How to Make Rolling Luggage

If you travel a lot by public transportation, you have probably vacillated between wheeled luggage, a backpack, or duffel bags, and not been entirely satisfied with any of them. The wheels wear out quickly and are useless on anything except smooth surfaces; even the best designed backpacks weigh you down and impede air flow to your back; and duffel bags, while the easiest to sling around, are the worst at carrying heavy loads comfortably. Here is a fairly expensive project, but one that can make hauling lots of stuff around almost pleasurable.


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    Buy, used if at all possible, a bicycle trailer, the kind with two 16-inch (or so) wheels and a single 45-degree piece of tubing that connects to the bicycle.
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    Strip it down, removing all the frame, until you are left with a single welded U shape. Add back one of the bolted-on brace tubes so you have a strong rectangle, and if desired, drill and add more crosspieces (here rectangular aluminum stock was used).
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    Bend a handle to match your height to the height of the trailer. If you don't have the proper equipment (tubing bender), you will need to add bracing pieces as shown.
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    Test your rig:
    1. Put the wheels back on and attach a duffel bag or large backpack to the rig with bungee cords.
    2. Balance the load so that there's just the slightest amount of weight forward of the wheels.
    3. Walk, or even jog, around the block with the load behind you.
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    Take a bus trip:
    1. Pack the frame, wheels, handle and all your gear in the duffel or backpack. Make sure it weighs less than 50 pounds if you're going Greyhound in the US and don't want to pay extra. The typical trailer weighs 15-20 pounds, which gives you another 30 pounds or more for your sleeping bag, extra clothing, and other camping gear.
    2. When you arrive at your destination, take out the trailer parts and assemble it. Using hitch pins, it typically takes less than 5 minutes.
    3. Go! Effortlessly carry your load behind you as you cruise the town. In most places, you can attach the rig to a bicycle rack with a lock, and people will leave it alone.


  • The rig is still fully functional as a bicycle trailer.
  • The 40" rolling duffel bag shown was purchased on eBay for about $40, including shipping, in May of 2009. Though only 16" wide nominally, the 24" wide trailer frame fits inside because of the collapsible height of the duffel's sidewalls.

Things You'll Need

  • 7/8"x4' aluminum tubing, for "rickshaw" handle, assuming the trailer is made of 1" square thin wall tubing.
  • A bicycle lock is a handy accessory, if you plan on leaving this outside unattended.

Sources and Citations

  • This research was made possible, in part, by a land grant from the City of the Sun Foundation, though the specifics of the research were not coordinated nor endorsed by COSF.

Article Info

Categories: Travel Packing