Introduction: Add Detachable Wheels to a Duffel Bag

I love traveling with duffel bags because they're easy to pack (you can just shove stuff in the corners) and the one I have always fits into the overhead bins on airplanes way easier than those bulky boxy type of rolling suitcases. But, now I'm getting old and creaky so it's harder to schlep my favorite Timbuk2 duffel around on my shoulder nowadays. Here's my simple and easy solution. 

Step 1: Ingredients

Thick velcro (about 3 inches wide) - I had some lying around 
2 Wheels - $3.49 each at the hardware store
Metal rod that will fit through the wheels - I got a hollow aluminum tube because it's light and I knew I could cut it with a hack saw - $6.99
4 Shaft collars - for holding the wheels in place on the metal rod. make sure they fit around the metal rod snugly - $3.23 each 
A willing duffel bag - one that is big enough that you won't have to bend over awkwardly to drag it around on its new wheels. Also, it should have a handle on one end (or you can sew one on)
Total cost: ~$28

Sewing machine 
Allen wrench
Hack saw
Sharpie for marking the rod

Step 2: Sew on the Velcro

One end of my bag has a bigger pocket (for shoes) and the other side is smaller (where I choose to put toiletries). I chose to put the wheels on the shoe side because I figured it would usually be the sturdier and more densely packed pocket. 

Turn your bag over. Cut two velcro strips about 6 inches long. Peel the velcro apart and pin the soft side to the bottom of the bag. (see second photo)

Maneuver the bag onto your sewing machine and sew away zig zagging forwards and backwards down the strip of velcro (see third photo). Oh also, you should use a needle made for jeans or leather. I forgot to change mine out at first and it broke. Sew down both strips.

Now attach the other side of the velcro (the rough side) by sewing it down at the outer edge only. Make sure to go back and forth a couple of times to make it secure. Do this for both strips. (fourth photo)

Now add a little fold to the other edge of the rough velcro strip to make it easier to pull up. Just fold under about a quarter inch and sew it down. (fifth photo)

Okay now you're ready to assemble your wheels!

Step 3: Assemble the Wheels

Lay the metal rod over the bottom of the bag and mark the rod where you want the second wheel to end (the first wheel will just be positioned at the end of the rod). I found that it works best if the wheels extend out to the sides of the bag, rather than underneath it. Otherwise, the duffel will just drag on the wheels. 

Put the shaft collars and wheels on the rod in this order: collar, wheel, collar...collar, wheel, collar. You may have to loosen the little screw on the side of the shaft  collar to fit it on the rod. 

Eyeball the placement of the second wheel and then tighten the little screws on the shaft collars to hold everything in place (but don't tighten too tight or you'll bend the rod and it will be harder to adjust later. You'll want to leave a little wiggle room between the collars for the wheels (about 1/16 inch) so that they roll smoothly. 

Step 4: Attach the Wheels to the Bag

Attach the wheels to the bag by opening up the velcro, sliding the rod against the sewn down end, and then pressing down the velcro again.

Unless you happened to get a perfectly sized metal rod, there should be some extra rod extending past one of the wheels. Now you should take your bag for a test run to make sure the wheels are in the right place. If not, adjust, test again.

When you think you've got them positioned well, use your hack saw to cut off the extra part of the rod. 

To hold the rod in place I put two of those thick rubber bands that hold bunches of asparagus together on the rod. (third photo)

Step 5: Now You've Got a Rolling Duffel Bag!

Flip your bag over and take her for a spin. I stuffed mine with sheets and towels to proximate the travel experience. I found that rolling the bag was easier if I positioned it to the side of my body, rather than drag it behind me. 

The best part is that you can quickly and easily detach the wheels and stuff them in the bag when you don't need them! 

In all this little project took me about an hour and a half. If you like it, please vote for me in the Wheels Challenge!

I rolled this baby all around SFO and JFK last weekend and came up with a couple tips: 1) stuff the pocket on the wheel side with something solid, like shoes. My converse seemed to do the trick. 2) extend the handle by rolling up a bandana, tying it into a loop, and then looping it through the duffel bag handle. It worked great! 

Wheels Challenge

Participated in the
Wheels Challenge