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Myth? : Americans travelling light

Ever since I got back from my trip this summer, I've been wondering if the trend for carry-on/travel backpacks is shrinking (sorry for the pun). I used the Osprey Transporter, (46 liters & best backpack I ever used) it fit everything I needed for 2 months + souvenirs. I'm 6'0 185#, yet I was seeing a majority of travellers with luggage considerably larger than mine (one girl had a suitcase she could have fit it). I'm curious to know if RS posters like to travel with travel packs, and if your impressions were similar to mine around Europe?

Posted by
10344 posts

This is a popular subject on the RS Website: I searched on the phrase "pack light" and got 578 hits just on this website. As a very general statement subject to many exceptions, I myself have gotten the impression that on average Americans may well be taking Rick's pack light advice. I've seen people from other countries who are dragging awfully large bags over the cobblestones, it may be that they are hauling more clothing, shoes, etc.

Posted by
1455 posts

This trend is not shrinking for me! I swear on traveling with a 20 inch suitcase and 1 school backpack. That's all I need for 2-3 weeks worth of travel.

The backpack is a "must" in case some airlines like Easyjet forces me to check in my suitcase.

Posted by
104 posts

Some people will not be happy without bringing every item they own.

There are as many options as there are trips to take.

We use a wheeled convertible backpack and I think each time we go it gets lighter.

Posted by
4125 posts

A chacun son gout, I guess. Your pack is about 50% bigger than mine and seems really huge to me. But all the travel packs available today are a bit supersized.

I only worry about other people's luggage when it threatens to squeeze out mine (or me!). Airline rules, though irksome, have made this less likely.

Posted by
932 posts

The last time we went I brought a HUGE suitcase, but ended up borrowing someone's backpack when we got there to make it easier traveling to each destination. This time, we're all using backpacks as we have 5 different destinations in 3 weeks. BUT, if we were only going to 1 or 2 different destinations, I'd definitely bring my big suitcase. I like to bring a lot of stuff. I'm always worried I'll wish I had something. I know this isn't at ALL practical. But my backpack is over 4000 cubic inches, so I should be okay! We'll see how it goes... If I run out of room, my husband's backpack is bigger than mine, so he can pick up my slack!

Posted by
389 posts

Joel, this summer we were stuck trying to get on a train behind 2 girls with 4 huge pieces EACH! The conductor gave them what for and told them it wasn't okay to travel and take up so much room and time. My sis-in-law was with me and they had lived in Hungary. She said the Hungarians (and other Europeans) actually move using suitcases and the train. I think that real travelers pack as light as they can just because you always wish you had if you don't.

Posted by
20 posts

I travel for weeks out of one bag. Last year, it was 3 weeks in France, one bag (my gym bag) plus one messenger bag. That was summer, though, and it is more difficult to travel light during cold weather--I usually have to check luggage then, as the clothes are bulkier and I do pack a little extra in case something gets wet. But for the most part, my philosophy is, carousels are for amusement parks, not airports.

BTW, I have yet to meet anyone who's returned from a trip and said, "I wish I had brought more stuff with me."

Posted by
3580 posts

I've been traveling with the carry-on size backpack for years now, but I would say I am definitely in the minority even on Rick Steves tours. Most people traveling with only carry-on size bags use wheels. I've tried that and found that in crowded situations people tend to trip over my wheeled luggage. I will continue with the backpack as long as I can. I feel much more mobile.

Posted by
683 posts

We traveled for 5 1/2 moonths in 10 countries in Europe with just backpacks. Mine was about 22 lbs and Sara's about 15. It is all in not bringing what you can buy there and taking what is essential, not a frill.
Can"t say that we missed having extra space for more stuff.

Posted by
1568 posts

We traveled for 8 weeks and each had a Rick Steves 21" Roll Aboard and a day back pack. Mailed out purchases back home approximately once a week.

Only way to go.....Travel Light.

Posted by
769 posts

Joel - do you have any problem taking your 46L on as a carry on? is it still under 8kilo? I always need an extra day pack for books, camera etc since thats always 8-k by itself - even when packing light using an RS-convertible bag.

Posted by
83 posts

All incredibly interesting views on this, I must say! I was fully expecting to run into alot more people like you.

To respond: I was never challenged at check-in on any flight since the size is carry-on compatible. BTW, the model actually is called the "Porter 46" (1.33 kg). Dont get me started on how good Osprey is.. I actually emailed them after returing home, I was so impressed.

Aside from the airplane, it's nice to be mobile at those times when you're looking for a place to stay in a new city or you're running to get on that train or get off that bus, etc.

Just to point out though, I made the assumption that with all the sensible advice on how to travel efficiently and easily EVERYONE would be doing it. But recreational world travellers are still just a slice of the pie.

I also noticed how many younger people are bringing laptops as a cant-do-without item. Who would've guessed..

Posted by
313 posts

We're a couple of fifty-somethings, and we still use the RS packs. If there was a convertible pack with wheels that didn't weigh a ton or dig into your lower back, it would be nice for the long hauls, but I haven't see one that works yet without adding 5-8 pounds. We really like the hands-free advantage of wearing a pack and have taken the advice to keep each bag under 20 pounds each. I think people just can't believe that they can really travel that light, or else aren't willing to visit the laundromat more often.

Last year we were on a train in Italy, part way through a 2-1/2 week trip with our packs. A couple from the US (much younger & more athletic) got on the train just before it left the station -- they were there for just over a week and had 3 huge, hard-sided cases they could hardly lift on the train.

Like Rick says, this year we're going to try to go lighter still.

Posted by
43 posts

I think Rick Steve's packs are excellent for travel [I am not a shill either!].

I am an experienced backpacker and mountainer. I have used many packs over the years in the mountains. While Rick's packs are not the most comfortable I have used, for this type of travel I really like it.

The advantage to Rick's pack is that it fully unzips like a suit case, a conventional pack might load from the top only. If you need that pair of socks all the way on the bottom, you have to unload everything to get at them.

The pack is also convertible. The straps can be stowed and it can be carried as a suitcase.

Posted by
83 posts

Yeah, no kidding Tom. I get paranoid I'm coming across as some salesperson for a certain brand. But you find something you like & it tends to make you.. enthusiastic :)

Posted by
342 posts

For the last three years in a row my wife and I have gone to Europe, and each year we get into a bit of an arguement when packing - I'm a minimalist, she's a "maximalist." While she has modified her behavior somewhat, she still packs things that she never uses.

One of the tricks is to get out of the "what if I need such-and -such"...mode of thinking.

But, I have noticed that the amount of carry on luggage is growing by leaps and bounds. The overhead bins are crambed FULL now a days!