7 Times Travel Backpacks Totally Kicked the Rolling Bag’s You know What

June 3, 2017

Rolling Bags versus Travel Backpacks: the Ultimate Traveler Dilemma

I don’t descriinate. I love travel backpacks of all shapes and sizes.

When choosing luggage for a trip, it can be difficult to decide whether to bring travel backpacks or a rolling suitcase. I have done both and can see the value of either. Actually, you know what, no. That is just me trying to be diplomatic and give the rolling bag a chance. The truth of the matter is that no matter how you slice it, the backpack is so much more convenient than the rolling bag (Unless you have a severe back problem or are moving from one country to another,).
Now, don’t get me wrong, I have used rolling bags in the past and actually currently own one, so they can be useful when staying at a single destination, but no matter what, the rolling bag always lets me down. I count on it to be easy and convenient and frankly, it usually turns into a disaster of Hurricane Katrina proportions. I should know because back when I was a novice traveller, I too thought that the rolling bag was the best thing since cake (Sorry, I really don’t think sliced bread is that awesome, although I do LOVE carbs.), but then I took my beloved rolling bag (It was a pink, Tommy Hilfiger rolling bag and I felt super posh using it. That was until it started being distant and was no longer an active participant in our relationship.) on a 6 week trip around China. Let’s just say that this decision turned my “vacation” into a real life American Horror Story (It was so bad that I tried to buy a “high quality” backpack in China, but it fell apart after about 20 hours. So I was stuck with my torture device of a suitcase for the duration of my trip.). But rather then generalize, let’s examine the multitude of ways in which the rolling bag broke my heart, stomped on it, and rolled it around in shards of glass, just for good measure (Definitely bringing my backpack if I ever make it to Ireland. Check out how awesome it is here.

1, That time my Hostel had no elevator and I had to drag it up five flights of stairs.

Yeah, you know how Joker is Batman’s ultimate arch enemy? (Even if

you don’t just go with it.) Well, stairs are kind of like the arch nemesis of the rolling bag. I mean, have you ever tried to drag a rolling bag up several flights stairs? Its kind of like trying to herd a bunch of cats and just turns into a total disaster. You feel like you’re dragging around a dead body that the mafia wants to “sleep with the fishes”. All the while, your arm feels like it’s gonna fall out of it’s socket because you’re exerting so much energy to lug this stupid bag around. Well, save yourself an impromptu foray into medical tourism and let the rolling bag go. The relationship was fun while it lasted but now that it’s Facebook official that you guys have broken up, it’s time to let go and embrace the new found glory of backpack nation (They are called backpackers for a reason. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.).

2. The rolling bag does not pass as a “personal bag”

So, you know when you are traveling by train or boat and they make you put all your “luggage” in a communal space? And you know how you totally freak out because someone is either gonna swipe your stuff or your bag is gonna succumb to it’s inevitable demise from residual luggage rack filth (please tell me this isn’t just me!)? Well, you can save yourself from such gut wrenching anxiety by relying on your dear old friend, the backpack. See, a lot of times you can get away with making the backpack a personal bag, kind of like a purse. This way, you can carry your luggage with you and avoid the communal luggage rack altogether. Now in fairness this doesn’t always work, but it happens often enough to give the backpack bragging rights over the rolling bag. I also must admit that my backpack is not one of those huge ones that looks like it can hold the entire wardrobe of a Lady Gaga concert. But, I have a love affair with my backpack since it holds everything I need (and if you’re worried about anyone stealing things out of your backpack while you’re walking, say hello to a luggage lock #backpackpride)

3. The wheels come off of a rolling bag

I loved rolling bags fiecely but they just didn’t love me back like travel backpacks.

To put it mildly, I am a rather enthusiastic traveler. I’m not one of those people who explores a single city during my vacation (Paris is the exception to this rule). Instead, I tend to move around a bit and put my wheeled luggage through some pretty punishing circumstances. Well, some wheeled bags are just not up to the challenge. I simply demand too much of them and sadly, they fold under the pressure. Usually this happens when a wheel pops out and since I am no mechanic, this problem basically renders the entire bag useless. The result is that when I need to move to a new location, I hyperventilate at the thought of schlepping around this beast of burden in the real world. Therefore, to keep myself sane, I avoid mass transit altogether and just hire a taxi to move me from one location to the next; which is not a very economical way to travel (And I can’t be taking taxis all over the place if I want to save money for my next trip. #traaveladdictproblems). But you don’t have to do that. Just save yourself the stress and money by embracing your backpacker swag. Unless you’re against saving money. Then you can go with a rolling bag (totally kidding).

