Please sign in to post.

Backpack---what's with the hands free?

This is going to sound snarky, but it is not really meant to sound like that, but I do wonder... I laugh every time I see that a backpack allows one to be 'hands free'. So you are walking along, 'hands free'... I can understand a hand on the bannister if going up stairs, but what is the other hand doing that is so important. With my wheelie, I have a hand free when walking, going up stairs, etc. so I can hold the bannister. If I stop to look at something, I let go of my wheelie which remains right next to me and I use two hands should I need to really touch the merchandise or pull out my passport, etc. So I'm really curious...what is backpacker's second hand doing? ;)

Posted by
2746 posts

Maybe carrying their day pack in their hand? I’ve seen Rick do this on tv - he has his luggage pack on his back and a light daypack backpack in his hand by the top handle. Because obviously you can’t wear 2 backpacks at once. This is why backpack day packs confuse me. Messenger bags can be worn with a backpack much easier.

As for me the only time I cared about hands free was when my kids were little and I needed to push a stroller or hold on to their hand. Now I prefer a roller but use a backpack if I need the lower weight to meet a tight carry-on limit.

Posted by
1220 posts

So I'm really curious...what is backpacker's second hand doing? ;)

Keeping both hands on my tray at the airport food court so I don't spill my drink. Eating a frozen yogurt from a cup while walking along....

Posted by
1204 posts

It is an interesting question, as I prefer a backpack. For me, hands free means nothing extra. A rolling suitcase is like an extra appendage. When I wear my backpack, I have a small snug-fitting cross-body pouch that I swing to my front, so have easy access to passport, wallet etc. I like that once my bags are on me, I don't think about them. Its like wearing a vest with a lot of pockets, except in this case, I have everything I need for weeks of travel in those pockets ;p

Posted by
7273 posts

I have found that a back pack (and mine converts into a carry on size wheelie) allows me to walk faster and navigate crowds and go through turnstyles easier if in a hurry that is all

Posted by
5792 posts

Many reasons for hands free backpack carry-ons. For those of us who need to travel heavy or with stuff not permitted as on board luggage, having a hand or two free to handle the checked bag(s) is a must. (Some of us are active travelers who do more than look at church stained glass windows and museum art.)

And with all the discussion of tourist targeted crime (pickpockets), it's a free hand or two to grab hands reaching into pockets and fending off the criminals.

Having free hands is also helpful in expediting train loading when the spouse with the wheelie needs help tossing the wheelie into the train. (Some trains have steps up from the platform level).

PS Don't put critical documents (passports) in your wheelie in the event of a snach and grap when you put your bag down.

Posted by
6809 posts

(humor warning)

Wray, you want to have your hands free so you can help your companion traveling with a roller go up and down stairs and curbs.

Posted by
2284 posts

Taking pictures, checking your phone, looking at maps, etc.

Posted by
1353 posts

Wray - this was a bit thought provoking. I know that I like to be hands free - especially on public transportation, but thinking about it - not sure that I Need both hands free. I know that I still prefer my backpack to be on my back with my daypack attached to the main bag when I'm changing trains. There are a lot of times when I'm required to go down a set of stairs, over to the next platform and up a set of stairs in just a couple of minutes. I would think this would be much more of a hassle with a rolling bag.

Posted by
1179 posts

I can carry my drink and meal while heading toward the gate
I can check my phone for the correct gate
I can move faster through the crowds
I can phone or text the person picking me up at the airport

If I have a second item then it is a cross body bag that hangs down in front. So there is absolutely no conflict with the backpack. But normally I just have my phone and wallet in my pocket.

But Wray - unless you’ve actually done it I doubt you’ll understand the freedom that comes with it. No more than someone can understand how freeing it is to go carry on only. And I’m not talking about a heavy overpacked carry on bag. I’m talking about getting all the clothes right so that the bag is easy, small, and light.

Posted by
7273 posts

you may get less scrutiny when they are forcing people to check bags at the boarding gate when you can carry it on your back;

Posted by
1179 posts

you may get less scrutiny when they are forcing people to check bags at the boarding gate when you can carry it on your back

I’ve actually had this happen. On several occasions I’ve traveled on airlines with a carry on weight limit. I’ve never had the agent weigh my bag when it was on my back.

