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Backpack vs Wheels

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Nov 14th, 2013, 04:08 PM
  #1
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Backpack vs Wheels

Hi,

I am heading to Costa Rica, Guatemala & Belize this winter. I am considering buying a backpack. On previous trips to Australia & SE Asia I used a bag with wheels and managed just fine. Backpacks are expensive. Is it worth it to buy one or am I better off sticking with what I already own? What are the advantages of a backpack? Are there different backpacks for different genders? I am 5'3, 110 lbs. How do you determine what size to go with? Any specific bag recommendations? The closest thing to an outdoors store in my area is a Sports Authority (with a very small selection), so I am hoping you all can help. Thanks!
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Nov 14th, 2013, 07:41 PM
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(Also posted on the Thorn Tree Forum.)

I really don't like wheels - they're noisy and heavy, take up space that I'd prefer for other things (often 25% or more of the bag's capacity), and don't work well on the cobble stones, dirt paths, and narrow, sloping sidewalks of my favorite CA haunts. That said, they're great in airports so if you liked traveling with your last time, you would probably get by fine this trip.

If it's not a carry-on sized bag, I'd make a change, though. If you plan to continue to travel, investing in a good travel pack will make you happy over and over. At least that's the case for me. And travel packs don't have to be expensive; lots of good ones for under $100 which isn't bad imo if you plan to use it for years or even decades.

I've pasted my response about specific packs below from a previous thread. Comfort is important so if you're ordering, be sure to do it long enough before your trip to send any bag back that doesn't feel right. Walk around with weight in it to be sure. Happy trails!
___________________________

I've researched this heavily and vetted my top contenders and the information is below. I feel strongly that a good backpacking pack doesn't make the best travel pack. If you plan to continue to travel, my guess is you'd never regret investing in a great travel pack.

http://www.rei.com/product/809157/re...40-travel-pack
http://www.rei.com/product/837012/os...46-travel-pack

I have a terrific Gregory women's pack for actual backpacking but recently replaced my trusty Columbia Pakmandu which I've used for 10 years (no longer available). It's a strange shape and not well organized and I travel so much I felt I deserved an upgrade. Awhile back the Vagabond came on sale at the same time that REI was offering 20% off one regular priced item to members. I purchased both the Vagabond and the Osprey Porter 46 and took them home for a complete vetting with real packing and hikes up the hill from my house to assess comfort. My needs are specific to carry-on travel since I already have a different pack for backcountry pack trips and there's no replacement for actually trying a pack to be sure it fits you comfortably, but I'll summarize my findings below.

PORTER - Held more, easier to get into, a bit more of a classic carry-on shape, better compression system, a little simpler but still with nice organization features, similar to the Vagabond in that regard. The suspension system is not as nice as the Vagabond, both in terms of waist strap support and the part of the bag that lies against your back. The carry handles are a bit nicer than on the Vagabond.

VAGABOND - A bit smaller, narrower design, flap/zip system a tiny bit awkward by comparison, excellent suspension/strap system. It's a bit longer than the traditional carry-on measurement but I've made dozens of trips with Vagabond owners (relatives and friends I've recommended them to) and I've never seen one refused as a carry-on. In 2009 I lead a group of 15 people to Guatemala and nearly half had Vagabonds because they were closing out a very slightly different model and cut the price in half right before Christmas that year - no problems, everyone loved them. Nice organization features and a terrific suspension system all around, though it's a bit harder to stow away than the Porter's. This version is very different than the original which my son uses; I travel with the slightly smaller Hitchhiker version of the original (just got back from a long week-end trip to the east coast with it). The current one is improved in many ways, especially with a mild compression system and the included rainfly/cover, though it seemed a little awkward to use and wear the bag, almost designed more for carrying the bag with handles and for checking to keep the bag safer.

In the end I returned the Vagabond because the suspension/back system was plenty comfortable on the Porter for travel (better than the bag I've loved for years) and the general ease/opening/size/shape considerations for my traveling made it better for me (size was an important factor). I absolutely LOVE IT - really an amazing bag.

The eBags Weekender is popular with travelers:
http://www.ebags.com/product/ebags/e...ch+convertible

My brother- and sister-in-law traveled with those when we traveled with them for 3 weeks in Belize in 2009. The design and organizational features were very nice and the price is great. The suspension system is pretty dismal, so I wouldn't pick that one if you think you'll actually be wearing your pack a lot. I think the Rick Steves’ bag is similar in size and function:
http://www.ricksteves.com/news/trave...travelbags.htm

Both would be good value options for the sort of travel where you're mainly carrying it in brief stretches but sometimes I'm off the track enough I walk a lot with mine.

