Lightweight hiking shoes are essential for hikers who love to travel. This guide will compare the best on the market detailing how to choose good lightweight hiking shoes and boots and also which brands come out best. We (Gemma and Craig) have personally tried the products in this guide before reviewing. We currently wear two of them as our hiking footwear of choice.
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Lightweight Hiking Shoes
Salomon Ellipse GTX
Weight: 0lb 31oz/136g (w)
The Salomon Ellipse GTX US / UK is the trekking shoe, I wore to hike to Machu Picchu in Peru.
is a great shoe. It was my hiking shoe of choice for our 18-month career break to travel the Americas and Europe. It got me successfully through many hikes including the multi-day Lares trek to Machu Picchu in Peru.
The reason I went for a shoe was down to an Achilles injury I suffered from during Scotland’s West Highland Way six-day hike.
I don’t wish that pain on anyone! I couldn’t stand the thought of anything touching the back of Achilles so the Salomon trail shoes were perfect.
Before buying, I was advised to bend the soles of any lightweight shoe I was trying, if it bends too far then it is not going to support your ankles causing them to roll during hikes.
The Contagrip sole on the Ellipse is very sturdy but has some give for flexibility.
The shoe is extremely light so easy to pack away in day bags and in bigger backpacks. The GORE-TEX membrane keeps your feet dry (it rained during the Lares trek, a lot) which I was genuinely surprised at for the price.
They look great, the base colour of grey with a splash of pink or blue depending on the version makes it an attractive shoe.
I had no qualms about wearing them with dresses as well as hiking trousers.
The only downside is an obvious one – they are not boots so water can enter if above the ankle.
The laces also broke and had to be replaced.
Note: On the strength of my experience with the first pair I bought a second pair. Turns out it wasn’t a brilliant deal I had nailed – the cheaper versions are not GORE-TEX. Make sure the title states ‘Ellipse GTX’. The equivalent for men in the X Ultra 3 GTX US / UK.
Merrell Moab 2 GTX
Weight: 1lb 10oz/744g (w)
1lb 14oz/844g (m)
Merrell is another brand respected by the outdoor community and the Mother of All Boats 2 (MOAB) US / UK is the second generation of this hiking shoe. Like the Salomon, it uses GORE-TEX for waterproofing and like the Scarpa has a Vibram sole. The main material is synthetic leather and mesh.
The reason I didn’t go for the MOAB (although I do like the name) is that the fitting was wide and I’m not keen on the lower section of the walking shoe around the ankle.
Don’t confuse the MOAB with the MOAB Ventilator which does not have GORE-TEX waterproofing.
Lightweight Hiking Boots
Salomon Quest Prime GTX
Weight: 1lb 1oz/490g (w)
1lb 3oz/570g (m)
The Salomon Quest Prime GTX is the boot that Craig wore during our big trip. He not only hiked the Colca Canyon in them but also used them as everyday work boots (gas engineer) and they managed to last for three years. They also survived our first ever backpacking trip to Southeast Asia back in 2013.
Always the copier, I have now invested in a pair of Salomon Quests US / UK. and it is love. Not only are they cute hiking boots – light grey and green in colour but they are also very comfortable and supportive.
As mentioned above, I’ve had issues with Achilles pain. This has made me avoid high walking boots but after five years and the nod from a specialist, I decided to give the Salomon a whirl.
The boot is comfortable, there is excellent support through the Contagrip sole and laces which can be tightened or loosed using the ‘lace locker’ clips at the ankle.
The GORE-TEX and leather/suede outer kept my feet dry through downpours in Iceland and boggy water in Scotland. The Salomon Quest is not only my prefered lightweight hiking boot, but they are also my daily dog footwear.
For travel trips, I wear the boots while in transit to avoid carrying them but at 490g it’s not a challenge to make room for them in my bag for a longer trip.
As I said, these are genuinely what I would call fashionable hiking boots. I’m happy to team them up with a dress and tights as I wade through dirty water to take photos!
Scarpa is one of the best-known hiking boots in the industry and this is where Craig has moved to next, however at 1500g they are more than double the weight of the Salomon.
So what’s adding the pounds? The Scarpa Delta range is full leather. It also has a Vibram sole and enjoys GORE-TEX water resistance. However, Craig loves them. He claims they are more comfortable than his Salomon Quests!
Weight: 1 lbs 9oz/850g
The Scarpa Kinesis US / UK is a lighter alternative to the Delta which makes them a better option for those who like to travel and hike. This is Scarpa’s ‘backpacking boot’ hence the cautious effort to keep it light.
Since the focus of this guide is ‘how lightweight the hiking shoe and boot is’, the weight of the boot is an important factor. The lighter the boot/shoe, the easier it is to carry. However, you don’t want to compromise on the quality of the boot.
Naturally, hiking shoes are lighter than boots although shoes might not be for every hiker. It is commonly suggested (but more recently contested) that those who need additional ankle support should consider a laced up boot instead of a shoe. If you have Achillie’s issues, you may want to choose a shoe. It is best that you consult with a medical professional if you suffer from either of these hiking problems.
Since feet swell (sexy) when you hike, it is advised to go at least half a size up. Before trying the boot on, take the sole insert out if this is an option and place your feet on it. Your heel should be cupped by the insert and your toes should have some room at the front.
For boots, put your feet in, unlaced, point your toes to the ground and let a gap form at the back of the boot as your toes lightly touch the front. Can you fit an index finger comfortably down the back of the boot? If it’s tight you might want to try the next size up.
Next, for both boot and shoe, tighten the laces from the bottom to the top. More pressure can be applied around the ankles is required, use the lace hooks as leverage when pulling but don’t stop the blood circulation!
While sitting, point your toes down and then with the heel to the ground, point your toes up, checking for flexibility.
Next, stand up and create a walking motion downhill and you should create a gap at the back of the heel. Repeat this going uphill, the ideal fit will create a gap at the front. This gives your feet room to swell and breath without bruising your toes as well as creating less opportunity for horrid blisters.
Prone to blisters? I use Leukotape US / UK before big hikes to prevent them from the start.
Cheeky tip – for more pressure you can use the laces to your advantage. With boots, you can lace them up from the top hooks then down instead of the way you would normally lace-up shoes. The tied lace then sits where your ankle flexes instead of on top of your ankle.
