Backpack Or Suitcase For Travel: All Pros and Cons
When it comes to packing for Australia, your first thought should go to the type of travel you will be doing and your needs. If you plan to spend most of your time outdoors and immerse yourself in activities like hiking, walking, swimming, surfing, camping, then a backpack is probably the best choice.
If you plan a one-week or two-week trip to one destination, a rolling suitcase will likely be the best option with minimal travel and transfers.
The main benefit of using a backpack for travel is that you always have both hands free and can walk with it over uneven terrain with no problems.
As for a suitcase, it definitely looks elegant, spacious and allows you to pack more stuff; however, it is bulky when pulling it oversteps, staircase, buses, and among crowds, it will hinder you in your movements.
Either Backpack or Suitcase, it is always a personal choice, and if in doubt about what to use for travelling, you can make up your mind by looking at this list of tips, with pros and cons of using a backpack or suitcase.
Backpack or Suitcase? Pros and Cons of each
Let’s see what the major benefits and drawbacks of backpacks and rolling suitcases are.
I loved my backpack when I first went on my first Solo Trip to Australia in 2004 and again in 2008. After backpacking around Australia twice, I had to give up on my beloved Deuter 55L Backpack due to my back pain and switched to a rolling suitcase for a few years.
- Mobility on all terrains.
This is no. 1 among all the pros of using a backpack for travel. You can move around with no difficulties, even on uneven terrain or among people at train stations, airports, or roads.
- Minimalist packing.
You can keep things to a minimum. And that’s really fantastic if you are aiming to travel with a minimalist impact. It’s a precondition of any backpack. This is ambivalent. For someone can be a limitation, for some and advantage.
- Freedom of movement.
You always have both hands free. This is great if you travel solo, as it allows you to be more in control of your personal belongings, plus you don’t have the cumbersome pulling luggage through the crowds.
- Multifaceted Use.
A travel backpack comes with several add-ons and smaller compartments that you can detach for individual use, like a waist pack and a day-pack. Moreover, you can use the backpack cover as an additional bag whenever you camp or when flying.
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- Carrying the backpack on your shoulders.
Yes, you will feel its weight, no doubt. If you are thin, you should try not to exceed 10 kg, and if you suffer from back pain, a backpack is definitely not something for you.
- Not everything fits into a backpack.
For tech devices, you need a day-backpack to place your camera, laptop, and more devices that you need to carry around with you. Also, if you plan extra leisure activities or business meetings, it will be hard to stow your biz suit or a fancy dress and shoes.
- It stops you from buying things.
Yes, that’s one drawback, and long-term travel can be a limitation. If you buy things, you need to buy extra luggage or a backpack, which means more weight to carry.
Rolling Suitcase Pros
A rolling suitcase, either a carry-on for weekends or a larger one for a longer trip, is what most people prefer for travel. Nowadays, you can get a very lightweight suitcase in different materials, both soft or hard, with multiple features: two-wheels, four-wheels, and suitcase-sets are very practical if you are a suitcase fan.
I’m a big fan of my Samsonite Super Light Carry-on. I use this for most of my local travels.
- It’s spacious.
Almost everything fits into a suitcase and can be protected from damages. And depending on the kind of travel you do, it allows you to diversify your clothes and travel items with top and lower compartments and retaining straps. And you can add your packing cubes too.
- You can pack more.
You can pack more than in a backpack, and it means that you can shop while you travel, but you will also inevitably gain weight.
- Effortless Mobility.
You can easily pull a rolling suitcase on all smooth surfaces with no effort. Two-wheel cases glide over smooth surfaces, but two-wheels are easier to manage on cobblestones or rougher surfaces. It’s also easier to move around with a suitcase if this is not overpacked.
- Hardcover Cases turn into a seat.
Hard suitcases can turn into useful seats while waiting in stations or at airports.
Rolling Suitcase Cons
- Packing More than needed.
When using a suitcase, you will inevitably pack more than what you actually need. Beware of not overloading your suitcase and leaving free space for purchasing items you want to take home from your travels too. Leave at home all those stuff that you can buy locally, such as personal and health care.
- Less Mobility.
You have less mobility than with a backpack as you will have to lift the rolling suitcase on the staircase, steps, buses, trains. If you exceed a certain weight limit, you will feel it. Up to 10-15 kg is a brainer for most people. But by +20kg, it will become heavy, and you will feel it.
A large suitcase can be truly bulky and will limit you from moving around fast. Make sure you choose the right size that you can handle with ease. No matter the type of travel you intend to do, the size of the suitcase really matters. For Long-term travel, a rolling duffel bag can also be a great choice, which I use for my overseas travels in Australia.
Whatever your choice, you should definitely go with the type of suitcase or backpack you feel best suits your travel style and personal needs.
More related posts:
Packing Luggage Tips For Travel
First published in 2010, last updated in 2021
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Ben - Adventureswithben
October 25, 2010 @ 1:25 pm
Thanks for the tips. I’m headed to Australia for 3 weeks in February and have been debating whether to bring a backpack or suitcase. I think I’m going with the former.
October 27, 2010 @ 1:29 pm
After travelling with a backpack now for two months I don’t think I could ever go back to a suitcase – even for a short holiday.
October 28, 2010 @ 3:26 pm
Ben and Poi – Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comments!
On my trips I used my backpack and I simply loved it.What I like most when I travel is my carry-on suitcase. This is absolutely handy but definitely too small for long term travelling in Australia! 🙂
October 30, 2010 @ 1:29 pm
I have little choice as my scuba diving gear simply doesn’t fit into a backpack, but haven’t found my suitcase too inconvenient & on account of the dive gear taking up most of the space, haven’t overpacked (unless you consider the dive gear overpacking. Being a dive instructor though, I’d be in trouble without it!)
October 30, 2010 @ 1:41 pm
Hi Liv, I bet you need your dive gear, as you are a dive instructor! What about considering hiring it on site and take with you only the things that you cannot leave behind? Alternatevely think about packing the scuba diving gear as extra baggage and have it checked in separately. 🙂
Laura @ laurainwonderland
January 5, 2014 @ 1:00 pm
I consider the fact that a backpack stops you from buying things rather a pro than a con. I think we buy too much stuff we don’t need! I definitely prefer a backpack!
January 5, 2014 @ 1:40 pm
Hi Laura, you are right! That fact can be interpreted in different ways according to your own needs-and-wants + travel style. While I used to love my backpack I’ve recently swapped to a wheeled travel bag, for me this is the ideal piece of luggage for all my travels.