Best Wheeled Backpack? Our Buying Guide to Rolling Backpacks

  • August 20, 2019
  • / By Keith Terrell
Wheeled Backpack Rolling in Airport

When you go on your first few trips, you’re likely to carry around a backpack or heavy luggage, as many other novice travelers have. Sure, it probably did the job; these styles of bags will never go out of style because they’re just so useful.

Wheeled Backpack Rolling in Airport

But frequent travelers and those constantly on the go know that these styles are no longer enough. In fact, it can be impractical when you have to carry a serious amount of belongings on trips that require airplane or train rides; or both! For this reason, busy travelers know that the secret to travelling success lies in the wheeled backpack. This gem of a luggage is extremely versatile and its biggest selling points are mobility and flexibility. They give you two options of carrying your bag: you can either wheel it around like a trolley, but you can also switch it up to a backpack in an instant.

Nothing beats the efficiency of traveling with a rolling backpack, particularly if you frequent airports and train stations. These two places can be frustrating to maneuver if you don’t have the right gear to hold your belongings as you whizz through them. Wheeled backpacks are also super handy for college students who need to carry heavy textbooks and notebooks to and from campus.

Perhaps the most significant advantage that backpacks with wheels offer, aside from the obvious logistical benefits, is that it’s just so much better for your health. Sprains, strains, fractures, and dislocations from carrying around weighty backpacks are a real, common health hazard. It might be more stylish, but the last thing you need, whether you’re traveling or not, is a health problem that could have been avoided simply by going with a more practical choice in bags. As a plus, quickly making your way to and through airports and train stations is a breeze with a rolling backpack, all while giving your back a much-needed rest. 

Now that you know the importance of rolling backpacks, making the switch is the best investment you can make for your health and future travels. We’ve scoured the market to find the best wheeled backpacks available to cater to busy travelers. We have selected models based on quality, comfort, features, price, and of course, customer reviews.

Frequent travelers, whether you’re traveling for business or leisure, know that a good piece of luggage will go a long way. Any traveler who’s ever experienced the frustrations of dealing with broken bags, a painful backpack, or worse, having to run through airport security with either of these will tell you that trusty luggage is the only travel companion you will ever need. Students who are always on the move also know that reliable wheeled luggage will make all the difference and eliminate the hassles (and pain!) involved in carrying around weighty textbooks.

We’ve done the work inspecting reviews from countless customers to narrow down the best rolling backpacks in the market for you. Here’s what we found:

Winner: Targus Compact Rolling Backpack

The Targus Compact Rolling Backpack is heaven-sent for frequent travelers as well as students. Simply put, it’s the best of both worlds and offers all the benefits of wheeled luggage and backpacks, too. A sleek and compact design allows you to effortlessly take it with you no matter where you go. Its soft-lined laptop sleeve will accommodate most 16-inch laptops or a tablet, so that you don’t need to spend extra cash on keeping your gadgets safe. Quiet roller wheels complemented by a retractable handle means that the Targus Compact Rolling Backpack is a joy to travel with.

It’s big on storage as well: it can accommodate a generous 29 liters of your belongings. That includes the spacious main compartment and additional storage options. This bag thoughtfully comes designed with extended compartment space, because sometimes you just never know when you’re going to need it. Because of that, it’s easy to say that this bag helps you stay prepared at school and during your travels. Two side mesh pockets allow you to stash belongings that you may need urgent access to, such as travel documents or water bottles. The Targus Compact Rolling Backpack is also equipped with a complete workstation where you can neatly organize all your main accessories plus pens, key fobs, and more. Two elastic straps keep your packed clothes neat, even when you’ve packed it to its full capacity.

Thousands of satisfied customer reviews verify that the Targus Compact Rolling Backpack is indeed, the cream of the crop in the world of rolling backpacks. Reviews have been written by busy professionals, travelers, and students; all of whom were pleasantly surprised with the bag’s ability to hold a serious amount of belongings while rolling smoothly. Customers appreciate how it’s the perfect carry-on size as well. Women users, in particular, were pleased at how light this bag is and its padded backpack straps make it ultra comfortable. Some customers have also noted that it has features comparable to other great but much pricier wheeled backpack models, yet it holds up without breaking the bank. Customers rely on this bag not just for travel and school, but also for running errands and doing groceries, and for storing IT gear and equipment on a daily basis.

