Bag Review: REI Stratocruiser Wheeled Backpack

REI Stratocruiser Wheeled Convertible Luggage - 25This is a review for the REI Stratocruiser Wheeled Convertible Luggage – 25″. To date this has been the best wheelie backpack I’ve owned.

My preferred primary luggage is wheeled bags. I’ve had problems with my back so the days of putting big bags on my back are over. At the same time prefer a soft covered bag and I like the option of having a bag convert in a backpack for when I occasionally go off road, so a hybrid wheeled backpack is my bag of choice.

Since graduating to wheeled backpacks I have gone through many wheelie bags over the years. The biggest problems have been the wheels, which either wear out or become unhinged, and the retractable handles.

I bought the REI Stratocruiser at the REI store in Portland. If you have ever been to one of their stores you will know that they are a travellers paradise. I did well to escape with only buying a bag, but as my bag at the time had just fallen apart I was on a mission.

I’ve had the bag for 2 years now, which is now a wheelie bag record for me as I have gone through previous bags in the space of a year. That is enough time for me to be able to call this as the best wheelie backpack that I have owned in over a decade of wheelie bag usage.

What I like about this bag

The walls of the bags are sturdy enough to create a defined space without falling down onto itself when empty. I Also prefer this style of bag where the top zips open when it is flat, rather than top loading bags.

Nomadic Notes - Travel photos: 2012 &emdash;

I was looking for a bag that has a detachable daypack. I already have a laptop bag but I like having the option of a smaller spare day bag without worrying about having to carry it. I often use it as an overspill option when I am packing in a hurry and and find I have too much stuff for my main bag. In this case I will just stuff my stuff into the attached day bag and then sort it out later on. The daypack has a compartment to fit a 13″ laptop but I always use my own laptop cover.

Backpack and daypack

The bag has useful zipping mesh compartments on the inside walls and on the inside top cover.

With previous bags wheels have always been a problem for me (though I am rough with my bags) So far the wheels have survived my trundling my bag around cobblestoned streets of Europe.

The retractable handle has been the best I have seen on a wheelie bag as well. I have had problems with bags telescopic handles. I find the more pieces there are the more things can go wrong. In my previous experience that has meant the telescopic handle not nesting back into each other and thus sticking out while in transit.

For the backpack component the back straps are tucked away neatly behind a zippable compartment and I often forget that it’s a backpack. The straps aren’t as comfortable as a dedicated backpack with thicker padded straps. I only using the straps for short periods of time, such as when I am on the back of a motorbike taxi or carrying the bag to a beach bungalow/jungle hut where footpaths give way to dirt.

Needs Improvement

While the day bag zips on snugly to the front of the bag I have found that the zipper will move when it’s in transit. One time after a long flight the zipper was half way undone and the bag was dangling from the front. Another time the bag unzipped completely and it was on the baggage carousel by itself. I have since resorted to padlocking the day bag to the main bag.

The only other thing I don’t like is how the laundry compartment the top of the bag doesn’t zip up completely without the cover of the day bag. I love having a separate laundry section but I would like this to be able to zip up completely when the day bag is not attached. Other than that I can think of anything else that I don’t like about this bag.

For those who laugh at wheelie baggers, check out more bags for your actual back at the REI Store.

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  1. Found your post in my Feedly app. We’re in very similar mind sets and circumstances. I could’ve taken these pics myself and often thought about doing that. I purchased a similar pack from Osprey with detachable day pack with slot for 13″ MacBook. I actually found the day pack so useful that on my trip to Thailand and Laos I only brought that. Have taken it subsequently to Europe and Los Angeles. What freedom! I must confess that I also wear the Tropical Vest from Scottevest for things I absolutely want on my body, like iPad mini, iPhone, Sony RX100, etc. Used the Scottevest during 6 month stay in Bali and loved it. Had to buy one size smaller after losing 50lbs walking as much as I did, plus eating Paleo-style. You’re doing it right. Trudge on!

  2. Glad to hear that there’s another traveler going through the same thing! (Er, wait. Not glad that we both have backpack-related health problems. But you know what I mean). I had been carrying a brand new Deuter ACT Lite 60 +10 on my RTW trip and really liking it… until I developed tendinitis in my hip while walking the Camino in Spain. That problem resolved over time but then recurred, and I realized that my days of traveling with a big backpack were over. I started researching what I could buy as a replacement; I remembered having seen a convertible wheeled backpack much like yours at REI during my pre-trip gear mania. (Ah, REI, how I miss you! I’m like a kid in a candy store when I go in there). I ended up finding something similar at Decathlon during my recent stay in Shanghai.

    I’ve only been using it for about a week now, but so far, so good. It fits all my normal stuff, but I was also able to squeeze my daypack INSIDE so as to avoid paying for two items at Left Luggage in Hong Kong station the other day. I was tempted to just buy wheeled luggage without convertible straps – they had some really inexpensive and cute ones in China!- but then I remembered the calf-deep flood waters I walked through the last time I was in SE Asia. Which is where I’m spending the rest of the year. So yes, I am glad the straps are there, just in case.

    Who laughs at wheelie baggers? 🙂

  3. Time for an update on this topic since the linked REI backpack is no longer available. I recently picked up the High Sierra AT3 Carry On that does the trick. On Amazon here:

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