What luggage do you take travelling...
A suitcase or a backpack?
Luggage - Overview
The first piece of The Travel Room advice before you buy luggage: If you canít carry your own bag either hire a Sherpa or leave some of that crap at home or in the bin. Every major airport in the world is full of people who canít carry their own luggage. Just have a look around next time your in one and you will see someone trying to drag along 3 suitcases. Itís even more amusing when you know they are going on a 7 day all-in to Tenerife. However, as an avowed independent person, make sure you can easily carry what you pack. A good test is can you lift your packed bag above your head? If the answer is yes, you are in business. (Why above your head? Answer: Luggage racks are where? )
So what is the best type of luggage to take?
The suitcase is not The Travel Room's recommended first choice or second orÖ.however if you are going away only for a few days and there are no cobbled streets or if you are unable to lift anything then buy a good wheeled suitcase, it will do the job. The best kinds of wheeled suitcases are those which have the type of wheels commonly used on roller blades. They are smooth, solid and make pulling the suitcase very easy on smooth surfaces you usually find in cities. Even on the occasional cobbled street they will do the job but remember you will still have to lift that sucker if you come across a set of stairs. When using this type of case make sure you pack evenly so that the bags centre of gravity is even, otherwise you will put on an amusing show for the locals as you walk down the street with a suitcase that has a mind of its own. An even better option if you go down the wheeled suitcase route and can carry a bag on your back is a suitcase that has a backpack harness installed in a hidden pocket. This works fabulously if suddenly you can't wheel the bag along the street and you need to walk from A to B or up a long flight of stairs. The suitcase/backpack fusion is nowhere near as comfortable as a well fitted traditional backpack, but it will get you those couple of miles to your destination without too much fuss. As with everything that has all the bells and whistles attached, the suitcase/backpack fusion is at the higher end of the cost spectrum; probably because the retailers figure your getting two in one but they are unfortunately not the best of either.
From day one the humble backpack has been the Travel Rooms recommended method to lug your world around the globe. Believe me; the longer you are on the road the more your luggage contains all of your worldly possessions. This means that you need to be ruthless and get rid of anything you havenít used for a reasonable period of time. For example your woollen gloves; if you are heading to the Arab Peninsula for 6 months those woollen gloves are an unnecessary weight if youíre flying in from Norway. Get rid of them! Donít carry them for 6 months hoping you will use them when you fly to Alaska in 6 months time. They sell gloves in Alaska! (And yes gloves donít weigh much but these are just an example, think jeans or a heavy coat...)
The recommended type of backpack you buy should depends on where youíre going, how long youíre going for and what type of physique you have. If you are climbing Everest you should get an aluminium framed backpack that is designed for a heavy weight and fits you like a second skin. As itís unlikely that anyone reading this is one their way up Everest next week, then a good fitting, padded, canvas backpack would be best suited to the job. The first time The Travel Room cast anchor and headed off for a two year journey, a 70 litre pack made up of two attachable bags seemed like the way to go. It was the way to go if you wanted to look like a large turtle, as when the 15 litre pack was zipped onto the larger pack the balance was awful and the size ridiculous. This led to the smaller back being removed and carried reverse across the chest, so you became a backpack sandwich, or from the right angle you were just a walking backpack.
So what type of backpack should you buy?
The Travel Room would now recommend you buy nothing larger than a 50 litre pack for your back. An adjustable, well padded pack that is designed for someone of your height (if your short, a thin, top stuffed backpack is probably not the way to go but if your tall then this may be perfect for you). Always try on your pack, play with all the straps, zips and any other items that come with it. Think of it in the same way you would a new pair of shoes; think comfort, comfort, comfort. Remember, you may be carrying your backpack large distances. Walk up and down, try everything out and feel the depth of the padding on the straps and the back pad. Make sure the shoulder straps can be adjusted to be at the right height and size for you whilst allowing the back pad to sit in the small of your back (so that your hips will take the bulk of the weight). Look for good air circulation; some backpacks feature a mesh that hold the backpack (above the back pad) out from your back allowing air to circuate and preventing you from ending up at your destination with a sweaty back. If the backpack ticks all of these boxes then you are well on your way to getting the perfect mobile home on your back.
The other decision you have to make before buying a backpack is regarding the pack design. Some backpacks are sectioned i.e. divided into separate sections with access to each of the sections via separate zips. Alternatively there are the stuff backpacks where there is access to the backpack only at the top (and sometimes the bottom as well) and everything goes in and out of the top (and sometimes bottom) of the backpack. The Travel Room recommends (and personally uses) the sectioned backpack, as experience has taught The Travel Room that the stuff pack invariably leads to the frustration of pulling everything out of it as you search for that one <insert small item here> that has slipped to the bottom or middle and will not be found. Itís much easier to just unzip each of the sections to look for what you want, and be able to find exactly what you are looking for without completely unpacking. Often stuff backpacks are cheaper than their sectioned equivalents, but I now value my sanity a little bit more than a couple of quid.
The other piece of luggage you will need to buy is some sort of day pack, as when you go out you will need to take at least your camera and a guidebook with you and no one wants to carry around their big backpack with 12+kgs all day especially when they are out on a sunny day strolling along the beach (I did once meet a woman in Venice with legs of steel who insisted on taking her large backpack everywhere she went but this is not recommended by The Travel Room). Something around 15 litres for your day pack is ideal, however if you get the usual two shoulder strap backpack then when your carrying both backpacks together you will end up looking like the original walking backpack sandwich of years gone by. The Travel Room recommends a single strapped (mono-strap) over the shoulder bag. Brilliant for when youíre out and about with your camera, guidebook, water, snacks etc and then when you move with your big backpack on you can wear it across the front of you leaving both hands free (a must) whilst still giving you easy access to all the contents. Have a look at the picture below and you will see exactly what I mean.
Finally, and the Travel Room canít stress this enough, make sure you buy luggage that you can pick up and handle easily (The Travel Room's current favourite backpack is 40 litres because its easy to throw about, light on the back and is the maximum size allowable for hand luggage on all major airlines...a real bonus if you want to avoid queuing at airports) and is very comfortable. Walking 10 miles with a really unbalanced and badly designed backpack can make a day that isnít quite going to plan (I never set out to take my bag on a 10 mile walk, itís not a dog!) a whole lot worseÖIíll never ever forget "that" day in Innsbruck!
Amazon's "wheeled backpacks"
Selection of backpacks from Amazaon - click through for more
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