The best hiking boots on the market are made from a variety of materials to support our feet, to keep them dry and to ensure that they are comfortable during multi-day treks. GORE-TEX is the most widely waterproofing material.
It has been around since the 1960s. Some brands like Rab are creating their own technology to compete with GORE-TEX but it really does still hold the gold star for keeping feet and bodies dry.
Some shoes and boots are made from suede, others are leather and some brands use a mix of both.
Many, like Scarpa, use Vibram rubber as the main material for the soles. This was the first material to replace leather soles so it has decades of existence in which it has gained an excellent reputation. Contagrip is another rubber alternative used by Salomon.
Leather makes a boot heavier and we are advised by a hiking boot specialist that the notion that a leather boot gives you better protection from wet weather is outdated. The materials that quality brands use now compete with leather boots. In saying that, Craig loves his leather hiking boots!
You don’t want to slide while wearing your hiking shoe or boot, grips on the sole are essential in preventing this. A decent sole also stops you feeling stones and gravel underneath foot.
Naturally, you have to go with what your budget dictates. Don’t join the ‘all gear no idea’ gang and let expensive items sit in a cupboard.
You want to buy the right walking boots for you and the best price. I’ve been down the Regatta pricepoint rabbit hole before and it only ends up in wet and smelly feet! Buy cheap, buy twice.
The most important thing to remember when buying your lightweight walking boots or shoes is that they have to be worn in. Don’t expect them to be mould to your feet at first hike.
If you are planning a multi-day trek do build up to it through regular training to avoid injuries (this is me speaking from experience!) I hope that you have found our guide to the best trekking shoes and boots. Do leave us any comments or questions below.
‘Tis the season to be spending money on travel gifts! But what do you buy the loved ones that prefer the minimalist nomadic life (20kg maximum!) or the friend that is making the move from armchair to the airport? Here are our top ten gifts for backpackers and those who love to travel. No fluff, just genuinely useful travel gear for her and him, tried and tested by us.
Why trust us? Craig and I (Gemma) have been travelling together since we met in 2012. Our first trip was to Southeast (all the food please!) We’ve also travelled extensively through the Americas and Europe during an 18-month career break and we continue to take trips from our more permanent base here in Scotland.
Gifts For Backpackers + Travel Lovers
1. Travel Water Bottles
Investing in a leak-proof water bottle for a travel trip is a great idea because not only does it save you money (refilling from the tap), it also saves the environment from single-use plastic.
We’ve all seen the videos of the whale that ate 80 plastic bags or the photograph of the mummy bird regurgitating plastic to feed its baby.
That plastic from water bottles is going nowhere. It ends up on our beaches, in our seas and eventually in marine life. There have been reports that humans may be digesting it too. Plastic is becoming part of the food chain.
OK, plastic police rant over. There are two types of travel water bottles you can choose from and it depends on your trip.
Are you visiting a country where you can drink out from the tap?
All you need is a bottle like the Tree Tribe US / UK which is made of steel, keeps your water cold for 12 hours and hot for 12 too.
It also has an extremely handy hook which clips to your day bag.
A great gift for travelers in my opinion.
If you are going to a country where you can’t drink the water, you need a filter and purification system and the good news is that there are now bottles that do the whole process for you.
A popular brand includes Water-to-Go (Europe only, sorry, quote TSA15 at checkout for 15% off). We attempted to go plastic-free: Read about it here.
2. Waterproof Bag Cover
Hot torrential rains in Thailand or wet autumns in Britain, you can’t go wrong with a waterproof bag cover like this Osprey bag cover US / UK.
The bag comes in three different sizes online we use a small for our day packs. No need to let the weather dampen your belongings and spirit again!
We did scrimp on costs and bought a cheapy from eBay, it was useless! From personal experience, when your camera switches off due to wet weather, so does your heart. Looking for a new camera too? Check out this guide on the best cameras for travel.
Our phones are our lifelines when on an adventure. They can act as our credit cards for public transport, they hold our e-tickets at airports, they get us from A-Z with maps apps and that’s just the initial planning stage.
Then there is the entertainment – Spotify, Netflix and games. They document our trips via the camera, we share our stories on social media and then we get annoyed when the battery doesn’t last all day! The solution?
Packing a portable charger like the trusted Anker pack US / UK.
Craig has dabbled in a ‘second charge’ phone cover for his iPhone but within four months it no longer charged so he is back to the trusty Anker. It works with any phone, I use it with my Android.
Not only does it charge your phone but it can also be used for GoPros, tablets and some cameras.
4. Hydration Electrolytes
If you are set for a long haul flight or a long night of partying remember to pack hydration tablets US / UK.
We were actually unofficially prescribed these by a British doctor in Cuba after a night on too much rum! Now we don’t travel without them (we do a lot of bar reviews…) and give them to friends as gifts (often along with a bottle of something).
Nuun Hydration tablets are actually made from plant-based materials making them gluten, dairy and soy-free.
5. Mountain Equipment Rupal
I have a new favourite item of travel gear and that is my Mountain Equipment rain jacket US / UK.
I think it is the neatest looking raincoat on the market and I know it sounds superficial to list-style as one of the main reasons for purchasing a jacket but deep down we all want to look good when we are drowning in a downpour.
The Rupal ticks all of the functionality boxes too – it has three-layer GORE-TEX, an adjustable hood so you can still see when it is raining and huge pockets on the front big enough for phones, maps and even small cameras.
I really like that it covers my bum and the bottom of the arms can be velcro closed over tightly to stop soggy sleaves occurring. I went for the navy but there are brighter colours available for avid hikers.
I know Craig isn’t reading this (so supportive) so I can tell you, his Mum has got him the teal green Rupal for his Christmas because he kept stealing mine in Iceland.
An outdoors enthusiast told me that the Mountain Equipment Rupal isn’t just waterproof and windproof, it’s also splashproof.
Another investment is a decent pair of walking boots or shoes depending on hiking preference.
It doesn’t actually matter what brand of quality shoes you end up buying for your loved one, the key is that they need to be worn in well in advance of any multi-day hiking trips.
My all-time favourite hiking boot brand is Salomon whereas Craig has moved to the Scarpa family.
I am currently rocking a pair of Salomon Quest s US / UK which I think are really attractive as walking boots go. It is a high-level boot with laces all the way up to the top. The boot is GORE-TEX material with a Contagrip sole.
Craig has moved away from Salomon after three years and on to leather Scarpa boots US / UK. This is another high boot with laces all the way to the top.
