Backpack vs Suitcase for Traveling

Travel bags are not only meant for carrying your luggage but are also your style quotient. That’s why choosing your best travel-mate is quite tricky. As the choice of bags depends on your traveling destination, the type of travel, the reason for travel, and most of all – your style of travel. Frequent travelers often get stuck between backpacks vs suitcases. No worries, here we give you some factors which will help you to choose between a backpack vs a suitcase for fuss-free traveling.

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Factors for Choosing a Backpack vs a Suitcase for Traveling

Backpack vs Suitcase for Traveling

Carrying Style

Backpack: A backpack comes with a hands-free style so that you can use both hands to eat or drink, capture the moments with your camera, easily give your required docs at check-ins, use your phone, carry other stuff, etc. Moreover, the advanced suspension system technology makes the backpacks more comfortable during long walks that are actually not possible with a suitcase.

Suitcase: Although suitcases don’t come in a hands-free style because one hand is always engaged. But, they come in a roll-on style that is most convenient on smooth surfaces. Almost all new suitcases feature 2-4 bottom wheels, some even come with 5 wheels for easy maneuvring. Roll-on style makes sliding your suitcase through an airport, metro station, or hotel super easy. Moreover, just rolling it behind you saves your back as compared to a backpack in which you have to carry all the weight on your own back. 

Packing or Unpacking

Backpack: The backpacks are quite harder to pack or unpack as compared to the suitcases because of their cylindrical shape and small top opening. It makes packing and unpacking quite uneasy. Moreover, you can’t utilize the tube shape space efficiently, and also it’s quite hard to organize where there is one way in and out. But, one way to resolve this issue is that you can now find some new backpacks in the market that feature an extra bottom opening, and even some come with the zippers just like the suitcase – all the way around. 

Suitcase: On the contrary, the suitcases are super easy to pack or unpack your travel luggage because of their rectangular shape and all the way around the zipper. As you can see most items in your traveling gear are rectangular shapes i.e. books, laptops, toiletry organizers, folded clothes, tablets, etc. In addition, you can unpack an item without disturbing other travel essentials with an all-around open zipper.

Easy Gear Access

Backpack: The backpack features a relatively small one-way in and one way out top opening that makes it quite harder to easily access what you want in your backpack. As you have to first take out or fold all the above stuff before reaching the bottom gear.

Suitcase: You can fold open the suitcase like a laptop. The wide opening feature makes organizing super easy, helps you to easily access all of your travel gear, and allows you to take one without digging. 

Wrinkle-Free Clothes

Backpack: The main disadvantage of a backpack is that you can’t get wrinkle-free clothes for a business meeting or for a destination wedding because of its odd cylindrical shape. However, the best way to store your clothing is to roll them and put it in the backpack. It may help to fit more clothes in your backpack and also aid to get wrinkle-free clothes.

Suitcase: On the other hand, a suitcase allows you to store your clothes folded flat that avoid wrinkles. Thus, you can pack your formal wear without any worry about wrinkling. Moreover, no more worries about your traveling for business or somewhere where you may not get iron for your clothes.

Better Protection to Travel Essentials

Backpack: The backpacks usually come soft-sided that’s why your belongings can get banged up if you didn’t pack with care. Moreover, it can be an issue at times for a flight as baggage handlers don’t bother tossing your bags around without any care of your travel essentials. However, just carrying a carry-on backpack can resolve this problem.

Suitcase: Nowadays, suitcases come with a hard-case shell and some are even equipped with a special type of rigid plastic around their edges that keep your gear safe from any damage as a result of any sudden drops or over-compression during traveling. You can also protect your travel gear from any damage as a result of mishandling by the baggage handlers at the airports. 

Risk of Injury

Backpack: Overpacking your backpack, not wearing it properly, or long time carrying can cause pain to your back, shoulders, neck, or hips. It is generally recommended to carry a weight of up to 20% of your body weight in your backpack. If you go any further, you add the risk of injury. Thus, avoiding overpacking, wearing it properly, and giving frequent rest to your back can decrease the risk of any mishap.

Suitcase: The suitcase can also increase the risk of injury at overly crowded places. It is quick easier to control your backpack luggage as compared to a rolling back suitcase. The wheels may run over other people’s feet or crash into someone’s ankles, it makes you embarrassed a lot.

More Pockets and Compartments

Backpack: There are more pockets and compartments in a backpack and some of the latest backpacks have outside straps & mesh pockets to handle your scarfs, denim jackets, water bottle, boots, umbrellas, even tents, etc. However, don’t make it bulky. 

Suitcase: On the other side, suitcases don’t feature as many pockets as a backpack has. In addition, they are not packable, expandable, and don’t come with an outside strap to attach extra stuff. They have usually a flat exterior, thus you can store whatever fits inside.

Type of Accommodation

Backpack: The backpacks are more lovable in a hostel-type setting. You’ll find yourself blending more, as you may see that 99% of guests in any hostel use backpacks. Thus, you can be seen as an alien elitist for carrying a suitcase at a hostel or backpacker bnbs.

