Get help with choosing your perfect backpack on wheels in this Osprey backpacks review.
How do you roll luggage-wise?
Finding a backpack that is durable, comfortable and keeps your stuff dry and safe is one of the holy grails of travel. It is also a big investment and making the right choice can be a daunting challenge.
Over my three decades of travelling, I’ve invested in many backpacks, some of which were great but others not so good.
Then there came a point when I was forced to acknowledge that I was a bit long in the tooth – and sore of back – to strap a backpack across my shoulders. That said, a suitcase on wheels wasn’t in keeping with my style of travel.
Then I was introduced to the perfect compromise: a wheeled backpack.
But what is the best backpack on wheels?
I have lusted after Osprey backpacks since I spotted one accompanying a fellow traveller on a group tour of China in 2015. So much so that I now own two of them: the Osprey Ozone 75 and the Fairview Wheels 36.
In my view, Osprey wheeled backpacks are the best on the market (and they are also an awesome travel gift for the frequent flier in your life!).
To help you make the right choice, this Osprey backpacks review examines the pros and cons of the Fairview Wheels 36 and Osprey Ozone 75 and answers your burning questions about hybrid backpacks.
Let’s get rolling …
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Why Buy a Wheeled Backpack?
These hybrid backpacks offer you the best of both worlds. Transporting your gear is a breeze but they keep many of the features of a traditional backpack.
Jumping on and off boats or trains? A good backpack on wheels will be super lightweight and ergonomically designed, allowing you to lift them with ease.
A bit of a walk from the train station to your hotel? Let the wheels take the strain.
Furthermore, some backpacks on wheels have concealed straps to allow you to carry them across your back. It can be a win-win purchase.
Are Osprey Backpacks Good?
Osprey backpacks have garnered glowing reviews.
From its establishment in 1974, Osprey has gained a stellar reputation for making comfortable, well-engineered backpacks packed with useful features. In recent years the company has diversified from hiking backpacks to ones more suited for general travel.
Osprey offers a lifetime guarantee on its backpacks and will repair or replace damaged and defective backpacks (cases of wear and tear, accidental damage, abuse and lifetime expiration are not covered). And this is not just marketing spiel: the company has excellent reports of following through on its promise.
Pretty good eh?
Osprey Backpacks Review: Ozone 75 vs Fairview Wheels 36
The main difference between the Ozone 75 vs Fairview Wheels 36 is size. The clue is in the name.
The Osprey Ozone 75 has a 75 L capacity; the capacity of the Fairview Wheels 36 is 36L. This means that the Fairview Wheels 36 conforms to the EU’s maximum size for carry-on luggage.
Let’s take a closer look at these rolling backpacks.
Osprey Ozone 75 backpack review
The Osprey Ozone 75 converted this flashpacker to a backpacker on wheels.
It is super lightweight yet rugged with a reinforced frame and tough and stylish honeycomb fabric throughout the pack.
Propelling it along pavements is a joy thanks to its ergonomic T-shaped handle and smooth wheels. Cobblestone streets? Not a problem.
Osprey has really done its homework when it comes to intelligently organising your stuff. There’s a lockable easy-access liquids and valuables pocket at the front of the backpack, featuring interior mesh pockets and a roomy interior zipped pocket.
At the top of the Ozone 75, there’s an extremely useful stuff pocket. Then, to the rear, there’s a generous pocket for magazines and another zipped interior pocket.
Let’s now take a look inside. There’s a zipped mesh pocket running the length of the backpack, perfect for stashing your laundry, in addition to two further zipped pockets running along the side of the Osprey 75.
Its internal compression wing system effectively keeps your gear in place. Additionally, the backpack features external compression straps.
Whilst the Ozone 75 doesn’t feature straps to allow you to carry it across your back, there are comfortable handles at the top and to the side should you need to lift it.
Osprey backpacks don’t come cheap and the Ozone 75 is no exception. But you get what you pay for and this backpack on wheels delivers in spades in terms of build quality, design and comfort.
