But I’ve heard from many of you who want to travel light but prefer to use wheels. Not easy to do with the current choice of wheeled bags on the market.
Last year, I decided to look for wheeled bags that weigh under six pounds. (Six pounds was an arbitrary number but I felt we had to have a cutoff somewhere.)
We started earlier this year with the Osprey Ozone 18. I wasn’t that impressed mostly due to its very lightweight materials and strange packing design. I returned the bag shortly after the review.
During the holidays last year, I bought an IT “World’s Lightest Luggage” 19″ wheeled bag. As soon as it arrived, I realized this was not even something I wanted to write about. No way would I attempt to take this on a plane even if it did weigh under 4 lbs. (I now use it to store travel accessories.)
You can imagine my skepticism when I saw the Eagle Creek Activate Wheeled Backpack 21.
The specs were unbelievable: 21″ x 14″ x 8.5″/54cm x 36cm x 22 cm, weight of 5.5 lbs/2.5kg and a capacity of 2500 cu in/41L.
Fortunately, we have a good relationship with the folks at Eagle Creek and I asked if the above specs were true assuming they didn’t include the wheels and handles. I was assured the specs given included everything. I asked for a sample.
A few days later, one arrived. Before even opening the box, I got my tape measure and luggage scale.
Measurements were spot on as described. My luggage scale confirmed the printed weight. And….it was made of the same material as my beloved Eagle Creek Adventure Weekender.
How is this possible? Let’s take a look at the bag…
The main compartment opens clamshell style and has two sets of tie down straps. The bag tapers toward the top so the actual main compartment packing dimensions are about 19.5″ long, between 13 and 14 inches wide, and between 6 and 7 inches deep.
There are no internal pockets but the lid has its own external pocket that runs the length of the lid. No organizer included which helps to save weight. The zipper to the lid only opens partially as you can see in the photo.
The retractable handle extends 22″ and has two locking positions. The handle releases via a button on the top of the handle.
The bag has two external compression straps. To save weight, rather than having two clips, the strap connectors are more like gatekeeper clips where one end has a plastic connector that slides into a cloth loop sewed onto the bag.
There is a padded handle on the top of the bag and two grab straps on the side and near the bottom to help get it in and out of overhead bins. The side and bottom handles are not padded to save weight. Since the bag won’t be carried by either one, the extra padding wasn’t necessary.
Please understand, this is not a backpack with wheels. It is a wheeled bag with backpack straps. You wouldn’t want to walk long distances with this thing on your back. There is no cushioning between you and the back of the bag. It is bottom heavy due to the wheels and its housing. Once packed, with items shifting south, it can be a little uncomfortable. But, for a short distance, this is a nice option over most other rolling bags.
The 8.5 inch depth is the measurement of the frame holding the wheels. It is easy to pack the main compartment much thicker than this so you might use the bottom frame as a guide, as well as the external compression straps, to stay within carry-on limits for most airlines.
The front and sides of the bag are soft and frameless although the material is strong enough to keep its shape and not get floppy. The rear is made of a thin sheet of polycarbonate type material. When I unzipped the internal lining to see the handle assembly and frame, I learned an additional secret on how they got this bag so light.
So, what do I think of the bag?
Let me say this. I just turned “middle-aged” and I’m not exactly in top-top, Olympic athlete shape. Carrying an extra 18 pounds on my back , especially in the hot, summer months, make me perspire just a little bit more than is comfortable.
Sometimes I look at my fellow travelers, the ones with wheeled bags, and wonder if I shouldn’t consider traveling that way as well. Especially in the summer.
But I couldn’t find a bag that would fit my needs, withstand the rigors of travel and be lightweight.
The Eagle Creek Activate Wheeled Backpack 21 is available in black, red and yellow. Lifetime Warranty. Made in Vietnam. $220.
If this bag is not to your liking, Eagle Creek has a couple of others that are slightly bigger and weigh just a bit more but look more “traditional.” I’ve also been told that they will have another new lightweight wheeled bag this fall. I’ll keep you informed.
Disclaimer: Eagle Creek supplied the item for review. However, this has no effect on the review itself and the opinions are our own.