What's better, a backpack or suitcase?

I am used to travel with my backpack. A logic choice when you also walk trails and such.
But while traveling for a few months now in South America, I do not walk a lot with my backpack while living as a DN.

So the question came up: Backpack or suitcase for the next travels?
The walk from hostel to the bus terminal is no problem. And a case is so much more accessible to live out… I think.

The case to go for me would be a Rimowa, thé topnotch aluminum one.

What is you experience with a case vs. a bag?

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I do backpack. traveling by bus or train or walking around happens often enough that i prefer a backpack. I had to travel with a suitcase earlier this year and it sucked ass plus it broke because cobble stone streets are hell on wheeled suitcases.

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I’ve tried both over the years.

I’m mostly in cities and go city to city, and have arrived at the conclusion I prefer hard side luggage for a majority of situations. I just started failing to see the point. When I was in India for a year, it made sense - for most travel from nomad hub to nomad hub, I fail to see the point anymore.

I find hard side luggage easier to pack (personal preference), far easier to dig through, better protect their contents, if your luggage is in the vestibule of the bus and encounters meddling hands, it’s not that easy to get into - and hard sides have more utility in a majority of most situations when you’re lugging them around.

Disembarking, walking to a taxi, exiting your taxi and walking into the hotel, I always find myself just wanting wheels.

I feel like I’m wearing a giant sumo fat suit when I’m wearing a backpack in most crowded situations and just find it annoying. Often, when I’m in a city like Bangkok, I’ll be on the train and see people who are going through with these giant backpacks, bashing passengers, knocking stuff over, etc., If you are carrying a separate laptop bag, it’s even clumsier. It’s more awkward trying to carry a backpack in these type of situations versus just rolling this type of luggage through. I find rolling type of luggage like this easier to get through in larger crowds.

In my experience, in South America (Ecuador, Chile, Argentina & Uruguay) - I can’t remember that many travel inflection points where a backpack would be preferable. Example, ferry from Buenos Aires to Montevideo - is a shit show disembarking, but you’re just going to be rolling through the station and going straight to a taxi and then to a hotel.

Perhaps, in somewhere like Cuenca, Ecuador - and getting off a bus and hauling around the streets or up to a hotel - a backpack might make sense, but - in all, I think I’d prefer wheels a majority of the time.

If you get a nice one like the Rimowa or a Tumi, they will have warranties and repair centers, should you bust up the wheels, locks, etc.,

And, get a nice duffle for smaller trips where you are leaving your hard side behind for awhile.

Safe travels.

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I had a backpack then had to trade it for a suitcase whilst I stood still to learn some new skills. I guess we all cannot immediately have our Mac’s on a beach.

The goal is to get the backpack back and be as free as a bird. What more do you need than a Mac?

My wife and I share a very small rolling suitcase (small enough to be considered carry-on with most airlines) and we each have a small daypack.

Suitcase holds clothing, Aeropress, misc. shared items. Backpacks are for laptops, notebooks, cameras, etc.

I usually travel with a smallish suitcase but lately I’ve had a lot of back problems so am wondering if a backpack might be better. I am just not a fan of backpacks though - having everything behind you where you can’t keep an eye on it, the sweaty back and yeah, the being a pain in the butt because you knock people with it.

Essentially both in one.

  • I can’t always get by with only carry-on
  • most of my time is in ‘friendly territory’ - wheels are OK and useful (but should be off road style) - so why backpack the load when you don’t need to
  • but there are stretches where wheels don’t work - going from platform to platform via stairs in India train station, Paris metro interconnect with stairs only, etc.
    So my go to bag is a 28" 80L Osprey Sojourn, off-road wheels (cobble stones, bricks, and dirt are not 4-wheel spinner friendly), weight supporting waist belt… do i really need the full 80L? No, but the compression straps let me carry un-full, and there’s plenty of space for en route acquisitions
    (and if i can do carry-on only it’s a similar smaller convertible)

Because I travel light so I prefer backpack. I found this blog post a few days ago which makes some good points of why you should use a backpack instead of a suitcase http://shoin.wf/reasons-to-ditch-the-suitcase/

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Porque no los dos?
I recently have dealt with the same question. Traveling through Australia and South East Asia. I wanted the comfort of a suitcase but also the ability to go on occasional off-road trips\trails. I discovered a category of bags that was perfect for my needs, they’re usually called “Travel Backpacks”. The spectrum varies but It’s basically what we call a “Rucksack” but with suitcasey features like handles, shoulder straps hide compartment, all-around zip front loading etc.

Mine is Kelty Redwing 50 (a little too big) but I have never had problems taking it on an airplane, even on the cheap airline companies. It was never full loaded though.

