Editor’s Note: I’m going to be writing some posts about how I travel light. I’ll pull them all back together at the end with one larger post and hopefully a video. I am not a super minimalist packer, I am however a light packer. This will also be very geared to men, sorry to all the women — I just have no way of writing about that.
Another excuse to talk about bags, most excellent. While backpacks rule the roost for me, I want to cover four different bags.
Travel Backpack: GORUCK GR2
This is my go to bag for all my traveling these days. The bag comes in both 34L and 40L equivalents and while I use the 40L, I think that most would be fine with the 34L variant of the bag. This bag is essentially a larger version of the GR1 with two main compartments instead of one.
I’ve written a review of the bag here, but I want to touch on why I think a 5.3lbs bag is acceptable when I am trying to travel light. What it comes down to is this: I trust everything about this bag, and under all circumstances.
That’s where the GORUCK gear comes in: it is overbuilt. No matter where you take this bag, it is built to far exceed what you are doing with it. This is important to me when I travel because I need to know I can trust my bag to carry what I put in it. To keep my stuff dry should something spill on it, or a rainstorm hit me. Above all else though: should I need to check my bag (for some terrible reason), I need to know that it is going to come out no worse for wear on the other end.
That’s what I get with the GR2, and I get that all in a backpack setup that fits quite easily in carry on compartments, while still holding everything I need, and more. When it comes to using a backpack for travel: the GR2 is one of the best options out there (if not the best).
The next fear people have of a backpack is the weight: but if the weight is too much, pack less. That’s yet another reason I don’t use a roller bag.
Another bag to look at, which I have not had the chance to try is the Minaal 2.0. It looks like great bag, I just haven’t even seen one before so I can’t recommend it.
Travel Bag: Tom Bihn Aeronaut 30
I’ve also reviewed the Aeronaut 30 here before, it too comes in a larger 45L variant, but honestly you don’t need anything more than the 30L. This bag is primarily a shoulder bag, however it does have good backpack straps with it. Just know that if you are planning on wearing it primarily as a backpack — there are better and more comfortable backpacks to be had.
As a shoulder bag though, this is a fantastic bag and easily one of my favorites. Like the GORUCK gear, I trust Tom Bihn gear. I know it won’t break, and will withstand a beating if you have to check it. For as small as the bag looks, it holds a lot too.
Some people cannot stand to use a backpack, and if that is the type of person you are, then the Aeronaut is the bag I recommend. It is small enough to help you constrain your gear, while still being made at the highest quality. The side compartments on this bag are killer — such a great size to stow toiletries on one side and shoes on the other.
I want to warn you though, if you get this bag you will show up to the airport looking at the wheeled carry on bags and be thinking they are not much bigger than your bag. Just wait. Because when you slide your bag into the overhead, you will realize it takes up comically less space than those wheeled bags. That’s a great payoff right there.
This is still one of my favorite bags.
Another couple good options here: Standard’s Carry-on Backpack, or Tom Bihn’s Tri-Star bag.
A Note About Wheeled Luggage
While most of the bags aren’t “light” they do force what you pack to be light. But that’s not the point of these bags. The point with choosing one of these bags over a wheeled carry on is that you will be able to move around the airport easily.
Airports are large, but still your wheeled luggage will flip over, will get caught on something stupid, and will generally be in everyone’s way. Your backpack is on your body unless you are sitting and therefore not in people’s way.
Or, as I like to put it rather succinctly: your wheeled bag rolls through pools of piss in the men’s room ((Men’s rooms are fucking disgusting.)) and then you touch the bottom of it when you lift it unto the overhead bin.
No thanks, I’ll take my backpack which stays far above the pools of piss.
Overnight Backpack: SLICKS
I’ve also written about the SLICKS before, and while this is a highly purpose built bag, it is damn good at doing it’s job. It’s not for everyone, as this bag really is best when you use it for just one overnight, and as your only bag.
If that’s your life, or if you only ever pack one change of clothes, and want something smaller but still well designed — SLICKS is your best option. The only issue I have with the SLICKS bag is that it isn’t my ideal bag for taking into client offices. Other than that, as I mentioned above, this bag will make you almost chuckle as everyone stresses out to find overhead storage space and you slide your entire bag under the seat in front of you. That’s a lot of fun. My favorite alternative to the SLICKS is the GORUCK GR1, where the benefit with the GR1, is a far more versatile bag.
Either way, this is traveling far lighter than I prefer to travel.
The Light Weight, When You Get There Bag: Tom Bihn Daylight Breifcase in Dyneema/Hacylon
When I first tried out the Daylight Briefcase I liked it, and when I started packing it with me, I started to really like it. Recently I swapped my bag to the Dyneema version, which is much lighter (thanks to Tom Bihn for providing that) and I also stopped carrying the Cache sleeve for my iPad Pro. With all of that gone, you can smash the bag down to next to nothing in your pack.
With a full case on my iPad Pro, I have light gear protection for it when I get there — but basically don’t take the bag off of my back in most cases. I have to be more careful now that I don’t have a Cache, but the benefit of ridding myself of the Cache sleeve has made me love this bag. It’s simply fantastic.
I pack it in my GR2 without the iPad Pro in it, and just my head phones and plane snacks. Shortly before I board the plane, I stuff the iPad Pro into it. When I drop the GR2 from my should to put it in the overhead, I unzip the front compartment and slide out the Daylight Briefcase and in goes the GR2. Now I have a plane bag which takes up very little room at my feet.
This is also a great bag for your destination too as it is small and light to carry, while still holding a good amount of gear. I use it for both business and leisure travel — it works really well.
Four different systems are in play here. The first two are the actual main travel bags. It’s a pretty simple choice between a backpack and a shoulder bag. I strongly suggest you try going with a backpack. The next bag is just an overnight bag, but this is only a need for people who really travel overnight more than anything else, or who travel extremely light. If it isn’t something you do that often, just use your larger bag.
Lastly: a day bag for when you arrive. Aside from the GR1 and a few others I have tested, I have yet to find another bag I travel with, where I was also comfortable taking it with me to a client’s office. The SLICKS comes very close to that, but it’s a large bag. Often when I carry a bag into a client’s office I will end of having to take it with me to lunch, to drinks, to dinner, and so forth — it goes everywhere, so smaller is better.
While bags in general are items I test all the time, pick the bag that works for you — that might be something you already have. My biggest advice is to use the 10% rule. Pick a bag that still is 10% empty when you leave — travel has a way of using up that last 10%. Pick the most durable bag you have, or can afford — there’s nothing worse than a strap failing while you are trying to make a tight connection, or a bag ripping open and you lose an hour to buying a new bag at the airport — not to mention anything small in your bag.
For me it is the GR2 and the Daylight Briefcase — but whatever your choice, the stuff here are good picks.
See the rest of the posts here.