To Backpack or not To Backpack

It surprised me on my first day in Australia how many ‘backpackers’ had cases on wheels.

In my naïve brain, all backpackers followed the same rules; the classic 60 ltr backpack with all of their souvenirs and dirty boots dangling off of it. Although these guys are still the norm, it’s not necessarily the only way to transport your gear.
Personally, I’ve used the same backpack for the past 4 years. It a Blacks 35-40 ltr free flow that I bought at millets a week before I left for Sydney.
This is the only photo I currently have of the bag full. I was actually dropping off the spare towels so they didn’t come along for the ride, however tucking things in the outside straps (damp towels/clothes or my jacket for the day) really helped me out.

It looks tiny, and when compared to other people’s it is, but you’d be surprised at how much you can pack when thinking strategically. It meant that I could carry it all day with no issues, it easily fit under beds and into most lockers, and it also forced me to be frugal, preventing me from wasting money, weight and space that I just didn’t have. The small backpack meant that I also didn’t join the crowd of ‘dying turtles’ at greyhound stops (you know the ones, the group of people frantically trying to get up, like an upturned turtle?).

Although I had this backpack with me, I actually arrived in Sydney with a suitcase. To be honest, this was mainly because I paid £700 for a plane ticket that included 22kg luggage (that I clearly wouldn’t fit in my 35 ltr). This was also because I was lucky enough to have a family friend living on the outskirts of Northern Syd, who said I could leave my excess things at his house. As it was my first time solo, I wanted to make sure I had everything I could possibly need for a year. Looking back this was a bit of a waste. After the first week, I don’t think I ever went to Stu’s house to change what was in my backpack. I either bought or made do.


Larger = There is no denying that you can fit a lot more in a suitcase. A medium holds around 75 ltr, a large carries 120. Unless you’re Hafthor Bjornsson, you can’t walk around with that on your back. Most backpack users actually end up carrying smaller pack on their front to make up for lost room.

Wheels = Do you realize how jealous I was of people wheeling their luggage down the road!? Or even just having them to sit on when waiting for a bus. You will not know back sweat until you’ve hiked down a road in 35 degree heat with a backpack on.

Less Damage = Suitcases are designed to be thrown about in storage. Backpacks aren’t internally supported, so the items inside can get damaged when being chucked onto an undercarriage. The outer layer can also tear pretty easily, and I shudder to remember the number of shampoo explosions I had to endure.

Easy Access = To put it plainly, it’s a massive ball-ache when you realise your iPod is stuck at the bottom of your backpack. Good luck with seeing that for the next 12 hours.


Bulky = For some god-forsaken reason, not all hostel bunk beds are the same height (weird, I know). Usually, for safety or tidiness, people store their bags under the beds. And sometimes big suitcases don’t fit. Nobody wants to have to maneuver around a big suitcase in a cramped hostel room. Even when it’s your own case.

Transport = No destination is 100% perfect. Roads are bumpy, tracks are hidden and there are hills everywhere. Case wheels just aren’t designed for cross-country.

Size = I know I said the size can be positive, but it can also have its drawbacks. Unless you have a smaller sized bag with you, you’re not going to want to bring that case with you for a weekend or a day trip. Sometimes with check in/check out and different activities, you have to keep your bags with you for an extended period, which is a pain in the arse when it’s the size and weight of a dead body. Also, if you have a smaller backpack like mine, some airlines allow you to use that as your hand luggage, meaning no delays whilst you wait for your case.

Over Packing = I’m pretty sure I’ve written another post about this before, but over packing is a big no-no. It is a waste of time and effort, because even if you pack your bare minimum, you will render something useless. This was my problem with bringing a case. Some of my stuff never even got unfolded. Having 100 litres doesn’t mean you have to PACK 100 litres.


Personally, I choose a backpack, but only after experience. I’ve also seen a few people try the ‘best of both worlds’, a wheelie case with back straps, however I always think these are heavier and more bulky than either. I guess it really just comes down to what your ‘essentials’ are. I don’t really dress up or do my hair when I’m travelling (or ever) so heels and straighteners are just a waste of space to me. However, if you know you’re not drifting away from the main towns and cities, there isn’t much point in shoving all of your worldly possessions on your back. Either way, you’re going to get sick of dragging it around within the first month, GUARANTEED!


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