water bottles and side compression straps to keep weight stabilized and condensed.
As a bonus, when you convert from rolling luggage to a backpack, there’s a retractable wheel cover that protects the wheels (and your clothes) from dirt.
This is one of the best heavy-duty backpacks with wheels due to its durable nylon materials and inline wheels that can easily roll over rough terrain.
The zippers are smooth and made from quality materials as well.
If you’re looking for a durable backpack with wheels for travel or commuting to work, this is a versatile choice.
It’s by far one of the top wheeled backpacks on the market today for those who are looking for a small, compact, and lightweight option.
- Carry-on compliant for domestic and international airlines—it can even fit under airline seats if it’s not packed too fully
- Lightweight and compact
- Made with durable materials
- Smooth high-quality zippers
- Great tech backpack for keeping your gadgets protected and organized
- Versatile enough for the office or adventure travel
- Stylish and professional
- Wheels can be noisy
- There could be more organization pockets in the front pouch
- Might be too small for some—it can be used for a weekend trip away but not much longer than that
#11 Gonex Rolling Duffel Bag
Best Wheeled Duffel Bag
Dimensions: 32 x 15 x 14 in
Weight: 11.4 lb
Best for: Travel (checked luggage) and carrying heavy gear
The Gonex Rolling Duffel Bag isn’t technically a backpack, but it’s a great option if you plan to carry around a lot of heavy gear.
This is one of the best large rolling duffels with its durable features and capacity to hold a decent amount of weight.
The Gonex is too big for carry-on travel, but if you care more about being able to carry more things, it’s the ideal piece of checked luggage.
Features of this wheeled duffel include multiple pockets and good organization, quiet wheels that can roll over rough terrain easily, and two compression belts to keep weight centered and condensed.
This bag also has a foldable bottom design that allows you to fold the bottom of the bag when it’s not in use, allowing you to save storage space when you’re carrying less gear.
And when you just want to carry it as a duffel, the handle can be hidden away in a top-zippered pocket.
Lastly, this rolling duffel is made with fairly durable materials, especially at its affordable price point.
These include waterproof PVC fabric that’s wear-resistant on the front, quality YKK zippers, and heavy-duty rubber wheels.
If you’re looking for a heavy-duty bag that can hold a lot of gear, the Gonex Rolling Duffel Bag is a great option.
Or, if you prefer a more well-known brand, another one of my favorite heavy-duty rolling duffels is The North Face Rolling Thunder.
Looking for more duffel bag options? Read our guide to the best waterproof duffel bags.
- Heavy-duty and durable
- Good for carrying heavy gear
- Water-resistant and the front is made from waterproof materials
- Foldable bottom design to help you save storage space when you’re carrying fewer things
- Converts into a standard duffel when you prefer to carry it
- Quiet rubber wheels that can handle rough terrain
- Two compression belts that keep weight centered
- Quality YKK zippers
- Not carry-on compliant, has to be checked
- Gonex branding is large on the exterior of the bag
#12 Jansport Driver 8
Best Wheeled Backpack For College
Dimensions: 21 x 14 x 10 in
Weight: 5 lb
Best for: College/school
Looking for a good roller backpack for school?
Although trolley backpacks are sometimes associated with elementary school, they can be great for college as well with the number of heavy textbooks students have to carry around daily.
The classic Jansport Driver 8 is one of the best rolling backpacks for adults who are in school. It’s everything you’d expect from a Jansport backpack but on wheels!
The simple design of this backpack includes a 15″ laptop sleeve, a front organizer pocket, two large main compartments, a retractable handle that can be used at two different heights, and a side mesh pocket for a water bottle.
And it’s easy to convert into rolling luggage from a backpack with shoulder straps that can be easily hidden in the back of the pack.
If the Jansport rolling backpack isn’t your thing, another good option for school is the J World New York Sundance Backpack.
For adults planning to carry heavy loads, just keep in mind that both of these bags won’t have the suspension system or as much back support built-in, as some of the higher-end packs.
- Standard organization for a school backpack – including two main compartments, 15″ laptop sleeve, and a front organizer pocket
- Retractable handle that can be used at two different heights
- Backpack straps that can be easily hidden away in the back panel when not in use
- Good for lugging around heavy textbooks if used as a wheeled bag
- Wheels can be noisy but are easy to change out for a quieter pair if needed
- No compression straps
- Not super comfortable to wear as a backpack if carrying a lot of heavy textbooks, better to use it as a rolling bag
- Zippers can be stiff
What is a Wheeled Backpack?
