Best bag for 8 weeks of travel?
February 23, 2011 1:15 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to be traveling in South Africa, Southeast Asia and Australia for 8 weeks this summer. I am very much a minimalist, but still, 8 weeks is 8 weeks-- what's the best bag that meets carry-on requirements?

I'm moving around quite quickly (averaging about 2-3 nights between flights for most of the trip), so I need something that can go with me wherever I go.

Bags I've looked at:
Rick Steves Convertible Carry On
Tom Bihn Aeronaut
Mei Voyageur

I'm open to other ideas as to carrying my things (clothes, small camera, 11" notebook), and the last part of the journey is a 2 week road trip in Australia, so once I make it there I suppose I can buy as much stuff as I want since I'm just flying home.

If possible, I don't want something enormously dorky looking (a la Red Oxx, though I've never seen any of those bags in person), and pricing, while of course an issue, isn't a big factor in the decision.
posted by phaedrus441 to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I had the Rick Steves bag while traveling through Costa Rica and then Taiwan for a total of five weeks. Then I loaned it to a friend who traveled with it for an additional two weeks in Europe. It held up great. Just get a lightweight day back to go with it.

All three of those bags look good. One thing to consider is the bag's own weight. I packed about 30 pounds of stuff and even that was almost too much.
posted by Mercaptan at 1:43 PM on February 23, 2011

OK, I know you said you weren't very interested, but: Red Oxx PR5. It's built like a fucking tank, but also super-convenient. I love mine.
posted by aramaic at 1:43 PM on February 23, 2011

One Bag One World does bag reviews, and there's an active forum. I bought my Osprey convertible pack after spending hours and hours reading OBOW. It is more attractive than the Voyageur and much cheaper than a Bihn bag (love the Bihns, and maybe someday). The Red Oxx bags look better in person than on their site.
posted by catlet at 1:47 PM on February 23, 2011

After ten years and five continents, I'm still madly in love with my 22" Eagle Creek Switchback.
posted by cyndigo at 1:57 PM on February 23, 2011

I have the Osprey Kestrel 48. I haven't broken it in with a long international trip yet, but I've lived out of it for 6 weeks and easily could extend that to 2 months or more.
posted by Sara C. at 2:15 PM on February 23, 2011

They are all too heavy.

The Quantas carry-on restrictions for international flights are VERY restrictive-- 1 bag that weighs 7 kilos. (7kg = 15lbs!; 45 inches total dimensions)

We used cheap duffels from Target and they worked great.
posted by LittleMy at 2:16 PM on February 23, 2011

I have carried on the Kestrel within the US and had no problems with it - the overall measurements are well within US airline restrictions. According to my link the weight is 1.56 kg empty, and the one time I've checked it (because I was flying JetBlue and it was free), the packed weight came to something like 15-20 lbs. And that was absolutely STUFFED, including a stack of hardcover books, to the point that I'd decided to check it because it was such a pain in the ass to schlep at that weight.
posted by Sara C. at 2:20 PM on February 23, 2011

I have an Eagle Creek Overland that I really like. It is a carry-on-legal shoulder bag with hideaway backpack straps. I used a couple of packing cubes to help keep things organized and it worked very well on a recent six week trip.
posted by nobodyyouknow at 2:43 PM on February 23, 2011

Best answer: Thirding Eagle Creek. I'm in the adventure travel business, have been to all 7 continents and 70 countries, and swear by them, along with many others in the adventure travel field. For years I figured I'd use cheap luggage with the theory that it was
all going to get trashed anyway. Then I bit the bullet and spent the money on EC gear. My EC luggage has now been dragged through cobblestone streets, thrown onto giant river boulders, fallen off the shoulders of porters on treks, sat on airport tarmacs in the soaking rain, survived man-handling on too many flights to count.

I just came back from a round-the-world work trip that started in London, then went on to Scotland, back to London, to Bangkok, Myanmar, Singapore, Taipei and back home - I think I counted at least 18 flights and 22 different hotels on that particular trip. Then I "lent" it to my parents who flew to the Philippines and dragged it around to a couple of different islands. It still looked brand-new except for a couple of roughed up edges. They loved it so much that they are refusing to give it back to me.

I also swear by their pack-it cubes, which allow me to fit in a week's worth of clothes in one cube. I keep another smaller cube for toiletries, and a third small cube for miscellaneous stuff like cords, batteries, etc. Everything stays neat and organized and I always end up with enough space to drag extra stuff home.
posted by HeyAllie at 3:37 PM on February 23, 2011

I'm a big fan of the Travelpro FlightCrew line of luggage, ostensibly only sold to professional flight crew, but readily available online. I'm also a minimalist and usually only travel with a 13" Rolling Overnighter. They also make carry-on bags in 18" to 24" sizes. I'd stick with no larger than 20" since carry-on size is often more restrictive in Asia. These bags are not light-weight, but they are made to last forever with parts that are easily replaced.
posted by Etaoin Shrdlu at 9:25 PM on February 23, 2011

I would not take a rolling suitcase on a round-the-world trip that involved travel in developing countries. Those types of bags are really only well suited to developed urban areas.
posted by Sara C. at 9:54 PM on February 23, 2011

There is a lot of useful information at the Pack Light tumblr.
posted by conrad53 at 10:40 PM on February 23, 2011

Response by poster: HeyAllie, any specific Eagle Creak gear that you can recommend?

