The 22" REI Stratocruiser is a soft-sided two-wheeled carry-on bag with structured side walls and a detachable daypack. One of the larger pieces we reviewed, this carry-on held a LOT of stuff and measured 22 x 14 x 9 (main bag only). On the other hand, our testers aren't entirely convinced yet that the carry-on plus detachable daypack idea is totally worth it, but if it's something you are interested in springing for, then this bag is your most affordable option. Please check out our buying advice guide: How to Choose Carry-On Luggage and The Best Carry-On Luggage Review for a full discussion of the pros and cons of the detachable daypack.With the REI Stratocruiser, it's easy leave the detachable daypack at home and solely use the main pack, but if you do opt to use the daypack as your personal item, you can easily clip it onto the main pack at three points using plastic buckles. Because it is easy for your to clip on and off, we want to take a minute here to point out that it would also be easy for a pickpocket to clip it on and off. If you opt to wear this piece as a backpack with the daypack clipped onto it while you are in a crowded area, keep in mind that it is probably not wise to leave all your valuables in this daypack (and since you couldn't bring a purse as your carry-on, all your valuables are probably in that daypack). The Osprey Ozone Convertible 22 has overcome this problem by placing clips on its front shoulder straps so that you can kangaroo carry your daypack in front of you.
REI Stratocruiser 22 Review
Cons: Heavy, not very attractive
Our Analysis and Test Results
Ease of Transport
Measuring in at the maximum legal carry-on size (without its daypack), the Stratocruiser has both wheelie and backpack options. When you're ready to carry it, simply unzip the back hide-away flap, which unrolls to provide back padding, clip in the shoulder straps and you're ready to toss it on and hit the stairs. This bag does not have a hip belt, which helps keep the design simple, but significantly decreases comfort if you're planning to carry it as a backpack often. Furthermore, with its padded top and its minimalist side handle, the REI Stratocruiser is as easy to carry at your side as it is to roll or backpack. Both the Osprey Meridian 22 and Osprey Ozone have more complicated backpack systems that include hip belts.
At just under 44 liters, the REI Stratocruiser had the largest internal capacities of any bag we reviewed (this does not include the daypack). It easily held everything in our pack test, including the hanging bag. The daypack adds an additional 17 liters of space, but as we mentioned before, must be used as your personal item.
The Stratocruiser has a variety of pockets to keep you organized. Both the main and daypacks have drop-in water bottle pockets and the main pack has four interior mesh pockets, as well as an external zipper pocket for easy access to magazines, etc. Furthermore, the daypack features a number of useful pockets and it has an internal laptop compartment; however, our testers agreed that they would not trust their laptops solely to this lightweight padding. Both zippers on the main bag are lock compatible and the daypack slots down over the telescoping handle for easy rolling.
Durability & Construction
The REI Stratocruiser is made of slightly less durable materials than other packs in this review, but held up well for us throughout our tests. The handle is a bit wiggly, but we didn't encounter any major problems and the wheels rolled easily. We really appreciated the plastic skid guards near the wheels that protect the bag from curbs and other harsh obstacles, as well as the tough abrasion resistant fabric that REI incorporated between the wheels. This bag's YKK zippers are heavy and durable.
The heaviest bag in this review, the Stratocruiser has a heavier frame and materials. Without the daypack, this piece weighs in at 7 lbs 3 oz. With the daypack: 8 lbs 8 oz. This bag definitely lost a few points in this metric.
Although we have discussed the detachable daypack as a pro up to this point, we want to take a second here and discuss one of the cons of this feature. The Osprey designs have daypacks that zip on and stay in place with a series of buckles or toggles, the REI Stratocruiser daypack simply clips on in three places. If the daypack is heavy and/or the main pack isn't fully stuffed, the daypack droops off the back. This not only leaves the entire bag more subject to tipping over, it also looks crappy. In this regard, the detachable daypack is a bit poorly executed. Even without the daypack, this bag just does not exude any sort of cool or sophistication. If you really care about what your luggage says about you when you fly, this is probably not the bag for you.
The Stratocruiser is suitable for general airline use and would work well for individuals who plan to travel places where rolling luggage is better replaced with a backpack. We don't recommend using this piece as a backpack with the daypack attached in crowded areas (due to the dangers of daypack theft), but in other scenarios, this could be a very convenient arrangement.
At $239, the REI Stratocruiser was on the more affordable end of the spectrum and is far cheaper than either of the other carry-ons with detachable daypacks that we reviewed. On the other hand, you could cash in our Best Buy Award winner, the REI Wheely Beast 22 and the REI Stuff Travel Daypack 22 ($30 and the Top Pick Award winner of The Best Travel Backpack Review) and have a rolling bag and a daypack for $60 less. It is important to note here that these pieces may be returned within one year, but do not have an extended warranty.
Although this sturdy bag offers plenty of packing space and some of the benefits of a detachable daypack, it unfortunately has a couple of flaws that made us seriously reconsider whether the daypack was a feature that we would actually use. And if we weren't planning to use the detachable daypack and were just looking for a simple carry-on that would go the distance, we would probably choose the REI Wheely Beast.
— Amanda Fenn