Subject: Re: wheels
Hello Ziners:

I'm often asked about the use of bags with built-in wheels, first popularized by the Travelpro Rollaboard series, and currently very popular. These were originally designed for the use of airline flight crews, and are heavily promoted. If you have physical limitations that reduce your ability to carry things, or you have a need to carry a very heavy load, or your travels consist mostly of long airport (and hotel) corridors, you may find them an appropriate solution. I fault them on numerous counts:

* rigid construction (less able to fit in available storage spaces) * much heavier than the alternatives * considerably less roomy than the alternatives (due to construction constraints) * less reliable (more parts to break and snag on things) * uncomfortable to drag over long distances (poor wrist position) * reduced suitability for efficient packing techniques (typically one large compartment, making optimal packing more difficult)

Entirely too many people assume that a bag with wheels is automatically better than one without, as if wheels came with no consequences. They do not. To illustrate, here's a careful comparison of two carry-on-sized bags (with the same exterior dimensions) from the same design line of the same manufacturer (the first without wheels, the second with):

* Eagle Creek Solo Journey: 3200 (52 liter) capacity; weighs 3 lbs, 10 oz (1.6 kg); full suspension system (internal frame, padded hip belt and shoulder straps, adjustable sternum strap); soft construction. * Eagle Creek Switchback Compact: 1850 cu. in. (30 liter, though EC curiously claims just 26) capacity; weighs 6 lbs, 5 oz (2.9 kg); only basic shoulder straps; rigid construction. Also much more expensive.

I hope that the reasons underlying so many experts' dislike of wheeled luggage are now more clear. In this (typical) example, the weight is increased by 75% and the carrying capacity decreased by almost half; further, the buyer loses a comfortable suspension system, sacrifices malleability, and spends significantly more money... simply to get wheels that are of dubious value beyond airport and hotel corridors (i.e., in the real world, especially that of the tourist / adventure traveller)! Few places worth visiting are conducive to rolling a bag behind you; even modern city sidewalks have curbs, cracks, congestion, and clutter (often of the unpleasant organic variety).

A further consideration is that wheeled bags are frequently prohibited inside buses/coaches (especially the long distance variety), generally being relegated to storage compartments below. This, of course, is exactly the sort of thing a lightweight traveller is trying to avoid.

The above opinion is not, incidentally, merely an idiosyncratic one on my part: Westways magazine (in its May/June 2000 issue) surveyed five travel/packing authorities, and every one of them recommended against the use of rolling bags.

Doug San Francisco