Why a Travel Backpack is Best (Roll Bags Suck)

Rucksack travel > Roll Bag Travel

If you’re not interested in freedom, adventure, health or common courtesy toward the entire universe while traveling, this post will prove of very little interest to you.

Out in front of the Saint-Lazare train station in Paris, there’s a sculpture (and Ingress portal) called Consigne à vie or Checked Luggage for a Lifetime. I was rucking by with my GR1, drinking my coffee, when it caught my eye. Briefcases, duffel bags, stuff like that, all bronzed. And if you stand there for a few minutes, which I did, you’ll see that there are plenty of people walking with their roll bags, those loud clanky burdens of dependency wrapped in the promise of easier travel.

The contrast was clear — GR1 is a lot better option for travel than any roll bag ever will, or can be.

Roll Bags are not freedom. Rucksacks are.

Roll bags are built to make life inside the airport easier. You get dropped off, you don’t have to carry anything, goes the narrative. Just roll your bag to security, to your gate, board your plane, put it in the overhead (unless they make you check it, overhead is full, sorry!), and when you get there, roll away some more.


But once you leave the airport, there are stairs, sidewalks, cobblestone streets in the real world. There are people that would prefer you to not bash into them with your roll bag. There are some of the nicest parks in town, like the Jardin des Tuileries right next to the Louvre in Paris. After a late night and an early morning of burning down our youth in a Parisian summer, my buddy Wolf and I used to sit in the green chairs there with a bottle of water beside us as we slept in the sun. The quieter it was, the better. Thankfully, roll bags weren’t such a thing back then, you can hear them a mile away.

But they’re easy, they say. And I get it. That’s the promise of everything these days: easy. We justify buying this or that because we think it’ll make our lives easier. But roll bags are more like the dopamine hit of travel, the pleasure sensor not the love. You don’t get good at doing hard things, like life, by always choosing the easiest things.

Real freedom while traveling is hands free. Your ruck is on your back, you have everything you need for days, or weeks, or months, and you can move around as you please. 

If your goal is to arrive, go to the hotel, be at the hotel (work conference, maybe), and then leave, I guess I get it. Roll bags are not preventing as much adventure, but they are preventing you from a little more health while traveling.

Rucking Is healthier than roll-bagging

Adventure travel happens on foot. If you’ve got a ruck on, it’ll pull your shoulders back (which is great after a long flight), you’ll get a little stronger from the resistance, and you’ll burn more calories.

Even better, if you ruck when you’re home, you’re already training for adventure travel. 10,000 Steps as your daily average is a great goal, you can get them while traveling and when you’re at home. The more of them with a ruck on, the better.

Roll-bagging has none of these advantages.

Roll bags are loud, clunky, and a threat to knees everywhere

I’ve seen wheels bash into people’s faces while someone tries to load them onto the plane. I’ve seen them fall on people’s heads on the way down. Sorry, they say.  And because we’re such a civil place and the TSA really frowns on losing your temper, you take it.

I see and hear roll bags all over airports, everywhere, moving slowly and sloppily. Nobody is in a hurry to get anywhere, they’re hanging out on the moving walkway, saving their wheels to break some other time. They’re in the way, they’re a nuisance. It’s not life threatening, people, just annoying. Life would be better for all of us if we just carried our weight on our backs. Quieter, smoother, more courteous. Fewer concussions in airplanes, fewer knees like mine getting assaulted.

But don’t worry, my knees are fine, this isn’t a pity party. It takes more than a roll bag to bring me down. But here’s one more example of why not to travel with a roll bag. 

Roll Bags are less secure

So, you have to check out of your hotel but you want to walk around town. Of course you don’t want to bring your roll-bag (because #rollbagssuck), so you leave it at the hotel. What they do is they leave it in some room with lots of other bags, and if someone wants to go through it, they do. If someone smarter wants to steal it, they do. It’s easy to do if that’s your goal. Or, you could simply RUCK YOUR CITY and you’ll have everything on your back and you don’t have to go back to your hotel. You can explore an entirely new part of town if you want, then head to the airport from wherever you end up.


I don’t expect the world to instantaneously adopt rucking, to ditch the dependency that roll bags entail. But if you’re reading this, you’re one of the early adopters. The more you ruck at home, the easier it is to ruck on the road, or to walk on the road in any town in the world. Walking is easier than rucking, and the more the better. The longer distances you can go means the more adventures you can have, any and everywhere you go, at any age.

For maximum freedom of travel, ditch the roll bag and upgrade to a rucksack. To follow this line of thinking check out #rollbagssuck. It’s a movement, literally, to ruck instead of roll.

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  1. Mhip says:

    I used my GR3 for 2 1/2 weeks in Italy. It was fantastic.
    First stop was Florence, and having my hands free allowed me to carry my kid’s roll bag ( that I couldn’t talk her out of ) over the cobbled streets.

  2. fightinfith says:

    I bought my GR2 years back, to this day I have yet to use a suticase since. The big test is coming though, Norway two weeks, no safety net. Time will tell….

  3. Adrian says:

    How long do you go with just the GR1? I’ve found, 3-4 days is fine, but longer than that and I need to upgrade to the GR2.

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