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9 best backpacks with wheels for smoother travel

Fit for city breaks and business trips alike, these are the hybrid trolleys to note

<p>We tested 10kg of cargo in both the wheeled and backpack modes </p>

We tested 10kg of cargo in both the wheeled and backpack modes

Whether you’re weaving your way through cobbled Mediterranean streets or dashing across an airport, a hybrid backpack is the ultimate, adaptable travelling companion.

Wheeled backpacks go by a number of names – hybrid backpack, wheeled duffel and hybrid trolley, for example – but are all, basically, wheeled suitcases with extending handles that also pack a pair of back straps, usually discreetly tucked behind a back panel, so you can carry them like a rucksack.

They are absolutely ideal for international travel, when you might want to wheel your luggage across a terminal but also carry it on your back through the market outside your hostel. Our reviewer was converted to hybrid packs on a trip to Venice, after one too many attempts to drag her wheeled case over the Rialto bridge.

The only drawback to wheeled backpacks is that they are usually heavier than a backpack or a small suitcase would be on its own. We did find a few super lightweight ones, but it’s worth remembering this when you pack, and weighing your bag before you leave for the airport.

How we tested

We tried these bags with 10kg of contents – which is the maximum weight for a cabin bag with most airlines – in both backpack and trolley mode. We looked for comfort on the back, bearing in mind that these bags aren’t designed to be carried this way for a long time or over rough terrain, and for smooth wheeling and durability – tested with a classic kerb drop.

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The best backpacks with wheels for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – Osprey fairview wheels 65: £176, Ospreyeurope.com
  • Best for going on holiday – Kathmandu hybrid 32l trolley: £95.99, Kathmandu.co.uk
  • Best for men – Osprey farpoint wheels 65: £176, Ospreyeurope.com
  • Best for digital nomads – Samsonite litepoint laptop bag with wheels 17.3in: £135, Samsonite.co.uk
  • Best for style – Samsonite ziproll duffle/backpack with wheels: £179, Samsonite.co.uk
  • Best for a weekend away – American tourister road quest duffle/backpack with wheels: £76, Americantourister.co.uk
  • Best for organisation – Antler urbanite trolley backpack: £103.50, Antler.co.uk
  • Best for families – Eagle Creek cargo hauler wheeled duffel 130l: £165, Rohan.co.uk
  • Best for kids – Cath Kidston Greenwich flowers recycled wheeled backpack: £95, Cathkidston.com

Osprey fairview wheels 65

Best: Overall

Rating: 10/10

  • Capacity: 65l
  • Dimensions: L 70cm x W41cm x D34cm
  • Weight: 2.8 kg

This is the ultimate wheeled backpack. This brilliant bag, a wheeled trolley version of Osprey’s popular fairview backpack, is probably the most comfortable way we’ve ever found to move 65l of luggage around.

Perfect for a summer holiday, it’s got all the usual Osprey features that mean you can fill every corner: internal compression straps, twin compression webbing straps and multiple pockets, and the rear panel pocket is absolutely ideal for your passport and boarding pass. It wheels perfectly and the handle is neat and feels robust, but what blew us away was the backpack setup: a mesh back and sternum strap made this feel exactly like a good hiking backpack.

Kathmandu hybrid 32l trolley

Best: For going on holiday

Rating: 9/10

  • Capacity: 32l
  • Dimensions: L 56cm x W 36cm x D 23cm
  • Weight: 2.36kg

Light, technical and exactly the right size for a carry-on, this feature-packed hybrid trolley is perfect for longer holidays, speedy transits and city breaks.

Compression and internal straps mean you can squeeze out every inch of your luggage allowance. Multiple pockets, including external pockets, make it easy to stash things for quick access, like your ereader and liquids in the security queue, and the brilliant array of three handles means it’s easy to pick up and haul around. It wheels beautifully, and the backstraps (hidden in a zipped compartment) are fine for short stints.

Osprey farpoint wheels 65

Best: For men

Rating: 9/10

  • Capacity: 65l
  • Dimensions: L 70cm x W 41cm x D 34cm
  • Weight: 2.8 kg

This is the men’s version of Osprey’s brilliant fairview wheels, with a back carrying system that’s tailored as such. It’s typical of backpack experts Osprey that they would finesse even a hybrid pack, and it’s part of what makes these bags such a comfortable and effective way of transporting a lot of luggage.

Geometry aside, it shares all the brilliant features of the fairview: plenty of grab handles and accessible pockets to make it easy to navigate the airport, and a robust and sleek extendable T-handle for easy wheeling.

