It’s easy to forget the wheeled suitcase is just 50 years old, making it technically a Gen Xer, but just barely. It’s a child of the ‘70s, through and through.
The rolling suitcase has been tweaked many times over the course of its relatively short life, but perhaps the most popular version of the roller is its close relative, the spinner bag.
Unlike the fixed wheels of its progenitor, the spinner’s wheels can rotate a full 360 degrees, like the Star Wars droid BB-8. This slight difference in wheel structure has divided travelers for decades, and the great debate about which bag is best continues to this day.
So where does the truth lie? Can there ever be one wheeled suitcase to rule them all?
The answer is, well, not really. It’s all about what kind of traveler you are and where you’re going.
We’ve identified the rollers’ and spinners’ key benefits and drawbacks below in order to help you determine the right bag to rent:
Spinners are great because they stand upright and can be maneuvered beside you. Since carry-ons are small, hold less items, and weigh less, they require little strength or control, as the luggage is stabilized on four wheels.
Bonus: spinners take pressure off your joints and wrists.
With rollers, you’re pulling all your weight behind you with one hand, and therefore, there is some added pressure on your wrists and joints. However for a light suitcase, this is probably not too strenuous.
Rollers require a little more control and spatial awareness while walking in crowded areas.
Checked Luggage —
Since there are more items and more weight, spinners are harder to push and control, which can be irritating to drag behind you.
Although pushing them might be easier, this puts quite a bit of stress on your hands and wrists.
Although it is arguably equally hard to roll a big, bulky suitcase behind you, some people seem to think it’s easier to maneuver than a spinner.
Are more lightweight than rollers
Are generally heavier than spinners
Stability on Terrain —
Spinner luggage is stable on flat surfaces, but not as reliable on rough terrain.
Because the wheels spin completely, they are more likely to get caught in bumps and break. They are also difficult to drag on thick carpet or through cobbled streets.
Roller luggage is more equipped for rough terrain since the wheels are fixed, and can be pulled over rocks, cracks, stones and brick paths.
Performance While Waiting in Line —
While waiting in a check-in or security line, spinners are easier to move with a slight nudge.
The space above them can be used to rest your purse/backpack with the help of the elastic cord found on some spinners.
If not balanced correctly during packing, rollers could easily tip over and will have to be held for the duration of a slow-moving line.
It also doesn’t have the option of keeping something safely on top.
Narrow Spaces —
Easier to navigate through narrow aisles and alleys
Harder to navigate in tight spaces. Difficult to turn around sharp corners.
Maximizing Space —
Spinner wheels stick out of the suitcase, and are counted in the dimensions of your bag when you travel. Therefore the bag will always be slightly smaller than a roller
Roller wheels cut into the actual suitcase which means there is typically more usable space for your items.
Since spinners most often are split down the middle, and they open into two shallower halves, they require some more strategic packing.
Rollers open from one side and are deep, and require less thought while packing.
Spinners of the same make and model will be generally more expensive.
Rollers are generally cheaper.
Since they have more wheels, are smaller, spin 360 degrees, and stick out more than the wheels of a roller, they are more vulnerable to breakage.
Since roller wheels are fixed, built into the luggage, and don’t move as much, there’s less stress placed on them and therefore, they’re harder to break.
Recommended For —
- Quick, simple trips
- Predictable Terrain
- Business Trips, Conferences
- For the eldery — puts less strain on your back and shoulders
- For traveling with family
- Adventurous travelers
- Rugged Trips
- Long trips
- Unpredictable terrain or inclined areas
So what’s the best luggage to rent in each category?
Arlo Skye - Polycarbonate Check-In
Hideo Wakamatsu - Tarpaulin Carry-On