Backpack Or Suitcase For Carry on: Which One Is Better ?

We may receive a small commission (with no additional cost to you) if you purchase an item using links in this page, Thank you.

Backpack Vs Suitcase
Kenneth Cole Reaction collection carry-on and backpack / Amazon Courtesy

A simple and concise guide about backpacks vs suitcases for carry on and travel in general.

Traveling is an exciting experience, but choosing the right luggage can be a challenge.

And whether you’re going on a weekend getaway or a month-long trip, the type of luggage you choose will definitely influence your travel experience.

In this article, we will compare the pros and cons of the two popular options: backpacks and suitcases.

Let’s dive right in.

What Are the Pros and Cons of a Backpack?

person holding black backpack
Photo by Luis Quintero on

Backpacks are a popular option for travelers who want to have hands free travel experience.

Here are some of the pros and cons of using a backpack for travel:

Backpacks Pros:

  • The Mobility: this is my favorite option, because a backpack is designed to be carried on the back, which makes it ideal if you need to move around quickly and easily to snap some photos for example why touring the city, you don’t need also to worry if you are moving on a stairs, mountains or any type of sidewalks.
  • The Comfort: Backpacks are designed to distribute weight across your shoulders, which can make them more comfortable to carry for long periods of time.
  • The Style: If you want to look stylish and have a playful video, there are plenty of colorful backpacks in the market, additionally backpacks are getting popular in recent years as a stylish and practical travel accessory.
  • Storage Options : Some backpacks have multiple storage options and compartments, which can make it facile to keep your belongings organized and easily accessible.
  • You don’t need to check in your backpack: most backups will fit as a carry-on on most airlines, and the good thing is you won’t risk your backpack to be gate checked unless you are traveling with a huge or large backpack.
  • Water-resistant: most travel backpacks are water resistant, these types of backpacks will keep your belongings clean and dry even if you are traveling in wet weather.

Backpacks Cons:

  • Durability: Unless you pay more than 100$ for a backpack, most of the standard backpacks are made from lightweight materials, which may make them not last longer.
  • Style and convenience: Backpacks may not be suitable for some occasions like business trips, backpack looks more unprofessional.
  • Will not carry heavy items: Even though backpacks will distribute weight over your shoulder, you can’t use a backpack to carry heavy items all the time, you will need to find an alternative if you want something that rolls.
  • Expensive: a travel backpack is more expensive than a regular suitcase, you will need to pay more than 90$ to get a durable backpack.

What Are the Pros and Cons of a Suitcase?

white luggage near the couch
Photo by Vlada Karpovich on

Suitcases are a good option if you want to take on more weight and have more convenience. 

Here are some of the pros and cons for using a suitcase on your trip:

Suitcases Pros:

  • The Durability: Most of the suitcases are made from strong materials, which can make them more durable than backpacks. This is particularly important if you’re traveling with valuable items or plan to go to rough or rugged sidewalk.
  • Security: a suitcase especially is more secure if you are walking with it, bad guys won’t just break into your suitcase secretly, unlike backpacks that you take on your back that are easy to rip using a razor.
  • The Convenience: Suitcases open up easily, which makes them easier to open and get your belongings. This is particularly useful if you need to frequently access items during your trip.
  • The Style: Suitcases are also stylish, colorful and suitable for formal occasions or business travel. If you’re traveling for business and want to look professional, a suitcase is a great option.

Suitcases Cons:

  • The Mobility: Suitcases can be more hard to maneuver on rigged sidewalks, busy streets or crowded airports, and this can be particularly annoying if you need to move quickly and easily during your trip.
  • The Comfort: Carrying a suitcase for long periods of time can be frustrating and uncomfortable, as the weight is not distributed evenly across your body, this can be particularly challenging if you’re traveling with heavy items.
  • The Storage: Some suitcases typically have limited compartments, which can make it more difficult to keep your belongings organized and easily accessible.

A Comparison Between Backpacks And Suitcases

When comparing a backpack with a suitcase, there are some key factors you need to consider.

The first factor is the airline size rules, then comes the mobility which has a major impact. Backpacks are designed to be carried on your back, while suitcases can typically be pulled behind you. 

The second one is the comfort which is also an important factor, as backpacks are designed to distribute weight over the shoulders, and make your hands free, while suitcases can put more weight on your arms and shoulders. 

Finally, storage is also a major factor, but mostly the storage will depend on the kind and length of your trip.

Backpacks typically have multiple compartments, while suitcases have limited compartments.

Personally I use both for traveling, but If I could choose my favorite I would prefer a backpack because of its portability, additional because I travel for leisure.

I can take a backpack and walk 15 miles which is almost impossible if I travel with a suitcase.

Another reason for choosing a backpack is the ability of taking it onboard with almost any airline, I don’t even need to know the airline size rules.

What Is The Best Size For A Backpack To Use As Carry on?

If you are traveling carry-on only and want to take a backpack,the ideal size is between 40-50 liters which is usually about 40 inches in total.

These types of backpacks will fit almost any airline carry on size.

Even though there are other things to consider if you wanted to take a backpack as carry on:

  • Your trip and journey: are you going for a long or short vacation, if you are going for a long one you may need to have a large bag for additional gear.
  • Space: Depending on the size of your items, a backpack may not provide enough space for all of your items and gear, a suitcase, on the other hand, can provide more space and can be packed more efficiently.
  • Your packing style: are you a minimalist or you need to take additional items like a hairdryer and a travel pillow.
  • Carry on or checked baggage: If you wanted to take a large backpack it may end up in checked baggage.
  • You wanted to take more electronics: usually a backpack will provide less protection for electronics.

What Is The Best Size Suitcase For Travel?

Choosing a suitcase for carry on is really easy compared to a backpack, just decide what is your favorite airline, check its carry on size limits and voila.

Although it is better to choose a suitcase that will fit with almost any airline, that way you don’t have to always travel with the same airline.

Here is some common carry on suitcases:

  • 20” suitcases with an approximate size of 22″ x 14″ x 9″ : usually a 20″ suitcase will be less than the major airline carry on size, and it will fit perfectly with almost all the U.S airlines carry on luggage, I would recommend the Samsonite Omni PC Hardside Expandable 20-Inch.
  • 24” suitcases with an approximate size of 24″ x 16″ x 10″ : you can use this size also as carry-on in some U.S airlines like Southwest and Frontier Airlines.
  • 28” suitcases with an approximate size of 28.5 x 20.5 x 13.5 : if you wanted a larger size you can go with 28 ” which is dedicated for checked luggage, the suitcase won’t fit in carry on baggage, if you wanted to to use it as carry on you may end up paying some additional charges and gate check in the suitcase.

Wrapping It Up

Before choosing between a backpack or a suitcase for travel, first it’s important to consider your specific needs and preferences.

If you value less mobility and comfort, a backpack may be the right option for you.

However, if you prioritize durability and convenience, a suitcase may be better and will fit your needs.

Ultimately, the choice between a backpack and a suitcase comes also to the type of trip you’re taking.

Whether you’re traveling for leisure or business, it’s important to choose the luggage that works best for you and makes your travel experience as comfortable and stress-free as possible.

We hope this helps

Happy travels

People also ask: