My Next Bag, Revisited
Just over a week ago I wrote a post about my hunt for the perfect carry-on bag. A number of you chimed in on the topic and it pushed me to do a little more looking and thinking.
In the end I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m on the right track. Given the needs of frequent travellers who use a variety of airlines, reputable and otherwise, to fly to destinations from Toronto to Timbuktu, I am certain that it’s time to abandon traditional camera bags as carry-on luggage. Their weight, inflexibilty, and configurations just don’t make sense. To hike with, to work out of, yes. But to fly with, no.
One of the features I overlooked in my initial search was backpack straps, which for me are a necessity. I have back problems and need to carry my load without killing myself. I can’t believe I was willing to overlook that.
My search lead me to a few bags -
1. MEI Voyager – link HERE -
Specs: 22x14x9, 3.5lbs, $139.00
This seems like a great bag. A little no-frills. And pushing the limits of the conventional carry-on size. I wanted a bag that was a little smaller than one a little bigger, if only for the peace of mind that it does indeed conform (and LOOKS like it conforms) to the “standard” size (which is not at all standard, hence the problem) It also looks like it’s a little hard to get hastily – the website makes it pretty clear that you might be waiting a while. *From the looks of things the backpack straps on the Voyageur are the best of the lot. If you plan to do more backpacking than just walking through airports, etc – this might be the one to get. Very robust.
2. Patagonia MLC – link HERE
Specs: 22x13x9.5, 3 lbs, 4 ounces, $148.00
Same as above. Looked ok, if not a little mass-produced. But I wanted a slightly smaller bag, couldn’t find one of these to look at, and wasn’t sure how good the backpack straps were. But it looks nice, and I’m generally a fan of Patagonia.
3. Rick Steves’ Convertible Carry-On – link HERE
21x9x14, weighs “less than 3lbs.” – $99.95 (Amazon.com had it for $89)
This is about the same size as the others, though getting closer to the size I want. But at under 3lbs, I’m a little worried about the quality. I’m sure it would be great for a weekend trip to Paris. But not three weeks of rougher travel through Africa. The price is right too, but I believe you get what you pay for and worry when something is dramatically cheaper than similar products.
4. Red Oxx Air Boss – link HERE
Specs: 21x13x8, 4lbs, $225.00.
This is the one I thought I wanted. The reviews for this bag, and all Red Oxx products, are consistently top-shelf. In short, this is the bomb-proof quality I want. But the lack of backpack straps eventually disqualified it and pushed me to it’s cousin, the Sky Train.
5. Red Oxx Sky Train – link HERE
Specs: 20x13x9, 4lbs, $255.00
This one is the winner (though I got mine in black – the yellow’s a little harsh for me.) I’ll review it when it arrives and I’ve travelled with it. Probably when I go to El Salvador for my next assignment next month. In the end the slightly smaller size appealled to me. It won’t be light when I pack it full, but I want it to look as small as possible. The quality is right and while it’s the most expensive of the lot, it’s still cheaper than the ThinkTankPhoto Airport Addicted.
6. Think Tank Photo Airport Addicted – link HERE
Specs: 22x14x9, 8lbs, $389.00.
This is the one I am retiring from travelling and will use as a location bag for work here in Vancouver. For those of you who just don’t buy into my philosophy (the one that holds as its basic tenet that heavily padded bags suck for international travel) or those who just don’t have the same travel needs – this is an excellent bag. Brilliantly designed and very well made.
If every airline in the world said I could carry 50lbs of carry on in a 22x14x9 bag, I’d keep using this one until Jesus comes back. Its smaller cousins – the Airport Antidote, and the Airport Accelerated, are equally well designed and made, but they still don’t meet my criteria.
If it seems like I’m paranoid and trying to plan for every contingency, I am. I don’t want a repeat of my efforts in Varanasi or Kashmir trying to deal with one-bag only restrictions. My ideal is the lightest, most bomb-proof, flexible bag I can get, to pack my gear in David Honl gear wraps, add a change of clothes, and hope they don’t weight it. Because I won’t be able to get around that one, short of checking my gear.
Feel free to weigh in. Thanks to all who did, who added their two-cents worth, and pointed me to some great bags.