Posted by
18388 posts

I was going to say the same thing as Stan said (no humor warning needed).

On my last trip my mobility challenged companion took along a roller bag, but she was challenged enough just getting herself on/off the trains and up and down stairs, so I had to handle her roller bag as well as my backpack. I have never used a rolling bag before, so it was a real revelation to me just how much extra work they are. When the train pulled into a station, I put on my backpack and then never fussed with it until I got to a seat on the next train (or checked into our hotel). But the roller - I had to lift it on and off the train, usually holding onto the hand rail while holding the roller in the other hand, then I held the bag in one hand carrying it up and down the stairs with my other hand on the railing. I didn't want to try to get on/off the train or use the stairs with the handle sticking out, so there were stops before/after getting on/off the train or up/down the stairs to deploy and stow the handle. And all this time, my backpack was there on my back, requiring no attention.

Posted by
926 posts

I just like not to have to hold something while I’m walking. Not sure why, but I also can’t stand to carry a clutch purse, or any purse that doesn’t hang on my shoulder. But other than that, also many of the things others said-hold a drink or snack with one hand while still having a hand free to open doors, hold rails, etc., hold my phone with one hand and type on it with the other...

Posted by
5157 posts

You can help an overburdened tour mate, and simultaneously hold hands with your sweetie!

I'm with Stan, Lee, and Karen. I don't like carrying things in my hands. My grocery reusable bag slings over my shoulder, any kind of wallet or purse I ever carry has a shoulder strap. I forgot the strap on my wallet yesterday, and it drove me crazy trying to figure out why both my hands weren't free.

Posted by
2930 posts

I particularly like the humorous responses. I'm glad to see that the 2nd hand is being used for normal things.

Cindy H, I have tried the Europe with a backpack thing, twice, about 18 years ago. My husband and I looked at each other on the second trip and simultaneously said, 'this is nuts'. I did use a 10 lb backpack on a domestic flight recently when I was being stubborn, and I have again reaffirmed that this is not for me...next time I'll gate check if I have to do so, which I hate to do, but... I'd rather just outright check my bag. But it is OK if others like it, we're all different. I was just curious about that second hand thing...

Although, I hope you are all taking your backpacks off on the subways/metro/tubes, etc. You'll still have one hand with which to hold on!

Best to all, Wray

Posted by
1204 posts

I wish I could post the photo of my 9yo daughter with her backpack on last summer in Fiumicino airport, with the heads of two stuffed-animal dogs poking out of either side on top. The dogs would not have had such great views down in a roller bag!

Posted by
2349 posts

It's the little kid in them. Look Ma! No hands! Weeeeeee!

Posted by
6513 posts

Simple. It allows you to do anything that requires both hands without leaving your bag vulnerable to 'walking off' without you, if you know what I mean. Some people just like that freedom.

Posted by
3714 posts

To prevent my roller bag from going walkabout, I use a dog slip lead like these. They come in 4' and 6' lengths. I slip it through the handle of the bag and keep the hand loop on my hand. Sounds silly, but there's plenty of length to use my hands while my bag is next to me.

Having said that, I'm planning to go to an Appenzell Day Pack for my main bag next trip so my hands will be free to use a cane if I have to. Jane from Sapulpa is my mentor on this. She had about as much stuff in hers last summer as I had in my roller bag. More stringent analysis of what I pack revealed that I can indeed cut back in ways to make it lighter. Yes, I am weighing everything.

As others have mentioned, I'll have my Baggallini Hobo Tote cross-body underneath.

This is the way I traveled on my first trip to Europe when I was 31, small backpack and messenger bag. Of course I'm 72 now with bad knees, hence the potential need for a cane for balance -- particularly in the many locations where there is no banister or indeed anything similar to help with that.

Posted by
11462 posts

For years I used a convertible backpack. Then when the back started giving out i switched to a roller.

