CHOOSING THE RIGHT LUGGAGE
Shopping around a new luggage for your next trip? Are you the backpack or suitcase type? Travelling with the proper equipment will surely improve the quality of your trip by reducing the discomfort of carrying your belongings in an inadequate case. Here’s a list of things to consider in the search for the perfect baggage.
Backpack or Suitcase
Type of Travel
For an adventure trip, a backpack might be the best option. If you’re planning on moving a lot and have a good amount of walking to do, a backpack allows you to move freely and your unoccupied hands will give you the opportunity to take pictures or do similar small tasks. If you’re going from point A to point B only (cruise, resort, vacation rentals), on a business or a road trip, a suitcase will provide you with a quick and easy access to your clothes, which will also most likely be less wrinkled than they would be coming out of a bag.
Does the country you’re planning on visiting have sinuous, rocky or mountainous roads that you’ll have to stride across? Are there neighbourhoods with long outdoor stairs leading from one level to another? Does it rain often and heavily in that area? Is this destination mostly frequented by classy tourists of backpackers? If sidewalks are uneven or non-existing, carrying a suitcase will be challenging. Same goes for muddy, snowy, sandy or hilly roads.
Carrying a backpack isn’t easy, no matter how light it is. Some bags have good support systems to help balance the weight properly, but it’s vital to keep your physical condition in mind when choosing the right luggage; a suitcase will be much easier to carry if you have spine or neck problems or simply not much stamina. Keep in mind that you must be able to lift and carry your bag or suitcase, potentially without help and for long distances.
A backpack’s volume is calculated in litres, which represents the available storage space inside the bag. The capacity usually varies between 10 and 100 litres and is often part of the bag’s model name. Choose a bag with a volume adapted to your trip (destination, length and climate). A short trip won’t require the same amount of clothes as a big adventure and your needs will be different for a vacation in hot climate versus a place with cold or varied temperatures. Don’t go for the biggest bag just in case, because a good backpack is not about size, it’s adapted to your needs (based on your height, weight, breast, etc.). You should ask a professional for help when picking a backpack; they’ll be able to point out the best suited options for your body type.
Make sure your backpack has a good support system (straps, belt, suspension, frame, back panel, padding, etc.) that is adjustable and will balance the weight properly. Ask the clerk to teach you how to adjust your bag; good support and a nice fitting will largely influence how comfortably you’ll wear it.
Backpacks come with a variety of features that can influence your decision. A waterproof fabric or rain cover might be useful in certain countries. Lateral zippers allowing you to access the content of your bag without having to remove everything is a big plus for some people. Bags with multiple pockets offer nice organizational options, but you can also use packing cubes instead. A breathable mesh back panel might give you extra comfort in a hot and humid environment or during long hikes.
Suitcases come with soft or hard shells. Soft suitcases, made of fabric, are usually lighter than the hard shell ones, which are made of plastic and aluminum. On the other hand, fabric suitcases are more delicate and easier to stain or tear than the plastic ones. While soft suitcases often come with multiple pockets, most hard shell suitcases only have one compartment, but offer better shock and weather protection.
Suitcases are available in many formats, from the tiny carry-on size to the extra-large 120-litre capacity. While big suitcases allow you to carry large pieces of equipment, they generate the risk of exceeding the maximum weight allowance, which will cause extra fees that can be pretty steep. It’s possible to buy a set of matching suitcases that nest inside one another for better storage or strapped on top of each other for easier transportation.
Suitcases have 2 or 4 wheels. Each model has its advantage and inconvenient. 2 wheels suitcases are usually more economical and durable, because encased wheels are less breakable than 4 exterior wheels. The 360˚ rotational 4-wheel sets manoeuver nicely on flat surfaces, but 2 wheels suitcases tend to do better on hills.
In Any Case
Daypack or Handbag
Whether you decide to go for a backpack or suitcase, make sure to bring a little daypack or handbag to carry your belongings during the day. Daypacks are great for hikes, city adventures and beach time. Your bag must be big enough to fit a water bottle, sunscreen/bug spray, a towel or jacket and a few snacks. If you’re going on a business trip, a handbag might be good enough, unless you have to carry a laptop or paper files, in which case messenger bags and briefcases might be better options.
Some suitcases have combination locks. If not, look at your luggage’s zippers to see if it’s possible to fit a padlock in the slider. Make sure the padlock respects the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority’s requirements, as the security and border agents must be able to open your luggage at all time. Being able to lock your baggage is useful during train or bus rides and when you leave your hostel dorm for the day. Picking a bag or suitcase with an original colour or funky pattern is also a good idea, as it will not only allow you to spot it quickly on the baggage carousel, but it will also lower the risks of confusion between passengers who might leave with the wrong generic black suitcase. Don’t forget to identify your luggage with your home and destination contact information in order to be reachable should it get mistaken, lost or delayed.
Carry-on or Checked
In general, bags under 40 litres are accepted as carry-on. Preferred dimensions for suitcases are usually below 50 x 35 x 20 cm (20 x 13 x 8 inches). Requirements may vary from one company to another, so make sure you verify before each flight/ride to avoid bad surprises.
Unless you have a very limited amount of travel to do, duffel bags are not ideal luggage because they have no support system in place, except for a few newer versions now available with wheels for ease of transportation. Many people love duffel or sports bags for their large storage space; one single big compartment, without any complicated straps or belts to adjust. Be aware though; the content of your bag is likely to get all messed up during handling processes at the airport or station! As their popularity is growing, duffel bags are now offered in fancier styles, with nice fabric like suede and leather, and handy outside pockets allowing you to keep certain items easily accessible. Often accepted as carry-on, they’re a good option for people who want to avoid waiting at the registration kiosk or baggage carousel.
Don’t hesitate to ask your friends, coworkers and family members; borrowing is more affordable than buying!