carry on suitcase

This Petite Girl's Reasons to "Flashpack" with a Carry On Suitcase

I'm a flashpacker.

There. I said it.

What is a flashpacker? It's the modern term for backpackers who are a little more upscale, with a slightly bigger budget, who choose to stay in private rooms at hostels or hotels instead of roughin' it and toughin' it in dorms.

Yup, that's me.

I think what truly makes me a flashpacker, though, is the fact I literally don't have a backpack. A daypack, yes, but not a full on backpack. I currently travel with a Samsonite 72 Hours Spinner carry-on suitcase.

Just like every other RTW traveler, I did a ton of research on my bag options. There are LOADS of forums and blogs that discuss the pros and cons of the backpack vs suitcase dilemma or buying considerations of this backpack vs that backpack.

In the end, what I gathered were the following:

  • If using a backpack, find a pack that fits, do a practice pack, and try it out.
  • Pack light so you don't have to check your bag.
  • There may not be roads or elevators in off-the-beaten-path areas.
  • Waiting in line at airports or train stations will be a common pastime.

Before I go into why I use a carry on suitcase, let me just mention that I initially started out with a backpack, an Osprey Farpoint 40 in fact. The friendly staff at REI found it to be the best fit for me.

I'm 5 feet (152 cm) and weigh 103 lb (47 kg). The recommended carry weight is no more than 10-15% of your body weight. Unfortunately, my practice pack didn't go smoothly. Though balanced, the backpack made my shoulders and back ache after 15 minutes. The pack was also disproportionately huge on me for my size. I returned it after the practice pack because I knew it wasn't going to be realistic for me to carry that thing for hours.

Knowing what I know now after being abroad, I'm really glad I decided to go with the carry-on. My reasons:

  1. Waiting in line is a very real thing. At the airport, I was in line for 3 hours altogether (check-in, immigration, security, boarding, etc.). I can't imagine carrying that pack the whole time!
  2. The whole "no road" concern isn't that much of a concern because I'm not walking to my hostel or hotel. Taxis and public transit are usually the most cost-efficient or the only way to get to my accommodations. I usually check in first where they can hold my stuff, so I've never had to walk far with my suitcase.
  3. My suitcase weighs practically the same as the Osprey Farpoint (1.5 kg v 1.4 kg), so it's not hard to carry it when I need to.
  4. I've been able to stuff things in quickly when moving from place to place.

Whether you decide to go suitcase or backpack, the most difficult part is getting your stuff to meet carry-on weight, which for discount airlines can be as little as 7 kg (15 lb). All because you're able to stuff your things into a large backpack doesn't mean they will let you slide. The airlines will ask you to weigh your bag at the check-in counter.

During my research, I found very few bag resources for petite women. So if you're a petite backpacker or traveler, what do you use? Is there a certain bag that you love?