Suitcase Vs. Backpack Vs. Duffel Bag – Which one is Better for Travel?

duffel vs backpack vs suitcase

I have several years of experience traveling to different countries, cities to cities, outdoor trips, and hiking. I faced different kinds of events with backpacks, duffel bags, and suitcases. Throughout my years of experience, I have seen people struggling with large backpacks on and off buses, up and down stairs, and struggling even walking down the street having serious injuries to their backs, shoulders, and neck. So, I can better suggest to you the pros and cons of all these gears.

Sometimes, it is difficult to choose between a Duffel bag, Backpack, or Suitcase, which one is the best for your next outdoor travel or trip. It is not always easy to decide which one works best for you. Both types of bags are popular when we talk about traveling, hiking, and road trips.

Selecting the best pack for your travel leaves practical impacts on your enjoyment. If you don’t select the perfect gear for your trip according to your ease, necessity, and interest, it will ruin your enjoyment and create difficulties in your travel.

Backpacks, duffel bags, suitcases, tote bags, and other types of bags are also used for travel. Different travelers have different requirements, and you have to decide on a bag according to your needs and interest. Every pack contains some advantages over the other bags, but the selection depends on your personal preference and comfort.

I’m assured that this guide will help you choose a Carry-On Suitcase, Duffel Bag, or Backpack For Your Next Trip.

So let me discuss and compare both the duffel bags vs backpacks in detail for your upcoming overnight/weekend trip.

Read also: How to Carry a Heavy Backpack? – Safety Tips

Backpack, Duffel Bag, and Suitcase

Suitcase and its Features


Suitcases are types of luggage in the shape of a box with a handle. It resembles a flat, rectangular bag with rounded square corners. Most suitcases are made from leather, vinyl, or cloth.

A hardshell suitcase opens on hinges like a door having a lid-down cover. Most suitcases are in verticle shape with rolling wheels to carry from one place to other.

Backpack and its Features


A backpack is a pack you carry on your back by using two shoulder straps and sometimes extra hip and chest straps. It is a vertical-shaped pack to easily carry on your travel, hiking, or school tools for long ways.

Backpacks are further divided into different types like an essential daypack, rucksack, knapsack, laptop backpack, convertible duffel, drawstring, hydration, and wheeled backpack bag. It is available in a different number of compartments, sizes, and colors.

Duffel Bag and its Features

duffel bags

A duffel is a cylindrical-shaped bag that is mainly carried over the shoulder. A duffel bag also called a duffle or kit bag, is a large-sized bag used to carry your personal belongings for travel, family visits, road trips, sports, gym, and recreation by civilians.

It gives you a large deep main compartment to store your traveling tools or equipment. It is usually made with fabric (typically canvas) and nylon material. It contains a top zipper closure and a large adjustable and sturdy strap.

Suitcase vs Duffel Bag vs Backpack Comparison

SuitcaseDuffel BagBackpack
It requires hand supportIt requires your hand or arm support Hands-Free bag
Suitcases are fast and easy to moveFast to carry and put on the groundCan take a moment to set on your back
Rolling option to carry heavyweightCan use as cross body messengerDoesn’t give you the cross-body or Rolling option in general
Verticle-shaped, hard, and lid-down coverMany versatile positions, orbit, messenger, back, Less versatile; on the back and maybe in hand
More balanced in verticle and horizontalLess balancedMore balanced and stabled on back
Large main compartment and easy accessQuickly access pocketsNot easy to quickly access items
Hand carry optionHand carrying optionHand carrying option
Better for back pain, shoulder pain, neck painBetter for back painBetter for weak arms
Average size 50 to 79 LMostly large enough with 35L spaceLarge but not as duffel bags

Which one is Better for Travelling

Now, I’m going to share with you some pros and cons of all three packs for your traveling.

Backpack if Long Walking or Running

When we talk about stability and symmetry, a “backpack” is a more balanced pack while standing, walking, and even running. I prefer a duffel or a backpack over a suitcase/luggage for traveling if you have to walk for long hours and a few numbers of traveling gears.

Suitcase for More Storage Capacity

The design and large carrying capacity of suitcases are most suitable for traveling and trips. Suitcases give you more storage capacity for your clothes, jacket, shoes, laptop, tablet, power bank, water bottle, umbrella, etc.

On the other hand, some backpacks and duffel bags are also available in large sizes. But it is not recommended to carry a heavy load on your back because it can cause shoulder, lower back, and neck problems. Furthermore, your clothes stay wrinkle-free in a suitcase.

Backpacks and Duffels can Cause Injuries

A heavy duffel or backpack becomes painful to carry within a few minutes. Carrying heavy backpacks can lead to forward-leaning, shoulder, neck, or lower back injuries.

On the other hand, a suitcase is easy to carry because you are rolling the weight behind you rather than carrying it on your back.

Read also: Why does a Backpack Hurt my Shoulders, Back, and Neck? with Solutions

Clothes are much Easier to find in a Suitcase

Absolutely, suitcases are made for storing and organizing your clothes, shoes, and other travel gear. You can easily store and find any object in a suitcase.

