Suitcase vs Backpack?

Suitcase vs Backpack?

An important choice that often doesn’t even seem like a choice is your medium of luggage storage when travelling.

Everything I own can fit inside one 38L backpack. For my first 2 months in France I had a huge suitcase as well as my backpack and day bag. I very quickly realised (I had my suspicions already) that that situation was just not sustainable. Even if I wasn’t going to be moving my whole life very often, I knew that one day I would indeed want to.

So what did I do? Well after those 2 months, and going back and forth between London, Paris, and Montpellier I made some hard choices and got rid of a lot of clothes. In fact, it was enough to ditch the suitcase altogether. I can tell you that besides getting a bit bored wearing the same range of clothes week after week, I’m much happier!

Here are the top reasons why I chose to go with a backpack rather than a suitcase for my location-independent lifestyle.

1. I can get up and go.

A backpack literally becomes an extension of yourself when you put it on. The closer it is to you the less hassle it is. A suitcase drags behind you and can’t go everywhere you go in your natural rhythm. I’ve had to dash to a station or an accommodation before and while the weight is still a factor with the backpack, it’s still the better choice.

2. Backpacks are more practical.

I can use the same bag to live out of, to take a trip or to go on a hike. You would not want to walk up a mountain with a suitcase, wheels or not, would you?

With waist straps and shoulder straps the weight of your backpack can be distributed to relieve the pressure on your body.

3. I hate the noise of suitcases on the pavement.

Maybe this is silly but it’s still a factor. I’m happy enough living in the shadows and hate it when I’ve got a wheely suitcase that sounds like a herd of elephants behind me.

4. Suitcases kick my heels constantly.

This must have happened to you in the past. You’re walking and pulling the suitcase behind you and it catches your heel, causing it to unbalance itself and often swing around 180 degrees. Well this happens to me ALL THE TIME.

5. Backpacks have a lot more pockets.

Having different compartments for separating my stuff is important to me. This is a big win for backpacks. I can’t believe it but it’s only recently that I decided to invest in packing cubes. I think they’re going to make a HUGE difference in how efficiently I can organise my bag when I’m on the road.

At the end of the day, your final choice will be based on personal reasons and your lifestyle. I intend to rent properties wherever I move to so most of the time my belongings are hanging up and not in my bag. But if I need to pack up and go in a short time, the backpack wins for me every time.

I hope this helps some of you decide!


  • Ling Zhong

    You are right. But I think carrying a backpack is much tiring than pulling a suitcase. With wheels, you do not need to have much force.

    20th March 2016 at 19:27
    • Alex

      Thanks for the comment Ling! In the end the decision is a personal one. For my travels I’ve found that when having to walk up steep hills pulling something up with one hand is a lot more fatiguing.
      Alex recently posted…Tips For Staying Motivated When Living AbroadMy Profile

      3rd April 2016 at 10:37
  • Linda Martin

    I completely agree with you.My husband and my son both are comfortable to carry their backpack.Sometimes I carry a suitcase and it’s so boring to me to carry all the way though it has wheels.

    3rd September 2016 at 10:51
    • Alex

      Hi Linda,

      So glad you agree. As long as the backpacks have good hip straps the weight is almost completely removed from the shoulders. I’ll never go back!

      8th September 2016 at 22:27


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