Gear Review: Eagle Creek’s Flip Switch Wheeled Backpack

My last backpack was getting pretty pathetic; after seven years and many journeys throughout the world, I was ready to retire it after my last trip to India in November. On that trip, two of my travel buddies were rolling with Eagle Creek luggage, which they both loved, so I decided to look into the brand.

I’m giving away a 3-piece packing cube set:
see the bottom of the post to find out how to win it!

I had been thinking for quite some time that my next backpack should be a combination, convertible wheeled model—one that you can roll like any other wheeled luggage, but that has straps to convert into a true backpack when needed. Because in my experience, most of us don’t really need to lug around a backpack all the time. Unless you really are hiking, trekking or camping in remote areas, the majority of the time you don’t need to carry around your bag for most typical travel. And when you do, it just puts extra unnecessary strain on your shoulders and back.

IMG_1897But I did still want the backpack feature, because I do travel in many places where it’s important to be able to carry your bag easily: up and down stairs or over bridges, in tight spaces and crowded streets, up and down railway station flyovers, etc. The reality is that most of the time—I would estimate 90% of the time—I can roll my bag just fine, though. So why lug around 30 or 40 pounds all that time when I don’t have to?

Fortunately for me, Eagle Creek had just come out with a brand new model of wheeled backpack: The Flip Switch. It comes in both 22″ and 28″ sizes. I selected the 28″ model, along with a few packing systems such as a folder and some cubes. I already have a small rollaboard, carry-on size bag for small trips, and wanted my new wheeled backpack to be able to see me around the world on trips that would last weeks or months.

I road tested my new Eagle Creek Flip Switch this month, on a three week trip to Mexico and El Salvador. Here are my findings:

Weight and Size

A big argument against wheeled backpacks has been the extra weight and bulk that the wheels and handle cause; however, today’s models are super lightweight. In fact, my Flip Switch model actually weighs less than many other same-size models of backpacks without wheels, including Osprey and REI’s brand. And, if you know you will be using it only as a rolling bag, you can remove the straps for even less bulk and weight.

I will admit that when I first opened the box on my new Flip Switch, I was a little dismayed at the size in terms of actual backpack use. The 22″ model was just way too small for my needs, and while the height on the 28″ posed no problem, it’s a little deeper than most. Fortunately, when utilizing the backpack straps to carry it on your back, there are many cinching-in adjustments that can be made to reduce its bulk.

Looks & Durability

I think it’s a mighty fine-looking piece of luggage. I chose the blue, which is a nice color; it also comes in black. More color choices in the future would be nice, maybe red or yellow. The durability factor is high; the Helix™ material is strong and sturdy, the lockable zippers are extremely heavy-duty, and the wheels and housing are rock solid. The backpack straps are as strong and adequate as any pack that comes as a backpack only—contoured and detachable 3D Air Mesh shoulder straps, and a hip belt for extra support. There is also a sternum strap with attached whistle, which as a woman traveler I found a nice extra touch (along with the reflective accents for nighttime visibility).

Capacity, Space & Packing

IMG_1896Using the packing cube system, this bag was a breeze to pack. I used one large packing folder for a few skirts, a dress and two nicer shirts. That went on the bottom of the bag. I then used two regular Pack-It Cubes on top of this—one for my pants and one for my t-shirts and tank tops, all of which I rolled up. One cube held two pairs of jeans, cotton drawstring pants and a capri pant; the other cube held about eight small shirts. I put my underwear in a half-tube cube, and used the smaller folder for miscellaneous items such as my swimsuit, lightweight jacket and several scarves. It was a breeze, and organized, and I think I was able to fit more into a smaller space packing this way.

But what I liked best about the packing cube/folder system, was once I was on the road. It was so great to know just where everything was: tops here, pants here, etc. And after a week or two, not to have that “bag explosion” that I usually have, with everything just shoved in haphazardly (that I have to dig through to find anything), really made being on the road, along with the unpacking and repacking at stops along the way, so much easier. I don’t know why I haven’t used these cubes before.

