The thing about travelling is you never know exactly what you’re going to arrive at. You might find yourself in the jungle, monsoon rains or simply appalled at the jagged state of pavements at the other end – all of which might render the wheels on your luggage unusable.
The solution? A travel bag that is also a backpack or a duffle bag. There are a number of wheeled baggage options on the market at the moment which work beautifully on the marble floors of an airport but can be slung over one or two shoulders at the merest hint of mud or crazy paving.
They range from off-road super-bags that can be trundled around the world, to sleek corporate options that would look smart with a suit. And for your reference, we’ve put the capacity, in litres, alongside the name of each product.
1. The North Face Longhaul 26 Roller, 67L: £129, Explore Outdoors
The wheels and balance on this great quality case are exceptional. You might not need to carry it by its duffle handle at all as the wide wheelbase makes it really easy to manoeuvre on rough terrain. The telescopic wheelie handle (which is extra-long, a bonus for the taller traveller) retracts and pulls out easily at the push of a button, has a really comfy grip and feels tough enough to survive a bashing on airport conveyor belts. Really spacious for its size, the compartments have been thought out to maximise space and accessibility. The reinforced back panel with plastic buffers gives confidence in the event you drop it or someone weighty sits on it. There’s a larger, 88 litre version available too.
2. Osprey Meridian, 60L: £175.99, Zalando
This stylish pack (we went for the turquoise blue) comes with a removable daytime backpack that is sturdily clipped into the main wheeled case. The slightly shiny, textured fabric is attractive and our initial concern that, being a two-piece it might not withstand a rough handling, was assuaged by the good quality clips and straps that turn it from two bags into one. There is great attention to detail here. It is very lightweight with a rigid chassis, too. The best thing about it is that it has two internal pockets on each side and inside the front flap. It is also nicely padded and the wheels have a really smooth bearing system. It’s not quite as stable as the North Face bag, but it’s still excellent. Also available with a 70 litre capacity.
3. Samsonite Pro-DLX, 30L: £275, Samsonite
This is the smallest piece on this list but it is one of the most durable – great for corporate trips rather than backpacking around the world. It comes with a designated laptop slot and can be either stowed as hand luggage or in the hold on a flight. The two wheels work brilliantly in an urban environment but are not off-road – which is where the backpack straps come in handy. When being used as a wheelie, the handle isn’t as comfortable as it could be, and the overall case is slightly heavier than you might expect from its size. But that’s the trade-off for a really tough, padded case with great pockets and really well considered storage (there’s even a pocket for your phone).
4. Eastpak Container Duffle 85, 142L: £70, Go Places
This is the Tom Hardy of wheeled bags, with its handsome exterior and hidden depths – and it comes in about 50 shades of grey. Light for its scale at 3.6kg, it is also durable. Made from hard-wearing polyester with a sort of rubbery internal lining, it comes with a 30-year warranty and has zips that feel sturdy. The “85” refers to its length in centimetres. Well-balanced while wheeling and with a cavernous amount of room for all your essentials – this would be great for a two-week holiday or just a short trip. Also available with a 77 litre capacity.
5. Lowe Alpine AT Wheelie, 60L: £108.08, All Outdoor
The manufacturer promises this hardy duffle can withstand a “stampede of errant yaks or being tossed from the roof of a lorry at 50mph”. Now, we haven’t managed to test this theory but the holdall does seem like a tough cookie. Thanks to its “abrasion-resistant” fabric, it withstood a bumpy ride in the boot of the car unscathed. With its short duffle handle this isn’t the most carry-able bag but what it lacks in strap length it makes up for in wheel-ability. Its extra-wide wheelie handle is made from light but strong aluminium and the off-road wheels make for ace manoeuvrability. Also available with capacities of 90 litres or 120 litres.
6. Eagle Creek Ec Lync System International Carry-On, 36L: £145.12, All Outdoor
For unpredictable environments this super-lightweight roller that converts either to a backpack or a duffle (and can then be collapsed and stowed away into an even smaller bag) is quite something. It is smaller than most of the other bags listed here. In its wheel-able form it is quite nifty, with a retractable handle and good suspension. As a backpack it is a good size and easy to forget that you’re lugging around a convertible. However, there are two downsides: firstly, it feels a little flimsy and we wouldn’t bank on its survival in an aircraft hold; and, secondly, it is really fiddly to put together. If screwing flat pack furniture together isn’t your thing, avoid. In the event of any mishaps it is covered by a “no matter what” warranty. But in terms of flexibility, compared to what’s out there on the market currently, it is unrivalled. Also available in 42 litre and 63 litre sizes.
7. Patagonia Black Hole Wheeled Duffle, 70L: £220, Patagonia
With its rugged, laminated outer fabric, you’d be happy to leave your laptop in this during a thunderstorm. It is capacious for its scale with handy zippered internal mesh pockets and compression straps all housed within a sturdy frame. The telescoping, two-position handle is great for wheeling it around. And in the event you have to pick it up, it has duffle straps that fasten together inside a comfortable padded pocket so it doesn’t hurt your hands. Another macho choice, it comes in black or black with teal straps, and is also available in 40 litre and 120 litre versions.
The Verdict: Wheeled travel bags
While it might be one of the mid-priced options on our list, we don’t think you can go wrong with the North Face Longhaul 26 Roller. It has a large, cleverly partitioned capacity, excellently designed wheels and the durability you need for any long trip.
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