How to choose your luggage – Luggage Buying Guide

As former backpackers, we always doubt about which luggage to choose for different trips.

It definitely depends on the type of trip you’re planning, which luggage is best.

We’ll explain the different types of luggage and tell you which luggage is best for each type of travel.

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Luggage Buying Guide

When traveling, you need to carry around some luggage at times. Choosing the right type of luggage can be crucial and making the wrong decision can result in a sour back or worse.

When my luggage rolls down the luggage belt, will it be intact or will my t-shirts and socks be hanging out of a clean and fresh tear in my backpack? Maybe my bag is just open and my stuff will trickle through bit by bit? Nightmare!

Lobke once received her backpack partly unpacked. Someone had obviously gone through all of her stuff. She checked it in nice and neatly, but got it back pretty sloppy. Knowing that you have to go through security 3 minutes later and a police officer might search your bag. I think this is quite uninteresting. It’s better if nobody can touch your stuff, nor for stealing, nor for adding illegal substances.

You don’t want this to happen, but when you check in your luggage, it’s out of your hands and there isn’t much more you can do to protect your stuff. So you need to take all the possible steps before checking in!

Follow our luggage buying guide to start the decicion process and discover all the options.

Pre - luggage buying questions

Before heading out to the store or getting your online shopping on, answer these questions for yourself in order to decide on the type of luggage that suits you best.

Each travel style has different advantages and disadvantages. But choosing the right luggage can make a huge difference when you’re on the road.

How will you use it? Luggage Type

The type of use is important when choosing your type of luggage. Obviously, if you’re going backpacking, you want to consider getting a backpack.

But the type of travel you plan on doing is also an important factor. Are you going on a road trip, a cruise or are you taking a flight? When flying, you need to familiarize with the airline restrictions.

Best Luggage for flying

  • A rolling suitcase with a decent lock
  • A backpack, when backpacking, but protect it against theft and entry

Best Lugagge for backpacking

  • Obviously a backpack is best for backpacking :p

Best Luggage for a city trip

  • A rolling suitcase is convenient for a city trip
  • A carry on backpack is also a great option for a city trip

Best Luggage for long term travel

  • A travel backpack is your best option for long term travel

How much stuff will you take with you - Luggage Size

Luggage doesn’t only vary in type, but also in size.

Are you a light traveler or a heavy traveler? Do you take all of your electronic equipment with you.

Traveling light is heavenly. Imagine yourself hopping through cities and boarding trains with only a small backpack which contains everything you might need. This type of travel is indeed wonderful.

It’s a pity we can’t get it done, because we want to take everything when we travel. I need all my electronic equipment: laptop, ereader, camera, … My bag is never light.

Light travel

Take only one piece of luggage, preferrably carry-on. Everything you carry will be in this bag, so you can’t check it in. If you do want to check it in, you need an extra bag for your valuables.

For this type of travel, you’re searching in the 40 – 60 liter luggage sizes.

Not so light travel

Take one piece of luggage to check in and one day pack.

When you’re not specifically traveling light, you get more comfort with the things you can take. Check in one larger piece of luggage with your clothing and toiletries.

Your day pack usually contains your valuables, like camera, laptop, and and other electronics.

For this type of travel you need one piece of luggage in the 40 – 75 liter capacity and one daypack in the 25 – 35 liter range.

How often will you use it

Will your luggage be in storage more often than not? Or are you a frequent traveler and do you use your luggage every month or maybe even every week? If you’re storing your luggage most of the time, you might want to consider a type of luggage that is easy to stuff under your bed. If you’re using it all the time, you should consider different options instead of the storage.

As a frequent traveler, you should consider spending more money on your luggage. As you plan on using it all the time, it should be just as comfortable as your closet at home.

Backpack - Option 1

Backpacks are conveniant and easy to travel with. They’re perfect for backpacking trips and trips where you will be walking around with your luggage a lot. Most of the convenience of traveling with a backpack depends on the backpack you choose. There’s obviously a lot of choice in backpacks and everyone has different preferences and wishes when it comes to choosing the right one for you.

