The backpack or the suitcase?

Ah, the age old debate of which luggage to take. For me, it’s rarely a serious question. Whenever travel is calling, I reach for my trusty backpack. I have even carted it with me on business trips, much to the chagrin of the check-in staff…

“Excuse me madam, this is the BUSINESS CLASS check-in.”

“Yes, I am aware. And I can assure that I am in the right place. Please check me in.”

(Embarrassed pause) “Oh, right. Yes, certainly madam.”

But is this luggage choice just a habit? Or is it really the best choice?

Suitcases have their time and place. If you are travelling from home to holiday resort return with taxi transfers along on the way, your suitcase is the way forward. It may also be useful for longer trips combining air/taxi, especially in the developed world. For bus trips where you wheel your bag to and from the bus which is parked directory outside the hotel and no further, they are ideal. And they are also obviously the best choice for people who can’t physically manage to carry a backpack.

Suitcases are generally designed for a smooth passage… level footpaths, escalators, lifts, taxis and bell boys. But at the first sign of the unexpected, the backpack comes into its own. Rough ground where the road is dug up, an escalator not working… no problem. You don’t need to grunt & groan under the weight as you haul it awkwardly up the stairs. It’s already on your back, fully transportable, ready to tackle any terrain. Is there a lift or an escalator at this metro station? In the hotel? With a backpack it doesn’t matter!  You can just take the stairs!

As with any luggage, it is important to try to keep your backpack as light as possible. The heavier it is, the less mobile you are. Same goes with a suitcase. Ideally when travelling, it’s the necessities that get exclusive rights to luggage space… if you leave the luxuries at home it gives you space to bring back more of the amazing treasures you’ve found on your adventures.

I hear some of you saying “But I’m too old to carry a backpack. I have more money than when I was younger, I don’t need to stay in hostels anymore. Backpacks are for backpackers.” It is true that many people associate backpacks with cheap travel. Add a backpack to a business suit and a pair of heels and you will be looked at as if you are a specimen from a travelling freak show. Believe me, I know this from experience! But I would argue that backpacks need not be contained to a specific age range and travel budget. In my opinion, backpacks are the best choice for people who simply want to be prepared for all eventualities.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t experience the occasional pang of envy when I see someone wheeling a fancy new four roller suitcase away from the baggage claim while I’m hauling my backpack up onto my shoulders. But it’s always short-lived. As I walk out the doors of the railway station or airport and see a huge taxi queue full of suitcased individuals, I give myself a knowing smile and hop easily onto the public transport system or simply walk to my accommodation. Have backpack. Will travel.


4 thoughts on “The backpack or the suitcase?

  1. You know, it terms of carrying I very much agree with you. Though I always end up with a suitcase (making sure that there is good access and as little as possible of wheeling 🙂 ) because I hate digging down that backpack. I want to open up my suitcase in two halves and have everything nicely organized in front of me.
    And I won’t go even into the issue of me getting slightly claustrophobic when I have a heavy weight on my back… 😆

  2. Hey there Ironyonhighheels, just thought I’d let you know about the miraculous invention that is a hybrid travel pack. Rather than following the conventional format of a technical hiking rucksack (ie only having a top opening), a good travel pack made for backpacking will have a zip around the whole top section, effectively allowing it to open back just like a suitcase would. This is the type of bag I always use as it offers incredibly easy access… and all that mobility I was talking about in the article! 🙂

  3. Pingback: Planes, trains and automobiles « Laugh Lots, Travel Often

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