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Backpack or rolling suitcase for 3 mo trip

Hello,
My husband and I are 72 and 70 and feel quite fortunate to be traveling for a 7 week stay in Portugal in late June followed by 3 wks in Ireland and a week in early September in Iceland. We will be renting a car in Ireland and Iceland. We are rendezvousing with friends and family at various times. Our first 2 months is different in weather and activity then the last month.
We will have a home base north of Lisbon, but will be visiting Porto and a few overnight trips to other towns. We had Osprey backpacks in 2019 for a 6 week trip, when we walked a short Camino in Spain before traveling by train to Portugal and then Poland, the Czech Republic and London. We realized then that we had over packed for the rest of our travels and shipped back some of our belongings from Santiago de Compostela. Before our 2019 trip we had not been to Europe for 38 yrs as we have spent more time in South America with our kids. For this trip, my husband thinks that we should take our packs. He is recovering from hip replacement surgery a month ago and doing well. However I can't help but wonder if we should join the rolling suitcase set. We do have a gift certificate to RS store and was thinking of visiting their travel center this weekend to check out the luggage. Over the years in our travels we have accumulated convertible backpacks, rolling duffel bags etc. Our last month will involve traveling every one or two days while our initial almost 2 months will not. Thanks for suggestions and feedback.
Annemarie

Posted by
177 posts

My husband and I are 74 and 65, respectively. We were recently on a RS tour and in the interest of packing light did not use rolling bags. He used his old duffle--still sturdy after a million years--and a small daybag, and I used a quilted large weekender and a backpack. Packed the bags were about 15 pounds each. He did fine with his but I managed to put additional strain on my back and hip by slinging the bag on one shoulder and carrying the backpack on the other. When we travel in August I will be using my wheeled 19" bag again to avoid further injury. If you are going to be in locations for extended periods, or if you have a car at your disposal, it seems that the utility of a backpack/convertable bag is reduced.

Posted by
2930 posts

I don’t think a backpack is about age, but rather preference. I have never wanted to use a backpack…or at least all but one trip when my husband looked at me and asked why we were carrying our luggage…LOL…which we only did 20 years ago that once because of Rick Steves. Wheels work perfectly well. Wheels versus backpack is a fun conversation here that is unlikely to end. For me, I see no reason to schlep so wheels it is.

Posted by
1294 posts

Annemarie: I used to carry a backpack when I first started traveling, but over the years, I've switched to a roller bag (actually a spinner, which I love). I worry about balance for one thing - mine is pretty good but I'm definitely not as limber as when I was in my 20s and 30s (I'm 67). Plus it was heavy and cumbersome. My spinner is very easy to pick up if I need to get it over a cobblestone street or walk onto the plane with it.

As Susan said, you will not be moving around every few days so it really makes no sense to carry a backpack. I felt a little guilty when I first started using a rolling bag (not sure why) but I got over that very quickly when I realized I didn't have a carry a large weight on my back.

Posted by
6951 posts

We usually prefer to travel with an ultra light 21" Travel Pro carry on bag with swivel wheels. The swivel wheels make it easier to get down the aisles of airplanes. (We never check a bag.) And we can make it just fine on 10 kg. (22 lbs.) indefinitely.

There's nothing worst than pulling a muscle when traveling. With a backpack, that could easy happen to us 70's travelers. The rolling bags lessen the chance of straining a back.

That said, we're getting ready to go to London in a month with my wife who's somewhat mobility challenged. She's riding a 48 lb. folding mobility scooter with a big handbag with meds/toiletries. I will be towing her 21" rolling bag and my stuff will be in a 21" suitcase backpack. When we went to Germany in October, we had absolutely no problems traveling this way with zero assistance from anyone in any airport or airline. She rode the scooter to the door of the airplane and they Gate Checked it.

We too have taken some trains over the years, and we have some really good stories about people we ran into. But if the train is over 4 hours, we're looking for budget European airlines to go on. I honestly don't know how they can take passengers anywhere for between $35 and $100.

Posted by
24 posts

On our first trip to Europe 20 years ago my wife took an Eagle Creek convertible two-wheel roller bag that could be used as a backpack. I borrowed my son's Eagle Creek duffel/pack. I quickly found that I didn't care for setting my pack on the floor while waiting (e.g., in a train station); not only didn't I like having to hoist it, but I didn't like not being able to keep my hands on it. After we got back I bought the same one my wife had used. We've used them on many trips since and, thanks to the lifetime warranty have replaced one strap and all four skate wheels (I'm not a spinner fan - give me two big wheels) for free.

