To Wheel or Not To Wheel

luggage-set-wheel“To Wheel or Not To Wheel, that is the question……”

Not really. The two questions I most often get asked about wheeled bags are:

1) Why don’t we discuss wheeled bags?

2) How light would a wheeled bag have to get for it to be considered?


The answers are simple.

1) We don’t have anything against wheeled bags. In fact, many of the packing and travel tips we give work just as well in wheeled bags as they do in non-wheeled bags. We just want to help the select crowd that likes to travel very light and without wheels. In fact, I believe this is the only interactive website devoted to non-wheeled bag travelers.

2) The heaviest convertible, non-wheeled bag weighs in at around 4 lbs. So, a wheeled bag would have to be in that area, weight wise, as well as being able to fit in most airline sizers.

And that got me wondering….are there any?  To my surprise, there were. And since they weigh the same as many of the other bags we discuss, I have to be fair and mention them:


Ozone Osprey 18


The Osprey Ozone 18 weighs 4.4 lbs/ 1.92 kg.









Worlds Lightest Luggage Orange


IT Luggage “World’s Lightest Luggage” 19″ bag weighs 3.7 lbs/1.68 kg.








And here’s the shocker–both have arrived at OBOW World Headquarters and are awaiting review.

This entry was posted in One Bag, One World News. Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to To Wheel or Not To Wheel

  1. pegolas says:

    I just created an account to suggest the Osprey Ozone to someone on the forum who wanted a wheeled bag! LOL.

    I’ve been looking at it for my mom, who’s almost 70, and had trouble carrying 10 pounds on her back!

  2. EASY TRAVELER says:

    Wheeled bags are OK I guess…. Four to five pounds of useless material. Personally I don’t like carrying dead weight i.e. weight that contributes little to your trip experience. Anyone who has traveled KNOWS this Iron Rule Of Packed Baggage: An once of packed something or other morphs into a full pound of carried baggage!

    I say again, If you go to Venice, Italy and want to take a wheeler MAKE SURE IT HAS BACKPACK STRAPS!. Even short trips near the Piazzle Roma are excruciating hard work with you-carry-it-baggage!!

    Some simple light weight backpack and 15-20 pounds max. Before you leave pack your bag and carry it around for a few days or weeks. THAT’S what you will be doing on vacation!

    Here’s my hard and fast rules for what to pack: The stuff you use everyday [ you know what that is!] ONE complete change of clothing. Soap Bars for Hand laundry. Dress ensemble and tie. ONE pair of dressy comfy shoes on your feet. The stuff you wear [ you know what that is!] Medicines. Gadgets and chargers. Flashlight. Compass. Hand Sanitizer. Phrase Book. Mine weighs 14 pounds. Much more than this you do not need! Remember: Ask yourself “….will I use this everyday or just carry it around?”

  3. Paula Bag Lass says:

    My husband wheels, I carry.
    His roller is 18 x 14 x 9 and so lightweight it is easy to carry if necessary, but absolute cr*p on cobblestones (when it needs to be carried)!
    I have two rollers on my travel shelf, one is large for check in… will likely be used in the future, the day we move back to England to live. (That will prove to be an interesting exercise in minimalism).
    My physiotherapist warned me off rolling a bag, it could do my back more damage.

  4. ITC-Flyer says:

    A couple of observations:

    1. A wheeled bag of the same weight as a non-wheeled bag will almost certainly be lest robust than the non-wheeled bag.

    2. You are far more likely to be forced to check a wheeled bag than a non-wheeled bag, so you’d want it to be robust enough to survive being checked.

  5. Fun Travel says:

    I never wheeled except when I was carrying heavy, hard suitcases with a folding cart.

    The handles on the wheeled suitcases, are too low to be comfortable.

    I believe that it is impossible to run, not trot or fast walk, from one gate or one terminal to another without carrying a wheelie.
    If one tried to run with the wheels on the grounds, it would topple, every time.

    Frank, would you be willing to carry that experiment with the bags above, for example, at a mall (a place with even floors, long aisles and crowds) as a substitute for an airport, train or bus station or ferry terminal?