What I love about the Osprey Ozone 75 backpack
It’s the perfect size for longer trips, particularly those where you have to pack for different climates
Trust me. I’ve made my share of luggage mistakes over the years, from the ENORMOUS, cheap rucksack that I took on my first backpacking trip to Israel over 30 years ago that I could barely lift, to cramming my gear in a totally inadequate teeny-tiny rucksack for two weeks in Peru.
The correct size is everything.
It’s so easy to pack
This is so important to me.
I’ve never been keen on traditional backpacks that you pack from the top. This is far from the case with the Osprey Ozone 75.
The front panel unzips so that you can pack and unpack as you would a suitcase, and its clever pockets further help to keep your stuff organised.
What I don’t like about the Osprey Ozone 75 backpack
It’s not convertible to a traditional backpack
That said, nowadays I probably wouldn’t want to haul a backpack of this size across my shoulders. Osprey used to make a convertible version of its Ozone 75 but it looks that this is no longer available.
It’s not carry-on size
The generous capacity of the Osprey Ozone 75 comes at the price of not complying with the maximum cabin-baggage dimensions of most airlines. If this is important to you, you may need to consider the Fairview Wheels 36.
It’s not waterproof
Like most rucksacks, although Osprey backpacks are water-resistant, they won’t keep your gear dry in the event of a heavy downpour. Investing in a rain cover may be prudent.
As is often the cause, quality comes at a price.
Osprey Fairview Wheels 36 review
Since publishing this review, the Fairview Wheels backpack has been discontinued. However, the unisex Farpoint Wheels 36 is available. Other than the female-specific fit of the Fairview Wheels 36’s harness, I can see no other difference between these two hybrid backpacks.
Do you recognise that sickening feeling when you watch the last load of bags appear on the luggage belt and your backpack is not amongst them?
Yep. I’ve been there too. In recent years, the ability to travel with just carry-on luggage has become increasingly important.
I’ve been burnt in the past with my backpack not making tight connections and, in a weird way, I relish the challenge of fitting my belongings in cabin-baggage-sized luggage. Focuses the mind and the packing list.
The Osprey Fairview Wheels 36 is the perfect backpack on wheels for trips of up to two weeks duration. Unlike the Ozone 75, it conforms to the maximum cabin-baggage dimensions for most international airlines.
However, its smaller size is not the only way that the Fairview Wheels 36 distinguishes itself from the Ozone 75. The Fairview Wheels 36 is a bit of a chameleon in that its concealed straps quickly convert it into a traditional backpack, giving you the best of both worlds.
It shares other features with its bigger cousin.
There’s an easy-access pocket at the front of the backpack, making whipping out your liquids and electrical items at airport security a breeze.
Whilst there’s no magazine pocket to the rear, it retains the zipped pocket at the top of the pack as well as two additional exterior mesh pockets. These are perfect for stuffing your water bottle and reading material.
Inside, the zipped mesh pocket running the length of the backpack is still there.
Internal and external compression straps keep your gear in place, and there are comfortable handles at the top and to the side should you need to lift the backpack.
Similar to the Ozone 75, it is super lightweight yet rugged and is made from the same honeycomb fabric. Expect a smooth ride along rough surfaces thanks to the Fairview Wheels 36’s comfortable T-shaped handle and smooth wheels.
What I love about the Fairview Wheels 36 backpack
It’s the perfect size for trips of up to two weeks
Although this is a small backpack, it is well-designed and you can fit a surprising amount of stuff within its sturdy exterior. I’ve used it on trips from weekend breaks to two-week explorations.
It’s cabin-luggage sized
I hate placing myself at the mercy of baggage handlers and try to travel with a carry-on wherever possible.
It converts into a traditional backpack
What I don’t like about the Fairview Wheels 36 backpack
It doesn’t have as many pockets as the Ozone 75
Although it would benefit from a few more internal pockets, this isn’t a deal-breaker.
It’s not large enough for longer trips
You can’t win’em all.
