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Patagonia MLC Wheelie Review

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Price:  $249 List
Pros:  Useful pockets, Simple backpack option, Attractive styling, Made of recycled materials
Cons:  Very small, Did not hold very many items
Manufacturer:   Patagonia
By Amanda Fenn ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 21, 2013
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72
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of Transport - 25% 8
  • Storage - 25% 4
  • Features - 20% 8
  • Durability - 10% 9
  • Weight - 10% 8
  • Looks - 10% 9

Our Verdict

The MLC Wheelie has been discontinued.


Please check out our highest rated carry on bag, the Travelpro Maxlite 2 22. Also see our complete Best Carry-On Luggage Review to see how this product compared to the eleven other products that we tested.

Throughout our testing process, we came to appreciate bags with simpler, easy-to-use designs, and the Patagonia MLC Wheelie offers just that. It has several well thought out exterior organizer pockets, backpack straps that you can deploy in a moment's notice, and, of course, Patagonia's masterful sleek styling. Unfortunately, our testers found that this soft-sided, two-wheeled bag was just too small, even though it is exactly the Maximum Legal Carry-on (MLC) size (22 x 14 x 9). We tried to send this bag on four different trips and three out of those four times, our testers said that they just couldn't get their stuff to fit. …And the one tester who did fly the MLC Wheelie said that she had to pack very carefully. We later discovered that this bag actually has one of the smallest internal capacities of any bag that we reviewed. If you are a light packer or are only looking for bags for weekend trips, this might just be the piece for you, but otherwise we caution that you might be left sitting on top of your bag trying desperately to get the zipper to close. Another carry-on bag that offers a backpack design, but holds far more items is the REI Stratocruiser 22. Alternatively, if you want a non-wheeled backpack with a stylish look that holds even less than the MLC Wheelie, consider the Timbuk2 Aviator Travel Backpack.


Our Analysis and Test Results

A rolling carry-on bag with both side handles and hide-away back pack straps, the Patagonia MLC Wheelie has many thoughtful features. We appreciated its solid construction and its sturdy wheels, but found that at 35 liters it just didn't quite hold enough stuff to make it one of our top scorers.

Performance Comparison



Ease of Transport



Initially, we weren't entirely sold on the idea that a rolling carry-on bag is made better by backpack straps, especially when we were looking at the complicated design on the Osprey Meridian 22. But then, we got our hands on the Patagonia MLC Wheelie. Its straps simply untuck from narrow back compartment and clip into hide-away buckles just above the wheels and you're ready to off-road it. There's no hip belt to help redirect the weight from the shoulders, but since this bag doesn't hold a lot and you probably aren't going to be carrying it that far without wheeling it, you don't really need it. From a rolling standpoint, the MLC Wheelie has wheels that grooved for greater traction and was very easy to maneuver. It also has a side handle for easy carrying (but it's not as padded as those on other models). One final thing to note is that this bag is slightly front heavy when it's fully packed with a laptop in the outer pocket; its slim design also makes it more likely to tip over.

The MLC Wheelie backpack straps are easy to pull out and put to use at a moment's notice. This design does not have a hip belt.
The MLC Wheelie backpack straps are easy to pull out and put to use at a moment's notice. This design does not have a hip belt.

Internal Capacity



Internal capacity was hands-down our biggest complaint about the MLC Wheelie. Even though it is the Maximum Legal Carry-on (MLC), its internal volume only measures up to 35 liters and it held significantly fewer items than other bags during our packing test. If you don't mind taking less stuff while traveling or if you're headed to the beach with only a bathing suit, some tank tops, and a pair of flip flops then this bag might be perfect. However, if you want a bag that you'll still be able to use on your five-day trip back to Grandma's house for Christmas (when you might need extra sweaters and scarves), you might want to consider a larger (and thus more versatile) bag. Both our Editors' Choice winner, the Travelpro Maxlite 22, and our Top Pick Award winner, the Samsonite Winfield 20, hold significantly more than the Patagonia MLC Wheelie.

The results of our packing test are in. L: The MLC Wheelie did not fit the items left out on the floor. R: this bag has useful exterior pockets for laptop  reading material  etc.
The results of our packing test are in. L: The MLC Wheelie did not fit the items left out on the floor. R: this bag has useful exterior pockets for laptop, reading material, etc.

