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The choice to bring either a backpack or a suitcase with wheels (rolling luggage) to Europe depends on your travel plans and your personal travel style. Hands-Free Travel — Having full use of your hands makes navigating European streets and public transportation much easier. Easily Navigate Stairs and Streets — Traversing cobblestone roads and the myriad of stairs is made easy with a backpack.
Comfortable — Assuming you have a backpack that fits well and isn’t overpacked, a backpack can actually be pretty comfortable.
Easy to Store — Hostels usually have personal lockers and a backpack will fit in those fine.
Airline Travel — Between the baggage handlers and the conveyor belts used to route luggage, the airlines aren’t exactly known for being gentle on backpacks.
Cost — A quality backpack isn’t cheap (although there are some nice budget friendly options — see my article about buying travel backpacks). Not Having to Carry Bag — Obviously, with wheeled luggage you don’t need to carry any of your stuff. Airline Safe — Suitcases are meant to travel well in checked-luggage (assuming a baggage handler isn’t having a bad day).
Trains — The majority of luggage space on a train is above the seat so be sure you can lift your bag above your head. Harder to Store in Hostels — If you’re staying in a hostel be aware that most lockers are too small for standard luggage.
Hands Full — You’ll always have to keep one hand on your bag which will hinder your mobility.
Like I stated before, the choice between a backpack and a rolling luggage comes down to personal preference. There are convertible wheeled backpacks available that have both backpack straps and wheels — which allows you to choose how to haul around you bag.
If you're a woman that wants to embark on some serious adventure travel or just independent travel around Europe, then a well-designed travel backpack is the way to go for hands-free ready-to-go travel.
Traveling with just one piece of luggage is wonderfully convenient in transit, but can be limiting once you've reached your destination.
The Thrive backpack from Eagle Creek is loaded with innovative features, including an ergonomic, adjustable X-ACT suspension system with contoured shoulder straps, adjustable sternum strap, and hip belt - all designed to fit a woman's shape. Front panel loading provides easy access to your gear, and compression straps keep contents secure. The micro-adjusting harness suspension allows you to adjust the torso length for a precise fit, and the slim, tapered shoulder straps include special load lifter angle adjustments that reduce fatigue and balance the weight.
This hi-tech backpack is built for serious adventure travel without sacrificing creature comfort. A full-sized, detachable daypack for day trips with contoured straps, fleece-lined electronics pockets, audio portals and security zippers which offers plenty of organization, including water bottle pockets.
Top load access and the front panel load design makes for easy packing and unpacking, and an internal cargo net keeps contents secure for even better packability.
The padded, contoured air mesh hip belt alleviates pressure points on the hips and ensures comfort in all terrains. The front-loading main backpack bag includes a cargo net and interior compression straps to firmly secure contents, and the zippered, fleece-lined top-load pocket is perfect for delicate electronics, sunglasses or a digital camera. The problem with backpacks is that they're either too small to bring everything you need or too large to carry on.

