Love Your Luggage
You’ve settled on your perfect trip, saving money is going well and you can’t wait to get going. You’re wishing time would go quicker and bring you closer to your adventure. Buying something for your trip can sometimes make this wait a little easier. And with luggage being one of the most important items on any traveller’s list, it’s as good an item as any! Choosing your luggage is an important part of your trip planning and the type of trip you are embarking on can help you choose the right set. This time, I look at different types of luggage, pros and cons of each and give some tips based on my own travels.
A popular choice with, you guessed it, backpackers. As these travellers have a tendency to move from one place to another, a good backpack can be a lifesaver.
- Public transport – backpacks are better when negotiating public transport networks. Just the thought of having a suitcase when negotiating stairs at stations makes me shudder. Just don’t forget to take it off when you get on that train/tram/bus – be aware of your surroundings
- Mobility – travelling on the cheap can sometimes mean that you will be arriving to the outskirts of places or without pre-booked accommodation. You WILL need to walk around with your backpack and this is where it comes in useful. Have you ever tried using a suitcase on cobbled streets or unpaved roads? It’s not fun. It’s easier to walk through busy areas too!
- Storage – many lockers at stations and hostels are designed for backpacks. If you have a large suitcase, you may find it difficult to store it!
- Hands free – don’t underestimate the importance of having your hands free. Checking the map, taking photos or updating your Facebook status are all made easier with a backpack – and since it’s mostly on your back, you will be less likely to leave it somewhere too!
- Weight and comfort – some people forget that they might actually have to carry their backpacks for longer than 5 minutes! The more stuff you have, the heavier they will be. If the backpack isn’t adjusted properly, it can be uncomfortable to carry and even cause back pain. I have carried about 18 kg on my back for a while when I was in South East Asia and it wasn’t fun!
- Difficult to pack – packing a backpack can be an absolute nightmare. If you have a top loading backpack, you will need to get stuff out through a fairly small opening at the top of the bag. So packing and repacking can become a chore. My backpack is side loading so it works much like a suitcase while still maintaining good back support and providing comfort. You can see it here even though I believe it has been discontinued
Popular backpack brands include:
Berghaus – http://www.berghaus.com
Lowe Alpine – http://lowealpine.com
Osprey – http://www.ospreypacks.com
Wheeled suitcases are the more traditional choice for travellers around the world. It’s safe to say that a vast majority of people who travel will do so with a suitcase. While a suitcase can work for a lot of people, I personally don’t even own one!
- Easy packing – suitcases can’t really be faulted for how easy they are to pack. Most have various compartments making it easier to organise your stuff and accessing everything is pretty easy.
- Wheels – yep, you don’t have to carry anything on your back! Wheels are an awesome invention
- Space – you can generally get more stuff into a suitcase and weight isn’t as much of an issue as it is with a backpack. You could bring your entire shoe collection on holiday or go on a shopping spree.
- Stairs – this is like a traveller’s kryptonite. While difficult enough with a backpack, dragging a suitcase up three flights of stairs is not my idea of fun. A lot of public transport stations around the world don’t have escalators or lifts so it’s important to keep in mind.
- Mobility – as mentioned above, suitcases don’t work so well when on uneven ground, cobbled streets and dirt tracks. Crowded spaces are also not great for manoeuvring a suitcase and you will likely not be able to walk and text at the same time
- Storage – as mentioned before, large suitcases might not fit into lockers at hostels and at stations.
There are way too many suitcase brands out there but check out the following posts for some good advice:
In my opinion, this is one of the most important bits of luggage you’re going to get. I do a lot of weekend trips using budget airlines and taking hand luggage only keeps the prices down. Many airlines are beginning to do away with weight limits and simply impose a size limit on the bag. The maximum dimensions and weight for hand luggage will vary from airline to airline so it’s important to check what you can bring into the cabin with you.
Many shops will actually label bags indicating whether they are suitable for cabin use. Your options here could include:
Sports bag – I have a very basic gym/sports bag which I take on my breaks with me. It can comfortably fit in two pairs of shoes, a couple of pairs of jeans/trousers, a few tops, warmer clothes, underwear, socks and all toiletries, chargers and magazines/books I take with me. It has a shoulder strap which makes it much easier to carry around and it normally weighs around 6-7kg when full.
John Lewis have a good range of sports bags here in the UK.
Rucksack/Day Pack – I also own one of these and this is my choice of hand luggage for longer trips. A good volume for a bag like this is about 25-30 litres. Many come with separate compartments for laptop computers, hidden pockets for documents, bottle holders and so on. I have a fantastic bag which has been all over the world with me and I still use it for everyday stuff like commuting and as a laptop bag. Check it out here. It’s not cheap but it’s definitely my favourite bit of luggage. Another thing to keep in mind is sometimes these can be clipped onto your larger backpack which can be handy. Alternatively wear one of these on your front to keep all your valuables safe.
Suitcase – Again, I don’t actually have a suitcase but similarly to larger suitcases, this would be a good option for someone who doesn’t want to carry something on their back and wants something easy to pack and unpack. Unlike larger cases though, these would be easier to store and more manoeuvrable in crowded areas. See the posts below for reviews of some of the best carry on suitcases.
Whatever you decide to go with, don’t underestimate the importance of getting a good set of luggage. You might be on the road for weeks and even months at a time and you need to be comfortable with what you’re travelling with.
Feel free to comment or email me with any questions or tips from your own travels!
Next time, I will talk about packing and items that should make it into any self-respecting traveller’s luggage