Reviews You Can Rely On

REI Wheely Beast 22 Review

REI Wheely Beast 22
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $169 List
Pros:  Durable and rugged design, easy to store
Cons:  Not suitable for business travel
Manufacturer:   REI
By Cam McKenzie Ring & Amanda Fenn  ⋅  Apr 23, 2015
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
62
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of Transport - 25% 8.0
  • Storage - 25% 6.0
  • Features - 20% 5.0
  • Durability - 10% 7.0
  • Weight - 10% 6.0
  • Style - 10% 4.0

Our Verdict

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, 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.

REI has discontinued the Wheely Beast.

Our Analysis and Test Results

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.

Performance Comparison


REI Wheely Beast 22 carry-on luggage - boarding a plane with the rei wheely beast 22 in tow. on this trip...
Boarding a plane with the REI Wheely Beast 22 in tow. On this trip we loaded up the bag with sweaters, snacks, and entertainment options for the flight.
Credit: Scott Ring

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.

REI Wheely Beast 22 carry-on luggage - if this soft-sided, unstructured bag is not full it takes up less...
If this soft-sided, unstructured bag is not full it takes up less space than a hard-sided bag, like the Samsonite Winfield 2 behind in green.
Credit: Cam McKenzie Ring

Storage


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.

REI Wheely Beast 22 carry-on luggage - this carry-on held everything in our pack test, and the compression...
This carry-on held everything in our pack test, and the compression straps help keep everything in place. While the external pocket wasn't large enough to hold a 16" laptop, we were able to fit it in the main compartment on top of our other belongings.
Credit: Cam McKenzie Ring

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 5 22 would be a better choice.

REI Wheely Beast 22 carry-on luggage - the wheely beast (left) is slightly wider than the osprey ozone, and...
The Wheely Beast (left) is slightly wider than the Osprey Ozone, and has 7 L more carrying capacity.
Credit: Cam McKenzie Ring

Features


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.

REI Wheely Beast 22 carry-on luggage - compared to the osprey ozone (on model's back) the wheely beast is a...
Compared to the Osprey Ozone (on model's back) the Wheely Beast is a basic, no-frills duffel/suitcase hybrid.
Credit: Catherine McKenzie

Durability


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.

REI Wheely Beast 22 carry-on luggage - the bottom of this bag has a plastic panel and the sides have an...
The bottom of this bag has a plastic panel and the sides have an extra panel of Cordura nylon for extra durability in high wear areas.
Credit: Cam McKenzie Ring

Weight


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.

Style


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.

REI Wheely Beast 22 carry-on luggage - this casual bag was perfect for a family beach vacation.
This casual bag was perfect for a family beach vacation.
Credit: Cam McKenzie Ring

Best Applications


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.

REI Wheely Beast 22 carry-on luggage - checking out the art in the puerto vallarta (pvr) airport en route...
Checking out the art in the Puerto Vallarta (PVR) airport en route home from a family beach trip.
Credit: Scott Ring

Value


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.

Conclusion


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.

Cam McKenzie Ring & Amanda Fenn
You Might Also Like

Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.

GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.

Learn More