They have a Vibram sole. You can’t really argue with the quality of Scarpa.
7. PacSafe Net
We travelled for 18 months around the Americas and Europe and had zero theft casualties.
Every time we leave our accommodation we put our worthy goods into a day bag then place the day bag into our PacSafe net US / UK.
The net then pulls at the top before wrapping it around a non-moveable structure like a bed frame.
Once attached, the net clips into the holder and you insert a padlock through the loop.
Then you secure the lock with the padlock. I then throw a poncho/flat/coat over the bag and net to disguise it.
I purchased the PacSafe safe bag on the recommendation of a travel blogger (I wasn’t one at the time) but it was really heavy and took up to much room so opted for the net instead.
Merino wool tops are ideal for travel because they keep you cool in warm climates but warm in cold ones.
The merino wicks the sweat away from the body so the moisture doesn’t sit on the skin.
Here’s the deal-breaker with Icebreaker USA / UK merino wool products are not cheap but they are effective and they don’t have to be washed as much as other types of material which saves on laundry while on the road.
9. Workaway Subscription + Free 3 Months
Workaway is the volunteer website we used during our big career break. We volunteered at a Hungarian family farm, dog walked in Granada, Spain and stayed in a boutique beach hotel in Nicaragua. For free.
Well, not quite free. We exchanged our skills for a bed and food. This helped us stay on the road longer and travel slower which is really necessary for wellbeing. It also lets you get to know communities better.
Give Workaway as a gift and your loved one will get three additional months, access to thousands of jobs in hundreds of countries to apply for.
Although it’s tempting, avoid buying lots of stocking fillers that your wandering soul will end up having to trash or will attempt to sell at a car boot sale. Stick to our trusty travel gift recommendations, travel gear that we genuinely love and trust.
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One of the highlights of taking a carry on luggage backpack (also known as a cabin-sized backpack) is that you can exit out of the airport and on to your destination without having to hang around at the collection conveyor belt. Hello holiday, goodbye work! Carry-on luggage not only saves time but also limits what you pack down to the travel essentials – minimalism is the new cool.
This guide to the best hand luggage backpacks for air travel outlines which luggage meets standard cabin dimensions, investigates which bags offer the best value for money, and, with airline restrictions getting tighter, outlines the pros and cons of convertible carry-ons.
Carry On Luggage Backpack Review
Are Carry On Backpacks For You?
This really depends on what type of traveller you are and also what kind of trip you are taking.
Reasons for a Buying Carry-On Backpack
Carry on backpacks save you time when catching a flight. You can waltz through the bag drop (check-in online to avoid the check-in desk queue too), to security (have your 100ml liquids bag and laptop out for speedy transfer), then ready to chill at the departure lounge before boarding the plane.
Since you can store your cabin size backpack in the overhead bins or under your seat you can keep your belongings with you, this is one reason why I love cabin only luggage. I like to have all of my electronics by side, so I am ready to work once the plane lifts off.
You can walk straight out of the airport and on to your adventure. No hanging about the conveyor belt wondering if your cabin backpack is going to show.
Airlines can’t damage your kit. I’m still waiting for an airline to refund me for damaging my luggage. It’s been three months now.
Committing to a carry-on luggage backpack reduces the amount of gear you pack. We are all guilty of overpacking, smaller backpacks prevent this!
Multi-seasonal travel trips where you have to pack for cold and warm climates makes packing carry on sized luggage a challenge.
Airlines are really cracking down on their rules and cabin bag dimensions. For example, EasyJet (a budget European airline) no longer allows you to carry a handbag and a cabin bag if you have purchased their budget ticket. You are allowed one bag only and it must meet the dimensions of 22″ x 17″ x 8″/56 x 45 x 25 cm.
Cabin bags can get checked in too. During my big North America trip, every internal airline asked over the tannoy if travellers would mind putting their cabin bag into the hold. In the UK, EasyJet just sticks a ‘hold’ ticket on your bag leaving you with no choice but to check it in. I do have a secret trick though, check out our section on wheeled carry-on bags to find out more!
There are tight regulations around the amount of liquid you can take in your hand luggage (100ml). Bottles cannot be more than 100mls and must fit into one clear bag. I noticed that Belfast International Airport has started charging customers for the said bag.
So now we’ve covered the pros and cons of carry-on luggage, let’s look at the best backpacks for air travel.
There’s the older top-loading rucksack where all your luggage is packed on top of each other, like a traditional bag, and then pulled shut with a tie at the top.
They are better for trips when you will be carrying your pack for long periods of time because structurally they fit better.
Personally, I think these bags are a PITA because it is difficult to get to the items at the bottom of the bag. However, they are the most durable because there is no risk of zips breaking like with the next two styles.
→ Update: Before buying, I spent time packing two top-loading hand luggage rucksacks because they do offer the best support but they really don’t hold as much as front-loading. It’s a toss-up you would have to make a personal decision on.
Front Loading Backpacks
Front-loading backpacks open up like a suitcase and are often referred to as ‘booking opening’ cases or my favourite ‘clamshell opening’ bags.
Obviously, it is much easier to pack a front loader as the bag zips open around the bag so you can see your items.
However, two things can go wrong here – the zip tracks can break, and the pesky finger pulls can get damaged (you can tell this happened to me right?).
The newest type of backpack is the convertible or hybrid bag which often comes as a 3-in-1 suitcase, backpack and daypack.
This means you can use the telescopic handles to wheel the bag through cities and save your back the pain and release the back straps to wear as a backpack when the terrain turns awkward or there are crowds.
Detachable daypacks are a win in my eyes because they are great for hiking trips where you leave your bigger bag in your accommodation and also for general daily travel use.
However, the downside is that the wheel frame adds weight to the bag.
I said I had a wee cheeky secret to avoid losing your cabin bag to the check-in pile….
A great workaround is these hybrid carry-ons because you can whack on the straps and wear as a backpack while the airport staff are planting stickers on the rest of the suitcase suckers.
Durability comes down to the type of materials used and the ergonomics of the bag. You want a trustworthy nylon-based material which wipes clean and also keeps the wet out.
Winged material over zip tracks is ideal to keep the rain from soaking through or alternatively, buy a waterproof bag like this trusted Osprey one US / UK (I used the daypack version).