Thanks for all the great input everybody! Anyone have experience with Tom Bihn?
posted by phaedrus441 at 5:49 AM on February 24, 2011

I recently got this bag on Mother Lode TLS Weekender Convertible

I'm very happy with it so far. My only regret is that they were out of the red color when I ordered!

My second choice was the LL Bean convertible quick load travel pack. I preferred its lighter weight, but I think ultimately it was the lack of a strap to buckle round my middle to help with the weight that made me opt for the ebags one. I also appreciated the number of pockets and compartments. But if you need a really light bag, that might put you over the top for LL Bean.
posted by Salamandrous at 6:16 AM on February 24, 2011

I balked at the price of my Eagle Creek Continental Journey backpack when I got it - but man I loved that bag. It served me well for months through Europe, Australia, and Asia and was still in great shape before it got stolen.

It's discontinued, so I've been looking at new bags. The Aeronaut looks alright, but it's missing side pockets (which I'd throw a water bottle or book in) and the Continental Journey's waist strap. Without seeing the bag interior, the Rincon 65L (I never bother with using the daypack) looks pretty similar to the Continental Journey, and is probably the one I'll go with before my next trip. It doesn't look like it's got the open side pockets like on the CJ, but I can probably live with that.

HeyAllie's recommendation of pack-it cubes is right on target too. They make packing so much nicer, especially when you're doing a lot of moving around.
posted by backwards guitar at 7:39 AM on February 24, 2011

I don't own a Bihn but I've seen a few up close. Really nice bags, especially the Aeronaut and the Western Flyer, and Bihn's made-in-Seattle vibe is appealing. Not everyone loves them, though; check out the reviews on OBOW for comparisons with Red Oxx and other top-end one-bag options. If I felt like dropping $200+ on a bag, I'd probably get an Aeronaut. The color choices are nice, too.

(I have the same Osprey bag as Sara C., and the Eagle Creek Pack-It cubes/tubes are incredibly helpful when packing light.)
posted by catlet at 8:21 AM on February 24, 2011

I'm glad you mentioned that, catlet - I was just wondering whether packing "cubes" would be worth trying with my decidedly not square-shaped Osprey pack.
posted by Sara C. at 8:47 AM on February 24, 2011

On the topic of cubes, I find it easier (perhaps because the Kestrel is not completely square) to mix cubes/tubes with bundle-wrapped clothing or things folded in the ordinary way. Having the entire contents of my pack in cubes is counterproductive for me. (Sara - I love the tubes for underwear, and use them to build faux-dividers when I'm packing other stuff like shoes.

OP, if you're looking at Bihn bags, note that Tom offers a series of packing cubes designed for each bag. I'd go ahead and get those when you buy the bag if you choose to go with Bihn; in a small space like an Aeronaut or a Flyer, custom cubes may help you squeeze out a couple of cubic inches that you wouldn't have with the EC pack-its.
posted by catlet at 9:00 AM on February 24, 2011

Try any of these. I like the ORV Trunks or Switchbacks. I also have a Hovercraft. At an adventure travel conference I went to, each attendee got one of these handy 2-sided cubes that I now can't live without.
posted by HeyAllie at 9:47 AM on February 24, 2011

I have a 3 year old MEC Shuttle, which has done well over 60,000 miles including a seven week trip in the Middle East. Carry-on all the way (which got me some extra face time with the security folks at TLV - what do you mean this is all of your luggage?).

It's a really durable pack; MEC has an excellent reputation and ships to the US. I like that it's nondescript and almost businesslike, that it can convert into a shoulder bag or straight luggage. The straps are decent for walking a reasonable distance, but I wouldn't want to go hiking with it. One nice feature is that it has a zip-in liner thing; essentially on the inside of the back of the pack, there's a piece of slightly elastic mesh that has a zipper all the way around. It's made for putting folded clothes in, then keeps them from moving around and getting wrinkled; basically, it's a built-in Eagle Creek Pack-It Folder.

It's not made anymore, but the sequel is, and it's $62 which is pretty hard to beat for the quality. (I think they replaced the liner with straps, which may be almost as good.)

I pair it with the Pika Plus, which is a good size daypack where only the straps are padded, the rest is just straight fabric. It folds up into a pretty small space, yet can hold enough stuff for an overnight.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 6:55 PM on February 25, 2011

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