4, Rolling bags suck in inclement weather

Let’s take a minute to admire the beauty and neverending support of travel backpacks.

Sure you can get one of those (heinous) scratch and dirt resistant wheeling bags, as a preemptive strike against the street filth that is generated from crappy weather, You know, the bags that come in a stunning variety of colors like black and blacker; creating an impossible to find clone of every other piece of luggage out there. But where’s the fun in that? I always like bags with a pop of color. But sadly, the vivacious designs of these wheeling bags do not hold up to rain, puddles, and the ultimate destroyed of all rolling bags…DIRT. It’s the worst when you get a brand new bag and within 5 seconds of wheeling it around, it looks like second hand luggage that you would find at a thrift shop (And not the stuff in the good thrift shops. I’m talking about the nasty, second hand sheets that no one can pay you to take. I say hell no to bed bugs.).Or how about when it rains and you roll through a huge puddle and your bag, and stuff, gets totally drenched? Not fun at all. At least backpacks have rain covers to prevent you bag and stuff from getting blue cheese level old and moldy.

5. Rolling bags encourage you to pack more (say no to peer pressure)

When packing a rolling bag, most of us try to shove as much stuff in there as possible. I mean, what would we do if we actually ran out of something? Not like they have stores or anything where we’re going. It would just be a total calamity I tell you!! LoL.
But once you’ve squeezed everything you own into your rolling bag, you tend not to lift it up and just roll it around when you’re done. You think, “Oh gee. This is pretty easy.” That is until you get to a set of stairs and actually have to lift your bag. That’s when you realize that you need Incredible Hulk strength to do so (Sorry guys, I don”t bench press. Like at all. So I am not super buff.).
With a backpack, you naturally carry it around to make sure that the weight of the bag won”t turn you into a hunch back. Plus, the bag itself is designed to be worn on the back, so it wouldn’t be designed very well if it was big enough to cripple you when you used it. Somehow, I don’t think designers would sell too much if this happened.
Also, considering backpacks are generally smaller in size than most rolling luggage, you are kind of forced to prioritize and pack only what you absolutely need. With other luggage types, you kind of just throw everything you could ever need in there because, hey, why not? You have the space right? Well it’s a good idea until you have to lift the rolling bag. That’s when you realize that you should have left that bright yellow, patent leather romper at home.

6. Rolling bags can cripple your fellow travelers.

I’m sad because rolling bags always seem to let me down.

Have you ever wheeled your bag around and accidentally rolled over someone’s toes? I know I have and I feel terrible when I pseudo maim someone with my rolling luggage. It’s easy to do because it’s hard to know the turn radius on a rolling bag. Plus, you have no idea where other people are standing in relation to your bag, so luggage violence against others ensues (we all know violence is not the answer). And when you eventually take someone’s toe out, of course they give you a filthy look and you immediately know they despise you.
I, for one, do not want to start my vacation out on the top of someone’s hit list. That’s why i’ll stick with my backpack. Sure, you can bump into things, but because the backpack is closer to your body, you have a better idea of where the bag is in relation to others. As a result, you are less likely to take someone out, or knock something over (Since I am far from graceful, I need all the help I can get so that I don’t destroy the merchandise of an entire store).

7. Everything shifts around in your rolling luggage

Look, when you pack a rolling bag, you pack it while the bag is lying on the floor. But then when you zip the bag up and roll it around vertically, your personal belongings shift around. Therefore, when you try to stand your bag up, the bag tips over because the bottom cannot support the weight of everything you packed into your luggage (Always a fun time when you try to stand your rolling bag up and it just falls over).
Well, not a problem with a backpack. You pack it the same way you carry it. As a result, the weight distribution of the bag doesn’t change and things don’t shift around and explode in your bag (With a rolling bag it’s like, “Stupid shampoo! I thought I closed the lid!! Oh well, I mean who doesn’t like to walk around with white stains on their black shirt? That’s not gross or anything.It doesn’t awkwardly remind anyone of something sexual or anything.”)So save yourself the aforementioned, abject moral indignation and use a backpack. This way, society won’t judge you too harshly (LOL).

