Bags, bags, and more bags. This monosyllabic word encompassed my every waking life for nearly a month as I agonized over the one bag for me. It wasn’t the most important decision I’ve ever made in my life, but it sure felt like it.
Why all the hubbub you say? This blog is called One Bag Wanderlust and if one is to be a traveler of the world then packing light is more than just a necessity it must become my mantra. The one bag traveler is nimble, self-reliant and doesn’t get weighed down by things. The one bag traveler is thrifty and flexible; carrying one bag allows you to change your itinerary on a moments notice and run for that last train of the night when occasion calls.
One Bag travel is liberating. Imagine being free from the burden of stuff. Try saying that to a friend, colleague, or relative; and then wait for a response, which in all likelihood will constitute a cross-eyed glance, a tilted head and a high chance of “what are you smoking” remark. Stuff: the need for, the stress of acquiring and the space for storing has taken over modern day societal living. This need to consume has taken us over, so much so, that the freedom from stuff should be part of Maslow’s Hierarchy. The reason people travel in the first place is to get away from the physical and metaphorical stuff that ways us down. So, then why do we feel the need to bog ourselves down with it when we are the most free.
The bag is the thing and I need to find the right bag for me. First, let me explain the difference between a travel bag and a traditional backpack. The travel bag or pack is more like a suitcase than a backpack; opening like clam shell (a square clam shell) instead of a top loading backpack, which can be cumbersome when trying to find a specific item when you are on the road, in the darkness of a hostel or going through security at the airport. I have looked tirelessly for the last month and a half at many different travel bags, their features, the many online reviews (both video and written) and yes the price. Trust me there is a plethora of bags to choose from, so how does one go about picking the right bag?
For the sake of argument and my sanity I have narrowed this process down to 5 steps:
1. MAKE A LIST
First you need to make a list of what you want to bring on a week, three week or a 3 month excursion. This will determine what size bag will suit you and your needs. (Just a heads up if you want to fly a European economy airline infamous for their stingy carry-on baggage allowances which they enforce with the fervor of a prison guard (uh-hum Ryan Air) then you need to be looking at a bag 40L (liter) or smaller with the dimension of 55 cm x 40cm x 21.
Hot Tip: Ryan Air now only let’s the first 80 passengers on board a free carry-on this size. If you are the 81st passenger then they will make you check your bag (for a fee of course).
Lay these items out on your bed, this will help you weed out the necessity from the frivolous. If you haven’t worn that one item that makes you look “cute” in over six months than this is not the time to make its world debut. It’s okay to do laundry on the road after all you are a traveler now, not a tourist.
Edyta and I started our 18 Day European Adventure in Norway hitting multiple climates and conditions ranging from blizzards, to balmy spring like days, to torrential downpours. This made our packing list incredibly challenging. Here is each of our individual packing lists for our 18 Day European Adventure that included:
- 4 pairs of underwear (wearing 1)
- 2 bras (wearing 1)
- 2 pairs of socks (all Smart Wool wearing 1)
- 2 pair of shoes: 1 waterproof winter/hiking boots and 1 comfortable pair of hiking shoes (wearing winter boots to travel)
- 3 pairs of pants (1 black fleece lined pair that doubles as a dress pant, 1 pair of olive cargo and 1 dark khaki (wearing the fleece pant to travel)
- 2 short sleeve v-neck shirts, 1 long sleeve black shirt and 1 dress shirt (wearing 1 shirt to travel)
- 2 wool sweaters (wearing 1 sweater) to travel
- 1 long pair of pajama pants
- 1 pair of long underwear bottoms
- Water Proof Winter Coat (wearing it to travel)
- pair of heavy winter gloves
- pair of knitted winter gloves
- 1 toque
- 1 pair of sunglasses
- Amazon Fire Phone
- Phone charger
- Amazon Kindle E-Reader
- 6 pair of underwear (wearing 1 to travel)
- 2 bras (wearing 1 to travel)
- 3 pairs of socks (wearing Smart Wool socks to travel)
- 2 pairs of shoes: 1 winter boots and 1 comfortable pair of lightweight slip on shoes (wearing winter boots to travel)
- 4 pairs of pants (1 pair of nice black pants, 2 pair of corduroys, and 1 pair of jeans (wearing corduroy pants to travel)
- 4 short sleeve t-shirts (wearing 1 shirt to travel)
- 2 long sleeve t-shirts
- 1 dress shirt
- 2 undershirts (wearing 1 undershirt to travel)
- 1 pair of long underwear
- 1 long pair of pajama pants
- 2 light-weight polyester fleece sweaters (wearing 1 sweater to travel)
- Toiletry Kit (2 and 1 bottles of shampoo, conditioner, Advil, hair goop, micro-sewing kit, tweezers, tiny deodorant, nail file, nail clippers, 2 tooth brushes, 1 tiny tube of toothpaste, 3 Band-Aids (for Jessica), bobbi-pins and hair-ties (for Edyta), small comb, floss, and Burt’s Bees chap stick in a see through TSA 2 in 1 bag.