Suitcase: Moreover, if you have to end up at a high-end hotel or formal setting, go for a suitcase. You may look a little awkward if you travel with a backpack as a high-end traveler i.e. business and vacation travelers.

Type of Travel

Backpack: If you are an adventurer and love to go in the wilds, go for a backpack. As you can easily carry it while on any adventure. Moreover, choose a backpack for a destination where you know that you have to travel frequently from one place to another, so in this setting rolling back your suitcase can make you more tired and feels a little awkward.

Suitcase: It is meant for a formal setting or where you have to just put it down at a hotel and go. Moreover, suitcases are preferable during air travel where there are no more worries about straps getting caught as you go through the aisle. 

Type of Surface

Backpack: Literally, you can climb over rough mountains, walk on the hanging bridges, pass the streams, explore the wilds while wearing back your backpack. Moreover, not just being in wild, backpacks are easy to carry while going upstairs or downstairs. You can pass any terrain with a backpack.

Suitcase: On the contrary, roller suitcases only to be preferred on smooth surfaces i.e. airports, hotels, etc. But don’t opt for rolling a suitcase on normal sidewalks, especially on cobblestone streets i.e. in many European countries. Moreover, you have to carry your rolling suitcase on the stairs where there are no elevators.


Backpack: Nowadays, hiking backpacks are a popular choice for many outdoor travelers. As they are more sturdy, can be left in the rain, and can be backed during a long walk on uneven terrain. Hiking backpacks are extremely durable as compared to their counterpart – suitcases. They are abrasions resistant, washable, packable, rough-tough use, and long-lasting.

Suitcase: Suitcases are designed for occasional travel. Although some suitcases last many years, but not as long as compared to a backpack of the same quality. 

Healthy Carrying

Backpack: The best thing is that a backpack distributes the weight evenly on your back, shoulders, and hips. If worn properly, a good-quality hiking backpack offers long walks on uneven terrain without any injury. 

Suitcase: On the other hand, suitcases feature a single handle that doesn’t distribute the weight, evenly to your body. Your body has to carry all the weight on one side which puts an unhealthy strain on your back, shoulders, wrist, and hips. In worst situations where you have to carry it, you can injure your back if you do not handle it carefully. Carrying all of that weight on a particular joint or muscle is strenuous, unnatural, and can be disastrous. 

Flight Weight Limits

Backpack: The good news is with backpacks, you can carry more stuff on airplanes. As they are lighter than suitcases, so allow to pack more but within the airplane limits. A carry-on backpack can save you from hectic fees while traveling by air.

Suitcase: Hard-shell and 4-wheeled suitcases are a bit heavier and engage a significant portion of airport baggage weight limits. Thus it doesn’t allow you to carry more stuff during air travel. Moreover, you have to pay for your extra weight.


Backpack: You can use your backpack for camping, hiking, gym, shopping, and even at college, while not traveling. 

 Suitcase: On the other side, you can only use your suitcase solely for traveling.


Currently, the backpack and suitcase’s latest models come with waterproof and abrasion-resistant features. You can choose water packs for a constant rain shower.

Travel Style


Backpacks are generally more in fashion nowadays. They give you a cool, adventurous, daring, gypsy, and unbeatable backpacker look. 

Suitcase: They are usually meant for business, formal, and elite vacationer look.

Backpack vs Suitcase in a Glance

Carrying StyleHands-free styleRoll-on style
Packing or UnpackingTough to pack or unpack in a cylindrical shapeEasy to pack or unpack in a rectangular shape
Easy Gear Access
Wrinkle-Free Clothes
Better Protection to Travel Essentials
Risk of Injury
in terms of falling with it

in terms of runs over people’s feet
More Pockets & Compartments
Type of AccommodationHostel, backpacker bnbsHotels, formal residence
Type of TravelAdventurous travel, Frequent traveling Business Travel, High-end Travel, Formal Travel
Type of SurfaceUneven terrain, hikingEven and smooth surfaces, airports
Healthy Carrying
Flight Weight Limits
as a hiking bag, gym bag, college bag
Travel StyleCool, daring, adventurousFormal
Backpack vs Suitcase for Traveling

Backpack vs Suitcase for Traveling: Which one to choose in which scenario?

Still confused! Here is a simple guide, which makes it easy to choose a backpack vs a suitcase for traveling:

Pick a Backpack If

  • One has to walk around on foot on uneven surfaces with your bag.
  • Backpacking from one destination to another during your whole travel.
  • One has to be super fit to carry weight on his/her back. Try to travel light.
  • One is a pocket-lover and eager to organize things in various pockets.
  • Want to be hands-free and explore the wilds.

Pick a Suitcase If

  • You don’t need to carry your luggage with you from one place to another while spending your full tour in one hotel.
  •  Moreover, you don’t need to walk by having a taxi or motor vehicle to commute from destination A to B.
  • You know that you are not enough strong to carry weight all the way on your trip.
  • Finally, you are beauty-conscious and don’t want to ruin your fancy clothes, shoes, or your business attire.

In the end, it’s only your own choice what you prefer between a backpack vs a suitcase for traveling. Because what feels easy and cool to you, maybe not good for others. As a 70-year old lady can look much daring and cool with her roly-poly suitcase.

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