Best Luggage for Long-Term Travel: Backpacks vs Rolling Luggage

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I’m a roll-aboard girl only, and here’s why I made the change, and the criteria for when you should choose backpacks, rolling luggage, or a hybrid of both as the best luggage for long-term travel.

Best Luggage for Long-Term Travel: Backpacks vs Rolling Luggage
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When a Backpack is the Best Luggage for Long-Term Travel

I started traveling full-time with a backpack, before getting a different backpack, before deciding I hate backpacks. (Read here to find out why I hate backpacks).

Despite my seething dislike for backpacks, they are suitable for long-term travel:

  • If you like to go hiking/camping on backcountry trips
  • If you walk a lot with your bag (instead of just going from the airport to accommodation and leaving it there)
  • If you travel in places with really rough terrain where wheeled luggage is useless, you’ll need a hiking backpack.
  • You travel with carry-on luggage only, so at least the backpack won’t be ridiculously heavy.
  • If you’re young and eager and haven’t discovered back pain yet

2023 Update: The Best Backpack for Travel

While I’m not much of a fan of backpacks for travel, I’ll also admit I had all the wrong kinds of backpacks. I used backpacks meant for backcountry camping trips, not for travel. Also, when traveling with larger (and thus, heavier) checked-sized luggage, hauling it around on my back was downright painful at times.

Between my experience of the lack of travel utility in backcountry packs and the weight of large backpacks, it’s no wonder I don’t like them! Ha ha!

Tortuga Backpacks saw this article and took it upon themselves to change my mind about travel backpacks. So they sent me their carry-on sized Travel Backpack 40L. I recently took it on a week-long international trip, and as far as travel backpacks go, and it’s great. (My back doesn’t think so, but that’s not the fault of the bag).

But that’s just me. After looking at their website (and hearing glowing testimonials from all my backpack-wearing travel friends and colleagues), here’s why I decided Tortuga would be worth re-evaluating my backpack hate-on:

  • You get the space and organization (and accessibility) of a suitcase, with the comfort of a super-technically designed strap and harness system so that it will fit you perfectly and not overly strain your back.
  • It fits carry-on size requirements for most airlines and fits into the overhead bin.
  • The main compartment opens up fully (just like a suitcase) so you can see everything in the pack with minimal rummaging.
  • It has water bottle pockets, hip pockets, and other external pocket features to give you easy access to things you want to have handy along the way.
  • The front organizer pocket has space for all kinds of nik-naks, including a padded sleeve for e-readers.
  • Your laptop and tablet are kept at the back of the pack (which is more secure – nobody is getting in there without you knowing) in special padded sleeves.
  • The material is waterproof, and the zippers are water-resistant and lockable.
  • It’s made from recycled polyester, saving 25 water bottles from landfills PLUS more than 1.25lbs of CO2.
  • You can try it on at home for free, and if it doesn’t work for you, they’ll take it back (and pay for shipping).

Tortuga offers their (newly designed) Travel Backpacks in 30L and 40L sizes. Here’s how they compare. When I first landed on their site, I got a bit overwhelmed at the various packs and sizes they have available. If that’s you, check out their bag finder quiz to figure out which pack is best for you (be it a carry on travel backpack, laptop bag, or daypack).

I’m not sure Tortuga Backpacks has the power to convert me from a roll-aboard girl back to a backpack girl when it comes to my long-term travel trips, but for short excursions and outdoorsy adventures, it’s a sturdy, thoughtfully designed, well-made backpack. And I will say the waterproof exterior saved my skin (or rather, my stuff!) when I got caught in an unexpected downpour.

When a Wheeled Backpack is the Best Luggage for Long-Term Travel

When I discovered wheeled backpacks, I was in heaven. As a “recovering backpacker” I still had an umbilical need for straps, but also a burning desire for wheels. In the ensuing years, I wheeled my way through two-wheeled backpacks; the High Sierra Overpass  (which has been discontinued) and the Osprey Sojourn 60L (which was recently redesigned). I also suggest checking out the Osprey Fairview/Farpoint family of Wheeled Travel Packs.
I LOVED my wheeled backpacks.

Osprey Wheeled Backpacks

Curiously, however, I rarely – if ever – used the zip-away backpack straps. Why? Because just to do a flight of stairs, it was hardly worth the hassle of pulling out the straps and putting the pack on my back. More often than not the wheels worked just fine, and when they didn’t I simply carried the pack by the top and side handles until I could set it down and wheel it again. Carrying it wasn’t entirely ideal, however, since my pack weighed a good 20kgs.

I still like wheeled backpacks, and if I hadn’t made some recent changes to my travel entourage (read on), I’d still own one.

Wheeled backpacks work best for long-term travel when:

  • You travel with checked luggage (as opposed to carry-on only)
  • You mainly like to wheel your luggage around (ever-so-handy in airport lineups)
  • You occasionally end up in places where wheeling your luggage isn’t practical and you want to strap it on your back
  • You want easy access to the contents of your luggage

When Rolling Luggage (My Current Choice) is the Best Luggage for Long-Term Travel

Nora Dunn, The Professional Hobo, with rolling luggage in front of a train

At one point I stashed my wheeled backpack somewhere and did a few trips lasting as long as three months with my rolling-carry-on travel bag only.

Eventually I realized if I could survive for months on end (even in varying climates) with carry-on luggage only, I didn’t need the larger bag at all. Thus, I converted my full-time travel entourage to carry-on sized luggage only. It’s occasionally a wee bit stressful since there’s no room for additions, but the ease of traveling with carry-on luggage is not to be underestimated.

And more importantly, my carry-on luggage is pure and simple rolling luggage. Why don’t I need backpack straps any more? Because if and when I can’t wheel the luggage, I can simply carry it by the handle. Since it’s carry-on sized, it’s not bulky and doesn’t weigh much more than 10kgs, thus it’s easy to carry by hand. I could get a carry-on wheeled backpack, but the zip-away backpack straps use up valuable carry-on luggage space, and fitting a full-time travel wardrobe into carry-on-sized luggage is enough of an ask as it is.

My wheeled carry-on luggage of choice is the Pacsafe Toursafe 21 (since replaced by the EXP21 Anti-Theft Wheeled Carry-On) wheeled luggage which is lightweight, sturdy, has nifty security features, and some handy organizational features on the inside.

2023 NOTE: Tragically, supply chain issues forced Pacsafe to discontinue their lineup of anti-theft rolling luggage. I have left this blurb above intact in the hopes that they’ll bring it back to life, or I find some comparable anti-theft luggage to love and feature in its place; whatever happens first. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, I’ve been testing out the Osprey Daylite Carryon Wheeled Duffel 40L. While I just noted that backpack straps are unnecessary for carry-on luggage, these particular straps don’t eat up packing space in the same way, and you can detach them entirely if they’re not your speed. The bag’s overall features are very travel-friendly.

