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5 Reasons Why Traveling with a Backpack is Better than with a Suitcase

By - Posted on 19 May 2011

I read some discussions online about whether it’s better to travel with a backpack or suitcase. Here’s why I think that backpacks are much better for independent travelers than suitcases (in most cases).

1. Bedbeds

If you encounter bedbugs at some point in your trip, they might hitch a ride or lay eggs in your luggage. You can run a backpack through the laundry to kill the bugs and their eggs, but not a suitcase.

I usually run my backpack through a front-loading washer on high heat after I get back from trips just to make sure any bedbugs and their eggs are killed before the backpack goes in the house.

2. Cobblestone Streets and Dirt Roads

Watch travelers' faces when they roll their suitcases across rough cobblestone streets and dirt roads. It doesn't look fun. Suitcases limit where you can go.

3. Rain

When unexpected rain hits and entire streets and sidewalks are flooded, you can’t wheel your suitcase around. If you have to walk a mile or two, you’ll have to carry it. There may not be buses or taxis available, especially in a remote area in off-season.

4. Stairs

Not all hostels and hotels have elevators, so be prepared to carry your suitcase up several flights of stairs. I used to work in hostels and have seen the look of despair on many travelers' faces when they are told there is no elevator to bring their suitcase(s) up four floors.

5. Get off the Beaten Track

Suitcases limit you to where you can wheel them and carry them. Backpacks don’t have that limitation. You never know where you’re going to end up...


EDIT: I wanted to add a quick note to be fair to suitcases:

There are some situations where suitcases are preferable to backpacks, such as when there are back problems that prevent carrying a backpack, or on certain kinds of trips where backpacks may not be as welcome (e.g., certain luxury hotels).

My post is about independent travel and getting off the beaten track. Other styles of travel may have different requirements. The purpose of my post is to save first-time travelers some headaches when making a decision about what luggage to use.

Did I miss anything? If you disagree, leave a comment below. :)

Its worth looking at wheeled backpacks for travelling which add many of the advantages of having a suitcase. They are generally around 30% more expensive than non-wheeled models. Brands to look at are Osprey, Caribee, Karrimor and Berghaus.


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