What Is a Rolling Backpack? Everything You Need to Know 

 December 26, 2023

By  Keith Terrell

Picture this: You're in a hurry to get through the pulsating veins of a busy airport, and a conventional shoulder bag is weighing on you like an anchor tied to your torso. You gasp, burdened by the uncomfortable straps and unbalanced load. Now you turn the scenario around. Imagine yourself gliding gracefully through the same airport, a slender piece of luggage rolling gently beside you as if it were an extension of your body. 

A rolling backpack, also known as a wheeled backpack, is a type of backpack that includes wheels and a telescoping handle so it can be pulled across the floor like luggage. It combines the convenience of a backpack with the ease of transport of a rolling suitcase. Rolling backpacks are particularly useful for those who have to navigate uneven terrain or stairs while carrying heavier loads.

Welcome to the world of rolling backpacks that are transforming personal luggage and travel convenience. In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about these modern marvels of convenience.

Understanding Rolling Backpacks

Rolling backpacks, also known as wheeled backpacks, are an innovative solution for those who need to carry their belongings while traveling. They combine the versatility and functionality of a backpack with the convenience of wheels, making them ideal for people who travel on foot or by public transport. They come in different sizes, styles, and models, and choosing the right bag can be a challenge.

The biggest advantage of a rolling backpack is that it provides extra support and comfort by reducing the weight on your back. It is especially beneficial if you are walking on uneven terrain or covering long distances because you no longer have to carry your luggage on your shoulders. A rolling backpack also allows you to unpack without taking up extra space in your hotel room.

On the other hand, some people argue that rolling backpacks look clunky and bulky and are not suitable for formal events or business meetings. If you are considering buying a backpack, it is important to choose a design that suits your individual needs.

When deciding between a traditional backpack and a rolling backpack, consider how much weight you need to carry on a regular basis. For example, if you mainly travel light, then a traditional backpack might be more appropriate. In contrast, a wheeled backpack is better for carrying heavier items like textbooks and laptops over long distances.

Think of a rolling backpack as an investment in comfortable shoes—they may not always look fashionable, but they can make life easier in the long run if you have to walk around all day.

Classic vs Laptop vs Travel Backpacks

Choosing between classic backpacks,laptop backpacks, and travel backpacks may seem daunting, but understanding their differences will make the decision much easier.

Classic rolling backpacks are perfect for everyday use, such as carrying books to classes or going on a short trip. They are usually more compact, lighter, and easier to handle than travel backpacks. However, they usually also have less storage space.

Laptop rolling backpacks have specialized compartments for a laptop or tablet. This design is ideal for work or campus because laptops can be heavy.

If you plan to travel frequently, you should invest in a travel backpack. They typically come with extra features like locks and expandable pockets and are perfect for carrying clothes, toiletries, and other essentials you need on longer trips.

Choosing the right type of rolling backpack is like choosing the right vehicle—you always strive for comfort, speed, and capacity of your vehicle depending on your daily needs that you expect from your chosen wheeled backpack.

Key Components and Design

Rolling backpacks are a fantastic invention because they allow you to navigate through different terrain with ease while carrying heavy gear. The design of a rolling backpack is crucial to its functionality, and there are a few key components that every quality rolling backpack should have.

One important feature is the handles. A wheeled backpack must have strong handles enough to support the weight of the backpack when it's fully loaded. Ideally, you should have a backpack with telescopic handles that can be extended to different lengths depending on your height. It's also best if the handle has multiple locking positions so you can adjust it accordingly.

Wheels are another important component. Look for rolling backpacks with large wheels (at least 3 inches) that are able to traverse uneven surfaces while remaining stable on smooth surfaces. The wheels should be made of high-quality materials—usually polyurethane—that are both sturdy and durable.

Padding is also essential to the quality of a backpack. Make sure your rolling backpack has adequately padded straps and a back support to keep your shoulders and spine well supported during your travels.

The internal and external compartments of your rolling backpack are equally important when choosing a design that suits your needs. Most high-quality models have multiple pockets, including those specifically designed for laptops and other electronic devices such as tablets or smartphones.

The material of the backpack is another important factor in the design of your rolling backpack. It should protect the delicate equipment inside from scratches or bumps and at the same time be flexible enough not to break in  extreme temperatures or situations.

For instance, I often travel with my camera gear, laptop, and personal belongings all in one bag. However, on my most recent trip to Europe, my luggage regularly had to fly in harsh weather conditions and over cobblestones and took a beating. Thanks to my well-padded rolling backpack, which is made of a durable construction and polyurethane wheels, my fragile equipment arrived without damage.

All these key components work together to create the perfect rolling backpack for your needs. For example, a quality rolling backpack with well-padded straps and back support will allow you to carry it as a backpack or roll it safely by the handle without straining the muscles of your shoulders if you carry heavy luggage regularly.

Whether it's best for your needs depends on what you want to achieve. Let's say you're looking for a backpack for your daily commute that can hold your electronic devices and laptop, then a backpack with a laptop compartment and expandable sections that include organizational pockets is what you need.

Choosing the Right Rolling Backpack

Not every rolling backpack is the same; there are different sizes and types suitable for different people, lifestyles, and purposes.

