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Backpack vs. Rolling bag for 3-week, 7-city trip?!?

Backpack vs. Rolling bag for 3-week, 7-city trip?!?

Jun 2nd, 2009, 07:53 AM
  #1  
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Backpack vs. Rolling bag for 3-week, 7-city trip?!?

Hello fellow forum trawlers,

I'm going on a 3-week, 7-city trip with my boyfriend in a couple weeks. We both just graduated from college. We will be traveling by train the whole time, to Interlaken, Paris, Dieppe, Brussels, Amsterdam, Berlin, and Dusseldorf.

I thought I would use my backpack (a Gregory brand, internal frame) which I've loved in the past (I hiked 117km along the Camino de Santiago de Compostella over spring break last year with zero back pain!). I'm confused as to whether a backpack or small rolling bag would be better.

A rolling bag would be nice because I could carry it on the flight and not worry about lost luggage (the backpack is a bit too large to carry-on), but I always thought a backpacking trip acriss Europe would involve...a backpack I've been really impressed by the responses in other threads, so thanks in advance for any advice you have to offer!

Sarah
redhead515 is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2009, 08:04 AM
  #2  
LJ
 
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DH and I graduated from college about 30 years ago, but all our European travels recently have been with back-pack.

There are many pro's and con's and you must bring a detachable day-pack to achieve ultimate freedom.

But in our book, it is THE way to travel. (And, yes, we do manage to tuck in all the clothes necessary for a trip to the opera or dinner in a fine restaurant...we use versions of Tilley-wear, a Canadian manufacturer but any good travel supplier or your imagination will furnish you with ideas for 'dress-up' days on the road.)

When the other traveling folk are struggling up and down train steps, yanking the wheelie thing over cobble-stones and cursing marble staircases at the fancy hotel, we are balanced and hands-free.

Go for the pack!
LJ is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2009, 08:07 AM
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Are you going to be hiking or just visiting those cities? If you're just visiting those cities, I'd take a small rolling bag. Few things are as irritating to other travelers as being on public transportation with folks with massive backpacks that swing around and hit you in the face. Of course, if you only need the bag to get you from the USA to Europe and will be using something else during the day as you sightsee, it doesn't matter.
StCirq is online now  
Jun 2nd, 2009, 08:08 AM
  #4  
 
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The ability to carry on for the flight is a compelling one for me. Since your trip is mostly city and train, your bag will either be stowed (on a train) or in your room (while in a city), not on your back. You will need to carry it up and down stairs in train stations, etc., but you're obviously fit enough to handle that. You presumably also don't need nearly as much capacity unless you're planning on camping.

There are smaller backpack-style bags that work as carry-on luggage, but they aren't nearly so great in terms of saving your back as your Gregory model. The backpack style tends to be a bit of a hassle on city public transportation (if not for you, then for your fellow as passengers, even if you're pretty careful about not smacking them with it when you turn suddenly or trip or whatever).
Therese is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2009, 08:12 AM
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I used a carry on size roller bag for a couple years and it was okay. The problem was that it was fairly heavy and would not fit in the overhead on many German trains.

Another poster on this board mentioned the Campmor carry on which has a shoulder strap and a backpack harness.

http://www.campmor.com/outdoor/gear/Product___60793

That has worked better for me. It is light and, because it it soft-sided, it fits everywhere. Of course it can be carried on. There are plenty of pockets to store plane tickets, books, etc. To me it seems to hold as much as my good REI roller.

Regards, Gary
Gary_Mc is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2009, 08:12 AM
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What is WORSE is when people with large backpacks decide those packs NEED THEIR OWN SEAT on a public conveyance and give you that rather pathetic and petulant "look" when you have the absolute temerity to ask them to move it...it is sad for sure and all the more reason if you are one of those people to take the alternative and build in plenty of laundry time.
Dukey is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2009, 08:37 AM
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I've used an Eagle Creek "Switchback" back since my first Europe trip (Milan to Florence to Verona to Venice to Vienna to Assmannshausen, Trier and Bad Kreuznach in Germany) in 2000. My wife and I travled wholly by rail. The Switchback bags are rolling bags which are also backpacks. A daypack zips on to the main bag so it can be carried on to the aircraft for overhead storage while the main bag goes as checked baggage. On our first trip, we were able to carry on both the main bag and the daypack (separated); returning, the main bag was stuffed with souvenirs and we checked it, keeping the daypack in the aircraft cabin (actually, if the daypack is not overly stuffed it can fit underneath the aircraft seat. The Switchback solved the problems of traveling through rail stations and walking to and from lodging from those stations (re-attaching the daypack seems to work best) and carrying the Switchback as a pack or with the two handles (on the top and the side) worked well climbing up and down stairs at some of our lodgings.