Rolling luggage isn’t always the perfect fit for long-term travel, but here is when it makes sense:

  • You travel with carry-on luggage only (and can easily carry it when it can’t be rolled)
  • Your travel days are concentrated and linear (ie: you travel directly from one place of accommodation to the next, without too many detours)
  • You “rough it” less
  • You fly a lot
  • You have back problems and don’t like to (or want to) haul a backpack on and off
  • You want easy access and organization of your luggage contents
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Before making a new luggage purchase, ask yourself, does the luggage have:

  • A telescoping handle
  • Lockable zippers
  • Zip pockets
  • Is it top loading (and is that something you want)
  • Does it fit in an overhead bin
  • Does it have premium spinner wheels (and if it does, do they come at the expense of packing space)

Having an Extra Daypack

My carry-on luggage system wouldn’t work without my daypack, which houses my computer and other essentials that never leave my side. Most carry-on flight regulations allow for one piece of carry-on luggage (ie: my Pacsafe), plus an extra “purse/briefcase” type of bag, also known as a personal item. My daypack is that additional bag. (Although I carry a small purse as well, if I were challenged on it I could put the purse in my daypack).

This daypack is practical for outings to cafes with my computer, carrying shopping and groceries, and even for multi day treks such as the 5-day one I did in Peru. (Although realistically, if you want to do a day-trek through the mountains of Peru, leave the wheeled luggage behind, and bring along this bag instead)!

Here’s what I look for in a daypack:

  • Side pockets for a water bottle
  • Padded shoulder straps for comfort
  • Separate compartment(s) for ease of organizing things

As an unintentional Pacsafe poster girl, my daypack for years was a 25L Pacsafe Venturesafe Daypack. I (literally) loved it to pieces. Pacsafe now offers a ton of different-sized and styled backpacks that you can check out here; personally I find 25L to be a good size and best backpack for travel.

Lately for my personal I’ve been trying out the Peak Design Everyday Totepack – which gets me compliments everywhere I go. It has some amazing pros (and a few cons); check out my video review here to see if it’ll work for you.

2023 update: I’m currently testing out (and have the highest of hopes for) the Knack Bags S2 Medium sized Expandable Backpack. With the ability to expand from 24-35L, and with a ton of organizational and security features, I suspect this will be my new fav daypack for travel.

Want to know what I pack into my daypack? Check out this video where I unpack it for you and show you all my carry-on essentials!

If you want an ultra-light packable day pack, I suggest:

Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Day Pack – This multi-award-winning 20L packable day pack stuffs into its own pouch that is smaller than a tennis ball. It’s great for day-hikes, grocery shopping, and simply having an extra daypack on hand without taking up any space or weight. Here’s a video demonstration I did of the pack.

Packable day pack

2023 Update….The Sea to Summit daypack is lightest packable backpack that packs down the smallest. But it comes up short with a lack of water bottle pockets on the sides, and no internal organization. To solve these problems, the Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack comes to the rescue.

Getting confused? Join the club. Check out my comparison of the Top Packable Backpacks for Travel so you can figure out which one will be best for you.

2023 Update…

Now that I have a home base, I can pack in a strategic way for every trip I take. Even if I’m traveling for months at a time, the nature of the trip will entirely dictate what kind of luggage I use.

For example, if I know I’m going from A to B and then staying at my destination for an extended time, I might go with checked luggage so I can carry some discretionary items that will make my stay more comfortable. Or if I’m going on a long trip that will involve multiple climates and/or technical activities: again I’m likely to choose checked luggage.

But at the moment that I’m writing this update, I’m on a five-month trip and I took rolling carry-on luggage (specifically the Level8 Grace EXT expandable hardshell spinner luggage – as my first foray into hardshell spinner luggage).

Interested in some of the decisions that go into choosing checked luggage versus carry-on luggage? Let this article be your guide.

Other Travel Gear Posts

Looking for some more travel gear inspiration? Get some ideas here:

The Ultimate Packing List for Full-Time Travel (Updated to include my full checked entourage which I still use as of 2020)

Pro Packing Hacks – Here are the Best Travel Accessories for Saving Space and Organization

The Best Carry-On Backpack for One Bag Travel

My Travel Capsule Wardrobe: Best Wrinkle-Free Travel Clothes For Women

The Ultimate Travel Capsule Wardrobe for Men

My Search for the Perfect Travel Sandal

And TONS more Travel Gear features and reviews!

Best Luggage for Long-Term Travel: Backpacks vs Rolling Luggage
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94 thoughts on “Best Luggage for Long-Term Travel: Backpacks vs Rolling Luggage”

  1. I’m still figuring this out. I have been using a rolling REI carry-on that I love, plus an old Osprey daypack. I came back to the city where I’ve left my stuff while I work further with the idea of traveling full-time. I’ve been thinking of using my 50L Osprey backpack and cinching it down to be a daypack. It just distributes the weight better and has a hip belt. Not 100% sure.

    What is your new packlist? I still can’t seem to get that magic self-sufficient lightness I want. My back is mostly fused, so it’s an extra challenge for me.

    • Hi Lynne Marie,
      Might be good to use the 50L Osprey as a daypack, but you need to make sure that when cinched down it still looks small enough to play the part of a “purse/laptop bag” for carry-on purposes.
      And it’s a double-edged sword having a bigger bag like that; if you’re anything like me, you’ll fill it up with stuff (!) – then again sometimes it’s nice to have that option (and you can always check the Osprey bag on flights if you need to).

      More or less, here’s my carry-on packing list:

  2. I thought I owned the world when I had a roller with backpack straps AND a zip-on daypack. It was non carry-on size, therefore too heavy to used the backpack straps. I’m going to give up the straps for a spinner, as many rollers cause problems when rolled on a train–sometimes I have to go through many cars to find a seat, and being able to push my bag sideways is a big advantage. I really hate to give up my zip-on daypack, but it looks like the spinners will not accommodate one. If someone knows about one, I would love to know about it.

    • Hi Minnie,
      I don’t know of any spinners with detachable daypacks – I suspect it would upset the balance of the wheels. I’ve never used a spinner, but I know people who swear by them.
      Regarding the daypack, at least you can put that on your back with relative ease and comfort; for myself, I tend to keep important things like my laptop in my daypack, so I prefer to have it on my body rather than on my luggage.

    • Hi Rob,
      No, it’s too big to go under the seat. It is soft-sided so you can under-pack and cinch it down, but I think it will be too big regardless. No problem in standard overhead bins though.

  3. Wow, you look dashing and so very stylish. You really must have the packing down to a T!

    I did pretty much the same you did. I think I only used the backpack for one trip and then it was always with a backpack on wheels (though a bit heavy). Now I travel carry on only. The problem though is that my carry-on always weighs a little more than 10 kg. I often leave from Vancouver and lately they always make me weigh it – and of course, then I have to check it in. I will check out the weight of your carry on – buying a new one might does the trick since mine is already a bit heavy to begin with 🙂

    • Hi Fida,
      Yes, the Pacsafe is quite light to begin with….which helps! I think sometimes my bag is above 10kg, but I haven’t been made to weigh it and check it yet….and it’s not the end of the world if it has to be checked. Happy travels!

