Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Durable and rugged design, easy to store
Cons: Not suitable for business travel
Best Uses: General airline travel
The REI Wheely Beast 22 is a cross between a duffel bag and a carry-on. It's received an update since our last review; it no longer has duffel-bag style carry handles on the front of the bag. Overall, our testers liked this bag's simple duffel-like design and found it easy to pack and unpack. It's not able to convert into a backpack like the REI Stratocruiser 22 or the Osprey Ozone Convertible 22 but it has a solid frame and a sturdy handle.
This carry-on has organizer pockets right where you want them and, unlike a hard sided bag, you can really cram it full of clothes and it will expand a little. Our main complaint about this model is that it looks a little bit like the luggage that your teenage brother (or son) might own. It has a techy look, similar to the Ozone, but comes across as even more casual. While this piece might not be appropriate for your next business trip, it is reasonably priced and a good option if you prefer to use "outdoorsy" luggage.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
This bag measures 21.5 x 14 x 9.5, and has an internal volume of 42 L. It weighs 7 lbs 1 oz according to our scales (6 lbs 2 oz stated manufacturer weight) and is made of Cordura nylon. It has two wheels, one external pocket, and three internal pockets.
Ease of Transport
The REI Wheely Beast 22 is fitted with a sturdy telescoping handle that raises up to one height only (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 has a large carrying handle at the top and two nylon webbing handles on each side. 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, though, this bag does not have external compression straps to scrunch it down even further. As a bonus, it takes up just a little less room in storage, thanks to its soft sides.
The REI Wheely Beast 22 has an internal capacity of 43 liters and held everything in our pack test without stressing the zippers. We couldn't fit a garment bag and dress shoes in (and frankly, it probably would have wrinkled the clothes had we tried) so if you are looking for a more business travel friendly model, then the Briggs and Riley Baseline Domestic or the Samsonite Silhouette Sphere 2 21 are better options.
This bag didn't seem to hold too much more than the 35 L Osprey Ozone Convertible bag, and it also held about the same amount as the Lipault Paris Plume, which has a manufacturer stated capacity of 48 L. With all of these soft-sided bags, there is a finite limit to how much you can stuff in there, so if you tend to over pack or like to pick up souvenirs on your trips, an expandable bag like the Travelpro Maxlite 3 22 would be a better choice.
This bag doesn't have too many features to speak of. It does have lock compatible zippers, three interior zippered pouches and compression straps to keep your items organized and in place. The external pocket is not large enough to fit a standard laptop and is not padded, but it is suitable for a book, magazine, or tablet.
This bag is made of Cordura nylon and has a tough and rugged feel. Its side handles are made of bar-tacked nylon, the wheels are fairly solid and sit in a large plastic housing, and the main zipper is thick and burly. We liked that the sides have reinforced panels 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.
This bag weighed 7 lbs 1 oz on our scale (6 lbs 2 oz stated manufacturer weight - typo on their end?), which is lighter than some traditional carry-on bags but heavier than the sleek Osprey Ozone and Samsonite Winfield 2 20. It's most likely the plastic paneling on the bottom of this bag that is adding the weight, but we do 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.
As we mentioned in the overview, this bag has a techy look that just sort of said "teenage boy" to us, and comes in slate, olive drab and dark cherry versions. 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 simultaneously holds many items, but can also be squished down when it's not so full, which is great for people with limited storage. We wouldn't take it on a business trip, but for your next beach vacation this bag will do quite nicely.
At $169, the REI Wheely Beast 22 is a little more expensive than its previous version. It's still cheaper than the convertible REI Stratocruiser and Osprey Ozone, so if you want an "outdoorsy" style bag without the backpack straps, the Wheely Beast is an affordable way to go. Plus, if you're an REI member purchasing this bag full price, you'll see $16.90 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.
This is a pretty basic bag, but it's made of durable materials, and is an ideal option for the casual traveler on a budget. If you are looking for a simple and durable rolling bag that will get your stuff from point A to point B without hurting your wallet, then the REI Wheely Beast 22 is the carry-on for you.
REI Stratocruiser 22
REI Flash 18
— Cam McKenzie Ring & Amanda Fenn
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: April 23, 2015
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