Does Size Matter?
Hitting the road for a while requires some significant consideration about what to pack and in what to pack it. Many travelers are hardcore about carry-on only luggage. Indeed, in the last few years of business travel, we have been advocates of the carry-on only approach, but carry-on bags and backpacks limit you to somewhere in the 30-45L range which we did not think would give us the flexibility for this trip that we wanted. We chose a 58L bag with an integrated day pack that provides another 25L of storage and gives us the option of a small overnight bag for short trips from our temporary home bases.
Wheels vs Straps
Another key decision for us was to determine what type of bag we wanted to use. Duffels were definitely out – while there are some great durable, waterproof options out there and they tend to be cavernous; duffels do not offer a lot of carrying options and can often be clumsy and heavy. We looked hard at a number of backpack options – many which have methods of hiding straps and belts for airplane travel. Backpacks are the standard selection for most extended travelers, but there is one down side – the pack is always on your back – no other carrying options. Also, we found a limited amount of options for women. Wheeled options were interesting to us because a lot of our travel may be with trains and buses, and it will be nice to have the option to put the weight on your wheels (and off of your back). However, most wheeled luggage is heavy and the wheel structure can take up space, but we think we found a great option that minimizes these issues. The true test will be 30 days into the trip.
We both went with the Eagle Creek Switchback 26 pack which we feel provides a lot of options for carry and transport. The main pack can be used with wheels or as a backpack. The day pack can be attached to main pack, attached to the handle in wheeled mode or used as a backpack by sharing the main packs removable shoulder and belt straps. It has a great design for locking the zippers for the main pack and day pack, and the material looks ready to take the wear and tear of a year of travel. And the day pack swallows a 15-inch laptop without a problem.