Targus Compact Rolling Backpack


However, some customer conveyed disappointment in this bag. A number of users found that the Targus Compact Rolling Backpack easily succumbed to damage, although they also admit that the bag was abused – hence the wear and tear.  Customers discovered that when the bag is packed to its full capacity and used on a daily basis, it no longer lasts as long as it should.    

Overall, a majority of the reviews for the Targus Compact Rolling Backpack validate that this bag is made with terrific construction at an affordable price. If you can take care of this bag avoid using its full capacity daily, it’s a top choice for people on the go.

Runner-Up: Rockland Luggage 17-Inch Rolling Backpack

If you’re looking for an ultra-compact wheeled rucksack that’s ideal for use by young students as well as frequent travelers, the Rockland Luggage 17-Inch Rolling Backpack is the way to go. Double skate wheels make this bag the ideal campus companion, while it’s size works great for children who need to carry lots of textbooks to and from school.

A built-in organizer helps ensure your items are neatly arranged and simple to locate, even if you’re taking lots of small items with you. Two zippered pockets strategically placed on the front of the bag allow easy access to valuables, but its spacious main compartment is the star attraction in this model. You can carry a lot of stuff in this baby, and a fabric handle at its top makes taking it around as a trolley extra comfortable on your hands.

Many customer reviews of the Rockland Luggage 17-Inch Rolling Backpack are written by parents who have purchased this bag for their kids. It’s just the right size to be used by toddlers for school: thick, durable material holds up really well for school use. Several customer reviews also come from travelers, who are very pleased about the fact that this bag functions well as a carry-on. It fits an astonishing amount of items considering its size; plus, they also noted that the good quality wheels and materials contribute to the durability of the bag even through several long flights and transatlantic trips.

On the other hand, there have also been reviews from people who find the bag’s quality flimsy. 

Rockland Luggage 17-Inch Rolling Backpack


A few reviewers say that the bag broke after a short time of rough usage, such as daily school use by children. But then again, the Rockland Luggage 17-Inch Rolling Backpack seems to last longer for adults, based on the reviews.

If you need a reliable wheeled luggage for your kids, the Rockland Luggage 17-Inch Rolling Backpack is an excellent choice as long as it isn’t exposed to rough use and abuse. Travelers and frequent fliers will find this model a steal for its terrific quality and such a great price tag.

Alternative: High Sierra Powerglide Wheeled Laptop Backpack

For travelers whose priority is space (and lots of it), you can’t go wrong with the High Sierra Powerglide Wheeled Laptop Backpack. With a capacity of 38.5 liters, this model is designed for individuals who require serious storage while on the go. And even if you bring a lot of items with you, the bag makes locating them easy thanks to superior organization features such as a voluminous main compartment that comes built in with several other pockets. Other pockets in the bag include zippered mesh pockets and a key fob hook for added organization.

You can have peace of mind if you’re traveling long distances with your gadgets in the High Sierra Powerglide Wheeled Laptop Backpack, too: its fully padded Cushion Zone laptop sleeve, which can fit most 17-inch laptops, ensures that your valuable electronics are protected and safe. A lidded media pocket comes in handy for your other gadgets.

Adventurers and individuals with an active lifestyle will also find the water resistant fabric an added perk. It completely eliminates the worry associated with unexpected downpours or exposure to the elements, because your belongings are always kept safe and dry. What sets the High Sierra Powerglide Wheeled Laptop Backpack apart are its unique all-terrain wheels, while the molded kick plate provides added protection from damage and abrasion. This is one wheeled backpack that you can literally take with you everywhere. And when you aren’t using it as a wheeled luggage, simply hide the backpack straps behind the zipped-up back panel. Alternatively, when you use it as a backpack, simply stow away the telescoping handle underneath the zippered cover.

High Sierra Powerglide Wheeled Laptop Backpack


According to customer reviews of the High Sierra Powerglide Wheeled Laptop Backpack, this is indeed one of the toughest and most spacious wheeled backpacks in the market. It can cater to a wide array of needs: from adventurous and active travelers, students, and professionals. Reviewers love the fact that being able to use it as a wheeled luggage when it gets too heavy allows the bag to protect one’s back and shoulders.

