We've thoroughly analyzed all of the larger (checked-luggage) wheeled travel backpacks and the reviews put out by consumer testing organizations, travel bloggers, and professional critics. (We'd previously done the same for smaller (carry-on) wheeled backpacks.)
This is more than just an obsessive research exercise; after 20-plus combined years of living around the world out of suitcases and backpacks, all of us are rather passionate about having just the right luggage companion.
Osprey Meridian 28"/75L
- Why Wheeled Backpacks?
- Our Top Pick: The Osprey Meridian 28"/75L
- Key Features of the Osprey Meridian 28"/75L
- Opinions from Other Experts and Customers, and Osprey Brand Reliability
- Drawbacks to the Osprey Meridian 28"/75L
- Recommended Cheaper Wheeled Travel Packs
- Other Wheeled Travel Packs
- A Side-by-Side Spec Comparison of Large Wheeled Travel Packs
- Recap: Our Top Recommendations
Update history of this article
Why Wheeled Backpacks?
We firmly believe that wheeled travel backpacks are the way to travel. Most of the time we roll them, whether in airports, European city streets, or Brazilian small towns. This rolling isn't just about laziness and saving our backs; not being strapped under a load makes us much more willing to take interesting detours or drop off our stuff at a cheap hostel or rented apartment and then still have energy for a night of dancing.
But once in awhile the road gets too rough to roll on, and that's when full convertibility to a backpack is a lifesaver. We do this when going off-road, on stairs, or even hopping onto a city rental bike to get to the final destination.
We (like most seasoned backpackers) recommend travelling as light as possible, but for those of you who just can't get your loads down that light, or are travelling in a pair with one consolidated bag, we're offering this look at the larger wheeled backpack options.
Our Top Pick: The Osprey Meridian 28"/75L
This is not the only Osprey product we've wound up recommending on our site, nor are we unique in recommending the brand. It's popular among the well-traveled and the geeks who blog about how much they travel, and Osprey has built up a reputation for serving them well post-sale through follow-up on its "All-Mighty" guarantee, which covers just about anything that could go wrong, for life. You just have to get to their nearest center (located around the world) for repair or replacement.
In our comparison with the other large Osprey wheeled convertible backpacks, we found that the Meridian 28"/75L had the best combination of features that most travelers will end up benefiting from. Most crucially, these are an integrated daypack, sturdy wheels with high clearance for rougher terrain, and thoughtfully designed and placed organizational pockets. But the Meridian 28 is also a sturdily built bag that's ready to deliver a lifetime of road adventures.
Key Features of the Osprey Meridian 28"/75L
Detachable daypack: A useful, thoughtful daypack that can detach from your main bag is likely the most important feature on luggage like this. Attach the included Meridian daypack (it snaps on with just three buckles), and you've got all your stuff in a single, easy-to-roll luggage piece. Detach it, and you have a separate carry-on bag or daypack. The daypack has a padded laptop sleeve in its 16L main compartment, a heat-embossed top pocket for sunglasses, phones, and other fragile items, an organizational front pocket, and two mesh exterior side pockets for water, snacks, or other quick-access items. The daypack has a comfortable cushioned and ventilated back panel (to prevent sweating), padded shoulder straps, and a sternum strap with an integrated safety whistle.
Solidly built, high-clearance wheels: Wheels are a stress point where luggage tends to fail; but this is an area where reviewers of the Osprey pieces don't complain. The Osprey Highroad Chassis (also used on all of its similar wheeled luggage) provides a durable but lightweight aluminum frame and composite base with a fiberglass matrix inlay; the wheels are in sealed bearings. Go ahead, fill this guy up completely and it'll still handle rough terrain.
Removable backpack straps: Osprey's prowess with backpacks comes into play on the main bag's padded fabric pack panel and padded shoulder harness (backpack straps and sternum strap with integrated safety whistle). These straps can be quickly folded up and zipped into the unit when not in use, or else removed completely to give you slightly more space. The straps' pocket also serves as a convenient exterior pocket for magazines and other quick-access items.
Main compartment: The main compartment has side organization pockets (one mesh, one solid) and compression straps; its lockable zipper opens the flap out completely (so you won't be digging out everything just to retrieve one thing as with top-loading packs).
Tucked-away handles: The piece has padded, well-placed "low-profile" handles that stay out of the way when you don't need them (unlike some luggage handles that stick out and catch hold of passing obstacles).
Opinions from Other Experts and Customers, and Osprey Brand Reliability
Osprey has long been famous with serious, outdoorsy backpackers for the durability and convenience of its packs. The more urban travel bloggers and journalists who tend to opt for wheels generally gush about the Osprey Meridian 28"/75L; they tend to feel that it holds up well over time and that its features get lots of practical real-world use. Amazon customer reviews are positive across the board (but it appears that some of them received free review items through Amazon's Vine program).