Zips, finger pulls, grab handles, telescopic handles and wheels must be strong too or you can say goodbye to them (I was shedding straps during a West to East Coast USA trip after being cheap with a $50 hybrid bag!)
For this carry-on bag guide, we will not be reviewing at bags bigger than 22” x 18″ x 10″/56 x 45 x 25 cm which is the standard size of dimensions stated by the Internation Air Transport Association.
Please check the size of bags against airlines you will be travelling with, we cannot guarantee they adhere to the IATA guidelines.
Naturally, the less faff on the bag, the bigger the capacity. If you want maximum room for the likes of multi-seasonal travel, drop the rolling bags and go for wheel-free luggage. We will be looking at backpacks from 40L.
Breathable material over the back frame is a must to avoid being like Justin Timberlake and bringing sweaty back. Airy straps are also a bonus.
Ergonomically speaking, a chest and hip strap are ideal if you are going to be packing heavy and wearing the bag for any length of time. Grab handles make lifting up/out and pulling down easier.
I know colours are attractive, I am a magpie for a good-looking piece of luggage too but keep in mind that after one use, backpacks get dirty.
They are pulled along airport floors, used as pillows and thrown into overhead bins on planes. Stick to darker shades to keep your investment looking new.
Best Hand Luggage Backpacks
Osprey Sojourn 45L: Best Wheeled Backpack for Travel
Osprey is the Mercedes of backpacks and there is no denying that the Sojourn 45L US / UK falls in line with previous Osprey quality. The Sojourn 45L measures in at 22”x 14”x 9”/ 56 x 36 x 22cm which meets the standard IATA dimensions. It also boasts of 2746 cubic inches of storage capacity and weighs 3.60 kgs/7.93lbs. The main material is 240D Nylon with the base being made up of 1680 Ballistic Nylon. This is a hardy bag, ready for being thrown into the adventure.
This soft-sided Osprey 40L is a front-loading case, opening up like a clam so you can pack easily and access your items without rummaging and annoying your travel partner/others in dorms. Inside the bag, there is one large pocket with compression straps so you can organise the bag the way you want it. There are two internal pockets running along the sides and another two on the lid.
The external compression straps double up as a winged zip protector too (good as rain protectors). There are two pockets on the outside of the bag as well as daisy chain loops to attach water bottles etc to.
The backpack straps are tucked away and hidden in a zipped compartment for when you want to roll. They offer a breathable, trampoline-like back support for when you wear the Sojourn like a rucksack. Surprisingly for such a small bag, there is an adjustable back to suit all heights.
Think about those long train journeys with no seats or luggage storage, winning! The Sojourn also has load-lifting straps to equalise the top weight, a chest strap and a very padded hip section too.
The high road chassis is curved in line with your back to ensure flexibility when moving and to also stop the wheels from rubbing when you wear it as a backpack. The telescopic handle is dual tubed for a sturdier pull-along.
The downside of the Sojourn 45L is that if it is packed full to the brim it can push the cabin bag dimensions to the limit so don’t go overboard with those compression straps!
Overall, a very flexible bag for the traveller who wants to roll into a luxury hotel but also have the option to swing a backpack on for the road.
There are bigger sizes in this range such as the Sojourn 60L and the very large Sojourn 80L.
You may also like our guide to travel vests. Honestly, forget fishing vests, these are stylish and safety devices which let you travel through airport security speedily.
Pro: Slick and sturdy roller
Cons: Wheels add weight/take up space
High Sierra AT3
The High Sierra AT3 US / UK is marketed as a carry-on bag with dimensions measuring in at 22″ x 13.5″ x 9″/43.8 x 31 x 18cm which meets most airline requirements but – that does not include the detachable day bag (17” x 2” x 7”/ 43 x 30 x 8cms). It weighs 4.75kg/10.47lbs and the main material is 900 Duralight.
The AT3 is three bags in one – a backpack, a wheeled case and day bag. The main case opens up like a book (which is a common feature in this review). Like the High Sierra AT7, there are hidden straps which tuck and then zip away; not as sophisticated as one of our favourite rolling bags, the Cabin X One. The removable front day pack has space for a water bottle as well as day trip essentials. The day bag measures 19 x 12 x 5 inches/48 x 91 x 51cms.
Cons: Aesthetics – bit boxy for my liking, added weight
Eagle Creek Expanse: Sturdy, popular
After burning through two IT suitcases, I did a call-out on my personal Facebook page Eagle Creek was mentioned repeatedly as a reliable, sturdy suitcase.
The Eagle Creek Carry-On US / UK is a convertible bag made from 100% Recycled Poly Neo Diamond, 1000D Helix™ Poly Twill, 210D Exo Skeleton. It measures 13.75” x 21.75” x 7.75”/35 x 55 x 20 cms and holds 37L. It is lighter than the Osprey at 2kg/4.4lbs.
There is a front pocket which has a sleeve big enough for a tablet and a key fob for keys.
The case itself has lockable zippers with durable toggles which tie secure so you don’t need a padlock.
There is one large section for items and compression straps and one front panel pocket.
There is a top handle, side and bottom grab handles. The bag also has a retractable handle which pulls out at two lengths.
At the back of the Eagle Creek, straps can be pulled out from the discreet storage pocket and clipped on to the bottom of the case.
The wheel housing is extra-large and the wheels are treaded to help manoeuvre over dirt roads and cobbled stones.
Pros: Study, functional, no fuss, lifetime guarantee.
Cons: Lack packing sections may annoy some users.
CabinZero Classic: Lightest Carry-On Backpack
First impressions of the CabinZero – wow, that’s a lot of space for my travel gear. At 0.78kgs/1.11lbs the CabinZero 44L is the lightest bag in our backpacks for air travel guide. The Classic measures in at 20” x 14” x 7.5’/51 x 36 x 19cms. The CabinZero Classic is made of polyester inner and waterproof polyester outer. Another pro is that this cabin bag is extremely attractive and comes in a variety of colours.
The CabinZero is a unique square-shaped bag with a front opener. The zips are very chunky which is great because it means there is less chance of them or the track breaking. There are two grab handles, one on top and one of the side.
Inside the bag are one large pocket and two zipped pockets on the lid. There is a sleeve to the back of the pack too to slide electronics in.
This section is big enough for a 15” laptop. The front of the pack is closed with compression straps and there is a pocket that runs along the front for quick-grab items.
