Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Large internal capacity, Inexpensive, Sturdy
Cons: Fewer features, Not very professional looking
Best Uses: General airline travel
With 43 liters of internal space, the REI Wheely Beast has the second largest internal capacity of any bag in this review. Additionally, it was the second most affordable bag in our review and won our Best Buy Award. Our testers really liked this bag's simple duffel-like design and found it easy to pack and unpack. A soft-sided carry-on without structured walls, the Wheely Beast has a solid frame and a sturdy handle. Once we found out that this piece was only $149, we were sold! This carry-on has organizer pockets right where you want them and a sturdy duffel bag carry handle on the top. Our main complaint about this bag is that it looks a little bit like the luggage that your teenage brother might own. The bag definitely has a techy look, but unlike the Osprey Ozone Convertible 22 (which we think looks sleek and cool), the Wheely Beast comes across as even more casual.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Measuring 21.5 x 14 x 9.5, the REI Wheely Beast fit easily into the overhead bin and held all the items in our pack test. This basic bag is well-constructed and won't put too big a dent in your budget. Read on as we discuss how it measured up in each of our scoring metrics.
Ease of Transport
The REI Wheely Beast is fitted with a sturdy telescoping handle that raises up to one height (many other bags have two options). Although its wheels are smaller than those on several other two-wheeled bags, we found that the Wheely Beast pulled smoothly and maneuvered easily down the airplane aisle and over rough surfaces. The bag also features a squishy padded handle at the top and a thick, structured carry handle on its front panel. One thing that we really liked about the Wheely Beast was that if you don't fill the bag all the way full, the non-structured, duffel-style walls allow you more freedom to squeeze your bag into smaller spaces. Unfortunately, this bag does not have external compression straps. Finally, the Wheely Beast takes up just a little less room in storage, thanks to these soft sides.
REI didn't mess around when they designed the Wheely Beast. This basic bag maximizes space within the maximum legal carry-on measurements; it has an internal capacity of 43 liters and held everything in our pack test without stressing the zippers. In fact, the only bag that has a greater internal volume is the REI Stratocruiser 22, which has 43.75 liters of space. For a hardsided bag with almost as much internal capacity, be sure to check out the Delsey Helium Shadow 2 21.
The Wheely Beast doesn't have too many features to speak of, although it does have lock compatible zippers and a built-in plastic ID pouch. The interior has three zippered pouches and compression straps to keep your items organized and in place. We really appreciated the carry-on's external pockets as well: a fairly spacious one on the side and a skinny one along the bag's frame, which is perfect for a book, magazine, iPad, or maybe even a slender laptop (do note that this pouch does not have any padding). Several of the other two-wheeled bags that we reviewed had super features like detachable daypacks and backpack straps. We awarded the Osprey Ozone with our Top Pick Award in honor of features like those.
Durability & Construction
Made of a combination of 100 x 210D nylon and 1680 ballistic nylon, the REI Wheely Beast has a tough, rugged feel. Its handle and wheels are fairly solid and the YKK zipper is thick and burly. We liked that the sides are reinforced with stitched webbing and that the space between the wheels (you know, that part that gets dragged over curbs and up stairs) is protected with a plastic guard.
Weighing in at 6 lbs, 8 oz, the Wheely Beast was neither super light nor super heavy. We think that REI found a nice balance here between creating a bag that isn't too heavy, but is durable enough to last over the long haul. If you are interested in a lighter bag, check out our Top Pick Award winner, the Osprey Ozone or our Editor's Choice Winner, the Travelpro Maxlite 2 22.
As we mentioned in the overview, this bag has a techy, masculine look that just sort of said "teenage boy" to us. The Wheely Beast comes in black, navy, and gray versions with blue and mustard accents. It is certainly not an unattractive bag, but it does not have the sophisticated look of the hard-sided Samsonite Winfield 2 20 or the sleek look of the Osprey Ozone. As an unstructured bag, it also just inherently looks less professional and more casual.
This bag is great for all-around airline travel and perfect for the adventurer on a budget. It's easy to go from rolling this bag along the sidewalk to carrying it as a duffel from its sturdy carry handle. It simultaneously holds many items, but can also be squished down when it's not so full.
At $149, the REI Wheely Beast was hands down the number one choice for our Best Buy Award. Only the Rockland Melbourne 20 was less expensive, but we were very disappointed with its overall durability. If you are simply looking for a durable rolling bag that will get your stuff from point A to point B without hurting your wallet, then the Wheely Beast is the carry-on for you. Plus, if you're an REI member purchasing this bag you'll see $14.90 back on your year-end dividend. If you care a little more about the style of your bag or are really excited about convertible or four-wheeled luggage, then it may be worth it to you to spend a little more to get a piece that you'll really love.
A basic bag made of durable materials, the REI Wheely Beast is an ideal option for the casual traveler on a budget. This carry-on is a great value and we were very excited to give it our Best Buy Award.
This bag also comes in 28" and 34" versions.
— Amanda Fenn
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: October 21, 2013
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