Osprey's bags are generally not the cheapest options; the company's strategy appears to be to excel in durability and any follow-up service if needed in order to maintain the brand's reputation with travelers and loyalty for when they then go on to purchase other types of gear.
Drawbacks to the Osprey Meridian 28"/75L
No hip belt: The Osprey Meridian 28" underwent a bit of a redesign in 2016 in which the hip belt was removed as the designers felt that it just wasn't getting that much use, and that it added unnecessary weight/clutter. However, this means that this bag would now be less comfortable to carry on your backs for long periods. Most people will find that the high-clearance wheel housing means that they'll be using the wheels anyway most of the time, even on rough surfaces, but those planning on more extensive off-pavement use should instead opt for a sister Osprey bag that does have hip straps: the lighter and slightly smaller Osprey Ozone 28"/70L with included daypack, or the slightly larger, very durable Osprey Sojourn 28"/80L (for which compatible Daylite Daypacks are sold separately.)
Tipping: If the daypack is attached and very heavily loaded, this can sometimes cause the entire unit to tip over. Unfortunately, this is also a complaint from customers and reviewers with every available competing wheeled bag with attached daypack. If the Meridian's daypack is completely full and attached, you end up leaning the bag against a wall or a post when you stop rolling, or you can carry the daypack on your back if you need to frequently stop. The best solution is to not overfill the daypack when it's attached, and to put larger, heavier items in the main bag.
Price: At around $350, the Osprey Meridian 28" is pricier than most of its competitors. You can check Ebay for used options (though people seem to rarely part with this bag). Cheaper alternatives to Osprey bags are detailed below. The Meridian's price hurts a bit less when you consider that Osprey guarantees that it will fix any problem that should arise with the bag in your decades of travel to come.
It's important to note that this Meridian, like the other pieces reviewed here, is too large to be taken on planes as a carry-on. You can read our meta-review of similar carry-on-sized bags here.
Recommended Cheaper Wheeled Travel Packs
Here at SelectoGuru HQ, we think experiences are a much better use of our money than stuff, so we had to think long and hard before recommending the Osprey Meridian, as it's frankly rather expensive. But if we're on a trip that will last a few weeks or months, and we're living out of our travel pack, we think it's worth that extra cash outlay at the beginning, as a good pack that causes us no issues is definitely going to increase our ability to be comfortable, light, free, and get out and enjoy the experiences that matter.
You can do your own calculation; consider the ~$100 you can save with the cheaper options below, and what would buy you in terms of meals, concerts, weird travel adventures and the rest (your mileage from $100 depends on where you're going and how you travel). If you are just going to be using your wheeled travel pack for the occasional short trip, you perhaps don't need the Osprey Meridian and your money would be better spent on adventuring.
A Smaller Somewhat Cheaper Alternative: REI Co-op Stratocruiser Wheeled Luggage 26"
The REI Co-op Stratocruiser Wheeled Luggage 26" (check latest pricing at the link) is an excellent cheaper alternative to our main pick. While it's marketed at 71L note its dimensions are significantly smaller than the Meridian's (as per our spec comparison chart below). With this bag you won't be able to pack as much gear, which may be a good thing if you're trying to force yourself to travel more lightly.
If we had to summarize all the REI chatter from backpackers on forums and travel bloggers, it generally holds that this outdoor gear store's own packs are excellent and only a slight step down in comfort, practicality, and good looks from Osprey packs. REI has been trying to up the status of its products, though with the Stratocruiser, REI still essentially functions as a cheaper store brand. (Travellers gush more over Osprey's guarantee and durability, but some old-time REI pack owners also do likewise.)
Reviewers of the Stratocruiser series generally adore the design, which is similar to that of our main pick, and there are some long-term users. However there are complaints as well about the comfort of the straps and weight distribution as a pack, the quality of the zippers, and the small size of the daypack (it's much smaller than the Meridian's).
The Stratocruiser 26" is not just smaller but also a pound and a half lighter than the Osprey Meridian 28" at 7 lbs. 12 oz. The hip belt and shoulder harness system are fully detachable.
A Much Cheaper Wheeled Travel Pack: High Sierra AT7 Wheeled Duffel with Backpack Straps
This is the cheapest wheeled travel pack that we can recommend. The large High Sierra AT7 Wheeled Duffel is 32" and costs about half as much as the Osprey Meridian 28". This piece lacks an attachable daypack, which is for us a major drawback.
The 32" bag is spacious and can be divided with a zippered panel. In general the reviews from bloggers and on Amazon are mainly satisfied with this piece, though there are complaints about the quality of the manufacturing (alignment of the construction and durability of the zippers and wheel housing).
There are simple straps that slide out but not much in the way of padding so this would definitely not be a pack to carry on your back for any extended period. High Sierra offers a simple warranty but not everyone is happy about their follow-up.
