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Okay, so this is not a true debacle in any sense of the word. But it has provoked a lot of thought for me regarding what preparedness means in travel.

In all my international travels (15 countries other than my own), I have traveled with some sort of rolling contraption. During my jaunt to Spain, Vienna, Hungary & Bratislava, I took a cheap carry-on backpack/rolling hybrid for my 3 weeks of hostel adventuring. It looked sort of like this:

I’m pretty sure that it has since been discontinued by whatever company made it, though, because I have yet to find an image of it on the internets. Mine didn’t even have a fancy laptop case, but it DID have a place to specially put my SHOES–which ate up part of the interior of the bag, which should have been space for my clothes, but whatever. I took that, and a really great Kipling cross-body day bag, which you can see me wearing here, in Vienna:

Hard to see, but the Kipling bag is slung across my shoulder there. It had a front zip pocket and adjustable velcro straps that were pretty durable. Great daybag, went all over the place with me!

I had an easy time getting around, and I liked having the option to make my rolling bag a backpack when I needed to. Stairs weren’t really an issue, because I had packed light enough that I could easily carry my bag up and down them. The wheels were a little uncomfortable when it was worn as a backpack, but most good hybrids these days seem to take that into account and design accordingly.

When I studied abroad, excavated abroad, and lived abroad, I took rolling suitcases. That was definitely the easiest, because I was staying put. Last summer, I bought my Swiss Gear carry on for my 7-week Europe trip, during which I went to London, Italy and Greece.

The only time I remember wishing I had the option of a backpack was when we were maneuvering through the streets of Piraeus and my little bag I had borrowed from some friends kept holding me up. Boris, on the other hand, was practically jogging ahead of me with no trouble, his Osprey pack strapped snug on his back.

I know that my Swiss Gear diddy won’t cut it for this trip, so I’m in the market for some new luggage. This necessity sparked a prolonged and comically heated discussion between my fella and me. He is in the staunch Backpack Is the Best camp, and the past couple of years has traveled with this pack.  My wonderful boyfriend is incredibly intelligent, and made some good, logical points for me to buy a pack rather than anything else. His main points, and the points of the backpack-loyal travelers I’ve read online, mostly are the following:

  • Look, ma, no hands! You can have all your shiz on your back and be able to eat a gelato, play the banjo or punch someone in the face at the same time. You never know, right?
  • Run, Forrest, run! It’s easier to run if necessary with a backpack than anything else. This may be true, although I’ve also heard from people who’ve said it’s equally uncomfortable running with a huge pack on.
  • Be prepaaaaaaaaaaaaaared! (You know, from the Lion King.) Ultimately, his most persuasive point is that you never know what’s going to happen on your travels, and having a backpack is the best choice for the craziness of the open road. 
I conceded a few points, made a number of my own, and then went to the Summit Hut the next day for some individual consultation. The Summit Hut will definitely get its own post once I start making more purchases. Basically, I love this store, I LOVE the people who work at this store, and I trust their advice because I know they’ve tested the products and are all genuine adventurers themselves. 
Also, one of my closest friends and a travel buddy of mine works there. We traveled together last summer, and I can honestly say I couldn’t have asked for a better companion. She knows me, she knows how I roll (no pun intended), and we happen to be somewhat similar in build. The build thing is important because, unlike my aforementioned wonderful, intelligent boyfriend, I have itty bitty arm muscles. Lifting bulky bags over my head can be tricky sometimes…Another kicker is that she has traveled many times with a pack, and after last summer, is switching to a rolling/pack hybrid.

She recommended the Osprey Meridian 22. It’s a carry on, it has a detachable day pack, it has essentially all the features of a good pack but with one HUGE advantage: I have the option of NOT carrying it on my back. Easily!

Despite all the thinking, and reading (one of the many useful forums I’ve visited), and even more debating, I haven’t come to a decision yet. I know whatever I choose to travel with must fit these criteria:

  • CARRY ON. This is non-negotiable. Read this if you’re at all questioning the advantages of traveling with a carry on…
  • Easy to maneuver
  • Easy access to my schtuff–this is a top-loading free zone, people!
  • Relatively easy to lift onto airplane overhead compartments/train compartments/shelves (?)
  • Comfortable (since I know I won’t be getting a rolly-only for sure, I know the backpack component itself has to be LEGIT comfy)
  • Addendum: I will be traveling with electronics, including a laptop, digital camera and probably a smart phone, as well as all the accompanying charging gadgets. 
What about you? Any preferences one way or the other for packing? Have a certain bag you couldn’t travel without? Share in the comments!