I thought about going back and tried it but found a few reasons why i won't:

--my back doesn't hurt after carrying it a long distance
--I'm not really sweaty after walking with a heavy weight on my back.
--rather than having to carry purchases, I put them in a bag and hang the bag over the handle of my roller.
--I don't have to worry about knocking into someone while wearing a pack. I don't know how many times I've been hit by a travel backpack on buses and trains when people wearing them turn abruptly or back up without looking to make room for others getting on. My roller stays in front of me.
--I know where my bag is and it is in sight. I've seen pickpockets prey on people with backpacks.
--if I have to carry the bag up or down stairs, that's 30 seconds out of my life. I'll survive.
--If for some reason I have to check a bag on a short flight, I live with it. It hasn't happened yet. And if they gate check, I get it back when I step off the plane. That's usually 5 minutes but I realize some have so little patience that even 5 minutes will cause a temper tantrum.

For those who like backpacks more power to them. I used to. Travel in a way that makes you happy not to please someone else. And ignore those few here who get nasty if you dare to do anything different from them.

Posted by
5157 posts

Don't forget gelato, stroopwafels, panini, pizza, water bottle..... Lots of important things we need our hands for!

Posted by
31524 posts

Wray,

I prefer using a Backpack for many of the same reasons articulated by the others. I like having my hands free for looking at maps or holding a coffee or food on my way to the gate, using handrails for stairs (which could be on either side), etc. I can also move considerably faster especially in airports or train stations. On European trips, I also carry a Daypack or Duffel, which is not always slung on my shoulder. I've found that the weight of a Backpack isn't really a problem when using a model that's properly fitted for torso length, as most of the weight is on my hips.

For shorter domestic trips, I prefer a Tom Bihn TriStar, which can be used as a backpack, shoulder bag or carried like a suitcase. If I need more room and not travelling by air, I also have a Red Oxx Air Boss, although that doesn't offer a backpack option. Although supposedly "carry on size", the Air Boss can be a bit too big if travelling on the smaller Q-300 Regional aircraft.

I find the raucous cacophony of wheelie bags somewhat annoying, especially when there's a few hundred of them in an airport tunnel with a concrete floor, so wouldn't want to contribute to that.

Posted by
122 posts

Not snarky at all! Valid question! For me, it's to have easy access to my camera, which hangs down on a body strap, so I can flip it up at a moment's notice. For some reason, I dislike using a crossbody bag, since it seems to tug at my neck too much and interfere with the camera strap. With a backpack, my shoulders carry the weight no problem. I have a security one that I purchased several years ago, with cut resistant straps/bottom and locking zipper clips, so while I remain vigilant, I don't worry as much about pickpockets. I also use a backpack (usually 30-35L) as my purse/personal item on the plane, pushing it under the seat in front of me. A quick grab and slinging it onto my back, and my hands are free to lift the carry-on out of the overhead bin.

Posted by
2930 posts

Joncat, I, too, have started using a backpack when out for the day with my camera. I agree that it is much more comfortable. Mine is a travelon that looks a little dressed up for a back pack, but I love it for the freedom with my camera. I just don't understand the backpack as one's suitcase...too heavy, and my hands aren't up to too much while I'm in the airport. That's why I was curious. One hand free when moving works for me. And two hands are free when I'm standing still anyway. However, just when I think I have the best system down, for me, I seem to start over!

Posted by
122 posts

I can understand that! The backpack works for us, since we are on the younger side :) but might not seven or ten years down the road. And it took me forever to take the plunge and decide to get the camera sling-type strap, but I can't see myself without it now! Plus, I agree our backpacks aren't a good stand-in, for us, as another suitcase. At most, we'll throw in some of the spouse's socks or underwear, just in case. No need to be too weighed down!

Posted by
5697 posts

Agree with Wray that a light daypack is a great way to travel both hands free on public transit (one to hold on, one to hold onto the book I'm reading.) Wish I felt comfortable carrying my main bag on my back, but with a "balance challenge" I would be afraid of toppling backwards down a staircase.

Posted by
52 posts

Frank your response encapsulates how I feel. (I just posted a similar topic before reading this.) I’m pushing 60 and it seems like 99 percent of the time the roller will be more convenient for me. We’re going to Positano and will be taking a train from Salerno to Rome but feel like I’ll manage in those few instances when a light roller bag might be a little less manageable. I was thinking about getting a bag that can convey to a backpack but I suspect I’d never bother taking the straps out.