Samsonite litepoint laptop bag with wheels 17.3in

Best: For digital nomads

Rating: 8/10

  • Capacity: 30l
  • Dimensions: L 48cm x W 32.5cm x D 20 cm
  • Weight: 2.4kg

Sleek and speedy, this little bag is absolutely ideal for any getaway where all you need is a laptop and a change of clothes: away days, business trips, or just staying on top of your influencer account. There’s ample, secure space for a laptop (it fits up to 17.3in screen size) and tablet, a document compartment, a separate shirt compartment (we fit a smart women’s jacket in here), and a slot for a powerbank – plus a network of cable holes that mean you can keep your devices charged as you go. It wheels well and the backpack straps are durable and comfortable – ideal for short distances and lightweight cargo.

Samsonite ziproll duffle/backpack with wheels

Best: For style

Rating: 8/10

  • Capacity: 46.5l
  • Size: L 55cm x W 40cm x D23 cm
  • Weight: 2.8kg

This was the best-looking bag we tested. Three bags in one, it combines the easy style and great look of a rolltop bag with the storage options of a decent wheeled suitcase – large, zipped compartments and pockets galore – and the portability of a backpack. We loved the feel of the recycled polyester outer, which gave this already smart-looking bag a brilliant canvas-y feel. The large-ish capacity makes it ideal for a weekend break, and the backpack system – which isn’t overly technical – is just right for this kind of gentler use.

American Tourister road quest duffle/backpack with wheels

Best: For a weekend away

Rating: 7/10

  • Capacity: 35l
  • Size: L 53cm x W 36cm x D 26 cm
  • Weight: 2.3kg

This is a smart, smooth-rolling hybrid trolley with plenty of space and a neat profile that’s ideal for stashing in overhead compartments or under your seat. Designed for business travel, it packs in a generous laptop compartment (maximum size L 37.5cm x W 26cm x D 3.5cm), a separate tablet pocket and enough space to store a change of clothes tidily with its internal compression straps. The small, stowable backpack straps are ideal for short journeys like a quick dash across the airport, and the handle feels robust. Light, simple and efficient.

Antler urbanite trolley backpack

Best: For organisation

Rating: 8.5/10

  • Capacity: 32l
  • Size: L 51cm x W 34cm x D 24cm
  • Weight: 2kg

This is a fabulously light, casually elegant wheeled backpack from one of our favourite luggage brands. This pack had the most backpack-like look of all the bags we tested, made from a subtle, khaki crinkle nylon with bright stitching and zip holds. Worn over a shoulder, you’d have no idea it also had a smooth T-handle and discreet wheels.

We loved the myriad backpack-style pockets, internal for organisation and external for easy access to your passport or ereader, and the water-resistant coating – reassuring if you’re dashing from arrivals to a taxi in a storm. It’s also by far the lightest bag we tested.

Eagle Creek cargo hauler wheeled duffel 130l

Best: For families

Rating: 8/10

  • Capacity: 143l
  • Size: L 88cm x W 40cm x D 36cm
  • Weight: 2kg

This is an absolute behemoth of a bag, and the only way we could imagine trying to lug 130l of luggage across a town or a terminal. Built with Eagle Creek’s eye for detail and durability, it’s made from exceptionally strong ripstop fabric that’s tough and water-resistant, with a storm flap on the end compartments, padding at the base to protect your valuables, and lash points that mean you can securely fasten it to a roof rack. It wheels well even under a really heavy load, and clocks in at a low weight considering the capacity.

Cath Kidston Greenwich flowers recycled wheeled backpack

Best: For kids

Rating: 7/10

  • Capacity: 25l
  • Size: L 41 cm x W 29cm x D 18cm

An adorable little bag that you’ll spot on the other side of the carousel – if you even need to check it in. We tested the beautiful, William Morris-esque design: from the wide opening to the tall handles, it’s classic Cath Kidston. You can pop up the discreet T-handle and wheel it across the terminal, or deploy the little backpack straps and sling it over a shoulder. The stripped-back style and size – it’s effectively one big compartment, although there are pockets – make it a fantastic buy for older children, but we also loved it for trips to the shops – carry it there, wheel it back.

The verdict: Backpacks with wheels

Osprey’s fairview wheels matches our best hiking backpacks for comfort and design, and yet trundled beautifully – it’s the epitome of what a good wheeled backpack should be. Samsonite’s litepoint backpack is also a great choice – a smart little number for working on the road.

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For more advice check out our review of the 8 best travel backpacks for every adventure

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