10 Best Rolling Backpacks | April 2017

We spent 30 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 portable 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. Skip to the best rolling backpack on Amazon.
10 Best Rolling Backpacks | April 2017
Overall Rank: 3
Best Mid-Range
★★★★
Overall Rank: 1
Best High-End
★★★★★
Overall Rank: 8
Best Inexpensive
★★★
10
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
  • mesh pocket elastic isn't strong
Brand Olympia
Model RP-1100-BK
Weight 5.6 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0
9
The High Sierra AT7 has a versatile design that's great for school, work, and travel. 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 safety
  • feels bulky when carried on the back
Brand High Sierra
Model 57020-1041
Weight 10.1 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0
8
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 monkey face on it.
  • side mesh bottle pocket
  • great for airline travel
  • not super comfortable to carry
Brand Skip Hop
Model 212303
Weight 2.2 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0
7
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
  • only has one accessory pouch
Brand JanSport
Model THE9
Weight 5.9 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0
6
The OGIO International Phantom will get you to class in style. It has a padded, fleece-lined laptop compartment, so your devices will slide in and out smoothly. Plus, the main compartment is large enough for the most unwieldy textbooks.
  • insulated front cooler pocket
  • ambidextrous handle
  • heavy-duty wheels
Brand OGIO
Model 111082.436
Weight 5.2 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0
5
The J World NY Sunrise comes in so many colors that we literally stopped counting after we hit 25. 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
  • multi-stage height-adjustable handle
  • material is easy to clean
Brand J World New York
Model RBS-18 BLUE TARGET
Weight 4.4 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0
4
We won't argue that it's pricey, but the Kipling Sausalito is durable enough that it may just be the last backpack you ever have to buy. It also has a sleek look and stylish wheels that are reminiscent of the rims you find on cars.
  • dries quickly if you get it wet
  • navigates smoothly
  • evenly distributes weight
Brand Kipling
Model WL2403
Weight 2 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0
3
The High Sierra XBT has smooth-rolling, corner-mounted wheels along with corner guards to protect the bag 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 7.2 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0
2
You can look trendy as you wheel the hyper pink Nike 9A2215 from the office to the gym. It features a roomy main compartment and a smaller, front zippered compartment to keep items organized. For all you plain Janes out there, it is also available in black and anthracite.
  • elastic mesh side pockets
  • sturdy reinforced bottom panel
  • padded laptop compartment
Brand Nike
Model 9A2215
Weight 3.8 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0
1
The Kipling Alcatraz II has a top to bottom U-shaped opening that allows you to easily load it to capacity without having to struggle to get it to accommodate large items. When rolling it, the backpack straps can be unhooked and shoved into a zippered pocket.
  • roomy enough to be a carry-on bag
  • pockets are in easy-to-reach places
  • secure buckle closure
Brand Kipling
Model WL4734
Weight 5.9 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

Buyer's Guide

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 April 24 2017 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.