Suitcase vs backpack – which should you take on your adventure?

  • Packing for a TrekAmerica trip

One of the biggest decisions to make in the planning stages of your trip, apart from the itinerary, is whether to take a suitcase or a backpack. This is because the luggage you are carting around with you will become your home away from home wherever you are in the USA, so it's important to get it right.

There are pros and cons with both items of luggage, so it's vital you weigh these up and decide which is best for you. Whether you go suitcase or backpack, trying to pack as lightly as possible is the golden rule, as you'll only be weighed down by bringing too much stuff you don't really need.



The great thing about a suitcase is that when you flip open the lid, all of your items are laid out neatly in little piles. This is something that many people put more highly than the practicalities of carrying it around. Being able to see everything in one go makes it easier to select items without having to unpack everything even if you're only staying for one or two nights in a location.

Do think about lugging your suitcase around, however, as your Trek expedition is likely to take you to some pretty exciting places, which often means going off-road. How will you get your luggage to your tent when camping? Uneven ground and those little wheels are not always the best combination. This can be avoided by having a suitcase small and light enough to carry, but decide if a backpack might be easier.

When purchasing a suitcase for your adventure, be sure to take the luggage restrictions of the airline you're flying with into account. Nobody wants nasty surprises at the airport and taking items out will probably not result in a suitcase being any smaller, although it can reduce weight.



Backpacks may not seem glamorous, but are incredibly versatile and shouldn't prove a problem on rough terrain. Slinging one on your back, the world is your oyster. Some people find that the traditional top-loading design of a backpack means they never get to the items at the bottom, however. Or that they have to unpack everything at each stop to see what they have and plan their outfits.

This issue can be overcome by opting for a more user-friendly design of backpack. Go for one that has two openings into the main pocket and even perhaps a divider in the middle. This way you won't leave that clean pair of trousers lingering at the bottom until halfway through your trip. Look at the breakdown of pockets in general and thing about what you would put in each one – these could mimic your draws at home, with underwear and socks kept separate from the rest of your 'wardrobe'.

The downsides of backpacks include them getting separated from other luggage at the airport due to their straps. This often means taking them to a different place to be dropped off and they can sometimes come out at the very end of the luggage carousel after everything else. Suitcases also often have a more robust shell, helping to protect anything vaguely fragile inside. And if you don't have a waterproof cover for your backpack it may well not keep your possessions dry in a freak downpour.

Trolley backpack

Want the best of both worlds? Then go for a trolley backpack. These sturdy items of luggage look to all intents and purposes like a rucksack, but are fully equipped with wheels and a handle, meaning you can drag them along when the conditions are right. Some, including the Compass Point edition from Antler, can be laid on its back and opened like a suitcase – perfect. The dual functionality of a trolley backpack means they can be a little pricier than opting for one thing or the other, but if it's a solution that will work for you, then it may well be worth it.

Let us know on Facebook and Twitter whether you prefer to travel with a suitcase or backpack!

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