Can a four-wheel spinner suitcase addict find happiness with only two wheels?
When I was asked to review the Rick Steves Ravenna Rolling Case, I hesitated. As a young-at-heart senior solo traveler, I look for lightweight luggage, preferable with four 360-degree spinning wheels. I wrote back, yes, I would like to review this compact case. But, I added that if it wasn’t something that I thought a woman could easily lift into an overhead bin, navigate long aisles on moving trains or if it just felt awkward, I couldn’t review it.
My contact at Rick Steves replied not to worry. She wanted to send me the piece of luggage and if it didn’t meet my requirements, I wasn’t obligated to write about it.
My first impression
The deep maroon 2-wheeler suitcase arrived yesterday. I excitedly removed it from the packing box, but I still wasn’t sure how or if I could write about it. I looked closely at the construction and design, unzipped the case and dug in for assessment.
I haven’t bought a fabric suitcase in years. To my surprise, this Ravenna case is a combination of both fabric and hard-side construction. The side edges are encased in a hard shell while the body is a heavy woven cloth. Okay…so far so good.
First thing I did was to pull the suitcase around my house. Yes it was empty but I could get a feel of the extension handle and grip and any wobbliness from only two wheels. So far so good, again.
I love luggage. Years of collecting various and sundry suitcases has given me a sense of practicality. I can tell from the get-go if a bag will end up being too heavy when fully packed. The weight on the Ravenna case is just a tad over 7 lb. For me, anything under 7.5 lb. is great and still liftable when fully packed. All is good so far. Except for having only 2-wheels.
Checking out the interior of the case
Unzipping the case, I was really pleasantly surprised. The first thing I noticed was a little zippered clip-on pouch. Inside were two mesh drawstring bags. There’s the main compartment with two adjustable securing straps.
The roomier, other side of the case, (the side that doesn’t have the two bumps from the extension handle), is deeper and has a zippered cover. There’s also a small zippered mesh divider pouch and yet another mesh zippered area on the front of the compartment cover. That’s four storage areas plus the pouch and drawstring bags.
Checking out the exterior
I find it amazing that even some of the more expensive hard-sided four-wheel spinner bags lack a second handle grip along the side. This case has a side grip handle, very important when stowing up high or angling onto storage racks. The extension handle is adjustable for different heights, and there is also a grip handle at the top, next to the extension handle.
On the outside front, you’ll find three zippered pockets of various sizes: 6″, 8 1/2″ and 18″ deep…something that I miss on my traditional hard-sided cases, for sure. Even better, the 18″ deep pocket has its own zippered compartment on the inside which would be perfect for quick access to travel documents. Keep your passport hidden in a money belt or safety pouch on yourself and use the double-inside zip pocket for convenient access to train tickets and vouchers as you travel.
Did I mention that it also expands 2-inches? If used that way, it might be necessary to put it through the airline as checked baggage. But it would still be fine on trains.
How I, a non-flyer, would use the Ravenna Case
Since I don’t fly, I’m not an expert on overhead airplane bins, other than what I hear from friends and readers. Based on the dimensions of this case, 21” x 14” x 9” including the wheels, it will easily fit into overhead bins on US air carriers as well as in Europe. It’s light enough, too, for an average middle-age woman (like me!) to lift overhead if needed. This also means that I could lift it into overhead bins on trains in Europe and USA.
Now about the wheels. When I do use this case, and I will use it, it will be the first time I’ve traveled without a four-wheeled spinner suitcase in six years. There are three main reasons why I’m sure this new 2-wheeler will meet my needs.
One, the case is narrow (14” wide) enough to be wheeled through train aisles in both coach and sleeper cars. My typical 4-wheeler is too wide to fit so it must be able to spin sideways to get through the aisles.
Reason two, it’s thin enough (9” unexpanded) to slide in between the backs of opposite-facing train seats in Europe. If you’ve ever traveled by train in Europe, you know what I mean.
Three, I’ve found that some of the smaller four-wheel hard-sided spinners, when fully loaded, can only move forward at an awkward angle, negating their raison d’être. Because the Ravenna Rolling Case two wheels are broadly spaced 13″ apart, it rolls straight on without the typical two-wheel wobble.
A savvy packer could easily use just this case plus a backpack for a month in Europe. Because I need to haul a camera and lenses, a 13” laptop and electronic equipment with me, I always seem to need two small suitcases and my backpack. This case can be one of them.
I have devised a way to twist and loop backpack handles over the extended handle on my larger (22”) hard-sided spinner bag. With the a clip-on strap, my new Ravenna Rolling Case could piggy back sideways on my spinner case using its grippy side-handle. Or be the case with the backpack on top.
Perfect as a getaway bag or weekend overnight bag.
If you’re in Europe and plan to take trips from a home base, this is the perfect getaway bag. It holds more than it looks like it can. Pack up for two-three nights and still have oodles of room for souvenirs.
For a few midweek nights or a weekend getaway, Rick Steves Ravenna Rolling Case could be your go-to bag. For me, I’d only need to pack an extra oversized tote bag or computer/gadget bag and I’d be set.
It’s interesting…I went from, “Well, okay I’ll try it but I’m not hopeful,” to “Wow…I can actually make this work well for me.”
For more information visit: RickSteves.com
In full disclosure, I received a complimentary Rick Steves Ravenna Rolling Case even though I clearly stated that I was not sure if I could recommend a two-wheeler. I can and I will use this case. As always, all opinions are my own and I was in full editorial control over the content of this review.
I’m the editor and creator of CruiseMaven.com, a solo traveler cruising the world on waves and wheels, collecting recipes along the way. I hope my articles and photos entertain, advise and inspire you to travel the world without flying. Take a breath…stop for a local meal and a glass of wine along the way.