A wheeled backpack is exactly what it sounds like–a backpack with wheels, or you could say a backpack on wheels.
These versatile bags come with wheels and a handle attached so you can either wear it as a backpack or treat it like a rolling suitcase.
Are Wheeled Backpacks Good?
Wheeled backpacks can be great for people who often carry heavy gear or who deal with back and shoulder pain.
They’re especially popular for business travel, short weekend trips (or longer trips if you’re not backpacking), and as a way to easily transport gear without hurting your back.
Why are Wheeled Backpacks Bad?
The downside to wheeled backpacks is they’re usually slightly bulkier than a standard backpack.
They’re probably not the best choice if you’re a backpacker who is constantly on the go.
Luckily, even if you need to lug rolling backpacks up stairs or walk across uneven cobblestones, they’re still more versatile than standard rolling luggage.
This is because you can easily throw them on your back like a regular backpack if you need to travel over uneven terrain instead of carrying them like a regular suitcase.
And that can make a huge difference if it’s a heavy bag.
Are Wheeled Backpacks Better for School?
They can be.
Although rolling backpacks are more common with younger kids, if you want to protect your back while carrying heavy textbooks, it can be a good option for high school and college students too.
Are Wheeled Backpacks Better for Travel?
Yes and no.
As I mentioned above, wheeled backpacks can be a great option for those who don’t want to carry a heavy bag all the time on their trip.
However, if you plan to be doing a lot of on-the-go backpacking through places like Southeast Asia, it might be better to get a more traditional backpacking backpack.
Wheeled backpacks are great for travel if you’re not walking miles to a new destination.
If you usually just go from point A to point B to drop off your luggage, they can be an ideal way to carry your things without straining your back or putting extra pressure on your shoulders.
Wheeled backpacks are especially popular with business travelers, older travelers, those who take regular weekend trips, and travelers who want a versatile piece of luggage that they can both carry and roll.
Wheeled Backpacks vs Regular Backpacks – Which One is Best?
To decide whether you want a wheeled backpack or a regular backpack, it’s good to think about what you’re most likely to use this pack for and what’s important to you in a piece of luggage.
If you’re into trekking or you plan to have long journeys between destinations (that involve a lot of walking), it’s probably best to go with a regular travel backpack.
If the distance you need to walk between accommodations is relatively short and you plan to roll your luggage as much as (or more than) you plan to carry it, a wheeled backpack is a good option.
This is especially the case if you’re worried about the extra strain of carrying all your things on your back 24/7.
A wheeled backpack is more versatile in that sense because you can switch between rolling and carrying it.
Wheeled Backpack Pros
- More versatile than a regular backpack.
- Better on your back—if your back needs a break, you can roll your things instead of carrying them.
- The quality, features, and support that wheeled backpacks offer these days have improved a lot in the past decade.
- Can be used for all types of travel, besides maybe trekking or backpacking.
Wheeled Backpack Cons
- Tend to be slightly heavier and bulkier than regular backpacks due to the harness and the wheels.
- Usually not as comfortable as a regular travel backpack for carrying on your back for long distances. This is due to the rod that goes through the back of the bag and the wheels that can sometimes dig into your back.
Regular Travel Backpack Pros
- Ergonomic and designed with comfort in mind for carrying long distances. There are also more specific packs for women vs men that are based on body shape for the most comfort.
- Convenient for on-the-go travel and backpacking when you plan to walk long distances and need a durable bag that you can just throw on and go.
Regular Travel Backpack Cons
- Not as versatile, can sometimes be less professional or stylish compared to its wheeled counterpart.
- Can get heavy very quickly, especially for packs that hold over 30L.
- It’s easier to strain your back when constantly picking up a heavy travel pack or carrying it long distances.
Types of Wheeled Backpacks
Depending on your lifestyle, there are different wheeled backpacks on the market that are better for different things.
It’s good to be aware of which type of wheeled backpack you might need and what to look for.
