Bagging It

As I mentioned earlier in the week, one of the things I need to get handled soon is ordering luggage for my big vacation next month. I’m heading first to California for a family reunion for a few days, and then my mom and I are going on a two week trip to Alaska – one week overland, one week on a cruise. I am determined to not have a lot of bags to schlep around, and since the suitcases I currently have are beat to hell (one has not a single properly-functioning zipper, the other has a broken frame) it seems like an ideal time to invest in something new. And smallish.

I’ve been poking around on a site called, which is basically the go-to site for learning to pack small. It has lots of tips and techniques, as well as packing lists and luggage recommendations. Based on what I’ve seen there, as well as looking at suggestions from others (including Rudi and David), I think I have it narrowed down to two bags: The Aeronaut from Tom Bihn or the Red Oxx Air Boss. In a real departure for me, neither of these suitcases have wheels. It’s been a long time since I’ve gone with a non-rolling bag, but (not surprisingly, really, when you think about it) wheels tend to both add weight and take up space. I’d like this new suitcase of mine to be as light and spacious as possible, and wheel-free this seems to be the way to make it happen.

The main differences between the bags are that the Aeronaut is a little bit bigger and has the option to convert to a backpack, while the Air Boss is strictly a suitcase. The Aeronaut is also more expensive – especially since the shoulder strap (which I would definitely need) is not included in the price.

I am a little torn at this point… Is the additional money worth it to have a little more room? Or will more room just allow me to pack more and therefore make it too heavy to handle without wheels? Do I need a backpack option? (It would be far better for my back, obviously, but I don’t really like backpacks.)

So, dear blog readers, you get to vote. I can’t guarantee I’ll follow what you suggest, but I’m interested in hearing what you have to say. There’s a little poll below, and as always, comments are welcome.

Thanks for sharing your opinions!

20 thoughts on “Bagging It

  1. angelique523 May 21, 2012 / 12:27 am

    I have been following your blog for a long time now. I am impressed with your daily writing. Today I have to chime in again. If you go to Alaska and you are debating with of the two bags to take and one is a backpack and the other does not have this option the choice is obvious to me. GET BOTH!!!!! 😉 Good to be reading. Glad you are writing.

  2. angelique523 May 21, 2012 / 12:30 am

    Sarah, not sure my comment went though. Computer sort of glitched up. I basically said great blogging as usual, Still following your daily writing which is great and if you go to Alaska as planned make sure you take both bags. Splurge!

  3. ladylighttravel May 21, 2012 / 1:04 am

    I like the LLBean Quickload travel pack. It has the hidable backpack straps but at 2.1 lbs, significantly lighter than the Red Oxx and Tom Bihn bags. It comes with the LLBean guaruntee.

    If you go wheel-less you really need to do everything to go light. It is quite possible though, with good planning.

    • Sarah May 21, 2012 / 2:07 pm

      Thanks for the tip on the LL Bean bag. That looks like it would be ideal for a shorter trip, but I don’t think I could get three weeks of stuff into that even if I was super-disciplined about limiting myself. It’s inexpensive enough that I would certainly consider it for a weekender, though.

      • ladylighttravel May 21, 2012 / 6:22 pm

        it’s the same size as the Aeronaut. 22x14x9. There are several Quickload packs. I’m talking about the Travel Pack size. I’ve traveled for 3 weeks in mine.

      • Sarah May 21, 2012 / 6:51 pm

        Oh, good to know – thanks. I ended up at a small one when I searched. I’ll give it another try!

  4. ladylighttravel May 21, 2012 / 1:23 am

    BTW, the Op/Tech SOS shoulder strap is the one to get. It is sooooo comfy. It makes a huge difference in carrying your bag.

  5. Common loon May 21, 2012 / 7:53 am

    My opinion (for what it is worth).

