I tend to get quizzed, from time to time. A friend of mine asked me about my luggage situation the other day. This seemed like a worthwhile topic for an entry, so here we go.
To start the discussion, I will say that I am not opposed to buying luggage. I have bought lots of it. I have used lots of it once, and then given it away. My old office manager can attest to the fact that I was randomly coming in with backpacks, and camelbacks, and such for her. I guess I’m picky.
Okay, probably a fair assessment. I tend to find luggage that I like and hold onto it until it dies. When I replace it, if I’m remotely unhappy with the replacement, it goes. I want things that work the way that I want them to work. If they can’t do that, I’ll go buy something else. This approach leads to a lot of trial and error.
I have found that my packing falls into two wide types. I am, by nature, a backpacker. If I’m traveling somewhere for a short period of time, say less than a month, I’m almost always going to go with a backpack. I travel light and I travel fast, so I want something that is mobile over all terrain. This is what backpacks were designed for. As for volume, less is more. My small pack, for the weekend to weeklong trips is a book-bag sized North Face (which I have had for some 20 years and I keep coming back to). It’s about 1800 Cubic Inches. For bigger trips, the multiple week stuff, I have a North Face backpack and a Kelty backpack that are both right on 30 Liters. I choose between them based mostly upon my mood when I’m packing. They are different in compartment layout and opening orientation, so I go with whichever one feels right at the time.
It is my opinion that if you pack a lot of stuff, you just end up carrying around a lot of stuff. I have spent much time amused by people with the massive 60 Liter backpack on their back and the oversized day pack strapped to their front. It’s funny to watch them struggle and bumble around. I choose not to do suck crazy things to my back. There are few places in the world where you can’t do laundry or plug in a charger. I just assume that these people are practicing to be hoarders later in life or something.
That being said, if I’m going to be out for an extended period of time, several months to years, I do have bigger bags. My go-to set is a medium and an extra-large roller duffle bag from Eastern Mountain Sports. They are big enough to hold what I need and extremely durable. Both of my roller duffels have been beating around the world with me since about 1996 or 1997 (20 plus years). They are still in good enough shape and all the seams and zippers are still intact. They make good stuff.
Normally, I only pack the duffels if I am driving to a location or have a need to actually check luggage. If I can get away without taking them, I do so. Like I said, less is more. What’s the old saying about packing, pounds lead to pain? I try to avoid that.
I have noticed an increase in the last couple years of people going to roller luggage and just wheeling it around I front of them like it’s a baby stroller or something. I can only assume these people are new to the travelling game. Once again, they’re amusing to watch.
I find from talking to people as I go that everyone has a distinct opinion on travel luggage. It seems to be a very personal kind of decision to make. Everything doesn’t work well for everyone. Prime example of this, I watched a bunch of travel TV in which this soft-sided carry-on bag, that was sized to fit in the overhead was shown as the go-to bag. It had expandable sections and stow-away backpack straps. It looked awesome. I bought one, used it twice, and threw it in the back of the closet to rot. I hated it something fierce. I went back to my old North Face. Like I said, I’m picky.
I guess the boil-down for all this is, I found something that works for me by trial and error. Lots of error. If you are not super-good with your bags, I say switch them out for something else. A good bag actually does help make a good travel experience. It holds all of your stuff, and is one less thing you need to worry about. For me, it’s backpacks. For you, it’s ….
Well, that’s my two cents anyway.
The big yearlong bag and the small weekend bag. Both twenty years old and still going strong.
As a side note, the North Face backpack (the weekend bag) has also been my gym bag for a good fifteen years. So when I say its best up, its beat up!
Now, pack a bag. Get out there!