  4. This post came just on time. I’ve been browsing for a bag to buy. And just recently discovered Pacsafe luggage. Love there Venture Safe day pack, as well as their Tour Safe wheeled travel bag. Thanks for tips!

    • Glad this was good timing, Frank!
      I can honestly say I really like the Pacsafe gear (and no, they don’t even know who I am, much less give me freebies or pay me to say that)! 😉

  5. I am still a fan of backpacks. They are just too easy. Rolling bags can be to space consuming and bother people walking behind you, but that is just my opinion. Your suggestion for a day pack is a great one though. Backpack or wheeled luggage everyone is in need of a day pack.

    • Andy,
      For every downside of one option, you can find a downside for the other. For example, although I totally agree that wheeled bags can be frustrating for other people walking around you, I’ve been bashed and knocked by more than a few backpackers with massive packs on their backs who aren’t aware of how much room they’re taking up.
      I think it ultimately boils down to personal preferences, and being considerate of those around us. Words to live by, huh? 😉

  6. I´m totally a rolling type of person too! I love my wheeled luggage and I can´t imagine a trip without it. And I have a small side backpack as well. For notebook and other handy things. By the way..could you please tell me what kind of navigation do you use during your trips? I´d love to purchase sygic app (this one: ), do you know it? I´m not totally sure yet. Thank you!!

    • Hi Paul,
      Nice to know a fellow “roller”!
      As for navigation, I don’t have a steadfast system. It depends on where I’m going and what I’m doing – I tend to wing it most of the time. But that app looks awesome! (It does cost a wee bit though).

  7. Just LOVE the OR Peak Bagger. We have his and hers versions (hers=older with an outer sleeve for hydration bladder, his=newer with padded straps (a great upgrade) and a zipper pocket rather than the sleeve. Both have their benefits. We have took a 5-day trip tropical trip easily packing everything we needed in them. We could wear much of what we needed on the flight. Fit easily under the plane seat with room left over for feet (and my partner is 6’3″). No fiddling with overhead bins, quick TSA check, no sore back from lifting luggage around, no luggage fees, easy to pack up and go in a second. I recommend having a soft layer like sweater or fleece to put against your back, otherwise hard-edged items inside can be uncomfortable to wear for longer jaunts. Yep, gonna do more travel with only the Peak Bagger!

    And you’re so right about the versatility. It’s a compression sack and weighs almost nothing, so was easy to strap on and ride a beach cruiser to get all the groceries and fresh tropical fruit the two of us needed for the entire trip. Not to mention it’s waterproof and perfect for that day splashing up a creek and through a waterfall, then having a dry towel and wallet handy afterward.

    Agree completely for longer forms of travel. When doing remote backpacking, only a backpack will do, though we’ve been going lighter and smaller as the years go by. If that’s not a part of the trip, a roller really is “where it’s at.” Just so convenient, and easy enough to carry up steps, and much friendlier than a backpack to lift from ground to car trunk/boot. A happy back is a wonderful thing when we’re not 25 anymore!

    • Hi Wynne,
      I think you pinned the whole undertone of this post….we’re not 25 any more! Ha ha!
      It’s great to hear your testimonial for the OR Peak Bagger – it’s a pretty slick bit of kit.

  8. I’ve had the same trusty backpack (non-wheeled version) for the last 7 years of travel and there’s a few reasons I’m not yet ready to change it. I tried and tested literally dozens of backpacks before I set off on my trip, from horrendously expensive to cheap as chips. I finally settled on one of the cheapest ones, simply because it was the most comfortable one fully loaded that I could find. It’s a Berghaus, cost me 46 pounds sterling 7 years ago and apart from one small puncture which never got any bigger, is still in great condition, even zippers have never been replaced. The only amendment is the zip pulls which I replaced myself with a small cord when they finally frayed after about 6 years! The zips are still in perfect condition.

    In the first week, it drove me insane. I had to unpack anything to find something so I quickly learned that I had to be consistent in how I packed it. Things have a place and I always put them in that same place. That way I can stick my hand into it in the dark and pull out anything I want. 3 external pockets I use for things I want easy access to and by undoing the divider between the bottom pocket and main section I can access almost anything instantaneously from either the top or the bottom. I pack clothes in see-through plastic zipper bags, each one with a different shape or texture (again helps with rummaging in the dark) – one for undies, one for tops and one for bottoms and dresses. The pack is 45 litres and currently I carry about 13-15 kg in it. There is plenty of room to add extra things if I go somewhere cold and need extra clothes or do some shopping. When it’s not full the straps compress it so it’s good for short and long trips. At 13kg I can easily carry it on my back for some distance. I have trekked up the Himalayas with it for up to 5 days at a time and best of all, unlike a wheeled suitcase, I can throw it on the front of a moped, or strap it on my back and go on road adventures by motorbike, currently my preferred way to travel. It’s versatile, hard-wearing, cost effective and has served me well in almost every situation. When I want to check it in, I use an external thin zipped bag that wraps around the whole backpack so there are no outsized luggage issues or chewed up straps. This lightweight cover bag gives me an extra space to pack unneeded stuff into and store in the event I want to go off hiking for a few days or make shorter forays to islands etc. For me this combination has been great, but it relies on me creating a packing system and sticking to it, for the sake of my mental sanity. I also tend not to fly a lot, preferring overland routes so this is a consideration. When I stop somewhere for a longer time, to volunteer usually, I can unpack my things and fold it away or hang it up as there is no internal metal frame.

    • Hi Stephanie,
      Thanks for your input and great testimony for backpacks! Seems like you’ve found the perfect luggage for travel that suits you to a “T”.
      And great point about packing consistently. I’m a big fan of that myself; added benefit: you lose way less stuff.

  9. Thank you so much for this post. The hubby and I are going travelling in September and are havign an ongoing debate about backpacks vs rolled luggage. I am at an age where I have discovered back pain, and yet the husband is too busy trying to discover himself rather than worrying about the practicalities of it all. Hopefully this post should sway him!

  10. After having my checked luggage not catch up with me 3 separate times on a 3-week trip to India and Bali in 2010, I switched to carry on only forevermore! The next year I travelled to Panama and 4 different cities in South America with a friend and we each had 2 carry on bags – no more hassles, and no lost luggage! Though I am currently living and working in Taiwan for at least a year and yes, I bought a large, light, wheeled suitcase to hold my 50 pounds of things I need to actually live abroad, but I also have my wheeled backpack with me and use that for all shorter trips.

    • Hi Karen,
      Welcome to the carry-on-club! Like your Taiwanese adventures, I too am looking at spending some extended time in the future (in Peru), and I want to schlep some extra things there to make my time more comfortable. I’m dreading having to check a bag again! Ha ha! But I’ll be sure to have my carry-on wheeled bag as well for all my shorter trips (“short” being as long as a few months)….