Features



In addition to the MLC Wheelie's handy backpack straps, we really liked its useful external pockets. Its vertical zip pocket perfectly holds a book and water bottle (with space to spare) and its second compartment easily fits a 15" laptop in its case (and has a small mesh zipper pouch for important items). The bag's third external zipper pocket is the size of a hand pocket on a jacket and is lined with soft material to protect electronics and eyewear. The bag also has a hide-away slot for your luggage tag and its telescoping handle zips away. Although we didn't quite understand the intended purpose of the internal drop-in elastic pouch (maybe for dirty laundry?), we did think Patagonia's take on internal compression straps was interesting. Instead of integrating small underwear/sock pockets along the sides of the bag like most manufacturers, Patagonia designed a removable mesh organizer that forms part of the compression strap system.

We really liked this bag's features  including a zip away telescoping handle  burly zippers that can be locked on the tabs  and exterior pockets (including a small fleece-lined one for electronics).
We really liked this bag's features, including a zip away telescoping handle, burly zippers that can be locked on the tabs, and exterior pockets (including a small fleece-lined one for electronics).

Durability & Construction



The MLC Wheelie is comprised primarily of recycled 1200D polyester and has a big, self-repairing YKK coil zipper. It also has a DWR finish to repel rain and snow in nasty weather. Overall, the construction of this piece seemed quite solid and the handle was less rickety than on bags like the Traveler's Choice Cambridge 20. Although this piece does have plastic scuff guards just in and above each of the wheels, it does not have any hard shell protection between the wheels. While this allows for greater comfort while carrying as a backpack, we are afraid that over time curbs and stairs will rub against and damage the fabric and padding between the wheels. By comparison, the majority of other bags have either plastic or a sturdier, more abrasion resistant fabric in this spot.

Weight



We really appreciated that this bag was on the lighter end of the spectrum. On our scale, it weighed in at lbs 11 oz, which is even lighter than the manufacturer's specs. This makes it easier to lift into overhead bins and to sling over your shoulder. But, don't forget that it holds significantly less than most other bags.

The MLC Wheelie was one of the lightest bags in our review. It was also one of the smallest.
The MLC Wheelie was one of the lightest bags in our review. It was also one of the smallest.

Style



Patagonia strikes again with its MLC Wheelie. This attractive two-wheeled bag seems tall, slim, and — most of all — sleek. While it's not as professional looking as the hard-sided four-wheeled bags that we reviewed, this is definitely not your grandfather's luggage.

Best Application



One tester told me that he envisioned the Patagonia MLC Wheelie as being perfect for a yogi packing up for a teacher training in Bali. This bag is great for shorter trips or light packers, but it just doesn't hold enough for individuals who need to pack layers for colder or varied weather conditions, who need multiple pairs of shoes for different outfits, or who just stink at culling unneeded items. On the other hand, this could be a useful carry-on if you generally travel with a checked bag and have a limited number of items you need to keep on your person.

This bag almost made a trip to San Fran  but Neysa couldn't quite get all her items squeezed in  especially when she needed extra shoes and layers for her 4-day trip.
This bag almost made a trip to San Fran, but Neysa couldn't quite get all her items squeezed in, especially when she needed extra shoes and layers for her 4-day trip.

Value



At $249, the MLC Wheelie is comparable in price (within $15 either way) to the Travelpro Expandable Rollaboard, the Delsey Helium Shadow 21, and the REI Stratocruiser 22". Each of these bags hold more than the MLC Wheelie, but they also each have very different looks and features. At the end of the day, this Patagonia carry-on is only worth the money if you travel with limited items or plan to use this bag as a supplement to a checked bag. Otherwise, you will be left trying to squeeze in too much stuff. It's also important to note here that this bag comes with a lifetime warranty.

Jam.Packed. The MLC Wheelie is a great bag if you are a light packer  generally take super short trips  or always check a bag.
Jam.Packed. The MLC Wheelie is a great bag if you are a light packer, generally take super short trips, or always check a bag.

Conclusion



We really liked the combination of solid construction, attractive styling, and backpack capability, but at the end of the day this bag is quite small and has limited versatility. This was a huge bummer for us because we loved a lot of what this bag had to offer.

Other Versions



45-liter MLC soft-sided carry-on bag


Amanda Fenn