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Suitcase vs backpack - a luggage guide

Published March 27th, 2015

Choosing where you want to go travelling is the easy part. Selecting what luggage to use and packing said baggage is the hard part.  Do you buy a hardcase suitcase on wheels? A wheeled suitcase made of material? A backpack with a detachable daypack? Or a mix of the two: a fabric backpack on wheels? When you are travelling overseas, there are some things you need to consider before packing your bags and while some comes down to personal preference, here’s a guide when it comes to suitcase versus backpack.

 

 

Where are you travelling to?

City break or beach vacay? Machu Picchu trekking or Singapore slinging? Where you go will determine what type of luggage will suit you best. If you are sticking to major cities or resorts, a suitcase will be ideal. If you are hiking in remote locations, camping or staying in hostels and hotels without elevators, a backpack will be your best friend. Think about the terrain too; cobblestone streets in charming European villages can be hard going if you’re dragging a suitcase behind you, while walking with a backpack makes it easy to get around.

 

 

What type of holiday are you going on?

Obvs taking a backpack on an active holiday where you are hiking and camping makes sense. On a practical side, you’ll be able to carry your luggage and manoeuvre it easily in confined spaces like a tent or stairwell. If you are sticking to major cities, the compact nature of a suitcase makes it ideal for travelling on public transport, wheeling around busy crowded streets and keeping your valuables secure. Durable hard-shell suitcases are deceptively lightweight, but some travellers prefer an expandable fabric suitcase to fit more in.

 

 

Will you need to carry your baggage?

If you’ll need to lug your own luggage on foot, a backpack will allow you to travel quickly and easily around from A to B, especially if you’ll be carrying your bags for an extended period of time. If you’ve arranged transfers from the airport to the hotel, a suitcase with wheels and a handle will be fine if you don’t need to tote much around with you. Stairs are not a suitcase’s BFF.

 

 

How organised are you?

If the thought of unlocking, unzipping and rummaging through a backpack to find something drives you insane, go for a suitcase. When it comes to being organised, you’ll be able to find your things much faster and keep any breakables safe in a suitcase. You’ll also be able to pack more into a suitcase than a backpack. Some backpacks do come with zip-around access (especially the hybrid models with wheels), which is preferable to the duffel-bag style.

 

 

What luggage size do you need?

Whether you’re borrowing or buying, consider how long you’ll be away for and what you need to carry. Think about how much you’ll need to pack, including specialist equipment for sport or hobbies, and whether you need to pack/unpack on the reg and if you’ll need to carry your bags for extended periods of time. For an overnight trip or a weekend away, a weekend bag is fine. For a week-long holiday, pack a carry-on bag that fits your airline’s regulations and can be stowed as cabin luggage. For jaunts of three weeks or more, you’ll need to check your medium or large piece of baggage. Check out our packing tips to maximise your space and leave room for shopping. Our final tip? Go for quality; a cheap suitcase or backpack won’t last the distance in the baggage carousel of life.

 

Cassandra Laffey

Consumed with unrequited wanderlust, I get my fix in 24/7 cities and hippie retreats. I'm still looking for the ultimate combo of secluded beach and major metropolis, and my happy place is a 5-star hotel room all to myself - sigh.