  11. I think it really depends on the person and trip, such as where you are going and what all you are bringing with you. Both options offer great benefits, but both should be looked into to figure out which one best fits you and your needs. Thanks for sharing your advice!

    • Hi Caryl,
      You got it! When travelling your luggage is an extension of yourself – so you’d better like everything about it, and it’s a very personal choice, like you say, dependent on your needs.

  12. I bought a beautiful US brand backpack/wheels Eagle creek. The first time I decided to use it as a backpack for stairs I realised my back wouldn’t do it! Lol! It is good at wheeling though. Recent trip to Europe I ditched it last minute for an old Skyways suitcase and cabin bag – they balance each other with strap. With daypack – Katmandu brand with padded computer slot and Hedgren tiny shoulder bag for money/passport etc was all good. Travelled metros ok in Rome and Copenhagen with luggage. Rather a lot I know! Used small Hedgren daily with a soft Onya parachute bag for water scarf and ocassionally folding umbrella for rain (Europe) and sun (Dubai was 43C). Blended in better and less of a target without a daypack! An Aussie using brands from world and Aus!

  13. Ok, I booked a no frills flight to New York from Myrtle Beach, S.C., and as you may know, if you take a carry on bag you are charged for it each way on top of your ticket price. But you are allowed a personal item, like a purse or laptop bag. I wondered, how much do I really need to take with me for a week’s visit at my daughter’s apartment in Brooklyn? So I emptied my laptop bag, and began to fill it with essential items only. First, my handheld tablet computer and folding keyboard, and chager cords, after all, it’s supposed to be a laptop bag, not a suitcase. I avoided toiletries that I could buy in NYC, but needed at least one shirt, my jammies, and socks and underwear. I had a fanny pack, empty, my wallet, a mesh bag of medications, a small paper notebook, pen, and a foil bag of tea, after discarding another shirt, a pair of shorts, second T-shirt, a small hair brush for my beard, and paring down the socks and underwear to one extra of each. With those items pulled out of the bag, it looked less pregnant, and was very light. Now, this was a short trip but was well within the size and weight limitations of the airlines and saved me the hefty carry on bag fees each way. Toiletries and extra clothing were easy to buy, and what I brought doesn’t really have to go back with me. I’ll leave some things here for my next flight out here in September. The laptop bag was light, carried by the strap over my shoulder, and fit easily by my feet under the seat on the plane in front of me. I really believe I could do the same thing for a city hop at a hotel anywhere this airline flies. Anyway, it was fun to see if I could do it!

      • For what I was doing, a short hop to visit my daughter, it was completely successful. I bought what I felt I couldn’t bring, and left two clothing items behind at my daughter’s apartment in favor of two items I bought. The challenge is to find space for extra items on the return leg. I found space for two hardcover biographies within my size and weight limitations, and took advantage of some pockets, too. It was totally inspired by your no bag travel challenges on a meager basis. The benefits for me were avoiding the bagage carosel completely, light weight baggage, easy to carry andv stow under the seat in front of me on the plane, easy to take on my lap or at my feet in s taxi, and I saved baggage fees both ways. Btw, I saw a Nora Dunn lookalike on the plane today from LaGuardia to
        Detroit! Flower patterned summer dress, red hair, and straw hat with a black hat band!

        • David – Glad the challenge worked out for you. In general, I’d shell out for the carry on bag just to have some extra room, but for the challenge’s sake, it’s great fun! I just returned from a week-long trip to Florida with one very small bag (but a bit larger than a laptop bag, but it included my laptop), and it was a total success. I love light travel!
          I have many doppelgangers; apparently you saw one in LaGuardia….it wasn’t me! 🙂

          • What a pity it wasn’t you, Nora! She looked so much like you, too, sporting a great looking hat and only two travel bags. One was a roller, the other a smaller bag she tied on top. Right after she finished tying the bag on and let go it fell forward and hit a woman’s leg standing in front of her! “You” had pretty red face! Spirit airlines fkying out out of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to New York for a RT plus taxes in September is coisting me only $107.99. This is hardly international travel (they do serve the Carribean, too) but for short hops, you can’t beat some of prices on a discount airline. 🙂

  14. I think the issue here is how you travel, and less about your back situation and personal preference for how you look.

    I have traveled to more than 40 countries on 4 continents over the span of 15 years, many multiple times, and I have used the same pack, actually the same one. It’s a Boblbee hard shell pack, holding very little, but with some compression bags I managed to travel for months at a time. The longest stretch was 8 months with just the contents of that pack. No wheels, just a backpack.

    The way I traveled, I found the backpack to be invaluable. The way I travel, I keep moving and have to be quick on my feet to catch a bus, train, or run to another terminal at the airport. My style of travel was more spontaneous and unplanned, so a suitcase with wheels or a backpack with wheels would significantly slow me down.

    For those who book a vacation in the Bahamas, of course a wheeled suitcase is the best option. For the others who are part of a group, traveling together and everything is planned out, there’s no problem. I do not, however, think that anyone who wants to move quickly will benefit from anything with wheels.

    I have seen many, many, foolish souls running through airports, down busy streets and tripping over themselves to catch a bus, train, a plane with a wheeled suitcase. I have seen people with wheeled suitcases on their back (wheeled backpack) that are struggling to stay upright and knocking people down because it’s overloaded and huge.

    My opinion, considering the benefits and drawbacks of each is quite clear. Choose, based on your trip, either a backpack (no wheels) or a rolling suitcase. A backpack with wheels, which you have already discovered, is the worst of both worlds. Actually a rolling suitcase combined with a backpack would make a great combination!

    • Adam – Great points. I think the other deciding factor is how much or how little you pack. If you’re on the go a lot and quick to move – as you are – then the lighter you pack the better. The heavier your load, the worse it is to use a backpack – from trying to find what you need, to hauling it on and off your back all the time.
      I pack very light, so can manage either a backpack or roller bag. I guess I just don’t run for that many buses and trains however, because I haven’t found the rolling luggage to be that bad. If I really need to speed up and the terrain is awkward, I just pick up the case by the handle and go. My daypack with my computer is on my back, so it’s all very balanced.

  15. Hello,

    soon i’m going to go to New Zealand for about a month. Since i don’t have a drivers license i’m going to use the bus as my main way of transport. Because i have been living in Cambodia for the past ten months and i only came with a big rolling luggage i’m a bit concerned about my trip to New Zealand. Do you think it’s stupid to always drag that suitcase to the bus and should i get a backpack? Or maybe i’m just fine?

    Thanks so much for your advice & also, great blog, i really enjoy reading!

    • Hi Lilli,
      I guess it depends on how big your rolling suitcase is. New Zealand has easy terrain to roll your case around; it’s not like you’ll have to lug it over gravel roads or cobblestones. So personally, I would stick to the rolling luggage (and save yourself the cost of buying a backpack that you might not need or like). If it becomes a problem, you can get different luggage in New Zealand.
      Happy travels! I LOVE New Zealand!