    It might be a moot point, if the bags are marketed to people with limited mobility (which would preclude running), who still want to travel, with light weight, carry on only, pieces of luggage.

  6. JL says:

    It’s not just weight with wheels; it’s capacity as well. A wheeled bag of the same external dimensions as a non-wheeled bag usually has less packable volume.

  7. Tim Kelly says:

    I retired from AA after 25 years part-time on the ramp. For many a flight I would be collecting bags from the last souls to board as they were snatched by the agents. Not once did I ever see a bag gate checked involuntarily when it was being carried on the passenger’s back. This despite the fact some of these back-pack cases were visibly larger than the rollways being sent to the belly.

  8. Frank@OBOW says:

    For many years, I traveled with wheels. Now I travel mostly without them. There are pros and cons to both type of bags.

    I was able to run or fast walk with wheels just not very gracefully. I found, if the bag had locking handles, that pushing it in front sometimes worked better than pulling.(My shoulder preferred it.)

    But after a few “handling” mishaps when I was forced to check the bag, both in the hold and at the gate, I switched back to non-wheeled bags.

    I’m still a proponent of traveling without wheels but I also understand those that prefer them. For some it’s the ease of use, for others it’s a medical issue. I can relate because I have a bad left shoulder and can’t carry any real weight on it. I now carry my main bags cross body style to help balance the weight. (The shoulder injury was from working out with weights and not pulling a bag.)

    I also believe in giving people options. If there are wheeled bags that are about the same weight as non-wheeled bags it becomes difficult not to at least mention them.. And I want to give my readers options.

    There is no “one” right way to travel. The only right way is what’s right for you.

    If there’s one thing I have noticed, and was mentioned earlier, I get hassled less at the gate with a non-wheeled bag than I did with wheels.

  9. Alan B says:

    I bought my wife and the 24 inch version of the IT a few years ago. We never thought it was sturdy enough to be considered seriously to be checked by an airline. As well the nature of the handle proved counterproductive. It was too wide to be used to hold other smaller bags. Also it did not lock in place.

  10. Alan B says:

    I own the Osprey Porter 46 non-wheeled bag, very sturdily made, 3.2 pounds. Of similar construction quality is that company’s Shuttle 22-inch wheeled bag, which weighs 6.0 pounds and whose capacity is 40 L rather than 46 liters. The Shuttle costs $229 versus $99 for the Porter 46. So overall cost for the wheeled bag is:

    $129 extra cost
    6 L capacity loss
    2.8 lbs wt.extra weight

    Regardless when my current wheeled carry-on bag gives up the ghost or gets executed by an airline, I still would likely look at the Shuttle.

  11. Maggie says:

    I am sticking with my non-wheeled bag till I can no longer carry it. We only get 7kgs of carry-on allowance so a wheeled bag takes up too much of that precious allowance. However, I realise that, at some point, I physically won’t be able to carry my carry-on. I hope technology will have come up with something suitable by then. Are you listening Eagle Creek? 😉

  12. Gary Williams says:

    I agree with your decision to give some coverage to wheeled bags. I’m with the majority here who prefer a non-wheeled bag; but the name of the site is ONE BAG, and has nothing to do with the kind of one bag. I think the first value here is minimizing space and weight to a point that everything necessary can be carried on. But there are trade-offs in meeting that goal, and wheeled versus non-wheeled is just one of them. It would be a shame for a reader to say, “I’d love to meet the one-bag goal, but it’s important to me to have wheels, so I guess that’s just not possible for me.”

  13. MWebb says:

    Negatives with wheeled bags:
    – No benefit to partially packing them, they aren’t any smaller.
    – The wheels and trolley tubes eat up a lot of space.
    – They aren’t compressible/conformable so sometimes they are hard to fit into the trunk of a small foreign taxi that has a compressed natural gas tank in there as well.
    – Really hard to carry on a tiny 12 passenger mini-van in Asia where there isn’t trunk or roof rack and all your bags have to be on your lap or under your feet (buses still have luggage holds underneath).
    – The hard edges can whack friends and interiors if you swing it into the back seat of a taxi and your friend is in the process of sliding over.

