Please sign in to post.

40 L backpack/suitcase suggestions

Happily travelling to Italy during the summer so i wondered if I might get your best recommendations for a super lightweight suitcase with backpack straps (lugging on and off trains and over cobblestones). I would love to hear your best suitcase experiences.

Note: I am not a very effective light packer.

Posted by
1194 posts

I hate to say this, but you’re not going to be happy with a backpack if you’re not a light packer.

You might want to think about Ricks rolling backpack instead. It’s a roller most of the time but has pack straps for those times you need them.

Posted by
650 posts

I just trip tested the Osprey Farpoint 40 on a five week trip to Spain. I really like it. It's comfy to wear, packs well and can double as a duffle.

It opens as wide as a suitcase and has laundry and laptop storage. The laptop can be accessed without getting into the main compartment. There's a small outside pocket at rhe top just right for liquides. There are two sets of compression straps, one inside one outside. For 40L, it holds a ton.

The belt and straps zip away behind a flap easily converting it to a duffle for security and checking. It's sleak for a backpack with few zippers or straps on the outside.

The straps are wide and well cushioned. It has a belt and and internal frame. It's cool on the back.

Unfortunately, my favorite bag is no longer made. You need to ask yourself whether you want wheels on a bag or not. The wheels add a lot of weight. However, you can pull your suitcase just about everywhere in Italy. The "cobblestones" are an overblown matter.
35-40 liters is an appropriate size. Good brands include Ebags brand at or eagle creek. There are many bags available now. Use packing cubes as well.

Posted by
361 posts

wgroup, yes all of Rick's products are available online and shipped from USA. Just look at the Shop Online to the left of the home page. We've bought bags and accessories in person in the Edmonds store as well as ordering them online. You will of course pay shipping. It takes a week or less for your order to arrive.

Posted by
15573 posts

Look at products from eBags, Eagle Creek, and Osprey.

As stated earlier, this whole cobblestone thing is overblown. The same for getting on and off trains. I got on and off two trains yesterday with my carry on size bag and personal item. It took me all of 10 seconds each. You're still going to have to wait for the people in front of you with big bags.

Remember, putting backpack straps on a wheeled bag adds weight. And again as stated earlier, if you are not a light packer the bag will be heavy and you won't want to carry it.

Posted by
19155 posts

Remember, putting backpack straps on a wheeled bag adds weight

Putting backpack straps on a wheeled bag add very little weight, but putting wheels on a backpack adds a lot of weight. And as I found out last October, when my partner, for health reasons took a rolling bag (and I ended up handling it), you carry a rolling bag a lot more than you expect (or than rolling bag advocates will admit).

Posted by
166 posts

I use a Pacsafe Venturesafe 45L backpack and it is perfect for travel overseas.

Posted by
4574 posts

Do you have a MEC near you? MEC has one or two roller bags, but also several backpacks including Osprey and their own Osprey look alike.
Take a measuring tape and luggage scale. I am not happy with MEC saying their Supercontinental 40 Carry on is 'carry on compliant as it is 10 inches deep which is deeper than most airlines ' limits. If full, you may be asked to check it....but then that could be the case for most softside luggage/packs.

Dear WGroup,
I don't know your body size or fitness level. So, I want to make a couple of General comments. I am under 5'5". So, I try to keep my backpack to under 20 inches length unless I am using a rolling case.
Packing Light for a Summer trip to Italy is easier than you may think. 1). Use Packing cubes. Roll your clothes into small logs, then line them up in the cube. 2) Pack for about 5 days, then do laundry at a laundromat. (I am certain the sink washers will chime in here.) 3). Wear only one pair of footwear. No extra shoes. (I like sturdy sandals. No socks need to be packed.). You don't need to be a packing Puritan.
I hope this helps you. I am sure others will add to this advice.

Posted by
55 posts

Backpack straps on a roller bag is like the worst of both worlds IME. Choose one or the other. If you get a two-wheeled roller, you can drag it over most surfaces.

I like my Eagle Creek roller: No Matter What Flatbed 22 Inch Carry-On. It's 6 lbs, 7oz, which is on the lighter side for a rolling bag. I only use this for work trips, where I have to be wearing clothes in transit that make backpack straps a non-starter. I've never taken it on a leisure trip.

My favorite travel bag ever, and my backpack of choice, is the Tom Bihn Aeronaut. It comes in two sizes, 45L and 30L. It's pricey, but definitely a BIFL bag.

If you commit to a backpack and to packing light enough to make the backpack easy to carry, know that it's going to take planning, and choices you've not had to make as a heavier packer. It's totally worth it though. Good luck!

Posted by
235 posts

Thanks for all your tips. I appreciate them all.

The shoe question is an interesting one. I find I need to switch them up ( blisters). I have a whole gambit of straps, no straps, lightweight hiking shoes...all of them. So I bring 2 different fitting sandal types and one walking hiker. This takes up room and adds weights. The toiletries also add weight which includes sunscreen, meds and the usual lot. No matter how I try, I can’t get the packing to a carryon. As a side note, I have certainly gotten better on the clothes list. Last year, Costa Rica had too few and learn. Anyhow, back to the luggage...

Someone wrote that I will have time getting on and off trains because everyone else has their own heavy suitcases - good point :) .

Maria - we have a MEC not too far from me. I will take a look. Good idea.

Posted by
3241 posts

Be sure to bring a tape measure and your airline's luggage requirements if you don't plan to check the bag. Often bags do not have the correct exterior measurements on the label. You need to do the measuring yourself. Also, if you are window shopping online, look in the reviews. People will often put the correct measurements of the bag in their review.

Personally, I'm very happy with my Rick Steves wheeled bag, as it fits all my flight requirements, so far...even though I check it.