We’ve been using a backpack for years and I wouldn’t have changed to anything else at that time. It was my favourite travel style and I knew exactly where everything in my backpack was. Personally, I prefer a backpack with loads of seperate storing compartments. This way, every item has a designated place where it should be at all times.

With a backpack, it’s more difficult to keep your clothes wrinklefree. However, our latest rolling system where we roll each item of clothing, provides the possibility to keep your clothing look quite neatly.

A backpack tends to be more straining on your back. If you choose a backpack with a decent waistband, this effect is less. As a chronic back patient, I noticed that the carrying of the backpack itself isn’t the worst part. Getting it in place is the straining part!

To solve this, put the backpack straight up on a bed and sit down in front of it to gear up. Use your knees when getting back up.

The mentioned pros and cons vary heavily on the type of backpack you’re using.

Pro

  • Easy to carry
  • Handsfree
  • Easy to pack, unpack and reach anything at anytime.
  • Endless packing possibilities
  • Hundreds of size options
  • Great for difficult terrain

Con

  • Bad for most people with back ache
  • More difficult to secure

Backpacks are perfect for:

  • Backpacks are good for all types of travel
  • Long term travel
  • Short trips
  • Trips where you don’t stay in one place all the time

What to look for in a backpack

  • Look for durable material with heavy stitching
  • Check if you get enough seperate storage compartments and pockets
  • Make sure the backpack isn’t too heavy
  • Adjustable straps and comfort
  • Make sure the backpack has an airflow system to reduce sweating
  • Your backpack should have a decent strap around the waist
Nomatic Backpack

Nomatic 40L travel pack

  • Best Gender Neutral Pack
  • 40L backpack
  • Loads of extra features

Osprey FarPoint

  • Travel backpack with waistband
  • Laptop pocket
  • Available in different sizes!!

Rolling Suitcase - Option 2

A rolling suitcase has a lot of great assets as well. It’s more convenient for citytrips and holidays where you stay longer in one place. We switched to rolling suitcases recently and I like using it, but I’ll probably never get over my love for the backpack.

A rolling suitcase does provide the possibility to stack it up with nicely folded clothing and chances are good that your clothes will still be semi-wrinklefree once you unpack them. A lot of suitcases also offer te option to lock your luggage, which provides a safer environment for your stuff.

As for my back ache, pulling a rolling suitcase still requires a slight twist of the back which can be very painful after a while.

2-wheels vs 4-wheels

Always go for 4 wheels! We’ve been doubting this before and now that we used our 4 wheel rolling suitcase for a while, we’re certain! We see people with 2 wheel suitcases struggle all the time! In these situations, a 4 wheel suitcase is better:

  • rolling sideways through the airplane aisle
  • rolling sideways through a train aisle
  • manoeuvring in staircases, elevators, small spaces

HardShell vs Soft Suitcase

Some rolling suitcases are hardshell and sturdy, while others are softer and made of fabric. Personally, I like hardshell suitcases better, because it’s better protected and waterproof.

Pro

  • Better for people with a back ache
  • Easier to lock
  • More resistance to weather conditions
  • No sweaty back!
  • Wrinkle free unpacking
  • Awesome for airports and train stations

Con

  • More difficult to get just one specific item out
  • Bad choice for difficult terrain

Rolling suitcases are perfect for

  • Shorter trips and citytrips
  • Travel by airplane or train

What to look for in a suitcase

  • Can you lock the suitcase with a padlock?
  • 4 wheels are more convenient
  • Hardcase is safer than softcase

Samsonite Winfield Spinner

  • Super durable
  • Comes with a lock

Duffel Bag - Option 3

The Duffel bag is a whole different story. I must admit that I like the look and style when I see a traveler with a duffel bag passing me by. It looks classy and stylish, depending on the type of bag you choose of course!

The image of a handsome man with a classy duffel bag and an expensive watch or sunglasses has been used in commercial images millions of times.

But beyond that, duffel bags have more cons than pros.

Duffel bags are wildly popular among sporters and I can imagine they’re very suitable if you’re traveling for sports. 