    + They act as a luggage trolley for my carryon luggage (Patagonia’s new spring 2014 Transport line – shoulder bag, back pack, and replacement for their MLC onebag all come with new trolley handle pass-through panels on the back). Leaving the US it isn’t a problem, but at destination taking a skytrain it is really nice to get weight off my back or shoulder and onto my 22″ wheelie (I check the wheelie and carryon a bag with “must haves” as well as a personal item for seat side essentials – so I’m a three bagger. But I use my personal item bag as my local bag.)
    + The sturdy side and back panels provide the most protection for a laptop in the center wrapped in clothes.
    + The wheels don’t mind if the floor is dirty or wet (vs. setting down a soft bag on the floor).
    + I usually fill my wheelie and use the zipper expansion to allow for purchases, so wasted space is never a problem.
    + The panels prevent thieves from identifying valuables by feel. If there isn’t a room safe, I lock electronics in the wheelie; I even carry a cable lock to lock the wheelie to a chair, if I am worried.
    + The panels keep stuff from being smashed by other luggage thrown on top in a left-luggage storeroom.

    I used to love wheelies back in the day when they weren’t weighed and relatively few people used them on international flights. Sometimes they were hard to lift into the overhead, and a little tricky pulling down the narrow aisles, but transiting terminals was a breeze and on business trips stairs and buses and minivans weren’t usually problems.

    Nowadays I travel for fun, and the trans-pacific carriers have a 7kg limit on my carryon, and overhead bins are fuller, so ironically for the most fatiguing part of my trips, the flight over the pacific then to my destination, I carry a “one bag” supplemented by a “personal item” small daypack etc. Honestly, I need the personal item as much to offload some netbook/tablet weight off the actual luggage, as to hold my small staple of comfort items at my seat.

    For several years I went to the same hotel and worked out at their judo gym so gradually my checked bag when from 20″ to 22″ to 27″. Then the hotel got demolished, they gym moved, and I started exploring other parts of the country, so I had to start being careful about what I could wrangle on a subway/skytrain, into a minivan, along paved and broken pavement sidewalks in beach towns from the minivan stop to my hotel.

    The best I’ve come up with so far is using a 22″ wheelie as checked luggage – checked meaning if it got lost or stolen I could still get by, albeit without any luxury items, with my carryon bags. My carryon bags is one of several rectangular soft-sided suitcases/convertible to backpack. Honestly, I’ve never used the backpack straps, cross-body, bike messenger (or bandolier) style carry works best or me with a strap. Finally, I choose a personal item that I can carry one of three ways – on the wheelie with a trolley panel; cross body in front of my body (with onebag on my back); or by hand, by handle. The least satisfying carry is single-shoulder carry, either shoulder bag or one strap of a backpack, it just keeps sliding off and is an invitation for snatch and run (or motorbike snatch). I have actually added back panels to some otherwise favorite personal item sized bags so I can carry them on the trolley. The one negative about putting the personal item on the wheelie is navigating stairs up to skytrains – the combination of weight and awkward handling makes me temporarily body-carry the personal item, collapse the wheelie handle and carry it up by the strap handle.

    I’ve found that what kinds of bags I need is greatly influenced by my destinations and local travel. Taxis make more and bigger bags ok. Buses, trains, micro vans mean backpack style (with an efficient Rick Steves style rectangular, light pack) the best.

    Also what is “essential” depends on your goals. If you have to hike to wear you are going – if local rides are unreliable – backpack style is the only way to go and you have to drop a lot of luxury items. For me, even with the added difficulty of taking a microvan to the beach, of taking a subway/skytrain instead of a taxi, I still want to make sure I bring along good transit pillows for the flight itself (a fat inflatable one to fill in the angle of a reclined plane seat), a good but compact and compressible pillow in case the ones in my hotel room are way to high and non-compressible, a puff parka for the cold flight, a sleeping mat for an emergency terminal sleep-over (only one in 30 years, though). If I stripped out my comfort/emergency sleepover items, I could probably get it down to one carryon and one personal item – but the gains in transiting wouldn’t make up for the loss of comfort for me.