Posted by
451 posts

If you are getting blisters you need to get better fitting shoes or toughen them up by taking them on long walks (5 miles) that is what most people walk when traveling. build yourself up. Learn about blisters! Research what hikers do and how to treat them. Hot spots on your foot is an indication that something is not right there and a blister will soon form. I stand and walk most of the day at work so i get good foot wear. I travel with a good hiking shoe and one pair of lightweight sandals. I use the sandals primarily in the evening when we have gone back to the hotel before dinner.

After reading your response - my advice is get a rolling bag (2 wheels) with 22"x9"x14". (Travelpro Maxlite, RS, Ebags TS, or similar). Wear the hikers over on your feet. I really believe you can pare back to one pair of sandals. (Check out SAS, Walk-the-Walk). Get a pair with an over-the-heel/ankle strap. No flip-flops or similar.
Consolidate your med.s into a smaller container. Example: Walgreen's sells small, clear plastic ziplock pill pouches. You get a package of about 50 for $4. Then, just write the pill name on the pouch with a sharpie's pen. Place your med.s in your toiletry bag. Have a separate 3-1-1 bag for liquids. When buying luggage - carry a tape measure. Stand the bag up with the handle pointing upward. Measure from the floor to the top of the case. Some manufacturers don't include wheel length in product dimensions - only case size. You need total length - including wheels.

Posted by
1305 posts

Hi -

I always thought that Lowe Alpine was a US company, or at least started life as one, but I never see them mentioned in this sort of thread. Which is a shame because they do great carry-on backpacks. I have the old TT40 Carry On, while my wife has the version which superceded it which is not as substantial, lacks a few interior pockets, but has a bigger capacity overall (45 as opposed to 40 litres capacity although there's no discernible difference in overall size). Both have suitcase handles, pack-away backpack straps and mine has a shoulder bag strap. There's another version which has wheels if you are a determined roller bag dragger! They have both served us well on several 'hand luggage only' trips, including me going on a week's ski-ing holiday to France, with all the kit that entails!

May be worth searching out?


Posted by
1194 posts

Backpack straps on a roller bag is like the worst of both worlds IME

It depends. Most folks know that I prefer a personal item sized backpack. But I also have the Rick Steves rolling backpack for when I travel for work. I had to bring loads of paperwork. Literally half my bag was filled with paper! A single ream weighs 2.5 kg and I usually had to bring the equivalent of 6+ reams. So we are talking about 30 lbs of extra weight on top of my clothes. I needed a roller.

The pack straps have been wonderful for a few situations:

  • Having to post hole through hip deep snow. I was glad to have my arms free for balance
  • Going up several flights of stairs. I’m glad I didn’t have to carry that weight with my arms. I also appreciated having my hands free for the railing.
Posted by
55 posts

Okay, Cindy H, I am imagining a business trip that required 30lbs of paper and wading through hip-deep snow... were polar bear warnings and rifle training involved, too?

Or, perhaps those were two separate trips, but you gave me a good laugh :)

Posted by
235 posts

I am back with thanks and comments.
I really appreciated all your comments and input.
I am still deciding what to do re luggage.

While I am at it, what do you carry as a cross body day bag. I have a good old canvas cross body bag which has been my constant companion, but it has seen better days. I loved it because I could throw a day’s worth of sightseeing needs. It is canvas so it expanded when I went to a beach for a towel. Any recommendations?

Posted by
1420 posts

Thanks for this post. Yesterday I bought an osprey fair point 40 liter. For a trip this summer that will include many chsnges of locations by bus or amtrak. I used an old thru the back door bag in April, and even w total weight of 21 pounds, my lumbar was not happy, so i went for more structure w this purchase.
Regarding yr cross body question, I use a piazza cross body from ebags . It holds a 20 oz water bottle in a special gusset that unzips, now has an rfid area, a key lanyard, etc. Ok, it won't hold a beach towel. But it holds a sun hat, snacks, etc and weighs about 9oz empty.

Posted by
139 posts

I think your best option would be a rolling backpack.

I bought mine at Walmart 2 years ago and so far I really like it. Unfortunately it's discontinued: it's a Coleman Rolling Backpack and got it for $40 USD, carry on size (21 x 14 x 9), but I'm sure you can get one in another brand.

I have used mine on every single trip since I got it and to me it's the best of both worlds: I can rolling it on airport or smooth surfaces, and carry it on my back going up and down stairs, cobblestone streets, etc. But, you need to pack light, I still working on my packing light "skills": my first trips I would pack up to 13 kilos/28 pounds worth of stuff... Now, I got it around 8 kilos/18 pounds. Still not where I would like to be weight wise, but I'm getting there.

Practice your packing a couple of week before, and edit, edit, edit your list. My biggest motivation to pack light is "at some moment, I'll have to carry all of this on my back".

Happy Travels.

Posted by
156 posts

I second the rolling backpack recommendation. I'm a big fan of these bags, but I'm careful when choosing one, particularly about weight. I generally only use the backpack function when practicable, as in stairs, rough pavement, etc.

The problem with rolling backpacks, as mentioned elsewhere, is the added weight of the handle and wheels, which depending on your age and physical condition can be really limiting for long use, unless you're a strict "light packer", which I'm not.

I've been using the High Sierra Rev for a year or so, and found it to be a pretty reliable bag. Not too heavy, durable, and carryon friendly. However, if I know I'm going to have to use it as a backpack for any appreciable length of time, I'm pretty careful about how much I load in it.

I've also owned a couple of other High Sierra rolling backpacks, one with a detachable daypack, which for me was too heavy to use as a backpack with both units attached. But the single unit rollers have been fine.