Updated December 26, 2018 by Brett Dvoretz

The 10 Best Rolling Backpacks

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We spent 42 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top picks for this wiki. Give your back a break and grab one of these extremely handy wheeled backpacks. Ideal for students carrying multiple devices, laptops, and heavy books, or travelers wanting to avoid checking luggage, these rolling packs offer both convenience and functionality, not to mention a dose of style. We've included both professional looking models and some with more whimsical designs. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best rolling backpack on Amazon.

10. High Sierra AT7

9. Tilami School and Travel

8. Olympia Gen-X

7. Samsonite 17896

6. JanSport Driver 8 Core Series

5. Skip Hop Zoo

4. High Sierra XBT

3. JanSport Superbreak

2. J World NY Sunrise

1. Kipling Alcatraz

History Of The School Backpack

Probably because of the large amount of rain the Seattle area receives, many students started buying the Jansport daypack to carry their books.

The original backpacks, also referred to as rucksacks, were created for outdoor applications like hiking and cross country skiing. The first resemblance to today's modern day backpack was created in 1938, by avid outdoorsman and 10th Mountain Division veteran, Gerry Cunningham. To make them more accessible during rock climbing, he incorporated zippers, including two zippered compartments near the top of the pack; a revolutionary idea in comparison to the single-compartment drawstring predecessor. Cunningham's creation made it safe for climbers to access their materials without having to remove the pack off their backs. These zippered packs were quickly manufactured and available for purchase shortly after.

Nearly 30 years later, in 1967, Cunningham made another revolutionary adjustment to the rucksack. He started manufacture them out of nylon, instead of the commonly used canvas, to make them more durable and lighter in weight. It wasn't long before nylon became the new standard for backpack material. This was a popular time for outdoorsy sports and a number of new companies started popping and manufacturing outdoor gear, such as Kelty, The North Face, Patagonia, and Jansport.

Jansport started in Seattle, and one of their very first products was the Ski and Hike daypack, which were being sold in the typical outdoors stores, one of which happened to be connected to the University of Washington's bookstore. Probably because of the large amount of rain the Seattle area receives, many students started buying the Jansport daypack to carry their books. Other west coast school bookstores followed suit and started selling the Jansport pack to students, popularizing them forever. Despite the high sales, Jansport didn't focus on the student market and continued to concentrate on the outdoors industry.

In 1974, another outdoor gear company was founded in Chico, California, Caribou Mountaineering. One of the founders, Gary Kirk, was attending classes at Chico State at the time and was having trouble finding a backpack that could contain all of his books. Together with seamstress Marcia Briggs, they created a backpack called the Cricket, which was shaped according to the size of his textbooks. It also sold well at school bookstores and in 1985, Kirk approached L.L. Bean executive Ned Kitchel who put it in their catalog. In no time it became the company's top-selling product and school backpack was born.

The Evolution Of Wheeled Luggage

To understand the history of the wheeled backpack, one must first look to the invention of wheeled luggage, as it is just an offshoot of the product. Until the late 1980s, all luggage was oriented horizontally and were made from some kind of bulky and inflexible material. They had to be manually carried through airports and train stations, and were anything but user-friendly. There were a few models that included four wheels on the bottom and were towed behind by a small strap, but these were also inconvenient as they would often roll into the users heels, tip over on turns, or get caught up on obstacles.

It didn't take long for frustrated consumers to see the appeal of the Rollaboard and, by 1989, they were constantly asking airline employees where they too could buy one.

In 1987, Bob Plath, a Northwest Airlines pilot, designed a bag with a vertical orientation, an extendable handle, and two wheels. It could easily be rolled through airports and carried when inside an airplane. He named his invention the Rollaboard and sold them to other pilots and flight attendants. It didn't take long for frustrated consumers to see the appeal of the Rollaboard and, by 1989, they were constantly asking airline employees where they too could buy one.

The popularity of the Rollaboard allowed Plath to retire from Northwest by 1991, at which time he moved into a 185,000 square foot warehouse and started full time production. Not only did Plath revolutionize how people carried luggage with the invention of the Rollaboard, he also revolutionized airplane overhead bin configuration. Because of the number of people using the new style of wheeled luggage, airlines were forced to redesign the overhead storage bins on their fleets to carry them.

Backpacks And Back Pain

Back pain is no longer just a problem for the middle-aged and the elderly. As textbooks get heavier and carrying a laptop or tablet to school is becoming the norm, more students are effected by mid and lower back pain every year. It is even being seen in students as young as eight years old.

In 2013, there were nearly 22,000 injuries caused by heavy backpack loads treated in doctor's offices and hospitals, including fractures, dislocations, strains, and sprains.

In 2013, there were nearly 22,000 injuries caused by heavy backpack loads treated in doctor's offices and hospitals, including fractures, dislocations, strains, and sprains. Many of these injuries can cause back pain that extends into adulthood.

Carrying heavy backpacks frequently can damage the soft shoulder tissues, which can lead to microstructural nerve damage. These types of of injuries can eventually inhibit movement of the hand and fingers. Heavy loads that are unevenly distributed, like when a child carries their backpack over one shoulder, will cause the muscles to compensate by leaning to the opposite side. This causes strain and muscle imbalance on the side not carrying a load which speeds the development of back problems in adulthood and can cause pain in the short term.

Even well distributed loads can cause problems if they are too heavy. When overloaded, a backpack may distort the back's natural curves and lead to a rounding of the shoulders. Most will also lean too far forward when their is a heavy load on their back, causing them to become imbalanced and fall easily if they stumble.

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Brett Dvoretz
Last updated on December 26, 2018 by Brett Dvoretz

A wandering writer who spends as much time on the road as in front of a laptop screen, Brett can either be found hacking away furiously at the keyboard or, perhaps, enjoying a whiskey and coke on some exotic beach, sometimes both simultaneously, usually with a four-legged companion by his side. He has been a professional chef, a dog trainer, and a travel correspondent for a well-known Southeast Asian guidebook. He also holds a business degree and has spent more time than he cares to admit in boring office jobs. He has an odd obsession for playing with the latest gadgets and working on motorcycles and old Jeeps. His expertise, honed over years of experience, is in the areas of computers, electronics, travel gear, pet products, and kitchen, office and automotive equipment.


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