However, some reviewers commented that the High Sierra Powerglide Wheeled Laptop Backpack wheels stop spinning after some time. A few customers have also noticed that using the back to make tight turns can cause the wheels to get off the axle. And even though it’s made with water-resistant material, this is a bag that you don’t want to expose to a severe downpour because there’s a chance your belongings may still get wet.

If you need a spacious wheeled backpack for travel, the High Sierra Powerglide Wheeled Laptop Backpack is still a great option. Just take care of the bag by avoiding tight turns, and it is sure to last you several years and trips.

Alternative: JanSport Driver 8 Core Series Wheeled Backpack

For professionals that are on the go, digital nomads, and students, the JanSport Driver 8 Core Series Wheeled Backpack is an outstanding model. It functions as many bags all in one: wheeled luggage, computer backpack, travel bag, and carry-on luggage. It features not one, but two spacious main compartments for your clothes and other essentials. A padded laptop sleeve can safely protect laptops that are up to 15 inches in size.

The JanSport Driver 8 Core Series Wheeled Backpack is big on organization, too. It’s equipped with a front stash pocket for your urgent necessities, a front utility pocket with a built-in office supply organizer, and water bottle pockets on the side. The retractable grab handle and padded handles make carrying it around a breeze. The shoulder straps can be tucked away when not in use. With a capacity of 34 liters, this bag can carry enough for a few days of traveling, or even longer if you’re creative with storage and packing, plus make use of laundry services in your destination.

JanSport Driver 8 Core Series Wheeled Backpack


Additionally, the JanSport Driver 8 Core Series Wheeled Backpack is made from rugged nylon material, made to withstand tough use. It’s built with 80mm inline skate wheels, which gives users the extra benefit of stable and controlled movements. This comes in handy when you have to navigate airports in a hurry, or walk through cities and urban landscapes.

Many customers of the JanSport Driver 8 Core Series Wheeled Backpack are nursing and law students, who rely on the bag for hours of work and study while carrying a heavy load of notebooks and textbooks. It has also been used to efficiently transport groceries. What’s impressive is that a number of customers have used the bag in all kinds of weather, even snow, and they’ve noted how it stands up to the test and lasts for years. 

Some reviewers have complained about the wheels of this model; they find it too noisy. But this was an easy problem to fix, as many have found: all that you need are some screwdrivers if you wish to change the wheels. A few customers have also noted that the zipper tends to get stuck on fabric, but with a little care, this issue can easily be avoided.

If you’re constantly on the move and require reliable and durable wheeled luggage, you can’t go wrong with the JanSport Driver 8 Core Series Wheeled Backpack. When you have such a trusted brand name in luggage, you can have peace of mind knowing that this bag will take care of you.

Alternative: Racini Nylon Waterproof Rolling Backpack

The Racini Nylon Waterproof Rolling Backpack is another excellent multi-purpose rolling backpack model. It functions not just as a rolling carry-on, but it can transform into a comfortable laptop backpack as well. Air-flow technology integrated onto the shoulder straps ensure painless and comfortable carry at all times.

The bag’s interiors were designed with busy professionals and students in mind. Having said that, you wouldn’t be surprised to find clever and strategic pockets to help you stay tidy on the go. A separate shockproof pocket was built to protect laptops up to 16 inches in size, while the anti-theft zippers give you peace of mind. The Racini Nylon Waterproof Rolling Backpack is designed with several pockets including mesh pockets on each side, and pockets for organizing small items such as your wallet, mobile phone, and keys. Generous main compartments offer adequate space for your clothes and other larger belongings.

Racini Nylon Waterproof Rolling Backpack


Outdoor enthusiasts will also find many uses for the Racini Nylon Waterproof Rolling Backpack. Its exterior is made with water and tear-resistant nylon, which works perfectly in all seasons. It eliminates the worry and hassles that come with protecting your bag in unpredictable weather, but with this model you can be assured your items are always kept safe and dry. Just keep in mind not to allow the bag to soak in water or pouring rain.

Reviewers are raving about the Racini Nylon Waterproof Rolling Backpack’s practical features. They appreciate how this bag enables you to travel hands-free, because it has adequate space to keep all your things without the need for an added bag. Customers also appreciate the four 360-degree spinning wheels, which can be challenging to find in the market within the same price range.

However, some customers have noticed that when the Racini Nylon Waterproof Rolling Backpack is packed to full capacity, it expands too much that it ends up bulging. This is due to the omission of compression straps in its design.