  16. Thank you! This is awesome advice. I am going to purchase them for my Asia trip coming up in December.

    • Hi Angela,
      Awesome! Glad you got some good advice from the post – and happy travels! How long are you going for?

  17. Going to Europe in 2 months for 3 weeks! Thanks for all the awesome advice. I got in my head that there has to be some kind of new way to go backpacking Europe other than just a big ole backpack. I plan on just bringing one piece of luggage. So far the Osprey seems to be the best fit, thoughts? Wheels and backpack straps seem to be the way to go. I think I’ll go the next size over carry-on. And a detachable daypack makes sense. Any suggestions?

  18. My current travelling bags are the eBags Mother Lode TLS Weekender Convertible and for my personal item/dayback the Tom Bihn Synapse 19. I also have the eBags in a wheeled version that I use occasionally for trips into the city. I like the approach you’ve taken in your post insofar as the choice of bag depends on the destination/type of travel and the person’s preferences and needs. I think each person needs to develop some kind of checklist of the features s/he needs in a bag. Here’s my list of the features I go looking for in a travel bag:

  19. Hi all,
    I thought I’d chime in. I also HATE backpacks. Dislike hauling around a lot of weight in general. So here’s my my current soup du jour: (there’s a full length flat panel space against the back that holds my Birkies!)

    The wheelie is 4#, the daypack and vest are ounces. I can “wear” a year’s wardrobe thru check-in in my vest. I always wear a Royal Robbins travel underneath as my “wallet”. Has money, electronics, passport, camera–zipped pockets all over. The bag weighs in at 15#.

    I’m looking into an unlocked 6″ android “phablet” with sim card slots and sd card slot as only only electronics-cost $150. (There are 5.5″ ones for $90-$100-Posh brand, eg.)

    I’ve got something called “surf Easy” which is a cool little USB secure, anonymous browser-which doesn’t leave a trace on public computers. I’m still learning it.

    My kit is pretty tight, all ultralight, minimalist, top of the line and can handle 3 seasons.


  20. Interesing to follow your evolving thinking, which a lot of us share as we age and change travel styles and destinations. However, I’m having to think about backpacks and duffels again with a few week trip to southern Africa (followed by Paris) coming up, where soft outers are requisite for carry on bags on planes heading away from cities. There are roller duffels, but at 6’2″ they are a bit of a reach (literally). That leaves travel backpacks, some of which are reasonably well designed and not too expensive. At 68, I’m still in good enough shape – and not too proud – to carry one, but I struggle with the thought and how much use it will have beyond this trip (could I carry a suit needed for a relative’s wedding or something similar in one?).

    • Hi Gene,
      My Pacsafe carry-on bag (discussed in the post) is actually soft-sided so could work for your trip – and I believe they have larger models that you can check in as well.
      As for carrying a suit for a wedding, that all boils down to the packing technique….as well as availability of an iron or dry cleaner on arrival!

  21. Nora, Are you saying the EVA back is soft? The requirements for these safari operators (charter) is “NO frame.” Unfortunately, the closest walk-in store that carries the 21 is over 400 miles away (Pacsafe lists REI, which is local, but REI website doesn’t show the 21). thanks,

    • Gene,
      Hmm. No, it’s not totally soft all around; the back is solid. Those are some strict requirements – wow! Good luck in your search…

      • From eBags, I ordered, then packed and tried around the house, up and down stairs, their TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible, a Timbuk2 and the Lite Gear travel pack. I won’t say any of the the three really stood out as superior absolutely speaking, but the Weekender seemed on balance the most versatile and comfortable choice (no backpack with 20+ lbs is perfectly comfortable). Lots of pockets, a middle divider in the main compartment to keep things from moving around, a water bottle pocket and the lowest sale price. It’s easy to overfill, as some customers have mentioned in their reviews, but that’s where a hand carry satchel comes in handy. The Weekender’s waist strap is sort of weak – a complete lacking with the Timbuk2 – but I’m off to REI to see what I can find.

          • Hi Nora! If you want a writing retreat in Michigan next Fall or Spring, come and stay with me. Email me. You saw my TLS Mother Lode Weekender in Ecuador and me and my girls like them for Asia and Latin America because they pack up great with compartments and cubes, and open like a suitcase. We often would have to walk into a smallish town after a bus leaves you by the highway or walk a ways to a hostel from the center of town bus/train. Taxis either are not around or are silly expensive to travel a mile. Wheels add weight and can get wrecked fast on even one mile of dirt road or bumpy sidewalks. I want to find a foldable super light luggage cart to add to this system though! Do you know of any?

  22. OK, so I’m a macpac backpack girl and have travelled all over the world with it over the last ten years. It works for me and my luggage has been a no-brained for me since I bought it in 2005. It has given me the flexibility of doing things like taking my aging grandmother around the world: my backpack on my back and pulling hers behind me. Under different circumstances this trip would be the same.

    However, this trip I am pregnant. We are traveling through India to Nepal (both places I have travelled before). I will be traveling with my husband, and he can help with luggage, but also my three year old daughter- which means traveling light is out of the question. And my pregnancy means I cannot carry the weight of my backpack. We will be in major cities: Delhi, Agra, Kathmandu, but also somewhat off the beaten track as we are involved in humanitarian work and will be visiting aid projects. I am worried about conventional rolling luggage on buses and trains, rickshaws etc.
    anyone have any intuitive suggestions or relevant experience?

    • Hi Sarah,
      Hmm – tough conundrum! I have no trouble with rolling luggage and buses/trains/rickshaws, but because it’s carry-on sized, it’s lights and easy to just pick up and haul by hand when necessary. If you’re unable to travel light with kids in tow, that won’t be so easy.
      But since you can’t put anything on your back, it seems you’ll be relegated to wheeled luggage anyway – in which case I’d recommend something with a solid top AND side handle so that when you need to pick it up, you can carry it by both handles more easily.
      If you’re able to put something on your back once in a while (when necessary), then a wheeled backpack would be the way to go.
      Hope this helps!

    • Hey Sarah,

      I’ve gotten the Osprey Sojourn wheeler/backpack 5 yrs ago and travelled 30+ countries for months, esp. India/Myanmar, SE Asia and East/central Africa. With the big, sturdy wheels (I’ve once hauled another bag + stage piano on top around with it, total of 70 kgs) it has never been necessary for me to use the straps, so I leave them home now and only use the wheels. I use rickshaws, back of motorbikes (put it on my lap), trains etc. I’m involved in work off the beaten track as well and its never been a problem. I usually have 16-20+ kgs in it due to the versatile tasks and situations I need to bring gear and clothing for (even dress clothes :). Highly recommend it for the Osprey High Road Chassis, but would never do it with any of the other tiny wheels and low chassis on other suitcases that I’ve seen around.

  23. Wow, thanks for the great articles. I’m headed to Japan for 15 days, but was still thinking like a 20 year old when it came to the “grab and gone” machismo of a backpack suitcase. But, I carefully planned my trip to Japan to rarely be caught in the cold (lots of walking with no hotel to stash at).

