Choosing Luggage – Suitcases vs Backpacks, Which One Is Better?

by | Feb 2, 2018 | Live Work Play Travel, Luggage & Packing | 0 comments

Buying a travel backpack or suitcase is an important purchase for any traveller. With so much choice of luggage out there in the market place what do you choose? Suitcase or Backpack? Which one is Better? Having travelled with both a suitcase and a backpack myself I feel I can offer you an insight into which luggage could suit you best. I have just updated this post, January 2021 so here are my latest suggestions on choosing the best luggage for your travels.


How to Choose Luggage


My best advice when choosing luggage is to choose luggage that suits the travel you will be doing. I think an overnight bag or a suitcase is great if you are going away for a weekend or on a two week beach holiday. And I think the versatility of backpacks and travel packs are great when you will be backpacking for a month or so and will be moving to a new location every couple of days. So think about the type of travel you will be doing and choose luggage that suits that travel. Here are some benefits of suitcases vs benefits of backpacks. 


Pros and Cons of Suitcases vs Backpacks


Once you know the type of travel you will be doing you need to weigh up the pros and cons of suitcases vs travel backpacks.


Suitcase Pros

  • Wheels make them easy to move around.
  • Made of material to protect your belongings.
  • Can be carried or pulled along with one hand allowing your other hand to be free or to carry something else.
  • Come in different sizes and small ones can be used as carry-on luggage.
  • If you overpack, it is easier to sit on the lid of a suitcase to push it down while zipping it closed.


Suitcase Cons

  • Can be heavy and hard to get in and out of transport regularly.
  • Not always made from flexible material.
  • Can be heavy and can make your muscles ache particularly if you have to drag them up and down stairs or over gravel.
  • Make you lopsided.
  • You can tend to overpack.
  • If you are somewhere with a lot of people around you, they can get annoyed at you if you need to stop. A suitcase seems to take up more space than a backpack in crowds.


Travel Backpack Pros

  • Easy to carry around. As it is designed to be on your back and not on the ground you don’t have to drag it over different surfaces like up and down stairs or over gravel.
  • Has lots of compartments to store different things.
  • The weight is even on your back.
  • Because you are carrying the backpack you tend to pack less – because you know you have to carry it around.


Backpack Cons

  • They are on your body and can make you hot.
  • You cannot see your backpack, because it is on your back, so cannot see if anyone is trying to steal from your backpack as you are moving.
  • When I see people wearing backpacks I know they have their whole life on their back and maybe its just me, but I feel that a safety issue.


What to consider when choosing a travel backpack


A travel backpack is an essential purchase for any traveller heading off travelling. The backpack, once seen as the budget traveller’s best friend, has evolved making it the ideal companion for the modern traveller. It is more than just a backpack, it carries your whole life’s possessions as you travel. So what do you look for in a pack? Here are some important features you need to consider.

Size: New travellers are notorious for filling their luggage with clothes they might wear and knick-knacks they might use and so purchase the largest pack possible. Big is not always best. The bigger the pack, the more likely you are to over pack and end up with a very heavy pack which can hinder your well-being while travelling. Most packs are measured by their litre capacity which, if you’re like most, doesn’t mean very much at all. Therefore, a visual evaluation and some guidance from an attendant in a specialist travel/adventure accessory store will be your best bet.

Comfort: Not everyone is the same height or size so try the pack on first. The only thing worse than a heavy pack is an uncomfortable heavy pack. Your pack should fit you like a glove because the more comfortable you are the better you travel.

Versatility: As well as being the right length straps should be adjustable and storable in a compartment in the pack. Most packs have straps and handles enabling you to carry the pack like a suitcase.

Style: A pack that unzips like a suitcase is much easier to pack and re-pack than top-opening ones mostly used by hikers. This is because people with top opening ones may have to dig deep or unpack their belongings to find what they are looking for.

Detachable day-pack: Many packs come with a detachable day-pack which will be handy for overnight stays and for carrying knick-knacks around. Some packs include a removable toiletries bag.

Quality: The quality of the pack will determine its strength and sturdiness. In particular, a lot of strain is exerted in the zip area. A pack with a heavy-duty lockable zip is a good investment.

Price: Packs can and do vary in price so it is really up to you to do your research and purchase a pack that will suit your needs. Speak to staff in adventure gear, camping and disposal stores.


TIP: If you can, head to a store that sells travel backpacks and try different models on before you purchase.


