Some kids and adults don't like, or just can't take, the weight on their back of carrying books, computers and the other items they need for school or jobs. That's when a wheeled backpack can come in handy. But if you are considering one for a student, first be sure your child's school allows it. Some schools have banned such bags, either because of the risk of tripping hazards in crowded hallways, or because they may not allow backpacks to be taken into the classroom. Even if the school does allow rolling backpacks, you may want to double-check that the backpack will fit in your child's locker if he or she needs to store it. Also, keep in mind that even a wheeled pack needs to be lifted occasionally, such as when boarding a bus, so padded straps are a must-have.
However, school considerations aside, wheeled backpacks can be used for a variety of other situations, such as travel or hauling craft supplies. Regardless of what you need it for, the L.L.Bean Rolling Deluxe Book Pack (Est. $100) stands out as the best rolling backpack, thanks to its 1,935-cubic-inch capacity, reflective detailing and reputation for durability. It has room for a college student's books, laptop, tablet and more. The biggest downside is an occasional complaint about the zippers, but reports say that L.L. Bean's customer service handles such issues well.
The Rolling Deluxe doesn't have a laptop sleeve, but it does have a compression strap to help keep the load from bouncing around; those straps also keep the backpack from becoming too bulky even when stuffed full. Experts and owners say it's comfortable to walk with and has plenty of pockets for a high level of organization.
At 5.5 pounds, the Rolling Deluxe Book Pack is heavier than a traditional backpack, but owners say it's not too bad to pop on the back for a short time in crowded areas; although it's primarily intended to be pulled along. Although users say it lasts for years, this rolling backpack has a lifetime warranty, just in case.
The JanSport Wheeled SuperBreak (Est. $80) measures 2,000 cubic inches -- plenty of room for everything -- but with just two main compartments compared to the Rolling Deluxe's three, it's not as easy to keep the contents well organized. It also may not have enough capacity for everything older students need to haul around.
The Wheeled SuperBreak has a retractable handle, but some say it feels stiff. Other say you have to use some power to get the handle's second stage retracted. Users say it's easy to pull along; however, there aren't many comments about how comfortable it is in backpack mode.
Though the Wheeled SuperBreak is durable in its own right, it doesn't seem to have the lifespan of the L.L.Bean Rolling Deluxe, and it gets more durability complains than most JanSport backpacks. However, like all JanSport backpacks, it comes with a lifetime warranty should something go wrong. One thing owners don't complain about is the style: It comes in a wide variety of colors and patterns that get high praise for aesthetics.
If you need a rolling backpack for a younger child, either for school or for travel, the Pottery Barn Kids Mackenzie collection (Est. $25 and up), which we cover in our section on Middle School and Kids' Backpacks, includes a rolling model. It comes in a wide variety of colors and designs to appeal to any child -- although many of the prints are don't look so childish that an older teen or adult couldn't use the bag. The Pottery Barn Mackenzie rolling backpack is also roomy enough for just about any activity, with a nice collection of pockets and organizers. This wheeled backpack also has a cutout for a headphone cord and the straps are well-padded.
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