Travel Tips
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Travel With A Backpack Or A Suitcase?

A die-hard budget backpacker rolling a ‘pretty’ suitcase on the wild-west Kuala Lumpurian streets, sounds confusing right? That’s exactly what I was doing — struggling between the hard choices of lifting and rolling an 18 kg suitcase — while making my way from Kuala Lumpur to Penang Island.

It all happened when I was invited by Selangor Tourism for a 5-day blogging trip in the Selangor region, in Malaysia, and an idea struck my mind that ‘I don’t want to look the odd one in the group, carrying a backpack.’ A quick phone call to another blogger, who was accompanying me on the trip, and my fear turned into reality. Everybody else was attending the trip like a fancy tourist. Reluctantly, I decided to put my hard-earned respect at stake, ditched my backpack behind, for the first time in my previous 2-year travel stint, and carried along a nice-looking suitcase.

Yes, I decided to carry a rolling suitcase than my beloved backpack!

An Easy Lesson, Learned The Hard Way

As soon as my FAM trip was finished, and I was left on my own, like a helpless solo traveller, with the choice of calling for a taxi or walking for a kilometre and saving a bit of money, things looked much more complicated. I realised what I was missing: my backpack.

I mean lifting 18 kg with just one arm as you climb a staircase is not an enjoyable experience. It makes you think, and think twice, with every conclusion coming down to… ‘a backpack would have made it so much easier.’

A Suitcase Is Meant For Tourists. A Backpack Is Meant For Travellers

Suitcases are just fine to travel with if you’re going for a packaged tour or are travelling in luxury. In fact, it may just feel much more convenient to carry one in that case. But if figuring out everything — right from airport shuttle to your backpacker hostel in a new city —  is what you’re going to do, consider carrying a backpack, and let your luggage rest on your shoulders. Because worrying about your luggage under such complex circumstances is the last thing you want to do.

This particularly applies to solo travellers who don’t have the luxury of asking their friend to keep an eye on their luggage, because they need to walk 200m and use the public toilet. With a backpack resting on your shoulders, you don’t need to be worrying about that.

A Backpack Promises Freedom Of Movement

A backpack moreover promises free movement, and if you’re on a few weeks or a month-long journey, you will eventually need it and need a lot of it. For example, after two weeks in Malaysia, when I finally landed in Western Australia to spend three weeks in the region, I found a major problem coming my way — of a restricted movement. Dragging a suitcase, in most of the world as we know it today, is not convenient, as so was the case with Western Australia. Though in big cities you can always easily manage, as soon as you leave the city and end up in a countryside (forget German countrysides, that country is developed to another level!) pedestrian paths disappear.

It was because of my suitcase that I couldn’t explore many offbeat places in the country, as I had to stick to a route-map where public transport — even if at a low frequency — functioned. With a backpack, such a thought wouldn’t have bothered.

Other Reasons To Consider

And then there are other situations where a suitcase doesn’t compliment your travels, but a backpack does. Take a hostel dormitory for example, and imagine half a dozen beds stacked right next to each other. In a situation like this, a backpack is easier to deal with because of a shortage of personal space. A backpack moreover promises quick packing and unpacking of your stuff. Opening a suitcase only to get your toothbrush out and then reopen to put it back again, however, may feel annoying.

A feel-good factor as you walk with a backpack moreover adds to the entire charm of travelling, forget the fact that it keeps you, fitter. Yes, a backpack makes you look adventurous, even if you’re not.

Still confused? Get a wheeled-backpack.

Though I’ve personally never used a wheeled-backpack and aren’t sure how useful they are, other people I met on the road, particularly in Europe, have always recommended one. This, for example, is a good wheeled backpack, you may consider investing in, should you wanted to enjoy the perks of both— a backpack, as well as a suitcase!


Further Reading: Tips On Choosing A Perfect Backpack | Picking A Backpack For Solo Travelling

Filed under: Travel Tips

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After my couple of years of corporate career, I left that lifestyle behind, and with it, everything that didn't fit in a backpack. I've learned that this world is too big (and too interesting!) to spend your life working at one place, and that's what inspires me to remain footloose and fancy-free for the rest of my life!

12 Comments

  1. Monica Sharma says

    Hey Dev, Great work. I prefer a backpack for most of the travel as it is comfortable and provides me with freedom while traveling.I have bookmarked you see more such kind of great articles on such things.

  2. Hey,

    I really enjoyed the interesting guides to learn the art of travel and what’s in my backpack.

    Overall, I would love to come again here for knowing interesting stuff.

    Thanks!
    Frank

  3. Amanda says

    Hi Dev. I also used to travel with a suitcase until I borrowed my best friends’ backpack and I was instantly converted. Now I need to buy my own one and I could really use some advice on which backpacks are the best or what to look for when I buy one. I have been looking on Amazon and even on sites like bestbackapck.com and I just can’t seem to decide.

    If you could recommend a brand or maybe point me towards an article, that’d be great.

    Thanks in advance!

      • Amanda says

        Thanks you! That is so helpful! The “ARPENAZ 40 LITRES BACKPACK” seems perfect!

        I appreciate the reply 🙂

        • Cheers, would appreciate if you can use the same link (in my website) get redirected to Amazon from there, and then buy. As an affiliate I’ll earn a small percentage from Amazon (PS: YOU WONT BE CHARGED ANYTHING EXTRA)

  4. My Travel Luggage says

    Beautiful blog about travel backpack suitcase and its tips how we can carry these bags with our family. We are happy to read more article like these we are going to bookmark your site for more updates.. Thanks for sharing

  5. Hi, Dev! This is an interesting dilemma. Well, it seems like you had to learn on your own skin, so you can help other people not to make same mistakes. 🙂 I was wondering, do a backpack limit your packing on the essentials or you can overpack too? extra space in a suitcase can really make one overpack, right?

    • That’s true, when it comes to carrying those extra few things (and keeping them in shape) a suitcase comes in handy. But if you’re one of those travellers who like movement more than anything else while travelling, a backpack always wins the game.

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