    A plain old carry-on was making sense (do I really need survival gear on a shinkansen?), but yeah some how plain-old carry on seemed like defeat (admittedly, on a business trip to Guangzhou, my carry-on was bouncing in the air from the terrible pavement and twisting my arm around half the time). But that being said, a backpack would still have been worse because it was so hot there.

    So thanks for the article. You’ve made my planning much simpler because I already have “good-enough” rolling carry-on luggage in the house.

  24. Have not read all the posts above, but another reason for wheeled backpack is when standing in an airline queue for a small plane and they are looking for wheeled bags to go into the hold. If you have your bag on your back then they seem to ignore you and go to someone else……this has happened a few times in the States and in Europe!!

  25. Hi Nora,

    I’m planning a trip – basically planning on travelling for 6 – 8 months (!) – I’ll be starting in South America, before heading north and right through and across the USA. My question, really, is – what sort of luggage would you recommend? I’ve already got my Bestek Waterproof Canvas shoulder bag for my camera & its accessories, but I’m not sure whether to go for two additional bags, such as rolling luggage for the majority of my things, with a second backpack for my laptop which I’d prefer to keep with me at all times (as you do). Alternatively, whether I should opt for a larger backpack, but travel light(er). Wondered what your thoughts may be. Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Matthew,
      A few things for you to consider include:
      1) How much are you flying? Because you’ll only be able to carry on one shoulder bag/daypack, in which I suspect you’ll want to carry both your camera equipment as well as your laptop. Can your camera shoulder bag fit into your second backpack with the laptop? Alternately, can your laptop fit into your Bestek bag?
      Once you sort out this part, the rest is simply a matter of how big a bag you need for the rest of your stuff, and whether you want wheels or backpack straps (or both)!
      2) What sorts of climates will you be experiencing? The more seasons you experience, the more clothing you’ll need to pack (within reason).

      • Hi Nora,
        Thank you for getting back to me so quickly! It is possible that my Bestek bag will fit into my laptop bag, so they could combine into one as carry on. I won’t be taking many flights, and the majority of those will be getting me between areas in South America and up to the US. Once I hit the US, I’ll mostly be using the Greyhound bus service to get between places, and perhaps some smaller bus routes in between.

        I’ll (hopefully) be trying to keep dry and warm, probably experiencing South America’s late summer / early Autumn, and then the USA’s summer / Autumn as well, once I move north.

        • Matthew,
          All sounds terrific! One last piece of packing advice: the weight of your bag is equally proportionate to your misery on the road. Hence – keep this in mind, and go on the minimalist side. You can always pick up a few local things along the way if you find yourself underdressed.
          Happy travels!

  26. Nora, I recently aquired a Granite Gear Cross Trek 22 Wheeled Duffel. I also consider your site to be the sensible travelers’ book of Leviticus. Particularly after a revelation I experienced returning from Boston to the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. There I saw a young man with a wheeled backpack on his back.
    Up to that time mine was my Genius and Exodus of a pre-9-11 traveler’s mindset regarding airport traveling. Prior to that faithful date I thought nothing of lugging, pushing or dragging a duffel bag with a daypack and lumbar pack round my waist. Of course that was back in the day when there was actual room in the airline cabins.
    My modern travel education started in 2012 on a visit to the Midwest and the discovery that lugging that same duffle bag, bought 10 years earlier, across the Minneapolis airport took more energy than I remember. Purchase of a folding luggage caddy rectified some strain, but, as you pointed out, these caddies present extra challenges being designed for a particular shape of luggage. Plus there’s always the necessity of folding it up for TSA inspection and stowage. Worse were the freak accidents including loss of one of the support stanchions after getting caught and broken on the landing of a Phoenix bus. Later, a bungee strap hook caught and tore my trousers as I walked South Beach Florida.
    Thus, I took it into my head to do the backpack thing. I got a fully packed backpack into the overhead for a trip to New Orleans, but only after removing certain items so I could secure the overhead door. Space and the lack of mobility presented more problems. I took it into my head to add my own modifications in the form of a couple of folding- ammo-drop bags secured, with a strap, around the backpack’s middle. This bag would be fine IF I were only traveling by foot or ground vehicle.
    However, because one leg of my journey always entails flying on a small aircraft with fighter jet sized seats and glove compartment overhead storage. It’s necessary to surrender my bag for valet transport. Oddly, regardless of how secure I tie the straps on the backpack, somehow they were always loose at my destination.
    After seeing the young man with the wheeled backpack, I found your site. Lo, you’ve described virtually every mishap I’ve faced traveling with a backpack and separate travel caddy. For what I paid to pimp my bag, I definitely wasn’t getting the return I had hoped for and found something wrong with this picture.
    I can afford better luggage and I certainly don’t enjoy the aggravation. The realities you identified are that for the most part I’m going to wheel my bag across the airport to a bus, taxi or rental car to my hotel or friend‘s home. With TSA inspection and stowage it’s must that everything stows as flat and streamlined as possible. It’s also nice to have the option of going backpack if I desire or necessity demands. Thus, following your advice I researched several bags finally settled on the Granite Gear duffle. It has certain features necessary for me. I’ll use it on my next trip and hope to have a different report than my previous travel chronicles. Again, thanks for your fine input and opinion.
    Chris Hunnewell

    • Hey Chris,
      Ah…the journey of finding (often through trial and error) the perfect luggage! I’m glad you’re kitted out with a new duffel that will hopefully ensure a smoother trip this time around! Happy travels!

  27. Hi Nora! How does your Pacsafe handle “off-road” terrain? Would you be able to pull it down a gravelly road? I ran into this scenario in Africa a few times and my Eddie Bower duffle handled the abuse just fine. It ended up blowing a seam after only a few uses, so looking into something else. Also, does your Pacsafe stand on its own without toppling over? Thanks, Natalie

    • Hi Natalie,
      Great questions! The Pacsafe that I use is carry-on sized, so when I encounter terrain that is too difficult to roll with, it’s easy enough to just carry by hand. However I do find that it’s a very sturdy pack that can handle rough terrain pretty gracefully – so if you have a larger sized Pacsafe bag that’s too awkward to carry by hand, I would say yes: it can take it.
      As for not toppling over, yes, it does stand on its own, but that also boils down to how you pack it. For example, put the heavy stuff at the bottom (near the wheels).

  28. I will be studying abroad in Melbourne and want to travel around to Cairns and New Zealand after my semester is over for about a month. I have a medium size day pack as well as luggage with backpack straps but was wondering if I should bring this luggage with me everywhere I go or if you know of some storage possibility. I was curious as to where to keep my larger luggage during excursions or if it is possible to keep it with me. Thanks for your article!

