The 10 Best Rolling Backpacks

Updated January 14, 2018 by Brett Dvoretz

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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

The High Sierra AT7 has a versatile build that's well-suited to a variety of needs. It features a removable day pack for side trips and one-day excursions, plus the wheels can handle hours on cobblestone streets and dirt roads without slowing down.
  • expandable main compartment
  • reflective piping for visibility
  • feels bulky when carried on the back
Brand High Sierra
Model 57020-1041
Weight 10.3 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

9. Tilami School and Travel

The Tilami School and Travel's armored bottom prevents it from wearing out as you roll it along, and its high-strength aluminum handle shouldn't ever bend. It's a little on the small side for three-ring binders, but can easily hold a laptop or a couple of text books.
  • well-padded strap pockets
  • pull-over wheel cover
  • colors tend to fade over time
Brand Tilami
Model pending
Weight 6 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

8. Olympia Gen-X

The Olympia Gen-X is large, affordable, durable, and offers lots of organizational pockets. Basically, it's everything you want in a backpack, with the addition of smooth rolling wheels for those times you are tired of carrying it around.
  • fits inside most school lockers
  • thick padding on the back
  • side pocket elastic isn't strong
Brand Olympia
Model RP-1100-BK
Weight 5.6 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

7. Samsonite 17896

When not in use, the handle of the Samsonite 17896 tucks away into a zippered compartment, as do the straps, so you'll never have to worry about either of them getting in the way. It is made from a sturdy ripstop nylon to ensure it lasts for years.
  • rolls almost completely silently
  • perfect size for weekend trips
  • comes in only four color schemes
Brand Samsonite
Model Variation
Weight pending
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

6. JanSport Driver 8 Core Series

If you need to carry around a lot of stuff, the JanSport Driver 8 Core Series is one of the best options. It has two large main compartments, compared to just one in most others, plus a number of other pockets scattered about.
  • good amount of water resistance
  • backed by a lifetime warranty
  • unwieldy when fully loaded
Brand JanSport
Model TN89003
Weight 4.7 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

5. Skip Hop Zoo

It's a known fact that carrying heavy books to school can lead to back pain in kids, even those still in elementary school. The Skip Hop Zoo can help reduce the possibility of this happening to your child, not to mention they will love the fun animal designs it comes in.
  • side mesh bottle pocket
  • removable parent carrying strap
  • intended for kids to roll not carry
Brand Skip Hop
Model 212303-CNSZP
Weight 2.3 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

4. High Sierra XBT

The High Sierra XBT has smooth-rolling, corner-mounted wheels along with corner guards to protect the edges from scratches and scrapes. It also has a kick plate and is strong enough to hold up to 30 pounds of items without tearing.
  • fits under most airline seats
  • compression straps
  • lots of interior padding
Brand High Sierra
Model 58002-1041
Weight 7 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

3. JanSport Superbreak

The JanSport Superbreak has a bottom skid plate to protect it when rolling over rough terrain. Integrated into the handle is a quick release button, so it's easy to put it into backpack mode just in case you need to pick it up and run to catch the bus.
  • comfort-grip padded handle
  • accommodates 3-inch binders
  • maneuvers nearly effortlessly
Brand JanSport
Model THE9
Weight 6 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

2. J World NY Sunrise

The J World NY Sunrise comes in a lot of unique patterns that really make it stand apart from the crowd. It has air mesh shoulder straps that are very comfortable to wear for extended periods, and an organizer in the front pocket for things like pens, cards, and change.
  • doesn't wobble when rolling
  • material is easy to clean
  • multi-stage height-adjustable handle
Brand J World New York
Weight 4.2 pounds
Rating 5.0 / 5.0

1. Kipling Alcatraz

The Kipling Alcatraz has a top to bottom U-shaped opening that allows you to load it to capacity without struggling to get it to accommodate large items. When rolling, the backpack straps can be unhooked and shoved into a zippered pocket.
  • roomy enough to be a carry-on bag
  • pockets are intuitively placed
  • secure buckle closure
Brand Kipling
Model WL4734
Weight 5.9 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

History Of The School Backpack

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.

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. 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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Last updated on January 14, 2018 by Brett Dvoretz

A wandering writer who spends as much time on the road as behind the computer screen, Brett can either be found hacking furiously away 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 hopes to one day become a modern day renaissance man.

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