It’s not waterproof
Again, although Osprey backpacks are water-resistant, they won’t keep your gear dry in the event of a heavy downpour. Investing in a rain cover may be prudent.
What Features Should I Look For When Choosing a Backpack on Wheels for Travel?
As each traveller’s luggage needs are unique, there is no one-size-fits-all best backpack on wheels.
Generally speaking, you should consider the following when choosing a backpack on wheels:
The size of the bag is completely up to you. I can travel for two weeks with my gear stuffed in a 36L backpack. But I do travel light! For many people, up to 40L is more than adequate for one week away; for longer trips, take a look at 50 – 75L backpacks on wheels.
Is the ability to travel with just carry-on luggage important to you? If so, carefully check the backpack’s dimensions are within the maximum permitted by most airlines.
Is the ability to carry your luggage on your back important to you? If so, narrow your search to those backpacks on wheels that have hidden straps.
If you are planning to carry a rolling rucksack on your back for an hour or more, it’s worth paying more for high-end brands such as Osprey or Eagle Creek. More often than not, they will offer an adjustable back structure, better padding and breathability.
This is important if you are using a convertible backpack on wheels that you want to carry on your back, or if you are concerned about exceeding the luggage limit, especially for carry-on luggage.
Ensure that the backpack features a robust frame, durable materials and has strong zippers. Check also that the material is water-resistant (or that a rain cover is available).
Call me shallow, but this is important to me.
If I am adding the cost of luggage to my credit card balance, I want to make sure that it looks as stylish as possible. And if it comes in dark colours other than black, that’s an advantage
You may have guessed from my Osprey backpacks review that I love lots of pockets to organise my stuff. Although it wouldn’t be the most important consideration when choosing luggage, it is a deciding factor when all other things are equal.
Is a Backpack on Wheels Right for Me?
A wheeled backpack covers most bases.
I’ve rocked up to a 5-star resort in Koh Yao Yai, Thailand, Fairview Wheels 36 in tow. Equally, I’ve wheeled it into more modest establishments. If you have a multi-centre itinerary and are on the move a lot, a backpack on wheels is perfect.
If you are hiking and camping, I would opt for a traditional backpack.
If high-end travel is more your style, then why not consider a hard-shell suitcase on wheels? LEVEL8 is an American brand that produces a small range of excellent luggage. Check out my LEVEL8 luggage review here.
Can I Still Call Myself a Backpacker With a Wheeled Backpack?
Of course! Backpacks on wheels are increasingly common and your luggage shouldn’t stifle an independent spirit of travel.
Trust me. You won’t be laughed out of a hostel.
What Are the Pros of a Backpack on Wheels?
- They save you from back and shoulder strain. For me, this is the main advantage, particularly having a persistent frozen shoulder.
- You can walk longer distances with your luggage. Just think of the savings on cab fares!
- Wheeled backpacks allow you to organise your stuff with ease
- They can look super stylish
- Bid farewell to a sweaty back!
What Are the Cons of a Backpack on Wheels?
- Many wheeled backpacks are too large for carry-on
- They are a few kilos heavier than traditional backpacks.
- The rigid frame means that carrying them on your back for long periods can be uncomfortable.
Is an Osprey Backpack Worth the Price?
Osprey backpacks are at the high end of the market, but a good backpack will see you through many years of travel and should be considered an investment. You get what you pay for and one thing that 30+ years of travel has taught me is that a cheap backpack is a false economy.
They are robust yet stylish and the clever pockets are a godsend when it comes to packing. The lightweight chassis and large wheels always ensure a smooth ride along most surfaces.
I tend to use my Fairview Wheels 36 more than the Ozone 75, largely because I prefer to travel with carry-on luggage. However, I do travel light, and others on two-week trips may feel more comfortable with the larger Ozone 75.
I hope that this Osprey backpacks review helps guide you toward the right choice of hybrid backpack for you. Hand on heart: I have never regretted buying either of my Osprey wheeled backpacks.