Hope that helps! Happy trails!
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Nov 15th, 2013, 06:42 AM
  #3
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
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If you've managed just fine with a bag with wheels, why change?

I've mostly used a backpack, but there have been plenty of times I wish it had wheels. The reason I bought a backpack was for hiking/camping.

If you're not hiking/camping, stick with the bag with wheels if you're happy with it. Have you ever used a backpack?

If you decide to buy a new pack, but you don't have much to choose from where you live, don't buy -- you might regret it. Wait until you get a chance to see a better selection of packs. I've seen some that have wheels (don't ask me what brand; I didn't take much notice).
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Nov 15th, 2013, 08:45 AM
  #4
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Hopefulist & MisterB2, didn't expect to see you two here as well as Thorn Tree!
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Nov 15th, 2013, 10:25 AM
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I have a bag with wheels that I take to Costa Rica. I really love having the wheels because it makes it so easy to walk up steep, hilly properties, which is just about everywhere that we stay. I also have a weekender convertible bag that I bought on ebags.com. I got the recommendation on this board when we were going to use in-country flights and couldn't bring much luggage. You might take a look at that site and see if anything appeals to you. I like that they have user reviews.
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Nov 15th, 2013, 01:05 PM
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We're EVERYWHERE. ;-)
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Nov 16th, 2013, 04:02 PM
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It really is personal preference. I find suitcases to be easier to pack and easier to get things in and out of than a backpack. So, unless I am planning to walk a lot with my bag over uneven surfaces, a suitcase with wheels is my choice.
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Nov 16th, 2013, 04:07 PM
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november - Travel packs aren't like backcountry packs; they usually have a huge opening, easy to pack in and live out of on the road.
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Nov 16th, 2013, 06:27 PM
  #9
RAC
 
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Depends on where you're staying and what you're doing, how far you have to lug your own bags and over what terrain/surfaces.

If you're staying at resorts and going through a lot of airports, wheels are probably preferable anyways. If you have to schlep stuff across suspension bridges or uphill over gravel, backpack will seem more useful.
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Nov 17th, 2013, 08:22 AM
  #10
 
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Yes hopefulist, I realize that. I still don't find them as convenient for living out of as a suitcase. Like I said, it is personal preference.
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Nov 17th, 2013, 11:53 AM
  #11
 
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Yes, you're right. A suitcase would be out of the question for my preferred travel style. It's wonderful there are so many ways to explore and so many options for packing along what you can't live without.
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Nov 18th, 2013, 12:00 PM
  #12
 
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It's personal preference. Personally I would go with what you already own that you have successfully used before (in your shoes).
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Nov 18th, 2013, 06:38 PM
  #13
 
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I agree - if you like what you have, I'd stick with it. Not really a reason to buy something new unless you're going to have to severely limit the weight of your luggage.
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Nov 19th, 2013, 02:40 PM
  #14
 
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I think it really depends on how you will get from place to place. As long as you can reach all of your lodgings by vehicle, a suitcase is fine. Also if you are going to do a 2 or 3 night excursion from a central place, you can store your suitcase and carry a small pack or duffle. I prefer a hard sided case with a padlock, when I am checking luggage. Keeps stuff neater and can't be slashed or rifled through as easily.
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Nov 19th, 2013, 04:22 PM
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m, can you keep your luggage locked when you check it?
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Nov 19th, 2013, 05:02 PM
  #16
 
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I just discovered the bag I like best is on sale at ebags.com for under $70 with free shipping:
http://www.ebags.com/product/osprey/porter-46/241340
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Nov 20th, 2013, 06:25 AM
  #17
 
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Yes, I use a small padlock on it.
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Nov 20th, 2013, 09:57 AM
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Wow, I had no idea you could lock checked luggage. I thought that it all had to be unlocked these days. That's good to know.
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Nov 20th, 2013, 11:20 AM
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Really? I'm surprised, when/where did this happen to you? I have never been asked to unlock my bag when leaving it in storage at either a hotel, bus station or other venue. Most of my travel has been in Latin America, nd New Zealand. Even recently in the US, I left my locked bag at my hotel's bag check in Washington DC.
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Nov 20th, 2013, 11:39 AM
  #20
 
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My understanding is that if you don't use locks TSA can open with a master key, they have the right to cut them off if they want to hand inspect your luggage.
http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/baggage-locks
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