20 Reasons Backpacks Are Better Than Suitcases

backpack vs suitcase

Not everyone is cut out for traveling with backpacks, but we at Her Packing List are big fans. Backpacks allow you to travel lighter and provide a versatile option for all your adventures. You might have your own reasons for not traveling with one, but here are just 20 (of many!) reasons to carry a backpack on your next journey across the country, or across the globe.

1. It provides you with a better range of motion.

This is especially helpful when you’re running to catch a train in Italy.

2. It keeps you responsible for your own stuff.

You won’t need someone to help you with your bags since it’s strapped to your back. When it’s out of your sight is when things go missing.

3. You’ll have to pack light because it’s attached to you.

You’ll be miserable lugging it around, straps digging into your shoulders, if you pack too much, so plan in advance!

4. It can be squished under seats.

My sister and I pushed ours under the seats with plenty of room on a train in Vietnam while the girls sharing our carriage had to fight to get their massive suitcases into the space. The other option would be to leave it in the hallway!

5. It won’t get stuck in escalator gears.

Or between train and elevator doors.

6. It will be okay to be thrown on top of a van.

And strapped down for a ride through rural Thailand.

7. You won’t struggle up the stairs as much if you’re on a top floor with no elevator.

I learned this the hard way in Croatia!

8. It is harder to steal from while on your back.

And it’s harder to grab off of you than a suitcase.

9. It’s all terrain, unlike those suitcase wheels.

You can take the quickest path in your backpack without worrying about whether the path is a path at all.

10. It doesn’t make tons of noise on old cobblestone streets as it hits every bump.

Trust me, it’s annoying.

Backpack vs Suitcase:  20 Reasons to Become a Backpacker

11. It’s lightweight and can usually fold flat when empty, even with a frame.

It’s easy to store or to stuff in other luggage when not in use.

12. Wearing a backpack makes you look adventurous, even if you’re not.

And it helps attract fellow backpackers (which can be a good or bad thing!).

13. You can take a backpack on multi-day hikes.

Could you imagine trying to do the same with a suitcase?

14. It can be worn on the back of a bicycle, motorbike or even tuk tuk.

This is the preferred method of transportation in some parts of the world.

15. Wheels won’t break, rendering it next to useless.

Because there are none!

16. Backpacks are made of fabric, so they’re more flexible.

This makes it easier to fit more things and for squeezing into overhead bins.

17. Backpacks are easier to wash.

Depending on your brand, you can easily wash it in a tub or sink (please follow the instructions from your manufacturer). Imagine doing that with a suitcase! Some also have straps that separate from the frame for cleaning.

18. Backpacks are easy to cover from the elements.

Many come with their own rain covers but others are available for cheap. This way, you don’t have to worry about your suitcase getting soaked as you drag it through puddles.

19. Many have lots of compartments for your stuff.

They can include outside zippers and pockets, as opposed to one big section of suitcases.

20. Your load is evenly distributed on your back and shoulders.

Rather than just your arm pulling (or pushing) the suitcase handle.

Would you agree with these points? Stay tuned for our post on why suitcases trump backpacks (if that’s possible)!

Written by Caroline

Caroline Eubanks is a native of Atlanta, Georgia, but has also called Charleston, South Carolina and Sydney, Australia home. After college graduation and a series of useless part-time jobs, she went to Australia for a working holiday. In that time, she worked as a bartender, bungee jumped, scuba dived, pet kangaroos, held koalas and drank hundreds of cups of tea. You can find Caroline at Caroline in the City.

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Gear We Use


Packing Cubes – Organize your luggage with the lightweight, durable and compressible Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes.

Backpacks + Daypacks

Pacsafe – Since they come with extra theft-resisting features, Pacsafe bags make you a more confident traveler. We especially love this bag.

Sea to Summit – Of all the Sea to Summit products, our most recommended is the fits-in-your-palm, super packable Ultra-Sil Daypack.

Personal Care

Nalgene Toiletry Bottles – These leak-free toiletry bottles and tubs come in all sizes – even super tiny, helping minimalists pack it all without bulk.

Turkish Towels – They’re thinner than most travel towels, and they actually cover your body! We can’t get enough of Turkish towels for travel.


Speakeasy Supply Co. – They make the awesome hidden pocket infinity scarves that are perfect for stashing secret cash, lip balms, and passports.

Anatomie – Anatomie travel pants come with luxury prices, but they offer many benefits for travelers. See our review of the famous Skyler pants.

Travel Resources

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Booking.com – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Hostelworld – For hostels, Hostelworld remains our number one source for booking stays. Choose from straight up hostels, budget hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions


  1. Pippa says

    Love this! Every single thing on this list is true :). I can’t even imagine travelling with a suitcase now – it would be so restricting!

  2. Marilia: Wanderingislander.com says

    You made some excellent point there! I love my backpack!

    I would just add that backpacks also save you time at airports – most backpacks you can carry on a plane with you.

    I find that airport staff are more likely to ask you to check in a large carry on rather than a large backpack.

    I’ve carried massive backpacks with me on panes even on low-cost airlines.

    You then don’t need to wait to get your bag after the flight and you can just go ahead and explore!

    Hope this helps,
    Wandering Islander

  3. Qwertyin says

    I mostly use backpacks and still feel out of my element with a stiff bag with wheels, so I like this salutation so more people start to use it and I don’t have to feel as either a middle-grader or a hippie. those suitcases with wheels on makes you feel like a business travel person. they make me nervous with their serious outlook and I want to feel free and like an adventurer. 🙂 with a backpack you have both hands free, you can run, you are a single organism with your pack, and still can toss it up somewhere easily and be a free person. in my romantized view of travelling you shouldnt need much more than some favorite clothes, a raincoat and a sweater, a music player or phone, some things for the experience like a notebook or entertainment, and whatever documents in your wallet to get you by in a modern world. I still look enviously at some type of boss who seem to travel very light with some snus in their pocket and just nothing more than a iPhone and a happy geist. (More or less.) It’s so romantic. But the backpack is great

  4. Hannah says

    Definitely team backpack. I’m just back from a month in Germany with only a 35l backpack. Though I nearly got pickpocketed from a front compartment while in Berlin, so I’m not sure about number 8.

  5. Endlesstracks.com says

    I love all my backpacks. I have lots, each for a different type of holiday. Currently in Nepal with a 26l deuter cruise, my all round beauty. My sleeping bag and puffer jkt and some clothes go with a porter. If I am trekking without a porter I use a 38+10 deuter act lite. a backpack let’s me be at the ready to take the awesome photos that I see out on the track. I would only use a suitcase to transport Christmas gifts! And I don’t do that too often!

  6. b0hemian says

    Have you noticed that most females modeling backpacks yank the shoulder straps away from their body? An innocuous observation. Just wondering why they would wear the straps incorrectly that way. I voted for Team Backpack. Love the freedom it allows me when I’m rucking, traveling, commuting.

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