As you can tell, me and my travel backpacks are in very serious, commited relatioships. The love runs deep.

*So I know a chief complaint about backpacks is that you can’t find anything. To solve this problem, I generally pack the items I use the most on top, and then layer the bag according to how often I need to access something while traveling. I also try and group like items into one, smaller bag so that I can find what I need quickly. Many people use packing cubes, which are basically the same idea

*Also, don’t totally fill your backpack at the start of your trip. Save some room for souvenirs so that you don’t have to throw things out to make room for new items. I mean, not that I’ve done that or anything. Okay, I totally have and it sucks so I wanted to save you from the agony of living that.

*If you’re worried about pickpockets, don’t put anything valuable in your backpack and keep all your valuables in your handbag/small backpack/money belt.

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* Did I mention that backpacks have exterior storage because of straps and bungees that can hold your pillows and shoes and such? Okay, I’m gonna stop now. You now know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that my backpack and I are in love, and it’s pretty serious.

So there you have it, my inadvertent love letter to the backpack. I hope you feel the love and make the commitment to say no to rolling suitcases. I promise, you won”t regret your decision. At least I haven’t, yet…


Nanny by day and travel blogger any other time.

I love writing and traveling and bearing my soul on the page.
I want to inspire others to face their fears and join me on an adventure.


  • Marcie 10 months ago

    I love this! I totally over pack when I bring a rolling bag! Especially when I use packing cubes! And it’s pure torture when I see the tiny elevator in Europe and have to drag my suitcase up. But, the upside is that my 3yo can sit on my rolling bag and I can haul both of them at the same time 🙂

  • Laia 10 months ago

    Oh I completely agree with you! Since I started traveling with a backpack I do prefer them 🙂 Good backpacks are comfortable to wear, I actually have a light back problem and I feel a 35L backpack is better for me (taking a rolling suitcase up the stairs or rolling in certain terrains kills my back).
    And as you say it’s easier to take it on a bus or train… I’m also too scared it might be stolen!
    Yeay for backpacks!

    • girlwiththepassport 10 months ago

      I am always terrified I am gonna have my stuff stolen. Thats why I love keeping my backpack with me

  • Penny 10 months ago

    I love my backpack and I love my roller too. I think we’ve been bitten by the rolling bag too. Especially in France where there is no such thing as elevators. That being said we struck a balance. We take the rolling bag when it is a business trip. Everywhere else it is our trusty backpack!

    • girlwiththepassport 10 months ago

      That makes a lot of sense. I like a rolling bag when I am in a single location

  • Rhiannon 10 months ago

    HAHA! I was laughing this whole time, because I am still a user of the rolling suitcase. I know, you’ve probably lost respect for me now, haven’t you? I am extremely weak, and get a sore back super easily (I’m not actually an 80 year old woman, even though it sounds like I am). So I’ve never seriously considered a backpack. But I’ve read so many rave reviews, that I might just have to give it a shot one day! Epic post, as per usual. /bowsdowntoKelly

    • girlwiththepassport 10 months ago

      Lol. You’re so sweet. Look, if you have back problems I would use a rolling bag. But I love my backpack. It is light and easy to carry and only cost $50

  • Cristina 10 months ago

    Here I was in Rome in 2012 with a rolling back. Discovered I had to take the wheels off b/c it would not fit EasyJet’s “cage”. Flew without the wheels to Athens. And back to Rome and back to Romania. My bad weighed 8 kg / 17 lbs .. lol
    Then I used a backpack. Until I needed “more clothes” and went to another wheelie bag. The Italian cobblestone killed it this Jan. I am not getting another wheelie! EVER!

    • girlwiththepassport 10 months ago

      I am so with you. Mine died along the streets of Stockholm and I vowed never again

  • Brenda 10 months ago

    Girl! I’ve been struggling for weeks thinking if I should bring a backpack on my next trip and you’re almost conveincing me that is the way to go! I still feel Im too clumsy to deal with a backpack! I still have weeks to figure it out.