The only downside might be that these are a bit pricey; however, we've made four trips to Europe over the last eight years with this bag (checking the main bag and bringing the daypack into the cabin), and the bag (and its wheels) has been incredibly hardy. I've used the 22" bag and, pre-911, I think it generally might have worked as a carry-on (I think Eagle Creek still describes the 22" model as a carry-on). I've always regretted that I really had to stuff the bag to bring back all the souvenirs I wanted to bring (however, this sturdy bag has held up extremely well), so this year I'm purchasing the larger 25" Switchback for our trip to Madrid, Barcelona and London this summer.
mohun is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2009, 09:00 AM
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I'm not a backpacking person (you couldn't pay me to carry around my belongings on my back), but just have a couple thoughts that might help you think about why you can't decide --

why do you think you even want a backpack? You aren't going to be hiking around on a camping trip where you need to carry your belongings on your back, so you must think of some other reason.

If you can really pack everything you need in a rolling bag that would be allowed as carryon, I wouldn't even consider an alternative as I can see no advantage to the backpack. Now I know some people talk about walking around a lot with their baggage on their back in cities, but I just have never had to do that and wouldn't ever plan a trip requiring that. When I arrive in a city, I immediately go to my accommodation and check in and leave the luggage, so don't walk around town a lot with my belongings. I've traveled by train a lot and don't find it difficult to carry a small rolling bag on board. If it's small enough for carryon, that's pretty small. IN fact, some people with backpacks stagger aound and hit things and can't even get up the stairs, etc. I find it very annoying with they turn around and whack everybody with their packs without having a care in the world about who they are hitting.
Christina is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2009, 11:43 AM
  #9  
LJ
 
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Uncertain what it is about this topic that brings out the "I've never done it and you shouldn't either" brigade, but, noting that you are a relative newcomer, I do hope you won't think we are too harsh in our repsonse to your perfectly sensible suggestion.

I doubt very much that you would be the sort of backpackers whose pack will "swing around and hit you in the face" or who "decide those packs NEED THEIR OWN SEAT on a public conveyance" or who "whack everybody with their packs without having a care in the world about who they are hitting".

There are folks who are irresponsible with their packs, but then, they are are also the sort that roll their baggage over toes, and make you wait while they wrestle it into a luggage rack, too, so don't take all this personally. I can only assume there are a lot of bruised Fodorites out there.

In any case, I hope you have a wonderful trip and do post a Trip Report when you come back...it would make a change to hear the voice of backpacking youth.
LJ is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2009, 11:53 AM
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I prefer a rolling suitcase (22" or 24" max). I think that is easiest for traveling around Europe on trains.

Before I went to wheeled, I used a medium sized nylon duffle bag, with a strap long enough to be worn cross-torso. That worked OK too.

Most important, regardless of what you choose to pack IN, try to keep it to under 25 lbs. when packed. Any heavier than that is a big pain in the...
suze is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2009, 09:22 AM
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I'm headed to poland, prague, austria and london in july and i'm choosing the rolling backpack method
i got it from wal-mart at a definately reasonable price (just under $30) and i am surprisingly in love with it! I used it for my first trip to Europe in 2006 (london, Italy, France) and it worked great. I fit all of my clothes in there, as well as an extra pair of shoes and a pair of flats! The backpack itself was more like a rolling luggage, then when needed you unzip the back section and the two arm straps pull out. It was nice because I got the best of both worlds! It was comfortable, affordable, and easy to use. The only downfall was that it didn't fit as a carry-on in the smaller airplanes. But all-in-all, it was definately worth it.
christinafromLA is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2009, 09:58 AM
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Dukey, you really nailed it.

Suze, I agree completely. Even if not for the comfort and safety of other train passengers, a roller is far easier to manage. If you can't get all your stuff into a 22" roller bag and a shoulder bag I recommend that you stay home.

Cobblestone streets? Maybe that was in the 1800s. Marble floors? My roller has rubber wheels. Making you wait while you get it into a luggage rack? Hey, everybody is already on board so everybody waits until the conductor blows his whistle. Over someone's toes? You must be kidding.
spaarne is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2009, 12:02 PM
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I think some people just like backpacks and some don't, it's really just kind of personal. I know some people do like the kind that serve double-duty, and I can see that except I think that adds on to the size and weight, so if you can decide upfront, it helps.

