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

by  Mose Hayward
LAST UPDATED ON  2023-11-11
PUBLISHED ON  2019-05-24

Your Backpack Tester

Mose Hayward

Minimalist-ish Vagabond

A carry-on backpack that rolls?

This, for 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. So my top recommendation is definitely the current Osprey model, but later in the article we’ll detail some cheaper options, as well as some good but more expensive and heavier options.

Our Favorite Rolling Travel Backpacks

Our top choices are the Osprey Farpoint Wheeled (for men) and Osprey Fairview Wheeled (for women). (I currently roam and live out of the Farpoint 36 version at right.)

Pros:

  • Lightweight but solid; likely to hold up well for years
  • Extremely comfortable to carry as backpacks
  • The wheels 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 works as an under-seat bag/personal item and holds essentials and a laptop

Cons:

  • A bit pricey (if you don’t travel much, see the cheaper Samsonite options below)
  • The backpack straps are supremely comfortable but perhaps more elaborate than needed for our infrequent use, since the wheels do roll so well anywhere

Farpoint 36 Wheeled   Fairview 36 Wheeled

Farpoint 65 Wheeled   Fairview 65 Wheeled

Since the Fairview and Farpoint wheeled packs have the exact same styling, measurements, and features, so if one is out of stock just go for the other. (In fact, Osprey now markets the Farpoint 36 in Europe as unisex.) For the same reason, I’d recommend going with whatever version is cheapest at the moment.

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?

Our Current Top Recommendation: Osprey Farpoint / Fairview Wheeled

Quick Specs

Use the below to expand for more info.

The Key Advantages of Osprey’s Farpoint Fairview Wheeled Series

The Osprey Farpoint/Fairview Wheeled Travel Packs meet our most key criteria that come out of years of rolling and hefting backpacks on the road.

The Osprey Farpoint Wheeled 36 visited Paris with me

• These are extremely durable packs designed by a company with decades of experience in meeting the needs of demanding travelers. They are backed by a lifetime warranty. Travel pieces with both wheels and backpack straps have more parts that could break, and so good design and materials are key. Over the years, many of my lesser luggage pieces have quickly broken, but my Osprey pieces have endured and never needed that very generous warranty.

• The designs fit with our minimalist aesthetic and style without a lot of silly extras that could add weight or too many pockets to lose things in. The pockets that it does have make sense.

Osprey Farpoint Wheeled Travel Pack 36 interior flap mesh pocket, which is good for separating laundry; there is also a similarly sized pocket on the exterior of the same flap.

• The wheels are large and inset, ready to roll easily over rough terrain.

The sturdy, inset wheels on the Osprey Farpoint 36 Wheeled Pack
This is me on an escalator with Osprey Farpoint Wheeled 36 in backpack mode; I don’t carry it on my back too often but this is quite comfortable—as good as the best trekking packs—when needed.

• The backpack and hip straps allow the pack to be carried quite comfortably over long distances through nature, while biking, or on stairs. I tend to also use them on arrival at train stations in Europe, from where I will grab a city bike for a euro or two to get to my final destination. This would be impossible without the backpack straps.

• The materials, including the durable aluminum frame, are lightweight; the packs themselves add little to your load (or to your weight limits on airlines).

• It is possible to attach a daypack like the Daylite or (recommended) Farpoint Fairview Travel Daypack. I personally always travel with a daypack, and it’s much more convenient to be able to attach it to my main pack to have a single unit to roll and keep track of.

Osprey Farpoint Wheeled 36 with an Osprey daypack strapped to the top flap with the exterior compression straps

Internal and external compression straps: If you go a bit too wild with your packing and need to cinch your luggage down, there are straps for this purpose both inside the main compartment and outside the bag.

The Osprey Farpoint Wheeled Travel Pack 36 interior with compression straps and flaps

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 also browse the 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 (in packpack mode) or to the back.


Our Reviewers’ Picks of Underrated, Useful Travel Gear

22 thoughts on “Rolling Backpacks: For the Lightest, Most Comfortable One-Bag Travel”

    1. Mose Hayward

      We like to the carry-on (36) versions above in this article, just check the links, they’re relatively new and very much still available.

  1. Great information. Thinking of getting one to take to Japan. Does it meet airline carryon sizes with or without the daypack attached? Thank you.

  2. Osprey Transporter Wheeled Carry On: This is my minimal rolling carry-on, for quick trips that don t require backpacking. It has rugged features, water resistant, tough wheels, and easily flies as a carry-on. Available on Amazon or REI .

  3. I recently bought the Osprey Meridian roiled backpack with removable day-bag. I travel the EMEA region for work every week and have been looking for a replacement for my 3 year old IKEA bag with removable day bag………..unfortunately the Meridian does not compare with regards to functionality. The day bag does not hold my laptop due to the air-mesh distorting the shape of the bag, there is no organization pocket for electronics, notepads, pens, etc. the main bag has undeniable build quality but it’s clunky to access the pockets at airport security…..even the click lock of the day bag is not very practical when trying to quickly attach/remove the day pack. Overall very disappointed with the Osprey Meridian and my search goes on for a replacement.

