Suitcase vs. Backpack

The age-old question for a backpacker, do you take a suitcase with you, or is it better to have a backpack?
There is no right or wrong answer to this, it is entirely personal preference. Though if you have a destination in mind, its always better to choose your preferred luggage item based on that.

When I moved to Spain and Germany, I took a suitcase. That was easy, I knew I was going to be living in one city for a certain period of time. When I went to Australia on a Working Holiday Visa, that was trickier. I didn’t entirely know what I was going to be doing, where I’d be living/staying and how long for. That took a lot of deliberation (any of my friends from back then will tell, there was a lot of facebook updates regarding this issue, many visits to Go Outdoors, I even spent an afternoon wondering around the shop with a backpack on a weights in it to get the feel of it. There was also many visits to the likes of Debenhams and House of Fraser). After all the deliberation, I’d finally decided on a suitcase. This was based on what people were saying to me- its a first world country, I’ll mainly be walking with my suitcase on actual paths, I probably wasn’t going to go camping for days on end in the outback (it just didn’t seem like the sort of thing I would do), and it would be easier carry (or wheel, rather) around. When I was there, I spoke to a lot people, they all said they wished they’d brought a suitcase rather than a backpack. If you are going to Australia, and you’re planning on going through Asia, either on the way there or on the way back, then a backpack might be more suitable. The reasons for this are below.

As I’m going to South America, I decided to get a backpack for this trip. The main reason for this is I might be walking on uneven terrain. By that I mean, for places like Iguazzu Falls, I don’t know how practical a suitcase may be, so carrying a backpack on my back instead of wheeling a suicase around seems like a good idea. So it is important to consider the sorts of places you’ll be visiting when you’re deciding between a suitcase or a backpack.
Another reason backpacks are a good idea is stairs. Going into hostels, going into train or metro stations, there will be a lot of stairs. And not everywhere has lifts. In Australia, I was checking into a hostel without a lift, and I’d just come from a wine-tasting trip, so my suitcase was full of heavy bottles of wine. I was told my room was located on the first floor, and I winced. I asked the receptionist if there was a lift. There wasn’t. I explained about the wine-tasting and the heaviness of my suitcase and straightaway she changed my room to ground floor. It was very nice of her to do, but not everyone will be so nice/won’t be able to change your room due to being fully booked. The name of this hostel was Newcastle YHA (if you look it up, make you get the right Newcastle).
A third reason backpacks are better than suitcases- you can put them on the seat in the taxi with you. You’re probably thinking ‘why would I do that?’ Well, I’ve been told that in certain places, such as Río, where I’ll be going, if I put my luggage in the boot of the taxi, there is a risk the driver could drive off with my possessions but without me. Therefore it is better to keep your backpack with you and in your sight at all times when moving from one city/town/village to another (a little bit of traveller safety for you).

So, when choosing your luggage item, consider the places you’ll be visiting, do lots of research, and if you choose a backpack, build up your upper body strength to make it seem easier for you to carry. The size of your preferred luggage item is also going to be a big deal. My suitcase is 75 litres (and can expand 5 litres), my backpack is 65 litres. You don’t need a lot of stuff when you travel, and you will learn to travel light, so anything more than 75 litres is probably too much…the bigger the luggage, the more pointless things you will pack and never use!


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