When it comes to travelling, there is still one debate that’s still as controversial as United Airlines’ customer service policy, and it relates to luggage and travel bags. In a nutshell: do you want to lug your stuff around on your back like a camel, or pull it behind you on wheels like a child with a toy dog?
It’s a simple question, but there are no simple answers.
Backpack vs Wheelie Bag
The fact is, if you’re travelling long-term, your luggage is your portable home. Whether you choose a rucksack, backpack, a suitcase with wheels, suitcase without wheels or just a couple of holdalls and a giant bumbag, your travel baggage is where you keep 95% of your travel possessions and it needs to be comfortable and practical.
Obviously, you’ve planned everything meticulously and you’re already carrying as little as you possibly can, but almost certainly, you’ve still got far too much stuff, so what are you going to put it in? Let’s check out the pros and cons of each option…
BACKPACKS: THE PROS
* Easy to carry. You fill them up, swing them onto your back and forget about them. Piece of cake.
* Easy to move. You can go anywhere with a backpack — Up a staircase or up a mountain, through a marketplace or through a rainforest. With your hands free, you can even climb a tree if you’re attacked by a dingo.
* Easy to store. Even a big rucksack will fit in most train station or hostel lockers.
BACKPACKS: THE CONS
* Hard to carry. It’s not a piece of cake at all. If anything, your average backpack is like a piece of cake in a giant fridge. The fact is, they’re heavy and the longer you’re on the move, the heavier they get.
* Hard to get at your stuff. With even the best travel backpacks, getting inside and finding what you need can be a huge pain and nine times out of ten involves taking out every other item you possess before you can finally get at what you need.
* Hard to get everything in just one backpack. As well as a giant rucksack on your back, many travellers end up with a second, smaller one — a front pack, if you will, with all of the stuff you need to access quickly.
* Hard not to feel a little like a dying turtle if you happen to fall on your back.
WHEELIE BAGS: THE PROS
* Easy to drag behind you. As long as the road ahead is pretty level, the effort required for a wheelie bag is generally a lot easier.
* Easy to handle. Especially in airports, where backpacks tend to get tossed like salads, making the contents much less secure.
* Easy to get your stuff. It’s much easier to organise your stuff in a suitcase.
WHEELIE BAGS: THE CONS
* Hard to drag behind you. A wheelie bag is like a Dalek: it doesn’t do stairs. Neither does it do sand, forest, wet earth or cobblestones. So depending on where you’re going, your wheels might not wash and you could end up carrying the thing anyway.
* Hard to feel free. If you’re always pulling something behind you, you’re never quite ready to escape from a dingo or fend off a ninja attack.
* Hard to bear when your wheels break. Wheels do break, and when they do, oh dear. You’re carrying a suitcase like someone in the 1900s.
* Hard not to look like a douche? This is a matter of personal taste, but a lot of “backpacking gurus” look at a traveller pulling a case behind them, roll their eyes and laugh – you know who you are! lol.
So what’s the answer?
Some say the ultimate solution is the wheeled backpack as it gives you the best of both worlds — wheels for when you can use wheels and straps for when you need to carry. The only problem with these is that they’re much heavier than both backpacks and wheelie bags and after a couple of hundred metres trying to carry one, there’s every chance you may collapse in a heap.
Ultimately, your decision probably depends on where you’re planning to travel and has a lot to do with personal taste.
Share this: Let me know on Facebook what you prefer and why (tag @World Nate I will see it). Ever made a mistake with your luggage choice and lived to regret it? Also, let me know if I missed anything. And whatever you end up choosing. Happy travelling!
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