The Ultimate question every backpacker asks themselves before they go travelling… “Should I take a suitcase or a backpack?”
It used to be a given that backpackers would take a backpack travelling with them but, as Bob Dylan said, the times they are a-changin’ and backpacking no longer means packing all of your stuff into a backpack. Lots of backpackers are now opting for a suitcase instead.
So which option is right for you? There are a few things to take into account when deciding:
- Will you be travelling around a lot?
- Are you planning on settling in one place for the majority of your time to live and work?
- Are you heading to Southeast Asia or other not so developped destinations?
It can be a tricky decision to make, as the majority of people don’t know exactly what they’ll be doing during their gap year: that’s the whole idea right!? So to help you make your decision, here’s a list of options and pros & cons so you can decide for yourself:
The ‘Trusty’ Suitcase:
The ‘I’m going to Australia/New Zealand to live & work for a year’ backpacker; The ‘I’ll be travelling around but to mainly tourist destinations’ backpacker and ‘The flashpacker’.
Wheels – Who would have thought such a simple invention could bring you so much happiness!? As you’ll be rolling your things around, you won’t suffer from the dreaded backpacker back aches or back sweats. You can access your clothes and belongings easily and quickly and relax happy in the knowledge that your padlock is keeping your stuff safe and secure! If that’s not enough to sell it.. your suitcase will double up as a handy seat!
Stairs will be your enemy. Those ‘backpack’ w*nkers you were laughing at earlier won’t seem so silly after you’ve dragged your suitcase up to the 5th floor of your hostel. Suitcases aren’t ideal for travelling to places such as the Red Centre, Northern Territory or Western Australia either. Also, as suitcases are normally heavier, you may find yourself having to monitor your flight allowances more!
Opt for 4 wheels if you can – that way you can push your suitcase along instead of dragging it. Also, go for a good quality hard case as it will probably take a bit of a beating during your gap year!
The ‘Modern’ Backpack (front loader)
The ‘I’m travelling around Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Southeast Asia and everywhere in between’ backpacker.
The front opening backpack gives you easy to access to your clothes and belongings. Backpacks are normally durable and can be thrown around a bit – perfect for boat trips through Southeast Asian islands and other ‘off the beaten track’ tours. Backpacks fit a lot in, can be squashed into small spaces and lets not forget..backpacks make a great pillow for those nights you’ll spend sleeping at the airport!
If you pack too much, backpacks can be really heavy. I struggled to carry my oversized, heavy backpack for a year which meant carrying it for longer than 5 minutes at a time gave me back ache. These front opening backpacks are also generally more bulky than the top loader packs.
Get your backpack fitted properly to your body. 80% off the weight should be carried by your hips, not your shoulders to avoid back pain. Lots of these backpacks also come with a mini backpack zipped onto the front – useful for day trips when you want to take a smaller bag.
The ‘Old School’ Backpack (top loader)
The ‘I’m travelling everywhere and I’m not that fussed about getting to my belongings very often’ backpacker.
These backpacks are generally less bulky than other backpackers and are easier to carry around. Most have sections you can open at the top and the bottom and smaller pockets on the back to find things easily.
Be prepared to pack & unpack, pack & unpack and pack & unpack your bag. Safety can also be an issue with these backpack. As there two different sections to open along with separate pockets, you’ll have to padlock each section to keep your valuables safe.
Get your backpack fitted and try on a few different sizes before you buy!
The Wheely ‘Wheely Uncool’ Backpack
The ‘I’m doing a bit of everything and I want convenience over style’ backpacker.
Wheels? Tick. Problems with stairs? Nope. A backpack with wheels = genius! This backpack has it all..You can roll it around, wear it on your back, open it from the front, throw it around, lock it up…the list of backpack benefits goes on.
This backpack doesn’t look as sexy as other backpacks. It’s normally quite bulky and can be heavier than other backpacks too, so it’s best used for rolling rather than carrying a lot.
If you’re travelling to Southeast Asia, this is a great option!
What else do I need to think about?
Getting a good quality, durable case or backpack is essential for your gap year. It will most likely take quite a beating throughout your travels and you don’t want it breaking halfway through your trip!
Along with your suitcase or backpack you’ll probably want to bring a smaller, day pack with you. Small holdalls are great for hand luggage on flights but can be tricky to carry around with you after if you’re doing a lot of travelling. If you decide to go for the front opening backpack, choose one with a small day pack zipped to the front. Some days when you’re feeling extra cool, you may even find yourself wearing the extra backpack on your front! Girls, a side bag can be used as a small handbag for the day and for nights out!
The most important packing tip you’ll ever get!
Don’t pack too much! If you can’t walk around comfortably for 5-10 minutes at home with all of your luggage, you won’t be able carry it all whilst you’re travelling. Remember, what you bring with you is yours to carry for the duration of your trip so don’t overpack. Not being able to pick up your backpack without someone else’s help is not a good look! 😉
So are you team backpack or team suitcase? Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments below!
Check out our other blogs for more travel tips, advice and inspiration!