I lived out of a bag for most of the past year, traveling with my wife. We visited 11 countries and used all manner of transportation. I used Rick Steves’ Convertible Carry-On Bag, and my wife used the less expensive Back Door Bag.
These bags were great. They were tough enough to withstand our daily abuse; and quite light. The Convertible Carry-On had just the right number of pockets: enough to keep some organization going, but not so many that the bag is all zippers. None of the zippers on either of our bags has given us any problems.
Wheeled bags like the Travelpro Rollaboard are great if you’re going to be places where you can use the wheels all the time. While traveling through poorer countries there often isn’t a good surface for rolling luggage, and the instant you have to carry the bag the extra weight really hurts. The harder shell on those types of bags obviously protects your stuff better, but also makes it harder to stuff under seats.
I only expanded my bag (using the perimeter zipper) a few times, and barely used the waist belt, but it sure was useful when I did turn to these features. The small size (9 x 21 x 14 in.) was great when stuffing the bags under bus seats. Despite the fact that the bags conform to maximum carry-on size, we often checked them because we exceeded carry-on weight limits: Our filled bags are about 28 lb., while we encountered weight limits that were typically around 22 lb.
Of the many things I purchased before our trip, this bag was one that I’ve never second-guessed. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy another one if this one ever shows enough wear to warrant it.