Before switching from backpacks to roller bags just over a year ago, we never expected the impact this seemingly small change would have on our travels.
Practically every year since 2008 we’ve bought new backpacks, constantly downsizing, going from 95L to 45L and finally carry-on sized roller bags, and each change has brought a new experience with it.
There are positives and negatives about each of them, and we thought we would sum up some interesting experiences we’ve learned through the years…
The “Better Backpacker”
For some reason, a lot of “backpackers” seem to think that the only “real” travelers are those actually wearing a bulky, heavy backpack.
If you’re not carrying around a backpack but a roller bag instead, people immediately assume that you’re not a long-term traveler.
I don’t think many people who have seen us rolling our small roller bags down the street would think that we had been traveling for years.
A lot of backpackers simply have that look that says “I’m so cool, because I’m backpacking off the beaten path with my backpack”, smirking at us with our little “weekend bags”.
I would never have thought that the type of bag you used mattered to anyone but yourself, but for some people it really does.
Standing Out & Fitting In
Likewise, you get judged in a different way from hotels and staff depending on your luggage.
While we most often like to find affordable and budget friendly hotels where anyone “fits in”, we used to get very surprised looks when arriving at a fancy hotel with backpacks.
Personally I love to mess with peoples’ assumptions so I quite enjoyed the confused looks, but when we traveled with roller-bags nobody in the staff at fancier hotels would raise an eyebrow.
Roller bags look more professional and usually blend in and fit easier anywhere, while backpacks often take up a lot of space when you squeeze into trams, trains and buses.
Physical Struggles …
- We were tired of always being soaked in sweat after carrying our backpacks for an hour, and after some time my shoulders and back started to hurt and I ended up with a very bad posture.
I was sure that a few months longer with that and I would look like Quasimodo’s sister..!
+ On the plus side you have both hands free and can walk up stairs easier, and you can get away with over-packing easier as they tend to give more space to expand.
- Trying to drag a roller bag through a layer of snow or on extremely big cobble stones is just a ridiculously hard task, and after a few weeks of hardcore traveling I actually had started to get calluses on my hands..!
+ With the roller bag, I don’t get a sweaty back and don’t have to actually carry the weight even when standing still.
The main reason we decided to switch to roller bags was because we wanted to be sure that our bags could be brought as carry-on with flights like Ryanair.
When traveling with our backpacks as carry-on, we were always worrying about whether the bag would be too big for their sizing, while the roller bag will never expand in size and therefore guarantee that it fits.
This has made traveling by plane more convenient, although it sometimes sucks having to throw stuff out every time you buy something new.
Backpacks are great for hiking and trekking, but since we’re not hikers we found that most places we traveled to had at least a dirt road to the hotel where we could unload our stuff.
Which do you prefer – roller bag or backpack?