Firstly, you should pay attention to ergonomics: If you choose a roller bag marketed as a travel backpack but does not have proper weight distribution, such as adequate padding on the straps and back support in backpack mode, you will put extra strain on your shoulders. This can lead to discomfort during prolonged use. Choose a backpack that has adequate padding on the shoulder straps and back panel to ensure optimal weight distribution and avoid pressure points to make carrying easier.

Design also includes stylistic considerations because the model you choose should match your preferences in terms of both functionality and appearance. You can choose from different colors and shapes, but bear in mind that some options offer more styling options than others and may not be suitable for professional contexts.

To cater to your varying needs regarding functionality and appearance, manufacturers offer customizable features such as seams on the sides for expansion, large internal compartments and front pockets with extra space for stationery and small items.

When choosing a design that matches your lifestyle and preferences, you should also consider the type of activity you will be doing. A traveler needs a rolling backpack that can be used for many purposes: to store electronic devices and other essentials while traveling by public transport, and to safely transport sensitive equipment such as cameras on long trips.

For instance, if you regularly attend conventions or often go camping, it might be worth looking for a model with multiple convenient storage options and compartments in addition to standard features such as laptop compartments.

For those who need to travel with special luggage that exceeds typical carry-on dimensions, such as diving gear, oversized sports equipment, or photo studio lights, a variant that can hold extras inside is best to ensure a pleasant travel experience.

Ergonomic Considerations

When choosing the perfect rolling backpack, it is not only the material that matters but also the ergonomics. When we think of ergonomic considerations, the first thing that comes to mind is human anatomy. A backpack that fits well and is comfortable to wear reduces the risk of back pain and injury. Below are some important ergonomic considerations to keep in mind before investing in a rolling backpack.

Most rolling backpacks available today have adjustable handles, which makes them more versatile and user-friendly. The handle allows you to adjust the backpack to a height that suits your height, reducing pressure on your wrists, elbows, or shoulders. Adjustable straps, a padded back support, and a hip belt also go a long way to distributing the weight evenly when walking or changing positions.

Secondly, ergonomic considerations go beyond the physical characteristics of a backpack. They also need to know where and when you will use it. If you are looking for a backpack that is suitable for your daily needs, it may be more important to find one that fits comfortably than to buy one with many extra pockets or compartments.

If you often travel with your rolling backpack, for example in airports or on public transport, models with a compact design can prevent you from accidentally bumping into people or objects along the way.

On the other hand, some people argue that buying larger wheeled backpacks, regardless of their purpose, provides more space for personal items without adding another bag. However, if the backpack is too big or too heavy when fully packed, this can cause muscle strain over time and make it difficult to maneuver in narrow spaces such as hallways or doorways.

Styling Options

Ergonomics aside, rolling backpacks nowadays come in different designs and styles depending on the purpose they are meant to serve. So choosing a backpack that suits your fashion sense and can carry your personal belongings will make your trip more enjoyable and satisfying.

For example, if you are traveling for an extended period of time and therefore need maximum storage space and organization, there are several classic rolling travel backpacks on the market with functional compartments that can hold numerous items such as clothes, shoes, toiletries, laptops or tablets.

If you are planning short trips or are in busy areas such as cities or theme parks where crowds can restrict movement, choosing brightly colored or reflective backpacks could significantly increase visibility and prevent you from being accidentally bumped into by pedestrians or cyclists.

Using backpacks with different designs can also help you express your personality. A sleek and sophisticated laptop bag gives a professional appearance and can have embroidered company logos to promote brand awareness. College students, on the other hand, may prefer eye-catching patterns like checkered prints on their bags to show their individuality.

Taking Care of Your Rolling Backpack

Your rolling backpack is an investment that you want to use for years to come. However, it's easy to forget that your trusty backpack also needs to be looked after. Proper care will keep your rolling backpack in good condition and extend its life. Here are some tips to help you care for your rolling backpack:

  1. Always clean your backpack after each use using a damp cloth with mild soap and water. Avoid bleach, harsh detergents or washing machines as they may damage the materials.
  2. Waterproofing your backpack may offer some protection in wet conditions, but using waterproof coating can harm breathability and degrade fabric quality. Instead, invest in a rain cover designed for your specific rolling backpack.
  3. Avoid overstuffing your rolling backpack beyond its capacity limits. Excessive pressure on zippers and seams can lead to ripping or tearing. Pack only what you need, leaving room for souvenirs.
  4. Handle your rolling backpack with care during transport through airports, rough terrain, or crowded spaces. Use both the handle and wheels for level surfaces and stairs. Excessive bumping may damage the wheels over time.

Remember these tips to maximize the lifespan of your rolling backpack and ensure enjoyable travels!

Key Takeaway 

Proper care for your rolling backpack is crucial to its longevity. Clean it after each use, avoid filling it beyond its capacity, and handle it with care during transport. Instead of a waterproof coating, invest in a rain cover that is suitable for your brand and model. With these tips, you can enjoy many happy trips with your trusty backpack!

