All the juicy luggage info you've been waiting for...
Author's Note: I will continually update this post as I find better advice to give you. If you find something I say which your experience totally disagrees with, email firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll check out what you've gone through and consider adding it to the post!
Update 5/17/18: After traveling the world with suitcases and backpacks I can confidently say I prefer the backpack life 100 to 1.
I bought a North Face 65-Liter pack for my trip to Eastern Europe. Depending on how minimalistic you go, you can get away with a smaller pack. I've seen people travel with just a school backpack.
Backpacks are ideal because they are easier on your body. You travel faster and easier. You don't leave your bag places. Check out online and in stores like Dick's Sporting Goods. They have some solid discounts there.
When you travel, you need to bring some things with you.
Namely clothing, toiletries, passports, and an activity or two. You may even want to bring your lover if you have one! So naturally, you'll need reliable luggage to carry all this stuff in. Plus a cage for your lover which is TSA-friendly for travelers in the USA.
As a traveller, you will be:
- Moving around a lot
- Using public transportation like planes, trains and automobiles
- Needing to conserve your energy for the important things
With these criteria in mind, you'll need something which supports you in these endeavors. And you'll need a few specific items of luggage to support your belongings. No matter how long the trip, there will be places to get:
- Laundry done
- Refills of toiletry supplies
So of these things, you'll only need one set of toiletries (a hair brush for long-haired folks, a toothbrush, toothpaste, shaving stuff as needed, makeup if you use it...) Buy travel size if possible. And a laundry bag (see the end of the post) with travel detergent and softener.
Extra space and weight is an expensive commodity for travelers. More space means more gifts and souvenirs. Less weight, more ease of transport, means more energy, more time spent out seeing the sites and meeting locals. It is extra important to watch your energy level, a tired traveler gets to see very little of an awesome new culture, an energetic traveler gets to enjoy a new land! Which is probably why you wanted to travel in the first place!
So if you're listening, awesome! If not, wake up and start! This advice will save you hours of sleep and not feeling like doing things, and also help you with space so you'll be able to bring back more cool things!
Remember, you can make a budget based on SPACE and EASE OF TRANSPORT. I'll note "S" and "E" scores from 0-10 to show how this tip helps you.
S - Size
- This figure is important because it helps you gain more space, or use it more effectively
- 0 - This won't hold a thumbtack
- 10 - This can hold all your house's items
E - Ease of transport
- This figure is important because it helps you transport your stuff more easily, physically or logistically
- 0 - This is heavier/easier to transport than Thor's hammer
- 10 - This is lighter/easier to transport than Mercury's boots!
Picking a suitcase
You'll want a 4-wheeled suitcase. Swivel wheels are IMPORTANT!
At the beginning of my current two-month trip through NYC and Colombia, as anyone who saw my video on Project Unchained's Facebook Page can attest to, I tried to lug two-months-worth of clothes, food, activities, and gifts for my hosts in two suitcases with broken wheels. It was a nightmare for the day I tried it. I met my family in NYC who would not let me travel like that.
Even though they didn't totally approve of my trip (I could tell they were like "he's young, we support his ambition, but wish he would just go back to college" - I love ya, fam, if you're reading this) they couldn't let me in good faith lug those around. So off to Target, to buy these two items:
Skyline Luggage Set- Target.com - S: 8 W: 8
With non-swively wheels, the side-to-side friction is more than even Ariana Grande can handle. Without wheels, a suitcase is like a bag of bricks... So I got this beauty with four swively wheels. I have walked over 2 miles around NYC with it I'm sure and I still love it. No problems!
Swivel wheels are so important. Luggage will often have either two wheels or 4. If it has 4, at least two of the wheels will be swively. Instantly add 5 to the W of any suitcase if it has 4 wheels with 2 swively ones! This suitcase has been a godsend.
Things to look for in a suitcase
- Strong Handles
- Swivel Wheels
- Without this, your arms will be jelly after a day of lugging around dead weight.
- But with it, you'll have 360 degrees of freedom to move around!
- Side Handle
- Lots of space
- Expandable zipper
- A couple pockets to organize
Picking a Smaller Backpack for the Day
Suitcases are for the big things but what's going to help you bring the hacking equipment to all the Declarations of Independence you're looking to steal? You need a smaller container for your day-to-day supplies.
Backpacks are perfect for your day-to-day travel needs, as well as sophisticated back-door-installers and surveillance kits. I prefer the size and multitude of pockets. I love the hands-free convenience of a backpack and the ability to separate my electronics in one pocket, my money in another pocket, my ID and passport in another allows for easy organization and reorganization on the fly. That is vital when you need to get your passport out within 10 seconds.
Purses are a close second for those who use them (I personally don't, some European men do) because of the multitude of pockets. Just make sure it's big enough to hold your stuff and anything you might pick up along the way. Ideally you want only one bag, with all souvenirs fitting into it, physically attached to your body so you don't lose it or get it stolen. Backpacks take the crown easily here.
Here's the one I use:
SwissGear 18" ScanSmart TSA Laptop - S: 6 W: 8
Things to look for in a backpack
- Zippered pockets
- Enough pockets to organize
- Small enough to easily move and carry
- Big enough for your belongings plus extra space
- A water bottle pocket is a must!
I love bringing my backpack around, it has my water bottle pocket (so vital to be hydrated when traveling!) and my sleeved laptop pocket. There's even a mesh inner pocket for all your charger needs! I often sit down at cafes and restaurants to write up a post. Like this one! Easy access to my multitude of charging cords and my laptop is SUPER important.
Other things you need:
A toiletry bag
Mine came in the same luggage set as above
Guys, swallow your pride and use one of these. Seriously. It helps organization so much. When I unpack and repack, organization of your bathroom supplies helps. I want to make sure I take everything with me and leave nothing behind, as it's frustrating to be going to bed and realizing you need to buy a toothbrush and toothpaste. Keeping all those small toiletries in a bag makes this step 2x quicker and more reliable!
I often just keep my bags on the sink, without taking anything out. It keeps the host happy and it keeps me healthy!
A laundry bag
You don't need anything special. All you need is for it to be waterproof (plastic or vinyl is great, mesh is not.)
After hiking, adventuring, or sweating on a 12 hour plane trip, your clothes will smell horrible. This is a given, I'm sorry, there's no cure for this except to wash your clothes.
But you will inevitably be stuck with extra smelly socks, or even a whole load of laundry between locations! I recently washed some clothes and had to leave the apartment to find my next host. I entered a local laundromat to dry said clothes, when I was yelled out of there because the owner only allowed customers who washed AND dried their stuff at his place. He didn't get that I was giving him business either way... It was very odd customer service, and for his agressive and self-defeating behavior, I had to warn other travelers and give him an honest review.
I was stuck with a whole load of wet clothes. Thankfully I had a woven vinyl laundry bag and placed my laundry safely in my bag for part of my trip to my next host.
This simple and small addition to your luggage is so useful.
Anything I missed? Comment it below!