Pro

  • Might look stylish with the right equipment
  • Usually loads of storage

Con

  • Horrible for people with a back condition
  • Inconvenient to carry
  • You need packing cubes for organisation
  • Wrinkled clothing
  • More difficult to secure

Duffel bags are perfect for

  • Trips where you don’t plan on carrying your bag too much
  • The times you want or need to look stylish and hipster
  • Sport trips

What to look for in a duffel back

  • Good stitching
  • Length of the straps
  • Stylish Looks of course!

Timberland Tuckerman Leather Duffel Bag

  • Available in brown or black
  • Looks very slick 🙂
  • Loads of storage space

Travel Bag with wheels - Option 4

The ultimate duffel bag is a duffel bag which you can roll around the airport! Many large manufacturers have added the wheeled duffel bag to their product range. That’s a clear sign these bags are wildly popular!

You get the large storage capacity of a duffel bag and the convenience of the wheels. Don’t worry about picked a larger size of bag since you won’t be lifting it too often.

Of course, if you want to use these duffel bags as a carry on luggage during flights, make sure to select the right cabin luggage size.

Pro

  • Loads of storage
  • Available in every possible size
  • A duffel bag on wheels!

Con

  • More difficult to secure

Travel Bags with wheels are perfect for

  • A travel bag on wheels is an all rounder.
  • Use it for short citytrips or longer trips with more stops

Eagle Creek Expanse Convertible

  • Different Sizes available
  • Use with wheels or as a backpack

What else?

After packing all of your precious possessions into a wonderful backpack, it’s time to wonder about the safety of your stuff and extra items you might need for packing.

Protect your luggage

For your suitcase, check if it comes with a loops for a padlock. This way, you can make sure nobody touches your precious luggage.

Luggage Padlock

  • TSA Approved padlock
  • 3-digit lock combination

Protect your Backpack

Backpacks are a little more difficult to protect properly. The fabric could get cut through or luggage handlers could just open it and go through your stuff.

Your backpack can be protected with a PacSafe Backpack Net, which covers the entire backpack with a steel wired net.

Or you can choose to secure your backpack to a luggage rack or anything fixed with a Retractasafe Lock.

PacSafe Backpack Net

  • Covers entire backpack
  • For backpacks sizes 55 - 85L
  • Not extremely convenient, but very safe!

PacSafe RetractaSafe Lock

  • Secure your luggage to a steady location
  • 4 digit lock
  • 90 cm cable length
  • 2,4mm steel cable

Tag your luggage

These days, you can choose from a plethora of different types of luggage tags. This way, you can recognize your luggage the second it rolls down the airport luggage carrier.

The more modern tags can actually track your luggage, so if you loose it, you can track and find it pretty quickly!

See more options and choices for some of the best luggage tags.

Luggage Tags

  • Add your name and address to your luggage

Track your luggage

Your luggage can be tagged perfectly, but tracking your luggage would be even better. Need to make sure your luggage is in the plane with you?

When your luggage goes missing, tracking your bag with your smartphone is a fantastic extra asset and you can do it with Tile!

This tracking device is also available to attach to your keys. Now you can also pack it into your luggage.

Tile Tracker

  • Pair Tiles with smartphone
  • Make your Tile ring
  • Online Tile community

Organize your luggage

Just throwing clothing in a pack will work for the first few days.

After a few days, it will become more and more difficult to find stuff inside your luggage.

Organizing your luggage with packing cubes is a serious stress reducer for packing and especially finding things in your luggage.

Eagle Creek Pack It Packing Cubes

  • Set of packing cubes
  • Different colors available
  • Water resistant
  • Pack the same stuff smaller

Conclusion - Choosing your luggage

Deciding on which type of luggage to buy is just the first step in the packing process.

We’ll be with you every step of the way and we have more packing and luggage tips coming soon!

Keep your eyes on this blog to learn more about the best methods for packing and the stuff you need to pack for each type of trip!

Which is your favorite type of luggage? Have you changed your travel method along the way?

