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Rick Steves Roll-Aboard Carry On Bag Review

Just another rolling carry-on?

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating
User Rating 5 Star Rating (1 Review)

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rick steves carry on, roll-aboard

Rick Steves' 21" Roll-Aboard Carry On

James Martin
When the folks at Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door wanted to send me a rolling carry on bag for review, I hesitated. Even at my age, I'm a die hard backpacker. So I gave it to the stranger who packs my bags (so that I can raise some eyebrows at check in) and told her to pack for an upcoming trip. Martha kept making a pest of herself, coming into the office to exclaim, "wow, that's really cool!" or "it's about time someone decided to do it this way!"

Bottom line: after rolling this baby through Illinois and Wisconsin, it's gonna be a darn sad day when I have to send it back.

First Looks at the 21-inch Roll-Aboard

We got the maroon Roll-Aboard--except that I think the official name of the color is "Merlot." I would have preferred Pinot Noir, but I tend to look at most of the world sideways these days.

When I took it out of its box, I was amazed at how light it was. Usually, rolling bags are quite heavy due to all the mechanics of wheels and handles and things they've tacked on to get it to roll properly. The literature says it's the lightest in its class, and I believe it. They've saved some weight by not making it "convertible." There are no straps because you people never strap convertible packs on your backs anyway. And why would you?

It's a fine smart looking bag. From the outside there are two pockets to access that you can see, and one that's sorta hidden. Martha couldn't find the hidden one at first.

"Keep looking, dear," I kept saying. I like being alone with my thoughts some times.

Along about dinner time she announced that she had found it. The opening was alongside another zipper that makes the bag two inches wider, just in case you buy some things and need some extra space. (Beware though, the extra two inches puts you out of the carry-on range.)

There are two padded handles, so you can carry the bag the old fashioned way, either vertically or horizontally.

Packing the Roll-Aboard

roll-aboard, carry on bag

Inside the Roll-Aboard

James Martin
I gotta say, the one thing I like on the Roll-Aboard is that the top is hinged along the long side. Most of my carry-ons are hanged on the bottom, which leaves the top to drag on the floor when it's open on a stand or the corner of a bed. It's a little thing, but a nice touch.

The bag has a hard lexan shell inside, so it keeps its shape when empty, making packing a breeze. There are 2500 square inches inside, plus the three pockets on the outside.

Open it up and you have a nice rectangular box to pack, with a bonus mesh compartment on the top. There are two compression straps to keep your stuff from shifting, and a clip-in security pouch. You can fit plenty of rolled up clothing in there. You do roll your clothes, don't you?

So, how does this baby handle?

Ok, so I'm still not entirely convinced that wheels are better than the backpack for the variety of torturous surfaces Europe presents the traveler. (Martha and I disagree on this, because she doesn't like to carry weight on her shoulders.) But I have to say the Roll-Aboard handled the airport surfaces like a champ, without any of that back and forth, drunken sailor wobble that some folks struggle with.

Having seen a fellow journalist get frustrated and kick a fully loaded rolling bag down a long set of train station stairs while I walked casually by with my backpack is still a compelling scene for me. Yet this is a bag that probably could take such abuse and come out smelling like a three year old Merlot.

Rick Steves Roll-Aboard Carry On Bag - The Bottom Line

Ok, I liked this bag a lot. Martha loved it. It's got all those outside pockets to fill with stuff you need to get at fast. It's expandable. The weight has been reduced so you don't face such a stiff penalty for having the convenience of wheeled luggage. And they throw in a couple of mesh bags for your dainties. You can't beat that. Travel is changing. Someday I'll have to get a rolling bag of my own.

I could even learn to love Merlot.

User Reviews

Reviews for this section have been closed.

 5 out of 5
The RS roll-aboard is GREAT!, Member 787dreamliner

At the first look, the RS bag look flimsy. Too flimsy. But on closer inspection the bag was strong to support almost 60 pounds without the fear of wheels falling off. (My Samsonite wheels fell off after 4 days use.) The material (high-density polyester, or 1000 Cordura still has its weaknesses at the luggage belt, for instance a broken venetian wineglass, but this is a hell more stronger than other wheeled bags and even high-grade backpacks. The star of the show is not the bag, but the wheels itself. The wheels could roll over grate drain covers and even finger-deep mud and snow, and could be dragged effortlessly wihout finger strain after 1 hour of continuous pulling. If you need a budget-oriented wheeled bag, the RS rollaboard is the way to go. But if you are not satisfied (like me) you can make some modifications (like D-rings) to accommodate the 'Claw' anti-slip shoulder strap.

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