  14. IzzysMom says:

    Most trips take only one bag for me, but there was a time when I had a full set of luggage with wheels. That entire set has been gifted to my sister with a bad back. My back has been injured, but the vertabrae and discs are fine, so I’ve been rucking daily and use my ruck for travel. My elderly parents opt for wheeled luggage which is fine for them and my sister. I found that the added hardware on the wheeled luggage to be cumbersome for me and kept me tethered to them. With a backpack, I feel it on my back, but unless it’s overloaded, the weight is nominal.

  15. EASY TRAVELER says:

    Sometimes what you wear is just as important for packing light for one bag.

    I just got some Rail Rider Weather Pants in black. They fit really good and feel good on!

    Made of Nylon they have two zipper pockets on the back, two deep roomy pockets on the front. There’s a “secret” zippered pocket rear of the right hand front pocket. It’s pretty much as big as the front pocket! Your Passport, Wallet, Cash and Credit Cards are safe there! Elastic waist and a belt too. Wonderful!

    I have “dressed up” with the pants, a long sleeve shirt and a tie. I look pretty good! Good enough to dine on “special” nights on a cruise ship.

    Here’s the advantage: I can just wear these for everyday AND dress up too. The pockets hold a lot of gear. The pants are over “engineered” to take a lot of abuse. Since they are Nylon they hand wash and dry quickly. They can even be worn damp and will dry in a hour or two Subtract one or two pairs of pants and two pounds!!

    Archtek Tooth Paste Tablets. Here’s a way to brush your teeth with a dry preparation. Sixty tablets in a bottle last thirty days used twice a day. Perfect! Finally I can take enough dentifrice and get it by TSA! Look for them on Amazon. There’s a three bottle deal for eleven dollars and change….

    While you are at Amazon have look at the Kindle Paperwhite. Small six inch screen, very light weight and easy to use. Your iPhone charger will charge it! Just ONE charger! It will hold a lot of Guide Books and Phrase Books! Perfected tech. Pretty Neat! [I use a small padded envelope for a cheap light weight “case”]

    Just ONE BAG and fifteen pounds. Nice trip. Nice trip. EASY TRAVELER

  16. Jen says:

    I look forward to reading your review on the IT bag. I’ve been considering an IT bag because it is so lightweight and my husband has been dropping hints that he’s ready to stop carrying my over packed luggage. However, I’m wondering if it is TOO fragile for air travel even if our flights are direct.

    By the way, you provided excellent tips for our trip to Italy last year and I look forward to more travel know how about our upcoming trip to Costa Rica. I purchased a convertible bag from you last year and it was great.

  17. Christine says:

    Thanks for this! I have been trying to lighten up over the years, and for the most part have been successful in shedding pounds (now if I could do that off my body–ha ha). But, I roll. I have a standard “light” roller from Travelpro of about 7 lbs which has been my trusty companion for probably about 8 years. I’ve been trying and trying to no avail to do away with the wheels for all of the reasons covered here. I bought a small true backpack (with frame, hip belt, sternum strap, etc), which I’ve used for fun travel and worked well for the most part. Recently, I bought a Timbuk2 Wingman on sale to try for work. I packed it up to try and it was at just under 30 lbs, which while not certifiably crazy, I still feel is above what I should carry with the recent back and shoulder problems I have had.. The main culprit is my stupid company-issued laptop, which weighs in at over 6 lbs, not counting the power cord (or the mouse and number pad I need to bring–I do work onsite that sometimes requires data entry, where the number pad has proven invaluable). Oh, and the paper, dear God the paper. I usually have to show up with paper copies of the presentations I am going to give (and though I have considered getting them printed at my destination, that has not always worked in the past and causes more headaches than carrying the paper does). If it was just an overnight, therefore requiring even less clothing and other accoutrement, I could do it. Unfortunately, anything over a week puts me solidly in break my back zone. I am probably going to keep the Wingman for my own personal travel when I would never dream of carrying a stupid 6 lb+ laptop and reams of paper!!! I dream of those occasions!

  18. EASY TRAVELER says:

    Sorry, Christine, business travelers have it the worst! SOME things you can’t leave at home, check and eliminate. Wheeled bags are a must in this situation. Look for the lightest ones they make. Maybe you can deduct the expense?

