Recommendations for two travel items
June 2, 2014 11:42 AM   Subscribe

After lugging around a very small but not comfortable suitcase on wheels in chicken buses in South/Central America I realized I need a better travel bag as well as a money belt. Would welcome suggestions for these two travel items.

Here are some things I think the travel bag should have-

Lots of compartments
Should be able to carry as a backpack
Easy to get to things within the bag (unlike usual backpacks where the more you dig, the more difficult it gets to find something within the bag. So top open would be good)
Hip/Waist belt for easy access to money/passport
Wheels with barrier to roll over cobblestones when needed
Carry on (not check in size for airplanes)

(Very similiar to a Tortuga bag but need some more suggestions for a 5.4 woman. I did think that the Tortuga bag looks a little bunched up-not sure if the material would widstand wear and tear around tough conditions as I don't treat my bags kindly)

As for the money belt, looking for a waist belt that would work.
posted by jbean to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Are wheels an absolute? If not, you will probably get a lot of people here recommending Tom Bihn bags, this is where I heard about them and they are awesome and exactly what you are looking for.
posted by atlantica at 12:02 PM on June 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Osprey makes some travel bags that combine backpack/wheels.
posted by MansRiot at 12:10 PM on June 2, 2014

I'm also female and an inch shorter than you, and I have the Osprey Kestrel 48. I love it, it matches your criteria, and it's just all around a great pack. It's a top loader (which is my least favorite aspect of it), but it also has a bottom zipper, which makes it easier to get at things. I tend to pack large items I might need in a pinch (such as a sweater or my guidebook) at the bottom, near the bottom zipper. I almost always carry mine on, but it can also be checked if you cram it too full or have a bunch of things you can't bring into the passenger compartment. *cough*wine*cough*

However. I really really REALLY don't think you want wheels. The reality is that a properly packed and adjusted backpack is going to be miles lighter than any wheeled thing is ever going to be (and the wheels in those convertible backpack/wheelie-bags add a lot of weight to carry, for very little benefit). After making the switch to a pack, I honestly at this point look at all the stupid people* with their stupid wheeled things and internally laugh at how incredibly wrong and backwards they are. Also, unless you're a business traveler or only ever go to Disney World, a wheeled thing is impractical, anyway. Have you ever tried to lug a wheeled suitcase down a flight of stairs? Or across cobblestones? Or in a place where the sidewalks are crowded or in poor condition? Leave suburbia and that wheely thing is a liability, not a convenience.

Make the switch to a backpack and don't look back!

*I'm referring to young/able-bodied people here, obviously. People who have back problems and need wheeled luggage are fine, of course.
posted by Sara C. at 12:10 PM on June 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm a 5'6" woman and recently got a 45L Patagonia MLC transport, which is pretty similar to the Tortuga bag. Not much experience with it yet but I was pretty happy with it for a 1.5 week trip with a ton of walking. Doesn't have wheels or a hip belt but otherwise meets all requirements, and seems pretty sturdy (and Patagonia has a good guarantee). Lots of well-organized compartments and very very easy to get at everything with lots of sturdy, suitcase-style zippers. It's supposedly "maximum legal carryon" size but it's definitely over by a bit if you over-stuff it. Reasonably packed it's fine though, and even overstuffed I wasn't given any trouble about carrying it on.

I had about 25-30 lbs in it and wouldn't go much higher, but it was ok for ~30 min walks between hostels and so on. I'm aiming for less weight next trip, though. Less weight would be more comfortable since the backpack straps are fairly minimal - it's not meant for carrying heavy loads around for hours, so if you want to do that, a more hiking-oriented bag would be better (with the main tradeoffs being that these are generally top-loading, have straps flailing everywhere, and are too tall for carryon size if you want a similar volume).
posted by randomnity at 1:07 PM on June 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

You might consider the Red Oxx Sky Train, although it too does not have wheels. It has several compartments and carries a ton of stuff.
posted by OrangeDisk at 2:00 PM on June 2, 2014

I have spent months away living out of a Tom Bihn Aeronaut. It has hide-able straps to make it a comfortable backpack. Can heartily recommend.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 2:19 PM on June 2, 2014

If wheels are negotiable, I swear by these. My wife and I travel a lot and have used these bags for years.
posted by humboldt32 at 5:29 PM on June 2, 2014

I really think you would love the Tom Bihn Tri-Star. It is a feast of compartments. Easy access is its middle name (well, it has two middle names I guess, that's why they can charge so much). And it has tons of o-rings sewn inside so you can attach organizer pouches and small organizer cubes and tools and other cool stuff.

No waist belt, no wheels, but you are thinking about a separate waist belt anyway, and Sara C. speaks truly about the pox that are wheels, unless you really have no alternative.
posted by payoto at 6:53 PM on June 2, 2014

I tried a money belt, but much prefer a pouch that hangs around my neck. Consider this.
posted by mbarryf at 4:56 AM on June 3, 2014

Seconding payoto's recommendation of the Tri-Star (I love mine!), or the Western Flyer is similar but smaller. They are both functional as over-the-shoulder bags or as backpacks. (The backpack straps can be stowed away when you're not using them.)
posted by oakroom at 12:38 PM on June 3, 2014

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