There are two downsides to the CabinZero. Firstly, there is no water bottle pocket, annoying if attempting to go plastic-free like me (want to know more? Click here for my story). Secondly, with lots of storage space comes a heavy bag! Especially if you pack three pairs of shoes, six outfits and toiletries for a three-day trip to Liverpool! Luckily, there wasn’t a lot of walking with our luggage.
Positively, if you were ever unfortunate enough to lose your CabinZero, never fear this pack has a Global Luggage Tracker, powered by Okoban which you activate after purchase.
The CabinZero Classic also comes in 22L, 28L and 36L.
Pros: Lightweight, stylish, tracker
Cons: Heavy when packed to the brim, no bottle pocket
Quiksilver X Pacsafe 25L: Anti -Theft Carry-On Pack
Pacsafe are the trusted authority on anti-theft bags and Pacsafe safety net US / UKkept us trouble-free during 17-months of travelling around the Americas and Europe.
The PacSafe Quiksilver X 25L US / UK combines Pacsafe’s security structure with a sophisticated carry-on bag model. Measuring 18″.5 x 12.6″ x 6.3″ / 47 x 32 x 16 cm and weighing 2.09 lbs / 0.95 kg, the Quiksilver x Pacsafe meets airline requirements.
The bag is made from a variety of polyester materials.
Like all the bags in this review so far, the Quiksilver X PacSafe bag opens like a book. It has one large pocket for gear as well as four pockets on the lid and in the main section.
The laptop sleeve fits a 15’ MacBook laptop and tech lovers will appreciate the additional patented anti-theft options that Pacsafe offers. Instead of zip fastenings that meet to insert a padlock, the Pacsafe has its own locking device. You turn the dial and pull the zip fastening up to gain access – they call this the PopNLock device.
Like most of Pacsafe’s bags, there is a slash guard embedded in the material.
Unlike the CabinZero, the Quiksilver X does have water bottle pockets. The bag has adjustable straps (24.41″ / 62 cm; (max): 38.58″ / 98 cm). It also has a padded back and external compression straps to balance the weight.
Overall, Pacsafe’s ranges are a trusted source for travellers looking to secure their luggage and the Quiksilver X does just that.
Pros: Patented anti-theft options
Cons: Small at 25L
G4Free 40L Ultralight: Best for Folding Away
This is the only pac-a-bag style carry-on in our review and it is very economical. The G4Free 40L US / UK folds down to a compact 9″ x 8″ x 4″ /24 x 20 x 9cms and can be expanded to 23″ x 13″ x 8″/ 58 x 34 x 20cmwhich is 2cms over current IATA’s dimensions. The bag is naturally the lightest at 0.99lbs /450g (although I’m not giving it the lightest title because it is foldaway) and the main material is 420D Nylon. There are a variety of colours on the market!
This space saver, which switches between a foldaway and a backpack, has one compartment, two top zipped pouches (inside and out) and an easy grab front zipped Spandex pouch. The main section of the bag closes by drawstring making it out only top-loading bag in this review. No zips are great as they can break. There’s a hooded top to protect the drawstring opening from the elements.
The bottom of the bag is double lined, improving durability. There are also two side pockets for water bottles, perfect for hiking. The padded straps also feature a chest clip.
Overall, the G4Free would make a good companion if you planned to purchase goods while abroad (remove the labels to avoid ‘anything to declare’ headaches).
Also great if you are taking items over for friends and family (our Scottish Aunt always wants Bisto gravy granules taken over to Singapore where she resides!) It has a handle you can clip to other bags, so it doesn’t even have to take up space in your luggage.
Alternatively, if you planned to take a suitcase or cabin that you would not use for like a day bag (trekking, trips to the beach or sunning yourself at the lake) then the G4’s foldaway technique would be ideal.
Pros: Budget-friendly, folds away, a variety of colours
Choose the right clothing. Avoid heavy denim and go for travel-friendly options like the Bluffworks range.
Just like hybrid baggage is all the rage, as is convertible clothing. Items that can double up or even be worn in twenty different ways will save you space and still have you feeling and looking good
Roll ‘em. The best space-saving packing tip is to roll your clothes. This is a little harder with internal compression straps which as best suited for folded clothes but rolling gives you are more versatile shape for squeezing into dead space corners.
Heaviest items go to the bottom. Zip as you pack to create a vacuum effect in the bag which will hold your belongings tightly together.
Consider packing cubes, packs or very big zip lock bags for organisation. Do not use plastic bags, not only are they bag for the environment, but they are also incredibly noisy which is no ideal for multi-bed dorm rooms.
Leave your toiletries until last. Pack everything (remember to zip as you go, bit by bit), stand the bag on its bottom and give it a few upright pulls with the top grab handle (work those guns). This will push your items down and create space at the top for your toiletries. Do not pack nail varnish, it will explode on the plane (learn from my mistakes!)
Always carry a linen tote bag and pack what you need for in-flight entertainment. That way you won’t have to go into your perfectly packed cabin bag and upset the system. Be wary that some budget flights have a one bag policy, so you may need to tuck your tote into the carry-on while boarding.
I’m actually typing this medium backpack guide while flying from Edinburgh to Prague and then on to Ostrava via train.
I’m looking forward to pulling my carry-on from the overhead bins and scooting out the exit. Then I can enjoy the small one-hour window I have in Czech Republic’s capital city before catching the train.
Airborne travel can be stress-free with a little preparation and the right carry-on kit. Plus, your cabin bag can be more than just transit luggage if you invest in the right carry on which fits your style of travel.
Choosing a new form of travel luggage is a big investment. You need this travel gear to be reliable, comfortable and to keep your items dry and safe. With more models than iOS updates, it is daunting when it comes to choosing between a rucksack with wheels, backpacks with straps only and convertible hybrids cases. This review will discuss the pros of taking backpacks with wheels on your trip, the differences between the best rolling backpacks on the market and, as a wee backpack bonus, a look at the option of adding detachable wheels for backpacks.
I’m a UK native so the term backpack tends to lean towards a day bag and rucksack is reserved for the big 40-80 litres you go backpacking around South America with.
My American friend advised me that rucksack is used to describe army-style bags and backpack refers to a UK rucksack.
For this review guide, the terms backpack and rucksack will refer to a bag that goes on your back which includes straps. The size of bag will determine what type of traveller is suited to the item.