    Balance, thus the backpack option would be my choice. Ever schlepped a car seat? Might be light empty,but once full it torques the lifting arm and back. Need to make a connection? Easier to move fast or navigate a crowd when luggage is lined up on centerline (not “sticking out” on one side bumping folks moving slower or not paying attention). That said, a backpack is kinder to the body when you legs, abs, and back are strong.

    Sarah, one bag will be challenge enough, so get any extra space for the weight, and splurge (after all, I think I remember a blog post or two that mentions a certain pair of red shoes?). Susan can help you rationalize anything, if you need that.

    • Sarah May 21, 2012 / 2:10 pm

      I think I spend too much time on the Metro getting hit by travelers’ giant backpacks to ever want to run through an airport in one. (Seems to be much easier to forget how much space you need when all your stuff is behind you.) But… it is so much easier on the body. Torn.

  6. Mom May 21, 2012 / 7:59 am

    Personally, I’d go for the one WITHOUT all the interior pockets. They alone take up too much space and my stuff never seems to fit in them anyway. I know I’m the senior traveler here, but I also go for wheels. They are worth whatever space they take up and I can no longer carry nearly 50 lbs. no matter which body parts are involved!! And, I’ve also just purchased an over-the-body/shoulder strap bag for my purse carry on for everything I don’t want out of my sight (not the floral print one I had before) and that will be heavy enough. This trip really is a packing challenge! We’re up to it 😊

  7. Eileen May 21, 2012 / 11:22 am

    I feel so old saying this but wheels can’t weigh that much. Fifty pounds add up fast and I can’t imagine having to schlep that on my back or arms multiple times in a 3 week period. I’d be crippled. So I vote wheels, even though that wasn’t an option.

    • Sarah May 21, 2012 / 2:03 pm

      These are carry-on sized bags, so I’d be hard pressed to get either of them up to 50 pounds, unless I filled them with rocks. That’s the point… small AND light.

    • ladylighttravel May 21, 2012 / 9:33 pm

      Wheels add about 5 pounds to the bags. It can really cut into your weight allocation- especially on some airlines with a 17 pound limit!

      My carry on bag usually comes in between 15-18 pounds for a 3 week trip. I’ll have some stuff in my purse, such as my comfort pack. Most of my stuff is in the bag.

  8. songfta May 21, 2012 / 12:12 pm

    I’d go for an option you didn’t mention: the Red Oxx Sky Train, which has the backpack conversion capabilities and size of the Tom Bihn with the shoulder strap included in the price.

    • Sarah May 21, 2012 / 2:05 pm

      Too backpacky looking!

  9. sionna May 21, 2012 / 1:56 pm

    I really wish I had a picture of Exhibit A….ME with a large bag with no wheels trekking all over Ireland. You do remember that, don’t you? 😉 Yes I realize that I am 4’10” and my bag was abnormally large, but it really ended up being one my worst travel choices ever. You won’t get crushed by your bag, (another picture that I think that I wish I had….maybe not) but your back may say otherwise by the end of the trip.

    I personally think you’ll regret going wheel-less.

    • Sarah May 21, 2012 / 2:02 pm

      Haha. Oh, I have a mental picture of that, not to worry.

      Neither of these bags are big – they’re both carry-on sized, so not huge at all. I’d guess 1/3 the size of the bag that crushed you, at most.

  10. Common loon May 21, 2012 / 2:34 pm

    Your responses seem to sway towards the Boss (try committing to it for a day or so before purchase, and then try to commit to the Aeronaut and see if that sits any better). If technology has allowed us to make bikes (and lots of other stuff) weigh significantly less than they did years ago, there have got to be some light-weight wheels out there!

    • Sarah May 21, 2012 / 4:38 pm

      See… that’s the thing. I actually like the Aeronaut a little better, because it’s both lighter and a bit bigger. As I said to Rudi on gchat earlier, I like it despite it’s backpackiness, not because of it. My sticking point is mostly whether the weight/size thing is enough of a draw to pay $50+ more.

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