    Then there’s obligatory wardrobe. I hope some of the suggestions will lighten your load at least a little!

  19. EASY TRAVELER says:

    I have just discovered Here’s some very light weight backpacks! I bought their “Zero” pack.

    7.40 ounces! The medium will hold a heck of a lot of stuff so be careful what you decide to throw in it. I got the “hybrid” fabric model and lengthened the straps to fit me and my jacket.

    I suggest you spring for the Roll Top Dry Bag version and get the mesh pocket and some lash straps.

    Eight ounces means another pair of pants or maybe an Ipad without going over 15 pounds.

  20. EASY TRAVELER says:

    Just got back from an Eastern Caribbean Cruise. What a hoot watching all those poor shmucks wrestle HUGE Rollies and Dufflels crammed with stuff they would never use! One happy couple had six of them! S-I-X ! !

    I was happy a whole week with one bag. ONE. I never checked a bag. I never waited with fingers crossed for my bag at the carousel. My stuff fit the state room closet with room to spare. I had everything I needed to go a week or more without re-supply. I washed my things and they dried overnight A few times I washed something twice a day.. Everything just so…I looked good. I felt good. I smelled good. I enjoyed the trip.

    I took notes on how to cut the load even more! Here it is: TWO Black RailRiders Pants. TWO White shirts. TWO pair of socks. TWO pair of shorts. All quick dry fabrics! A politically neutral ball cap. Gadgets camera and chargers. Toiletries. Medicines. Soap enough to wash my clothes. My home made PEX hangers. ONE pair of comfy shoes. Scratch paper and a map of Florida. A ball point pen. A small LED light. My Kindle. Cash and credit cards. Passport. Tickets. You can go indefinitely with just this stuff!


  21. EASY TRAVELER says:

    I love Champion Sports Wear. Good stuff cheap. Get it at Target. Well built t-shirts and polos. Nice light weight nylon jackets. Save money for bus and train fares and those yummy salads in Italy! AND it hand washes fast and drys quickly. Cheap enough to be expendable if you just have to chuck it…

    I layer light garments to increase warmth. Except for very cold temps this works very well. I won’t travel in the dead of winter.

  22. EASY TRAVELER says:

    Two more discoveries today. The RikSak. This is a small very light weight backpack you can use to carry daily incidentals when out and about. Water bottle. Guide book. Phrase book. Medicines. Repellent. Makeup. Camera. Kindle. Blister kit. You get the idea.

    Get it at

    The other find is ZEISS Lens Cleaning Wipes. Why? Because they are moistened with ISOPROPYL ALCOHOL! These will clean your hands very well. Your lenses too. Two will get your palm very clean so you can take pills safely. They can be used for First Aid too. Use one to clean and bandage cuts. I wrap one inch “Training Tape” around some tubular object in my kit and tear off some for blisters and wounds.

    They are small and very lightweight. They are “dry” so they don’t count as a liquid in your 311 baggie. 2 1/8 X 1 7/8 inch 100 will last a whole month of travel! They are available at Amazon but Walmart has them too.

    Happy traveling and as always pack light. OBOW!

  23. Chris says:

    I am a light traveler, both on man made surfaces and in the back country. Thanks for the insight here; it offers me some form of defense against the complaints of my “wheelie” friends who attempt to force their view. Of course, no one has ever successfully countered my complaint that wheeled bags roll through human waste in airport restrooms. Yuck factor aside, carrying my small, flexible bags also prevents me from ever facing the issue of lost luggage.

  24. EASY TRAVELER says:

    We are in the early stage of planning a trip through Europe. My wife sees the advantage of packing light and one bag but can’t get over wheels. She has to take extra clothing for a medical issue .

    It’s interesting to watch the conflict over wheels and those awful memories of Venice, Italy. Since I have all but perfected my packing [ about 10 pounds U.S. ] I have no doubt that I’ll be the mule for some of her stuff.

    Tulsa to Dublin. Dublin to London. London to Paris. Paris to Venice via Switzerland. Then on to Florence, Rome and Capri-Amalfi-Sorrento. Whew! If there ever was a reason to pack light…