Screen Shot 2013-01-26 at 11.51.33 AM

Final Assessments

All in all, I really loved using the Flip Switch and find it both a rugged and good-looking piece of luggage. My major criticism is that I really, really wish it was available in a 25″ size, along with the 22 and 28 (hint, hint, Eagle Creek). As mentioned before, the 22″ is way too small for my needs, but I felt the 28″ was just a little on the bulky side for me. If this model came in a 25″, it would be perfect for me. Hopefully this will be a future option in this line of backpack.

As suspected, I have found so far that I rarely need to actually carry this around as a backpack; but to do so, the straps are excellent, and the adjustments made to make it easier to carry work well. In fact, as a backpack the Flip Switch actually feels a lot better, and rests on my back easier, than my previous backpack did.

Final vote: a win! If you’re looking for a lightweight model that you can use as rolling luggage and a backpack, this is the way to go. Eagle Creek also has another model called the Switchback, that is also a wheeled backpack with a separate detachable day pack that can be used as a plane carry-on as well. That model does come in a 25″ size.

Update 6/3/14: I just test-drove a new Eagle Creek wheeled carry-on bag — the Tarmac 22. Check out my review of that piece of luggage here!

Oh, and get those packing cubes. They made my packing and unpacking so much more organized and easier. I can’t believe I’ve traveled all these years without them!

Would you like to win a 3-piece Pack-It Specter Cube Set?

Simply tweet this post or share it on Facebook, and leave a comment below letting me know you did so. One reader will be selected on February 1 (at 5 pm CST) to receive these handy little cubes to make your packing so much easier! (Only for residents of the United States, sorry).


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25 Comments on “Gear Review: Eagle Creek’s Flip Switch Wheeled Backpack”

  1. leila
    January 28, 2013 at 9:57 am #

    Good day Shelley,
    Looking forward to reading more about your travel to El Salvador as husband and I are going late spring………. thus your timing for us, perfect. Your photo relaxing in the hammock…like, LIKE! Relaxing as you worked.
    From the pleasures of India……….with Mom to…………… enjoy your writing, photos.
    In the past I have used different colored plastic bags, rolled the air out and away I went, hoping they didn’t tear. Putting my name on the list as well as shared your valuable information…
    Happy trails,


  2. January 28, 2013 at 10:01 am #

    I knew you would like the cubes. They are great when you are moving to various locations & don’t want to totally unpack everytime. My bag used to always end up a big mess which was very exasperating until I found the cubes. Now its so easy to stay organized without unpacking everything.


  3. January 28, 2013 at 11:26 am #

    Posted on Facebook because I would love a set of travel cubes. After reading your review, I’m not sure which you prefer between the 25″ switchback or the 28″ flip switch. Like you, I don’t need a carryon– I want something big enough for the longer trips. But I like to be able to throw it on my back for narrow stairwells (which seems to be what I run into more often than rope bridges like you. 😉 ).


    • January 28, 2013 at 11:54 am #

      Monica, I really really like the Flip Switch. I haven’t personally tried the Switchback, I only mentioned it because it does come in the 25″ size. I wish the Flip Switch came in that size, but given the choice between 22 and 28, I’ll take the 28. The difference in the Switchback is that it also has an attached daypack which you can remove to use as a carryon or separate day backpack.


  4. January 28, 2013 at 6:01 pm #

    Hi Shelley, just shared your review on Facebook. I’ve been looking for a backpack and wondering about the weight issue of the wheeled ones so your comments are helpful. Like you I will be able to wheel my luggage most of the time but would sometimes find myself wanting to be able to carry it on my back. And, wow, the packing cubes look great!


    • January 28, 2013 at 7:19 pm #

      Thanks so much…yes, the best of both worlds. And I am absolutely kicking myself that I haven’t used these packing cubes for years!


      • February 1, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

        I also thought the one that Beth Whitman featured in one of her last Wed. travel gear posts looked awesome. It was also Eagle Creek but was two bags in one which works great for the return trip when you’ve made purchases that won’t fit in the original bag anymore. It was a backpack which fits inside the bag (zips to attach I believe) but then comes out & you are left with the top/lid which you pull outward to create the bottom of the suitcase & lid that zips up. Then you have a roller bag & the backpack. I’m not explaining very well the process of separating them very well but it looked very versatile.


  5. Kim
    February 1, 2013 at 2:26 pm #

    Shared on Facebook – always glad to help out when I can. Thinking of ways to modify this to fit like a saddle bag on my saddle when I trail ride… 😉


  6. February 1, 2013 at 7:01 pm #

    Congratulations to Jo Anne Tuck! You are the winner of the Pack-It Specter Cube set!