The problem is that backpacks with wheels combine the worst elements of backpacks and of suitcases.
A random sampling of rolling backpacks on eBags showed an average weight of nearly 7 pounds (3 kg). Using the rolling backpack as a wheeled suitcase leaves you at the mercy of easily broken plastic wheels. Rolling backpacks have the worst features of suitcases (delicate wheels and extra weight) and of backpacks (poor organization) and negate the best features of both. Store your toiletries in an external pocket so you can quickly remove them in the airport security line. Finally, backpacks offer external compression straps to compress your bag when it isn't full.
Suitcases are better designed for reaching any item without disturbing the rest of your stuff. Suitcases use interior compression straps to hold your stuff in place and condense your load.
Before the trip, we did extensive research, but couldn't find the perfect piece of luggage.
We knew that suitcases couldn't handle the streets of Europe and were too bulky for a trip where we were constantly on the move. The result was the Tortuga, a carry-on-sized backpack that's light and ergonomic, so you can carry it on your back.
To learn more about how the Tortuga combines the best elements of a backpack and a suitcase, click the button below to go to the product page.
We’ve already discussed how to choose the perfect backpack for Europe and we have a list of our favorite travel backpacks for Europe — so be sure to read those two articles if you choose a backpack. Don’t expect to find escalators and elevators in most European public transportation. Most of the time a suitcase is too large so you’ll need some other way to secure your stuff. Most backpacks have lot of straps that can get caught on the conveyor belts and sometimes they get ripped off (not fun). I always try to promote traveling light but if you find yourself needing to travel with your entire wardrobe, you might want to save your back and just use a suitcase. However, you can usually get a decent wheeled suitcase at discount stores like TJ Maxx or Marshalls for about $40-90. This is probably largely due to the fact that everyone already has a suitcase and they don’t want to spend more money to buy something new. There might be other places to store your bag, but they probably won’t be as safe as a personal locker.
Personally, I prefer using a travel backpack and that is what I recommend for budget travelers and people who are going to be visiting a lot of places. While I haven’t personally used them, I have checked out the Osprey Sojourn Wheeled Luggage, Osprey Meridian, and the Patagonia MLC Wheelie at my local travel store. That’s why we created The Savvy Backpacker — an independent resource to help give you the skills and knowledge to travel through Europe on a backpacker’s budget. If you've been shopping for a comfortable backpack and having difficulty find one that's sized and designed for a woman, then you'll definitely be interested in the this special women's backpack below which offers excellent value and storage capacity. This versatile, thoughtfully designed travel backpack bag gives you plenty of options, and its ergonomic design with contoured shoulder straps and hip belt is designed especially to fit a woman's body. Other smart extras include a bottom compartment with internal zippered stowaway dividers, detachable waterproof rain and security cover, and central lock positioning that allows you to secure all the main entry points with a single lock.

Lightweight, highly durable, and perfect for journeys off the beaten path, this well designed back pack from Eagle Creek has an independent suspension system designed especially for women that incorporates 3D foam, soft knit binding, non-slip lumbar material, moisture-wicking Aero Mesh, a fully padded hip belt, and adjustable shoulder, sternum and load lifter straps. The 3-in-1 Travel Shell does triple duty as a rain cover, security cover, and stand-alone duffel, and tucks into its own compartment. Soft, breathable foam provides moisture-wicking ventilation, and side compression straps with wings ensure load stability. Bottom lash straps let you attach extra gear, and tall, flat exterior side pockets hold walking staffs, fishing rods or tent poles.
I faced this decision when I took my first big international trip to Eastern Europe in 2009. Using carry-on-sized luggage will save you hundreds of dollars in baggage fees and plenty of time at the airport. They're useless on the cobblestone streets of Europe and dirt roads of underdeveloped countries. Regardless of size, backpacks must be packed vertically leaving your stuff a disorganized mess.
The increased weight makes the bag more difficult to carry and more likely to exceed airlines' carry on baggage weight allowances. If designed with adequate padding and a hip belt to distribute weight on to your hips and off of your shoulders, backpacks can be comfortable even when fully packed. While the insides of a backpack may get jumbled, the external pockets allow you to have important items within arm's reach. Keep your map, guidebook, and water bottle within easy reach while walking from public transportation to your hotel.
Hard shell cases don't have any, making them inconvenient for getting through airport security. Too many backpack companies ignore this concept and make giant bags taller than the person wearing them. By using hand luggage, you avoid $50 baggage fees on roundtrip flights, ensure that the airlines can't lose your bags, and minimize your time at the airport. We learned the lessons above and designed the Tortuga after making terrible luggage choices on a trip to Eastern Europe in 2009. My clothes were embarrassingly wrinkled, and I made a mess of the hostel every time I got dressed. There you'll find more pictures and information about the other features that make the Tortuga the ultimate travel backpack. This guide will show the advantages and the disadvantages to both travel backpacks and rolling luggage for traveling Europe and will hopefully help you choose which option is best for you. Trust me, everyday I see people in the Paris Metro trying to lug a huge suitcase up its multiple flights of stairs and it isn’t fun. I’d guess that a vast majority of younger travelers use backpacks and older travelers tend to use suitcases. But, because it has wheels, you'll be carrying an extra two to six pounds of now-useless plastic. To reach something farther down in your bag, you have to unpack everything above it, then repack it afterwards. However, many newer travel backpacks have zip-away shoulder straps which make the bag safe for being checked.

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