A suitcase, naturally, comes with wheels, a retractable handle and is mostly used by holidaymakers who tend to stay in one or two locations during their vacation. Today, the lines between suitcases and rucksacks are becoming blurred! New designs have crafted a rucksack and suitcase fusion where bags unzip like suitcases and have wheels to make transitioning between transport and accommodation easier.
Should you Buy a Rucksack with Wheels?
For my second backpacking trip back in 2011, I bought a rolling backpack and it ended terribly!
I was doing a West to East Coast USA group camping trip and by the time we had reached New York I had lost straps, the retractable handle was hanging on for dear life and one of the wheels was a bit wobbly.
My issue? I cheaped out. I picked up a $50 rucksack with wheels at a budget luggage store after enviously checking out my friend’s wheeled backpack which she had spent a few hundred on for a trip to Australia. Moral of the story? You get what you pay for.
The best-wheeled backpacks can be three bags in one! Many have the hybrid backpack and suitcase option plus a day bag.
The best quality ones have adjustable and supportive backs, durable fabric which won’t tear off as the result of being thrown into the back of a bus multiple times and sturdy wheels that can cover a variety of terrains.
A wheeled backpack avoids having to swing 15kg+ on over your shoulder every time you move between destinations.
They look great – this suits travellers who are doing a mix of hostels and hotels; believe me, I was not comfortable being the only tourist at Avanta Resort in Florida with a dirty rucksack! When you are on the road for a while you will want some luxury in your life and when luxury hotels in Koh Samui are as little as $30 a night, why not?!
Airports and backpacks are annoying. That inch by inch movement to get to the front of check-in involves dragging your backpack without wheels along the ground and then there is the spaghetti fight with the straps at the luggage drop.
Rolling bags let you carry a day bag and wheel the bigger bag.
When there is awkward terrain and there is a call for no wheels (like a lack of paved roads in some areas of Colombia), travellers can use the bag as a backpack.
In cities, travellers can switch between rolling and backpack when there are crowds or cobbles.
Wheeled rolling bags are heavier. For example, the most popular wheeled backpack creator, Osprey, has a rolling rucksack coming in at 2.16kg compared to their rucksack without wheels, 0.83kg. Naturally, you can’t take the wheel-less bag for a spin, you are responsible for carrying the full weight on your back.
When researching which wheeled backpack luggage to purchase you should consider the following categories:
First up, you want the materials of the rucksack to be strong, durable and to function as a backpack when it’s on your back and a suitcase when it is being wheeled.
In both instances, you need the material to be water-resistant and somewhat wipe proof (you will just have to accept that airlines have no respect for your baggage regardless of how much you spent on it). It has to be breathable too.
The zip tracks and pulls should be sturdy as well as the telescopic/retractable suitcase-style handle. A strong wheel frame is obviously required and good stand to stop the bag falling over when upright.
The majority of the rucksacks discussed in this review are made from nylon which is a strong, durable material which wears well.
Hopefully, your travel wanderlust doesn’t end with one trip, so you want your rucksack of choice to last longer than your tan.
This is when durability comes in, which has a knock-on effect from the materials used and how the bag is structured too. Keep your bag in good health by avoiding packing full to the brim and letting it air when possible.
Try to keep dirty shoes in a separate bag inside the case or attached to the outside.
The size of the bag really is up to you. If you are a light packer or shopping for a long weekend bag with wheels jump to the air travel section.
If you are taking a long-term travel trip, don’t miss the first section of the review which looks at rucksacks from 40l-80l.
Please be aware that the wheelhouse and structure create additional height to already large bags so an 80l wheeled bag feels bigger than an 80l bag without.
The IATA dimensions for carry-on bags are 22″ x 18″ x 10″/56 x 45 x 25 cm. When comparing the backpack sizes to this standard measurement remember that if you pack it full, it might go over the stated sizes below and that most airlines actually have tighter restrictions.
Unless you are lost, or you choose to hike with one of the larger rucksacks, it is unlikely that you will be wearing a rucksack for more than an hour or two. However, high-end brands such as Osprey and Eagle Creek have put a lot of thought into the comfort of the design, especially around the back area.
The better brands will offer an adjustable back structure to cater for different heights.
The lower back section of the bigger bags should have a slight bend at the lower back too and flexible material should allow for movement.
As mentioned above, breathability and padding is always a positive indication of a good bag as well as adjustable hip and chest straps. A final factor to consider is the comfort of the wheels against your hip when wearing it as a rucksack.
Aesthetics are very important to me. If I am investing in an expensive piece of kit I want it to look good as well as feel nice and fit my clothes and electronics.
Would I choose a different colour if it was on sale? Possibly! I prefer dark colours to avoid getting dirty too quickly (lesson learned after buying a light grey IT suitcase) although the brights are easier to find on the conveyor belt.
6. Ease of packing
In the olden days, rucksacks used to open from the top and you had to dive into Mary Poppins’s bag to find anything. It was useless.
Thankfully now most rucksacks unzip like a book opening which makes packing and unpacking much easier.
Do consider using some kind of dividing storage device like these packing cubes US / UK.
According to a trained travel rucksack fitter, Osprey is the ‘Apple’ of the backpack world. I was surprised that this was the comparison, expecting Mercedes to be used but we live in changed times! When you first put on an Osprey backpack you will feel the difference to other makes.
The Osprey Sojourn 60L/25 measures in at 25l x 14w x 14d inches x 64l x 36w x 35d cms and weighs 3.87kg/8.53lbs. The main material is 1680 Ballistic Nylon.
The Sojourn bag itself opens up like a suitcase (which is called a ‘book opening’ motion) with very sturdy zip track and pulls, unzipping around the bag to reveal the large (green) storage space.
The zips have space for a padlock, go for a TSA approved one, as they are thin enough for most lockers too.
There are zipped mesh compartment inside and along the inside of the bag and straps to compress your clothes or packing cubes.
There is no separate compartment for shoes on this Osprey so consider investing in an additional shoe bag for dirty hiking shoes.
There is a top outer pocket for easy to reach items such as toiletries and daisy chain loops for clipping said dirty boots (not suitable for airplane travel) or water bottles like the eco-cautious.
The dual straight-jacket like compression straps that clip over the front of the back ensure that the zippered away contents are secure.
I like how the telescopic handle at the top of the backpack has two tubes (remember my cheap version that broke? You won’t be surprised to hear it only had one tube). This handle has a few height points depending on the desired length of the handle.
