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Cheap Rolling Backpacks Buying Guide

In this product category, higher prices get you brand names like JanSport, Samsonite, and The North Face without guaranteeing more in features or functionality. That said, the assortment of good cheap rolling backpacks is comparatively limited in terms color, design, and style, and the warranty is usually shorter or may even be nonexistent.

Labels to look for include the likes of CalPak and Olympia, along with several other lesser-known brands.

Rolling backpacks are pretty basic items. Standard components include a center compartment that zips completely, outer pockets that zip or have a flap, in-line skate wheels, a retractable double- or single-rod pull handle, and shoulder straps. Many of the best cheap rolling backpacks also feature self-repairing zippers and padded straps for comfort. An exterior water bottle holder is fairly common and a laptop compartment is a nice, but unusual, perk. Fabric with a high denier (a measure of the fiber's weight) or ripstop fabric is desired for durability. The size of the cheap rolling backpack also matters. Consider the dimensions and what you'll be carrying on a regular basis, as well as the weight when not full; most models weigh in the neighborhood of 5 pounds.

Our research found that rolling backpacks in the cheap price range come and go with a fair amount of frequency. There are always new market entrants and always stalwarts on their way out and priced for clearance. Reviews for cheap rolling backpacks are sparse in general and particularly so for the latest models. We made our picks for best rolling backpacks based on the best available information.

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We identified two worthy contenders for the top spot on our list. The Travelers Club Metropolitan Rolling Backpack (starting at $33) is the largest of our picks and the only budget-friendly model we found that includes a separate padded laptop compartment; additionally, its two-year warranty is a rarity at the budget end of the market. Standing right alongside is the CalPak Awestruck (starting at $24), a tad heavy at 7 pounds, but the ripstop fabric speaks volumes about its durability. Pulling up behind is the Olympia 18-inch Rolling Backpack (starting at $27), which boasts all the must-have features and garners its share of compliments from users for ease of use. The Port Authority Wheeled Backpack (starting at $28) fails to qualify; users gripe about the wheels and the specs don't disclose the weight or zipper type.

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