Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

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

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

Old Jun 4th, 2009, 02:48 AM
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 1,455
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I find all the people who criticise people being a bit careless with their backpacks a bit holier than thou. We use backpacks and get very frustrated with the tourists who have enormous rollons who can't lift them or store them on trains, etc. And we are always careful to allow for the hump on our backs. I find a pack the most convenient solution providing it is a weight I can manage (for me, that's around 10kg). If I decided to not take my pack, I'd consider a very small roller which I could carry easily and a large day pack. The problem with the rollers with backpack straps is that they often weigh up to 5-6kg empty, leaving very little weight available for what you really want to take. Be careful to check the empty weight before purchasing.
dreamon is offline  
Old Jun 4th, 2009, 03:27 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 938
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
As others have said: it's a question of personal preferences. Both is possible.

For me:

1.) I never take a carry-on but check my luggage. It takes 15 minutes to get the thing back and mine was never lost. The big advantage of checking things: no worries about security if you want to take a pocket knife or nail clippers or shampoo exceeding the size of a mini bottle.

2.) Backpack is better than a rolling suitcase if you're not sure whether you'll always stay in a city centre. When I was younger, I sometimes ended in places where I hadn't originally intended to be. A backpack offers more flexibility if out of whatever reason you need to walk for an hour on a street or path which isn't well maintained.

As for weight, again it's a personal choice which results in hot debates in this forum. My opinion is that there are no clear rules what is too much weight. I had perfectly fine trips with a backpack weighting in excess of 50lb because I was comfortable lifting and carrying it. On the other hand, I enjoyed the flexibility of having more space to buy something and to do laundry less often.
Hans is offline  
Old Jun 4th, 2009, 03:40 AM
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 1,853
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
As an already experienced local bushwalker (rambler/ tramper) I found a backpack worked well for me on one and two month Eurail trips when I was a lot younger (I have a photograph of my favourite pack taking a well-earned break from its owner on the platform of the Wasserauen train station near Appenzell) and must confess I've been hoping to avoid the indignity of a roller bag, much as I hope to put off taking up lawn bowls. Nevertheless, with the ravages of time (suspect knees & etc), I've been thinking my next trip will be with a small carry-on bag (without wheels) supplemented by a comfortable across-the-shoulder strap. Well, that's the theory anyway.
farrermog is offline  
Old Jun 4th, 2009, 05:25 AM
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 211
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
We use a roller bag/backpack combo. We spent a LONG time trying out a number of different roller bag/backpacks and settled on the Victorinox 3.0 E-Motion Trek Pack Plus 22 inch (carry on size) which we absolutely love. Without luggage, it weighs 6 pounds because it has a hollow aluminum internal frame. It is about 3-4 pounds heavier than a non-rolling backpack but we think the convenience of having both options significantly outweighs the burden of the slightly more weight (3 pounds is about the weight of an extra pair of shoes so we just bring one less pair of shoes than most people). In Europe, we found that it was helpful to have both options because on many streets, we were able to roll the bags and avoid backache and bumping people. On the other hand, we lift them on our backs when we climb lots of steps/stairs or if we are on dirt roads. We also like that it has a detachable day pack. I've put in more information about our roller bag/backpacks on our website here: http://www.theroadforks.com/gear/luggage
There are lots of enthusiastic reviews about this suitcase and we highly recommend these Victorinox bags. We are planning on traveling round the world with the 22 inch size and my husband is going to carry the 24 inch size.
akila is offline  
Old Jun 4th, 2009, 06:34 AM
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 785
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
When I was in college, I used a backpack but stopped using it because I thought rolling luggage would be an improvement.

So, I converted to a 18-inch rollaboard. That was convenient for rolling on the sidewalks, but if I had to run for a train, or climb several flights of stairs it became cumbersome, despite the fact that I pack very light.

Now, years later, I've returned to using a backpack. It's small, without a frame. It's 19 inches by about 13 inches and it has hip straps to distribute the weight. I bought it at LL Bean.

It's my sole piece of luggage. I can easily fit everything I need for 2 week trip into it, as I do laundry along the way and handwashing.

If I have to make a quick train connection, I just put it on and go. If fits easily in overhead bins and I've never had to check luggage. And, both hands are free, all of the time.

And, as soon as I board a bus or train, I slide it off and carry it by its top handle so I don't bump people.

The key with any luggage you choose is packing light. Leave the kitchen sink at home.
NanBug is offline  
Old Jun 4th, 2009, 04:56 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 94,768
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
My comments against backpacks are not holier than thou. For me personally, it is physically more comfortable to pull, push, or lift my little wheeled suitcase than it is to get something on and off my back.

There is no right or wrong answer for Sarah. It is completely a matter of personal preference:
Backpack w/ interior frame
Backpack frameless
Backpack w/ wheels
Duffle bag
Suitcase w/ wheels
Suitcase no wheels
Convertable (suitcase with backpack straps)

I'm sure there is someone who like each and every one of these with a list of reasons why that is best for them.
suze is offline  
Old Jun 5th, 2009, 07:33 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,759
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
No Suze, rest assured, it was not your comments that were being remarked on...earlier there was a sort of "back-pack backlash". Some Fodorites must have been whacked in the head by rude back-packers who used their luggage as a weapon, but we who choose the backpack route are not all barbarians and rose up in defence.