Overall, customers clearly enjoy using the Racini Nylon Waterproof Rolling Backpack because it’s easy to roll and comfortable to wear. Unlike other wheeled backpack models, this one doesn’t tip over and can stand on its own with stability.

Why A Wheeled Backpack Is A Must For Busy Travelers

The world of travel bags can be overwhelming to explore. With dozens of styles out there in different shapes and sizes, finding an appropriate one for your needs can be difficult. However, the wheeled backpack is definitely in a league of its own. For many, especially seasoned travelers, it’s simply the cream of the crop; the best and most efficient travel bag one can own.

Traveling can be physically strenuous, but your bag should never cause you added pain. Rolling backpacks save your back by giving you the option of using it as rolling luggage whenever needed. If you restrict yourself to just a backpack, this can take a serious toll on your health if you have to carry it around for a long period of time. Busy travelers also prefer backpacks with wheels because of ease of use particularly in train stations and airports. You’re lucky if you’ve never experienced a mishap with a bag in any of these places, but for the rest of us who are all too familiar with the stress and frustrations it presents, rolling backpacks always save the day.

As you can see from the choices we’ve narrowed down earlier, rolling backpacks also come in a variety of styles and designs. Whether you need a professional-looking model, or a fun and casual design, wheeled backpacks run the gamut. At the end of the day, it still functions perfectly as a versatile travel bag that saves your health, time, and money. 

Features To Look For When Choosing A Wheeled Backpack

Wheeled backpacks are essentially rolling luggage that can be converted into a backpack. The premise is simple; but the great thing about them is that they come in many different styles, sizes, designs, and added features that can cater to everyone’s preferences.

Here are the features you should be looking out for when shopping for a wheeled backpack:
  • Laptop compartment - For busy travelers and professionals, it would defeat the purpose of buying a rolling backpack if you have to lug around another laptop bag. Fortunately, many wheeled backpacks these days already come with a built-in padded laptop compartment. Protecting your valuable electronics with the rest of your belongings on the move is made much simpler without having to bring around another bag just for your laptop.
  • Two wheels versus four wheels - Two and four wheel rolling luggage each have their own advantages and disadvantages, which ultimately boil down to the kind of traveling you’ll be doing. Four-wheel bags are much easier to maneuver, especially if you have more than one bag with you. It’s the most efficient when it comes to airports. Individuals with joint issues are better off with four wheeled luggage since it helps to decrease pressure from the wrist and elbows. They’re also a favorite of seasoned travelers because they’re much easier to transport on the airplane aisle. Four wheeled bags offer more balance and effective weight distribution as well. On the other hand, two wheeled bags are better for use on cobblestones, footpaths, and dirt roads. Two wheeled bags also tend to weigh and cost less, while giving you more packing space on the bag’s interior. They can be taken across virtually any surface since you pull them as opposed to pulling it.
  • Size - Wheeled backpacks come in a wide array of sizes these days. From small rolling backpacks for toddlers to seriously spacious bags that can accommodate 40 liters or more, there’s a backpack with wheels in every size you need. Before you decide on a model, it’s best to evaluate what you’ll be packing in your bag, how much it would weigh, and what purpose you’ll be using it for. If you prefer a multi-purpose bag, one that you can use for short and long trips, you can also opt for an expandable wheeled backpack for travel. Expandable storage allows you to keep it compact when you aren’t packing too much, and it offers handy flexibility for unexpected uses. Another thing to consider in the size department is its ability to fit airline carry-on restrictions, which is important for frequent flyers.
  • Durability - There is a huge difference in the amount of damage a bag will endure if you use it for the city versus rugged use traveling or in the outdoors. Having said that, you’ll want to consider a brand renowned for its ability to withstand wear and tear, the elements, and the outdoors. Take into account the materials used in constructing the bag, the quality of its wheels and handles, and of course, customer reviews.
  • Retractable handles - Not all rolling backpacks come with retractable handles (also known as telescopic handles). However, these features can have a negative impact in ease of use and convenience. Taller individuals may also struggle with the limited mobility provided by towing handles that aren’t retractable.
  • Access - If you’ll be traveling for long periods of time, living out of your suitcase can be challenging. A wheeled backpack model designed with easy-access compartments on the front and/or side can make it much simpler to rely on it especially when you need to get to your things such as travel documents, immediately.
  • Comfort - Comfort may be an issue for wheeled backpacks that aren’t equipped with adjustable back systems, which allow the straps to be adjusted according to your build and height as well as the weight you’re carrying. Some people may prefer fixed back systems, but ultimately, an adjustable strap and back system is the most reliable way to ensure you stay comfortable and reduce risk of injury when using your bag as a backpack. The presence of sternum and hip straps is also desirable for larger bags that are designed for heavier loads, such as those that are 30 liters or more in capacity.
  • Compartments - This isn’t the most necessary feature; it’s actually a matter of personal preference. Some travelers just prefer to have a lot of unobstructed space to work with in their luggage, while others would rather work with several compartments. There are rolling backpack models that are equipped with both small and medium-sized pockets to neatly stash your belongings. Choosing a wheeled backpack with the appropriate quantity of pockets and organizers will help you customize the way you pack down to your very own likings.
  • Style - Wheeled backpacks come in all kinds of designs. From casual and fun, to more serious and professional, you can easily find one that suits your personality. There’s no need to sacrifice style for function, and many of the bags nowadays are designed to be stylish and elegant.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best wheeled backpack?