Good luck

I have a 2-in-1, which is a backpack with wheels. I think it’s perfect for all my trips. It’s carry-on size and has gone with me to Europe during the Fall, Japan in Winter, and Korea in Spring time. For summer travels, I usually just carry it as a backpack as it’s easier to move when taking boats or walking along dirt roads. I roll it when I don’t have to carry it around. And use it as a backpack when the roads are pebbled, sandy, or dusty. Anything that makes rolling it a nightmare. So far that’s working well for me. :blush:

I’m a backpack girl all the way. I love having my hands free and it’s much easier to run, carry a coffee, and manage my dog on her leash when all my stuff is safely strapped to my back. I also feel less vulnerable to losing or having my bag stolen (where someone could grab a suitcase out of my hand and run, they’d have a tough time ripping the backpack off my back).

The only downside I’ve encountered is that I feel somewhat foolish when I’m arriving at a super nice hotel looking like I’m about to hike the Appalachian trail. But that embarrassment only lasts the few moments it takes me to check in and hide my bag and put on a nice “see, I belong here” skirt to reemerge.

I am a backpack fan for the convenience of walking longer distances over questionable ground. Perhaps I shouldn’t choose the hostel that is just out of town, but I seem to go that way. Wheels wouldn’t cut it and there aren’t always cabs where you need them. Besides, I feel more free when I can walk.

Currently, I use the REI backpack that zips up the straps so it becomes a small suitcase with no dangly bits when necessary. I find that handy when packing it away at “home” or in the overhead bin.

The price was less than USD 100, so it is replaceable if something happens to it. So far, it has a few hundred thousand miles on it and looks almost new. Value for money, for sure.

It seems to be just the right size for my needs, but YMMV.

A good point was made about the metal roll-on being more burglar proof. I tend to be extremely attentive in risky areas and so far have not had that problem, although I did lose a camera from the open top while paying too much attention to my laptop on a bus with WiFi. My bad.

I am also a backpack fan and recently had an experience that made me appreciate my backpack even more. I was traveling through Italy and Turkey with a friend of mine and she had a 40L hard-sided roller suitcase and I was using my 70L Osprey. A few of the cities that we visited had very little impact for either of us as we had car for part of the time and used Taxis for the other times between train stations and airports to hotels/apartments. For the most part there was no discernible difference between the two forms. Easy A-B destinations the wheeled suitcase was likely a more efficient choice but hiking to our lodging in Cinque Terra was much better with my backpack, save for perhaps @gigigriffis comment on a bit of awkwardness at nicer hotels. However when we went to Istanbul, our taxi from the airport was unable to locate our hotel and thus we were relegated to walking up and down various streets searching. Throughout Italy and Germany I had very few problems with Google maps and my phones GPS but in Turkey some of the coordinates did not match(including our hotel) and so the wheeled suitcase became problematic very quickly on the cobbled streets and largely inclined corridors. The hard-shelled suitcase did not have very ergonomic handles as it is meant to be primarily wheeled and only carried a small portion of the time. After about 2 hours of trekking around we finally found the hotel but the workout on my friends hands/arms/back was evidence enough that wheeled luggage is not suitable everywhere. It likely comes down to ones areas of travel and personal preference while traveling. I am sticking with my backpack.

Ok, close your eyes for a moment… and think of the lovely journeys you’re going to make as a nomad… now add the screeching sound of plastic wheels over concrete as ambient soundtrack.


Otherwise, heavy backpack luggers don’t seem to leisurely stroll to their destinations either…

Good alternatives can be both a quality trolley or backpack, as long as they are small, agile and comfortable. I personally use a light backpack (boreas bolinas, 30L, 5-8kg filled, no need for hip belt) that also also doubles as a day or weekend pack. I love how small packs (and nomadism in general!) force thinking about what stuff is actually useful. And give the freedom to turn short hikes into new beginnings at will.

PS: www.carryology.com generally has good reviews both of trolleys and backpacks (also of the Bolina I use).

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I use a Tortuga backpack and think it’s perfect for my lifestyle right now.

It’s huge, fits everything and when I’m on the go it makes life really easy. I also have a day pack for my laptop and tech gear.

On the 1% of the month when I’m actually bouncing around being able to carry it on my back is a lifesaver. Similar to what @Dries mentioned it’s just a lot nicer compared to a suitcase that you have to drag around.

I also like that the backpack keeps the amount of clothing/gear I travel with minimal. I tend to buy a lot and it helps my wallet :smile:

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Whoow guys Great feedback. Love reading all of your experiences.
Have not made my decision for my next trip, first I need to finish my 6 month trip cross South America. But enough food for thought.

I would vote for suitcase, i have nothing against the backpack, i love them too, but suitcase is more comfortable, if you don’t have to walk a lot, your clothes willn’t be wrinkled, you can take more of it, as usually suitcases are more spacious, you don’t have to carry all the weight on your shoulders, and the main thing for me is, when you take the suitcase you feel the atmosphere of the travelling.

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I laughed at myself pretty hard once I switched from backpack to suitcase. All those days getting sweaty and tired seemed so silly. And the rare occasions when I have to lift my suitcase? No big deal.

1 more vote for suitcase! Though of course it is a personal taste, only — I totally get that backpacks and rucksacks are better for plenty of people, and that’s awesome. :slight_smile:

(Hoping to see more particular brand suggestions and links, since I’m getting a new one.)

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