Best travel backpacks on the market


There are loads of travel backpacks out there in the marketplace. Some notable brands to look out for include, but are not limited to, Osprey, Pacsafe and REI. Here are some of the best travel backpacks on the market. I have put this list together after visiting a number of stores that sell backpacks. While in the stores, I spoke to sales consultants and the consensus is the following travel backpacks are the best on the market at this time for their versatility, durability and a number of other reasons.


Best Men’s Travel Backpacks


Osprey Farpoint 40L

Pacsafe Venturesafe X40 Travel Pack

North Face Terra 65

Osprey Aether AG 60

Best Women’s Travel Backpacks


North Face Terra 40

Osprey Fairview 40 Travel Pack

Eagle Creek Global Companion

Osprey Ariel AG65 Pack

What To Consider When Choosing a Suitcase


There are various sizes of suitcase available. The size you will need will depend on luggage limits such as on transport and also what type of travel you are embarking on.

Size: Suitcases are available in a number of sizes. It is best to match the size required to the type of travel you are embarking on. If you are only going for a weekend away then a small suitcase will suffice. If you are heading away indefinitely then a larger one with wheels and a telescopic handle would suit. It is important to look in to any restrictions of size with the transport ie. airlines, bus tours, etc. that you will be going on to ensure you comply.

Comfort and Versatility: There aren’t many comfort options for suitcases. I would suggest you get one with a telescopic handle that you can adjust to your height to make it easier on your arms when you are dragging the bag behind you. Also ensure it has wheels. Before purchase I would do a quick walk around the shop to ensure the wheels roll smoothly.

Style: There are many styles available which have a soft or hard casing. Softer casings can expand more than hard casings as well as have outer pockets (hopefully zipped) where you can store things.

Quality & Price: Both quality and price can vary with suitcases. It will probably depend on your budget as to how much you wish to spend but really all you want is something that will last the distance.


Best Brands of Suitcases To Consider


Like travel backpacks, there are a number of notable suitcase brands that have a great reputation. These include, but are not limited to, Samsonite, a favourite of mine, American Tourister, Delsey and Travelpro.


Samsonite Luggage

Delsey Luggage

Suitcases vs Backpacks Which One is Better?


I don’t think that one is better than the other. Both suitcases and backpacks have a place in travel. However, I do think that suitcases are fine if you plan on going straight to your hotel and not moving at any point during your holiday. While I find the convenience and versatility of a backpack way better on travels where you move around a lot. What do you think? Are you team backpack or team suitcase or both, like me? Let me know in the comments below.


READ MORE: Guide To The Best Packing Cubes – Keep Luggage Organised


Person Looking Into Sunset With Their Chosen Luggage. A Travel Backpack On Wheels Like A Suitcase.

Thanks for sharing!

Useful Travel Resources for Your Next Adventure!


Accommodation: Where Will You Sleep Tonight? If you want a bed in a hostel dorm find a great deal with HostelWorld. I mostly stay in hotels now, is my favourite site for booking hotels from budget to ‘I feel like splurging’. For something completely different I house and pet sitting through Trusted Housesitters – this has saved me thousands on accommodation, no joke!

Flights: I always head to Skyscanner first to find a cheap and flexible flight.

Car Rental: When I need to rent a car I turn to RentalCars.

Train Travel: I love riding the train rails and get the best value from raileurope. And Japan has a great one too – JapanRail Pass.

Bus Travel: Check out Busbud for bus tickets.

Pre-organised Tours: I’ve been on a few in my time with Contiki being my first and favourite. if you are 18-35 years of age you should check them out.

Jump-the-queue entrance tickets: I don’t enjoy standing in long queues which is why I book my entrance tickets and day trips in advance. My favourite website to book them in advance is GetYourGuide.

Travel Insurance. There are a number of reasons why travel insurance is important and I never travel without having bought a policy as you never know when something might happen. SafetyWing is great digital nomads and long-term travellers.


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Hi. Sharyn here, the face behind Live Work Play Travel. I’ve been travelling all my life thanks to my dad who worked for an airline. My aim with this blog is to help you work abroad or work online and travel the world.   Read more.


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Hi, Sharyn here. I’m the face behind Live Work Play Travel. I’ve travelled all my life thanks to my dad who worked for an airline – thanks dad! I’ve been a travel writer/blogger and living a location independent lifestyle since 1993. My aim with Live Work Play Travel is to provide you with the info to start living, working and travelling around the world like I do. I currently live in Melbourne with my partner and 2 kids. 


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