- Day Bag
- Cannon Digital Camera (realized we didn’t need this as soon as we landed since our smart phones take great pictures)
- 1 Large Travel Towel
- 1 pair of gloves
- 2 scarves (1 to give to Babcia when we get to Poland)
- 1 heavy winter toque
- 1 pair of sunglasses
- iPhone 5C
- Phone charger
- 1 Pocket Sized London Travel Guide
- 1 Pocket Sized Paris Travel Guide
2. FUNCTION OR FASHION
I personally want both. Why do I have to look like a “backpacker” when I travel? If I am going to live out of One Bag then I want my one bag to be as close to perfection as possible: savvy, in-style, functional, multifaceted, spacious, water-proof, comfortable, light secure and cool. Getting the “everything” bag was important to me on my bag search, but for some of you it might simply come down to function. How is the pack strap padding, hip belt padding, adjustable chest strap, and weight distribution on my frame? And some of you might not care about the color at all and that’s okay. That’s why I have narrowed my list down to the 5 best 30L (liter) travel bags.
Interestingly enough all five bags met my above criteria, but in the end I wanted that special bag just for me. The reason I am reviewing multiple bags is so that you may find that special bag for you as well. After all not every traveler is 5’5″ woman with a short torso.
3. TO CHECK OR NOT TO CHECK
If you are reading this heading you probably have reservations about traveling with One Bag. Fear not. Following our 18 Day European Adventure Edyta and I concluded that a number of items we had packed could have been left home. Uncertainty is always a hurtle, but trust me slashing your packing list down before you start your journey could save you as much as 3 pounds of extra weight. These 3 pounds add up over 18 Days. Remember One Bag living makes getting in and out of airports a breeze. Once you have arrived at your destination traveling with one bag allows you to walk to your hotel or hostel – taking a bus, subway or tram is that much easier. If you really want to save the most money when traveling then One Bagging is simply the way to go. So, get excited about traveling light and read on.
4. AIRLINES CARRY-ON BAGGAGE ALLOWANCES
Here is a link to two different websites that will give you the carry-on baggage allowances to most airlines in the world courtesy of CabinMax and AirFareWatchdog.com. Sometimes One Bag traveling comes down to one simple question…which airline/s will I be flying on my journey? The answer to this question will determine what size category bags you will be able to choose from when making your One Bag decision. Since we flew Ryan Air and Norwegian Air we decided to stick between 30 and 40 liters. I personally, found it challenging to try and fit all my necessity’s into a 30L (liter) bag.
5. HOW MUCH SHOULD/DO I WANT TO SPEND?
The aha question for any major purchase. I cannot answer this question for you, but what I can do is remind you that you will be traveling with One Bag and One Bag only, so you should choose wisely. As one of my former bosses once pointed out “when getting a bid on anything you should never go with the least expensive or the most expensive…always try and go with the bid somewhere in the middle”.
You can find travel bags from $75 all the way up to $300. But, as aforementioned the key is to find the right bag for you.
For those of you out there who are either frugal, extravagant, pragmatic or sensible fear not as I have made a list of the top travel bags I found with site links. Now on with the suggestions.
OUR TRAVEL BAG SUGGESTIONS
Tom Bihn’s Aeronaut 30L-$270-Jessica’s Bag
Osprey Farpoint 40L-$160-Edyta’s Bag
MEI Voyager 40L-$139
THE BAG I CHOSE IN THE END
The Aeronaut 30 is a convertible carry-on travel bag. It’s size, weight and convertibility makes a great One Bag choice as it meets most North American, regional jets and low cost European Airlines baggage requirements.
