Finding the right bag for Travel


img_0296I wasn’t kidding about having my bags packed.

Once I had some idea of where I would like to go and what sort of traveler I wanted to be, I needed to draw up a packing list. It was then that I decided to become a digital nomad. It wasn’t long before I realized that digital nomads were working as they traveled.  I have no intention of working if I can help it, so I guess I just want to be a retired nomad. I knew that for this lifestyle I would have to radically change the packing lists I had for going to sea, going off on Marine survey jobs, going to conferences, or for going to the union school.

Anytime I decide that I am ready to head out, the first thing I do is open up my favorite packing app. I have been through several, but once I found Packing Pro I forgot about the rest. Quinn has posted screenshots and a video on his web site. Click here for videos that do a better job than I could do telling you all about the app. I have been using it for a while and have enjoyed watching as Quinn has showered it with love and added many new features. Face it, I not only leave a tip in the app’s tip-jar every time I use it, I write Quinn fan letters, and not just to ask for added features. But lets wind it back a little. before you can pack you have to have your bags. I will dig deep in a later post on the packing list I have developed.

The first time I backpacked as part of pleasure travel, I carried a huge Dana Design internally framed backpack with a random daypack that was big enough to be a backpack in its own right. During that trip I realized that digging down to the bottom of a top-loader every night at the hostels was not fun. I was carrying about 70 pounds, I expect that my now ex-husband was carrying closer to 90 pounds. For our next trip we bought those backpacks, popular in the 80s, with the zip off daypacks. I think they might have been Osprey, but they might also have been Northface. Had I not sent them off to Salvation Army on the last go around, I would be able to look. The two bags together, packed, weighed in at over 60 pounds for myself, and more for the hubby. Of course, we labeled ourselves as American backpackers by wearing our daypacks over our chests once we reclaimed them from the airport baggage handlers. I pulled those old packs out of storage when I decided to go backpacking again, but found that they smelt of old tents. I left them airing on the lanai in the full sun for a week before donating them both.

With the old backpacks relegated to fond memories, I needed to find another perfect one. Okay, I admit it, every backpack I buy is the perfect one for a while. This time I am sure it will be different. Like any normal geek, when I am ready to buy something I go to the Wirecutter and check what their recommendations for travel gear are. The nice thing about Wirecutter, is that they frequently update their posts, so you have the newest information. I went over and over their list of recommended items for travel, reading the descriptions and trying to determine if they would fit into my use-case.

The Wirecutter’s pick for bags was the Tortuga Outbreaker. I was very impressed with this bag, but there was a hint that the stow-able straps and belt would be returned to the 2018 model. Loose backpack straps are a deal killer for me. I kept checking the Tortuga site to see if they had gone back to their old design, never seeing any indication of it. As time grew closer for me to be thinking about testing my new pack, I had to give up and look for an existing backpack that fit my needs.

The Wirecutter turned me onto OneBag’s Doug Dyment. His blog has been my guiding light. It is Doug who recommends the MEI Voyageur. It fits my needs nearly perfectly. I was looking for a backpack that had a great hideaway shoulder harness, with a parallel stay internal frame, and a big empty interior space. When my coffee colored Voyageur arrived it was just what I needed. It is made of 1000 denier Cordura with an interior urethane coating, and has removable internal aluminum stays. Weighing in at 3.5 pounds it added very little to my load. The Voyageur meets FAA carry-on requirements for the overhead bin, and if you don’t overpack it you can squish it into the spaces provided on budget airlines as well.

I packed it up with the weight I was initially planning to carry, and was very pleased to see that the weight was carried completely on the hip-belt. It was very comfortable, and the EVA open-cell and close-cell foam in the padding made it quite comfortable in the heat of Honolulu as I was taking my practice walks.

When stowed, the belt can, if not carefully slipped into the storage space, bunch up at one end, making the pack substantially thicker there. I fed the belt into the stowage space as far down the bag as possible, still it does take up more of the interior room at the bottom end than the upper end. To compensate for that I pack less over the belt area, and more at the top end. When the bag is packed I cinch down on the lower external compression strap more tightly than the upper one, to form the bag into a better approximation of a rectangle. This is just in case someone wants me to put my bag in that gage box at the top of the jetway.

The zippers are sturdy lockable YKK zippers. There are two lockable zippers, one to the main compartment and one to a large flat pocket on the front, where the tab of one side of the zipper folds over a pad-eye in the tab of the other, allowing you to thread a small lock or zip-tie through. These two zippers come with weather flaps. The zippers hiding the straps and belt are single tabs zippers, but they do not lead into a packable compartment. Doug says that this bag as been unchanged for over 35 years. I hope they never change it, since I am sure to one day wear it out and will want the same one again.

The only thing I did not like about it was that it had internal compression straps. I know that this is a feature that a lot of people really like and use. I have had many packs and suitcases with these straps, over the years, and have never used them. It took a while to get up the guts, but I cut them out, saving myself two ounces. What does two ounces matter? Well, I will cover that in a post to come. I am trying my best to stay focused on the bags right now.

Though, I don’t like to have someone else decide how I should pack my bags by adding builtin packing spaces, I do like to have things organized. Enter packing cubes. There are a lot of opinions out there as to what packing cubes are best. It is not one brand fits all. I was looking for the lightest cubes I could find that had good reviews and good zippers. I settled on a set of eBags Ultralight Packing Cubes, which turned out to be just what I wanted. I later went directly to the eBags website and ordered several more of the smallest size.

All the advice I garnered from other blogs assured me that I needed a lightweight day pack. I looked at all the ones recommended and rejected them for many reasons. I already carry a Travelon Anti-Theft Cross-Body Bucket Bag as my daily carry in the city, so I decided on the Travelon Anti-theft Packable Backpack. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

With my bags selected, I waited for them to be delivered I dived into the OneBag website to learn what all Doug had to teach me on packing and traveling with my new bags. It was Doug that got me fascinated by the idea of minimalist traveling.

Categories: Travel MinutiaTags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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