Rolling Backpacks: For the Lightest, Most Comfortable One-Bag Travel

For years we've reveled in travelling light with both wheels and backpack straps, ready for city pavements, metro staircases, back roads—anything...

It rolls! But it’s a backpackers’ pack! And it’s also small enough to be a carry-on!

This, for my minimalist travel, is the sweet spot.

I’ve traveled constantly with one small rolling backpack or another for the past decade. I have also been updating this article for nearly as long, every time I’ve tried a different wheeled backpack.

My favorites (and my recommendations) have tended to be Osprey bags. They’re thoughtfully designed with travel in mind, and they hold up against rough conditions fabulously.

Later in the article we’ll detail some cheaper options, as well as some good but more expensive and heavier options.

The Osprey Fairview Wheeled 65 Travel Pack

Osprey Farpoint/Fairview Wheeled Travel Packs

In our travels the Osprey Farpoint (for men) and Osprey Fairview (for women) are currently our top choices for best rolling travel backpacks. In a nutshell, these are:

  • Lightweight but solid, and hold up well for years and years
  • Comfortable to carry as backpacks, while the wheels (which is what we mostly use) glide over rough terrain without problems
  • Small enough to meet most carry-on requirements (the 36L versions)
  • Compatible with the clip-on Osprey Farpoint Fairview Travel Daypack, which clips on and holds essentials and a laptop

Osprey Farpoint 36 Backpack

Osprey Farpoint 65 Backpack

At last check the Osprey Fairview Wheeled 36 and Fairview Wheeled 65 were out of stock (but check those links for the latest). Since the Fairview wheeled and Farpoint wheeled packs have the exact same styling, measurements, and features, if you can’t get one you’ll likely be happy with the other. In fact, Osprey now markets the Farpoint 36 in Europe as unisex.

This article gets regular updates from savvy, sweaty, human backpackers who enjoy wheels

The whole article was most recently completely re-researched and rewritten with new recommendations in February, 2023, with a few more updates in June, 2023.

PREVIOUS VERSIONS: First version published on June 24, 2016. Updated March 28, 2017: Information on the new version of the Meridian and the models from Granite Gear and Eagle Creek has been updated. Updated April 30, 2017: Eagle Creek options updated. They are coming in very close to the Osprey options, but we still prefer Osprey. Updated May 31, 2017: Added Lowe Alpine option and minor updates. Updated July 24, 2017: REI option not available. Updated Aug. 4, 2017: Minor changes to introduction. Updated August 18, 2017: Added Thule information. Updated Sept. 5, 2017: Info on Meridian hip strap. Updated Feb. 6, 2018: Minor fixes, added word “rolling”. Updated July 11, 2018: Added updated information throughout, changed some recommendations, and added more photos. Updated Nov. 14, 2018: The Osprey Ozone Convertible is discontinued but still available at this check. Updated May 24, 2019: Our snazzy new main recommendation, plus overhaul of the whole damn article. Updated Dec. 23, 2020 with new Eagle Creek options. Then the pandemic meant we went quiet for a while with travel stuff.

Who paid us to write this crap anyway?

We’ve been recommending various rolling backpacks on this page for years. No brand—not Osprey nor the others, has ever paid us to sponsor them over any other. In fact, we’ve never even received a free rolling backpack for review.

This site—as well as our travel and luggage purchases—is funded through automatically affiliated links to online shops, as noted at the top of the page. That means we can link to just about anything on Amazon, Osprey, Eagle Creek, and other shopping sites and if our readers like it, buy it, and keep it, a small percentage of the purchase comes back to us and helps us continue our adventures. So for our funding it doesn’t matter which brand we recommend, as long as we can find you all something good and useful.

This article focuses on all-in-one rolling carry-on backpacks for travel. If that’s not what you’re looking for, we also have articles focused on:

Large wheeled backpacks (checked luggage)

Rolling laptop bags

Rolling purses

Rolling backpacks for high school

Rolling backpacks for girls

Why I Have Traveled for Decades with Only a Wheeled Carry-On Backpack

Why Limit Yourself to a Carry-On?

Why Both Wheels and Backpack Straps?

I’ve used various models of Osprey rolling backpacks for many years of constant world travel, so I feel well-placed now to recommend them and describe a few minor complaints as well. Overall, I still haven’t found a better option, though I continue to try out other brands whenever I can get my hands on them. (Often wheeled backpacks don’t stay in production for long, so we’ve also recommended various brands that have come and gone over the years.)

Use the below to expand for more info.

The Advantages of the Osprey Rolling Travel Backpacks

A Few Drawbacks — But They Don’t Hold Us Back

More on the Features, Durability, and Water Resistance of the Osprey Farpoint / Fairview Wheeled Travel Packs

A Video: Opening up the Osprey Farpoint and Fairview Wheeled Travel Packs

Other Rolling Carry-On Backpacks

If you’re looking for something simpler, slightly different features or styling, or want to spend less, there are a few other options worth considering. You can also check out our article focused on larger (checked luggage) travel options with both wheels and backpack straps.

High Quality but Not Quite the Right Features: Eagle Creek Wheeled Backpack Carry-Ons

Cheaper Wheeled Backpack Carry-Ons from Samsonite

Other Well-Rated, Cheaper Rolling Backpacks for Travel

Wrap-Up: The Best Rolling Backpacks for Most Travelers

The Fairview Wheeled Carry-On Pack 36

We love to hear about your experiences with these and other rolling carry-on backpacks in the comments.

You can browse the full current lineup of wheeled backpacks at Osprey USA (or the same at Osprey Europe and Osprey UK).

As an add-on, we highly recommend also using a compatible daypack, especially the Osprey Farpoint Fairview Daypack, which attaches to the front or to the back.