If you just need one huge rolling bag, reviewers say the REI Wheely Beast 28-Inch has it all -- it's tough, well designed and less expensive than similar rolling duffels from Eagle Creek and Osprey. The Wheely Beast's ballistic nylon shell cheerfully endures abuse, although a few users say they've noticed it wearing more quickly around the wheels (especially on the larger 35-inch duffel). There are plenty of convenient compartments and pockets -- including a place to quarantine dirty gear -- and testers say the enormous main section can hold bulky equipment. The Wheely Beast comes in two sizes: The 28-inch version holds 6,000 cubic inches, and the 35-inch version holds 7,200 cubic inches (by comparison, a normal carry-on suitcase holds about 2,800 cubic inches). Users say the larger Wheely Beast holds so much that it's easy to exceed the airline weight limits if you're not careful. If you need a rough-and-tumble bag you can carry on, a lot of frequent travelers like the Red Oxx Air Boss (*Est. $225) or the less expensive eBags Weekender eTech Convertible soft suitcase/backpack (*Est. $60).
Outside magazine regularly tests luggage -- usually by dragging it around on long adventure trips -- and the REI Wheely Beast beats all competitors to win the 2009 Gear of the Year Award. The Wheely Beast is also recommended on TravelGearBlog.com. Owners review both the larger and smaller bags at REI.com.
Our Sources: REI Duffel Reviews
1. Outside Magazine
The REI Wheely Beast 28-Inch is "a high-value/low-price rig that just might outlast you," tester Ted Alan Stedman says after taking it on a walking tour of England. In this concise review, he describes its performance and praises its features.
Review: Gear of the Year 2009: REI Wheely Beast, Ted Alan Stedman, Nov. 1, 2010
In about 35 user reviews, the 28-inch REI Wheely Beast earns an overall score of 4.6 stars out of 5. The larger 35-inch duffel gets comparable scores in about 60 reviews. Owners praise the capacity, durability and ease of transporting both bags. Their main concern is that the larger Wheely Beast holds so much that it makes it easy to over-pack.
Review: REI Wheely Beast Wheeled Duffel -- 28", Contributors to REI.com, As of April 2012
Daved Brosche says the 35-inch REI Wheely Beast is tough and a great value, and he says the wide-mouth opening makes it easy to pack bulky gear. He covers all of the bag's features but doesn't refer to any testing.
Review: REI Wheely Beast Rolling Duffel, Daved Brosche, June 5, 2009