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15 Responses

  1. These are great tips and a wonderful guide to buying luggage. I have gotten my luggage back only to discover it was missing a handle and a wheel was ripped off! Makes you think twice on what luggage you buy after that!

  2. “How often will you use it?” is a great question to ask when considering a new suitcase. I asked myself that question when I purchased one last year and it really helped narrow down my choices. I also love my packing cubes 🙂

  3. We share a lot of the same thoughts on luggage preferences, although I do have a soft side roller and am not a fan of hard case or spinners (seen way too many of them broken in the flying process). But mine is waterproof too. I agree on the duffles and I’m a backpack carryon girl too. That Tile tracker is awesome! I have heard of something similar (and maybe it was that) but it was a while back and I had forgotten about that. I’m definitely looking into it!

    1. I must admit that I’m always a bit worried that one of the wheels of the spinner suitcase will break. Maybe I will change my mind again when something like this happens 🙂

  4. Because we’ve been traveling with backpacks more often than handheld luggage lately, I zoned in on that. Definitely important to have adjustable comfortable straps! Being able to shift the weight off your back and onto your hips is so important.

  5. I love that you actually take into account that people travel in different ways, and that not all luggage is created equally for each type! As a family of four, we tend to be getting better at the amount we bring, but we still require larger cases. We have tried both soft case and hardshell, and agree that waterproofing and durability of hard are a major plus, but we find that the give of a soft case can be a lifesaver when trying to get 4 bags into the trunk of a rental car! Excellent detailed breakdowns!

    1. Thank you! That is an important pro for a soft case suitcase! Never really thought about that it can make a big difference for fitting into a trunk or an overhead compartment! I’ve added that in our article! great tip! 🙂

  6. I’ve always wanted to be a classy duffel bag type of traveler, but the convenience and safety of a rolling suitcase is second to none. I’ve tryed backpacks as well but I find it hard to find something in them, all my clothes get wrinkled, and I prefer rolling all of my possessions than carrying them on my shoulders.

    1. 🙂 Yes, a duffel bag can look pretty cool! I love the convenience of a rolling suitcase for city trips. But somehow I can’t get over my love for my backpack. I just need a lot of compartments in it or some more packing cubes. When we are going more off the beaten track, roads aren’t always in a good condition to roll a suitcase on. But in cities, this is usually not a problem and then it feels so good not to carry everything on your shoulders.

  7. OMG! Mind blown! I never would have thought to put one of my tile trackers in my luggage. That is genius, guys. 😉 I’ve always been a suitcase kinda traveler so never any question here, but I loved the introduction to the other choices.

  8. Nifty guide and great outline of pros and cons. For us, we are firmly in the rolling suitcase with two wheels camp most of the time. We have tested both extensively and four wheels are great in airplanes, smooth surfaces, and if you are perching another smaller bag atop. Though we have seen numerous four-wheel models coming out of the baggage carousels with one or more wheels bent or torn off. And, if you are on any sort of rough or uneven surface with four wheels? Fuggetaboutit. 😉

    1. The suitcases with 4 wheels that we use are carry on suitcases. They are very small, we put them in the overhead compartment and so we were lucky to keep all our wheels on! 🙂 We are quite new in traveling with a suitcase instead of our backpacks. I am sure we are going to keep on trying out different options. Thanks for your input!

  9. Great tips here! I definitely agree that how often you’re going to travel should be a high priority when choosing a bag. I’m a light packer and tend to go for longer trips, so I’m currently using a waterproof backpack that zips al around to make finding things easier. I’m looking for a new suitcase and I’m definitely going to check out some of these recs!

  10. I certainly have different luggage for different trips, sometimes though I think I have to much choice and takes me forever to decided. Saying that I am ways in the look out for new luggage and you have some great ideas here. I really like Samsonite winfield Spinner that has the built in lock because I am always losing my locks. I am also a big fan of Osprey I use there backpacks now.

    1. I must admit that I have too many packing possibilities too which makes it very hard to choose for me too. I often am fully packed and on the last moment switch everything into another option 🙂

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