My preferred carry on bag for Uganda, and the world

Suitcase style, or backpack?

Lets first start off by explaining the problems I see with most travelers carry on bags. Most people I see carry the same type of bag, that large bulky and rigid suitcase style. What is wrong with the big stiff suitcase style of carry on? In my opinion – everything. The first problem I often see is people trying to stuff these things into overly crowded overhead compartments. Unlike with a backpack you cannot compress the size of the hard case carry on bags. I see people on every flight trying to fit these in turning them sideways, then around again, still not fitting. A good soft bag can easily fit into any crowded baggage compartment.

Aside from shape, I see no need for the stiff case, especially the ones with a hard plastic shell. I almost always travel with a carry on. Inside is typically a few clothes, toiletries and a camera. The camera is always in a bag which is then wrapped with clothing. If I carry a laptop the procedure is the same, have a soft case and pack your clothing items around this. There problem solved. As a carry on bag this is with you at all times so you know you are not going to be smashing it around. Your electronics can handle a few bumps here and there if you set your bag down on an airport bench, don’t be so afraid that you need a hard shell to protect what is already just fine.

Now last but not least, and perhaps the most important reason why these square awkward luggage cases make terrible carry on bags – travel when you arrive and enter the city. Travel in Uganda and very many countries around the world means terrain not suited for suitcase wheels and often means travel on a motorcycle. In Africa, this almost certainly means getting on a motorcycle at some point. You will want shoulder straps and comfort on your way to and from the hotel.

So… backpack you say? Yes. But…

A few tips I have found useful when selecting a good backpack.

  • Always be ware of size restrictions for your airline, some bags can get rather large. Be honest about your needs, you may not need to pack as much as you think.
  • Any extra side straps to keep the bag compact, extra pockets and zipper compartments, are nice to have.
  • Aim for simple and low key. You are a tourist but you do not need to stand out draw attention to the fact you are a foreigner without a clue.

My top pick…

My carry-on of choice.

The ECOSUSI vintage canvas backpack.

An incredible bag with nearly everything I need. The two extra handles are great when handling. The side traps to tighten, trust me you will use these. Last year alone I traveled the equivalent of around the world five times, the convenience of a good backpack is in my opinion much better than a rolling case.

Now you have my take on carry on luggage. As for what to pack, that will be another post. Just remember to relax, don’t over-pack, everything can be purchased at your destination, and airport prices are insane for most items (all items).