-Made in USA
-100% finished seams
Dimensions: 19.7 x 12.6 x 7.9″ / 500 x 320 x 201mm Weight:1050d high tenacity ballistic nylon: 2 lbs, 14 oz
400d Dyneema®/420d nylon ripstop: 2 lbs, 5.6 oz / 1066 grams Volume: 1830 cubic inches / 30 liters (ASTM Standard Measure)
The Aeronaut 30 is fantastically multidimensional; it is a piece of soft luggage, a duffel bag and a backpack. The bag comes with zip away backpack straps that easily snap into place creating an instant travel backpack. The shoulder straps on the Aeronaut 30 are contoured and padded, and they feature a removable/adjustable sternum strap. The back panel is padded with closed-cell foam as well giving you just the right amount of padding to carry your bag on long hauls. You can also purchase the handy Absolute Shoulder Strap which allows you to carry the bag easily on your shoulder or across your body as you traverse through airports. The grab handles and either end allow for easy loading and unloading of overhead compartments on trains and planes. I found hoisting the bag quite easy and found the b handle is padded just enough when boarding and de-boarding the plane.
The bag has 3 major compartments: a large center flanked by two end compartments on either side. And if you don’t like this configuration then you can change it by simply unzipping one or both of the panels dividing the main compartment from the end compartments making the Aeronaut 30 truly convertible.
The main compartment of the Aeronaut 30 is accessed through a curved #10 YKK Aquaguard water-repellant zipper opening. The inside of the main compartment hatch features a zippered mesh pocket for small items. The zippers on the main compartment can be travel locked (the travel lock fits through the holes of the zippers) or cable tied for extra security.
The two end compartments flanking the center compartment have exterior zippered pockets; one includes an 8″ Key Strap. These compartments serve as book ends for the main compartment keeping the packing cubes in place and serving as a buffer for any fragile items you may be carrying such as a camera, iPad or laptop.
I simply can’t speak enough about this bag. Tom Bihn has been building bags since 1972 and you can tell. Another good reason to select this bag as your One Bag is their line of accessories; and Tom Bihn knows how to accessorize. They have an entire line of cubes, sacks, pouches and trays designed specifically to fit the end and main compartments of the Aeronaut 30 along with the rest of the bags in their line. Be forewarned as the accessories are more tantalizing then the bag and I found myself wanting each and every one of them.
My Aeronuat 30 accessories: –Packing Cubes (Aeronaut 45 Large) I realized by the dimensions that this cube would fit my bag and went for it since the Tom Bihn’s Packing Cube Shoulder Bag was on back order when I was ready to order my bag. Such a clever idea for a One Bag traveler…a travel cube that doubles as a day pack. The packing cube I ended up with worked out great allowing me to fit exactly what I wanted to take inside of the Aeronaut 30 main compartment with space for more items. The top of the Packing Cubes features a webbing loop, which I found amazing for fishing the cube easily out of the min compartment travel bag. The loop also allows you to hang the cube on a hook or a door knob.
–Travel Laundry Stuff Sack This handy little devil fits perfectly into one of the 2 end compartment of the Aeronaut 30. Here’s how it works: imagine a sack with a divider that can separate as you use it. At the beginning of your trip you can place all of your socks, underwear, t-shirts, etc. As you start to accumulate dirty clothes you start moving the divider between the two openings keeping the clean clothes quarantined from the dirty clothes preventing stench contamination. A very important perk when One Bag traveling. The really clever part of this fantastic sack is that the pull ties at the ends of the laundry sack are color coded; red for dirty and green for clean.
–Travel Stuff Sack (Size 1) Believe it or not this little guy came in handy the most. It carried my most important items and moved from my bag to my coat pocket or pants cargo pocket with ease. Here is the list of items I carried in this little stuff sack:
-Lock and key (for hostels etc.)
*This stuff sack is a must have accessory for your One Bag journey.
If accessories aren’t your thing the Aeronaut 30 comes with a pair of tie-down straps inside the main compartment. I used these to strap down my air-sealed bag that contained my snow-pants, scarf and thick Gortex gloves. If you find that the tie-down straps are in your way or unnecessary they are easily removed thanks to the Gatekeeper loops.
The inside of the bag is lined with ultralight Japanese 200 denier Dyneema®/nylon ripsto fabric allowing to see each of your items easily inside the bag thanks to the color contrast. All the seems are finished and the bag come with a defects lifetime guarantee.