We never once have used the bags as backpacks.

Posted by
21326 posts

I'm a 70-year-old female and just not strong enough to carry all my travel gear on my back. I use a 2-wheeled bag when I have one (they're increasingly hard to find); otherwise I take a spinner. My trips are long and typically involve about 30 changes of hotel. With only very rare exceptions I walk between the train/bus station and my hotel. The only time I wish for a backpack is when I have to go up a flight of stairs; that's hard to do when you're short and have a larger-than-carry-on bag. I'm certainly not going to choose carrying my bag on my back on the way to and from hotels in order to avoid having to lift it up one or two flights of stairs occasionally.

Posted by
13026 posts

Hi,

I am in the same age range as you, do longer trips from 2.5 weeks to almost 3 months .

Not my style to use any style of backpack, either as a day bag or one larger. I carry a shoulder sack, sort of like a duffel bag, but not really, and keeping the weight under 17 lbs. I wear a waist/fanny belt, up front and visible, aside from the neck pouch.

The main piece of (check-in ) luggage is a spinner which has to be light enough to be tossed on the luggage rack on the ICE train, boarding and exiting. You learn to whittle down the weight. You don't want to be holding up other passengers because you're fumbling around with the luggage or are having difficulty boarding the ICE train because of the luggage being too heavy, (due to your overpacking, ) to be lifted on in one fell swoop.

I go solo and have to do all this promptly, almost always take public transport, ie, no rental car, no Uber, etc, , going by EuroStar, day and night trains, 1.5 hrs to over 10 hours, and buses.

Bottom line is to travel lightly (enough) while still being quite comfortable and agile when needed, such as managing one's luggage, getting on and off the trains, the Metro, the buses. subways.

Posted by
960 posts

We all wish you a wonderful trip.

My husband and I are 72 and 70 and feel quite fortunate to be
traveling for a 7 week stay in Portugal in late June, followed by 3 wks
in Ireland, and a week in early September in Iceland.
Our first 2 months are different
in weather and activity than the last month.

Sounds utterly delightful! Not only will the weather be different later, your luggage requirements are going to be different, too. If I understand correctly, you are already prepared to both pack lightly and be nimble.

We had Osprey backpacks in 2019 for a 6 week trip ... We realized that
we had over-packed for the rest of our travels and shipped back some
of our belongings.

So you know that lesson. One cannot efficiently pack for every contingency of weather. If this were my itinerary, I'd plan to bin or donate some clothing along the way and upgrade for the colder weather by acquiring additional and higher quality layers as conditions required.

For this trip, my husband thinks that we should take our packs.
However I can't help but wonder if we should join the rolling suitcase
set. Over the years in our travels we have accumulated convertible
backpacks, rolling duffel bags etc.
Our last month will involve traveling every one or two days while our
initial almost 2 months will not.

Doesn't sound like you need to buy any more luggage! You still have plenty of time to test load your backpacks and to simulate using rollers before committing one way or the other. Just my opinion: I'd go with two-wheelers because, generally, the spinners give up too much internal capacity to make room for the transmission.

Posted by
319 posts

I suggest you load the packs you have to the weight you will take, if they are the ones you would use, and walk in your neighborhood. How does it feel? Lisbon is quite hilly; will that make a difference for you?

If it feels fine the first go trial run, do it again.

I think this, more than our preferences, will help you decide.

Posted by
6 posts

Thanks for the good wishes for our trip and all of the feedback about what each of you use. As we walked a Camino in 2019, backpacks were then a necessity.
We did learn lessons about overpacking during that trip. I don't know how we are going to account for the clothing differences for central Portugal in June- mid August compared to need for Ireland and Iceland in mid August to mid September. On our 2019 trip we realized that we hadn't packed enough cold weather gear for Poland and the Czech Republic. My daughter and I tried to find jackets but weren't really successful. We ended up wearing alot of clothing on some days.
. I appreciate the commentary about the different travel bags and the debate about 2 vs 4 wheels. We will be staying in Tomar, about a 90 min. train ride north of Lisbon. We are trading homes with an acquaintance who used to live in our small community. Travel in Portugal will be by public transportation for our 2 months which is what we did in 2019.
Ireland and Iceland seem to necessitate a car rental which won't require schlepping a backpack around.
Annemarie