Whether you traveling for a short time or a long time, you need somewhere to put everything you choose to bring. Of course it depends on the particular trip, but in a sense you should probably be bringing a similar amount of things either way. If you are traveling for a short period of time, you don’t need a ton of stuff; if you are traveling for a long period of time, you will find that you don’t want a ton of stuff- it gets heavy and annoying to lug stuff around. No matter what, choosing a travel pack can be hard.
We ourselves did a bit of research before leaving and there was a pretty common theme: pack light. We tried our best, but going to Korea in the Winter kind of took up a lot of pack room, though honestly, we could have done better.Now with better understanding of what all the other bloggers meant, and if we could have, we would have downsized more. Despite this, we would not have brought smaller packs. It is still nice to have the ability to carry more if desired. While we filled our’s to the brim upon leaving, if you can limit yourself, you will have room for any extra souvenirs you pick up along the way.
Additionally, while others apparently can do it, we personally are not able to fly around the world with only a carry-on. In fact, we have a hard time making our carry-ons fit the carry-on weight requirement already and then we also have our big checked backpacks full of stuff. Here I will provide some recommendations on how to shop for a pack/luggage or even determine if luggage you already have will work for you. (You can also check out our backpack reviews).
1. First off: Suitcase(s) or Backpack(s) or Backpack with wheels?
This is a tough choice. It really depends on how you plan to travel. Envision yourself traveling with each of these and see how realistic you think each choice is for you. Now, even though it varies by your travel style, there are some things to consider.
If you have only a very small amount of things, really a backpack is best. It is a simpler way to travel. If you are bringing more than a small amount of things or plan to trek around with it a lot, though, a backpack can start to hurt after a while. I have gotten bruises on my shoulders and hips from carrying my big pack around, and oh do my muscles ache.
When we were preparing to leave we found an overwhelming number of people recommending osprey packs. I believe, at the time, the packs we felt were large enough were a little expensive for us but from everything we have read they are made well and worth it if you can afford. Here is an example of an Osprey that looks pretty decent.
This could be a good choice, though we also recommend our packs which are not Osprey, mostly because we can actually say we have tried them and so far they are working pretty great. (You can click on the picture to see more).
While I haven’t seen many recommend them for long-term travel, I think, for the most part, there are only downsides for certain kinds of traveling. If you will just be moving your stuff from point A to point B then staying there a while before moving it again, I think it works pretty well.
You should note that suitcases are not something you can easily strap to the back of a motorbike or wear while you are riding one (if that is the kind of adventure you are on) and you’re also not going to want to climb a mountain lugging a big suitcase behind you. If you will be able to leave it where you are staying, it would not be a problem, then. They are also easier to pack than backpacks (I think). I think I actually wouldn’t mind them for us.
If you are getting suitcases/ have suitcases I would definitely only recommend luggage with wheels. It would be very tiresome to carry and kind of defeat the purpose of having one as opposed to the other options. Here is one that has four wheels, which allows you to carry it on two or four. I have been seeing this type of suitcase more and more often and it seems pretty convenient. I have also seen this particular suitcase recommended.
Backpacks with wheels:
These may seem like the best of both worlds, and maybe they are but as we have not tried them out for long-term travel we cannot give a solid answer. I think it seems great because you have two options as ways to carry it, but the downsides are that the framing makes the pack heavier and, typically, less comfortable. The reason we were weary of them initially was because so many people advised against them (not entirely sure why).
Here is an example of a pack which seems to have pretty good reviews.
2. What Size?
The size of your suitcase or backpack is pretty important.
This is the first thing to consider. If you plan to just use a carry-on check if it meets general requirements. (Here is a link to the the checked baggage requirements for Air Asia). If you plan to go with checked baggage (like us), just don’t go too big. It seems that whatever size you get, you will probably fill it up, and extra weight can mean extra costs. When looking at a pack, be sure to consider your own size as well. There are some backpacks that are designed with your size in mind (for particularly tall or short people).
If you are considering luggage you already have:
Set out the things (or most of them, if you don’t have everything yet) and do a test pack. If everything doesn’t fit (if this is long-term travel, even if it does), cut it down. Then cut it down again. If you still can’t fit everything you feel you need in there, it is probably time to start shopping.
You know what you have won’t work:
If you don’t know what size you think you want, or even if you do, go to a local sporting goods (or other relevant) store and check out what 20 or 50 or 100liters means in person. It is good to check out several packs (or suitcases) because even the same amount can look different in different forms.
We were considering a couple we saw online but then surprised at how much smaller the sizes appeared in person. If you test something out and you see it at the store this is a good option for buying (especially if there is a return policy once you have checked to make sure everything fits inside) but you can also then look online, after educating yourself more about different features in store. We could not actually find one that was large enough in any nearby stores to meet our needs, aside from a couple that were out of our price range.
3. Compartments and compartment size(s).
I didn’t really realize just how important this was until I was packing. Having many compartments is helpful in terms of organization: you can put all your socks together and all your cords and cables together, etc. If you have large items, they need (a) large compartment(s), though. It is just another thing to check and envision based off of what you are bringing when choosing a pack.
4. Only relevant for backpacks: Top-loading or front-loading?
We read so many things saying we just had to have front-loading packs. Is this true? Eh, I don’t think so but I would say it certainly is convenient and helpful that we can open our backs both from the top and the front.
5. Only relevant for backpacks- Comfort (Straps):
We were not able to try out our specific packs before we bought them but I would certainly recommend it if you are able to do so. There are a couple features of both of our backpacks which we think help make them more comfortable. I think these things are good for any backpack but are especially helpful when you have a large/heavy pack.
Padded shoulder straps.
I think this is helpful both for comfort and for supporting the weight of the backpack. Both of our’s have them.
Padded hip straps, or hip straps period.
Both of our’s also have padded hip straps. I think these are really great. They help take a lot of the weight off of the shoulders and make the pack easier to carry. If you are particularly thin (like us), it would be a good idea to make sure these are adjustable to go fairly tight.
Extra adjustable straps in General.
These are good in the sense that you can make the pack more comfortable for you but can also be slightly annoying in that you should band them up for flight travel so a strap does not get caught somewhere. I don’t think this is a huge concern if you don’t though; often they will put the backpacks in their own special bins, but especially on smaller budget airlines you may want to be careful.
Good luck and let us know if you have any questions for us!