    • February 6, 2013 at 8:57 pm #

      I received the wonderful Pack-It Specter Cube set this week….what a wonderful prize. I travel with hard sided luggage which makes it almost impossible to open without all the contents falling out. These packing cubes make life manageable and a lot more organized. You can squoosh a whole lot of stuff in these almost weightless, zippered cubes, saving space in the suitcase as well as orgainizing your contents without having to unpack to find what you are looking for. Mine were a hot lime color…love them Can’t go without them now. Thanks, Shelley!


      • February 7, 2013 at 1:12 pm #

        Really glad you like them! Yes I am an absolute convert to the packing cube system now. Happy travels!


  7. March 29, 2013 at 11:58 am #

    Thanks for a great review, Apart from there being no whistle in my Flipswitch, I find your review to be very accurate. If you had never used cubes before, you should maybe try compression bags also. There are basically two types, but the principle is the same. It’s just a little difficult to explain for a non-English speaker. You can google them if you’re curious or visit your eaglecreek dealer online. Most clothing such as underwear, socks, raincoat , tees and towels can well afford to be compressed, they won’t wrinkle. Even trousers – unless you are businessman/woman going to a major client or conference – can be compressed in some larger bags. Shirts – again depending on type – may also be put in some of the larger compression bags, but on the whole I use something similar to the cubes.


  8. Brittany Smith
    July 2, 2014 at 12:55 pm #

    Hi, I was wondering if you have ever traveled on any trains with this bag. I will be heading to Europe and I know this bag is big I bought i but I was wondering if I could fit this luggage above me on euro trains or will they have to be placed in the back of the train. Thanks in advance for anyones opinions. Also, will it fit in most hostel lockers?


    • July 2, 2014 at 2:55 pm #

      Hi Brittany,
      I did take the bag to Switzerland last fall, where I travelled all over the country almost exclusively by train. I had no problem fitting it in compartments or getting on and off the trains with it!


  9. Michelle Sanson
    August 22, 2014 at 2:39 am #

    Alas, after 60+ countries and several good wheeled backpacks (Caribee, Mountain Designs, Bergman) I ran into difficulty with the Eagle Creek Flip Switch 28! I found that the clip for attaching the backpack straps to the anchor on the outside of the bag was too small (or the anchor too big). I emailed them about it and it took a few weeks and a reminder before they responded, and then they sent a photo of how it is supposed to look (a silver ring) and I sent them a photo of how mine looks (a thick black plastic triangle). I’d love to be able to post the pics here to show it. They seem to be outsourcing to Vietnam for production and maybe they haven’t followed the specs. Anyway six weeks down the track I gave up – they refuse to swap it or even just send me a couple of small carabinas so I can connect the bag’s clips to the bag’s anchors, which I think is a bit mean when it cost me $400! Now I have to wait until I get out of the Middle East to find somewhere I can buy carabinas (groan). Meanwhile if I need to use the backpack I have to hold the two straps over my shoulders! I certainly wouldn’t buy the bag again, or buy anything from that company.


  10. August 10, 2015 at 5:29 pm #

    Fortunately for me, Eagle Creek had just come out with a brand new model of wheeled backpack: The Flip Switch. It comes in both 22″ and …


    • Michelle
      August 10, 2015 at 7:34 pm #

      Did yours have the right fittings? I’m not sure if you can access it but this is a photo of the design flaw in the one I bought, which means you can’t even connect the backback straps to the anchor: I’m really annoyed with the manufacturer that, despite sending them photos evidencing the flaw, they said the bag would have to be sent back to them and “repaired” – I am a humanitarian and I can’t not have my luggage for a couple of months! Ridiculous. I undertook for them to send me a replacement and I would send back the one with the design flaw. You would think they would rush to do that, not wanting to risk their reputation seeing they are top of the market in terms of price.


      • August 15, 2015 at 5:30 pm #

        Hi Michelle,
        Wow that’s weird and annoying! I can see the photo, but either I haven’t tried to do that with mine or mine doesn’t have those connections or problems. If that’s the case it is a definite design flaw! Thanks for sharing.



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