    • girlwiththepassport 10 months ago

      I thought that too. I sweat, a backpack is the way to go. I would only bring a rolling bag if you are staying in one place. Otherwise transit is a nightmare

  • Melissa @ The Family Voyage 10 months ago

    Backpack lovers unite! These are all so true, which is why I made the switch about 8 years ago and haven’t looked back. I still take a roller for a domestic weekend in a hotel, but that’s it.

    Good news: lots of great packs have a front/panel load! If you’re interested in finding one, I recently posted a real-life hands-on review of the top ones for women on my site!

  • Harmony, Momma To Go 10 months ago

    As someone currently traveling around with a 3 wheeled rolly bag on its last legs… I can see your point! Keeps you hands free also! Great ideas! Now I need a good backpack…

  • Becky 10 months ago

    Ha ha love it Kelly, I am a backpack bag through and through so totally with you on this. I always look at those roller bags and think how annoying and inconvenient they are. Plus when I am running late for a train, bus or flight running is much easier with a backpack 🙂

    • girlwiththepassport 10 months ago

      Totally agree. I actually a lot of times feel bad for the people lugging around their rolling bags

  • Janie 10 months ago

    This is so true, I completely agree!! Backpacks kick rolling luggages’ behinds every time! One thing I’ve found that works really well for avoiding the hurricane Katrina effect with back packs (and probably with rolling luggage, but I will not succumb to peer pressure!) are packing cubes!! I love them almost more than my backpack itself 😉

    • girlwiththepassport 10 months ago

      Yes!! I don’t have official packing cubes but I pack everything into bas and organize them that way

  • Leah 10 months ago

    You make some really great points! I didn’t realize one of my airbnb’s was up 8 flights to stairs without an elevator… it almost killed me pulling my giant roller suitcase up to the top! Lol


  • Karin 10 months ago

    Haha, love your metaphors. When I was seventeen, I went for a five months exchange to France. I couldn´t be convinced that I really didn´t need to bring *all* my clothes with me and I also made my mom send me some extra stuff (emotional blackmailing? I still don´t get how she ever agreed to do that.) so when it was time to go home, I had to pack a ton of clothes, books (yeah, I brought AND bought a bunch of books…that I never got around to read…but that´s another story), school notes (that I threw out like a year ago) and even NEW clothes that I obviously purchased, because the French shops at the time really had better stuff than what you could get in Slovakia, duh. I dragged my overweight suitcase on train, metro, airport shuttle, upstairs, downstairs, almost missed the flight, in total, a grand experience. I wish I could tell my 17 years old self three things and one of them is you. Don´t. Need. Everything you own. The other two are study less and take more trips, hehe. Well, at the moment I actually do have a serious back problem so…but I don´t have a suitcase, my husband offered to take my stuff into his backpack. He is going to hate me so much tomorrow when we´re moving.

    • girlwiththepassport 10 months ago

      Glad I am not the only one who has done this and I am so glad you have your husband to help you put.

  • Gabby 10 months ago

    totally agree with you! a backpack is way more versatile and allows you to get around easier… I remember in Indonesia I had to jump on a boat as it was drifting away with my backpack on.. there was NO way I could do that with a rolling bag! I do have to admit though that Eastpak luggage is the best rolling luggage – wheels won’t fall off, you can stuff a lot in and they are super durable!

  • Jen 9 months ago

    This is awesome! I’m having serious carry-on issues on budget airlines right now and am thinking about changing my roller bag ways 🙂

  • Lauren 9 months ago

    I loved this! I am typically a wheeled luggage kind of girl but with a recent track record of murdering 5 suitcases in 5 trips I think I need to break up with my suitcase. Where would you recommend starting when it comes to finding a good, sturdy backpack?

    • girlwiththepassport 9 months ago

      How big a backpack do you need? I use cabin max as my carry on and it works great and only $50

  • Pericles Rosa 8 months ago

    I prefer rolling bags because everything gets much more organised though 😉

    • girlwiththepassport 8 months ago

      LoL. Love it!! I totally understand that and that’s why I always use packing cubes in my backpack. But love your rolling bag pride!!

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