Change Yourself…Change The World.

The Big ‘Suitcase Vs. Backpack’ Debate
July 7, 2010, 1:10 pm
Filed under: Travel Tip

Hi guys,

I have FINALLY started packing for Africa! I was having some sort of block about it this past week, and I kept putting it off. But last night I finally spent a good four hours sorting through all of my old travel gear and picking out clothes, and now I’m in the middle of a long list of things to do before I leave for San Francisco in three days (I start training for Kiva there).

The only problem is, I’ve come across a major road block in my packing, which is a HUGE dilemma in the world of traveling: should I bring a backpack or a suitcase?

I’ve traveled with my trusty Eagle Creek backpack since the start of my travels. It’s a colossal 90L backpack (which is the largest they get)- I naively bought this when I first started traveling because I had no idea how to really travel at the time (I also brought twice the amount of things that I needed, like batteries and power bars and all of these random things- I ended up sending most of it home after 2 weeks in India. But the upside to that is, I’ve always been able to restock on the next trips rather than going out and buying stuff again!) It’s actually worked really nicely for me the past two years- fits all of my schoolbooks, my med and toiletry kit, my clothes, and all of the random little things I picked up from traveling.

But here’s the thing: this trip to Africa is different from my previous ones. First off, I’m actually going to be working this trip, and that means that I need to bring some nice, formal clothes (not only is this the culture in Kenya, but I also want to look professional). However, I’m planning on traveling for two weeks before I go to Kenya, and then a month afterwards. This means staying in cheap hostels (or Couch Surfing), a lot of bus rides, and just general traveling. So this means that, for this trip, I need to bring double the clothes; nice clothes that I can wear to work, and then travel clothes. And since clothes take up the breadth of my packing, this means that I will be literally stuffing my backpack to the brim, which I don’t like to do. It will also mean crinkly work clothes, which I also don’t want to do; and most importantly, it will mean that I’ll OVERPACK the 90L bag, making it impossibly heavy and difficult to walk for long periods of time in, which renders it as a ‘walking backpack’ kind of useless.
Moreover, there are some downsides to the traveler’s backpack. It’s a huge nuisance checking it in on flights- every time it comes through the conveyor belt, something has snapped, or a buckle has broken off- it gets dirty pretty easily, all of my things get kind of jumbled up inside, and because it is 90L, it can get pretty heavy.

So this brings me to the suitcase. The suitcase is larger and it rolls, which is great. It will nicely pack all of my things, and they’ll be more protective and less likely to get, for better lack of a word, disgusting. No matter how heavy the suitcase is, I’ll still be able to roll it along. And I’ll feel significantly safer stowing my computer/camera in there than I would my backpack.
The potential issues/cons to the suitcase is that I’m afraid I’d be more susceptible to mugging, since I will probably look like a more upscale traveler- and that it could be a complete nuisance to get around (though it’s hard to tell because I’ve never been to Africa). A suitcase would be better, hands down, if I was merely staying in Nairobi for three months. The issue is AFTERWARDS, where I’ll be traveling all over the place, hopping on buses or trains and looking for hostels, where I’m afraid that a suitcase will prove to be very cumbersome.

Another suitcase vs. backpack dilemma is the psychological factor. With a suitcase, I’m afraid that it will take away more of the ‘travel’ feeling for me. With my backpack, I always feel young and daring and on top of the world- that I have everything in one backpack, and that’s all I need in this life- that I can take my stuff and just spontaneously wander anywhere, totally carefree. I think the suitcase kind of takes away that aspect- it makes me feel less mobile, like I need to plan everything out before I do it.
Alternatively, transitioning to a suitcase makes me feel a bit more like ‘growing up’- like a more mature traveler, that has more of a purpose to traveling- I’m not going to Africa just to hang out and take in the sights- I’m going there to work in a field that I’m passionate about and that I want to be taken seriously in.

So now that I’ve fully explained this debacle- should I go for a backpack or a suitcase this time around? Help me out and leave me some comments guys!

Much thanks,

6 Comments so far
Leave a comment

go to walmart, buy a large cheap rolling suitcase, put your backpack in the bottom, all your stuff on top… then ditch the suitcase after you get to africa. i’m sure you can find a good place to donate it or put it to good use with someone there

Comment by h j

thanks for the tip, actually that’s a really good idea. The only issue is that because my backpack is really big and also has a huge frame that it would take up a TON of space- and I don’t even know if they make rolling suitcases big enough to fit that AND my other stuff!

But anyway I decided on the suitcase. Tried lugging it up a flight up stairs today and nearly killed myself. Let’s hope Africa doesn’t have large buildings with no elevators.

Comment by brittanygoesglobal

Suitcase. Since it’s a new transition in your life, it’ll be an interesting travel change:)Just remember to make sure you can put a lock on it to keep all your stuff safe. See you in Africa!!

Comment by vicki

wooooooo can’t wait!

Comment by brittanygoesglobal

Question: Is your backpack one that zips open like my Eagle Creek or one that you stuff from the top? If it zips, I say go with the backpack and pack it like this. And, easier said than done, but be ruthless in your choices.

Comment by Alexis Ditkowsky

A) that article is amazing. Muchas gracias

B) I decided on the suitcase! And I just got to San Francisco, so it’s a little late to change it… AHHH SO EXCITED FOR KIVA TRAINING! Let me know if you have any questions about it afterwards!

Comment by brittanygoesglobal

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: