The new Eagle Creek FlipSwitch is a very fun and useful hybrid wheeled carry-on / backpack. It does, however, take some playing around with and trial and error to fully ‘get’ it. Before I tried it out, I wondered whether it was going to score high on novelty points in the double duty gear category, but low on practicality points. I’m happy to say that’s not the case.
First, here’s what it is and how it works: At first glance, the FlipSwitch looks like your standard wheeled carry-on. It comes in two sizes, 22″ for the carry-on version and 28″ for the larger or checked bag version. It’s soft-sized with ripstop fabric under a lifetime warranty, has reinforced sections where bags are subject to the most abuse, and two-sided, lockable zippers in two compartments. There’s also a zippered water bottle holder, two reinforced handles (one on the side and one at the top), and nice, easy to roll wheels (with a pull handle, of course).
However, unzip the outside compartment, and you’ll find a full suspension backpack system. This includes a fully padded, vented back, padded shoulder straps, a fully adjustable waist belt, and even a chest strap. Within the back pad is a small zippered compartment, and behind the whole system is an extra, roomy pocket. It takes about one minute for a newbie to switch the bag from carry-on to backpack and be on the go again, but I imagine I’ll get my time down to under 30 seconds as I get more familiar with the bag.
Do you need it? This was my first question once I’d become familiar with how the FlipSwitch works. The fact is, the backpack system does take a substantial amount of space in the bag, and we all know how precious space is in our wheeled carry-ons. That said, the backpack system is removable. You could absolutely leave it at home and use the space for more storage. Of course, I know the minute I do that, I’ll encounter a situation in which I need the backpack.
Whether having this nifty backpack option is worth the space it takes depends entirely on your mode of travel and preferred method of carrying your bag. For standard air travel, I’ve found I haven’t used the backpack once. The next time I’m flying, I’ll remove it from the pack before leaving. However, for road trip travel and trips when I need to carry my bag long distances in cities, I have used the backpack every time.
If you opt to keep the backpack system attached, but not used, you basically lose the storage space of the outer compartment. This leaves you with the interior compartment, which is small by carry-on standards (35L). You do also have a small zippered pocket on the lid of the inner compartment, good for storage smaller items, toiletries, or power cords. There’s also reflective striping and an ID pocket.
What it comes down to: is the FlipSwitch a quality bag? Yes. And I’m not surprised; I’ve always been able to trust the Eagle Creek name. But for $275 for the 22″ model, you’re paying for both a bag and a backpack. If you need both, this is a great value. If not, the FlipSwitch is probably more than you need. Pick one up in light blue or black at Eagle Creek or Backcountry for $275, or find one for around $250 at Amazon.