There are so many different suitcases and bags on the market that choosing the right suitcase for the job can be a bit daunting. You can, with the tips provided in this series, learn to make whatever bags you have on hand work for you, but knowing what bags are best suited for what types of items is a decided leg up. We’ve broken down some of the most common suitcase styles for you, with notes on what will and will not work best.
For those just joining us, I recommend that you check out the original post of this series, titled Leader of the Pack, packing tips for vacations. It’s got the hub of links to follow through one lesson at a time.
Leader of the PackThe right suitcase for the job
What bag you use largely dictates what you’re capable of packing safely into it. We’ve broken down common packing needs into the following categories, and rated some of the more common bag styles in each. Which suitcase will work best for you will depend largely on what you are packing, how you are traveling and where you are going.
Each bag will be rated from 1 to 3 in the following areas:
- Ease of use
- Storage options
The Garbage Bag
You read that right! Packing your gear into a garbage bag has merit, but only for specific needs! I pack all of my clothing and linens into black garbage bags when we move. As we only use white bags for trash, we don’t accidentally confuse the clothes with trash mid process. If you’re packing to move to a new home, this is a fantastic way to store your softer stuff! If you’re packing for a trip, however, this is the least pleasant option for you. Trying to access your gear in a garbage bag is a sloppy prospect. The bags can easily tear and offer you no ability to organize whatsoever. Further, it’s impossible to travel via plane with your items packed this way. If you absolutely must pack your stuff into a garbage bag for a trip, please make sure you’re driving to where you’re going!
This is a good option for smaller, shorter trips for one to two people. With a duffel, you get a good amount of general space, and most bags have a number of pockets on the ends that are perfect for small toiletries, socks and underwear. They tend to be fairly sturdy, but you won’t want to be packing anything breakable into these.
A great option for grab and go gear, the versatile tote bag is perfect for a single person as an overnight bag. We also love them for organizing smaller items together in one place, such as for a beach bag. These can be tedious in numbers, though, and will not do you any favors as your sole source of baggage for any trip.
The backpack has come a long way since your school days. Having a good quality pack on hand is a godsend for emergency trips, media storage or weekender bags. We have a backpack style media bag that has extra padding to protect all of our tech, and it’s by far our most favorite bag for such items. (Media bags get heavy FAST and having that weight on our backs frees us up to carry the rest of our luggage.) Due to its smaller size, however, this bag is best used for a single individual and shorter trips. This is also the perfect answer for those traveling with children, as they can easily carry their own gear.
Above and beyond our favorite option for longer trips, a good quality suitcase with outer pockets is one of the best ways to store everything you need while you are away. Opt for styles with increased storage areas (that little zipper that goes around the top of the suitcase which unzips, giving you about 2 more inches of packing space) and wheels built in. Models that have wheels should also have a collapsable pull built into the bag, as well. The versatility of storage with one of these bags is almost endless, but there are so many products with inferior durability. You get what you pay for with these suitcases, so splurge a bit and go at least mid range in price.
The Hard Shell Suitcase
We prefer to look at these as a specialized bag, as using a hard shell suitcase for general packing can be a bit of a letdown. The lack of exterior pockets or increased space options leaves little for customization. However, if you’re traveling with sensitive material, these protective bags are the best way to go! A good quality hard shell will not come cheap, but if you’re porting lots of delicate equipment (such as tech or glass items) this bag will go far to keep your stuff safe. Of course, you will need to properly pack those items to make sure they stay safe INSIDE the bag, because the hard shell can damage your stuff if it’s bounced around. And we all know that some of those baggage handlers at the airport seem to thrive on seeing who can pitch luggage the farthest.*
*I jest. I’m sure that many baggage handlers have the upmost respect for the property of others. It’s awesome if your dad is a baggage handler. Thank him for being delicate with my bits, won’t you?
As you can see above, each bag has a time and a place for your packing. Having the proper baggage for your needs is vital in being able to keep your stuff neat, safe and on hand. Tune in next time as we cover how to properly pack your toiletries and accessories!