We recently published a post saying why backpacks are better than suitcases for travel.
There are many sides to this argument, so it’s time to consider the rebuttal, or the reasons that suitcases are better than backpacks. Those with back problems or who travel for work will certainly agree with us. Consider your options for suitcases the next trip you take!
1) It causes less strain on your back and shoulders.
While it shouldn’t be a problem if you pack light, the weight is distributed better for those with back problems as you’re pulling with your arm muscles rather than balancing everything on your body.
2) You’ll look more adult.
I travel regularly for work and can tell you that there’s nothing that warrants more stares than showing up to a nice hotel, or first class cabin, with your backpack. You may not actually be professional, but you will probably be taken seriously more.
3) You don’t have to worry about the straps getting ripped if you have to check luggage.
Suitcases are designed to deal with the bumps from the baggage belt. They’re also easier for baggage handlers to grab onto.
4) They’re easier to deal with in public bathrooms.
Have you ever tried to fling off your backpack in a bathroom stall and then put it back on? It’s easier said than done in a teeny-tiny enclosure. With a suitcase, it can easily roll in behind you and sit off to the side.
5) They’re easier for finding what you’re looking for without having to unpack everything.
If you have a clamshell or standard design, you can open it up and almost immediately see everything inside. You don’t have to take every item out for that one little thing you’re looking for.
6) It’s easier to Tetris the contents together.
In your backpack, you’ll try your best to squeeze as much as possible into that big compartment, but there’s always going to be dead or unused space. With suitcases, you can fill as much space as possible using packing cubes to fill the rectangular space.
7) It will fit into the size check better than backpacks.
As someone who flies budget airlines regularly, I’m always annoyed when I’m told I have to check my backpack just because it doesn’t fit the dimensions of the size check precisely. Because suitcases are a rigid size, you won’t have problems with fitting it in and out.
8) Suitcases can double as a seat.
Are you waiting on a delayed flight or just need somewhere to sit in line? Your suitcase can double as a seat to lean against, as I did while waiting to be re-booked after a canceled flight home from San Francisco.
9) You can sit on it to close it, rather than kicking your foot into your backpack to make sure it closes.
It’s much easier to deal with closing your suitcase than your backpack, as it means shifting a few things around and applying weight, rather than trying to squeeze the drawstrings into closing your backpack.
10) They have plenty of handles for picking up and setting down.
It’s easier to pick up your suitcase on its top and side handles in order to put it up in the overhead bin than it is to do the same with a backpack.
11) You won’t get it confused with others bags (unless you have a standard black suitcase).
Do yourself a favor and get a suitcase that looks different so you won’t accidentally pick up the wrong bag or someone else won’t do the same. Some backpacks tend to look the same, especially when coming off the baggage belt or being thrown onto a bus.
12) You can pile things on top.
Secure another carry-on bag to it with a bungy cord, or place your purse on top of your bag and pull it all at once, rather than having excessive amounts of straps on your shoulders.
13) They come in all shapes and sizes.
You can find suitcases that can fit underneath your seat, small carry on suitcases and even large suitcases. They can be in every color. Backpacks are usually purchased at outdoors stores, but suitcases are available online, in department stores and even discount stores like Wal-Mart and Target.
14) You can lock the zippers to prevent theft.
The zippers of your suitcase are great for preventing theft, as you can get a TSA friendly lock that won’t have to be broken off.
15) A suitcase can stand on its own.
Suitcases are self standing and you won’t have to lean them against a wall or lay them down entirely. There’s nothing harder than trying to get your backpack back on after you’ve set it down!
16) You don’t get dirty when pulling a suitcase.
With a backpack, you sometimes have to lay it on the nasty floor and then put it back on! A suitcase can usually stand just above the dirt (except for the wheels) and you don’t have to wear it next to your clothes afterwards.
17) They don’t make your back sweaty.
When you arrive at your hotel, you don’t want to be drenched in sweat from carrying your backpack. Instead, stroll in almost effortlessly with your suitcase.
18) Suitcases offer better protection for checked items.
While we typically advocate for carry-on travel, it’s not always possible. If you want to bring back souvenirs or come home with more than you left with, there’s a chance you’ll have to check your bag. The fragile items are more likely to make it home in one piece if they’re in a structured suitcase than in a soft backpack.
19) They’re better for people with injuries.
We know suitcases are better for your back and shoulders to prevent future damage, but if you’re already injured, a suitcase is less likely to aggravate it.
20) They’re better for packing nicer clothing and items that wrinkle.
Many suitcases come with a garment section that can hold your nice clothing to keep them from wrinkling. Good luck preventing wrinkles with your backpack!
Would you agree with these points? Do you prefer suitcases over backpacks?
Jean | Holy Smithereens says
Great comprehensive list! This is absolutely all the reasons why I carry a suitcase whenever I travel. ?
My next big trip I’ll be taking a suitcase, as I’ll be going to school for a year and won’t be moving it much after settling into my dorm. I do really want a backpack, it’s just not practical to buy one now, as I already have a duffle I’m planning to bring and use for weekend trips around the UK and Ireland. But this is a great post and I agree with all of it- except it maybe be difficult to sit on a carry-on size suitcase. At least, mine fell over when I tried to sit on it!
Lady Light Travel says
A travel pack gets rid of most of these backpack problems. They have a clamshell or book opening, straps that store within the pack, lockable zippers, and plenty of handles for hand carries. Travel packs are usually a few pounds lighter than a suitcase, making them superior for any travel with a weight limit.
Definitely! I use a BlackWolf Cuba 65L with a 10L smaller backpack that I can zip onto the front during flights, or take off for day trips.
It has a clamshell opening, plenty of handles, and plenty of space.
So far have taken it on a week-long Guide camp for which I had to fly up to QLD for, and a week-long hike in a beautiful mountain range down the south coast of my state, NSW. Will be using it again next year for the same hike, as well as a 3 week long trip to England. It’s the perfect bag, and much easier than travelling with a suitcase.
Brilliant list! I simply am not a backpack person, and it’s one of those things where I feel anyone looking at me would see how uncomfortable I am! I have a 121 litre Eastpak Transfer suitcase in Sunday Grey, and I love it. It sounds excessive size-wise but it means my wife and I can travel with one case – she takes one side and me the other – and our carry on can be full of tasty snacks 😉 And it has compression straps so I can make sure nothing’s flopping about if I fail to fill it.
We’re moving UK to Hawaii in September and I’ve bought my wife a matching case in Black Denim using a discount voucher on Surfdome (my favourite site for such things!) and I think it’ll be perfect.
THAT SAID – Berghaus Verden all the way for camping. Again the wife and I share – and she carries so no worries about me looking uncomfortable 😉
There are more good reasons than I ever thought of 🙂 I never liked backpacks, mostly because they make my back and shoulders hurt very quickly, even small ones. And also some of the points above.
I have never really been a fan of Suitcases; as I have been hurt by them while on my travels. I completely understand why I must have them; but I use my hands to communicate; so a backpack is better for that.
DB McNicol says
Since I am in my late 60’s, the most I can manage on my back is a small backpack. A rolling suitcase is a must for me. Great article (great website)!
deb dench says
I prefer a duffle as my main bag,, I can fit more or less in it. My day bag is a backpack so that I have my hands free to board boats and vehicles.
Everyone has their own personal travel style 🙂 Any particular duffle you love using?