    • Hey Bruce,
      It all depends on your situation in Melbourne; if you have a place that you’re coming back to where leave your large luggage and simply do excursions with a smaller bag, I’d recommend it. If you don’t have a place to come back to, some hostels or hotels will allow you to store luggage with them. You may also meet some friends along the way who would be willing to keep a few things for you. Enjoy New Zealand – a fav place of mine. 🙂

  29. Hi Nora. We went through similar dilemmas in deciding what to take on our 57 day round the world trip. We are not doing it in luxury, but are not three-bucks-a-night-beach-hut backpackers either. It remains to be seen as to whether we got the right solution, but I made this short video about our options and our ultimate choice: Hope you think it’s in the right ballpark. Happy travelling!

    • Hey Nigel & Jane –
      Lookin’ good! I just got myself a larger rolling suitcase that I’m pretty pleased with. It’s big (ie: not carry-on size), but it fits everything I want to carry with me and more. Stay tuned for an updated packing list post where I illustrate everything I now carry with me full-time!

      • DEFINITELY want to hear about that packing list. I know for the future there will be trips I’ll have to carry an extra bag so I look forward to your enlightenment.

  30. Hey Nora,
    Here’s a status report regarding my new choice of carry-on bag, the Granite Gear Cross Trek 22 wheeled duffle to replace my old duffle bag and/ or Santo backpack. In July 2016, I flew to Europe for a 17 day excursion. Unfortunately, some old, bad habits are hard to break. The Cross Trek held everything I needed and then some, so I thought what harm to take my long time, venerable, trusted old companion of many miles: my Santo backpack. From the time I stepped into the TSA security line it was a mistake. For one, TSA gets anxious now if bags are packed too tight. Talk about “Catch-22,” or at least that’s what they told me as they emptied my Santo, found nothing and offered to repack it. On the American Eagle puddle hopper jet with the fighter pilot seats and lunch box overhead, though I had minimized the Santo, it was equivalent to a sky diver’s parachute Thus, once every one was seated, I waded upstream to surrender it for stowage.
    Basically, you’ve preached this truth and I learned it the hard way. PACK LIGHT and lighter still! Ironically, this trip, I was reading “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed. In this book, and movie of the same name starring Reese Witherspoon, is an in-depth passage of how the heroine lightens “Monster” her backpack to reduce unnecessary weight and clutter. Unfortunately, it was a Normandy hotel that I read and came to this same conclusion about my monster.
    Overall, there was no problem slinging the Santo to my back and pulling the Cross Trek through five countries. Still, it could have been better with smaller. As usual, the fun came at the airport. Because of the necessity, caused by a scheduling problem, to check the Cross Trek I had to go through TSA a needless second time. Unnecessary, because if I’d had just carry-on this wouldn’t have happened. In Berlin and Dallas, they got anxious about my too tight bag, unloading and, in particular, running all my electronics through a second time. None of these experiences dampened the trip’s fun or experiences, but definitely lesson learned.
    My next trip entailed a 10 day August trip to Arizona. In Phoenix last year I used a portable luggage caddy, for the last time, and managed to catch a stanchion in the door of a bus. This trip the Santo, caddy and duffle bag stayed home, Utilizing the Cross Trek and a Mountain Smith lumbar bag, I carried everything with room to spare and breezed through DFW with no problems, but hold that thought.
    I Phoenix, watching other passengers wrestle with their “trunks,“ I felt a little smug easily hoisting the Cross Trek into the luggage holder of the rental-car-bus taking my seat and holding the lumbar pack on my lap. Back on the deck, effortlessly took a new meaning with the lumbar slung and secured round my waist and Cross Trek in tow. I never had to use the Cross Trek’s backpack features, it was nice to know they were there.
    And though I wore the same clothes and same luggage as when I started this trip, when I left Phoenix I got another “too tight bag” check. It’s something that happens, I get it and was glad I showed up early. but having minimal luggage made it that much easier.
    Hopefully, my experiences helps someone.

    • Hey Chris,
      Thanks for sharing your experiences! I haven’t noticed that they like to pick apart bags that are too tightly packed, but certainly when they’ve insisted on digging to the bottom of a carry-on bag that I’ve meticulously packed, I’m never pleased. I guess you can say that’s one good point for checking luggage; no security check hassles!

      I love Wild! I’ve read the book and watched the movie, and when she has her first overloaded pack, she reminds me of me when I started traveling 10 years ago! Even now that I’ve gone back to a checked-sized case, I’m still traveling pretty light by most standards.

      Happy travels!

  31. Actually Nora, due to the fact that I got no hassle wearing the same clothes and the same bags coming through one airport, then subjected to everything but a cavity search at another and addition to the dump, I got the pat down. Thus the “your bag is packed too tight” is an excuse for a thourough random search, much like a cop saying you drove over the right hand white line or failed to use a turn signal when making a curve. It’s not that I’ve done anything, it’s an excuse and my place in line. Of course watching them measure my bicycle wrench to see if it met specs was almost too funny for words.
    Still, I wouldn’t mind using checked, but generally I’m carrying my cameras and notebook, which is what they’ve suddenly gotten concerned about.

    Regarding bags again, the European tour leader was surprised that I was traveling with only two bags compared to the steamer trunks some of the other travelers were toting. Which is what I liked so much about “Wild” and the lessons to live and travel with less.
    More happy travels and tales later and the same to you,

    • Hey Chris,
      You pinned it – checks are often random. I remember passing security dozens of times with my little nail scissors. Then one time – they were seized. Sometimes I fly through, and other times I’m piecing together my stuff after it has been thoroughly searched. It’s part of the “fun” of air travel in this day and age, I guess!
      And yes – isn’t it nice to pack lighter than everybody else? I love the funny looks I get from people, especially when they learn that whatever is in my bag is everything I own!

  32. Nora,
    Your last comment, “And yes – isn’t it nice to pack lighter than everybody else? I love the funny looks I get from people, especially when they learn that whatever is in my bag is everything I own!”
    Your words jumped out me resounding in my mind, particularly after recalling how, in August, passengers on a Dubai flight reached for their luggage after crash landing and ignored the order, and common sense, to GET OFF. I mean, honestly, is anybody’s life worth a Gucci bag, tooth brush or camera? Particularly, when the vehicle might explode at any time. As I was pondering that situation, I received an E-mail from my trip’s tour guide.
    This was a response to my lost canvas wallet that went missing about the fifth day of our June-July trip, and after arriving in Bastogne, Belgium. This wallet contained extra identification and a credit card. It was “backup” just in case.
    Thus, after searching my room thoroughly, I contacted the tour guide and searched the bus to no avail. I concluded it must have slipped out of my pocket, earlier in the day, at French truck stop we visited. The tour guide called the truck stop, but nothing had been turned in.
    A loss like this is no fun, but looking at the bigger picture I l had my passport, Euros, a good pair of shoes and my meals transportation were taken care until I returned to the USA. There was still a week of travel, so I had a choice if I was going to let this devastate the trip or my memories. Oh, and I haven’t lost a wallet or ID since I was 16. So, it’s not like I’m repeat offender. That night, I slept better than I had in a while and had a blast.
    Fast forward and it seems after “a thorough cleaning” of my Bastogne hotel room, they found the wallet and will mail it back. I’ve since replaced the credit card and ID, but I’ll still be glad to have the wallet and contents back.
    The lesson your words set in stone is that besides humping a small bag with everything I own, I’m also prepared to bail from a plane, digs or situation, without it, survive and carry on to travel, laugh and live some more. And if I get some funny looks over that fact, then the more the better.
    Happy travels,