Most Recommended Rolling Backpack Brands

When it comes to finding the right rolling backpack for your needs, there are hundreds of models on the market. To help you choose, we’ve done the research and picked out some of the most popular and trusted brands that travelers swear by:

If you're looking for an all-purpose backpack that is lightweight yet tough enough for heavy use, Eagle Creek is a good choice. The backpacks are made from durable materials that can withstand rough handling yet are light enough to carry around all day.

Osprey's Farpoint and Fairview Wheeled Travel Backpacks have gained popularity in recent years because they meet carry-on requirements, have comfortable backpack straps, and are lightweight yet durable. These backpacks are versatile enough to navigate uneven terrain or stairs while providing ample storage space.

For those who value not only functionality but also style, Thule offers a range of trendy and fashionable backpacks that fit every budget. The backpacks are available in various colors and designs without sacrificing the functionality and features that are most important to travelers.

Lowe Alpine is another brand you should consider if you're looking for high-quality rolling backpacks designed specifically for travel. They offer ergonomic design features like padded shoulder straps and harnesses for maximum comfort during long periods of carrying.

No matter which brand you choose, each one offers a balance of durability, comfort, functionality, and affordability. Always look at reviews from other buyers before investing in a rolling backpack to make sure it meets your travel needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can adults also use rolling backpacks or are they primarily intended for children?

Yes, adults can use rolling backpacks too! In fact, rolling backpacks have become increasingly popular with adults in recent years. Rolling backpacks have the added benefit of leaving your hands free and saving your back when navigating airports or commuting to work.

While some may doubt the adult appeal of rolling backpacks, many brands now create chic and adult-friendly designs. With the growing trend of remote work, adults seek convenient ways to carry laptops and work essentials. So don't be swayed by the idea that rolling backpacks are only for kids—they're a practical choice for everyone!

What types of materials are used in making rolling backpacks?

Rolling backpacks should be durable and able to withstand the rigors of frequent use. Therefore, manufacturers use materials that are both strong and lightweight. The most common materials used in making rolling backpacks include nylon, polyester, ballistic fabric, and PVC.

Nylon is a popular choice for rolling backpacks as it is abrasion resistant, water resistant, and easy to clean. Polyester is also durable and water repellent.

For rolling backpacks intended for heavy use or potentially hazardous conditions, manufacturers often opt for ballistic fabric made of extremely thick synthetic fibers that can withstand punctures and tears. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is another sturdy material often used for luggage because of its resistance to moisture and UV rays.

Whether you are a student, a traveler, or just someone who appreciates the convenience of rolling backpacks, you can trust that these bags are made of high-quality materials that are designed to last.

What are the benefits of using a rolling backpack over a traditional backpack?

Rolling backpacks might have been considered an aesthetic nightmare a few years ago, but not anymore. Today, these backpacks are made for both comfort and style, and that's just part of the benefits they offer. Here's why you might want to switch to one:

  1. Even weight distribution: Rolling backpacks distribute weight evenly, reducing strain on your posture. Traditional backpacks, especially when carried on one shoulder, can strain posture when loads exceed 10% of body weight.
  2. Ample storage space: Rolling backpacks provide more storage space, accommodating books, clothes, and personal items without causing muscle strain during movement or stair climbing.
  3. Reduced risk of accidents: Using a rolling backpack eliminates the risk of tripping or falling due to excess weight. Sturdy bases and wheels make it easier to navigate through crowded areas, ensuring the safety of your belongings.

Are there any disadvantages to using a rolling backpack?

Despite their many advantages, rolling backpacks also have a few disadvantages. For one thing, they can be quite heavy even when empty, which can strain your back and shoulders when carrying them up stairs or over rough terrain. 

Also, the wheels of rolling backpacks sometimes get stuck on uneven surfaces such as stones or gravel, making maneuvering difficult. Furthermore, because of their size, backpacks do not fit into smaller spaces such as lockers or under desks, which can be impractical for students who are constantly on the move.

What are some popular brands that offer rolling backpacks?

When it comes to choosing a rolling backpack, there are some popular brands that have earned a good reputation in the market. These include Targus, Samsonite, JanSport, High Sierra, and Olympia.

Targus is known for its high quality and durability. It is one of the leading brands for backpacks. Targus rolling backpacks live up to this reputation with features like padded laptop compartments and sturdy wheels.

Samsonite is another well-known brand with a wide range of rolling backpacks. Their products are both stylish and functional, making them perfect for business or personal use.

JanSport has been in the backpack business for over 50 years, and that legacy speaks for itself. The company offers a wide range of rolling backpacks to suit a variety of  needs and preferences.

High Sierra is also popular with consumers because of the company’s emphasis on comfort and convenience. The rolling backpacks feature padded straps and multiple compartments for organization.

Last but not least, Olympia has made a name for itselfs by developing rolling backpacks that are both lightweight and affordable, as well as featuring high-quality construction.

Overall, when choosing a wheeled backpack, it’s important to go for a reputable brand as it guarantees better product quality backed by positive customer reviews and years of experience in the industry.

About the author

Keith is a one bag traveler and the owner of Backpacks Global. His go to backpack is the Osprey FarPoint 40.

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