Your comments were helpful and spot on...it is an individual decision and we all wish Redhead good luck!
LJ is offline  
Old Jun 5th, 2009, 12:10 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 94,768
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks LJ~ You are right. I'm only against backpacks for myself. I don't care what other people do. Same with packing light and using a little suitcase. Though I will confess, I can't help but laugh & feel a bit superior when I see people hauling these HUGE monstrosities of suitcases off the luggage carousels at airports or trying to wedge them on to a train.
suze is offline  
Old Jun 8th, 2009, 04:04 AM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 3,424
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
First, I have to say that these observations are certainly not meant in any prescriptive sense. Of course it is a matter of personal preference. But here is my opinon:

I have traveled using both backpacks (although not too recently) and rolling suitcases. I travel using public transportation - metros, trains, buses- and my own feet, almost exclusively; only very, very rarely use taxis or such.

The most important thing is how much stuff you bring - not what you carry it in.

And I do know that for someone your age there is sometimes a feeling that a backpack conveys more of the image you may be attached to.

That being said, for me a rolling bag is easier than a backpack in most city situations, with the possible exception of places with zillions of stairs. And even there you'd be surprised how well rolling bags can be bumped along up or down stairs if you don't want to carry them (but if you pack light, carrying them is no problem).

I have to say here in Amsterdam I see lots and lots of backpackers every day. And I see them struggling with their packs much more than I ever see people struggling with suitcases. It always looks sort of silly to me to see brawny teenagers struggling with unwieldy packs, while other people walk along effortlessly pulling a roller bag. You often see flight attendants on public transportation here, and I've never yet seen one of them with a backpack. DItto business travelers and other people who travel for a living. Of course they have different constraints than vacationers. And not to say that some of them may not prefer backpacks, I'm just saying that professional travelers seem to go with rolling bags in cities. Which might tell us something.

If you keep your pack on when you're on the metro for instance, you can't really sit down. The seats are too narrow and crowded to hold a person with a big backpack on. And when you're carrying the pack rather than wearing it, they are much more troublesome to maneuver than a rolling bag. Shrugging into and out of packs is cumbersome in enclosed spaces like train aisles, etc. It really is hard to maneuver a somewhat heavy pack off your back without clobbering the people seated in the next row or standing behind you in the aisle - I see it happen every day on the trains and metros here.

Of course most people have learned to keep their distance from people wearing backpacks for just that reason. So perhaps they can be considered an anti-pickpocket device: anybody getting really close to someone wearing a backpack on a train or metro is either suicidal or up to no good. ;->

Anyway, best of luck to you whatever you decide. Have fun.
NorCalif is offline  
Old Jun 8th, 2009, 04:40 AM
Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: Vancouver
Posts: 3,645
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I've backpacked across Europe in the distant past then switched to regular suitcases for a few decades. Went back
to backpack for a few trips and then gave it up for good
for a 21" roller. Reason? I'm generously endowed and I
realized I looked very Mae West-erly with those straps X-ing
my chest. Also, I really hated the rumpled, creased, stale
-smell that comes with the backpack no matter how nicely it's

DH loves his backpack and somehow manages to look presentable
(in linen, yet!) living out of one so he carries his and I
drag mine and we both end up in the same place at the same
time. lol.
immimi is online now  
Old Sep 16th, 2009, 01:36 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 94,768
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Interesting first post, sanju123 (you're not supposed to sneak inadvertising on Fodor's)
suze is offline  
Old Sep 16th, 2009, 02:11 PM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 1,934
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I just wanted to mention that whichever way you decide, if you want to carry on your luggage rather than check it on flights be sure to check your airline's weight limit for carry-ons. We just had friends buy lovely Rick Steve bags for a trip to Italy thinking they would be able to save time on arrival by not checking them in, but they neglected to realize that while the bags fit the size limits, they did not meet the weight limits and they were forced to check them. It is especially easy these days to pack a lot into bags with all the great interior space.
jpie is offline  
Old Sep 16th, 2009, 11:22 PM
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 1
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
During travel to avoid being a target of crime, do not wear conspicuous clothing or jewelry and do not carry excessive amounts of money. Also, do not leave unattended luggage in public areas and do not accept packages from strangers.
sanju123 is offline  
Old Sep 17th, 2009, 12:25 AM
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 1,226
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Yeah, cause there are a lot of mugging thefts in Germany. ????

Sanju you are out of order.
Mainhattengirl is offline  
Old Sep 17th, 2009, 10:52 AM
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 19,881
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts

I would have thought that deciding what running shoes you are going to wear would be more important
alanRow is offline  
Old Sep 17th, 2009, 02:17 PM
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 4,215
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
When I read the title of that post it came to my mind that we have never thought of getting back in time and carry a duffel without wheels. Really. Since these things were invented they were ours.

Of course a wheeler would be my choice.

spassvogel is offline  
Related Topics
Original Poster
Last Post
Travel Tips & Trip Ideas
Mar 22nd, 2014 08:45 AM
Travel Tips & Trip Ideas
Apr 4th, 2013 09:10 PM
Travel Tips & Trip Ideas
Apr 11th, 2010 08:15 AM
Dec 19th, 2009 01:41 PM
Jul 31st, 2007 03:30 AM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell My Personal Information

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 10:47 AM.