At the heart of a common debate amongst many travellers lies the question “is a backpack really necessary?”; “Can’t I just use a suitcase at home, instead of having to go out and buy a new backpack?”; “Is it an unnecessary expense?”. So, let’s assess the pros and cons of ‘backpack or suitcase’ and conclude once and for all what you should take on your tour!
In many train stations, bus stations and hostels you will come across a lot of stairs. Depending on where you’re traveling, lifts and escalators aren’t always available. As for hostels, it will most probably be the bellboy’s day off, leaving one clear winner for this category… The backpack! Glide up no problem!
Walking long distance
You will find yourself walking a lot when you are travelling, whether it’s from the bus station to your hostel, or trying to figure out where you are or doing some heavy-duty exploration. It depends on where you are, really. If you’re on smooth floors a lot (as in airports or train stations or on good roads), a suitcase generally makes for a nice smooth ride. On the other hand, the backpack definitely comes in handy in more varied situations. If you’ve packed fairly light, walking long distances with a backpack shouldn’t be too uncomfortable and you will navigate puddles, potholes, curbs and busy crowds – to name a few – with relative ease. In these instances, a suitcase *is a nightmare* and you will wish you had a backpack on!
With a big bulky suitcase you have the option to pack more stuff, plain and simple, so no worries about bringing your favourite shampoo from home! You can also pack a backpack (and/or smaller bag) for day outings. That said, don’t lose sight of why you went travelling in the first place… was it to have all your home comforts with you or was it to experience the world from new perspectives? If you really want to bring a lot of stuff, you could always bring a huge backpack too and have the best of both worlds, (not that we’re biased towards backpacking or anything).
If you have a pack that only opens from the top, it can be a nightmare trying to grab something that is firmly tucked away at bottom. But do not fear, backpack advocates – there is a solution! You can get one that has zips going all the way down and at the bottom, so it becomes an ad-hoc flimsy suitcase, of sorts. Bingo! Sorry suitcase… you thought you nearly had this one.
In terms of general street cred, the backpack will always win. Nothing gets you travelling points like a nifty ninja backpack. Rolling around with a suitcase will leave you wishing you were in the with the cool kids.
I rest my (suit)case…
Although there is no technical right or wrong answer… why go backpacking without a backpack? There is a reason they are so popular amongst travellers due to their ease and compactness. The only thing a suitcase really excels at is keeping your expensive post-travel suit uncreased. And if you’re still not convinced by a backpack… check out a backpack on wheels!