Everyday Wheeled Backpacks
An everyday wheeled backpack is what you use daily, not just for special trips. This would be your go-to pack for heading to work, school, or sports practice.
For an everyday wheeled backpack, you’d be looking for high maneuverability, good accessibility, and a lightweight frame.
Business Wheeled Backpacks
Business wheeled backpacks are what you might take on a business trip for the weekend.
These are generally sleeker, smaller, and have a more professional look to them.
You’ll probably also want to make sure you’re looking for a wheeled laptop backpack and a pack that can fit all of your work gadgets.
For a business wheeled backpack, you’d be looking for style, compactness, carry-on dimensions, and good organization.
Wheeled Backpacks for Travel
These backpacks can be all different sizes depending on the type of travel you usually do.
When it comes to a good wheeled travel backpack, one of the most important things is comfort.
Make sure you can wear the pack for a decent amount of time so you don’t always have to rely on rolling it when you’re traveling through diverse terrain.
Besides comfort, it’s also good to look for a wheeled backpack that’s lightweight, opens like a suitcase for easier access to your things, and is durable.
Wheeled Backpacks for Gear
Wheeled backpacks can be especially popular for those who have to lug around a lot of heavy gear regularly.
Whether you’re an athlete or musician, or you simply have a lot of heavy things, finding a durable, heavy-duty wheeled backpack is super important when it comes to transporting gear.
For a wheeled gear backpack, you’ll often be wheeling your pack around more than wearing it, so find a pack that has good maneuverability and strong wheels that can support a lot of weight.
You’ll also want to make sure your gear can actually fit into the bag’s dimensions, especially if you have odd-shaped gear (e.g. skis, golf clubs, etc).
There are often wheeled gear bags that are designed for specific sports or activities, so look for those if you need a specific bag for unique gear.
How to Choose the Right-Sized Wheeled Backpack
There are several factors to consider when finding the perfect-sized wheeled backpack.
Do you plan to travel carry-on only, or do you prefer to check your luggage? Are you carrying a lot of gear or are you more of a minimalist?
Do you mostly travel in the summer and pack a lot of light clothing, or are you more of a winter traveler where you’ll need the extra space for puffy jackets and boots?
Are you needing a wheeled backpack for work or a long vacation in Europe? Or do you need a wheeled backpack that’s versatile enough for all types of travel?
Weight and durability are also things to keep in mind, in addition to size, since they sometimes tie together as well.
Although some people say a specific amount of liters translates to the number of days of clothes you can carry, I don’t subscribe to that kind of thinking.
I’ve used a carry-on-sized backpack for three months in Europe and managed to pack two weeks’ worth of clothes in it (before needing to do laundry).
As a general rule of thumb, a 35L or less pack is good for weekend trips, and a 45L or over pack is better for longer jaunts.
If you’re needing a wheeled backpack for business trips or as an everyday backpack, you’ll probably be looking for a backpack that’s under 35L.
If you know you tend to carry a lot of gear and clothes with you, going for a bigger size can be better.
Although you’ll rarely need more than 70L, even for a multi-day trip.
40L to 55L is a good middle-ground for backpack size that’s not too small and not too big.
When choosing the right-sized wheeled backpack, it all comes down to your lifestyle, how you plan to use your pack, and how much weight and bulkiness you want to be carrying around with you.
What to Look for in a Wheeled Backpack
Size & Weight
As I mentioned above, size and weight tend to go hand-in-hand. Are you looking for a compact carry-on or a large wheeled bag to carry a lot of gear?
Because you have the versatility of wheels, you can pack more weight than you might with a regular travel backpack, but it’s good to keep in mind that you might still want to use it as a backpack from time to time.
If you want to be able to use your wheeled backpack as both a carry-on and for checked luggage, make sure to check its dimensions and weight are within carry-on restrictions.
There’s a reason you’re interested in getting a wheeled backpack vs wheeled luggage—you want the versatility to be able to wear your pack when you want.
Because of this, you’ll want to look for a wheeled backpack that has a comfortable frame, padded shoulder straps, and a good suspension system.
Even if you plan to mostly wheel your backpack around, there might be times when you have to carry it more than you thought.
When that happens, you’ll be glad you prioritized comfort when choosing your pack.
Things to look for in terms of picking a comfortable wheeled backpack include the following:
Compression straps – these allow you to compress the contents of the bag and condense it to a more centered weight load for your back.
