When man first invented the wheel, it was a big deal. When man invented wheeled luggage, it too was a big deal (remember suitcases?). And now, transportation evolves yet again with the latest crop of adventure travel luggage. From indestructible carry-on-size packs to massive duffels capable of consuming several weeks' worth of gear to the Gear of the Yearwinning, do-it-all REI Stratocruiser, these load haulers are the most versatile we've ever tested.
REI Stratocruiser 25 $230 rei.com
1. The Stratocruiser 25 is a chameleon. It's stylish enough to wheel inconspicuously through swanky hotels, but still tough enough for epic-trip abuse. After 18,000 air miles and a half-dozen rattling safari drives in South Africa, it posted a perfect unscathed score: no tears, breaks, or blown zips. Credit the ballistic-grade nylon and a high-density plastic base, which together make this pack an absolute fortress.
2. With 3,450 uninterrupted cubic inches of storage in the main compartment, there was room for extras like my high-cut boots and telescoping trekking poles. Smaller items have their place, too. The pack's two zippered panel sleeves and the detachable daypack's various enclosures are a neat freak's nirvana. For day tripping, the twin side pockets and organization sleeve on the 1,200-cube daypack allow you to access essentials quickly.
3. A sturdy aluminum handle, shock-absorbing wheels, and low center of gravity all add up to a sweet and stable ride. And when the path gets rough, a legit suspension with stiff aluminum stay is just a few zipper tugs away. In backpack mode, padded shoulder straps and adjustable load-lifters take some of the sting out of long schleps, while the canted andwell-padded waist belt is comfortableand protects hips from wheels.