    1. Hi! Thanks for sharing your experience. I’m curious what exactly your laptop issue is, as I use the daypack with my laptop nearly every day, and I have a rather large and heavy laptop at the moment. I use the tablet pocket for notepads and pens, but it’s true that there isn’t a dedicated pen slot like you find on some bags. I’m also not sure why you’re having issues with the buckles that detach the daypack from the main pack — those are far more quick and convenient on this bag than on others we’ve tested. Feel free to comment with more specifics if you wish!

  4. Heart = broken. After much too much time scouring the internet for the Ozone, I can’t find it anywhere, in any size… except one for $570 from Japan! Amazon is out. Can’t even find it on eBay.

    What I can’t understand is why Osprey would discontinue this pack. It’s 2lbs lighter than the Meridian, which is a lot for those of us with bad backs who end up packing our bags to the T. Maybe because they can charge more for it? So lame!

    1. I’m not sure what country you’re in so it’s hard to help; checking just now, the Osprey Ozone Convertible is still available from Amazon at our links above for the USA; it has long not been available in Europe. It sounds, though, like you might prefer to travel with a bit more space? I’d go for a larger rolling backpack like the Meridian 75 in your shoes; because of your back you’ll roll it most of the time but it has comfortable straps when needed.

  5. I have been considering the Meridian for a few months now for an upcoming trip to Japan..but I can’t seem to find one to try on anywhere where I live (Ottawa, Canada). I am also a little confused…I see in some sites advertise the Meridian with a hip strap and in other sites it does not have one. I really want a hip strap…can anyone let me know for sure if the Meridian has a hip belt.

    1. Hi Mello, the new version (as of 2016) of the Osprey Meridian 22 does not have a hip strap, and can be purchased here in Canada.
      It sounds like you want a hip strap so the Osprey Ozone 22 would be better for you; it is slightly lighter to carry on your back, has basically the same features as the Meridian, and has the hip strap. Here’s the link for the Ozone in Canada.
      Amazon.ca offers free shipping and has a good return policy so you can return it if you change your mind.

  6. I’ve been searching for a wheeled convertible backpack with a detachable daypack for a while. I am glad to have found this article with reviews. Aside from the lack of a daypack and the weird placement of the backpack straps, the Eagle Creek Flip Switch Wheeled Backpack 22 mentioned here is no longer available on the manufacturers website. There are, however, two other bags offered by Eagle Creek that are much more comparable to Osprey’s Ozone 22″ Convertible:

    The Eagle Creek DoubleBack™ Carry-On: http://shop.eaglecreek.com/doubleback-carryon/d/1510C1522?CategoryId=115

    The Eagle Creek Switchback™ International Carry-On: http://shop.eaglecreek.com/switchback-international-carryon/d/1584C3555?CategoryId=115

    For me it is now a choice between the Osprey Ozone and the Eagle Creek Switchback.

    1. Hi Darin, checking just now, the Flip Switch is available at Eagle Creek. Your suggestions about the Eagle Creek Switchback International and the DoubleBack are excellent, however, and we should have covered those earlier. We now have a full comparison of the two and we’ve also completely updated the Eagle Creek section of this page. Thanks for your careful comments and happy travels!

  7. We didn’t originally mention the duffel version of this bag since it lacks a daypack, which we find essential. But sure, why not, for completeness. We have now added the duffel to the text above.
    As for the Meridian, there was a — we’d call it minor — update in 2016 that improved ventilation of the daypack and streamlined the harness design. This is also now noted above. We don’t think this takes away from the design of the piece at all, if anything it’s now even more appealing.
    Thanks for your careful comments!

  8. Why not like the Eagle Creek Lync Series system? Their 20 inch is a true International carry on, unlike the flip switch or even the Ospey 22 inch you highlight.

    1. We considered the Eagle Creek Lync 20 inch and 22-inch just a bit too weird—when is it really necessary to be able to remove your wheels? You’re going to want them at some point on any trip, so why take them off? And more importantly, they lack a daypack. Eagle Creek makes good backpacks and we think the Eagle Creek Flip Switch is a better option if you don’t need a daypack.
      We have not had any problems on international flights (including intra-Europe flights on budget airlines) with the Osprey and Eagle Creek carry-on options we highlight, nor have others reported problems.

      1. If you’re going somewhere where you won’t use the wheels such as on a day hike you’d remove the wheels (well if it wasn’t such a hassle to re-install, which is the real complaint with the Lync bags).
        However, if as I do you own a separate daypack just use it instead and leave the roller at the lodging. You mention you can buy the usb separate but neglect to mention you can buy a good daypack for $20 that while not in use can be stuffed into your main bag.

        1. Personally, I wouldn’t want to take off the wheels and carry my entire bag with me on a day hike; that’s what daybags are for.
          Great point about buying daypacks separately (we discuss that further here). If you want to go that route, the Osprey Ozone 22″ plus the Osprey Ozone Adult Day Pack make a fine couple and are built to hook together. But note that it’s nice to be able to fully zip your packs together (especially when you have to fly on airlines that don’t allow a “personal item” in addition to your carry-on). Thus our recommendation at the top of this page.

    1. Yes, this was misstated in an earlier version of this article. This has now been clarified in the text above; thanks for your comment! The Granite Gear Cross Trek Wheeled-Carry-On is a decent bag at a great price, but with the daypack attached it is too big to be accepted as a carry-on — so not our top choice.

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