Hip and chest straps – help balance the weight of the bag better and provide extra support.
Materials – are the materials of the backpack breathable and made of mesh, especially around the straps and back area?
If you’re sweating while lugging around a heavy pack, you’ll want to make sure it’s breathable and still comfortable to wear.
Ergonomically designed – make sure the wheeled backpack you choose is designed with spine health in mind.
One of the main reasons for using a wheeled backpack is to make carrying luggage easier on your back, shoulders, and neck.
Keep this in mind when choosing a comfortable wheeled pack, and make sure it’s ergonomically designed for your body.
And comfort isn’t just in terms of wearing your pack like a backpack.
There are additional aspects to think about in terms of comfort when it comes to wheeling around your backpack, such as:
Handle height – if you’re a tall person, are you needing to crouch down to use the handle? Make sure the handle is at a good height to comfortably maneuver your backpack without resorting to bad posture.
Wheel Maneuverability – you don’t want to uncomfortably twist your wrists every time you need to change directions. Make sure the wheels on your bag have good maneuverability. This might mean they’re able to swivel in all directions and durable enough to roll over most terrain.
Durability & Materials
When choosing a backpack with wheels, it’s worthwhile to get one that is made with high-quality materials.
I also prefer most of my gear, especially for travel, to be waterproof. Unfortunately, the vast majority of rolling backpacks are only water-resistant for some reason.
However, if you can find a good waterproof wheeled backpack, that’s a great feature to have because it’ll be more durable in any kind of weather.
If anti-theft is an important aspect to you in a bag, it’s good to look for a backpack that’s made with ballistic nylon.
And in terms of zippers, YKK zippers are usually a good bet in terms of durability and quality.
With that said, usually the more durable the bag, the more expensive it’s going to be.
So, it’s really up to what you’re looking for and what’s most important to you in a backpack with wheels.
Another aspect to think about when it comes to a good rolling bag is accessibility.
Is there a front or top compartment that’s easy to access and that can fit your liquids and passport when you’re going through TSA?
Where is the laptop compartment located and other pockets that hold heavier items and are they accessible to get to?
Smart bag design goes a long way in terms of convenience and ease of use.
How maneuverable is the bag? This usually has to do with the wheel and handle design but also how the weight is balanced.
Wheels are perhaps the most important when it comes to maneuverability, and there are a lot of different wheel designs out there.
Wheels on a single track that don’t spin can be harder to change direction quickly.
If you have full spinner wheels that can move in any direction, that can make a big difference in maneuverability.
Another key maneuverability feature is the handle.
Some people swear by the single rod handle; others prefer a double rod because it helps with moving the weight of the bag more easily.
And lastly, compression straps that center the weight in the bag can help with keeping the bag condensed and having a good center of gravity to move around.
If you’re a business traveler, you’ll probably want something that looks sleek and professional so you can present yourself in the right way.
And even as a leisure traveler, being a “backpacker” can have a negative stigma sometimes.
If that’s something you care about, you might want to go for a backpack with wheels that doesn’t look like a traditional backpacking backpack.
And on the other side of that, maybe you want a funky-looking backpack that’s colorful and stylish in a unique way.
This also helps it stand out if you’re picking it up from a luggage carousel.
It’s all about your personal preference when it comes to style and also what you plan to use your rolling pack for.
Extra features are another aspect to think about that maybe aren’t as important as the core parts of the bag, such as comfort and durability, but are still nice to have.
Are you looking for a pack that has unique features to it? Perhaps a removable day pack or rain cover?
Some packs even come with their own locks to lock zippers and keep your things secure.
These extra features are usually just bonuses but are still good to keep in mind if you’re having trouble deciding between two different bags.
Warranty & Return Policy
And finally, what kind of warranty or return policy does the backpack have in case you need to send it back?
Some packs have no warranty, some have a one-year warranty, and others have a lifetime warranty.
It’s worth it to research the bag’s warranty ahead of time, especially if you’re shelling out a pretty penny.
Similarly, the backpack’s return policy can come in handy if you end up not liking the bag or there is some kind of malfunction with the bag you receive.
Amazon and REI have pretty standard return policies but it’s always good to double-check this before purchasing.
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