The backpack has two straps, a hip strap and a chest strap for support – all of which are adjustable.
There is also a padded grab handle to the top of the bag for lifting while it is upright and one on the side for retrieving from airport conveyor belts or overheard/under bed storage.
The final grab handle can be found on the block that supports the wheels at the bottom of the bag (probably the least useful).
The Osprey Sojourn 60L has an adjustable back to accommodation different heights and backpack straps which are supported by a spring-like ‘anti-gravity’ back frame, kind of like a trampoline material.
This means it is not only soft and flexible on your poor back but also airy (the sweat struggle is real).
These breathable back straps also have load lifter straps for tightening and loosening depending on bag load.
The main straps unclip and fold away into the back of the bag which is then zippered away to give a smooth finish. This not only looks good but also prevents the straps for trailing on the ground getting dirty.
The wheel structure itself is robust (at the bottom of the bag and a frame built within the back) and the wheeling motion is smooth because the wheels are built high.
Most importantly, the wheels don’t get in the way when they are on your back which can be an issue if ergonomically not positioned well.
The wheels are on show when worn as a backpack.
A bonus is that there is an option to attach an Osprey day bag too, however, the Meridian and the Ozone (below) members of the Osprey family have a bag built in.
The Osprey Sojourn comes in a the larger size, Sojourn 80L/28 UK / US.
Osprey customers are like Canon customers – they commit to the brand after the first taste because they are a backpacking focused brand.
Pros: Quality – can take a good bashing, ergonomics, aesthetics
The Osprey Meridian 75L wheeled convertible pack differs to the Sojourn above in size and features.
It measures in at 71.1 x 33 x 35.6 cm and weighing 5kg making it bigger than its competitor by Kathmandu (below).
The main material is 1680D Ballistic Nylon, like the Sojourn.
The biggest feature difference is that the Meridian has a detachable day bag which can hold a 15” laptop. It has a breathable back, ideal for clammy climates.
The big Meridian pack has a small top pocket for easy to grab items such as waterproofs. The main section opens like a book and reveals a simple compartment.
There are compression straps to reduce the size of the items in the bag and a large mesh zipped section on the inside of the front of the bag. There are two mesh pockets to the inside of the large compartment too. Great for electronics.
Like the Sojourn, it has durable premium wheel structure, telescopic handle and grab handles.
Pros: Large for long-term travel, compartments day bag
The largest bag in the review and admittedly the size I used for our big 18-month travel trip around the Americas and Europe. I just don’t know how people manage to travel through multiple seasons with smaller luggage!
Kathmandu is a very well respected brand in the outdoor gear industry. The Kathmandu Hybrid 70L Trolley measures in at 79cm x 40cm x 34cm and weighs3.42kg.
The main materials are Polyester and Nylon.
It has a telescopic handle for suitcase situations and durable wheels which we recently found out are absolutely essential. (I had to return our IT Case after one wheel burnt off in Italy).
The Trolley zips open up like a case and has one simple compartment so you can fit more in. There are compression straps to help create more space.
There’s a breathable fold-out backpack harness for backpack situations. This can be hidden by a zipped section when using the trolley bag as a case.
Compartments include an internal mesh pocket and front pocket. Simple yet effective.
There is functionality for the day bag but you have to purchase it separately.
This 36L JanSport backpack by the well-known Jansport comes in at 22 x 10 x 16 inches/53 x 35 25cms and weighs 3kg/5 pounds. The main material is 600 and 4020 Denier Polyester.
This attractive bag has foldaway shoulder straps which connect to the bottom of the bag. The two-stage telescopic handle makes wheeling comfortable and the padded grab handle sits at the top. There is a large mesh water bottle pocket the side too.
The Driver 8 has a double compartment bag. The back section has a padded sleeve which fits 15” laptops. The front section has a pocket for phones and keys which are also zipped away.
No frills, this is a backpack on wheels if that meets your travel needs.
The Kickstarter initiated by the Cabin Max team is one savvy looking hybrid case. Measuring in at 22 x 13 x 8 inches/55 x 35 x 20 cm.
On paper, this bag meets airline carry on rules however, I had to remove and leave the day bag at home for an EasyJet flight as the case itself was hitting their maximum when packed for a city break (most likely not an issue with other airlines).
It weighs 3.6kg/7.94lbs and the main material is 850D Nylon Shell.
Not to start on a negative note, Cabin X One is a very stylish looking bag.
The blue version has grey accents in the two grab handles (top and side) and the area where the day bag sits.
Like all of the above examples, the case unzips fully.
Inside the bag, there is a mesh compartment which is attached to a coat hanger, possibly useful for business travellers, which can be removed.
The front of the rucksack has a fleeced sleeve zippered section for electronics which is big enough for large laptops.
The retractable handle has one tube but does not move, very study. It only stops at two heights – flush with the bag or extended out to use as a suitcase. The Cabin X One has the neatest of hidden straps sections, there is no stuffing away with this baby.
The patent-pending design unzips from the bottom of the strap up and a piece of material at the bottom of the bag pulls out to cover the wheels – none of the other wheeled bags in this review has that function.
The day bag is a bit of a letdown for me because it is so close to fitting a MacBook Air 13” (out by less than an inch) which would have made the Cabin X One a perfect short-haul travel bag.
Nonetheless, if you care about the aesthetics of your carry-on luggage and can live without the day bag for some European flights, don’t bypass the Cabin X One carry-on.
Another option would be investing in a rolling attachment for backpacks.
In all honesty, I’ve never seen this on the road but there are options.
Take note of the weight of the bag and frame before booking carry-on luggage trips.
Neewer 2-in-1 (UK)
This Neewer 2-in-1 Camera Backpack Luggage Trolley Case UK is an attractive and popular 2-in-1. It is obviously predominantly for photographers but the internal compartment can be removed and use for other travel.
It measures 20.8 x 15.98 x 9.8 inches/55.9 x 40.6 x 24.9 cm and weighs 3.95kg/8.71lbs. The main material is Nylon with YKK Zipper.
The backpack comes in black, has padded straps and a grab handle at the top.
When the wheel frame is detached it can be stored by clipping to the side of the bag.
The internal casing (if you are a photographer) comes in an attractive array of colours and it comes with a rain cover.
The telescopic handle extends to 21.3 inches/54 centimetres.
