Backpack or suitcase?

Travel Forums North America Backpack or suitcase?

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Last Post This thread is marked as being about Mexico
1. Posted by piglet44 (Budding Member 29 posts) 4y Star this if you like it!

Hello TPers. I am a new member, from the old Virtual Tourist forum which just died. I am happy to find a new travel community and I hope it will be good here. I am travelling with my husband to Mexico for 6 weeks in February. We will travel around from Yucatan up to Oaxaca, Chiapas area and on to Mexico City.
We are 60 an 70 years old very healthy. I usually take a suitcase but I am thinking of taking a backpack this time. Is it practical to wheel a suitcase in Mexico or is it better to take a backpack? We like to take buses, but we may also have a car for part of the time.
Thanks in advance

2. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 2330 posts) 4y Star this if you like it!

Hi Piglet. Welcome aboard. :-)

I've got into the habit of using a backpack for pretty much any trip, and I don't see any situation where a suitcase would suit me better.

The only necessary adaptation to make this work is to decide to travel light. If you're someone who takes everything including the kitchen sink then carrying it on your shoulders becomes a chore - but then so would dragging it along.

I keep to carry-on sizes. The most often recommended one on here is the Osprey farpoint 40. For me the advantages of carry-on are no lost luggage, no thefts, no damage from baggage handlers, no waits at baggage reclaim. And no baggage fees.

I found Mexico a very friendly and welcoming place, though I haven't been beyond Yucatan so can't offer much advice. I went in order to see Chichen Itza etc, but the surprise highlight was swimming in a cenote.

3. Posted by piglet44 (Budding Member 29 posts) 4y Star this if you like it!

Cheers Andy. I pretty much decided on this option, the only problem being a foot injury that happened in Sri Lanka, and makes me wary about putting too much weight on the foot. Anyway I have tried to find that Osprey Farpoint where I live and been unsuccessful, so will probably go with a similar Osprey they do stock over here (probably in the 38-40 L range). Not enough time to safely order online now,and I prefer to try it on physically anyway

4. Posted by OldPro (Inactive 400 posts) 4y Star this if you like it!

Don't 'jump the gun' piglet44.

First, I would suggest that you start by understanding the difference between a Backpack and a Travelpack. A backpack is in fact designed for wilderness travel while a travelpack is designed for primarily urban travel. So just as with anything else, you should choose the RIGHT tool for the job, based on HOW you intend to primarily use it. My guess is that a travelpack will meet your stated use better than a backpack would.

The primary advantages to a 'traveller' of a travelpack are: 1. They are front loading like a suitcase which makes getting thing out easier than a top loading backpack that you have to 'dig' down into to get out something from the bottom of the pack. 2. All the harness used to carry the pack on your back (shoulder and hip straps) are zipped away behind a panel for easier transportation on a plane and don't get hung up on airport carousels.

Second, is fit. The Osprey Farpoint 40 and Osprey Porter 46 are no doubt two of the most popular travel packs in the market today. They are great packs but do NOT buy a pack based on it being popular, buy a pack that FITS YOU. When you buy a suitcase, fit is not an issue but for a pack you will carry on your back even for short periods of time, fit is a MAJOR issue. A pack that does not fit you properly will not be comfortable to carry. A lot of people have a pack that doesn't fit them and don't realize that it is because it doesn't fit properly that they hate having it on their back! So learning about how to fit a pack properly is very important to do before you buy any pack.

The first thing you need to know is your 'torso length'. From that you can then look for a pack that meets that length. This is where backpacks tend to have an advantage over travel packs. Travel packs tend to only come in one or perhaps two sizes and so they are not as good at giving you a good fit for your torso length. But since they are not designed to be carried on your back all day, every day as a backpack is designed to do, you can get away with a bit sloppier fit. Read some more here for a start.

There are plenty of good quality travel packs in the market. So don't go looking for a specific pack that someone suggests to you, go looking for the one that FITS YOU best. Also realize that you have to try them on and walk around the store with some weight in them for a bit. You cannot fit a pack online, so you cannot buy a pack ONLINE.

Third is size. Actually, it isn't size that matters so much, it's WEIGHT. With a wheeled suitcase you don't really have to worry much about weight. But if you are going to carry your bag on your back, it becomes very important. So obviously, travelling light becomes the smart thing to do. Most people will say they intend to 'travel light' but never bother to define what 'light' actually means.

Weight and size are generally connected. Someone who sets a limit of 25lbs/11kg. for their pack loaded and including the weight of the pack itself, will find that that amount of weight generally fits into a pack of under 50 litres in size. A limit of 15lbs/7kg. will fit into a pack down around 30-35 litres. So the point is that you don't pick a pack and THEN decide what to pack in it. You FIRST decide what you are going to take and then pick a pack of the appropriate size. Or in other words, don't put the cart before the horse.

To determine size, get all the stuff you plan to take in a black plastic garbage bag and then tape up the bag into a rough rectangle. Measure the resulting size and translate that to litres and you will know what size pack to buy. And remember, the less weight you carry, the more comfortable it will be to carry it. Packing lists are a whole topic in themselves if you want to truly become a 'lightweight traveller'. Here is a video of a woman traveller who is quite good at travelling light.

It's also interesting to see how she then moved to even lighter weight travel packing.

5. Posted by katzgar (Inactive 220 posts) 4y Star this if you like it!

a wheeled suit case a cobblestone streets are not good together.

6. Posted by CherylGypsyRose (Full Member 15 posts) 4y Star this if you like it!

I took a small wheeled suitcase for three weeks in Spain and Portugal and found it easier than a backpack. Took planes, trains, automobiles and buses, walked ten blocks, easier than a backpack to handle and easier on my knees and shoulders.

7. Posted by Docdotcalm24 (Budding Member 14 posts) 4y Star this if you like it!

hi Piglet;

Since you will be taking a lot of buses in Mexico be advised that most will not allow you to take your suitcase onboard but will store it in the luggage compartment. A back pack even a larger one most drivers will let you take onboard. I say this in part because I was aware of while traveling in Mexico that some luggage was stolen from buses while making stops on cities on the way to our destination. Not ours fortunately but others who had no immediate recourse.

I have found suitcases to be easier to maneuver but have had them twice breakdown in Europe after wheeling on some rough surfaces. If you are ok with a backpack or travel pack and don't mind the weight it might be a good option.

8. Posted by piglet44 (Budding Member 29 posts) 4y Star this if you like it!

Thank everyone. By the way no such thing as travel pack available in this country- only backpack or suitace. Currently leaning towards backpack probably Osprey 40L mainly because of the bus issue.

9. Posted by OldPro (Inactive 400 posts) 4y Star this if you like it!

Have you asked your nearest Rikushet store if they can get in the Farpoint 40 or Porter 46 for you to compare piglet44? Just because they do not stock then does not mean they cannot GET them. They are an Osprey distributor so they obviously do have access to them. And there may be others they have access to as well. Maybe you can start the education process for Israel as to why a travelpack is better suited to some types of travellers.

10. Posted by piglet44 (Budding Member 29 posts) 4y Star this if you like it!

Unfortunately there is not enough time for that. There woukd be a danger it wiould not arrive before my departure.