The best wheeled backpack depends on the personal needs of the user. Sturdy swivel wheels, a retractable handle, a carrying handle, a secure closure, and interior and exterior storage compartments should all be featured. A wheeled backpack should also be appropriately sized for the user’s specific needs. 

Do college students use rolling backpacks?

Not all college students use rolling backpacks. Some of them do. It depends on the specific needs of the student. For example, a student who has to carry a lot of gear and does not want to be burdened by carrying excessive weight on their person would benefit from using a wheeled backpack. 

What is the best rolling backpack for students?

The best rolling backpack for students depends on the age and size of the student. For example, for elementary students, small rolling backpacks would be suitable, while medium-to-large wheeled backpacks could be used by students who are in high school or college. These backpacks should feature a retractable handle that is easy to use, a secure zipper closure, and padded, adjustable straps that will fit the user. 

Are rolling backpacks good for kids?

Yes, rolling backpacks can be good for kids; especially children who have a lot of gear to carry. Students, for example, who have heavy books and other equipment to carry would benefit from using a rolling backpack. Additionally, students who have physical limitations would also benefit from these backpacks. 

What are the best wheels on luggage?

The best wheels on luggage depend on the user’s specific needs. There are two main types of luggage wheels, spinner and in-line skate.

Spinner wheels allow the luggage to move a full 360 degrees and allow the luggage to be pulled, pushed, or carried alongside the user. However, the wheels may not be as durable as in-line skate wheels. In-line skate wheels are highly durable and allow the user to pull the luggage behind them but, the luggage can only be pulled, it cannot be pushed or toted alongside the user.

Therefore, the best wheels depend on the particular needs of the individual using the luggage. 

Rolling Backpacks: Versatile Luggage for People on The Move

No other kind of bag can compare to wheeled backpacks when it comes to the flexibility it offers travelers and people who are constantly on the move. It’s a freedom you didn’t know you needed until you give it a try. Seasoned travelers are familiar with the experience of lugging your luggage behind you in a far off land only to have it end on the sidewalk, putting a halt to your momentum. Or perhaps the dread that comes with the realization that you still have to walk some 5 kilometers to get to your destination, knowing that you have 30 liters on your back.

Women walking with rolling backpack

With wheeled backpacks, you no longer have to wish that you had the best of both worlds: rolled luggage and backpacks. Mobility, ergonomics, and convenience blend seamlessly into a model that’s no less than perfect if you’re on the go. Backpacks are great, but backpacks with wheels? Even better.

Like many, once you give a rolling backpack a chance, you may never go back to ordinary travel backpacks or wheeled luggage. Choosing the right one will require some research, as well as a good understanding of how and where you intend to use the bag. Preferences in the features and styles of the best rolling backpacks are very personal in nature, but luckily, there’s one for every need out there. If you value your health, and want to enjoy convenience as much as possible when traveling, wheeled backpacks are your best bet. Trust us, you won’t want to wait until you do go through a mishap while traveling, then regret not getting a wheeled backpack earlier. A rolling backpack is the best investment you can make for your busy lifestyle.