Deciding which of the above is the best wheeled backpack for travel is a tough choice to make. The answer really comes down to what capacity of bag your travel needs require, whether you like a day bag, what constitutes as aesthetically pleasing and your backpack budget. The final point I would like to reiterate – don’t cheap out on baggage, it should be an investment that lasts longer than that holiday henna tattoo.
Another pending trip, another cabin bag. My carry-on hand luggage obsession is taking over my tartan dresses. The newest addition is the navy blue Cabin X One, a stylish hybrid carry-on case. For the most efficient airport experience: check-in online, purchase a fast-track security pass (included in some lounge passes) and pack a light convertible travel backpack carry-on like this Cabin X. This summer, Craig and I (Gemma) try out the hybrid and report back in this travel gear guide. Keep reading to see if Cabin X One is for you.
Cabin X One
The first impression of Cabin X One is that the team behind this case clearly know and love to travel. The detail that has gone into the creation of the carry-on is impressive. The Cabin X One is a hybrid travel bag which means it converts into a suitcase and a backpack depending on your trip needs.
To get through customs speedily, you can wheel the Cabin X One then once you step out of the airport doors, swing it on your back to get through crowds and avoid that horrid ‘wheels on cobbled’ streets sound. Remember when Venice wanted to ban suitcases with wheels?!
» ‘Probably the only female packing list you’ll ever need’ says a reader – click here for the guide
Picking the Right Hybrid Carry-On
Before you decide if Cabin X One is the right type of hybrid bag for you consider the following:
How long do you generally travel for?
What type of items do you travel with?
How many bulky/heavy items like shoes do you carry?
Genuinely, how likely are you to convert the bag from a wheeled case to a backpack
The perfect hybrid carry-on has to meet the majority of airline measurements or it will end up in the hold which defeats the purpose of a carry-on and adds to your travel journey time. The ergonomics of the suitcase handles and convertible day bag straps need to fit well or will make travelling uncomfortable.
The back should be supportive and made from breathable material (don’t underestimate the sweat from getting lost in cities!). The wheels should not touch the users back when worn as a backpack. Zips must be sturdy to avoid breaking with use and big enough to add padlocks too.
Personally, I avoid top-loading bags because they are a pain to get into. Most hybrid cases unzip along the width of the bag. Ideally, the overall material will be showerproof in case you are caught in the rain.
Compartments inside the case are ideal for packing and the structure of the bag (including the wheels) should allow for as much storage space as possible. Once packed, the weight needs to be manageable on your shoulders. When used as a suitcase, the bag should not fall over when standing.
Carry-on Case Explained
Cabin X One case
The case itself is 38l capacity which is sectioned for different items of clothing. Sections include the flat back shirt flatter which is useful for business travellers who need crinkle-free shirts (I also recommend these Bluffworks fast-drying, wrinkle-defying travel shirt). The Internal Compression Section closes over clothes and straps down to create more space.
There’s nifty space for shoes and a detachable compartment with a coat-hanger header for unpacking at the hotel. The transparent toiletries pocket is useful, not digging around dark bags for items. It is leak-free too.
There is a separate fleece-lined and zipped ‘tech’ section at the front of the trolley/backpack case which fits large laptops such as the MacBook Pro 15.5″. The tech section has an RFID blocking section for cards. Bear in mind, at UK airports you have to remove laptops from all bags and cases when going through customs.
I’ve saved the best part of the bag for last. Along with two material handles, the Cabin X has a retractable handle and (patent pending) bag straps which zip away when not in use. No bits of material drag on the ground! There’s a cover for the wheels too.
There are two handles, one on the top of bag for lifting up and one to the side for picking up when putting down horizontally. Handy (boom boom) for pulling off conveyor belts, from under seats and overhead storage.
The case also has a compartment for your eco water bottles, which my current favourite weekend bag, the Cabin Zero, currently lacks.
The material is aesthetically pleasing and practical. The majority of the trolley/bag is showerproof 850D nylon (Nettuno Blue or Onyx Black) with a stylish grey suede which is exposed when the day bag is removed. The zips are also waterproof so the bag is Scottish weather approved! The zip pulls feel sturdy, unlike our Vango rucksacks which we had to replace with ties.
Naturally, the bag is as heavy as you pack it – there’s a cross-chest clip for support. The case has two wheels and a pull out stand to stop it falling over when full (a pet hate of previous carry-on trolleys). Those who are used to four wheels notice the difference unless pushing the case on wheels.
When converted into a backpack, the wheels are completely covered by material pullover which is found in a discreet pocket.
The best part? During a recent flight with EasyJet everyone with a trolly case was being asked to put the case in the hold (at the departure gate, this is their new policy). I converted the case into a backpack and was let through with it. Hello overhead and no waiting to get to out of the airport at the other end.
Another favourite part of the day bag is how it unfastens from the main case. Once unclipped, you can’t tell that Cabin X is a hybrid bag.
There are no messy zip fasteners left, instead of neat robins that complement the vintage-looking case front. The straps are tucked away in the back of the bag and clip to the bottom once pulled out. It measures in at 33x20x9cm (13x8x4 inches), weighs 450 grams and should carry 6 litres.
Day Bag Material
The back material is breathable which is ideal for hot cities and sweaty hikes. The bag straps have edged padding to prevent rubbing which is especially great for when you are wandering in a vest top or dress. I like that there is a bottle compartment too.
The Downside of the Cabin X One
The main downside to the companion bag is the size of the zipped compartment as I can’t fit my MacBook Pro in it (I know, first world problems). My flight routine consists of placing the Mac and hard drive in a tote bag which I remove from my carry-on once past the gate attendees.
The main bag then goes in the overhead and the tote stays with me so I can work after takeoff.
Cabin X never intended for the bag to be big enough to fit a larger laptop, advertising space for an iPad, but it really is the perfect case for those who travel for work and if it was literally an inch bigger it would have room for the Mac too.
Dimensions: 55 x 35 x 20 cm/22 x 14 x 8 inches --> had to remove the day bag for EasyJet just in case (boom boom, true story/funny pun)
Type: hybrid bag/trolley
Wheels: two wheels carry on luggage
Shipping to USA, Canada, Europe (including the UK) is via tracked courier and is free
We are a generation of convenience which can result in our packing habits getting out of control. The Cabin X One restricts the amount we can pack which makes us asses our wants and needs. This makes for a quicker, stress-free transition through customs and on to the real adventure! Go, team minimalist!