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, 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 with a nice-looking suitcase.

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

Suitcase vs Backpack

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 an 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. Lugging a suitcase, in most of the world as we know it today, is not convenient, and 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 countryside pedestrian paths disappear.

It was because of the rolling suitcase that I couldn’t explore many offbeat places in Western Australia. I had to stick to places where public transport functioned. With a backpack, such a problem wouldn’t have come.

You may also want to read what others have to say about Backpack vs Suitcase discussion on Lonely Planet.

Other Things 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.

But that doesn’t mean a rolling suitcase isn’t worth buying. In Europe, particularly in western Europen countries like Germany and others, a rolling suitcase works exceptionally well. Just make sure you buy one of the best trolley bags as per your use and need.

Buy A Rolling Backpack

And then, I will always recommend a backpack because I am a backpacker. But you may just be one. So if you are confused between a backpack and a suitcase, I suggest you buy a rolling-backpack. A rolling backpack serves the purpose of a backpack as well as a suitcase. 

Though I’ve personally never used a one 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

  1. tehransuite

    nice post dear Dev
    in my opinion a wheeled-backpack is the best choice too 🙂

  2. Monica Sharma

    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.

  3. 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.


  4. It is a very useful blog.

  5. 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 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!

    • Read this article. This will help you I am sure…

      There are some links to the backpacks I have used or recommend or both, you can choose from one of those as well 😀

      • 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)

  6. My Travel Luggage

    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

  7. Nigel William

    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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