Backpack for Hands-Free Carrying

Hands-Free is the biggest benefit in my opinion. A duffel bag or suitcase requires your hand and arm support while lifting, but with a backpack, your hands are free for any movement.

Backpacks are also used for outdoor visitors. It is better for those who like to have their hands and arms accessible. You can hold other objects in your hand with a backpack like a mobile, water bottle, hiking stick, umbrella, eat, drink and pay for things, etc.

Duffel Bag and Suitcase for Quick Accessibility

With a duffel bag, you can quickly access the pockets and can promptly lift and drop on the ground. To access a backpack’s pocket, you need to remove it from the back in front of yourself.

Suitcase and Duffel Bag for Neck, Shoulder, or Lower Back Injuries

A duffel bag is best for those who have lower back and neck pain problems. A backpack is best for those who have weak arms.

Duffel Bag for More Versatility Carrying

A duffel bag gives you more versatile wearing/carrying positions like a cross-body messenger bag, orbit style, wearing on the back, and holding in hand. You can switch it from one shoulder to another. While for a backpack, it is recommended to use both shoulder straps or carry them in your hand.

Backpack for Hiking

Suitcases are not made for hiking purposes. You can take it with you to heights. If you are planning for hiking or a long-distance walk then a backpack will be an easy option. Walking over uneven terrain is more difficult with a suitcase. A roller suitcase doesn’t do well on the ground that isn’t perfectly smooth.

Suitcase if you Don’t want to lift any Weight

A suitcase is a much better idea for you if you have any health issues. You don’t have to lift any weight on your shoulder while you have a suitcase. You can simply wheel the suitcase behind you if you need to walk a long distance.

You won’t Run over People’s Feet with a Backpack!

Having a backpack, you won’t disturb other people in crowds, streets, and at parties. Backpacks are just on your back and a part of your body for some time. So, if you don’t want to irritate other people, then choose a backpack for traveling.

Backpacks have Multiple Uses

Everyone has a backpack at home for school, college, office, or travel purposes. So, if you have a backpack you can use it for your other life activities. You can take it anywhere you want but not in a suitcase.

Suitcases are TSA friendly

As you are traveling, a suitcase is more TSA-friendly as compared to a backpack or duffel bag.

How to Choose the Best Pack for Travel?

Your Preferred Bag Carrying Style

There are many ways to carry a bag, like on your back, shoulder, or in your hand. If you like to lift your bag on your back, then choose a backpack. But if you want a crossbody or one-side lifting, then choose a duffel bag.

Easy to Carry and Comfortable

A bag should be easy to carry and comfortable. The straps of your gear should be padded and adjustable. If your carrier is not comfortable, it may cause pain and injuries. You will feel tired and it can ruin all your pleasantness of travel or trip. You may select a wheeled backpack for your outdoor visit.

Your bag should contain a cushioned, softback, and a duffel bag must have a padded multipanel airflow back. A good bag designer focuses on the comfort and easiness of the bag for users.

Capacity and Packing

First, check the required necessities for your travel, then you can choose the size of the bag. If a bag gives you an expendable option, then prefer it over a fixed-size bag. There should be multiple organizing pockets to hold different objects.

What is the Best Size Backpack for Travel?

It all depends on your needs. Your travel style, the distance you want to travel, the climate conditions, your belongings, etc.

The ideal size of a duffel bag is 35L to 45L, and a backpack is 25L to 35L large. You can also have a large bag if you have required it. If you travel on local transport, personal vehicle, or on a train, a medium-size bag can easily fit under the seats or overhead on most planes.

Durable and Waterproof

While selecting a bag for travel, you must consider a durable bag that doesn’t fail your journey. The zipper and stitching should be strong and of high quality.

It is crucial to choose a waterproof or water-resistant bag for outdoor use. While traveling, you may face a sudden change in weather. So your suitcases or other carries should be water-resistant which can save your electronic gadgets and clothes.

A bag made with nylon or polyester fabric is primarily waterproof and long-lasting. Moreover, the canvas and leather bags are also excellent and sturdy. If your pack is not waterproof, you can use a rain cover to save your equipment from getting wet.

Easy to Pack

You may don’t feel it is essential, but it is. A wide-opening main compartment will help you to store and properly organize your object. Some bags are 180-degree openings for the main room, which is most likely to manage all your essentials properly.

Security Option

If you travel on local buses or in rush places, a bag with locker zippers and anti-theft pockets will be the best option for you.

Stylish or Simple

For your travel, you may like a simple or stylish bag. It depends on your interest. But a bag should be cool, attractive, and well-designed.

Convertible Backpack to Duffel Bag

If it is possible, you must have a convertible bag. A convertible bag can help you to get a rest for your shoulder and back.

Essentials to Carry for Traveling and Trip

Phone charger, water bottle, socks, underwear, sun cream, face wash, deodorant, camera, hairbrush, sleeping bag, umbrella, painkillers, passport for international travel, etc.

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