Unfortunately, the majority of people I encounter with backpacks on trains are careless with them and hit people and don't ever look behind them, etc. Maybe I have bad experiences, but it really is the majority. Have never had anyone roll over my toes with wheeled luggage. As for the wrestling onto luggage racks -- that doesn't really have anythign to do with the form, as people with backpacks may or may not put them on luggage racks, also, so that is the same issure regardless. Some towns have cobblestones in the old part of town, but I'll admit, I don't usually wheel my luggage down streets so it's never been an issue. Don't carry luggage into opera buildings or places with marble floors, guess my hotels aren't deluxe enough, but have never noticed any problem with wheels on any kind of floor.

Really, I don't care what someone else does, I think this really is something people kind of have to decide for themself, they can only get people's opinions and maybe think of some things that hadn't occurred to them or thought about.
Christina is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2009, 12:18 PM
  #14  
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Thanks for the responses. I'm thinking of a rolling bag, or maybe a backpack/rolling bag combo, if not to avoid incurring the wrath of anti-backpackers than to be able to carry on/limit my overall luggage weight
redhead515 is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2009, 12:59 PM
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redhead515~ the problem with a backpack that has wheels is they are heavier. So when it's on your back besides carrying your possessions, you're also carrying the wheels, frame, handle mechanism, etc. To my mind, that's the worst of both worlds. I'd use either a frameless backpack OR a roller.
suze is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2009, 01:05 PM
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Your three times as likely to get beat-up and mugged with a backpack as with a roller.
Dutch is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2009, 01:08 PM
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Regarding using a roller as a carry-on. Check your airline's weight limit. Lufthansa has a 8Kg (~18 lb) carry on limit. I checked at REI. Its 22" rollers and 22" backpack-roller convertibles all weight 7.5 to 9 lbs. Half your limit can be consumed by the empty bag. It was part of the reason that I went to 2+ lb sling bag. Rick Steve's carry on bags run 2-3 lbs. I liked my roller in many ways but I checked it. I now prefer the freedom of carry-on.

Regards, Gary
Gary_Mc is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2009, 01:18 PM
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I just ordered my 25" Eagle Creek Switchback from Sierra Trading Post @ $179.95 + 24.95 for 2nd day shipping. This is model 20199 which is last year's model but considerably less expensive than the 2009 Model 20218, which is a couple pounds lighter, about 100 c.u. larger overall, and, quoting from Eagle Creek's Deal Rep: "...The day pack fits on the main pack tighter and more flush than the older pack. It also has some protective fabric added on the pack to stop wear and tear from happening. On our website we have a great tool that allows you to compare both bags side by side...". The new, 20218 model sports a retail price of $330 and you'll likely not find a discount from online retailers since Eagle Creek prohibits all but "factory-authorized" sales by its dealers. I spent at least a couple of hours on line yesterday trying to get a better price on the new modl but was completely unsuccessful, so I'm quite happy to have ordered last year's model at a very good price.

I'm a relatively old guy and I don't use the bag in its backpack configuration, but my wide and I travel in Europe by train and I really appreciate the rollers walking to hotels and to and from rail stations. Of course there are a couple of handles on the pack for carrying up stairs if you're in a hotel without a lift. Good luck. Have a great trip.
mohun is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2009, 04:21 PM
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Actually, in the second paragraph above, it's "...my wife and I...". She's actually quite slim.
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Jun 3rd, 2009, 04:43 PM
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Two suggestions, redhead515.

First, go find out exactly what the carry-on requirements are for the flights you're planning to take. The only place to get this information is from the airline's own web site, and even then you should be aware that airlines may change their requirements (though if you booked before the change you may be able to argue for the earlier version).

Second, go to ebags.com and click on the "Luggage" tab along the top, and then choose to sort "By size" (along the left hand margin). Note that I'm not specifically endorsing ebags.com, just pointing out that it's a good site for looking at lots of different products, at lots of different price points.

For each item this site will give you the actual weight (which is important if you're flying anything other than mainline U.S. carriers) as well as the size, although you should err on the small size as the measurements don't necessarily take into account wheels and handles. There's also a tool for comparing items, and the site will suggest similar items. Lots of reviews as well.

The lightest widely available (and not particularly expensive)rolling bags are actually hardside bags manufactured by Heys. If you want to go lighter then you're looking at a frameless bag, and these are often equipped with back straps that zip away into a compartment. These are not nearly as comfortable to wear as your real backpack, but they're fine for short trips (the walk from your hotel to the train station, for instance). I'm 5'6" and found at least one model to have shoulder straps that were too long for me, so now my teenage son uses it.
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