  33. Nora,
    Ahh, you’ve got me!
    Since I also tend to fly with my shoulder bag at my feet, containing necessities, my laptop and cameras. Therefore, the temptation to sling my man-purse over my neck before leaping for the nearest exit, in a single bound over small children and old ladies, might be my kryptonite. Obviously, a case by case situation. Still, my concern are those yahoos opening the overhead bins. The equivalent of a Titanic survivor showing up at the lifeboat with a bag.
    Meantime, reading your account of Cusco, I commend your friends and read that we followed similar fail-safe procedures. In my case, I didn’t lose my cell phone so a call and my credit card were cancelled within the hour. Ahh, that 8-hour time difference.
    I also have the habit of writing down “Lessons Learned,” which everyone says hind-sight is 20/20. Though one guy says not his brother because he wears glasses! Don’t ask! Still, for example my TSA experience, it’s par for any trip that sometime, somewhere, one of these find stalwarts is going to have “wild hair,” except it, smile and cooperate. Thus, I try and anticipate, though not always perfectly. Which again, is the fun and experience of travel.
    In relation to our experiences, I’d consider something like “IF you knew you were going to lose your purse, wallet, phone and be in a plane crash, HOW would you dress? What would you carry in your pockets?” More to ponder!
    Thanks so much for all the great advice and adventures. Hopefully, I’ll have more to add.

  34. Something worth thinking about – it’s not just your back that can suffer hauling around a heavy backpack. For women, it can be really bad for your pelvic floor. If you do carry a backpack, or need to lift a heavy suitcase, make sure you know how to brace all those muscles first 🙂

  35. From Elizabeth (copied from higher up above – no ability to reply there):

    Hi Nora! If you want a writing retreat in Michigan next Fall or Spring, come and stay with me. Email me. You saw my TLS Mother Lode Weekender in Ecuador and me and my girls like them for Asia and Latin America because they pack up great with compartments and cubes, and open like a suitcase. We often would have to walk into a smallish town after a bus leaves you by the highway or walk a ways to a hostel from the center of town bus/train. Taxis either are not around or are silly expensive to travel a mile. Wheels add weight and can get wrecked fast on even one mile of dirt road or bumpy sidewalks. I want to find a foldable super light luggage cart to add to this system though! Do you know of any?

    Hi Elizabeth,
    Unfortunately I can’t recommend any portable luggage carts from experience. I guess I’ve done pretty well choosing luggage with sturdy wheels; I ran my Eagle Creek gear warrior through its paces on a 3km hike up a dirt road in India….none the worse for wear. I also hauled it up a few gravel roads in Ecuador 😉

    Anyway, post here if you find a luggage cart worth mentioning! 🙂

  36. Hy Nora!

    First, let me compliment your writing stile – it’s great how you can make one laugh out loud, even when writing just about luggage 😀 That’s exactly the kind of blog entry I needed after reading tons of backpack reviews.

    Now here’s my problem: Even if your blog entry gave me a really good image about all the pros and cons of different luggage types, I´m still not sure if I should rather choose a usual trekking backpack (which might be more comfortable when carrying on the back) or a trolleybackpack like the Osprey Ozone 75 Convertible.

    We plan to travel from Corsica to Norway in four months, mostly using trains and buses. I think usually the trolley funktion would be pretty practical in the most regions in Europe, but in winter in Norway and Sweden snow might be an issue.

    After these four months we will fly to Costa Rica and stay in one place for one month, just leaving for daytrips.

    Than we will fly to South America for one and a half months of free backpacking (aproximately in Ecuador, Peru and Chile).
    Bolivia will be our final destination where we will stay in La Paz or Santa Cruz (still has to be chosen, do you have experiences with these cities?) for five months, only leaving for weekend trips (maybe also longer hiking trips).

    According to luggage reviews I heard about people being totally satisfied with their trolley-backpacks and others who say that a comfortable trekking backpack is still the better option and the trolleys wheels might hurt your back… Honestly, the more I search for luggage experiences, the more controverse opinions I find.

    Do you (or does anyone else) have a good advice for my friend (back problems already) and me? Regular trekking backpack or trolleybackpack?

    Thanks in advance!


  37. P.S.: As a daypack I already bought myself the Pacsafe Z-28 PB160. Maybe that also plays a role when it comes to choosing the right additional luggage.

    • Hi Magdalena,
      Well, if your friend already has back problems, then I recommend the wheeled backpack for sure! 90-99% of the time, you’ll be able to use the wheels, and the few times you can’t, the straps will be handy and you won’t likely have to go far with your pack on your back.

      Also, because you’ve already bought the Pacsafe daypack, if you have a trekking backpack, you’ll have to wear one pack on your back and the other on your front, which isn’t comfortable (or stylish, if you care about such things).

      You may want to check out this post, for some updated luggage recommendations:

  38. Someone once said, “A real man does not get the planet to carry his luggage for him.”
    If you’re a retired, elderly traveler, (they do exist, I met a couple from Europe in their 80’s, in Chiang Mai, Thailand) and you are suffering from age related weakness or physical problems of some sort, then wheelie luggage is okay.
    Otherwise, it’s kind of dorky.
    I’m going to be 68 in November, 2019, and I travel for months at a time with just one, 35 liter convertible backpack. My Minaal 2.0. But now I’m going even smaller. 21 liter carry on backpack with zip away backpack straps if I want to carry it like a duffle bag.
    One bag, carry on, minimalist travel.

    • Hi Robert,
      Yep! If you can go minimal and light weight (and not everybody is prepared to), then a small backpack makes travel very easy!

      But I must counter that I don’t think rolling luggage is dorky – at all! What’s dorky, in my opinion, is wearing a large backpack on the back, and a smaller daypack on the front. Not only does it look dorky (especially when walking into a high-end hotel), but in my experience it’s awkward and impractical.
      (But of course, this wouldn’t be you if you’re traveling so light – I’ll bet you only have the one backpack, which is in considerably better taste) 😉

  39. Rolling backpacks rock! Never thought I would say that :grinning: Yet here I am, after my first long trip through EU. Also if you are traveling to EU from somewhere else, I would suggest getting a VPN, it will save you in some tricky situations. While I was trying to book a hotel in a different country (I have previously found a few pages with good prices/discounts) some of them were blocked, so with a vpn I changed my location and I could access those pages. Any VPN will do, but I used nordVPN because it was the most popular one.

  40. Hi, this is a great post, My Pacsafe carry-on bag (discussed in the post) is actually soft-sided so could work for your trip – and I believe they have larger models that you can check in as well.
    As for carrying a suit for a wedding, that all boils down to the packing technique….as well as the availability of iron or dry cleaner on arrival!

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