Other Wheeled Travel Packs
Other Large Osprey Wheeled Packs
Aside from the Meridian 28", Osprey offers three other excellent larger-than-carry-on wheeled travel packs. We have a full comparison here. To sum up, when compared to the Meridian 28", the Osprey Ozone Convertible 28" is lighter and a bit smaller. The two Osprey Sojourns are more durable, and more built for serving more time strapped onto your back without making you feel it. The Sojourn 25" is smaller and the 28" has a huge 80L capacity; neither Sojourn comes with attachable daypacks but they connect well with the Osprey daypacks, which can be purchased separately and attached.
Comparable Wheeled Travel Packs from Eagle Creek and Lowe Alpine
We think that the main dealbreaker for the following two packs is that they lack an attachable daypack; we've found this to be an incredibly convenient feature for keeping all of our luggage in one piece when attached, but for having a separate small bag for day trips or as a carry-on. But both Eagle Creek and Lowe Alpine are highly reputable brands with great satisfaction among reviewers and backpackers, so we'd feel remiss if we had ignored their large wheeled backpack options.
They're also a bit expensive in terms of what you get for features, though the build quality is there and they offer excellent guarantees.
Eagle Creek's solution for offering both wheels and backpack straps is it's Lync system, which comes in various sizes. The idea is that you can remove either the wheel system or the strap system depending on the type of trip that you're taking. We think you're likely to want the flexibility of having both on any trip in order to be ready for whatever adventures come your way, so this seems like a mute point for most uses. Also, Osprey's integrated solutions are likely to be more durable. The Lync system is a bit like having a compatible luggage cart for your backpack that you can leave behind when you wish (if this floats your boat, see also our full comparison of luggage carts).
That said, the Eagle Creek Lync System 29 Convertible Luggage is a durable piece from a brand with loyal customers, pretty-good reviews, and good consumer-test rankings. Like Osprey, Eagle Creek offers an impeccable guarantee and has a history of good follow-up.
The piece lacks a padded laptop sleeve.
Lowe Alpine likewise has maintained an excellent, lasting reputation with backpackers for the durability and thoughtful design of their traditional rucksacks. They have both 60- and 90-L wheeled offerings, which we expect would hold up just as well. But since they're as expensive as the Osprey Meridian and don't have detachable daypacks, we think that most people will not find them as useful. But their metal buckles, tamperproof zippers, and abrasion resistant fabric should make them incredibly durable.
A Side-by-Side Spec Comparison of Large Wheeled Travel Packs
|Dimensions (in.)||Weight (lbs.)||Daypack||US Amazon Pricing||Also Available At|
|Osprey Ozone Convertible 28"/70L||13 x 14 x 28||6.9||Yes|
18 x 11 x 7 in.
45 x 28 x 19 cm
|Osprey Sojourn 25"/60L||25 x 14 x 14||8.5||No||eBay
|Osprey Sojourn 28"/80L||28 x 14 x 14||9||No||eBay
|Osprey Meridian 28"/75L||28 x 14 x 13||9.3||Yes|
19 x 13 x 8 in.
48 x 32 x 21 cm
|Eagle Creek Lync System 26||Bag: 14 x 26 x 11.5 |
Bag w/o Frame: 14 x 25 x 11.5,
In Stuff Sac: 10.5 x 24 x 8
|Bag: 4.81, |
Bag w/o Frame: 2, Straps: 0.3
|REI Co-op Stratocruiser Wheeled Luggage - 26"||Bag: 26.5 x 14 x 10||7.75||Yes|
18.5 x 11.5 x 5.5 in.
47 x 29.2 x 14 cm
|Eagle Creek Lync System 29||Bag: 29 x 14 x 11.5||5.3||No||eBay
|Lowe Alpine AT Wheelie 60||27.2 x 16.5 x 14.2||8.6||No||eBay
|Lowe Alpine AT Wheelie 90||29.9 x 16.5 x 15.0||8.9||No||eBay
|High Sierra AT7 32" Wheeled Duffle||32 x 16 x 15||9.68||No||eBay
|High Sierra AT7 26" Wheeled Duffle||26 x 15 x 14.5||8.83||No||NA||eBags
|High Sierra AT3 32" Drop Bottom Wheeled Duffel|| 32 x 15.5 x 15.75|
(expands to 17.75)
|High Sierra AT3 26" Drop Bottom Wheeled Duffel||26 x 14.5 x 15|
(expands to 17)
Recap: Our Top Recommendations
For its revered reputation for durability and practicality, we recommend the Osprey Meridian 75L/28" as the best wheeled travel pack for most folks. Those who need to wear the pack quite extensively on their backs however should opt for the lighter, smaller Osprey Ozone Convertible 70L/28" or else the larger, sturdier Osprey Sojourn 80L/28".
For those who take shorter trips or don't travel as often, the High Sierra AT7 Wheeled Duffel with Backpack Straps is the best cheaper piece of this sort that we've found.
The REI Co-op Statocruiser Wheeled Luggage is at an acceptable midpoint in quality and price between the Ospreys and the High Sierra.